Posts By hybriddave

Straightening a shot is something at the absolute fundamentals of photography post process, yet it’s commonly overlooked. Those of you who catch The Grid every Wednesday with Scott Kelby will no doubt be aware that it commonly pops up whenever blind photo critiques are the theme of the show.
To that end, my post for this week’s #HybridDaveTuesdays is about two correction techniques you can use in Adobe Camera Raw before you hop over to Photoshop. I’m Dave Williams, I’m a travel photographer from London, UK, and you can catch my weekly posts right here at ScottKelby.com every #TravelTuesday – feel free to go find me and drop me a message on Instagram where I’m @Hybriddave
It’s fair to say that this week I’m writing about something about something that’s widely considered very basic, perhaps you’re wondering whether its even worth the read. Heres why.
An image that isn’t straight bit has every other element nailed, the composition, the tones, the balance, the content, can be ruined or overlooked if it’s not straight. It’s as simple as that. A ‘Dutch tilt is of course the exception, but a simple degree or two really can be the difference between hanging it on the wall or raising an eyebrow while giving a half hearted ‘meh.’
Let’s look at using Adobe Camera Raw to straighten. The reason Camera Raw is my default choice for straightening is it’s ease, it’s accuracy, and it’s varied applications of the Straighten Tool.
Just last week I was in Portugal with Scott and it seems appropriate to use one of my crooked photos from the trip, hosted by Chicki Nando as the example.
Monserrate Palace near Sintra, Portugal.

As you can see, this shot is crooked. I’ve overlaid a grid to show that the horizon isn’t straight, and it’s having a detrimental effect on the shot because the building looks as if it’s leaning. The simplest method to correct this is in Camera Raw is to hit A on your keyboard to access the Straighten Tool.

Straighten Tool

There are two options from here:-

Option 1:

Double Click on your image. This sets the Straighten Tools automatic process off and the horizon will be found automatically, and your image straightened to match. This works 99.9% of the time (no scientists were consulted in order to reach this figure, but I’m probably not far off)

Option 2:

The Straighten Tool changes your cursor to a kind of spirit level thing. Use the to draw on the horizon yourself, or any other horizontal line in the absence of a horizon, and the image will rotate slightly to set this as the horizon line. Hit Enter and your shot will straighten.

The straightened crop, ready and waiting for you to hit Enter

That’s it! Your crooked image is now straight!

N.B:-

If you have a bowing horizon, get yourself over to the lens correction tool to fix it ;)

I know this is so simple, but for some reason it’s so often overlooked. Let’s put it this way:

If you have a straight photo, people ignore the fact that it’s straight and enjoy the other elements of it. If you have a crooked photo, people ignore the other elements of it and focus on the fact that it’s crooked.

Still Monserrate Palace, still near Sintra, Portugal, but straight!

So for this week, I thank you for dropping by.

Much love

Dave

I’m Dave Williams, a.k.a., Hybrid Dave, and I’m here every Tuesday for #HybridDaveTuesdays at ScottKelby.com. Some of you know my friend Dodge, but some don’t. So, let’s talk about Dodge.

Dodge and Burn tools are commonly used among Photoshop professionals—the world of design and retouching holds them as basics—yet many hobbyist photographers and retouchers don’t quite get it. But, not getting it isn’t a problem—you may know what a spark plug does, but wouldn’t be expected to understand its inner workings, right? So, why should you be expected to understand the Dodge tool if you’ve never sat in a design class? If you’ve never used it, then this post is an introduction for you, and to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t because the Dodge and Burn tools haven’t always been as good as they are in the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop. I know I keep talking about them, but it’s those Adobe boffins, again! They’re good!

So, let me get back on track and introduce you to Dodge. If you select the Dodge tool, you’re going to use it to brighten areas of your image. You use the tool as a brush and paint into those areas with it.

It’s named after an old darkroom technique, which has been carried into the age of the lightroom. The term “dodge” derives from blocking a part of your negative to block it from the light, resulting in a lighter exposure. It may seem a bit counter-intuitive, and you may have re-read that sentence to check you got it right, so try not to overthink it, but look at it this way:

In a darkroom, you start with a negative slide and a white piece of paper. As you expose your paper to light, the developing image gradually becomes darker. So, to create areas which are lighter in the post-process technique, you block (or dodge) the light so that the white paper remains and doesn’t darken.

Crystal clear? It’s upside down thinking because it’s a technique originating from the world of negatives. Let’s not overthink that, though! Just remember: dodge = brighten.

So, here’s a little example: I shot this image in Arizona, somewhere in the Sonoran Desert National Monument area, whilst waiting for the sun to dip towards the horizon to get some drama on the cacti dotting the landscape. The light is pretty balanced, resulting in an evenly exposed shot, but I want to tweak it a little and add some highlights by dodging the main chunk of cactus on the right.

The Before shot

To do this, with the image open in Adobe Photoshop, we should work non-destructively and create a new layer to work on. With this layer selected, press Command-Option-J (PC: Ctrl-Alt-J), and it will replicate with a dialogue box opening giving the option to name it. Name this new layer “Dodge” and hit Return (PC: Enter).

 

Next up, open up the Dodge tool by tapping the O key or selecting it from the Toolbox. If you hit O and landed on the Burn tool or Sponge tool, hit Shift-O to cycle through to the Dodge tool. You’ll see this Options Bar appear up top:

If you look around, you’ll see there’s a drop-down menu labeled “Range,” which allows us to target either Shadows, Midtones, or Highlights with our adjustment. In this example, I’ll tackle the Shadows and Midtones, brightening them but leaving the Highlights as they are. The Exposure field is expressed as a percentage, and as a general rule of thumb when adjusting a landscape, you should set it at around 50%, but for a portrait, go down to around 15%. It really is done “by eye,” after painting a stroke and seeing what effect it has, then making adjustments to your settings as necessary.

What’s worth noting when using this tool is that every time you let go of that mouse button, or every time you pick up your pen from your tablet, it starts again. To add one layer at 15%, paint once; to add another layer at another 15%, paint again. I’ve painted over the entire cactus stalk here at 15% on Shadows and 15% on Midtones and this is my result:

The After shot

The result is subtle, but it’s there. We can use this tool to draw attention where we want it—the stats show that the viewer’s eye is drawn to the brightest parts of our images. In terms of portraits, we can brighten facial features where we need to. It’s a multi-use tool, and a great one to have in our box.

So that’s Dodge. Have you met my friend, Burn? He’s just like Dodge turned upside down, darkening the bright areas ;).

Much Love,

Dave

It’s that time of the week again! #HybridDaveTuesdays come around pretty quick, right? Well this week the timing is perfect for me to give you my big five tips for a fantastic photowalk!

The annual Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk 2017 is right around the corner and if you haven’t signed up for one yet, you’re seriously missing out on an awesome day! Sign up here.

For the past couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of running a London walk, last year in fact I only made it by the skin of my teeth! I was away on a Polar assignment in Svalbard (average temperature -10.3 degrees C, or -13.4 F) and my succession of flights, starting at Longyearbyen and hopping through Tromsø, Oslo and Copenhagen before touching the tarmac at London Heathrow took a tad longer than I had anticipated and I literally made it to the start point – London’s best coffee shop, Bar Italia – with moments to spare. Fortunately my walkers were very understanding of my situation (or maybe they were distracted by the piles of free pizza, panini and Prosecco, or Damaris who modelled for the day) and the rest of the walk went down without a hitch.

 

My 2015 group for that year’s London leg of the Worldwide Photowalk

It’s these and other photowalks I’ve run which prompted me to share my experiences here, for both walkers and walk leaders, so let’s get that big five rolling!

Aim high in the competition

With in excess of $22,000 worth of prizes on offer from Scott and the team at KelbyOne it’s absolutely worth setting your eyes on the prize and aiming, if nothing more, to achieve one great shot or great video from your walk. Somebody has to win, it may as well be you!

That’s me pointing out a shot to the group at a walk I organised in London

Network

Photowalks are often organised and attended by professionals, and everyone there is (at some level) interested in the same thing as you are. Pack a pile of business cards, have your Instagram feed or your 500px portfolio down so that when they check you out, you’re on point. You’ll meet fellow photographers looking to collaborate on a project or share some skills and ideas, and you’ll likely meet business owners. In fact it’s at the 2015 Worldwide Photowalk that I met Chief of the Chicken Shed, Danny Lenihan the CEO of 3 Legged Thing. If you find a model to shoot, as I explained a couple of weeks ago in my #HybridDaveTuesdays post, you can hit them up with a business card so you can provide copies of the shot afterwards. It’s a brilliant bargaining tool as well as a way to grow both your network and your portfolio!

Eat

That’s right. Eat! Eat before you go so that you’re packed full of energy for a high tempo activity, and arriving early to eat will also prevent you from being late to the meeting point at the start. When you finish your walk you can go grab a bite or a drink with the new friend you’ve just made and share your experiences too, it’s all part of the fun! When I’ve run walks in the past I’ve made a point of organising a drink or a bite to eat as part of the programme.

This is a group I led gathered around a table in Byron Burger post-walk – it’s one of two tables I’d reserved!

Dress right

So, you know those shoes you wear walking that support your feet and keep them dry? Those. Wear those. You’ll be on your feet and on the move for a few hours so whilst you should perhaps be thinking about shooting and sitting should the opportunity not present itself you should be prepared. Check the weather report, dress appropriately, consider headgear, sunglasses, sunscreen, umbrella etc. Along this theme, keep your surroundings in mind when you get out there on the walk. Don’t lose sight of the group, note who’s around you (and who’s looking at you gear), and don’t be so focused on the viewfinder that you trip up a kerb.

Think kit

Here’s the thing;- You may have a ‘regular’ set-up of two bodies and five lenses, you may carry an arsenal of gear, light meters, tripod, modifiers, but pack light! Try going for an all-rounder lens, or two lenses tops, and minimise your weight in all other respects. Maybe consider pockets over bags, and trust me when I say the heaviest thing should be a bottle of water. You’ll be hunting in a pack of photographers – the masses will spot you all coming a mile off – you stand a better chance of stealing that $4,900 top prize if you minimise your profile, make sure you’ve got only the gear you need (plus power and cards!!) and put the legwork into your shots rather than being bogged down with what every photographer loves – kit!

So now you’re armed – go ahead and enjoy being part of the worlds biggest photography event! I’ll be in Lisbon with Scott – you can keep up with what I’m doing on Facebook, Twitter, or on my story on Instagram.

You can make a donation to the Springs Of Hope Orphanage, the charitable cause of the Worldwide Photowalk, and I hope these tips help you on Saturday!

#WWPW2017

Much Love

Dave

Capable model Damaris and the crowd of photographers behind him at my 2016 London walk

So, I just traveled to Italy to shoot, and while I was there, as with any sunny destination, I was thinking about what I could actually achieve in the midday sun. When a scene is bathed in even light, regardless of how bright that light is, you can usually deal with it pretty well in-camera. When there’s contrast, it’s a different story, and that story used to end up with a sweaty old guy, holstering something with a film canister in it, explaining the “Sunny 16” Rule.

The Sunny 16 Rule is a method used to cope with harsh sunlight in one frame, and it comes from a time when you could only use one frame. The Sunny 16 Rule is for film. But, the Sunny 16 Rule carried over into digital, quite strangely, and is still taught in an age when we have Adobe Photoshop to deal with these problems. Let me tell you (if you didn’t know) that the HDR functionality of Photoshop has improved considerably, and in the latest CC version, it’s actually pretty awesome. I, myself, have written about the application of the Sunny 16 Rule, but let’s throw that out right now and get to the advantages of bracketing and HDRing, instead, to deal with bright, midday sun.

First off, that “HDR look” us photographers fear is basically gone. The look and feel of a High Dynamic Range image is now much more natural than the overprocessed, surreal, and saturated look we got before. The majority of photographers and retouchers that moved away from Photoshop for the likes of Photomatix to stack images for HDR can now safely move back in. Adobe has basically got this nailed.

I often shoot hand-held—it’s good practice to use a tripod to ensure each image is the same, however, it isn’t essential. If you do use a tripod, I’d personally recommend the 3 Legged Thing range (which I’ve heard is Trump’s favourite tripod), but if you shoot continuous high speed and keep as stable as possible, it’s usually good enough.

With your camera set to shoot bracketed, shoot your series for the scene. Here’s an example of five bracketed shots:

Wine Bar in Verona, Italy, bracketed for your pleasure

Once you get into Camera Raw, and this is very similar in Lightroom, select the images, Right-click, and then choose Merge to HDR.

Wait a moment and let it do its thing, confident in the fact that some clever algorithm is running its 32-bit show, and wait to see the result. Years of development have gone into this, and as I said, the improvements are so significant that this has become a regular part of my workflow. In fact, I’ll HDR more often than not.

The HDR finished shot

Once the photo comes out the back end, you’ll notice that most of the sliders are all over the place. Most notably, the White Balance sliders—you’ll need to fix those yourself.

So long as you’ve taken enough of a range of exposures to cover the dynamic range of the scene itself, you’re covered. Here’s a fun fact: the human eye sees about 13 stops of light. That’s what we’re trying to replicate in just one, flat photo when we take a photo. While bearing that in mind, throw away the Sunny 16 Rule, go with an aperture that suits the look you want, and get the bracketing feature turned on!

Four top tips for bracketed shooting:

  1. Take enough of a range to cover the range of the scene.
  2. Ensure the difference between shots is between one to two f-stops apart.
  3. Take the photos in quick succession to minimise the differences.
  4. Use a tripod where possible.

Essentially what I’m trying to tell you is this:

Use HDR!

It works a lot better than it used to, it gives a much more balanced photo, and the clever little algorithm behind HDR in Adobe Photoshop (and Lightroom) is so, so much more powerful than it used to be. Join the party and show me what you’ve got, and as always, if you get stuck I’m @hybriddave on Instagram, and I promise I’ll help.

Much love,

Dave

It has been the subject of blogs, media articles, conversations, magazine columns, and it’s this:

Should we Photoshop people?

Well, let’s relate it all to my genre: travel. Should we Photoshop travel pictures? To what extent and why? Is it an “okay” thing to do?

First, I’ll just get this out of the way: many people will argue that Photoshop is not a verb. It is. It just is. It has become a commonplace term in our society, and if you hear somebody say that something’s been “Photoshopped,” you may want to throw a can of cheese at them, but you know what they mean. This post isn’t about that. So, moving on….

My stance, as someone who writes tutorials centred on Adobe Photoshop, is that Photoshopping fits in travel photography just as much as it does in glamour photography. It has a role to play, and it is useful, but it should (in terms of its use for marketing at least) result in an image being inspiring, enticing, and offering somewhat of a realistic depiction. A representation of reality.

But when does it stop being real? How far do you have to go before your image of some far-flung location no longer looks the way it really looks? What are the limits? Well, to me, when I Photoshop something, I want the final result to look like something that could actually happen. When we apply the fashion stance, the model on the cover of the magazine isn’t real. It’s what we imagine could be real; it’s the image we have in our head, but it absolutely isn’t real. Reverting back to travel, if the image I produce has created something inspiring, but false, then I’ve let myself go too far.


Hohenzollern Castle, Germany

This image is an example. I have Photoshopped it, but it’s a thing that actually happened. If I created something that hadn’t or at least couldn’t happen, I’m no longer operating in the realm of travel photography, but have moved into fantasy. This is Hohenzollern Castle in Germany, sitting high atop a hill, overlooking the countryside for miles around. The moon rose, and I positioned myself on the opposite side of the hill to capture it silhouetting the castle. It’s a thing that happened, but in order to portray it with its massive difference in exposure, I had to retouch.

I suppose something to consider, based on what I’ve mentioned, is what we define as travel photography. When it comes to travel, we occasionally make our decisions based on personal recommendations and the influence of our peers, but in today’s society, we’re making more and more decisions based on social media. We’re looking at the images of travel photographers. Travel photographers like me. What people are looking at in my photography is the scene before me at the time I saw it, the way I saw it, and indeed the way I felt it.

 


Odda, Norway

When I was stood here, I wasn’t just seeing this scene, I was feeling it, smelling it, hearing it. I took all the information available to me from all of my senses for the amount of time I stood photographing that scene (and I’ll add, in various different directions), and I retouched the image to portray, in a tiny, little box, what I was seeing. I wasn’t just seeing an island with a tree on it, I was seeing a bunch of mist, feeling isolated, smelling the fresh, early morning dew, wrapped up from the cold, and I had to show that as best as I could in one image.

It’s for this reason that I say time and time again, “lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see.” What I see in my mind’s eye and what’s physically in front of me vary somewhat in most instances, however, with Photoshop I can take everything that was forming that image of what I saw and show you that same thing.


Here I am in real life ;)

One travel subject, which is a prime example of how travel photography has bent the truth, is the famed and elusive Aurora. The northern lights. The lights are phenomenal, don’t get me wrong, but just as one point, they’re generally very dynamic. The countless amazing photos of them on Instagram are what you perceive them to be, not what they actually are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to crush any dreams here for those of you hoping to tick the northern lights off your bucket list, they’re incredible, but they aren’t like you see them in photos.

Westfjords, Iceland

So, it is okay to adjust things, right? In the world of travel photography, it must be. It’s what we’re used to seeing. But, when we know the truth of the image versus our representation of the scene, it can change. I’ll work to remove the things that I didn’t necessarily notice at the time. The things that were there, but that my mind blocked out of my vision—the power lines, poles, aerials, all of that stuff which is there, but doesn’t form the vision in front of me, but which immediately stand out in the photograph. The other senses have had their input, too, and everything that flooded those senses has had its say, and those power lines aren’t part of it.

If it’s true to say that we do it in real life with our own eyes, and it’s true to say that around 90% of the images we see in everyday media have been retouched, then what’s the limit? When does travel photography become fantasy? When the movement in the scene, the sounds, the smells have all gone, it’s fair to represent those things differently on our image that becomes flat and motionless.

We have a job to do in photography, and it’s not to make things fake. The job of a photographer and retoucher is to make things look real, but the real way you saw it at the time. With the distracting elements gone, the scene looks like real life. If people go and stand in the same spot, they can expect to see what you see too, but looking at its best. That’s our job. That’s what travel photography is. That’s what sets it apart from fantasy.

Lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see. Bear that in mind when you consider your limits. Show people what you see. Something achievable, realistic, and at its absolute best.

I’ve been there hundreds of times. We all have, I’m sure. We’re prowling the streets in an unfamiliar land and there they are, right there in front of us. A local character, personality oozing and dressed just how you’d ask a model to if you were epitomising the destination. You want to take a photo, right? But what’s the etiquette?! Do we pay? Do we ask? If we ask we break the element of surprise which affords us that reportage, candid shot. But what if we want to use the photo? We need a release in many circumstances so we need to go say hi and get a little signature. Well here’s how I do it!

If, for example, we’re out and about in Havana (which I hear you Americans are allowed to do now) there will be a local puffing on a Habinero and you will want a photo. But guess what… they have a price. It’s in situations like these where the person has basically put themselves there specifically for that purpose and it’s their living, so these people need paying. So here’s the first rule: if it’s someone making their living from donations, donate. Monks, street entertainers, buskers, beggars, they need paying just because. If you can get a model release signed, happy days. That leads me on to the next point.

If you’re paying and if you want to use your resulting photos to their full extent, the model release is something you should strongly consider. In my bag I have a small wedge of them for ‘just in case’ situations like these. Getting it signed, however, isn’t your consideration but theirs. If they point blank refuse and you’ve worked your way through your powers of persuasion and landed slap on the floor there’s not a great deal you can do, but then there won’t be a great deal you can do with your photos either. If the person isn’t recognisable you don’t need to deal with this at all, it then all comes down to you. So there’s the second rule: model release!

Next up it’s the fiscal aspect. How much do you pay? Well it all depends on how bad you want the shot and what plans you dream up for it’s subsequent use. If it’s someone who’s expecting to have their photo taken, they won’t ask for much. A £/$/ or two will suffice in most cases. When the stakes are raised be prepared to get value for money and get your bargaining gear engaged! Although I won’t recommend it as an option, here’s a tactic I’ve used in Cuba. Plaza de San Francisco. There was a church I wanted to go up on top of. I saw a balcony, I knew it existed, but I just couldn’t get to the right part of the building to access this balcony. That is until I found the right person, and had the foresight to arm myself with the right currency. Sure, my CUCs (Cuban Convertible Pesos) were good, but I had something more valuable – sweets! With the right amount of sweets, which are a rare and valuable commodity there, I was able to negotiate my way behind the special doors to the balcony for the shot I wanted!

So lastly, if you’re travelling and you think you’re going to come across some models you’ll shoot, always have coins and small notes with you separate from the rest of your money. This way you aren’t revealing to any unwelcome eyes where you keep your cash, and you aren’t showing that you’re (relatively) rich. As if your camera isn’t a beacon for that already! You could consider making it cheaper for yourself by offering a copy of the photo, which I did to get this couple to walk past me in New Jersey. A much cheaper version, and a souvenir for them.

Let me know if you have your own experiences shooting models on the go, I love to hear from you.

Much love
Dave

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