And our first guest on the program tonight…
March 19, 2011
How do I … No you’re not showing me, you’re just doing…. No wait, where?… How did you…. what?
That’s typically what it sounds like when the wifey asks me how to do something. It’s usually promptly followed with “You suck at teaching.” and the absence of thank-you-cake. And I love me some cake.
Unfortunately for me, it’s true, I’m not the best teacher. But I AM trying to get better. Continual improvement. It’s a process really.
Fortunately for you, I have, here for you, a special treat. It’s not cake, but 4 out of 5 pediatricians agree — studies show it’s potentially better than cake. It’s our first guestblog of recent history, brought to you by none other than Ami of ami’s in LA Photography!
So, you say you want to kick up the level of awesome in your shots from ‘epic’ to ‘sweet merciful justice?’ Have no fear, let’s have Ami help get us there.
P.S. Major thanks to Ami for taking the time to put pen to pad (fingers to keys?) for this one. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Mrs. and I are out shooting both days this weekend, so it’s nice having a blogsitter in while we’re out.
I’m no expert at post production. Or photography in general. I’ll be the first to admit that. Shout it off a mountaintop, even. But when Jocson asked that I do a post on the topic, I had no choice but to oblige, because after all, he was kind enough to do a guest post for me, too. I do love photography, though, and Jocson’s pretty cool. So, to deter him from coming after me with a spork, and also in the hopes that this post might help at least one person, I present the amisinsLA intro to post production.
The most important thing to me about post is that your straight out of the camera shots (SOOCs) need to be on point as possible. Meaning, at the time the photo was shot, the image was exposed well and lit properly. I will tell you right now, personally I find it near impossible to correct a flat, poorly lit image (and trust me, I take my share of those), no matter how much I tinker with it in Photoshop or Lightroom. I’m sure it can be done, but I can’t do it. Not just because it’s difficult, but to be honest, after I’ve applied a dozen Photoshop actions, I’ll know that I’ll just look at the image and it will look artificial to me. Because I have done it. And it has looked that way.
That’s not to say that I don’t bump the exposure. Oh boy, do I. Nailing your exposure is something that takes tons and tons of practice (for me, anyway), so being able to correct it in Lightroom or Photoshop is a beautiful thing. Especially when you shoot RAW. Shooting RAW ensures that you have maximum control over editing your photos. The camera basically saves the conditions of when your photo was taken and saves it all on a file so you can alter it later. Again, it’s a beautiful thing. But, relying on that alone can be way more work in the end than it’s worth. So I highly recommend practicing shooting in different lighting situations and understanding what settings will lead you to a well-exposed shot.
Exposure isn’t the only thing I adjust in Lightroom. I also alter the saturation, brightness, blacks, temperature and tint. Sometimes I adjust them all. Other times I adjust some, and even others, I just adjust one. The point of post for me and my personal style is to help make the photo to look as natural as possible. If you don’t know what your style is, my suggestion would be to compile a ton of images that speak to you. Ones that you naturally gravitate towards in magazines or on blogs and make you go, ooooooh. Then figure out why you like them. Is it composition? If it is, then for the most part, post production (aside from cropping) isn’t going to help you very much. That’s more of an in-camera issue. But if it’s colors and light, then post can definitely be a great tool.
So now comes the good stuff. Once you have a shot that you are happy SOOC and have an idea of where you want to go with it style-wise, you can head to Lightroom (or Photoshop, but I’l be using Lightroom for the purpose of this post). I also shot the following two images JPEG, so all of the settings start at zero as opposed to RAW that has your exact settings saved for you SOOC.
In this first image, you can see that the before and after are pretty much the same, but the exposure and brightness have been bumped a bit. This is because the image SOOC was a bit underexposed, but otherwise fine. The light was hitting Bry’s face from camera right, illuminating his face sufficiently. I also bumped the temp to +5, because I wanted his skin to have a hint of warmth. If his face had been too warm, or even had a tinge of redness, I would have decreased the tint a tad.
In this second image, you can see that the original photo was way underexposed and had to be compensated for in post. I don’t think I was originally even going to bother with this photo, and instead just pass it off as a lost cause, but I liked his expression and the composition, so I tinkered a bit with it in Lightroom. I bumped the exposure and brightness, brought out the blacks a touch, and desaturated the photo a bit as well. The purpose of desaturating is so that when the colors are entirely too vivid (sometimes after you amp up the exposure), desaturation restores balance to the colors. It can help to essentially create a softer photo.
I’d like to reiterate here that I really believe that you have to understand where you want to go in order to get there. Sometimes you just don’t know, so you experiment to see what is appealing to you. That’s great, you totally should. But first, you have to understand fundamentals (light and composition) and second, learn from others. I think when you study the works of those that you admire, you start understanding and recognizing patterns. When you take various patterns from various influences and apply them to your own work, you start creating something entirely new that you can call your own. You shouldn’t feel like a copycat for applying methods that the artists you are looking at have learned from other artists who learned it from others and so on. Even the very first artist presumably took influence from somewhere–maybe nature, who knows. The point is, study, learn, apply, and practice, practice, practice. I think that goes for everything. I haven’t been doing photography for a super long time and I’m still learning every day.
So that’s my brief intro to the steps I take in post production. If any of the above was unclear or if you have any questions, please leave a comment on Jocson’s site or you can always email me directly. You can find me at amisinLA at gmail dot com and at my site. Thanks, and hope to see you there!