Not to be dramatic or anything, but discovering Photoshop probably saved my life. I don’t know what would have happened to me without it and I don’t want to know! I came to Photoshop in a round about way. I graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute with a degree in painting (my poor parents), and I credit all those hours of live drawing classes with my ability to build complicated composites and convincingly manipulate the anatomy of the subjects in my images.

I didn’t, however, go from graduation to Photoshop. There was no Photoshop back then. I traveled and painted for many years then ended up in Haiti (for a long time). Eventually I knew I had to return to the U.S. since it was pretty tough to make ends meet in Haiti. It was year 2000 and I didn’t even know how to turn on a computer. I had to reinvent myself and find a way to make a living. My mother told me to do something with my “art” on the computer and she showed me Microsoft Paint. Being a painter (a real one) I thought this was the stupidest thing I had ever heard.

In confusion, I went back to Haiti. But while there, a good friend, a photographer, had bought a computer and one day I saw him using…PHOTOSHOP. My hair stood on end. I flew back to Kansas City where my father lived and took over the 2nd floor of his house and his little tiny (hilarious from this vantage point) computer. I bought a copy of Photoshop and made it my job for the next 6 months to teach myself how to use the program. I spent a minimum of 8 hours a day doing this.

I’m not sure that I knew what it was I wanted to do with Photoshop, I just knew I needed to know everything about it. Soon, I saw an ad for a job in the paper, and it said you needed to know Photoshop so I went for it. Boom. I got my first job as a retoucher for H&H Color Lab.

I worked there for two years retouching wedding photos, family portraits, children’s portraits and high school senior shots. It was grueling. We worked horrifically long hours, but I never missed a day and I learned everything I could, including the printing side of things. I knew I needed to know everything! At night I searched for books or information online about higher end retouching techniques. In those years there wasn’t an avalanche of tutorials about retouching like there is today. I’m actually glad there wasn’t, because now there are some terribly misleading tutorials advocating poor retouching techniques and, some of the authors of these tutorials have very little experience.

For comedic affect here is one of my early retouches done at H&H: remove braces.

Removing braces from a Senior portrait

One of the frequent requests was for braces removal from the teen shots. I started a “body Parts” folder for teeth to swap out. I still have a folder for “parts” today, but instead of teeth I keep silo’d hair wisps, good eyelashes, various textures for skin and clothing, fingernails, etc.

Here is my teeth folder from back in 2002. Pretty funny.

Teeth from the ‘Body folder”

Eventually I snagged a test retouch for a high end retouching house in NYC. I was surprised when I opened the DVD (yes, that’s how we used to share files: via snail mail, ha) and found an image of Cameron Diaz. I was on 12 hour shifts Monday through Friday and 8 hours on Saturday, but I stayed up all night and retouched throughout my Sunday off. In the end I was offered the job.

It was great to finally work on images shot by high end pro photographers. I don’t regret the time I spent at H&H; it strengthened my skills fixing the mistakes of less than stellar photographers. The long hours and the pressure to work fast was good training. You have to pay your dues.

I can’t show images from my time at my first retouching studio, but after 2 years there I began to freelance and work for individual photographers. One of the first ones was Rick Day Here are some of the collaborations from that partnership. Below is a beauty retouch.

Clara shot by Rick Day

And here are some compositing pieces Rick shot at The Box nightclub.

Photo by Rick Day
Raven shot by Rick Day  

Back when I started retouching there weren’t a million tutorials all over the internet like there are now. One of the problems with the abundance of tutorials out there is figuring out which ones are showing you the right way to retouch like the pros and which ones are bogus shortcuts. I’m glad that I learned mostly from working with other experienced retouchers on the job.

I spent another two years freelancing at various studios in NYC, working with some of the best retouchers in the city. I subcontracted at Graphic Systems Group and helped them regain beauty ad work for Elizabeth Arden. This was a few years ago, so the retouching is much more “polished” than it typically is today. See below for some ads I did with Catherine Zeta-Jones shot by photographer Michael Thompson.

CZJ shot by Michael Thompson
CZJ shot by Michael Thompson

The past few years there have been a lot of people advocating a technique called Frequency Separation, although I’ve noticed a lot of people abandoning it in favor of the tried and true “dodging and burning” for skin retouching. I’m not going to go into why I personally do not use this technique (I’ve explained it over and over again in Facebook groups and to my classes at the School of Visual Arts).

Rather than spend time learning trendy shortcuts, a retoucher would be better off learning how to control and adjust your brush tools for the particular job at hand. I spend the first three hours of my retouching workshops discussing brushes and how to set them up for optimal retouching.

One great tool for teaching fell into my lap when I was given the PSD of another retouching company to “fix.” Below is a screen shot of one of my masks and one of theirs.

The first image is THEM.

Poor brush work on a mask

The below image is of CarrieNYC masks:

Masks painted with soft brushes

Unless you are making a hard edged mask for something like product you almost always want a soft brush that blends. I am a proponent of using FLOW rather than OPACITY and for my dodge and burn brush. I always have TRANSFER turned on and the Controls set to Pen Pressure (I don’t need to say that you should be working with a stylus and not a mouse, right?)

The first thing to do in the Photoshop brush panel is to TURN OFF SHAPE DYNAMICS!!!!! It’s a weird brush setting and I only use it to do tricky stuff like draw hair or eyelashes.

Here is my brush panel for Dodge and Burn. The Brush is set at 10% Flow and AIRBRUSH is turned ON.

Brush settings

The “THEM” example is using a default brush, Shape Dynamics is on, they are using Opacity rather than Flow, and their brush is set to a hard edge. Not optimal for what they were trying to do.

My suggestion for retouchers honing their craft is to learn Photoshop inside and out, even things you might not think you would need as a retoucher. Inevitably, your clients will ask you for some crazy things, and you have to find ways to make it happen. We really aren’t allowed to say ‘that can’t be done.’ For example, below is a product shot that hadn’t actually been produced yet, and I only received the final product after the fact.

Product retouching

So in wrapping up, let me show you a lovely beauty shot by Rick Day NYC that shows what you can accomplish with good ole Dodge and Burn.

Beauty shot by Rick Day

While I love retouching and am so lucky to have it as my job, I still love painting! I have a studio, and that’s where I get to be the real me. Here is a self portrait of me sitting at my retouching station (It’s not retouched at all, that’s the real me!)

“Unretouched” self portrait

Thanks for listening!

You can see more from Carrie at CarrieNYC.com and CarrieBeene.com, and keep up with her at @carrienyc and @carriebeenestudio (painting) on Instagram and her Facebook group for retouchers, Real Retouching: Learn and Teach.

You can also get her book Real Retouching: A Professional Step by Step Guide on Amazon, and you can take one of her retouching workshops at the School of Visual Arts in NYC! There are six per year, and the next one is June 23-24.

Hello, internets! It’s #TravelTuesday again, so I’m here to impart some kind of wisdom onto you, and today it’s all about tweaking colour with Camera Raw’s Hue sliders. But first!

I’m writing this post from a Starbucks just outside of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park in Scotland, fresh from an overnight stop before I head farther north towards the Isle of Skye. I’m shooting a couple of little projects involving drone photography and Platypod tripods. You can keep up with what I’m doing on this trip by following me on social media (look for @capturewithdave) and by watching the @kelbyonepics Instagram story!

On with the blog!

The HSL  (Hue/Saturation/Luminance) Adjustments panel in Adobe Camera Raw is very useful, but perhaps most confusing are the Hue options. While the Saturation and Luminance sliders enhance the colours, the Hue sliders actually change them. There are some pretty powerful things you can do with the Hue sliders—you can even change the seasons in post if you tweak the colours the right way.

What’s actually happening when you adjust a colour slider in the Hue tab is that you’re moving its position on a colour wheel. In terms of its practical application, I’ll use the Hue sliders to adjust this photo and make the grass greener, whilst maintaining the other colours.

 

 

In this shot, the tones up in the sky are beautiful—the sun lowering in the sky (it’s 9pm) is casting a fabulous orange glow—but I feel like the grass should be just a little bit greener. We can take advantage of the Hue sliders and make this adjustment easily right in Camera Raw.

 

 

Using the Hue sliders to shift the colours within sections of the colour wheel, if we move the Yellows slider (the colour of the grass in this case) towards the green end, and compensate with the Oranges and Greens sliders to maintain the actual green and retain that orange in the sky by moving those sliders away from the yellow ends, we’ve easily achieved our goal! It’s as easy as that!

 

 

 

That grass is now greener, which to me is more realistic and more pleasing, and all it took was an understanding of what’s going on with the Hue tab’s sliders.

Much love

Dave

Greeting from a train somewhere in the countryside between Bergen, Norway, and Oslo. We’re close to wrapping up 9-days vacation here (with my wife and daughter), and we’ve been having just a wonderful time (our first time here in Norway — incredibly beautiful place!). 

As you might imagine, we’re taking lots of photos (and Kalebra is shooting absolutely lights-out with her iPhone — check out her images on her Instagram account. She somehow managed to take control of all the seagulls in Norway, and they fly into position on her command. It’s eerie to see in person, but it makes for a great photo). ;-)

Anyway, with all this water I wound up pulling out my 10-stop ND filter quite a bit (though not as much as I should have), but it got me to wondering — why, after all this time, do we still have “Bulb Mode?” (The mode where you can keep your shutter open as long as you want by holding down the shutter button). 

On my Canon 5D Mark IV, normally the maximum my shutter can stay open is 30-seconds
…unless until I switch to bulb mode, and then I can leave it open all day long (well, for as long as I hold the shutter button down, or in my case, as long as I leave the button on my cable release locked). Since the main reason, you need bulb mode is for long exposures, why not just let us automatically be in an optional type of bulb mode once I choose an exposure beyond 30-seconds?

For example, yesterday I was doing a series of 2-min, 20-second long exposures. Why can’t I just set my shutter speed to 2:20 seconds? Why do we need to change modes? Beyond that, why don’t they just do away with us having to have a cable release in the first place — why not have an option to turn on so if you go beyond a 30-second exposure, pressing the shutter button waits for 5-seconds before opening the shutter to let any vibration from pressing the shutter dissipate. That does away with Bulb mode and the need for a cable release all in one. 

Now, there may already be some cameras out there that already have this exact feature (I don’t think it’s a Canon or Nikon, maybe an Olympus or Pentax), but this seems like one of those, “that’s the way we’ve always done it…’ type of things that have kept the “big boys” from doing, but perhaps there’s some technical reason why we need to have a separate bulb mode for long exposures that I don’t know, and if there is, I’m hoping somebody here will let me know. 

Anyway, this is the kind of thing you think of when you’re standing on the rocks shooting a long exposure waiting patiently for 2-minutes and 20-seconds to pass. ;-)

Here’s to a great week (and smooth flights home, wherever you may be). :)

All my best, 

-Scott

P.S. This Friday I’ll be giving the keynote at the Out of Chicago Conference, and I’m pretty psyched about it. Heard so many great things about the conference, and I’m delighted they asked me to speak there this week. Looking forward to meeting some of you there. If you’re not going – you can still go! :)

Essential Tools & Techniques for Making Beautiful Prints with Daniel Gregory
There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your work printed and hung on the wall! Join Daniel Gregory as he breaks down the steps needed to create beautiful prints. Whether you’ve never printed before or print all the time, this class is sure to provide you with a clear, efficient, and effective print workflow. Daniel covers all the considerations for selecting paper, choosing a printer, soft proofing, staying organized, working in Photoshop and Lightroom, image sizing, output sharpening, and even how to avoid common problems. Printing your photos is rewarding and one of the most effective ways to improve your craft.

In Case You Missed It
Vocabulary is at the root of all communication. Join Mia McCormick, and special guest RC Concepcion, for a conversation with Daniel Gregory, a fine art photographer based in Seattle. This class is intended to help you develop a set of tools that can enable you to gain a deeper understanding of your voice, your vision, and ultimately your work. Those tools come in the form of gaining awareness of your intention before you get behind the camera, and in developing a visual vocabulary that will help you analyze your work and aid you in talking about your work with confidence. You may leave the class with more questions than answers, but the process of discovery that you embark upon will bring you closer to your work and improve your ability to communicate visually with the world.

What it Takes to Master Your Creativity
It’s been a minute since my last post here, and I thought, “What piece of value can I pass on to you from what I’ve learned since then?” The funny thing is, reading through that post from 8 years ago, it all still rings true today, including the things that must be maintained throughout your career.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned since this article, is that true mastery is coming out of the sophomore dip. The truth is business is up and down. Learning how to master not only your craft but the mental game of uncertainty is a must in this business.

Not only have I learned the most from the firsthand experiences of my life and career, but also through one of my personal passion projects, my podcast: NIONradio (Pronounced “NE-ON”). This project spawned from being interviewed on my good friend Lewis Howes’ School Of Greatness podcast.

I wanted to create a project that allowed me to photograph and interview some of my favorite top level creatives, and that I did. My goal has been to do portraits of all my guests along with an in depth interview on their creative world from creative process, to making money with their art, to the mindsets they’ve adopted to create success.

I’ve always been inspired by photographs and deep conversations, and this was the platform for me to do that. Photography in general has been my gateway into being able to learn from some of the most talented amazing people such as Usher, Donna Karan, Daniel Arsham, and many more. I’ve also been able to interview some of my favorite photographers such as Christopher Makos, Art Streiber and Jeff Lipsky. Funnily enough, it can be intimidating to photograph photographers whose work you admire.

Photographing and interviewing people have helped me learn about creativity and life from them. Here are are three nuggets I’ve learned along the way in this creative journey.

  1. Personal projects lead to paid work: A common theme from the photographers I’ve interviewed such as Jeff Lipsky, Joey L, and Jeremy Cowart was exactly this. All their personal projects have led to getting commercial work they’ve wanted.
  2. Relationships are KEY: Not only is having great work important to back you up, but having the right relationships and a great network is the key to success. Having great relationships takes a lot of personal social development in communication skills. A few great guests on this topic have been Vienna Pharaon, Jordan Harbinger, Jared Kleinert, and Vanessa Van Edwards. In my interview with Andy Warhol’s photographer, Christopher Makos, he talks about your network being your net worth.
  3. Evolve or Evaporate: This is the biggest piece of advice that stood out when I interviewed Usher. As creatives, in order to have a long lasting career, we must evolve, grow, try new things, and constantly re-invent, or else we evaporate. The greatest artists of all time have kept evolving throughout the years.

At the end of the day, it’s about constantly creating. What you’re deciding to put in front of your camera is more important than the gear itself. Oddly enough, I haven’t even upgraded to the top of the line cameras (I’m a Canon guy). The technology has reached a threshold where the quality is so good, it’s more just bells and whistles. I’ve always been a believer that you use the right tools to get the job done.

I’ll leave you with this:

Keep making better work and showing more people. That’s the name of the game.

You can see more from Nick at NickOnken.com, and keep up with him on his podcast, NION Radio, and Instagram.

Hi there! It’s me, Dave Williams, coming at you again this #TravelTuesday at Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider. I’ve just returned home from a Stateside mission and returned to a rather gloomy London Town, and I’m a little exhausted from the adventure and the jet lag so massive apologies for posting so late today! I have a little nugget of wisdom though, so I hope it’s worth it for you all. It’s a little tip which I’ve learned from many times on my journey as a travel photographer, and it’s the result of anticipation, climax, anticlimax, and reward! I had this experience again just a few days ago, so I’ll share it through that story to show you why I’m saying what I’m saying.

So, I was in Rhode Island and went to meet up with Kaylee Greer for an awesome adventure. I headed to Kaylee’s place and before we went out I was lucky enough to have my portrait shot by Sam Haddix, which I can’t wait to see! We were all discussing where to go and what to do, which ended up being the Cliff Walk near Newport, RI. The plan was to be there for sunset but you may have sensed already by the words I chose to use there that we weren’t! As is so often the case in the world of travel photography, things change. They may go wrong, they may be somehow cancelled, they may just not be achievable. In this case it was the latter.

Kaylee and I were in Newport having a little explore around the shops there. We had about 4 hours until sunset and everything was in sight. But then it started to go wrong. Right then I saw a postcard stand outside one of the souvenir stores and I was explaining to Kaylee: –

Whenever you go to a new place, one of the best sources of inspiration for shots is the local postcards

And right then I saw something awesome. I had been looking online for the local lighthouses during my entire trip, but right there on one of the postcards was an awesome looking lighthouse on a rocky outcrop, surrounded by azure blue water with waves breaking all around it. I had to shoot it myself! Out came Google Maps and I found the lighthouse, probably 1/4 mile offshore. The problem then became real. That lighthouse was an hour away. Things in the plan were starting to change. Determined to shoot the lighthouse and get back to the Cliff Walk for sunset, we pressed on!

 

 

That little lighthouse shoot took longer than anticipated, with a drone battery change required and a few other nice little scenes noticed and shot, which meant that getting back to the Cliff Walk was going to be tight if indeed it happened at all. Turns out it didn’t! But here’s the thing. The intention to shoot the Cliff Walk as the sunset shoot was now flipped out completely, which for me would once have ended up with me in somewhat of a sulk, stubbornly refusing to do anything else in my determination to get there despite knowing full well that I wouldn’t. The moral of the story is this: –

Whenever and wherever you get a sunset, shoot it right there!

A golden hour opportunity is often too good to waste. In this case we were totally in the wrong place according to the plan, but when the sun started to change the light of the entire sky we just stopped in the first ‘slightly nice’ place we saw, which turned out to be a little marina in Tiverton, RI. The change in light made what would likely have been a mediocre scene change into something else. Something worth shooting. Certainly something worth shooting rather than risking shooting nothing by driving on and arriving in the dark, or by stubbornly not shooting anything because the plan had changed! A sunset, wherever it may be, is often worth shooting for either the practice, or for getting a sky to switch out in another photo, or just for the experience of watching another day come to a beautiful close. Us photographers can so often be such a stubborn breed, so don’t let that get in the way of an opportunity!

 

 

Many thanks to Kaylee for putting up with me for the day and for sharing that sunset!

 

 

Much love

Dave (and Kaylee)

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