Friday, June 29, 2012

How to Create a Matte Effect in Photoshop

Photography is one of those things that continues to evolve week after week, month after month, and year after year. It seems that for a while, every where you look there are photographers trying to emulate and replicate images that the other has shot. One key element to remember, however, is that each photographer has their own sense of style. Rebecca talked a bit about Finding Your Style in her post on Wednesday and how just because you are visually drawn to something doesn't mean that you have to commit to it.

Once I mastered the act of using my camera in manual and taking advantage of how my camera worked, I knew that I needed to figure out what kind of images reflected who I was an artist, both behind the camera and behind the screen during post-processing.

I love light. I love the natural haziness and mystical awe created by beautiful sunlight.

Unfortunately, here in Alaska that gorgeous sunshine and golden hour of photographic bliss that many professional talk about is rare. And when it does occur, it's often late into the evening (think close to midnight during the summer) or in the wee hours of the morning (3:00 am photoshoot anyone?).

I spent hours looking through the image galleries of photographers like April Neinhuis and Jenny Cruger. They both created the type of image processing that I adored and hoped to recreate in my own way. After hours and hours of playing in Photoshop and browsing the Clickin' Moms forum, I found a way to replicate that style that I loved.

Please keep in mind when doing any kind of post-processing that it's best to start out with a  properly exposed image and a good clean edit. No amount of post-processing can save an image that hasn't been properly exposed. 
 I start out with my SOOC (*straight out of camera) image:

I do my routine clean edit using a variety of self-made actions and workflow actions from Florabella:

Notice that in my clean edit I slightly over-exposed the skin. That's because the matte effect I'm about to create is going to darken the highlights in the image and bring the skin tones back down to a more appropriate level.

There are several ways to create the matte effect in Photoshop aside from using pre made or costly actions. The two methods I use involve the curves layer adjustment or the levels adjustment. Today I'm going to teach you how to create the matte effect using the levels tool in Photoshop.

When using the levels adjustment, we're going to adjust the output levels. As you can see in the example below, simply adjusting the output levels makes the image lose a bit of clarity and sharpness. It can also easily wash out color and contrast. 

Simply drag the black arrow as pictured to the right to adjust the tone and contrast of your image. This will allow you to retain your matte and haze while still getting a good well contrasted image. 

You want to make all of these adjustments gradually. Use several layers if necessary until you achieve the look that you want. I like for my images to remain full of contrast and color with a hint of haze and matte.

The clean edit compared to my final product:

Next time I'll share how to use the curves layer to achieve a similar, but more dramatic effect.

Use this technique on your own photos? Feel free to share them on my Facebook Page or on the Paper Heart Camera Page!

Written by Courtney Kirkland

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Backlighting: Natural Light Photography

Backlighting has become one of my favorites lighting styles and I've practiced it often. Earlier this week I set out into the backyard in hopes of capturing some backlit photos of my son, Jonah and I was not disappointed! 

Backlighting refers to the practice of placing your subject between you and the light source. This means you are facing the light. While this technique can be applied to artificial lighting, for our purposes, the light is the sun. 

Timing: The best time of day for back lit photos is going to be of course in the coveted golden hour (an hour or so before the sun goes down) but really as long as the sun is ascending or descending and you can position your subject between your lens and the sun you're set. 

Positioning: Try different angles and positions. While you are pointing your camera towards the light, you don't have to be shooting directly into it. Position your subject so that you can move around freely, zoom in close and pull it back a little. You can use an open sky or filter the light by positioning you subject with something in between your subject and the light, such as a tree line.

Bouncing the Light: With your subject's back to the sun you'll still want to make sure there is enough light to not create dark shadows or raccoon eyes. Deep shadows can be beautiful for really artistic photography, but if you are going for something a little less dramatic, I recommend using something to reflect light back into your subject's eyes. In this case I used a reflector for some photos, but I also had our white house behind me - it works as a natural light reflector. You can also use something as simple as white poster board or foam board that you can get for a few bucks at any big box or office supply store.

Technicalities: While back lighting creates a beautiful glow and often a slightly warm haze. It can also be very easy to get blown out areas and lots of noise. So keep your ISO low and make sure you are metering on your subject. Shooting during the golden hour often means the light is fading fast, which can really mess with your settings. So, check your work often, but don't obsess. This is a non traditional style of lighting, so you have more room to be a little artistic. 

Beautiful light can take an ordinary setting and turn it into something magical. Once you've mastered the basics of backlighting, you'll easily be able to capture those beautiful sun flares and get creative with silhouettes!

Stephanie of Behind the Camera and Dreaming

Behind the Camera and Dreaming

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Finding Your Style

After mastering manual mode on your camera, and learning any number of shooting and post processing techniques, the next thing on the photographers checklist is often: Find my style.

Your photography style encompasses everything you do. Not only your own personal tastes but also the way you shoot, the lenses you prefer to use and your post processing technique. Your style can be influenced by possible limitations of your current gear, even the climate and surroundings where you live. It might sound strange, but I've noticed that my style is a little different now while I'm currently staying at my parent's place in England, than it was when I was back in Chicago simply due to the different surroundings.

It's relatively easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you quite like a specific style, perhaps one you've seen a fellow photographer using, and because you quite like it you might decide then and there that you're going to use it for your own. It is great to try out new things and be open to influence, after all that is how we learn and grow as artists. But we should also strive to make something that is all our own.

You might absolutely adore a current clothing trend, you're in the store looking at clothes and decide you should try something on. But you get into the fitting rooms looking in the mirror and you find that this trend just does not suit you. I, for one, simply cannot wear pastel colours and as much as I might love them it will never change the fact that they look truly terrible on me.

Photographic styles, and art styles more generally, do work in a similar way. You might admire the style of a fellow photographer, or love how a Photoshop action you recently purchased looks in the preview images on the website, but find that when applied to your own photography it just does not suit your style of shooting or your vision.

You can visually enjoy a style without committing to it.

I love the soft tones of vintage style processing, the pretty yellows and creams... the gorgeous staging and props. But that style of processing does not suit my way of shooting.

Just as your personal style, your taste in clothing, make-up, hair and home decor, develops as you grow, your photography style does too. Your style is not the destination, but a journey influenced by the things you learn on the way, the people you meet, and the situations that you find yourself in. It is always present and always changing.

So don't worry so much about finding your style, because you already have. Your style is you, and it will grow and develop as you do. Keep on shooting and experimenting always.

Stop and look at your own photographs. How would you describe your current style?

 Written by Rebecca of Bumbles & Light

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Touch Up Tuesday

I wanted to show you all that you do not need a macro lens. You just need a good sharp lens.
Before any editing.

After: I cropped it tight. Increased the contrast and used a sharpen tool. 


Monday, June 25, 2012

Auto to manual mode. Easy “how to steps” to help you get started...

Are you currently shooting on automatic? and not achieving the photos you want. We’ve all been there. Really we have.
When you control the manual settings on your DSLR camera you will have complete control over what you want the picture to look like. Why not take the time to learn just how to do it? Its scary at first. I know, I was scared. I didn't want to take the chance on missing that moment because I was missing around with my settings. Look what I found after the rain storm today...
But once you start you will never want to go back. Plus it will cut your editing time down because your photo will be close to perfect right out of the camera with very little fine tuning.
Lets get started shall we? 

“Exposure triangle”

You need to know and understand the exposure triangle. It is made up of your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Using these three components will get you light meter to zero. And once you understand just how important light is to making or breaking your photo you will be able to master the manual mode.
Your light meter will look something like this (could very depending on your camera it should be a vertical line when you look through your view finder.)  –2….1…0…1…2+ when you adjust the 3 components you will want your ticker to be at zero or a little higher/lower depending on your taste. (I like mine 1 or 2 clicks higher.)
Now lets talk about each component:


The perfect example I learned was from this sight. She explained it like this..  If you have it set at 100 think that you just sent out 100 worker bees to bring the light back to you. If you have it set at 1600 you just sent out 1600 worker bees to bring the light back to you.
Lower ISO = less light were as Higher ISO= more light
**Remember the higher the ISO the more NOISE (grain) you will have in the photo. **
Here are a few loose guidelines for ISO settings:
Bright sun - ISO 100
Overcast - ISO 200
Deep Shade - ISO 400
Indoors on a sunny day - ISO 200 – 640
Indoors on a cloudy day - ISO 400 – 1250
Indoors at night ISO- 1600+

“Shutter Speed”

The shutter speed is the amount of time that your shutter stays open. In most cases, you want the shutter speed to be fast enough to capture your image without any blurriness.
Normally I never shoot anything under 1/80 unless I put my camera on a tripod. Settings below that could cause blurriness. Basically when I shoot photos of Wyatt I try to keep my shutter speed at 125 or higher just because I know that he will be a toddler on the move and I want to freeze the moment instead of blur that moment.  colorfestivalcopy6
The lower your shutter speed is the more light you will let into your camera because the shutter is open longer. The higher the shutter speed is the less light will enter into your camera.
More light = more blurriness Less light = less blurriness

“Aperture/ F stop”

Changing your aperture affects the amount of light that's in your shot and the scale used to measure the aperture size is the “f-number” scale. This sounds much more complicated than it is. There is one trick to understanding it: A smaller f-stop number indicates a bigger aperture opening.(F-stops are indicated by these numbers on your camera: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16 ect.)
When shooting at a lower f/stop (ie: larger aperture: f/1.2 – f/2.8), the ‘in focus’ part of your image will be smaller and the background will be blurry - this is great for portraits, flowers and still life. Small apertures (ie: f/8 and above) cause more of the background to be in focus this is great for shooting families, interior, buildings or street life.
Remember: Lower number aperture = more light and a blurrier background / Higher number aperture = less light and a sharper background

Here's a cheat sheet to help you remember…

So in what order should you adjust these? Well it depends on what you like but what I do is this:
1. Set my aperture – I like to first control if I want a “blurry” background.
2. Set my shutter speed – remember try not to go below 1/125 you don’t want a lot of motion blur. Now if my light meter (remember this: –2….1…0…1…2+ ) is not where I want it then I…
3. Change my ISO – I try to do this one last just because I like my ISO to stay at the lowest number possible so I have less “noise/grain” in the photo and you should be able to get the exposure you want by just change the first 2 depending on how the light is where you are shooting.
Now guys this takes time to master and the only way to get better is by practicing and try out your settings and really when I started out learning manual mode I would switch it to Auto and snap a photo and then look at what settings the camera set and then I would adjust those in manual mode. Do what feels right to you and don't get discourage, keep practicing and soon you will love that you made the change to manual mode.

Audrey from The Daily Wyatt

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Show and Tell : Favorite Summer Photo Winner & Favorites

Here is the Favorite Summer Photo Winner. Congratulations Shannon! You win a 24x32 Canvas from Hello Canvas. I will be emailing you! 

I just love the action she caught in this shot and the beautiful water!
Shannon from I Should Be Cleaning House

Here are some other favorites. 

I love the colors and clarity of this photo. Looks like he is having so much fun.
Kate from Ramblings from Utopia

I just love the feel of this photo. I used to love boogie boarding as a child.
Kim from Little by Little

Love her adorable shades and all the lovely colors!!
Melissa from Serendipity is Sweet

Grab your button for being featured.

Photography love...

Thanks to everyone for entering!! Don't forget to link up with the current Show and Tell challenge : Yellow {self portrait}.

Show and Tell : Yellow {Self Portrait}

Tell: Dustyn and I had fun taken photos of ourselves. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Real. Life. Photography. | Book Launch Party & Giveaway

I was so thrilled and honored that Rebecca asked me to be a part of her book launch party. If you don't know Rebecca, she is the author behind Simple As That. She is seriously talented. I look up to her photography and craftiness.

About Rebecca | A professional photographer and mother of four children, I make my home in Alberta, Canada. I'm the author of two previous photography eBooks, 40 Top Tips for Better Photos and Don't Say Cheese!, both published through Ella Publishing Co., as well as a scrapbooking inspiration book, Real.Life.Scrapbooking., published in 2008.

About Real.Life.Photography I believe strongly in encouraging women to take more photos of everyday moments—it's my absolute favorite part of photography! I started working on this 68-page, professionally designed and edited eBook more than a year ago. I spent months carefully assembling my best tips and tricks, gathering 127 real-life photos, and writing hundreds of useful photography tips. My goal is to inspire women everywhere to pick up their cameras more often and to be happier with the photos they take.

Excerpt "Photographing real life isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s a lot harder than taking family portraits in a well-lit studio or outdoors at the perfect time of day. Real life passes quickly. It doesn’t wait for you to pull out your camera. It doesn’t wait for ideal lighting conditions. And it doesn’t wait for your house to be spotless. But I promise that capturing everyday moments is worth the extra effort. Capturing life as it happens helps me see things differently. Boring becomes beautiful. Ordinary becomes extraordinary. Life can get so busy and crowded with distractions that it’s easy to forget what matters most. Pausing to take photos along the way helps me slow down and just enjoy my life exactly as it is." —from Real.Life.Photography.: How to find magic in everyday moments by Rebecca Cooper
I loved everything about this book. It was set up so easy to read and follow. I loved how she shared her settings for every photo and what lens she used. I have really wanted to learn to take more natural photos of my kids doing what they do. This is the perfect book for me. It inspired me in taking these photos with Dustyn. I really hope to do more with them in the future.

If you are looking for an easy to read book with lots of awesome tips check it out. Just like shooting kids in AV mode instead of all manual. It makes perfect sense, but I never thought of it!
She really jammed this full of tips, tricks, and techniques. She even talks a little bit about editing. Christy from Addy Lane created a Simple Fixes Action Set that go perfect with Rebecca's ebook.

Here is an edit of a photo of Carsyn side by side. I didn't do anything else to it besides using the Simple Fixes Action Set.
I used Goodbye Red Skin, Simply Lighten and Simply Boost. I love how easy and fast they were to use. I will be using them in the future.

You can purchase the ebook or the action set for the introductory price of $9.99 each (the regular price will be $12.99).

If you purchase both the book and the actions together, you can take 20% off with the promo code PHOTOFIX

You can enter to win a copy of the ebook and the action set below in Rafflecopter.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much Rebecca for including me in your Book Launch Party. I really enjoyed reading the book and trying out the actions. Product Provided

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tutorial - Spherical Refractions

Hello Paper Heart Camera friends! I'm Melissa from Serendipity is Sweet. I am new here and so thrilled to be joining the inspiring ladies who lend their talents to this blog.  
I'm a bit of a Pinterest addict and I love browsing the site, as well as other photography blogs, for tutorials and ideas on new and interesting things to shoot. I always learn a great deal about light, focal lengths and composition when trying out new set ups, so when I came across a pin about refractions I thought I'd give it a whirl to see what I could come up with. 
You can find a more technical explanation here, but basically a spherical refraction is when an image is flipped upside down because of a negative magnification. Any clear spherical shape can cause this phenomenon (think marble, wine goblet, water drop, etc.) So, in playing with this idea, I came up with the following image:

Here's how I got there:  I set out a white board for a plain background and placed a glass dish on top and filled it with colorful cereal. Then I used a glass sheet (actually an insert from an end table I have, but any flat glass will do) and set it atop two objects of equal height so that it was about a foot or so above my dish of cereal. I used a spray bottle of water to spray the underside of the glass sheet to create droplets. Then I focused on the drops and shot away. 
I noticed two things right away: the glass with the droplets needed to be super clean and smudge free, and it was tough to get droplets of equal size and shape. I was getting a lot of blur and haze and runny drops. Naptime was over so I packed it up and loaded my shots to see what I had. 

Sort of interesting and abstract, but not what I was going for. 

The next day I tried again, but instead of a water bottle I used liquid glycerin (which is inexpensive and can be found at most pharmacies - we add it to bubble solution for longer lasting bubbles ;).  I used a dropper to add the glycerin to the glass sheet and set up the rest of my shoot as I had before. I used Skittles this time instead of cereal. Here's a pullback of my fancy studio - notice the fabulously tattered white board that my kids love to play with:

I shot this in full mid-day sun and was able to use a fast shutter speed, so I did not set up my tripod. I probably should have, but I'm often just plain lazy and nap time is way too short at my house. I used my 50 mm lens at f/9, ISO 50 and 1/200 sec and hand held my camera toggling my focus point. 

I like the effect I got from the second set up much better. Had I had more time I probably would have tried to make the drops more round and evenly spaced. In editing I added a little clarity and selectively sharpened the spheres before resizing for the web. Here's another shot:

This was pretty easy and inexpensive to set up. I had fun playing with this shoot and will definitely revisit this idea, perhaps trying different backgrounds for different effects. Give this a try and link up your shots here. I'd love to see them and hear about your experience!