Archive for the ‘Lighting’ Category

Photographing “Perfect” Cherry Blossoms

Achieving Epic Cherry Blossom Photos

My neighbour has a cherry blossom tree, so I always watch their’s to try and get an indication of when these beautiful trees will be in full bloom. In Edmonton right  now, they’re starting to come out already and it makes for a spectacular display of pink and purple.  The window to capture these in your photos is tight… only around two weeks! Here is an example of a pretty basic shot of a cherry blossom tree that you could accomplish with most cameras, using the auto function.

cherrysq

As you can see with the next picture, we have really given these cherry blossoms a new look! Once you understand your camera’s manual mode, you can completely transform the way something looks with just a few clicks. What makes this next photo look so much more interesting than the first (besides the beautiful model!) is we used a shallow depth of field. To achieve this, you’ll need to practice by positioning yourself so that you’re shooting through the cherry blossoms in the foreground, and then adjust the aperture on your camera to a lower f/stop (ex. less than f/4.0)

edmonton and calgary photography class, how to capture cherry blossoms.

To achieve the effect of this next photo, understanding lighting is key. We cover this (and much more!) in our Portrait Lighting workshop. When you’re photographing outdoors, it is important to understand the magic hour. This is when the sun is at it’s lowest point in the horizon so, you’ll want to plan your shoot near sunrise or sunset. If you get the timing right, you’ll be treated to gorgeous soft lighting.

IMPORTANT TIP:  You might not appreciate how fast the sun actually moves until you’re trying to get your shot so, be ready! You have a narrow window and you don’t want to spend it fiddling with lenses and memory cards 😉 Also, you may need to slow your shutter speed down as it is getting darker, so perhaps plan to bring along your tripod to reduce camera shake.  Most of all, Have fun!

shooting cherry blossoms edmonton and calgary photography class

Do you live in Edmonton or Calgary? We are now offering photo walks in these two cities! So, grab your camera, some comfortable shoes and join us!


Mixing White Balances

In this post we’ll discuss the problems of mixing white balances in one shot.

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Using Your DSLR Camera at the CPLC.

White Balance

In a perfect world, all light sources would only shine ‘pure white light’, without any colour cast or hue added. If this were true, than we would never need to white balance or colour correct any images or videos we took.

In the real world, we are faced with the reality that every single light source that can light our scene–be it natural sunlight, indoor light bulbs, or flashes or strobes, shine their white light with a certain colour hue or cast to it. In some cases, such as ‘yellow light bulbs’, the cast is so saturated that the light even appears to us to be yellow, and not just white with a yellow hue. In other cases, like fluorescents or flash bulbs, the light appears white (but isn’t) in ideal situations, but in reality has a blue cast to it.

When two light sources with different colour casts illuminate one scene, photographers are inevitably faced with the reality that the two different colour casts will not match, and the resulting photo will have, usually, an ugly colour cast in one part of its picture. (Sometimes, we get lucky and the two colours complement each other).

In the below images, you see in a dimly hit house how the halogen (yellow) bulbs were turned on. In truth, the house was too dark without them turned on for people to walk through. However, it was also too dark for photography, so the photographer had to supplement the ambient lighting with flash light in order to produce a bright enough image. The resulting image reveals what happens to the ‘yellow’ halogen lighting when the image is colour corrected to the dominant–blue–flash lighting.

Mixing white balances - colour problems - white balance problems - Calgary photography classes

Mixing white balances - colour problems - white balance problems - Calgary photography classes

In the top picture, the women are backlit by the halogen lighting, making the back room look like a sickly yellow light, and also backlighting their hair with that same glow. Their faces and the wall next to them, though, are lit by the more natural flash light. The bottom picture has one of the girls lit by the flash light, and the two girls in the background lit by the yellow halogen lighting. Here the two colours are separated on the subjects themselves, but the overall image still has this jarring distinction in two different light sources.

As such, for some of the shots the photographer asked for the yellow light bulbs to be turned off. While this was too dark for the girls to finish getting ready, it allowed the photographer brief moments of control over the quality of the photography. Simply by turning off a conflicting colour source, the images look better–even if in practical terms the photographer can’t ask the subjects to work in these dark circumstances for too long. While the images are bright, in person, the house is quite dark with the yellow lights off.

Mixing white balances - colour problems - white balance problems - Calgary photography classes

Mixing white balances - colour problems - white balance problems - Calgary photography classes

Clearly, the color/lighting in the second set of shots are more pleasing to the eye. Even in situations where you can’t command complete control of the lighting at all times, it’s still nice to take control for brief moments to give yourself the opportunity to elevate the photography to the next level.

 

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Using Your DSLR Camera at the CPLC.


Blacks and Whites in Histograms

In this post we’ll discuss the ambiguous position on editing blacks and whites in histograms. There is a subjective element here, so we won’t have ‘bad and good’ versions. Though it is likely you yourself will think one is bad and the other good, the person next to you might disagree. So rather than say you should do it one way here, we’ll just present both options.

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC at the CPLC.

B&W histograms, Calgary photography classes

The Classical Approach

B&W histograms, Calgary photography classes

In the classical approach, we could say that it is proper for blacks in B&W photography to be in the ‘true blacks’ section of the histogram, or 0-10% luminance. Likewise, whites in B&W photography should be in the ‘true whites’ section of the histogram, or 90-100% luminance. In the above picture, this is achieved through editing the whites and blacks sliders in Lightroom. As seen in the pictures below, the mouse positioned over the black jacket reveals 7% blacks, and over the white snow, produces 98% whites. (The numbers are visible just under the histogram when you roll your mouse over a part of the picture in the Develop module in Lightroom).

B&W histograms, Calgary photography classes

B&W histograms, Calgary photography classes

A Modern Approach

B&W histograms, Calgary photography classes

While we can’t speak of ‘the modern approach’, because modern photography is as pluralistic as there are modern photographers, we can say that many modern photographers would prefer what classicists would call ‘bad photography’, namely weak blacks and weak whites. Ideally, classicists say, in B&W photography your darkest shade should be a true black and your brightest shade should be a true white. In this modern take on the same photo, however, a more medium-contrast approach is taken. As seen in the pictures below, the same area of blacks is now 14.5%, and the whites are now 89%. Technically speaking, the ‘blacks’ are actually dark greys, and the ‘whites’ are actually bright greys. Hence, they are seen as mistakes from a classical perspective. Nevertheless, perhaps you like this version better than the classical one.

B&W histograms, Calgary photography classes

B&W histograms, Calgary photography classes

While subjective opinion ultimately triumphs in photography (and this should be recognized), it is wise to know when you are breaking classical rules that you are in fact breaking them. As the universal cliche in the arts holds true for photography, “you need to learn the rules BEFORE you break them”. Whichever way you go, it is wise to know that the ‘breakable rule’ in B&W photography is that you should have some parts of your image be true blacks, and some parts true whites.

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC at the CPLC.


Histograms in ‘vintage photography’

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Ambient Portrait Lighting Workshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC at the CPLC.

A typical histogram in vintage photography

Vintage photography has several different definitions, but one of them that we will focus on for this post is the common inclusion of sun flare, achieved through shooting towards the sun and allowing a little (and sometimes a lot) of the sunlight to enter into the lens in order to wash out the colours and the contrast. This look is very popular right now and has been for a couple years, and it introduces a non-conventional, or according to some, ‘bad’ histogram that has its own needs for editing.

Vintage Histograms | Calgary photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 100, f/4, 1/200 sec

Vintage Histograms | Calgary photography classes | cplc.ca

Here is the histogram for the above shot, and as you see, it is very right-skewed. This is a stereotypical vintage shot histogram, which, by the very nature of it’s allowing sun flare to wash out colours and contrast, is by definition lacking in blacks, shadows, and even darker mid tones. In classical photography, this would be considered a ‘weak’, if not ‘bad’, histogram. This is by no means true, but an understanding of classical editing certainly produces a more nuanced and informed view of vintage, which is never a bad thing. That is, we can keep the original vintage look, or find a merger between the two. Both are acceptable and fine, as long as we like the final image. The thing with vintage, since it is a style, is that by definition there will be a subjective response. Some of you will love this image or the edited version below, and some of you will hate it. That’s just the nature of ‘style’ in photography.

One approach to editing vintage histograms

Vintage Histograms | Calgary photography classes | cplc.ca

In this image, the same as above but edited, we’ve added some of the common markers of vintage editing, including split toning, warm tones, etc. We’ve also reduced one of the limitations of all cameras when they shoot toward the sun (namely, small dynamic range), and added some dynamic range in editing by punching up the blacks in order to shift the histogram to the left.

Vintage Histograms | Calgary photography classes | cplc.ca

Vintage Histograms | Calgary photography classes | cplc.ca

Crucially, we’ve kept the vintage look by not actually making the histogram touch the left-hand side (this would undo the vintage look altogether, at which point, we would have done better to never have gotten sun flare in the first place, a simple move achievable by simply shifting our angle), but we have shifted it nonetheless, by first moving the exposure slider to the left, and second moving the Blacks slider in Lightroom to the left. The Shadows slider has been used as a counter-balance to ensure in doing so we haven’t added too much contrast to the image, and by balancing this way we’ve made sure the ‘softness’ of the vintage feel isn’t undone by the darkening of the image.

To learn more about these principles and put them into practice, take the Ambient Portrait Lighting Workshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC at the CPLC.


Using flash with glass

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Portrait Lighting Workshop and Accessory Flash Workshop at the CPLC.

The reflectance of glass

Off-camera flash | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca
Source: http://www.rolith.com/applications/anti-reflective

Have you ever tried to take a photo of a subject that’s behind glass? You might have noticed that sometimes it works, and sometimes you just get a blinding glare of light, and reflection of what’s behind you, or even you yourself, in the glass, and that what’s behind the glass is erased and replaced by this reflection. The reason for this is that while glass does allow light to pass through it, the angle at which you look through it in relation to the angle at which the light source is lighting it matters (the technical term for this is ‘direct reflection’, which we cover the theory of and do exercises that circumvent the problem in our Portrait Lighting Workshop). So, in the following shot, where we are shooting toward the sun, we would be able to see through the glass of the front windshield because the sun isn’t behind us. However, if the sun was behind us, all’d we see would be white on the windshield, literally a reflection of the white sky, just like the in the first image in this post (because the upward angle of the windshield would act like a mirror, and it’s pointed at an angle toward the sky from the viewer’s vantage point).

Off-camera flash | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/200 sec

Here’s a close-up of the same shot:
Off-camera flash | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca

Light the subject on the same side of the glass

It is the nature of glass, it’s nature of ‘direct reflection’ specifically, that disallows us from lighting a subject on the other side of glass from our flash (or ambient light source, for that matter). As such, the only way to light a subject that is too dark, as in this case, that is behind a pane of glass is to put the flash on the same side as the subject is. In this case, it meant putting the flash inside the car. Unfortunately, the opportunity for softening the light when the flash is inside a car is minimal, as the flash needs to light up their faces, and there is essentially no room to put the flash behind the glass, but in front of their faces, so that we can light up their faces but at the same time not see the flash. In this first example, we see an unsuccessful attempt which put the flash between the two subjects, pointed straight up at them. Notice the ‘Halloween lighting’ on her face, caused by being lit from below, a general ‘no-no’ in photographic lighting?

Off-camera flash | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/200 sec, off-camera flash inside car, pointed straight up at subjects at 1/16 power.

Here’s a close-up of the same shot:
Off-camera flash | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca

Always soften light by bouncing or diffusing

So, in this last shot, we had to figure out a way to make the light come from in front of their faces, but still be on the same side of the glass as their faces. We did this by keeping the flash in the same spot in the car, but instead of pointing it straight up at the subjects, we pointed it forward and up, so that it flashed the dashboard of the car. By doing so, it spread out, became a larger light source, and then bounced back and lit them up more evenly. This worked, in this case, even though the dashboard was largely black, because we also increased the power of the flash 3 stops (from 1/16 to ½ power) to compensate for how much light would be lost to absorption from the black dashboard. You can see that the faces are now lit more evenly and widely, and that the ‘Halloween lighting’ is gone. In addition, since it comes from in front of them, you can see nice big catchlights in the subject’s eyes, popping her out from the dark background in the car even more.

Off-camera flash | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/200 sec, off-camera flash inside car, pointed straight toward dashboard at ½ power.

Here’s a close-up of the same shot:
Off-camera flash | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca


Getting Starburst Effects off of Points of Light

For more information and practical exercises on the topics in this blog post, take Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera and Getting Proper Exposures at the CPLC.

Noticing the potential

Sometimes you accidentally stumble on the potential for a better image than you originally conceived. Take this next shot as the starting point.

Getting Starburst Effects | Calgary photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/200 sec

After looking at the scene, the photographer noticed that there were several points off of the car where the light was hitting and bouncing as points. The fact that there points or ‘hits’ of reflection meant that with different camera settings, a cool effect could be added to the photo while maintaining the same exposure. In addition, the sun flare which was coming into the camera (caused by shooting toward the sun) had points of blurred colour that indicated potential for another effect.

Higher f/stops and starburst

To take advantage of both these potential effects, we need to increase our f/stops to one of the highest numbers it can go to. On this lens, that meant f/22. In order to keep the exposure consistent, this meant raising the ISO in tandem to keep the exposure consistent (4 stops darker in aperture, and 4 stops brighter in ISO).

Getting Starburst Effects | Calgary photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 1600, f/22, 1/200 sec

With the exposure the same, the effect of the higher f/stops allowed for two things. First, it turned the reflection points off of the car into a ‘starburst’ effect, a side-effect of having higher f/stops. Second, it brought the ‘haze’ of sun flare into the depth of field, so that the hazy colours were now rendered as more ‘3D’ like shapes of colours.

To learn more about these techniques and get hands-on practice with them, take Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera and Getting Proper Exposures at the CPLC.


Tips on Using a Diffuser & Ambient Light

For more information and practical exercises on the topics in this blog post, take Portrait Lighting Workshop and Ambient Portrait Lighting Workshop at the CPLC.

Sunlight causes hard shadows

One of the things that will start to bug you more and more as you take more photos are the hard lines of the edges of shadows that come from sunlight. What makes some lights cause hard edges and others not? The answer is ‘hard light’ causes hard shadows, and ‘soft light’ causes soft shadows. The definition of hard light is a light source that is small relative to the subject you are lighting. Even though the sun is, obviously, huge, it is so far away that relative to, say, a person that the sun is lighting, the sun is actually relatively small. As such, you will see hard shadows, visible in part by the hard lines between shade and sun, as in the lighting on the woman’s face below.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 50, f/3.2, 1/200 sec

And here’s a closeup for a better view of the dark vs. bright area on her face.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 50, f/3.2, 1/200 sec

While sometimes we can block this lighting by rotating the subject’s position so that their face is lit only by sun (although this will cast dark shadows in the eyes and off of the nose), or better, only by shade, in cases such as this one, doing so would change the angle on the fence, and background, to a worse one that would hurt the composition and lines in the photo.

Softening hard sunlight with a diffuser

As such, to preserve this vision for the photo, the next best move is most often to bring out a diffuser and put it between the sun and the subject.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/200 sec

From the perspective of the person holding the diffuser, this will look like you are trying to cast the circular shadow of the diffuser over the subject, so that they are entirely in the shade of the diffuser. Once this is done, the resulting image erases the negative effect of hard lighting, by replacing it with even, soft lighting.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/200 sec

Again, here’s a closeup to show the softer lighting.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes | cplc.ca
ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/200 sec

It is soft lighting because, relative to the subject, the light source is now larger than the subject. That is, the sun hits the diffuser, and because of the size of the diffuser (and not, as is commonly, and wrongly, taught, because it is passing through the white fabric), which is relatively larger than the subject’s head, the lighting is soft, and so no hard shadows are cast on the face.

While this does take 2 people to accomplish, and might seem unrealistic to you, it is worth noting that the vast majority of photos you see in magazines, etc. are taken by teams of photographers working together, so this is by no means abnormal. Besides, it’s more fun shooting with a friend, and you can always take turns diffusing for the other person!

To put this skill into practice and get some hands-on experience, take Portrait Lighting Workshop and Ambient Portrait Lighting Workshop at the CPLC!


Pet Photography Tips!

Unfamiliar with the photography terms used in this post? Take Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC and Accessory Flash Workshop to learn all of the skills covered here!

Pet Photography Tips - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 160, f/4.5, 1/160 sec

Capturing the personalities of our pets can be a very difficult thing, especially since the seem always aware of when we pull out the camera and point it in their direction. Here are two easy and basic tips that make all the difference in adding a ‘pro’ boost to images of your pets.

Adding catch-lights

Catch-lights is the name for the reflections of light sources in the pupils and sometimes irises of subjects–human or pet. The simplest way to get them is to have your pet look toward (not necessarily at) the sun, or if they’re inside, at a window that is lighting them, or finally a flash on your camera (preferably ‘bounced’, see our Accessory Flash Workshop to learn how to bounce flash effectively). Look at the two images below, the only difference between which is catch-lights are in the eyes in one of the shots, and absent from the other. Which do you prefer?

Pet Photography Tips - Edmonton Photography Classes

Pet Photography Tips - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/160 sec

Because the eyes, especially the darker pupil, are essentially spherical mirrors, any light source that is lighting the scene, and your pet, will show up in your pet’s eye, and since their eyes tend to be darker than people’s, it is all the more important in pet photography to ensure you get nice, bright, catch-lights. The basic rule is, the brighter the light source, the brighter the catch-light. Likewise, the bigger the light source relative to your pet, the bigger the catch-light in their eye. As an advanced tip, if you really want to ‘nail’ the look, try to get the catch-lights in the upper corner of your pet’s pupil (not in the center or below). You accomplish this by making sure the light is above and, while still in front of your pet, a bit to either side.

Pet Photography Tips - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/160 sec

Getting black blacks and white whites

Many of our pets have either some black, some white, or a bit of both in their colouring. One of the most common mistakes in taking photos of our pets is failing to capture the ‘blackness’ or ‘whiteness’ of our pet. We can err either on the side of making our black-furred cat too black, so we can’t even see any details of the fur at all, or too bright (grey), so that they lose their personality and don’t look like themselves. Another common mistake, especially on pets that have both black and white in them, is getting one of the two shades right, but not both. This too robs our pet of their appearance and, thus, personality.

Pet Photography Tips - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/160 sec

Unfortunately, our cameras are weakest, or worst, at precisely the extremes of dark blacks and bright whites. While more expensive cameras will help, ultimately the best solution for this inherent weakness in the technology of digital cameras is in the editing room. Pictured below is an example of settings we used in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, arguably the best (and most bang-for-the-buck) all-in-one photo editing software on the market.

Pet Photography Tips - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/160 sec

Pet Photography Tips - Edmonton Photography Classes
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Settings

Notice how much the ‘Blacks’ slider is turned down, to make the blacks darker in the edited image? Without this editing addition, Betty’s blacks in her fur were too weak, and looked brighter than black, even though the image was taken on a professional-grade camera. Notice too the histogram, showing that the whites of both the backdrop and the fur are close too, but not touching the right-hand side of the histogram? This means that they will look (and print) as bright white, but we’ll still get the details preserved in the white fur. Notice too that the left side of the histogram, while there is much less of it (simply because the backdrop in this shot is white) is approaching, but not ‘crawling up’ the left side of the histogram? Again, this means that while the blacks in the fur will show and print as ‘true black’, we will still preserve the details in the black fur.

It is by adjusting the ‘Blacks’ and ‘Whites’ slider in Photoshop Lightroom that we are able to tweak the blacks and whites in our image and end up with ‘true black’ and ‘true white’ in our final image–thus preserving the character and personality of our pets.

For more on how to get catch-lights or how to use histograms to edit exposures in Lightroom, take Accessory Flash Workshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC.

Thanks to Betty for modelling for us!

Pet Photography Tips - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/160 sec


Sparkler Shots

Sparkler Shots - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 400, f/8, 13 sec

Sparkler shots are a dynamic, multi-faceted genre in photography that requires use of many distinct skills, including slow shutter speed photography, night photography in manual mode (both covered in Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera and Getting Proper Exposures), flash photography (Accessory Flash Workshop), and creative design (The Art and Design of Photography Class).

Exposure Settings

In addition to your camera in manual mode, and of course sparklers and a lighter, you will also need a tripod and a flash, ideally one that can be fired independently from the camera (i.e. any standard accessory flash). The first ingredient is setting the artistic goal of a slow enough shutter speed that allows you, or a friend, time to move through the scene with a lit sparkler, and then be outside of the frame when the flash fires a single burst of light. Typically this will mean shots longer than 10 seconds. The examples used in this post are all 13 seconds, at ISO 400 and f/8.

After setting a shutter speed that is ‘long enough’, you need to set your f/stops to achieve the desired depth of field (you will want it deep enough that the depth of the moving sparkler is always within the depth of field). The next step is to set your flash, ideally in manual flash mode, to one of its dimmer settings (i.e. 1/128, 1/64, etc.). This is important because of the principle that the dimmer the flash power, the less motion blur will be seen in the final exposure (for the why and how of this, including exercises and homework assignments, take our flash course Accessory Flash Workshop). Finally, set your ISO to achieve the ideal histogram/exposure for your shot. The below image is an example of a sparkler shot where the flash was fired in the exposure when the photographer who was ‘painting’ with the sparkler (or their friend) was still in the frame (look at the left side of the picture).

Sparkler Shots - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 400, f/8, 13 sec

Why flash?

The flash is an essential ingredient of the shot, because without it, any subject that the sparkler is moving around (often a human subject) will have far too much motion blur around them over the duration of such a long exposure. The flash firing at a low manual power is what ‘freezes’ the subject in the shot. By contrast, the shutter speed needs to be so long because you need that amount of time to take your lit sparkler, and run around the subject and frame, artistically ‘painting in the sky’ whatever symbols, patterns, or even letters and words you want to be recorded in the final exposure.

Sparkler Shots - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 400, f/8, 13 sec

There are so many variables in sparkler shots that many things can ‘go wrong’ or detract from the final image. Common mistakes include firing the flash from on top of the camera, which produces the ‘deer in headlights’ look on the subjects, not to mention red eye and flat lighting. In the photos in this post, the flash was held off-camera by one of two photographers who took the shot, and a diffuser was put in front of the flash to turn the ‘hard light’ of flash into the softer light seen in the images, ‘hiding’ the fact that flash was fired and approaching the ‘illusion’ that the scene was lit by natural street light.

Likewise if the subjects move too much and don’t stay still during the long exposure, too much motion blur can be introduced into the final frame. Another common mistake is setting up the exposure with just ISO, shutter speed and aperture, and then, when the flash is fired, the image is overexposed because it wasn’t taken into account in the exposure. Just one other common mistake, before we go, is the photographer who ‘paints with sparklers’ is wearing clothing that is too bright. This makes it more likely that their image will be captured on the sensor, and thus ‘their ghost’ will look like its moving through the image. Darker clothing is important to stay invisible to the camera as you move through the frame.

For more information on how to take sparkler shots and other creative exposures, make sure to have a well-rounded background in the introductory topics of lighting (see Accessory Flash Workshop), creative design (see The Art and Design of Photography Class), and of course the artistic manipulation of camera exposures (both Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera and Getting Proper Exposures).

Sparkler Shots - Edmonton Photography Classes
ISO 400, f/8, 13 sec


Editing Contrast and Colours in Lightroom

Today let’s look at quickly punching up contrast and colours in a portrait shot lit by ambient light, in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Editing Saturation and Vibrance

Photoshop Lightroom Ambient Portrait Editing - Calgary Photography Classes
ISO 320, f/2.8, 1/500 sec

First let’s talk colours, since those stand out right away. While there are lots of ways to enhance the colours more specifically, the quickest and safest way is certainly the ‘Vibrance’ slider, which has been turned to +30 as seen in the settings picture below.

Photoshop Lightroom Ambient Portrait Editing - Calgary Photography Classes

Notice the increased vibrancy, or saturation, in the flowers but also in the trees in the background? We also see it in the colouring in her hair and skin. One quick tip is to avoid the Saturation slider, which is an older, more ‘brutish’ way of achieving the same effect. Watch what happens if we do everything the same, except instead of setting Vibrance to +30, we do Saturation to +30 instead.

Photoshop Lightroom Ambient Portrait Editing - Calgary Photography Classes
Left: Out-of-camera
Middle: Saturation +30
Right: Vibrance +30

When we use Saturation, the skin gets too colourful, so that even if we like the boosted colours the skin is too saturated. Vibrance is brilliant because while it enhances colours as seen above, it does a very good job of keeping skin tones untouched (relatively speaking), producing a more natural looking image.

Editing Contrast

Moving onto contrast, even though Lightroom has a slider labelled Contrast, it is generally smarter to achieve Contrast in one of two other ways, or both. In this example, we’ve used both of these alternate ways. The first is punching up the Highlights and Whites slider even brighter, making the out-of-camera ‘dull’ brightness ‘hit’ harder in the final image. Mixed with that is turning down the Blacks slider (and often the Shadows slider, though here we did not do that because the image was lit by ambient, not flash light, and the face is dimmer than it ‘should be’ because of that). This produces a boost in contrast, but with far more control than if we just moved the Contrast slider (which as in this case, is desirable because of the under-lit face).

Photoshop Lightroom Ambient Portrait Editing - Calgary Photography Classes
ISO 320, f/2.8, 1/500 sec

Photoshop Lightroom Ambient Portrait Editing - Calgary Photography Classes

Coupled with this move of turning down Blacks and Shadows, and turning up Whites and Highlights, we can also go to the Tone Curve and turn it from Linear to Middle or Strong Contrast. In this case we shifted it to Strong Contrast. Either of these moves on their own will produce a stronger contrast image, turning a dull image into something with more vibrance, but used together they can sometimes increase the Contrast in a more subtle, and controlled way.

One last note here. We’ve mentioned that the fact this was lit by ambient light (without any sunlight bounced or reflected back onto the model’s face), and that this produced a ‘dimmer’ face than desirable. There is another issue with this lighting choice. Notice the green colouring on her skin, especially apparent when the Saturation slider was moved up instead of the Vibrance? This comes from the sun bouncing off of the green grass, and the green colouring from the grass bouncing back onto her skin, especially underneath the chin and on the neck. With flash photography, applied just subtly (not abrasively), this green colouring can be erased, catch-lights can be added, and a gradient light would have made the need for the Shadows slider, above, to be turned higher at all.

To learn about using Lightroom, take our Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC, and to learn more about how a subtle application of flash photography makes editing easier, take Accessory Flash Workshop. As an alternative to flash, bounced light could have achieved the same result. Take Ambient Portrait Lighting Workshop to learn the techniques involved in that!