At sunrise. At sunset. In the middle of the day. From below. From above. The constantly changing and rearranging palette of shape, form, and color keep me pointing my camera at the sky. I wonder if the Judy Collins song, a trendy song in my youth, might have something to do with it?
“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now From up and down and still somehow It’s cloud’s illusions I recall I really don’t know clouds at all.”
Check out the song at the bottom of this post! Turn it on while you are reading.
Here are a few cloud images from the last couple days.
Look at how many different cloud types are in this section of sky. Out west here in AZ this usually happens when a front is moving in after a dry spell. Just enough wind to change some shape and at different levels of elevation
When a wonderful cloud situation appears, I usually shoot the heck out of it. Horizontal, vertical. Wide-angle and zoom. All give a different look which may work differently for various applications. For example, You don’t typically want to put an image that was photographed with a long focal length into an image that was made with a wide-angle lens. You can’t always put your finger on it, but it just doesn’t ‘feel’ correct.
This image from later in the day
And, of course, what would a sunset be without a silhouette to give it a little interest.
You might ask, “Bob, why do you photograph the clouds?” And, I’m glad you did.
Number one, I enjoy them and like to review them when the sky is in a more monochromatic mode.
Number two, sometimes my images might need a little help as the day was cloudless and the right sky can add drama and life to an otherwise ordinary photo. Having a large selection of all types of cloud formations at your beck and call makes for believable results. When changing out a sky in a scene one must match the lighting direction and tone of the image, or it will have that, “That sky was replaced.” look.
Number three, I’ve found that adding cloud images to my artwork can add, life, depth, and dimension through using Photoshop’s Blend Modes. When using Blend Modes clouds can add pizazz because they contain lots of changing tones.
Number four, I’m not alone in my love of clouds. For example, on Instagram the hashtag clouds and cloudfreakHave almost Eighty-four MILLION posts.
The images in this post were captured with the Lumix LX100. This is a handy little guy (just a little bigger than pocket size) to have around. Fast glass, wide-angle to medium zoom range and all controls are available on the outside of the camera. Not necessary to go into the menus after initial set-up of the camera.
I’ll revisit clouds from the other side in a few days.
While out to dinner with my wife I was studying, as I always seem to do, the light as it played across the room. I also watch the shadows on faces as people step into different light situations. Ray, the waiter, was standing with the large light source of the front doors shaping his face. I was taken by the way the light split his face. I asked if he would mind stopping for just a moment so I could get a quick capture. He agreed.
While the light and shadow were looking good on him The area in which he was standing left a little something to be desired. In the quest for the best of both worlds I exracted Ray for the scene, he was in and using textures, layers, blend modes and more shadows I created a bit more artistic space for him. As part of this exercise I also placed Ray into a scene I captured near St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy. See the tutorial for more info.
This video was requested by someone who saw the finished product and wanted to know how to accomplish this in post-production.
The image was captured with a Panasonic Lumix LX100 which I call the professional photographer’s point and shoot. Adobe Photoshop was the obvious choice for the completion of the personal project. I am always assigning myself personal projects to experiment, expand my skillset and keep in practice. If you don’t practice your photography and post-production skills on a regular basis, it always seems to be a strain rather than a pleasure to do post-production. Remember that to keep in top form you need to practice regularly, or the rust starts to form quickly. Think about professional golfers coming in from a hard day out on the course and heading straight the putting green or practice range as soon as their round is finished.
In photography, you will often hear people exhorting you to ‘Look for the Light’! I don’t know how many times I heard and read that during my learning process over the years. I believe that my photography leaped forward when I first heard ‘Look for the Shadows.’ When I started looking for and shooting into, the shadows I saw a marked difference in the depth and dimension of my photographs.
Look for the shadows has become my watchword. Shadows are what make or break an image. If you are walking along and you see harsh shadows being cast by the trees and shrubs and you decide to put your subject in that same light, you will get harsh shadows. Seeing little pockets of soft shadows and using these areas will make for less contrast in your images. To me, soft shadow edge transitions lend beauty and form to a subject being placed on a two-dimensional surface that you want to read as three dimensions.
That being said I am always watching how the light and shadows interact which brings me to today’s post. We were out to dinner at my wife’s favorite restaurant J Wine Bistro in the VOC Sedona, AZ. I noticed the waiter Ray and saw the split light on his face from the light beside the front door of the restaurant. I asked Ray when he had a moment if he would strike a quick pose for me.
Ray with split light.
While I enjoyed the light shaping Ray’s face, I wasn’t thrilled with the background as you might imagine. So let’s play! I extracted Ray from the environment and went to work.
After extraction and some added texture and background.
A slight change in layer positioning adds a whole new color palette and feel to the image.
Last I thought I’d see how Ray liked being in Italy.
The original image was captured with what I call the professional photographer’s point and shoot. It’s the Lumix LX100. The LX100 is a nice handy camera that can fit in a large pocket. It has a fixed lens with fast f1.7-2.8 Leica glass and a decent zoom range of 24-72mm.
Getting good, solid lighting is the best thing you can do to highlight the features of products. Today’s post is how I set up to photograph some jewelry and a couple of my cameras. I will suggest you practice lighting techniques long before you need to use them. It allows you to refine the look rather than trying to tweak on set.
This set-up is relatively straightforward yet gives a compelling and professional look to your product photography.
Gear in use. Two Paul C Buff X3200 flash heads. One Paul C Buff Ultra Zap1600 flash head. Paul C Buff Octobox (35 inch) Snoot. Strobes are fired with Buff Trigger. A sheet of Non-glare glass. Scrims with diffusion material. Sekonic L478D light meter. Lumix GH5 camera with various lenses depending on the subject to be photographed. Light stands, one with Boom to suspend light over the set.
The power of the lights is not germane to lighting on set. If you work with lights at less power or varied, you will want to put the most powerful one above the set. It will be going through the snoot and the scrim both of which suck up some of your light. With this set, you have the ability to change the size of you lighting circle. If the light from the snoot is closer to the scrim, it will be tighter as shown in this view. If you move the snoot higher, you’ll see the light spread more and feather to a larger circle. The height of the scrim above the product will also have an effect on the light pattern.
The glass (make sure it is non-glare) is suspended above a sheet of black paper. Depending on how much light you pump into the scene and the direction of that light you can create a background for your product that can be gray or black.
You don’t necessarily need an Octobox as a modifier for your main light. I use it because it is quick to set up and break down and gives a solid direction of light. At the very least, you will need to have a softbox. If you use an umbrella, the light is harder to control on the set, and the bounce of light from the walls and ceiling can infect the set. Control is essential.
Let’s look at a couple of camera photos.Lumix LX100 camera. I call this the ‘professional’s point and shoot’. This is an example of going black with very little light from above. Solid but stark image. It will always depend on what look your client is trying to achieve.
Photo of Lumix GX85 with Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 100-400mm f4.0-6.3 lens made with the down light to give some more depth and dimension to the final image the gradient is made with the snoot and the scrim as shown above at the top of the page in the BTS shot but not as close to the scrim.
Let’s pause here until the next installment where the images will be of jewelry using the same set and adjusted accordingly. Part three of this will show before/afters and talk about post processing.
Here’s one more use of panoramic photography that I haven’t mentioned in previous posts. Change the number of Mega-Pixels in your camera.
“Say what?” You ask? “And once you explain, tell me why I want to try that?”
Ok, here goes.
You can expand the number of pixels in an image in order to be able to make a larger print by making multiple images and overlapping the capture. After you get back to the studio move those images into your favorite photo stitching programs like Adobe’s Photoshop or AutopanoPro and put the images together. Photoshop has gotten very good at merging images together including a new feature called Content-Aware Fill that can automatically clean up the blank space that can sometimes surround your image.
This morning I had my Lumix LX100 with me. I call this the professional’s point and shoot because it has fast glass and is quite versatile with all important controls on dials just like the old days. No need to move into electronic menus to access your settings. All of this is in a quite small package. But the camera is only 12.1MP which yields a 36-megabyte file. In today’s example, I shot five exposures overlapping each by 30-40 percent. After merging the photos I ended up with a 97-megabite file. 97 divided by 3 equals a 32MP capture.
Here is a screen capture of the five images when highlighted in Adobe Bridge.
After the images above were assembled in Photoshop and massaged with Luminarfrom MacPhun.*
With this technique, you can get file sizes you have only dreamed about with a little extra work. Remember if you want to really make a huge file you can use a long lens and do row after row of images and blend them all together. Make sure you capture each row the same way. I always go left to right and top to bottom during my captures.
Yours in creative Photography, Bob
PS – * Luminar software is currently only available for the MAC platform but from what I understand they will be releasing a PC version later this year. Luminar can be used as a stand-alone processing program or as a Plug-in. There’s a sale on ’til the end of the year the link above will take you there.
PPS – The MacPhun software Aurora 2017 HDR is also on special until the end of the year. I’m enjoying the creative processing from MacPhun products.
A very simple way to control light is through the use of a scrim. For small subjects and objects, a regular 42-inch round scrim or super size scrims of 60 inches or more can be a bit of overkill for just mucking about. Westcott makes a wonderfully portable sized, five-in-one that is only twenty inches and when folded in it’s carrying case is a tiny eight inches for about twenty bucks.
Here’s a quick example using a neighbor’s cactus that was showing some attractive color blossoms. Look carefully at the difference between photos and I think you’ll see that learning to use a scrim can help get you better lighting in your images.
This first image was captured with full sun as the light source. Colors are bright and you might think that this works. Look at the harsh, deep dark patches in the shadow with no detail. This is the same kind of look you will get if you use on-camera flash.
In order to tame the harsh shadows, I next captured the blooms in full shadow. This results in slightly less contrast and the color has become muted. I suppose the color could be pumped up in post-production but the shadow are still a bit blocked up.
Here a scrim was placed between the sun and subject. Even though the scrim is only twenty inches because of it’s close proximity to the flowers it is acting like a very large light source. Very nice overall light with soft shadows and color fidelity. All images were processed with the same settings straight out of the camera. (SOOC)
A quick grab of the scrim in action. In addition, the kit comes with four other surfaces to reflect or block light in various intensities and colors. Black, gold, silver and white can all also be used to bend light to your will.
You can take this same lesson and apply it to larger subject such as people by using a larger scrim. Practice with it and you will find the larger the scrim and the distance it is to your subject you will be able to control the shadow edge transitions and depth of the shadow on your subject. Moving it further away while still covering your subject will give you slightly stronger shadows. Conversely, the scrim closer will make the light softer.
Sometimes you just gotta play! NIK filters, Photoshop extraction’ Layers and the Transform Tool.
These photos were captured with the Lumix LX100 the camera I call the ‘Pro’s Point & Shoot.’ A solid little performer built on a magnesium frame for about $700.
Occasionally I'll send out a digest version of the blog posts on Successful-Photographer. I'm not a fan of Spam and I'm sure you are not. Your Email address is safe with me. Bob
For infrared conversion of my cameras I use LifePixel. Infrared allows you to put an older camera to use and opens up a new time time of day for productive image creation.
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