Category Archives Guest Blogger

Editor’s Note: With the Travel Photography Conference coming up soon, I wanted to re-share this 2020 post from instructor Serge Ramelli! You can get more info about the conference and register at KelbyOneLive.com.

15 Years Of Retouching and My “Over Retouching” Story

When I started photography 15 years ago, what attracted me to it at first was the post-processing process. I remember seeing some super strong HDR photos that I was in complete admiration of, hoping that one day I would be able to pull that off.

So I started photography using Photomatix and doing lots of HDR. I felt like a kid that was given a toy. And like any kid, I played with the latest toys until I got bored with it

A panorama  of the opera with a bit of illustrative look
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One of my first HDR image of the Eiffel Tower that became an official post card sold at the Eiffel Tower :-)

I loved doing this kind of photography. But there was just one thing that bothered me. The first reaction I was always got was, “Did you use Photoshop?” All  because I used a post processing software. It sort of meant to me that I was not any more a legit photographer, but more like a graphic designer.

At first this did not bother me. But after years and years of getting this reaction, I started getting a little tired of it.

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Another HDR image of La defense, the business area of Paris

In 2010 I went to Photoshop World for the first time in Las Vegas and discovered the work of Peter Lik. I was absolutely in admiration of his photography and the size of the gallery in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. I did some research on him and discovered that he had several galleries on his own. Since then, I visited the one in Soho New York and Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles (which is now closed). I spent hour observing the reactions of the public in the gallery.

What surprised me the most is that the public usually reacted with, “Wow! What a beautiful beach, what a great city,” etc… there was no mention of Photoshop.

It was clear to me that there was some serious post processing done on his photos. But it was good processing. Processing that made the photos very dramatic but with a natural flair.


I then realized that there were several issues in my photos.

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Editor’s Note: With the Travel Photography Conference coming up soon, I wanted to re-share this 2021 post from instructor Deb Sandidge! You can get more info about the conference and register at KelbyOneLive.com.

The Surreal World of Long Exposure

Imagine…

How do you shoot something that hasn’t quite happened yet… or convey a sense of motion through your photography? Is it possible to capture a sense of time passing? How do you move past the snapshot into the realm of the surreal?

These are all things close to my heart and are questions I like to answer through my photography. I love to demonstrate what happens over time, whether it is a fraction of a second or several minutes or more. Yes, you guessed it, this is one of my favorite approaches to taking pictures! I visualize what may happen, most often I’m on target, and sometimes not quite, but the pursuit of what I imagine is exciting to me. 

About 45 minutes before sunrise, a 5 minute long exposure softly blurs clouds and water. Although pitch dark, the lifeguard stand is illuminated over time.

Through experience, I generally know what will happen when I shoot Atlantic Coast seascapes if I begin to shoot about an hour before sunrise. I may be lucky enough to capture a few stars, smooth the waves of the ocean, and stretch the clouds across the sky. It’s a familiar approach for me. I’ll often reach for the same camera, lens, and settings, varying my ISO to suit the composition.

I’m always surprised at how different each composition looks. Depending on cloud cover, weather, surf conditions, and moon phase, every shot is unique! Starting early gives me the opportunity to see what conditions may be like at sunrise and I truly enjoy being the first person on the beach.

If I’m shooting a San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge dawn shot, I will be the first person there, waiting for the first hint light while the rest of the city wakes up. The best light often occurs 45 minutes before sunrise. I love what happens with an exposure of 30 seconds or more. Watery reflections are smoothed out, and become almost magical, and clouds appear painted across the sky. 

A San Francisco dawn light up with vibrant color well before sunrise.

During sunrise, the light can be powerful and dramatic! It can also be a challenge to work with. At this point, I may reach the limits of my camera and lens, and I may need to use a graduated neutral density filter to help control the light. I love these creative controls. They’re like a paintbrush for the artist.

As I place a reverse graduated neutral density filter on the lens of my camera, the light is tamed, balanced, and the composition becomes more of what I envisioned. Taking the next step, I will use a solid neutral density filter to extend shutter speed. This takes my photography to next level, beyond the snapshot, into the surreal work of art.

Sunrise over a rocky beach in South Florida. My goal is to convey a sense of motion with the wave action.

The harsh light of mid-day gives me the opportunity and challenge to extend exposures in the 4-6 minute range. This makes for fascinating work in the world of long exposures. I use a 15-stop neutral density filter to create a shutter speed that will illustrate what transpires over time. With patience and practice, clouds can appear to be feather painted through the sky, water is blurred, and a surreal and unique photograph can be created.

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Editor’s Note: In honor of Tracy’s new KelbyOne course, Retouching In Lightroom: It’s All In The Details, we’re sharing her guest post from September 2020!

FIVE TIPS TO CAPTURE AUTHENTIC MOMENTS IN CHILD PHOTOGRAPHY

Well Hello! Tracy Sweeney here, owner/photographer of Elan Studio in Bristol, Rhode Island. I’m thrilled to return and guest blog about an absolutely important topic in family photography.

Have you ever viewed an image that was so powerfully driven in “something” that it physically stirred you? Perhaps it was “something” so evocative, a single moment crafted from someone else’s time, and yet the picture’s energy mirrored an indelible memory of your own, bringing forth genuine connection? Or possibly there was a level of emotion that resonated so profoundly that it made you just feel “something?” That “something,” that thing that pulls us, draws us in and makes us wonder, anticipate, relive, laugh, cry, gasp, pause, that “something” is authenticity. 

Authentic imagery is powerful, and because I know that, I approach every photo session with the goal of crafting beautiful images through authentic means. Authentic, in elementary form, is defined as real and genuine. And through this consideration, it might seem paradoxical that my entire aim is authenticity, because, after all, I am a child and family photographer who poses, orchestrates, and directs; I am not a lifestyle photographer. Do I capture candids? Absolutely, but my style is certainly not photojournalistic. So then, how does one, under these self-imposed parameters (that have shaped my business), create natural, authentic imagery?

1. BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF

The key to creating natural, authentic images is quite simple: be authentic yourself. That seems rudimentary, right? Perhaps there was a specific tool you were hoping I suggest, or an actual phrase, game, gear, or direction I would give to guarantee that, even in a melange of subjects, you would be able to draw each out naturally, and each of their best selves would shine.

Well, in part, that’s true, because your authenticity, your approach that makes you feel so natural and fluid, will attract that likeness, and in other trending words, “your vibe will attract your tribe.” If you are interacting with your clients in a way that feels fluid and true to you, your subjects will respond effortlessly and relaxed, allowing you to capture them naturally. This applies to adults and children.

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Frank-15-Mei-2011-28

Editor’s Note: This was originally published in 2016, and I thought it would be great to share again along with Frank’s latest KelbyOne course!

A while ago I posted the following online: When you look at carpenters, you will not see them laughing at each other because of the brand of hammer they use. They know it’s all about the work they create, the end result.

Still in almost every workshop I teach, I will have attendees who think they can’t do something because of the camera (or even the brand) they use. In essence it’s all about the work you do, it’s just a tool.

Much to my surprise, some carpenters responded and told me that this was not true and that there are indeed (just like with photography) people that talk down to carpenters using a certain kind of hammer. To say my dream was destroyed goes a bit far but… Well I was actually a bit surprised.

Of course there are fields where gear is incredibly important like biking, racing, etc. that are highly depending on the gear. Fine tuning the car a bit more can be the difference between placing pole position and all the way at the back. The driver is also vital, but sometimes I wonder what the combination is; I think it’s mostly machine “helped” by the human driving it.

Now, with photography I won’t tell you that the gear isn’t important at all. I wish that were the case because that would make our passion a lot lot cheaper! But what I do want to tell you is that the human factor is incredibly important.

Our History

When my wife Annewiek and I were still living in our caves and I came home from the hunt with my dinosaur and could relax while Annewiek was preparing our meat on the BBQ, I couldn’t watch TV so I started drawing on the caves walls. I didn’t draw beautiful women in tiger skins (realize the women back then were also carrying weapons). What I drew were literally stories about my heroic adventures and how I discovered fire and later the wheel. Fast forward to our pyramids and we also used drawing/imaging for story telling.

For me photography is not only story telling, but I do like it if most of my images (if not all) have an element of story telling.

What Is Story Telling?

When you talk about story telling, for a lot of people this means letting the model/sitter do something. Add a REAL element of a story and this is 100% true. I would rather call this a concept shoot, meaning you really tell a story.

Nadine Juli 9 2015 0091

For me story telling is more adding some elements in a shot that make the viewer go, “Mmmm I wonder what he/she is thinking?” or, “What is going on?” It can be done with a simple element like a camera, but it can also be done with something like an expression.

Sometimes people ask me why most of my models look away from the camera. I think this is actually part of that story telling element. If a model looks straight into the camera, this can be incredibly powerful (don’t get me wrong). However it can be even more powerful when the model isn’t. Then the immediate question becomes, “Where is she looking, what’s going on over there?” Hence your story telling element.

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On stage at Self Help Festival 2018. Thanks to Adam Elmakias for the photo!

What’s the Best Photo Advice You’ve Been Given?

Hi! I’m Steve Brazill, and I’m a Southern California based music photographer, and the host of the Behind the Shot podcast. I want to start by thanking Scott for having me back. I read this blog regularly, so it is truly an honor. Also, thanks to Brad Moore for all you do.

The last time I was here I talked about “The Joy of Live Music Photography,” and the first time I talked about “Five Lessons Learned from Hosting the Behind The Shot Podcast.” Today, I want to talk about the photo community, and how supportive we are of each other.

Jerry Horton, of Papa Roach, at Fivepoint Amphitheater, Irvine, CA, Aug 23, 2022

If you’re like me, you get a lot of questions about photography. Looking back over the years that I have been doing this I find it interesting that this has happened the entire time I’ve been into photography. Even when I was just starting out, knowing less than I do now, people asked me questions – often ones that were beyond my skillset. If I didn’t know the answer, I would usually try to do a little research to help them find an answer.

Well, fast forward to today and I still get questions, only now I get them more often, and on everything from photography, to licensing, copyright, printing, what to charge, podcasting, and networking (as in actual networks, my background is in I.T.). To be clear, much of this is still way beyond my level, but people ask anyway, and I try to answer, time permitting.

In my case, part of this stems from hosting the Behind the Shot podcast. Each episode I have an amazing photographer as a guest and we dissect one of their images. On occasion I do a special episode, but for almost six years that has been the basic formula, and it creates the impression I know more than I actually do. But every photographer I talk to seems to get a lot of questions too, and every single one of them, in my experience, takes the time, when possible, to help. The creative community just feels unique.

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If you’re still wondering whether you should register for Photoshop World, here are just a few more examples of what you might learn, or be inspired by, from our instructors. Below are excerpts from just a few of our favorite Photoshop World instructors’ guest blogs. Click on their names to view the full posts. And if you find inspiration in these, just imagine what’s in store for you at Photoshop World! It’s coming up on August 30 – September 1, so don’t wait to register.


Tracy Sweeney: Newborn Photography

Often, when styling newborns, I include seasonal elements. I think about the cyclical nature of life and documenting a baby’s entry into this world in a seasonal fashion adds interest and meaning to my images. Since I live in an area where seasons are so distinct, I am rejuvenated throughout the year with the transitional colors and textures and my images are always changing.

I do this either through natural elements, in fall for example: pine cones, leaves, pumpkins and apples, or with color: gold, brown, orange and red.

Fall

Similarly, I do this for all the seasons with various natural items or nature inspired textures.

Winter

Spring

Summer

However, remember: one set, many images. I recognize that not everyone will necessarily want a seasonally focused image, or they do not want many. So, I begin with the full set, and then detract items for a simpler look.

Tip: Do not invest a lot money in seasonal pieces as they are only used for a short amount of time and trends change quickly. Find natural items outdoors that you can incorporate (i.e. pine cones, leaves,  flowers, wood, etc. Inspect everything carefully for bugs and debris prior to using. If you photograph in an urban area or prefer artificial elements, check the sale aisles after the holidays and seasons for discounts.


Kirk Nelson: Special Effects for Photography

Smoke is generally a difficult element to work with as real smoke is dangerous. More people die from smoke inhalation than from fire, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Smoke is also difficult to control as it generally stems from fire and not something I like to have in my studio space!

There are products on the market that do a great job of creating smoke safely, and I’ve used smoke grenades before for some fun setups with models, engaged couples, grads, etc. But for crafting digital resources to use in compositing, I like using something a little more controllable, cheap, and easily attainable: Dry Ice. Mixing dry ice and water doesn’t produce smoke, it produces water vapor, but that looks identical to smoke and behaves in a very similar fashion. Plus, it’s completely safe to breath around! The primary difference is that smoke rises, and water vapor sinks. That just means you have to find a way to elevate the container producing the vapor, and that can be as simple as a cookie sheet on the edge of a table.

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