Posts By Brad Moore

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.

Using Light to Bring Emotion into Your Images with Moose Peterson
Follow the light! Join Moose Peterson for an inspiring look at how to use light as a means to tell a story with your photographs. In this class Moose draws on his 40 years of experience as a photographer to teach you how to see light, how to understand the way the human brain responds to photographs, and how to bring all of that information to bear to create more evocative and impactful photos. Chock full of examples, stories, and insight, you’ll end up with a deeper appreciation for the qualities of light that you can blend with your passion for image making.

In Case You Missed It
Join landscape and wildlife photographer Moose Peterson as he gets his first chance to shoot the beauty of Monument Valley. Moose talks about his preferences for camera gear and how he composes landscape shots. He shares some tips for predicting what the weather is going to do, and goes through the entire workflow for creating a time lapse video to share the experience of a changing landscape. Follow Moose as he photographs one of the most impressive landscapes in America.

Hey there! Tracy Sweeney here, owner/photographer of Elan Studio in the lovely seaside town of Bristol, Rhode Island. I’m delighted to accept the invitation to guest blog this week!

I’m a newborn, child and family photographer and get asked all the time about my lens choices for my consistent imagery. I’m a Canon girl and shoot mostly prime. I love shooting at wide apertures, which can be challenging, especially when capturing fast toddlers and exciting family interaction and movements. I want the little ones to be the primary focus in my work without competition from the setting. And while landscape is important for coloring and texture, I want my subjects to emerge from the composition, allowing my viewers to feel something; to actually hear the laughter I’m capturing and to feel the joy. And in this way, my setting is secondary.

I’m a toggler. I selectively focus each shot, moving around the points on my Canon 5D MK IV. This allows me to separate my focus and control my exposure. It takes a little practice to get used to this technique, but it is now second nature for me, and I am constantly moving my dial throughout a session. I am always focusing on the child in the photo (preferably the eyes). In sibling and family images, my focus is on the subject closest to me. Since I am shooting wide open, that focus becomes the story of my image. If I’m photographing children running toward me, away from their parents, that becomes the moment I’m capturing, and the parents, falling out of focus, add to that narrative.

I set my camera first according to the aperture at which I want to shoot, and adjust my ISO and exposure accordingly. I use spot metering and typically, when shooting outdoors, underexpose the entire image a tad so as not to blowout skies. I always shoot handheld, and often have moving subjects, and thus need fast shutter speeds which my wide apertures buttress.

I change a bit with each lens choice as I’ve discovered some of their sweet spots. But generally, I shoot between f/1.8 to f/2.8, except for when shooting with my fisheye, which I fix at f/4. I use these apertures even when shooting multiple subjects, attempting to pose and direct my subjects within the same plane. But my hope is always authenticity and organic connection, which I cultivate and support through instruction and articulated expectation to my clients, and so, as I am shooting, and the stories develop, and the subjects move, I make specific focus choices.

TOP 5 FAVORITE LENSES FOR CHILD PHOTOGRAPHY
And so, here are my top five lenses for child photography that allow me to accomplish the aforementioned. I shoot with only one body and change lenses throughout the session, again, making choices in consideration of the final image I want to achieve. In no specific order, here are my all time favorites.

Canon EF 200mm f/2L
This super hi-end telephoto lens allows me to capture amazing high quality, sharp images wide open of fast moving subjects. The bokeh is unbelievably dreamy. I get lots of looks when I’m shooting with this lens in the field because of its sheer size. The already super long lens is exacerbated additionally by its hood. And to boot, it’s super duper heavy, but I still handhold it, often laying on the ground or shooting from a low perspective complementary to the small stature of my primary subjects (little ones).

You can see me photographing behind the scenes with this lens in my Family Photography: The Art of Storytelling course on KelbyOne. One of the true benefits of this lens is that I can photograph as an observer, shooting from a distance and capturing children interacting within the setting in an organic state, without being right in front of their face with the expectation that they perform or react within my proximity. With this insanely high quality lens I can create magical, compelling imagery. This is the newest lens in my repertoire, and one I invested in after years of building my child photography business.

When shooting backlit images with this lens, I get very low to the ground positioning myself so that the subject is blocking the light. Harnessing the light in this way allows me to emphasize the childhood moment and connection.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II
I recently upgraded to the version II of this lens, and it is fast becoming a go to during all of my sessions (both in studio, outdoor, and underwater). The wide angle allows me to include more detail in my images, especially when I don’t have the real estate in which to back up, and or/to elevate any higher when shooting from above. I can capture a larger scene without significantly distorting my subjects.

The close perspective allows me to interact with children while shooting, engaging in conversation, making jokes, asking questions, etc. to capture natural expressions. It creates a more intimate shooting space for me, as I am obviously closer to my subjects, and in this way, is the antithesis to the time I spend behind my 200.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L
When I mentor photographers who want to invest in a quality lens to achieve the “dreamy look” for which my work is known, this is the number one lens I recommend they have in their arsenal for shooting children outdoors. This is the first “serious” lens in which I invested. The focal length is manageable for directing families while allowing enough space for natural interaction. The depth of field is crazy amazing at 1.2 which makes it a fabulous portrait lens. It’s super sharp and mostly fast, though not as fast as some of my other lenses. When I first began shooting with this lens, I rarely switched out, often shooting an entire session from start to finish with this 85.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L
This lens is essential for my newborn work, so that I can capture the tiny details: eyelashes, lips, nose, toes, and fingers. It allows me to craft images from a detailed perspective creating an image gallery for my clients that is varied, but doesn’t create additional set planning. I am able to craft a beautiful stylized newborn image and photograph it with a wider lens such as my 35, and then switch to the 100 mm macro lens and focus on specific elements, ultimately, creating multiple images in the same set. You can watch me employ this technique in my upcoming newborn course on KelbyOne.com. However, not only is this lens a fantastic macro lens, it’s gorgeous for portrait work too!

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L
This fisheye lens is such a fun creative lens that I whip out at the end of nearly every beach sunset session. It functions unbelievably in low light, allowing me to maintain sky texture while correctly exposing my subjects, or intentionally silhouetting. This is presently the only lens I shoot with that is not a prime lens, and I typically extend it to 15mm to reduce the already significant distortion. With this lens a quick tilt up or down will change the entire image. To avoid the bending in the horizon line created from he fisheye perspective, I shoot, again, very low to the ground, and often am submerged in water to get close to the action, taking in my entire setting.

Thank you so much for having me! I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about what’s in my bag and how I use these lenses to achieve light filled joyful images of little ones.

You can see more of Tracy’s work at Elan-Studio.com. For additional conversation and musings, join her Facebook group “All Things Child Portraiture,” and follow her on Facebook and Instagram!

Mastering Layers: Beginner Techniques with Dave Cross
Join Dave Cross to learn how to become successful using Photoshop’s layers. Aimed at beginners, this class is designed to help you understand what a layer is, discover what types of layers exist and the ways they can be used, navigate the Layers panel, learn how to manage your layers, and much more. Understanding layers is the key to unlocking Photoshop’s tremendous capabilities for all manner of creative pursuits. By the end of this class you’ll have the confidence to take on more challenging projects.

In Case You Missed It
Learn how the top commercial advertising pros create stunning composite portraits, with Joel Grimes and Matt Kloskowski. In this part one of a two-part series, Joel takes you behind the scenes and walks you through every aspect of his creative process. By the end of the class you’ll know exactly how the pros do it, and learn to shoot your portraits with more creativity and confidence than ever before!

Badlands National Park

Imaginary Landscapes: Building Fantasy from Reality
Hello everyone, my name is Nick Pedersen and I am a photographer and digital artist currently based in the Philadelphia area. My work specializes in an intricate use of HDR imaging, photo compositing, and special effects using my own photographs. For this article I would like to talk a bit about my history as an artist, and how I got to where I am today.

“Sanctuary” (diptych) 2016

I started out in photojournalism, traveling a lot and doing more documentary style photography. Currently I work for a few photo agencies, Getty and Cavan Images, and I also take on freelance assignments, which is great to supplement my income and collect photos for my digital imaging work along the way. First and foremost, I would say my favorite part about the work I do is traveling around the US and other countries to capture the best images to use in my projects.

Early on, I learned some photo editing skills in Photoshop and experimented a bit with combining images. This series, “Migration,” was the first larger body of work I created using the style of photomontage that I use today. In my artistic work I have always been very influenced by nature and environmentalism. Conceptually this project was created in response to issues like urban sprawl and deforestation, showing wild animals wandering through the city in search of their natural habitats.

“Coyotes” Migration series, 2008

I got really into photo compositing and this whole idea that you could create something new rather than just capturing it. So, I decided to get my Master’s degree in Digital Arts from Pratt Institute in New York. I spent three years studying there. Here are some examples from my MFA thesis, “Sumeru.” This project uses the same techniques, but much more extensively, to create an entire constructed landscape in each image. The narrative was inspired by Zen Buddhism and eastern philosophy, and uses images of nature to symbolically represent various states of consciousness and perceptions. Basically, it is about an exploration of the mind. The whole series was exhibited and published in my first artist book, Sumeru.

“Mountains and Waters” Sumeru series, 2011
“Sumeru” (MFA Exhibition) 2011
“Sumeru” (narrative storyboard) 2011

Shortly after graduating, I began working on the first part on my next major series, “Ultima.” It envisions a hypothetical future world where nature has reclaimed modern civilization. I started by taking images of cities on the east coast like New York, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia. These were perfect for collecting photos of urban decay, like buildings overgrown with vines, burned down structures, and industrial ruins. The images of animals came from the wild, zoos, taxidermy shops, and museums of natural history. Finally, the characters were photographed in the studio with lighting to match each scene. It’s a much different way to think about photography, because I am capturing different elements and creating a database of photos to use for compositing.

“Remnants of Time” Ultima series, 2013

To create my images I use a complex process of digital imaging in Photoshop. Every image is actually made up of about 50 or more photographs meticulously pieced together, with each taking around 100 hours of work. So I spend a great amount of time building up an image, figuring out the lighting, shadows, color, and other effects to make it look realistic and seamless. Each image is planned out and created as an intricately layered construction, and I think that is what gives it such a hyper-real, illustrative quality.

“Remnants of Time” (digital process) 2013

Over the next year I continued working on this project and was accepted for a few artist residencies to help get the images I needed for my ideas. The first one was at the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada, where I photographed the impressive mountains and snow-covered landscapes surrounding Banff National Park. I was also lucky enough to set up an amazing photo shoot with wolves. My next artist residency was at the Gullkistan Center in Iceland, where I spent the winter traveling around the entire country photographing the incredible glaciers, icebergs, and the northern lights to complete the second part of the series.

“The Great Divide” Ultima series, 2014
“Place of Power” Ultima series, 2014

For the final desert part of the project, I took road trips all over the four corners of the American southwest. Some of the biggest highlights were the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, the slot canyons in southern Utah, and Organ Pipe National Monument on the border of Mexico.

This entire 36-image project took me about 3 years to complete, but hopefully it shows what you can pull off with a lot of patience and dedication. After finishing the work I make large-scale fine art prints for gallery exhibitions, and the whole 3-part series was collected in my newest artist book, Ultima.

“The Dream Time” Ultima series, 2015
“Ultima” (artist book edition) 2015

I have also done quite a bit of commercial work, like this piece “Green City,” in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy. Most of the time I have received commissions after clients have viewed my personal work like Sumeru, Ultima, and other projects, especially through social networking sites like Behance and Instagram. So, in my experience, having a portfolio of interesting personal work has really helped me to stand out, and has led to offers for the kinds of projects I want to work on. I am very interested in creating images with purpose that have a strong message, such as this piece “Water Protector,” to benefit Stand With Standing Rock.

“Green City” (Nature Conservancy commission) 2015
“Water Protector” (benefit for Standing Rock) 2016

Finally, all of this has led to my newest series “Floating World,” which is an ongoing project created in response to the issues of climate change and sea level rise in coastal cities around the world. I started this body of work with New York City, and I’m currently working on images of New Orleans and Miami. Eventually I’m planning to include more images of other cities most threatened by flooding in the future. With all these environmental projects, my main goal is to raise important questions about the time we live in, and give viewers a space to think about the future of our planet.

“Flatiron” Floating World Series (photographs) 2016
“Wall Street” Floating World series, 2016

To conclude I would like to leave you with these ideas I have picked up that have been key to creativity in my artistic life, and I think would benefit anyone getting into photography and digital imaging.

1. Know your conceptual, aesthetic, and technical influences.
2. Experiment through trial and error to find what works.
3. Know your technique intuitively, like second nature.
4. Develop your own unique style to stand out.
5. Create something original and authentic.
6. Constantly reinvent yourself and your work.
7. Be exposed to new places, people, and ideas.
8. Be ambitious and take steps to meet your goals.
9. Follow your own path with perseverance.

“Slash+Burn” 2017
“Floating World” (New Orleans project) 2017

You can see more of Nick’s work at Nick-Pedersen.com and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Behance.

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