Category Archives Photography

Hey everybody, Matt Kloskowski here. First off, a big thanks to Scott for letting me write about this, as I’ve been wanting to for a while now. So here’s the question: “Is Photoshop a bad word?”

Personally, for photographers, I think it’s 100% necessary if you want to compete today. Technology has changed everything. The world knows that Photoshop exists. The standards by which photography was judged, even just 10 years ago, don’t hold up against today’s standards. We expect more from a photo.

It All Starts with A Good Photo
Of course you expect a guy that makes a living teaching Photoshop to say this right? Before I get too far into it, let me set the record straight. As a professional photographer, I realize it all starts with a good photo right out of the camera. Like many of you, we spend way too much money on tripods, lenses, lighting, camera bodies, etc… to just accept any photo out of the camera and say “I’ll fix it in Photoshop”. Lighting on a person, for example, is impossible (or really difficult) to fix later. Same holds true for landscape and outdoor photography. You can’t reproduce the light you get from sunrise or sunset. Photoshop can’t make a blurry photo sharp. I totally get it. That said, I think there is a time to fix it in Photoshop (yes, I said “fix it”. Not just to finish, but fixing is perfectly acceptable too).

When to “Fix” It?
I once watched a photographer doing a live demonstration where his photos were showing up on screen as he took them. Well, part of the light was hitting the area behind the subjects and the photographer proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes working through the issues that this brought up. He was very quick to say, “Sure, you could fix this in Photoshop but I prefer to get it right in camera”. Being a Photoshop guy, it wasn’t really the statement that got to me, but it was the way it was said. The tone of that (and several other things he said) led the audience to believe that Photoshop was something you should be ashamed of. It was almost as if Photoshop was a bad word.

If you’re on a shoot, you’ve got your time, your client’s time, your assistant’s time, rental fees and many other factors that favor you moving quickly. As a photographer, you should know that this was a 20 second fix with a brush in Photoshop vs. the collective 40 minutes he wasted (photographer, assistant, and two models). And if you don’t know how to fix it, I think your job is to hire some one who does.

A Quote
I was watching a video from Jeremy Cowart and he said something that really stuck with me.

“Photoshop has changed the game, and every once in a while, Photoshop is the game”.

I think he nailed it. Photoshop has changed the game. Everyone you photograph knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Every client you shoot for knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Even your friends (if you’re a hobbyist photographer) know about Photoshop. If your photos aren’t seeing Photoshop (by you or your retoucher) then I’d have to venture to say you’re not getting noticed today. And take Jeremy’s work for example. Some of what helped build his career would be nearly impossible without Photoshop. It allows us to take a budget consisting of one person standing on white seamless and produce a movie poster that looks like it was shot on a mountain top with smoke machines, a race car, and the most dramatic sky ever seen.

Why?
So where does this dislike of Photoshop come from? Personally, I think it comes from not knowing Photoshop. Scott and I talk about this a lot after workshops and seminars. You can pretty much guarantee that when we hear some one criticizing Photoshop, it doesn’t take too long to realize that they don’t know it. Yep, 100% of the time when I ask the person that just said “I don’t like Photoshop” if they know how to use it, they say no. But here’s the thing and the key point I’d like to get across: if you’re a photographer, now it’s your job to know it. You’ve either got to learn it yourself or, if you lack the time/interest and have the budget, then find some one who is good at it to work on your photos for you.

And trust me. Those people are out there. They’re photographers who grew up with a digital camera and computer and have never known anything else. And they’re GOOD! They’re fast, they’re hungry and motivated and they’ll never know “what it was like back the film days” so trying to tell them is like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube. I can vouch for this. I’m 37, so I grew up with film. I didn’t touch my first digital camera until 8 years ago and I know my eyes glaze over every time I hear a “before your time, back in the film days” story :)

The Pros Know This
Whether you realize it or not, the pros already know this. In fact, they’ve known it all along. Even back in the film days there were a whole slew of things that were happening to photos before we saw them. The difference is that back then, those tools (and the time it takes to use them) weren’t easily available to the world so we never really heard about it. Today though, we have Photoshop, Lightroom, and even Photoshop Elements (and lots of books to learn how to use them ;-) ). So for as little as $59, anyone can use these techniques that simply weren’t available just 10-15 years ago. And whether you know it or not, just about every photographer (a general exception would be editorial photographers) you follow is either really good at Photoshop or has a retoucher/assistant that is. Photoshop is indeed being used, whether the photographer talks about it or not.

One More Thing
One last thing. Don’t be ashamed of using Photoshop. If you know it (or you’ve got a good retoucher), then you’ve got one helluva a competitive advantage out there today. A great image is a great image, and it loses nothing if we learn that Photoshop was a big part of it. And remember, anyone that does give you a hard time about it probably isn’t that good at Photoshop. So don’t justify or make excuses when showing your work. If some one asks if Photoshop was used, you simply say, “Of course!”.

So, my question to you still stands: is Photoshop a bad word? Do you long for the days when Photoshop wasn’t around? Or does Photoshop actually make the photography process better for you? If you’re like me, sometimes I love the artistic post-process just as much as taking the photo in the first place. Feel free to chime in with a comment and most of all, thanks for reading. See ya!

– Matt K.

I forgot to post this fisheye shot from the game in Miami last week, but when I was getting ready to post it, I thought, “I wonder if I should correct the fisheye distortion?” So, I gave it a shot.

In Photoshop CS5, it’s an automated process—just open the image in Camera Raw, go to the Lens Correction panel, and turn on the Profile correction and it does the rest in all of two-seconds flat. Here are the results:

(Above: Here’s the original uncorrected photo, taken with a Nikon 10.5mm fisheye—a DX cropped lens on a FX full-frame body. I love how this DX lens looks on the Full frame body—it’s not too over the top).

(Above: Here’s the fisheye effect corrected, removing all the roundness that comes with shooting a fisheye lens, using the Photoshop technique I mentioned above).

The top one looks more “classic fisheye” but then when I look at the bottom one, I think, “Well, this looks a lot more like what it really looked like in the stadium that night” but I’m not really sure I like it better.

What do you guys think? Uncorrected (and round) or Corrected and flat? I’m really curious to see what you guys think.

I’ve got one more for you, but this one was taken by my buddy Mike McCaskey (who was shooting along side me that night). He sent me a bunch of his images from the game, and I just fell in love with this one, of Chicago Bears Linebacker Lance Briggs, and I asked Mike if it was OK if I shared it with you guys. That’s the kind of smile that says “We’re winning this one!” And, of course, they did. And the next one, too! Go Bears! (8-3).

In looking at the two fisheye images now posted on the blog (I looked at a preview before the final post went live), I think I need to darken the handrail going down the stairs. I think it’s kind of distracting. A 15-second fix in Photoshop:

#1. Add a Levels Adjustment Layer and drag the center Midtone slider to the right to darken the midtones
#2 Drag the far right Output slider to the Left to darken the overall image (as shown below);

Then press Command-I (PC: Ctrl-I) to invert the Adjustment Layer Mask. Get the Brush tool. Make your brush size very small. Set your Foreground color to white, and paint right along the railing to darken it. The final result is shown below.

(Above: The final image with the rail darkened. Why didn’t I try that on the corrected version? Just bein’ lazy.). ;-)

I shot the USF Bulls vs. Pitt game the Saturday after the Bears/Dolphins game and just wanted to share a few shots from the game.

I used the same camera set-up, settings, as I do for any day game: Aperture priority mode; both cameras at f/2.8 all day. Both cameras at ISO 200 all day. I love day games—you set it, and forget it, and just work on your timing, and not worry about ISO or camera settings, or anything.

(Above: The receiver just scored a touch down and while he’s making the rounds of the end zone, he just flicks the ball behind him, and I was right there in front of him with a 400mm lens. One of my favorites from the day).

(Above: This shot breaks all the rules—it’s not an action shot—the ball’s not in the shot—he’s just standing there. But just standing there, this guy just look like a load. Looking at him, I’m thankful I’m on the sidelines and not the field. Also, you get a nice look at the wonderful bokeh the 400mm f/2.8 creates).

(Above: This is our buddy, sport photographer Andy Gregory. He’s a very good photographer, but he had been drinking heavily before and during the game, and right after this photo was taken, he fell over—passed out cold. Matt Kloskowski was shooting the game there with me, and we immediately rushed to his side, took his gear, went to the media center, and put it up for sale on eBay. When Andy woke up, around the 15 yard line, we had already pants’d him. It was a long day for Andy). [kidding, of course. About the drinking and stuff. Not about him being a good photographer. He’s a real pro, and an awful lot of fun to shoot with, and even more fun to tease].

(Above: Here’s a shot of Matt shooting from behind the end zone. The guy to Matt’s right, in the white shirt, is saying “Don’t you think Matt looks much taller in person?”)

(Above: This is a guy running with the ball. [Sorry, I couldn’t help myself]).

(Above: One of the big advantages of shooting from behind the End Zone is that there’s usually nothing in front of you—no refs, no chain gang, no TV guy with a giant parabolic microphone shield, so when somebody breaks for a touchdown run like this, you’re got a straight unobstructed shot).

Here’s a few more to take us out.

In all seriousness, hanging out with Andy and having Matt along with us for his first big football shoot was a lot of fun (and as expected, Matt came away with some nice shots. Andy of course—none). ;-)

We’re coming on up our last four weeks or so of Regular Season play, so there’s not much football left, which is a bummer. I’ve got a couple of NFL shoots coming up this month, and because of my travel schedule I am going to miss a few college games, but I did get my first Bowl Game assignment this year, so I’m psyched about that.

Don’t Forget our LIVE “Cyber Monday” episode of D-Town TV (The FREE weekly show for DSLR Shooters), is today, as we broadcast live from B&H Photo’s massive store in New York City.

TODAY: at 2:30 pm EST.

CLICK THIS LINK: right here.

We also have a BIG giveaway during the live show, plus we’ll be answering your questions LIVE, so you don’t want to miss it!!!! (the video below has all the details). :)

And yeah baby, my Bears won 16-0!!!!! (That makes the Bears 7 and 3 this season, and puts them in first place baby, yeah!!!). OK, I had to get that out of my system first. Now, onto the shoot (and my near freak out!):

The game was a week ago Thursday night in Miami at Sun Life Stadium. The shot above was just a glimpse of the really tough night Miami back-up quarterback Tyler Thigpen had, as he gets sacked and fumbles (he was sacked numerous times and flushed out of the pocket and had to scramble all night long). He actually played fairly well, but their offense could never put enough together to really get in the game.

(Above: I love this shot because you can see the Dolphins Wide Receiver Davone Bess literally running right over his own Center, Cory Procter).

I got to the shoot the game from the sidelines alongside my buddy, Bears Chairman Mike McCaskey (who snagged some awesome shots, as usual), and we had a ball. I even had more than usual, because I got to ride from the team hotel to the Stadium on the Team Bus (which included a full police escort all the way, and then I got to hang out with the team in the Bears Locker room before and after the game.

It was all I Could Do To Keep From Freaking Out!
About two hours before the game, Mike and I are in the locker room, and we’re getting out our gear, and I attach my 400mm f/2.8 and this one guy starts asking me about it, and when I use my other lenses, and we’re talking about stuff (he wasn’t a photographer—just a guy being curious), and the whole time I’m talking to him, inside I’m thinking: “Oh My God!!!! You’re Greg Olson!!! You’re on my Fantasy Football Team!!!!” but you’ll be proud to know that I didn’t do that, or squeal like a 12-year-old girl, but I sure wanted to.

I’m driving Mike crazy the whole time, because I’m standing like three feet from Julius Peppers, and I’m telling Mike, “Dude, that’s Julius Peppers!!!! Do you know how good that guy is?” (of course, Mike just nods and laughs at me). It was wild being just a few feet from Brian Urlacher, and Jay Cutler, and Devin Hester, and well…it was all I could do to keep from freaking out, but I managed to hold it together. A very memorable experience already and we hadn’t even stepped on the field yet.

(Above: Not an action shot, but I like this shot of Bears Linebacker Brian Urlacher because I liked the ray the stadium lights provided a rim-light effect behind him. Plus, he just looks like somebody you wouldn’t want to mess with).

Camera Settings
Being able to shoot at f/2.8 (with my 400mm and my 70-200mm) rather than at f/4, even though it’s just a one-stop difference, allows me to shoot at ISO 1600 for a night game like this, rather than at 4,000 ISO. It’s not just the lower noise—the contrast and color are dramatically better at 1,600 than at 4,000. As always, I shot in Aperture Priority mode on both cameras, and in JPEG mode (gasp!) on both cameras.

A Few To Take Us Out
I’ve got a lot of other stuff today to cover today, being Black Friday (the biggest shopping day of the year in US), and all, so I’ll just show a few more shots to wrap thing up.

An incredibly memorable shoot
I won’t soon forget this one, because it was the first time Mike and I got to shoot an entire game together, and of course, riding over on the team bus, hanging out in the locker room, and getting to see the Bears, my adopted team, get another win in a great season, was just a ton of fun. I’m going to hate to see football season end.

Nighttime in New York City

A week or so ago my buddy RC Concepcion stops by my office and he’s showing me some great night photos he took of the New York City skyline (seen here and below). I asked where he shot them from, and he told me some were taken from the top of Rockefeller Center, and some from the top of the Empire State Building.

Since these were night shots, he’d need a tripod to get shots that sharp, but neither of those places allows you to shoot with a tripod. In fact, they pretty much confiscate your tripod if you even walk in the front door with one (of course, they tag it, and give it back when you leave).

So I asked RC how he got permission to shoot with a tripod, and he said he actually didn’t use a tripod at all—then he let me in on a little trick that he’s been using that so far hasn’t raised any eyebrows, but still gives great tripod like results for low light shooting.

He said he: …”uses a Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Magic Arm with Camera Bracket and a Manfrotto Super Clamp Without Stud. B&H Photo offers them together as a kit, but the arm is different – it has a lever instead of the ball tensioner” (which RC thinks is better).

He told me, “On both the Top of the Rock and The Empire State Building there are protection fences that are pretty sturdy. You can attach the arm to the structure and fire away.” (that’s the rig shown at right—you can see it clamped to the fence, and it gives you a lot of freedom as to where you position the camera).

The shot you see below was done using this same rig, but it was shot from the observatory at the top of the Empire State Building.

Anyway, I had just never thought to use a Magic Arm and Clamp for situations where tripods aren’t allowed (that RC guy is pretty clever). Anyway, my thanks to RC for the photos, and for letting share his cool tip with you guys. :)

Flatiron Building at Dusk.

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