Monthly Archives August 2017

Hello internets! It’s that time of week again! #TravelTuesday here on ScottKelby.com is #HybridDaveTuesdays, where I’ll share some top tips on photography and Photoshop from my background in travel photography. Thanks for your feedback from last week—I love hearing from you, keep it up!

Now for this week, let’s have a look at a common theme on Instagram right now. Take a look around and it’s clear to see that a distinct winner among the top photos in the explore section is photos with crushed blacks. That’s to say that the black point isn’t quite black. You only have to check out the likes of @MrWhisper (well worth a follow, a fellow Londonite) to see that the popularity of this technique is standing head and shoulders above the rest.

When describing this look, it’s common to hear ‘retro,’ ‘vintage,’ ‘milky blacks,’ or ‘crushed blacks.’ In Adobe Photoshop, there’s no button labelled ‘vintage,’ but I’ll show you the basics behind this look, so you can apply it to your own images. It’s worth noting that there’s not one right way to do it, but there are a number of techniques which all achieve similar results, depending on the look of your initial image. To put it in it’s simplest terms, it’s basically the opposite of HDR. Instead of increasing the dynamic range of our image, we decrease it. It may seem a little counterintuitive, in fact, because we’ve been rewarded by our favourite camera companies with some fantastic technological advances, which have allowed us to capture a much broader dynamic range, and we’re post processing to reduce it! We have the ability to make the blacks true black in post, then we go and brighten the blacks! This low-contrast look is popular, but it doesn’t always fit, so it’s important to know the right time to use it.

Here’s a straightforward technique that I use in Photoshop’s Curves panel:

We’ll deliberately introduce some clipping to our image using the Curves panel. For the dark areas, bring the left point of the line slightly up, which raises the brightness of the darkest areas of the image, and slightly to the right, which will reduce the detail. To bring the highlights down, do the opposite on the top right of the line.

The Curves adjustment tool can seem pretty intimidating, but if you play around with it to understand what’s happening, it can be very useful and powerful! It represents a histogram of the image, depicting the dark areas of the image on the left and the light areas on the right. The diagonal line is used to manipulate the brightness of different areas of the image.

So there you have it! Tones made simple—a top tip they don’t tell you! Show me how you get on, as you always do.

Much love,

Dave

It’s one of the hardest things we have to do as photographers — to look at our work and decide whether it’s a good image or not. Is it good enough to put in my portfolio? Good enough to share with my photo club? Good enough to put on 500px.com, or on Facebook? Is it good enough to enter a competition or submit to a magazine? Can I get client work with this image?

Part of the challenge of evaluating your own images is that you have emotion attached to those images. You see and feel things in that image the rest of the world doesn’t see. For example, when you look at your image, you might remember:

  • How hard it was to create.
  • How much fun you had the day you took that shot.
  • Maybe it’s a type of shot you’ve always wanted to take.
  • Perhaps you were with your family when you took it, and it reminds you of a great vacation?
  • You’re proud of the post-processing you did. It’s the best you’ve done so far.
  • Maybe it was the first shot you made with that new lens you bought.
  • Or maybe there’s just “something about it” that strikes you.

You see some or all of that in the image you took of that tree. But to everyone else, your cherished photo of a tree is just that — a photo of a tree.

We’ve all seen trees before. To you, it’s a special tree in some way (maybe one of the reasons I listed above). To us, it’s just a tree. That’s part of the reason why it’s so hard to evaluate your own images, and why it’s so easy for others to quickly see if it’s a good image or not — they have zero emotion attached to that shot — it’s either a good photo, or it’s not, and that’s instantly clear to people who have no emotional attachment to it.

It helps to know there are two sides to evaluating any image…
…and they couldn’t be farther apart from each other:

(1) Technical or Foundational evaluation
These are the easiest to identify because we have a basic set of guidelines about whether an image is technically correct. Stuff like “Is the horizon-line straight?” or “Is the image sharp?” This is the stuff that often ruins good photos, but on the other hand, if you get every one of the technical things right on the money, it can still be a boring, soul-less, nothing of a photo. Nailing all the technical stuff won’t, by itself, make a good photo but making technical mistakes sure can sink a good one.

(2) The Artistic or Creative Side
This one is 100% totally subjective. One person can love a particular image, and another person may not like it at all. It’s art. It’s subjective. If you did the technical stuff in number one correctly, then you can focus on evaluating the photo’s artistic merit. One way is to honestly ask yourself if someone was looking at this would they find it fascinating or beautiful or intriguing? Does the image tell a story they would want to know more about, does it have that special something that moves them in some way? Does it have something that elicits an emotional response of some sort? Happiness? Sadness? Anger? Laughter? Joy? Longing? Interest? Pride? Surprise? Wonder?

If it’s a picture of the old bridge in your home town — one that the locals pass by every day, it had better be a pretty awesome photo, showing that bridge from an angle or perspective they haven’t seen before, or it has to be in unusually dramatic light or beautiful light that it’s seldom seen in, or something that makes this photo of the bridge special, or they’re going to look at it and say, “Yup, that’s the old bridge.”

That’s why the technical side of evaluation is so much easier 
It’s well defined. You either did the right thing right or you didn’t. However, a technically correct image is only the foundation of how images are evaluated. It’s that “other stuff” – the creativity, the light, the moment, the story, or a magical combination of all that that creates an image that makes people say “wow.” I wish I could tell you exactly how to make an image like that. I wish it was that easy. I wish it was as easy as the technical side, but it’s where the real magic of photography lies.

Let’s Start With The Technical Part
The foundational stuff. I think I can help with that, but before I get to that, I have to tell you this: Once a month on ‘The Grid’ (my weekly photography show) I ask our viewers to submit images for a “Blind Critique” (it’s blind because we don’t know or reveal the photographer’s name on the air. The reason is so we can give honest critiques without publically humiliating or embarrassing anyone). It’s hard to get an honest critique of one’s work these days. Your spouse isn’t going to tell you the truth about your images. Neither are your friends or co-workers. Neither will people online (well, there’s always that one guy, right?). So, we try and give an honest critique and give pointers on how to make that image, or that photographer in general, better. Sometimes people send in images that are so good all we can say is “keep up the good work,” but most times we’re able to help with suggestions of what they could do to improve, both in camera and in post processing.

One of the most frustrating parts of being one of the critiquers (if that’s even a word) is that we see people making the exact same fundamental, technical mistakes each time we do critiques. Worst of all, some of these images could have been really great images if they had just paid attention to some of the technical parts, because those technical flaws are so obvious, that it kills the creativity and art of the image.

Some people would argue that it doesn’t matter if there are technical problems however, I would offer that those are the very people who are making technical mistakes and don’t want it held against them or their images. I would say to them — why would you let basic technical mistakes in your image take the viewers mind off the story you’re trying to tell, or the scene you’re trying to capture, or the emotion you’re trying to share?

Sometimes, an image is so strong that we can look past the fundamental technical aspects and just enjoy it for what it is. Sometimes we get lucky and capture an incredible frame despite doing a lot of things wrong, but luck isn’t a good strategy for creating wonderful images (though I’m happy to welcome luck with open arms anytime it appears in front of my camera).

Harder Than I Thought
I wanted to help all those folks who struggle with the fundamentals, so on Friday of last week, I went into our studio and recorded one of the hardest courses I’ve taught in a while. It was hard on a lot of different levels. One part was that I had to share over 100 of my really bad images throughout the class to use as examples of what not to do (including some really cringe-worthy stuff). Stuff I shot years ago. Some more recently, sadly. All that sharing of awful images with an audience of other photographers — that isn’t fun. The other part was conveying the message in a way that wouldn’t make the viewer think that just nailing the technical stuff was enough. It’s not.

I also fretted a lot with my idea of creating downloadable checklists the students could download for each genre I covered in the course (they included Landscape, Natural Light Portraits, Studio Portraiture, Travel, and Location Portraits using Flash). I finally decided to do it but I was careful to remind my students that it is NOT a checklist for seeing if you made a great image. It’s a checklist to see if you covered the fundamentals, and sidestepped some of the traps that ruin otherwise great photos. It’s a learning tool. Not a set of laws.

My video team tells me it’ll be about six weeks before the course comes out because we already have a bunch of courses in the production cue. I am really looking forward to getting it out there, because I think it has the potential to help a lot of people (plus, seeing 100+ of my worst images is probably just good for people’s souls). ;-)

I hope this post helps you realize that the technical stuff, this ground level stuff of photography, is important enough that you should be taking it into account when you’re making images. The technical parts of photography are not laws written in stone, and some of the greatest photos in history have some of these same flaws. Sometimes when I see one of those, I think, “Man, that is an amazing photo! Too bad they didn’t…” – see what I mean? Don’t let there be a “but…” after your photo. Learn the fundamental stuff, and apply it when you can to get that technical junk out of the way, so we can enjoy your story, the emotion, the light, the scene, and viewing your image without any “buts.”

Hope that got you thinkin’ :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. I’m in Los Angeles today teaching my Lightroom seminar. Between LA, San Francisco on Wednesday and Seattle on Friday, I’ll be training just over 1,000 photographers. I hope you’re one of them. :)

Happy Friday, everybody! One quick thing, then Photoshop time!

I’m going back to Cali…
I’m teaching my Lightroom seminar on Monday in LA, Wednesday in San Francisco, and Friday in Seattle. It’s not too late to come out and join me. :) Sunday night I’m doing a talk at the Canon Experience Center in Costa Mesa. It’s gonna be a busy week!

Photoshop Buried Treasure Time
I’ve got another in my series on Photoshop Buried Treasure, and this one is about two little known “Recently Used” menus — one for recently used brushes and one for recently used color swatches. Best of all, it’s all automatic (you just need to know where to look).

If you open the Brush Presets panel (under the Window menu); if you look at the top the panel, you’ll see the last seven brushes you’ve used appear across the top of the panel (as seen above).

Same thing with the color Swatches panel (also found under the Window menu); it puts your last 13 color swatches right across the top of the panel (seen circled above).

Kinda hidden, but kinda handy! :)

We’re only a week in, and things are jumpin!!! Here’s a quick look at some stats, as of yesterday:

> We have 856 Leaders approved for walks

> We have nearly 400 Photowalks up and active

> 66 Leaders have created walks, but haven’t released them publically yet

That’s an awesome start for Week One (can’t believe we already have 400 Photo Walks up and running — that is outstanding! Way to go everybody!

I have just four openings left for my Photo Walk in Lisbon, Portugal. :)

Find a walk near you right now, and come join us Saturday, Oct 7th, 2017 all over the world.

Have a great weekend, everybody and we’ll catch ya back here on Monday. :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. I’m excited to announce we’ve added family and newborn photographer (and KelbyOne Instructor), Tracy Sweeney to the Photoshop World Conference 2018 Instructor Roster. She is absolutely awesome (and a favorite with KelbyOne members). She is gonna rock it! :)

The Essential Elements of Retouching with Viktor Fejes
Learn the essential elements of retouching. Join Viktor Fejes as he provides you with a solid a foundation for how to approach retouching. This is not a class on how to use the basic tools of retouching, but rather how to think about retouching in a logical and methodical fashion, so that you can develop a workflow to properly retouch a photo from start to finish. You’ll learn how to evaluate an image, how to start in Camera Raw, how to structure your layers in Photoshop, how to use techniques involving false colors to fine tune texture, tones, and color, and all the while gaining a firm understanding for why you would approach retouching in this way.

In Case You Missed It
Learn the core fundamentals of retouching hair! Join Kristina Sherk as she teaches you how to retouch hair smarter, not harder. From removing stray hairs to changing your subject’s hair color, and from creating custom hair brushes to adding dimension and shine, Kristina will show you how to do the best things possible in the fastest amount of time. Every photographer working with people can benefit from adding these hair retouching techniques to their set of skills, so that you can deliver outstanding work to your clients and get back behind the camera. By the end of the class you’ll know how to make your clients look red-carpet ready and how to do it faster than ever.

Not every photographer wants or can afford to hire a retoucher. That said, I hate seeing photos with all the potential of becoming something amazing being ruined by bad retouching. I am not even talking about those mistakes that only a specialist would catch – it is about the ones that make everyone say, well, it has been photoshopped.

To get around this issue, and to hopefully help those who retouch their own photos I compiled this list of tidbits to help you produce better results when it comes to post-production. Even though a couple of these are no-brainers, it is good to remind ourselves that sometimes seemingly simple notions are the hardest to truly understand.

1. You Have to Learn Photography First
Post-production should come after pre-production, and production. Never has been a more evident truth written. It is important to keep this in mind because sometimes beginner photographers start with a bit of photography knowledge, and immediately after that they jump into Photoshop. This is usually wrong as it produces subpar results. When your base is lacking, it is better to work on that rather than trying to polish it.

Here is my advice to you: learn photography, then learn a bit more photography and only then start with a very small amount of retouching; just barely using the healing brush here and there. Once you are confident with that and are producing great results, move on to more photography and more retouching etc. This way you will not get into the habit of making your photos ‘interesting’ only because you applied some random colour to it.

2. Do Not Buy into Techniques
A technique is a technique is a technique. I am 99% sure that you have heard about ‘frequency separation.’ It is being advertised by ‘gurus’ as the tool high-end retouchers use – it seems to be the magic technique everyone wants to learn or perfect. I know many people who retouch whole photos with it; which is possible, but ill advised. I cannot even remember the last time I used it. It is only a technique and should be used as so, not the be all end all tool of skin-hair-whatever retouching.

I know someone who used frequency separation on a group photo. That is not when it should be used. Whenever you encounter new techniques be sceptical, learn it, and only use it when it is necessary. The main ideas behind retouching can be applied using any techniques. Sit down, study your tools and you will be able to skin that cat in a hundred different ways.

Instead of learning techniques, learn the principles of a good image.

Photo by Greg Swales

3. Zoom Out
I remember a photographer a couple of years ago boasting about how he zooms in to 400% magnification whenever he is retouching. Do you know how his photos looked? Blurred. When you work on an image really zoomed in you are basically eradicating the detail in that photo, and that will result in a blurred look, much like you used Gaussian blur.

So here is a question for you: when you look at the cover of a magazine do you put your nose to the glossy finish to peep at the dots of the image? Probably not. Hence, try to retouch your photos as the intended use. Will people see it zoomed in, from a distance, on a billboard, on the cover of a magazine, on canvas? Factor this all in, and this will help you understand how far you should take each of your images.

4. There Is More to Retouching Than Skin
In people’s minds, most of the times retouching equals to making a person’s skin look beautiful (especially the face). This usually results in a contrast between the main subject and everything else. Aim to be equal in your retouch – try to balance everything out, not just colour and contrast but the degree of retouching, too.

If I am hired to work on an image, I try to be all over the place and retouch everything to the same degree. That way, if I run out of time because the client needs to take a look at the photo sooner than planned, they will still see it as a perfect unit without parts being out of place.

Photo by Zoe Rain

5. Mimic Movies
The people who make movies look good on the post-production end are called colourists. They will make sure that scenes look natural while maintaining the same aesthetic throughout. The thing is that they cannot be as precise as retouchers because they work on moving images that usually contain 24 frames in a second. That is a lot of images. However, I dare you to take a screencap of any movie and find every little detail these colourists worked on. It would be almost impossible as they work so well.

Based on this, my advice is to try and work like they do. First, try to utilise feathered, broader selections and use those to guide the viewer’s eyes with colour and contrast. Set a nice tone, and make artistic choices while still keeping the basic principles in mind. Once you have all of these worked in seamlessly and you still think you need to go in and retouch more in detail, only then do that. This way, you will keep things fairly natural and will not overwork the image unnecessarily.

Photo by Carlos J. Matos

As you can see it does not take much to improve your retouching – all you have to do is to study others’ work and try to do less. When you start small and apply basic principles, even the hardest tasks can be easily handled. Where people fail most of the times is that they either do not have a strong enough base or they try to do too much right off the bat. It is OK to learn one step at a time, and you do not even need to remember a library of techniques to succeed in the end when it comes to retouching.

You can see more of Viktor’s work at GildStudios.com, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Hello, everybody! It’s that time of the week again, right here on ScottKelby.com, where the blog moves across the pond to London, UK, where I will share with you another of my pearls of wisdom from the world of travel photography. Thank you all for your comments and feedback from my previous posts, I really appreciate it and love to hear from you on #HybridDaveTuesdays. Today, I’m actually in Germany’s Black Forest looking for castles to shoot—you can keep up with my progress through my social links down at the bottom of the page.

This week’s post draws from a nifty trick I like to use in landscapes, and it’s all because when I travel I often find myself with too many scenes I want to shoot and not enough golden hours to shoot them all! The suggestion of landscape photography casts fear into the minds of a whole host of photographers. The art of landscape photography requires skill, patience, dedication, and usually long and unsocial hours. Composing, selecting the scene, the time of day, the lighting conditions, it can all seem a little too much of an overload for some, but you can improve almost any scene with this little hack.

I like to portray my photos as my vision of what I see at the time in my mind’s eye. The phrase I match to this, which I think represents the idea quite well is “lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see.” Essentially, I want people to see my memory of the scene, and I want that memory to be epic! If I see highlights or spots of light in the scene, I want to portray that in the final image.

This quick tip will arm you with the skills to draw the viewer’s eye to exactly the parts of the image you want them to be drawn to, it will add a depth to your image, and it will add somewhat of a romantic element to the lighting in most cases, as well. It’s a technique I use a lot, and it can be applied in Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Lightroom alike.

When you process your photo, consider painting in some extra light with the Adjustment Brush. It’s as simple as selecting the Adjustment Brush, pumping the Exposure slider up from anywhere between 0.5 and 2 over, depending on what fits your shot, and drawing over selective areas of your image. When I use it, I quite often use the Clarity slider, as well, to add a little edge to the retouched areas, drawing the viewer’s eye in further. It’s a technique I use all the time, and if you don’t already, I strongly implore you to consider it and try it out!

Here’s a relatively plain shot, from somewhere in the middle of Arizona, to show the results of just a little tweak with this method in Adobe Camera Raw.

1before
This is straight out of my camera.

2firstpp
This is after the first retouch with sliders.

3final
This is after painting in some light on the cactus and dotting around in the foreground.

For this edit, I had my Adjustment Brush set to +0.95 Exposure and +44 Clarity.

I hope this tip is valuable to you—I posted about it because it’s such a valuable element of my process. Let me know how you get on!

Much love,

Dave

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