Photographing high-end self-portraits
Last November was the first time I ever tried photographing myself. This came at a time when I was learning studio lighting and figuring out my own photographic style. It turned out so much better than I could’ve imagined and I was hooked to photographing self-portraits since that experience.
Over the last year I’ve developed my own photography style and even my own modeling style. I love photographing more serious, dramatic, and demure portraits, so I implemented that into my own modeling.
Since my first self-portrait attempt I’ve learned a few things that have helped me photograph myself successfully and execute the vision and dream I have in mind. Here are a couple things I’ve learned:
The first thing I’ve discovered is that it’s helpful to decide the style and type of photos you want to shoot of yourself. I’m more of a serious person, so shooting and modeling with a serious face would make sense with my personality type. In last year’s photo I photographed myself by creating a black background with my camera settings and off-camera lighting.
I also always keep in mind my lighting situation–as I believe the lighting makes or breaks how it turns out. I love contrast, short lighting, and shadows, so I try to use that whenever I can.
The most important aspect of this is being able to focus the lens on you while simultaneously modeling. It’s a definitely a struggle and takes dozens of tries to nail it. With the current camera I have I can use my phone both as a shutter release and preview what is currently seen in camera. If you don’t have access to that, I would place an object where you will sit and on your camera focus your lens, and then lock that focus by changing it to manual focus.
After my own trials and failures and success, I decided to create a new series of self-portraits.
I am a huge fan of fashion photography and magazines. Photographers like Lindsay Adler, Sue Bryce, and Chris Knight are my biggest inspirations when it comes to creating stunning and captivating photographs to be used in magazines. As an homage to my love for fashion photography I created some mock magazines for world-renowned fashion magazines such as Vogue, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, etc.
My personal photography style can be described as dramatic, modern, with lots of contrast. I like to use contrast both in my photography and graphic design work to make my subject the focal point of my projects. For each of these magazine covers I kept that in mind design-wise. The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was how to add text while keeping the photograph the focal point of the cover. IN addition to graphic design principles and elements, I studied each of the different magazines to understand the general layout for each specific magazine and tried to incorporate that into my designs. In regards to photography, I used studio strobes with modifiers to capture the type and quality of light you’d be accustomed to see on these fashion magazines.
This first magazine cover features my awesome photographer friend Danielle, who also serves as a killer model. I used a Yongnuo IV speedlight modified with a XL Rogue Flashbender and set it up forty five degrees camera right of Danielle. For my base settings I used an aperture of F10, shutter speed of 1/200 sec, and an ISO of 100. When designing this cover in post production I found her posing to be strong, independent, and wanted to cover that in the title and body text included on bottom left and top right.
For this next cover I got a great photo of my model, Kenzie. We were in the same room that I shot my photo of Danielle and used the same light set up and settings.
This next magazine cover is a favorite of mine. I got to photograph my model, Morgan, with an awesome Godox AD200 lights. Her ability to model and understand light in regards to modeling was amazing. For my camera set up I set up the Godox light modified by a Neewer Octabox to camera right. I set the light about seventy degrees to the left of my model and slightly above head level to get some great directional light. When designing this cover I had the most difficulty with the text placement. I wanted her outfit to be the focal point, especially with the text “The Big Fashion Issue” alluding to that as the main subject. In my studying of this magazine I found that they use two main fonts, with the serif VOGUE font as the title and a san-serif as the body text. In this case, I decided to do one font and use font size and style to contrast between header and body text.
And for my last cover, I photographed Parker Hamrick, who is also a really talented photographer, videographer, and artist. For my photo set up I had one continuous westcott light modified by another octabox set up camera right. I loved the original exposure and was so excited to get into the retouching phase. I originally edited this particular photo to be a black and white, which was incredible, but I loved the monochrome blue look I photographed. In Adobe Illustrator I created the GQ logo as close as I could get to the original logo and modified the colors of the letters. My biggest challenge in this design was finding the right fonts that would fit this magazine’s style and pairing it with the right sizing in regards to entire photo. Here’s what I was able to design.
I took on this project mostly as something to do in my spare time, but I loved getting to pour my creative abilities into something that can be relevant in the fashion and marketing industries. Hope you enjoyed this magazine cover series!
Natural Light Photoshoot in Rexburg, Idaho
As a visual creative it’s a demanding and competitive industry. If you’re not constantly keeping up with your craft you’ll be left behind in the dust with nothing but old tricks to show for it.
For the last year I have dedicated myself to learning the ins and outs of studio photography. I’ve loved learning about light; how it reacts to certain objects, the natural laws/rules that govern it and how that pertains to me as a photographer, and knowing how to control light to create a photograph with intent. While exclusively working with auxiliary light I put natural light photography on the back burner and I’ve come to miss shooting with natural light. Although studio photography has made me an immensely better photographer, understanding natural light and improving my natural light photography skills is something that I really want to work on.
For the last few months I’ve been lucky enough to find an incredible group of friends and creatives who share the same love for creating stunning visuals as I do. These women have been an inspiration, support, and good friends as I’ve grown as a photographer and graphic designer. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to share my passions and friendship with. As a group we decided we wanted to a natural light photoshoot and photograph each other. Honestly it was just a great excuse to hang out with each other, but I was able to get some awesome photos of each of them in the midst of catching up and socializing.
Another semester has come and gone, and like the one before, I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself as a photographer. This semester at BYU-Idaho I had the opportunity to take another photography class from the amazing Caryn Esplin. She has taught me so much and I can’t begin to describe everything that she has taught and mentored me through. I owe a lot to her for what she taught me, sacrificed, and the mentorship she has so graciously offered to me.
This semester I wanted to push myself beyond what I’m capable of doing photography-wise, so I did more types of photography I was less comfortable with to build my all-around skills. And through it all, I’ve come to discover a lot of types of photography that I actually really love. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite photos I’ve taken in the last several months.
Shooting Portraiture in Victor, Idaho
Portraiture has easily become one of my favorite types of photography to shoot. Although I consider myself a landscape and fine art photographer, applying my fine art photography skills to portrait photography has to be some of my favorite portrait photography memories I’ve made. I had the opportunity to take part in a stylized portrait photoshoot with several amazing models. Each had their own style, mood, and story to bring, so it was a pleasure to be able to show through photography what they were trying to convey.
In this first portrait, I had the incredible blessing to photograph my good friend, Danielle. Her beauty and style added to the story I envisioned, so I asked her to model for me. I love cinematic, dramatic portraits, so I used certain auxillary lighting to achieve that feeling as well as including a complementary gradient map to give color contrast to the photo.
For this photo I had a fun time interacting and photographing this model. I felt she had a really good sense for modeling naturally, so I let her take the reigns of what she was going to do modeling-wise. I told her, “don’t be afraid to get a little weird”, and she whipped out some awesome modeling poses for me to photograph.
This next photo is a favorite of mine. I did minimal retouching on the actual model and the light that we were using was awesome. For this photo I wanted to it be dramatic, low key, and memorable. With the light, I wanted to go for a split lighting pattern to further develop that dramatic message. After editing this photo though, I felt something was missing, so I decided to add some text and make a mock sports ad for Nike.
I got another incredible image of this fantastic model. For this photo I wanted more of a desaturated, earthy toned photo with less of an editorial/fashion look. Although I had her do more of a posed, editorial pose, I wanted to keep the earthy tones while I retouched and processed this photo.
For this I included a lighting technique called SQIBB (studio quality invisible black background) that I picked up from Caryn Esplin. Both the model and I were in a normal lit room and with a speedlight, rogue modifier, and my camera settings, I was able to capture this studio look. I absolutely loved her look and just her natural beauty, so I kept that in mind when I was trying decided what type of lighting I wanted to utilize for this photo.
This next image was kind of a happy accident. After doing frequency separation and color grading the image I accidentally hit the Black and White Adjustment Layer and I LOVED how it looked, so I kept it as a cool black and white image. After converting it, I played with the saturation of the different hues to get some good contrast and then added a curves adjustment layer to deepen the contrast between the highlights and the shadows
And then lastly, one of my favorites to this day. I took this photo of my good friend, Emilee. If you know her in real life, you know that she is one of the most joyful, humble, and incredibly kind people you’ll ever meet. With that in mind, I wanted to show that by using some incredible golden hour light, right as the sun was rising. The rich golden light exudes a feeling of happiness, kindness, and goodness and it definitely matches who she is!
Being Successful in Astrophotography
In the last year and a half, I’ve had to learn, through trial and error and research, how to photograph the night sky. I read, watched, and researched lots of information on astrophotography, but actually putting into practice what you hear/read is a whole different story. Here are some of my main tips, tricks, and answers to frequently asked questions when starting astrophotography.
- Plan ahead. After my first outing to photograph the stars, I was immediately hooked and wanted to go again. Me and some friends went out about two weeks after my first experience with the stars, and I was so stoked. I was so hellbent on having another fantastic experience, just like my first, that I never really took into consideration what it took to re-create those awesome shots I got on my first try. The group of friends and I went out one weekend and our timing and planning was just awful. It had been raining all weekend, planning rides, where the Milky Way was going to be, finding gear, was just an absolute mess. And the experience itself kind of left a bad taste in my mouth for a while. I honestly thought that my first experience was just a fluke, and that I wouldn’t be able to continue to photograph some awesome night landscapes. I almost gave up, but my determination to learn from my mistakes was stronger than how disappointed I felt after not planning well. There’ll be several things you have to consider to plan, such as: transportation, moon phase, weather, location scouting, composition, gear, lighting, and emergency/safety measures. Always be prepared!
- Focus, Focus, Focus. This is the number one problem I’m faced with, not only in my own astrophotography, but with questions from other people. How do I get those tack sharp stars? Each lens is different, but having a lens that focuses on infinity, will make your experience in focusing a whole lot easier. Sometimes your lens doesn’t have that focus, so here’s a tip that I give to those who are just starting off. With any kit lens, you have the option of zooming and locking your focus. With an object about 40-50 feet away, set your camera and focus your lens on that object with autofocus. Once you have that locked, switch that autofocus on your lens AND camera, to manual. What happens next is sooooo important. DO NOT MOVE YOUR FOCUS RING. From the time you focus to arriving on location and shooting, a lot can happen to bump your lens. Using tape, lock that focus and ensure that that focus ring does not move.
- The 500 Rule. This tip is also related to getting your stars tack sharp. Someone smarter and more brilliant than me has created this formula that will allow you to calculate the correct exposure time on one single exposure for the type and focal length you’re using. If you’re looking to do star trails, ignore this, but here’s how it works: SS=500/(FL*CF) SS stands for shutter speed, FL stands for focal length, and CF stands for crop factor. So let’s take my own camera setup as an example. I currently shoot on a Nikon full-frame (d610) and typically use my Rokinon 14mm f2.8. On a full-frame, the crop factor equals 1. So the formula would go as follows: SS=500/(14*1). The highest shutter speed I could get on this camera/lens combination would be 35.7 seconds. Now on most cameras the longest shutter speed you can find will be ~30 seconds, and if you want to go any slower, you’ll have to shift it to BULB mode, where you can manually hit the shutter, on the camera or with a cable shutter. If you’re shooting on crop sensor camera bodies, the crop factor will vary between brands. For Nikon it’s 1.5 and for Canon 1.6.
- Expectations. One common question I hear from friends, family, and people who see my night landscape photographs are, “did it really look like that when you took it? It looks amazing!” And I have to begrudgingly tell them no, because the stars/landscapes in fact, do not look like that straight out of camera. I’ve found that astrophotography is 40% planning/composing, 20% gear, and 40% post-processing. Although proper planning and in-camera shooting is the foundation of astrophotography, post-processing is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.
- SHOOT IN RAW. The last tip, and I can’t even stress how important it is. I don’t think I’m the only photographer that has to advise that shooting in raw is one of the number one rules in photography. Astrophotography is no exception. Shooting in raw will allow you to capture greater light/color data and allow you to be more flexible when editing your photos.
Thanks for stopping by and reading some of my tips and tricks when it comes to photographing the night sky!
Here’s to clear skies!
One of the most crucial parts to astrophotography is nailing your editing. In time you’ll find that your process gets faster, but to start off, processing your files will take some time. In these videos I created you’ll find a timelapses of some of my favorite edits on my astrophotography. I hope you enjoy!
Welcome back to another blog of The Light of Night! With any story, there’s an experience that changes everything. My story with astrophotography was kind of an accident, but something that’s changed my life forever. Here’s the story….
I’m a student at BYU-Idaho, based out of rural southeast Idaho. I’m studying visual communication, which consists of graphic design, vector illustration, marketing, and photography and I restarted my photography journey two years ago. At that time I was taking a required beginning photography course and this led into my journey as a long exposure and astrophotographer. During this class I was also roommates with another visual comm major and we did a lot of for fun photography projects. It’s with her that I kind of stumbled into astrophotography.
One night her sister, my roommate, and I were out on a night drive in the back roads of rural Idaho. While we were out on our drive I looked out the window and was so stunned at the brightness of the Milky Way. Even with the naked eye we could see the grandeur of the Milky Way. We had to stop in the middle of the road just to look up. It was AMAZING.
We got back in the car and my roommate turned to me and was like, “Let’s shoot the Milky Way tomorrow night.” And I was like, “Wait, seriously?” Turns to me “yeah.” “Ok let’s do it!”
We turned around and went back to our apartment and I remember staying up an additional 4-5 hours that watching videos, reading, and preparing for astrophotography the next night. It must’ve been 3am by that time, but I was sooo excited. Now I was just re-learning photography at that time, so my foundation in photography was non-existent, but I was determined to get at least a semi-decent shot that night.
The next night we went out around 1am to this mountainous area where we could include some cool landscape terrain in our shots. The weather was clear, it wasn’t too cold, and it felt like fate was giving us some sort of sign that this was gonna be so good. When we first got to our location I got some decent shots and I was actually thrilled because I was doing SOOO much better than I anticipated, but my roommate told me “Let’s go explore more, like up the road a little bit.” So we got in her car and drove to this open range area that cows were roaming in and set up on this road on a hill to start shooting more. By this time I was getting a little nervous because we had been hearing lots of howling sounds from who knows what kind of animals in this dark wooded area. But to no avail, we kept shooting. I remember one shot I got I set up my tripod in this ditch on the side of the road hoping to get a lower and better angle to shoot the Milky Way. My roommate was in her car getting some sort of gear and she accidentally hit the car’s high beams and I immediately got frustrated because it was going to mess with my photo that I had just started 5 seconds earlier. In hindsight, I’m soooooooo glad she did because this made for an EPIC first nightscape photo. I saw the preview of it afterwards in camera and I can’t even tell you how ecstatic I was. That mistake motivated me to keep shooting for the rest of the night and I got more amazing photos that have become some of my favorite memories and the start of my amazing journey to learn astrophotography.
You may think it’s dumb that I decided to go into astrophotography, even when there are dozens of genres of photography that could earn me so much more money, but there’s seriously nothing quite like getting some incredible astrophotographs. Since my first outing, I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from that teacher that I took that beginning photography class from, Caryn Esplin, about all things astrophotography. But most of my learning has come from my mistakes, happy accidents, and just experimentation in-camera and with post-processing.
This is what my website is all about. I want to help you, if you’re brand new, or looking for another website to get tips on astrophotography, shoot, prepare for, and post-process your sick astrophotos.
Welcome back to another blog of The Light of Night! Today I’ll specifically talking about all things related to prep-work for astrophotography.
So one of the biggest questions I get from friends, neighbors, and other photographers who are interested in shooting astro is, “what do I need to do to prepare to shoot some astrophotography?” Here’s a short list of things that I’ve found super helpful in getting ready to go out and shoot.
Get out of Town/Location Scouting
In order to do astrophotography/nightscapes, you have get out town…literally. Cities produce a lot of light pollution that inhibits capturing some of those great nightscapes that are possible. Lightpollution.info is a great site to find places where light pollution won’t interfere with your night photography and show places close to you that have darker skies to capture some awesome nightscapes. Also, because you’ll be shooting in darkness, knowing where you’re shooting is key to reducing time spent looking for places to shoot. I’m super fortunate to live close to rural places and National Parks that generally have dark skies. If that’s not the case for you, do what you can to get to the darkest skies possible.
Depending on the time of month and part of the moon phase you go out to shoot, you’ll get very different types of photographs of the night sky.
In the Northern Hemisphere, April through September is commonly nicknamed MilkyWay season. The bright core you’re accustomed to seeing in a lot of photographs is only visible to people in the Northern Hemisphere during that time. To get the full view of the Milky Way, you have to consider what the moon phase you go out to shoot. I’ve found that the best time to go to get bright stars and dark skies are during new moons and two to three days before and after a new moon. During this time the moon will most likely set with the sun, meaning you have more time to shoot the Milky Way during the night. Here’s an example of a nightscape that I shot during a new moon. You see that the stars are bright and the moon isn’t there to drown out the stars.
Now during half moons–or a waxing half moon to a full moon and down to a waning half moon, you’ll be getting a lot of light during your astrophotography.
Because of your settings–which is a long shutter speed, high ISO, and low aperture, a lot of light will be coming into your camera sensor. The moon is a large light source, so using those settings during those half moon times will make your image more brighter and drown out a lot the stars that are in the night sky.
Another possible inhibitor and factor in deciding to go out to shoot is the weather. Most, if not all, astrophotography is at the mercy of what the weather will be at the location you’re wanting to photograph. Using a simple weather app on your smartphone will help you determine if you’ll be in for clear skies, or cloudy, crazy weather. In the time that I’ve had to hone my skills, I’ve found that using local weather forecasts and finding weather radars within the geographic area has helped me be more accurate in predicting when and where I should shoot.
Infinity Focus/Sweet Spot
Probably the biggest and most common problem that I’m approached about from people attempting to shoot astrophotography is finding that spot on your focus to get the stars in focus. Each lens is different, so knowing how to focus your lens beforehand is so vital.
On most manual focus lenses you’ll have the ability to move your focus ring to inifinity. Essentially what you’re telling your lens is that you’re attempting to focus the lens on a subject that’s infinitely away. Most lenses nowadays actually have a setting beyond infinity that makes it even more difficult in finding that infinity focus sweet spot. I’ve found that if I’m not using a lens with an infinity focus, I’ll set up my camera on my tripod, have an object that I can focus on about 40-50 feet away and autofocus on that object. Once the focus is locked, I’ll switch, on both my camera and on the lens itself, to manual focus. From there I DO NOT TOUCH THE FOCUS RING. I repeat, do not touch the focus ring after the focus has been locked. To prevent it from being moved or bumped, use tape to keep it locked in place. There’s nothing worse than being out in the absolute dark and having to focus your camera and most likely ending up with out of focus astrophotography.
The Right Gear
Using the right type of gear is so important. Like any job or responsibility, astrophotography requires certain camera equipment to be successful. Check out my blog, where I talk more about my gear set up and why astrophotographers need certain equipment. Using a full-frame camera with a wide angle lens (in most situations) will put you at an advantage and will allow you to make the most of the awesome technology that’s available on the market right now.
And lastly, one of the biggest and most helpful things in this list has to be the astrophotography planning apps.
The most dominant, and for good reason, app has to be Photopills. While using this app, you can plan out the moon phases, sunrise, sunset, twilight, depth of field with the lens you’re using, formulas for doing star trails, night AR, where the Milky Way will appear in the sky, etc. The list goes on forever. It’s such a powerful tool that allows you to take most of the information you need to plan in one place. Minus weather and gear, this app does it all.
I hope this was helpful! Prepping is so important and is the foundation of how your nightscape adventures will turn out. Let me know what you thought!
Here’s to clear skies!
Welcome back to another The Light of Night blog tutorial. In this blog I’ll be talking strictly about gear–my own gear set-up, cons and pros of gear, and reasons behind why we need specific gear.
Like every job or task, astrophotography has specific tools and gear that you’ll need to be successful. I’ll go over my own gear and set up, as well as talk about the reasons why you’ll need the specific type of gear.
If you’re brand new to astrophotography you can’t go wrong in investing in an entry level DSLR camera and kit lens. A lot of the camera equipment can be expensive, so starting with what you have is totally fine. As astrophotography evolves, more and more technology is available to us, but getting something that suits your needs and budget is super important. My advice is to start off with an entry-level DSLR such as the Canon rebel series (T6i/T7i) or Nikon D3400. As you advance in experience in astrophotography you can start to invest in other camera bodies that do well in low light, such as the Sony A7RIII, full frame Nikons (D610, D750, D850/810), or full frame Canons (5DMII, 6D, 7DMKII).
For astrophotography purposes I’ll talk about the advantages of a having a full-frame camera vs a crop sensor.
35 mm film
On 35mm film, the imaging area was 36mm (wide) by 24mm (high). There really wasn’t much more to it. You got a 35mm SLR and went about your business of taking photos. Full Frame is the equivalent of 35mm film producing an image with a 3:2 aspect ratio. The physical sensor size is 36 x 24mm, the same size as a 35mm film cell. Crop sensor, or APS-C offers smaller sensor sizes that are a “crop” of that. The physical sensor size is smaller than a full frame.
The size of your sensor determines 2 things – how much light it can capture, and how wide your field of view will be using the same lens. The sensor itself is covered in “pixels”. The individual light collectors on your sensor chip are called photosites. A 24 MP sensor will have 24 million colour photosites which collect the light focused on them by the lens. Like the sensor itself, the size of the photosites matter. On a full frame sensor, the individual photosites are larger to fill up the larger physical dimensions of the chip, therefore gather more light. And inversely, fitting 24 million photosites on a smaller physical chip requires making each individual photosite smaller.
One of the advantages of full frame sensors is their lower noise than crop sensors. This is because photosites will generate heat when actively collecting light. Larger photosites and larger sensors means that they’re able to dissipate heat better whereas the smaller, more densely packed photosites on the smaller chip are more sensitive to heat. Sensor heat is the biggest contributor to digital noise when using high ISO (gain) settings or doing long exposures – the 2 things that we do most in astrophotography. This is the reason why full frame cameras will have better noise tolerance and better low light performance than a crop sensor camera with an equivalent pixel count sensor.
The second effect of sensor size is field of view or viewing angle. This is where the term “full frame equivalent” comes into play. With an equivalent lens (a 20mm, for example), a full frame sensor will produce a wider field of view. Depending on the crop factor of the sensor, the magnification will be increased by the crop factor of the sensor.
So there you have it. Full frame cameras have two huge advantages: lower light tolerance/noise and wider view or angle.
So which is right for you? A lot will depend on your budget and the type of astrophotography you’re wanting to shoot. For deep space, you’ll probably want the narrow view crop sensors offer. For widefield landscape astrophotography, it’s hard to beat a full frame camera. The superior low light sensitivity and more robust noise of full frame sensors means you get cleaner, brighter images. For the sake of this blog, I would say that an entry-level DSLR or entry-level full frame if you’re experienced will be great for you.
When I first started I was limited not only by my experience, but by my budget. I’m a college student, so shelling out several hundred dollars for a camera and lens was A LOT. I had an entry-level crop sensor dslr, the canon T6i. As a beginner it fulfilled my needs as I shot and got me some great images.
With more experience and knowledge about astrophotography I decided it was time to upgrade to a full-frame camera that could perform well in low-light situations. I now shoot with a Nikon D610 camera body. With the full-frame sensor my images are cleaner and brighter, do well in low light, and collect great light and color data.
Lenses are about as important as the choice of your camera body. Depending on the type (landscape, deep space, tracking, etc) you’ll want certain lenses for those types.
It’s super important that you are able to have access to lenses that are fast. And what I mean by that is that it’ll allow you to shoot with low apertures (f 2.8). With night photography you’ll need that capability to shoot wide open to gather more light. In the sense of landscape night photography, wider lenses are the way to go. In the first year of shooting I started with an ultra wide 11-16mm Tokina lens with an aperture of 2.8. That lens is still one of my favorites to use and will always be one that I recommend to use on either a Canon or Nikon body. As far as lenses go, they’re pretty inexpensive. [show picture of 11-16mm lens]
The lens that I’m currently hooked to right now is the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens. Super fast and super wide, it does wonders on my full frame Nikon body. Because it is so wide, I do get lens distortion, so I fix whatever distortion I have in my images in Photoshop.
What’s an astrophotograph without its foundation? Having a sturdy tripod to set your camera is so huge. I trust Manfrotto and have purchased one of their lower end tripods simply because of my budget and it hasn’t disappointed me yet. If you’re shooting astrophotography there’s a good chance that you’re also on the go and need something lightweight but also sturdy enough to hold both your camera and lens. Sirui with a ballhead is such a gamechanger and has allowed me to shoot with some super low angles, giving me some great compositions.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from astrophotography is that you need to be prepared for any situation. Preparing your gear, composition, shots, and other miscellaneous items you’ll need. The things that I’ve found I needed the most in emergency situations or times when I wanted to try something new are:
- Halogen lights. Using external lighting to light paint a landscape scene is something that I love to do. With a cool WB, using a warm halogen light will pick up well in your photographs.
2. Another thing is not necessarily gear, but clothing you might need to bring. Regardless of what time of the year it is, you’ll most likely need some extra clothes layers while you shoot–unless you’re like in death valley during the middle of summer. That might be the exception. With the night hours, body heat can be scarce, and nothing is more dangerous or uncomfortable than being out in the pitch dark, in the middle of nowhere with no extra clothes to warm your body during the night.
3. Spare batteries and SD cards: Depending on the temperature and how many stills/videos you take in one night, you’ll need some back ups. Especially shooting in the cold and shooting timelapse/star trails, batteries wear down quickly, so extra batteries that you keep in your coat pocket with either a hand warmer or close to the trunk of your body are super essential. The same goes for SD cards. Shooting in RAW is SO KEY for astrophotography and with the amount of images you’ll be shooting, extras SD cards would be smart to have on hand.
4. Lastly, one of the best miscellaneous pieces of gear I’ve found to be helpful is a headlamp. It’s saved me from some potentially costly falls (both to body and gear), encounters with wildlife, and given me a spare external light painting source. You may think that your phone will be ok, but more often than not, luck has not been on my side and my headlamp has been my saving grace when my phone or maglite has failed.
With all that being said, the biggest thing to take away from this video is that your camera is just a tool. The camera is only as good as the photographer using it. A better camera won’t automatically take better pictures. It will just open up some possibilities you didn’t necessarily have before.
Welcome back to another blog tutorial on how to post-process the night sky! In this blog I specifically go over how to adjust hue, saturation, and lightness of the colors of your astrophotography. If you’re interested in going over a comprehensive guide on how to process the night sky, check out my last blog post here.
This tutorial is all about one of my favorite aspects of astrophotography: color. One of the many things that make an image of the night sky memorable are the colors and I’ll be talking about why we get the colors in the astrophotography and how to use different adjustment layers to pull some amazing color in your photographs. I’ve been super fortunate to have been on night photography trips and captured some AMAZING coloring in the night sky. This summer has been some of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken and it’s because of the amazing color I’ve been able to capture.
In this example I’ll go over how I processed this image and was able to get the colors I got in this image.
To begin with, the color we see in the Milky Way will be dependent on a lot of factors. With the naked eye you’ll find that it’s a white/blue color, but what your camera sensor picks up in color data is amazing. Depending on the amount of pollution in the sky, geographic region (dark skies or not), and other atmospheric debris, you’ll get color data in a wide range. In post-processing though, you’ll have the opportunity to pull out some great color and saturation. Differing gases in the Milky Way and earth’s atmosphere will affect the coloring you’ll capture in-camera.
Adobe Photoshop has some incredible tools within the software that will enable you to capture/edit some awesome images of the night sky. My secret? Curves and hue/saturation adjustment layers. In the lower right-hand corner is the option of choosing a variety of adjustment layers. Here you can choose curves and hue/saturation adjustment layers. Both of these are so powerful and will give you a range of options to adjust the color and saturation of the sky.
In the curves adjustment layer you have the option of choosing from four different color channels to edit and adjust. The RGB tone curve adjust the overall exposure/tones of your image. Then there’s the red, green, and blue channels, all separated into their own, giving you the ability to add certain coloring to your images.
The hue/saturation adjustment layer is another favorite. This adjustment layer is SO powerful. Within the initial dropdown dialogue you’ll find the different color pixels that can be found in any one image. By selecting one of these colors you’re able to target that specific color and adjust the hue, saturation, and lightness of that specific color.
For example, I love using this type of adjustment layer to target specific colors. In this photograph you’ll find a wide range of hues within the one image. I started by targeting the reds and yellows in this image on one layer. I love adding the warmth reds and yellows bring to a photo, so when I found that this had a pretty significant amount of reds and yellows, I was super stoked. Within the reds and yellows I like to keep it relatively natural; the reds more red and yellows more yellow. In another hue/saturation layer I targeted the magentas by adding more yellow to the image. The original file had it a little more red than I wanted, so I add adjusted the hue slider to the right towards the yellow section of the hue spectrum. And then finally, I target the blues, one specifically for blues/cyans and another to adjust more purple in the milky way. Another great thing about this adjustment layer is that I can target the saturation of those individual colors. If I want the reds to be more saturated and pop more, I simply have to slide the saturation slider on the reds to the right.
Now if you’re thinking, that’s too good to be true, don’t! It really is that simple! The beauty of using adjustment layers are twofold. 1. They’re non-destructive. Meaning that you can easily delete that layer without losing pixels and overall quality of your image. 2. LAYER MASKS. When I started using Photoshop I was overwhelmed at trying to learn a complex piece of software, but it doesn’t have to be. The foundations of Photoshop lie in the layer masks and the ability to paint in your adjustments in a certain part of your image. If you know that white reveals and black hides, you’ll be on your way to adding certain adjustments to specific parts of any image you edit.
Disclaimer: all of this takes time to learn and achieve. Don’t expect to nail the hue/saturation of your night photography. As I write this, I still have so much to learn, but I’ve learned the foundations of color post-processing through trial and error and experimenting. Don’t be afraid to try it on your own!
Again, thanks for stopping by this tutorial. If you enjoyed this or want to know more, feel free to check out my contact information on the contact page here or through social media.
Here’s to clear skies!
Welcome to The Light of Night’s first post-processing blog! If you’re new here, The Light of Night is dedicated to creating post-processing tutorials. In astrophotography, post-processing is half the battle to being successful in creating some stunning astrophotography, so I’m here to show you what I’ve learned in a step-by-step blog. Before we jump in, the main programs I use to process my astrophotography are Adobe Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw, and Adobe Photoshop. I’ve originally started with Lightroom as my main processing software, but as I’ve grown in my experience, Photoshop has become an incredible tool that has taken my astrophotography to another level.
Step 1: Sorting and Culling
This step is SO important and (admittedly) one that I haven’t always been good at. Even with my portrait and product photography, importing, sorting, culling, and backing up files has been my least favorite step in post-processing and one, learned through the hard way, is ESSENTIAL. My individual workflow has something that I’ve developed over the last year and it may not be what makes sense to you, but here’s my importing, sorting, culling, and backing up process that I currently use.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that backing up your files are so important. I don’t care who you are, some way or another your files can/may become corrupt, lost, or mislabeled, so backing up those files somewhere other than your computer is key. I currently have four places where I back up my files: my computer hard drive, an external hard drive, via Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage. I have SO many files, so there’s a possibility that you’ll need to purchase more cloud space and external drives as you shoot more.
Once I have my files backed up in the usual four places, I then start importing those RAW files into Adobe Bridge. Adobe Bridge is an awesome tool and one of the programs that comes with the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Once my files have successfully imported I get to sorting and culling.
I start by rating my images by what I think they’ll be capable of looking once I’ve started post-processing.
My highest rated images (5-stars) are ones that I got exactly right in-camera and a 4-star rate are images, that with minimal editing, I can get to that high-quality image I want and are portfolio ready. 3-starred images are images that are mediocre and I know require a lot of post-processing work on my part. 1-2 star images are regular snapshots that I rarely even work on. To rate my images, I use these shortcuts:
Cmd (Cntrl) + 5 = 5 stars
Cmd (Cntrl) + 4 = 4 stars
Cmd (Cntrl) + 3 = 3 stars
Cmd (Cntrl) + 2 = 2 stars
Cmd (Cntrl) + 1 = 1 stars
After rating my files, I then filter the files I rated. I typically only filter through the 4 and 5-star images–and depending on how many photos I’ll need–I’ll add in my 3-star rated files. Once those are filtered I then flag the top picks–images that I’ll actually process.
Step 2: Processing
Now we finally get to the fun part: editing! The sky in your files are 10/10 times going to look uninteresting and dingy, so that’s where processing comes into play. Even though you can do a lot with editing software, getting the exposure correct in-camera is ESSENTIAL. No over-processing will compensate for the lack of work you have to put into getting the exposure right the first time.
First things first: Exposure
Once I have my final picks in Bridge, I choose my first image I want to process and double-click it. By doing that, two programs are automatically opened: Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Adobe Photoshop. If you have Photoshop downloaded you’ll already have ACR as the automatic companion to the Photoshop software. Here the software dialogue will be similar to the Adobe Lightroom interface. You can adjust exposure, contrast, and parts of the file histogram (highlights, whites, shadows, and blacks), color (HSL), and other correcting adjustments. With ACR I only focus on bringing out the highlights/whites, darkening the shadows/blacks, and adding clarity to my image. All color processing will be done in Photoshop.
Depending on my image, I’ll have to adjust the highlights and whites. I usually keep that anywhere around 40-60 on the highlight slider and around 35 for the whites.
Here’s the RAW image side-by-side of the before and after adjusting the highlights, whites, black, shadows, and clarity:
After I got my desired exposure in ACR, I’ll click the ‘Open Image’ button at the bottom. From there, this will open the RAW file in Adobe Photoshop.
Step 3: Adobe Photoshop
We’re finally in Photoshop! With my background layer selected, I’ll duplicate it by using the keyboard shortcut (Cmd+J). By doing this you’ll have a foundation for non-destructive editing. If you don’t end up liking your edits, having this duplicated background layer ensures that if it were to be deleted, you’ll have that original RAW file to use without destruction of pixels.
Curves Adjustment Layers:
I begin my edits in Photoshop by adjusting the hues and saturation of the photo. I first select a curves adjustment layer. Under the RGB drop down menu, there’ll be several color channels–red, green, blue–for you to choose to edit. I start by editing the reds and greens, and will add an additional curves adjustment layer specifically for the blue channel.
In each color to edit I make sure to pay attention to the channel and how it’ll affect the hues of the specific image. Raising the red channel will add more red to the image while dropping the curve will add blue to the image. Raising the point above the curve will add that color to the image (according to the tonal area you’re raising) and dropping the point below the curve will do the inverse. I like to create color contrast (Milky Way vs. the rest of the sky). The milky way I’ll add and adjust the color to be vibrant. For the rest of the sky I like to keep it more of a navy blue/dark blue hue. Using color contrast I keep the milky way the focal point while creating the sky as the background.
Here’s the image with the red, green, and blue channels adjusted:
Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer:
The next type of adjustment layers I use are hue/saturation adjustment layers. This is another tool in Photoshop where you can adjust the hue, saturation, and lightness of the colors. Within the hue/saturation dialogue you have the option of targeting certain colors without affecting the rest. Here is where I isolate the different colors within the milky way and pull out those rich colors my camera was able to capture.
Similar to the curves adjustment layer, I create 2-3 of these layers. The first usually being where I adjust the reds and yellows, the second being magentas and cyans, and lastly the blues have their own adjustment layer. Because of the white balance I use, most of the color in the sky is blue, so one layer dedicated to blue in case I need to use the layer mask to paint in the areas where I want that blue specifically while keeping the rich colors of the milky way. The amount and what colors I target will vary, but with this image, it’s predominantly blue, so I’ll have several layers where I specifically edit the blues with layer masks.
Here in this image I started my first blue hue/saturation layer by paying attention to the milky way and making it more purple. With the adjustment applied to the whole image I hit Cmd+I on the layer mask and select a soft, low opacity (30-40%) brush with the foreground color set to white. Then I start painting in where the milky way is and adding that rich purple color. With the milky way adjusted, I add another blue hue/saturation layer and start to pay attention to the rest of the sky. I like to keep it natural, so more of a navy blue and dark blue color. Here’s the image so far:
With the coloring where I want it, I go toward adjusting the white/highlights for one last time before I do clone stamping, last corrections, and sharpening.
With all of my adjustment layers in order I create an merged all layer. Essentially it creates a layer that collects all of the layer information into one layer. This will allow me to apply the Camera Raw Filter, clone stamping, and sharpening. The shortcut is Shift+Opt+Cmd+E.
Step 4: Last Corrections
Like I said in the previous paragraph, I’ll go ahead to the top menus and under Filter>Camera Raw Filter. This will bring back the ACR sliders to finalize the exposure.
Once I have the exposure sliders to the point that I want them at, I’ll hit ok at the bottom. I’ll then duplicate the layer with Cmd+J and start clone stamping out distracting parts of the image. In this case, the bottom light trail from a dune buggy is distracting, so I’ll clone stamp that out. The keyboard shortcut to that is S.
After you’re finished with clone stamping hit Cmd+J to duplicate that clone stamp layer. The image is finally ready for the last step: sharpening. I cannot emphasize enough how important sharpening is. Whether you’re preparing your image for digital purposes and especially print, sharpening is REALLY CRUCIAL. For printing purposes, not sharpening will have you end up with blurry parts of the sky that you’re not intending. Even if you end up exporting this to post online, sharpening makes such a difference.
With that top layer selected I sharpen the image by going to Filter>Sharpen> and either Smart Sharpen or Unsharp Mask. Unsharp Mask is a lot easier and more intuitive to use, so for this tutorial, I’ll use Unsharp Mask.
In the unsharp mask dialogue you’ll have a zoomed in portion of your image, previewing how the amount of sharpening will do to your image. I generally like to keep the radius between 2.5-3 with sharpening anywhere between 90 and 120. By unchecking and checking the preview box, you’ll also see before and after versions of the sharpening applied to the image.
Here’s the final image!
If you have any questions about any parts of this blog tutorial, feel free to check out my contact page here on my website! I’d love to talk to ya. Thanks for stopping by and reading this this tutorial on how to process the night sky.
Here’s to clear skies!!
Photographing Food and Products for Commercial Purposes
As of late, food and product photography has captivated me. I love using my photography skills to capture stunning and captivating photos for products, services, and food. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a commercial photographer, but I’ve definitely learned so much in terms of lighting, camera angles, and styling to capture some great food and product photography. In most of my light set ups I used auxiliary lighting to the type and feel of product and food photographs I wanted.
There’s nothing in this world that I love more than a good chocolate cake. For these photographs I used a speedlite with a Rogue flashbender as my modifier in addition to some ambient, natural light. The styling on this cake was absolutely stunning. I loved the complimentary colors of the berries and pine needles which were added to this rich, earthly brown of the chocolate cake. Looks like it belongs in a food network magazine!
For the next set of photos I had some fun photographing tacos for food photography. The combination of the vibrant reds and bold greens of the peppers and cilantro stood out to me the most.
For the next styled food product I got some awesome shots of a meat and cheese platter. When I first started photographing this food the initial feeling I got from this was natural and raw, so I tried to keep that in mind as I processed these photos. In my raw files I found that my images were extremely over saturated with yellow, so I had to dial back the saturation, of the yellows and general saturation, to capture this more natural and moody feeling I was trying to convey. The back lighting on these photos are what I believe make these food photography great. With a more backlit scene, it gives more dimension and interesting angles, lighting wise, to photograph.
In addition to some food photography, I got in some shots of awesome products. With fall and winter close at hand, I decided to photograph some Stephen’s Gourmet Hot Chocolate. When I started shooting I styled the can of hot cocoa mix in this fur, trying to convey this warm, inviting feeling, but with a fireplace at my disposal, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. With a zoom lens on hand, I dropped my aperture as far as I could go with a flash, backed up a foot or two and got some awesome bokeh of the fireplace–due to both my aperture AND the lens compression from zooming in.
And lastly, I photographed one of my favorite products and snacks. When I was thinking about Clif bars and their audience, I felt that their products would be sold more toward active, outdoors people who use it to fuel and power their bodies. I took this outside and wanted to give it more of a natural, outdoors feel. The background had a close color to beige/light brown of the box, so I wanted to used auxiliary lighting to create contrast, keeping the product well lit with a darker background.
Preparing Photos For a Fine Art Gallery
Over the time I’ve spent honing and working on my photography skills and work, fine art photography has consistently been one of my favorite types of photography to produce. I love doing portrait, product, and commercial photography, but there’s something about fine art photography that allows me to see an ordinary subject and create or tell a story about it. This week I had the opportunity to prepare an image to be hung for a fine art gallery on the campus of BYU-Idaho.
My subject for this photo was music/piano. Music is as a part of me just as my physical and personality traits make up who I am. Since I was little I took piano lessons and over the years it has become something that I cherish and have become more grateful for. With my inspiration in mind, I decided to create this moody, dramatic photo of my hand playing the piano keys. With a snoot and my camera settings I was able to create this spotlight of the piano keys and my hand–giving it the dramatic look I was intending. Here’s the original edited image:
In order to print this I had to do additional edits to create the feeling and mood I wanted for this photo in print. In post-processing I dramatically raised the shadows and blacks. Whenever you print, especially in large format printing, the photo will always print darker than you anticipate. Lightening the photo, especially the shadows will help compensate for the printers tendency to print darker. Another vital edit that needs to be applied to images before heading to print is sharpening. Printers will also print blurrier than what is seen onscreen, so sharpening the right amount is so crucial. After adjusting the shadows, blacks, and lowering the highlights, I sized the image to 16×24 and sharpened the image, while paying close attention to the texture of my hand. I wanted to keep the texture of my hand rough, giving the illusion of it weathered by time. Here’s my final Photoshop PDF file:
I decided to give this a glossy finish and had the print shop mount this to foamcore. Overall, I’m very satisfied with how this turned out. Come by the Jacob Spori building this week to see the print in person!
Shooting Landscape Photography in Grand Teton National Park
Some of my favorite fine art photographs I’ve taken have come from incredible landscapes I’ve been able to capture. I’ve had some incredible moments in my life, in terms of photography, just as the great Ansel Adams has described. He once said, “Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.” The world we have around us is amazing and I’ve had the privilege to travel to Grand Teton National Park to take in and photograph some of the best landscapes I have seen in my lifetime. In this instance I’ve had to battle inclement weather, but it has given me some incredible situations and subjects to photograph.
During this photography trip I only had a zoom lens, so I decided to do a panorama series of the locations I visited in Grand Teton National Park to get that wide view a typical wide angle lens would’ve captured. My first panorama is of the infamous Mormon Row Barns.
Probably my favorite panorama from my trip, this was such a pleasure to photograph this fine art and landscape photograph. A group of photographers and I traveled to String Lake in Grand Teton National Park.
Even though I got a stunning landscape panorama of String Lake, I decided to capture a bracketed shot of the corner of String Lake.
During my four-day trip, I had the awesome opportunity to stay at the Sky Mountain Lodge in Victor, Idaho. Nestled in the foothills of some mountains, it offered some great landscape and fine art photographs.
Down the road from the lodge, we got some photos of cute horses who definitely had some model poses they whipped out for the photographers. 😀
On our way to photograph these awesome horses the sun was setting right behind these row of trees and made for some awesome light and great fine art.
And lastly, my favorite type of photography in the world, I was able to capture some astrophotography even though the whole night was filled with clouds and stormy weather.
How to Shoot Light Painting Photography
The iconic artist Rembrandt once said, “A [painting] is complete when it has the shadows of the gods.” The core of photography is light; a balance between darkness and the light. As photographers we learn about how light reacts to differing environments and patterns for light. We use our knowledge of light to illustrate a narrative or story. With light painting, I’ve learned to how to use light, both ambient and auxillary, to create stunning images in complete darkness. Light painting photography is a long exposure technique which utilizes a light source to illuminate a subject and create movement with a moving light source. In Victor, Idaho, I had the opportunity to put my light painting photography techniques to the test.
Throughout the night I had the opportunity to shoot different types of light painting–ranging from indoor light painting, landscape light painting, and orb light photography.
In this first photo I got an awesome vintage camera and set it up on a wooden pillar. The full moon was out that night, and I wanted to use that light source to back light the camera and create a faux flash. With my camera set up, I set my camera on a 15 second exposure, with an ISO of 100, and an aperture of f/9. Once I hit the shutter I began to do my light painting with a stylus light. With how small the stylus light is, I thought it would be perfect to light paint parts of the camera. I started with light painting going from the bottom up. I quickly shone the light on the pillar while keeping the light several inches away from the pillar to keep it less bright than the light painting done on the camera. After light painting the pillar I began with the camera. With the stylus light close to the camera (camera right) I began painting to illuminate and show the form of the camera. In contrast with the pillar, I kept my stylus light really close to the camera to make the light brighter and stand out more. In post processing I decreased the saturation of reds, yellows, and magentas to color correct the weird colors that I had captured and then sharpened the wood and the camera.
For this next photo I had my friend Kiley model for this 30 second exposure. Props to her for staying still for that long! At this part of the night I was working on outdoor/landscape light painting. I typically love to include the night sky and stars, but the clouds weren’t cooperating that night. As an astrophotographer I love capturing long exposure portraits of people who are working on and love astrophotography and long exposure photography. I had this idea to do something similar to an environmental portrait of a night photographer, so I got Kiley to model for me. To light her up I used the light from my phone to illuminate her back and face and part of the foreground. In post processing I cleaned image slightly. I had some light trails that I clone stamped out and added some hue/saturation adjustment layers to color correct from the blue light coming from my phone.
For this next photo I had another of friend of mine, Danielle, model for me and I used the same techniques as above to capture this cool portrait of Danielle.
This next photo was my favorite from this night. I absolutely LOVE astrophotography, but I was really bummed that a huge cloud system had come in that night, hiding the beautiful stars and full moon that would be out that night. Fortunately there was a small break in the clouds where I could shoot some long exposure astrophotography.
This is of the Sky Mountain Lodge in Victor, Idaho, where I had been staying for a few days working on all things photography. Because the lodge lights were on, I didn’t have light paint at because the amount and brightness of the light from lodge would illuminate the grass on the foreground. For this shot I had a 30 second exposure, a f/2.8, and an ISO of 2000. In post, I did minimal editing–raising the highlights and whites in the sky, lowering the exposure of the lodge, and adjusting the hue of blue in the night sky. If you want to check out more of my astrophotographs, check them out in my fine art blog posts!
On this photo I did minimal edits of the boxing gloves. I increased the highlights slightly, darkened the shadows, and clone stamped distracting light trails.
How to Create a Movie Poster Using Adobe Photoshop
Some of the magic that comes out of Hollywood are the movie posters created for each film. When I think of film, a lot of what I remember are the stunning visuals that are created as a companion and as advertisements for each movie. Think of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Jaws, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jurassic Park. The list of films that have incredible and iconic movie posters is endless. For every movie poster there’s so much attention and detail that’s put into each composited image, so I decided to put myself to the challenge. For this movie poster I decided to create a Stranger Things movie poster. For millennials and adults alike, Stranger Things has become a pop culture icon and I knew I wanted to take on that challenge.
I started by planning out my shots and other free images to incorporate into my final composited movie poster. I had Kaleigh and Kiley help out by modeling for four of the shots I would be using. Here’s is the reference image I used for this movie poster:
I found a nice gravel road that I could use as my background and started shooting. For each model, including myself, I took two photos. One with the model correctly exposed within the environment and another where I added a Yongnuo IV speedlight to mimic the flashlights seen in the reference image. As a the background and foundation of this entire project I took a picture of the background with no models. Thankfully in the background there were rows of trees and bushes that gave a similar feeling to the original poster. With my images shot, I took them into Photoshop to begin my post-processing.
For images like this, post-processing is SO CRUCIAL. I wouldn’t have been able to create this movie poster without the Adobe Photoshop software. The image that was used as the background layer was the background shot. Here’s what it looked like straight out of camera:
In camera raw I adjusted the image to be more blue with the tint slider, raised the shadows, decreased the highlights, and adjusted the hue and saturation of the yellows and greens. Once in photoshop I colorized the entire image as blue using a hue/saturation adjustment layer. I wanted to keep the bushes shown on the right for both sides of the image, so I created a duplicate layer of the bush layer, added a layer mask, and with a soft black brush I drew in the areas on the right of the image to reveal the bushes on the right. With a little bit of tweaking and using the gradient tool on the layer mask, I got my image to where I liked it.
For the images of the building and satellite dish I used free images from unsplash.com. They both were lit well by the sun, so in photoshop I applied a couple of clipping masks to each individual image to create a dark silhouette. For each I added curves, hue/saturation, and levels adjustment layer clipping masks to mimic the poster. For each (satellite and building) I grouped the adjustment layers to each in a group by hitting Command + G. On the building group I added a layer mask, and with the gradient tool selected on the mask I used that to create the effect of the building being behind the trees in camera right.
For the next layers I got started on the photos of the models. I started with Kiley, who is the center back of the image. In camera raw I used similar adjustments that I used for the background image. I brought up the shadows, lowered the highlights and whites, increased contrast, and desaturated and darkened the yellows and greens on that photo. In Adobe Photoshop I used the quick selection tool to select Kiley from the background. With the refine edge tool in the “Select and Mask” module I refined my selection around her hair and any other edges I might have missed with the quick selection tool. The hardest part of all of the selections were masking out the background within the bike spokes. With the polygonal lasso tool I continued to select those parts of the background shown through the bike spokes. Once I was done with the selection I hit the “add layer mask” button and it created a layer where Kiley and her bike were selected and the background were masked out. Using the move tool (V) I moved the image of Kiley to my main file. Under the free transform menu I tweaked the image so it would match the right perspective with “Perspective” and “Warp” tools. From Adobe Bridge I brought the second image I took of Kiley, this one including the speedlight, emulating the flashlights in the reference photo. On top of the selection layer of Kiley, I lowered the opacity of this second photo so I could adjust it on top of the model layer to look like it was sitting on top of the bike. After transforming the image to where I wanted I brought up the opacity of the layer to 100% and added in a layer mask. On the layer mask I started brushing away at the parts of the photo that didn’t include the light with a soft black brush. On top of these two layers I added the same colorizing adjustments I used for the background layer and dropped the opacity.
In reference to the original photo, I took a picture of a bike lying on the ground. I brought the selection of that bike into my main file and with the free transform tool, adjusted it so that it would have correct perspective. I duplicated that layer. I selected the original layer and hitting Command + U, I adjusted the lightness of the bike to be black. Going up to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, I added blur to create a soft shadow below the bike layer. I then lowered the opacity of the shadow layer to create a soft, realistic shadow. To top off the post-processing of this model I grouped those layers together according to each iage. For each of the models shown in the final composite, I used the same steps. Here’s what the photo looked like up to that point:
The remaining layers are all about colorizing the entire image. I first started with the bike lights. With a yellow brush I painted in the direct light the flashlights would’ve emitted and used the Screen blending mode. I create this for all three bikes. As light drops off I used a lower opacity brush and painted in on a different layer how the light fall off would occur.
In the reference image the shadows contain a lot of dark blues/violets. With several curves and levels adjustment layers I adjusted the image to contain those same hues according to the shadows, midtones, and highlights. As my final colorizing layer I used a gradient map adjustment layer to create a light violet color in the shadows gradiated to a light yellow color in the highlights. I then lowered the opacity of the layer to around 45%.
My next step was to create the title and body copy. For the Title font I used a free font from dafont.com called Beguit. For the body copy I used Neou bold.
My final edits to my movie poster was to create fog/mist for the entire image and to add in shadows. On a new blank layer I used a blue brush to color in the areas where it should be darker. On that layer I also used a Multiply blending mode. On a different layer I changed the color of my brush to a light gray. I painted on this layer with a low opacity so I could build the color. For this specific layer I concentrated my painting in the highlights to give the lights a feel of shooting through fog. I then slightly lowered the opacity of that layer. On my final layer of fog I used the same brush color and lowered the opacity more. For this layer I concentrated the fog in the shadows, background near Kiley, and the foreground area.
For the shadows I went down to the group containing my self-portrait and duplicated the layer of myself. With the bottom layer I adjusted the lightness so it would be black. With the free transform tool (Command + T) I rotated the top of the bike toward camera right, giving the illusion that the light spillage hitting my bike would have a shadow effect. I then lowered the opacity of that layer. On the other bikes I added a new layer and with a low opacity black brush I added shadowing to the ground, under the bikes and also added additional shading to other areas around the edges. Here’s the final image:
Creating Studio Lighting At Home
One huge misconception in achieving studio quality photography is that you MUST HAVE big, expensive lighting equipment, a large studio space solely for photography purposes, and camera gear that costs more than your life. The following photos were all taken with small and portable lights (Yongnuo IV speedlight) and modifier (Large Rogue Flashbender). It’s a pretty inexpensive setup, but the secret is in the technique and settings. I learned this technique from Caryn Esplin and it’s become one of my favorite portrait shooting techniques I’ve learned to this day. She calls this technique, SQIBB, or studio quality invisible black background. With the right camera settings, one speedlight and flashbender, you can capture some pretty great studio photography shots right in your living room.
For this studio quality photo series I had three pieces of equipment that I needed in order to achieve the studio photography that I’ve come to love. The first is a Yongnuo 560-IV speedlite. They are very affordable and work as well as high quality speedlites made by other brands such as Nikon and Canon. The next piece of equipment I used go hand in hand: a trigger. The triger mounts on the hotshoe of the camera and triggers the flash to go off when the shutter is released. The last piece of equipment I used was a Large Rogue Flashbender. This attachment goes on the end of a flash and acts as a portable light modifier to achieve soft studio lighting as opposed to a speedlite unmodified by light attachment.
For the camera settings, I started with a shutter speed of 1/200, an aperture around f 10, and an ISO of 100. With a faster shutter speed (within the speedlite sync range) and small aperture, my image would be darker, achieving the moodier pictures and feeling I was going for.
In this portrait of Analee I wanted to create contrast between the highlights of her skin and the darkness of the background. I also kept in mind lighting patterns that would be flattering and fit the feeling I was wanting to capture. Here’s the final image. A moody, studio portrait with rembrandt lighting.
Music is such a huge part of my life, so I decided I wanted to shoot a subject that related to music. I found this upright piano and got to shooting. For this shot I set up my camera on my tripod and decided to get a “self-portrait” of my hand. It took a couple tries to get the light directed at the right spot, but finally got the shot. In post I did minimal edits. I increased the highlights, darkened the shadows, and sharpened the entire image.
And for my last photo I decided to capture the piano. I used the same settings in camera as the last two photos and took this into post-processing. In post I also increased the highlights, increased clarity and sharpening on the wood, and darkened the shadows to add additional vignetting to the photo. I hope you enjoy!
The last few months I’ve been able to improve my skills with Adobe Illustrator. With this project I wanted to create a vector icon set with my own flare to it. One of my favorite childhood, and still to this day, disney movies is Mulan. I used my love for Mulan and got to work in Adobe Illustrator.
Icons are icons because there’s something that set them apart and make them recognizable as icons. For my set I wanted to create memorable characters from the movie. In my drafting and sketching I had to come up with facial and profile features that made each character distinguishable as their character and translate that into vector form. As a set there are certain “rules” that create unity and continuity, so I created my own so it felt that all of these icons belonged to a group. I love the minimalist look, so I used a faceless profile for each Mulan character. I also created each character with a round face, some with oval, because it was integral to their character and set them apart as those icons. I also wanted to keep a warm color tone to it, so you’ll notice that with each of the icons I used a warmer color (yellow or red) with exceptions to certain parts of the clothing on some icons. I hope you enjoy this Mulan vector set!
In January 2017 I had the opportunity to work on a PR campaign for a local southeast Idaho company, NetAngel. The CEO approached my team with several problems and issues his company was facing at the time and asked for our team’s help in overcoming the important obstacles they were facing. As a member of the PR team, I was tasked with being the main designer and some copywriting for the final PR book we produced for NetAngel. The book included all of our research, copywriting, contacts, and future social media plans for the company to follow after acquiring the necessary funding they needed to continue to do business.
In my designs I wanted to stay true to their current branding NetAngel had established. I felt that their color scheme, web design, and overall design of web and print products did a good job of communicating the type of company they wanted to be known for. My main focus was to create designs that would clearly and concisely portray the information we as a team had gathered and wanted to present to our client. We centered our campaign around “Create Connections” and kept that in mind as I designed each page for content to be given to our client.