December 8, 2015

New Welcome Screen in Photoshop CC

Well it’s time for another CC update.  Last week Adobe released their newest updates for the Creative Cloud suite (Dec.1st, 2015) which includes my personal favorite, Photoshop CC.

After you open the Creative Cloud dialog box, some of you won’t see the updates under the Apps, but fortunately you can force it to update for you. To do this, click on the gear icon up in the top right corner and choose “Check for App Updates.”  Adobe will then add the updates to your Apps panel where you can update them. 

From what I’ve been reading, there are a lot of great new features and Adobe has added some speed improvements as well.

When you open Photoshop the first thing you’ll notice is the new Welcome Screen. I guess some people might like these, you decide for yourself. One of the features here are the previews of images that you’ve recently opened. After you’ve installed the update and opened and closed some images, you’ll see them on this screen.  To see the thumbnails instead of a list, click on the little icon to change it from list view.    

You can also browse your libraries or create a new document from presets, and I can see where these things could be useful also. I really don’t have any libraries so this screen is empty for me. The last screen is for presets.

I’m not a big fan of these new screens myself.  I did check them out, but I’m old school and I think these things are aimed more at designers. Unless you turn them off you’ll see them every time you open Photoshop or whenever you close all your documents. Actually it’s simple to turn these off. Don’t worry, you can always have it open again if you’d like. 

After you open Photoshop, go under the Edit menu and scroll down to Preferences, and choose General. Then under Options you’ll see a check box called “Show Start Workspace When No Documents Are Open”.  Uncheck that and restart Photoshop to make your changes.  If you decide you like those screens, just go back in and check it again.  Easy enough right? 

Like I mentioned, there are a number of changes to this version that you might really enjoy, such as the customizable tool bar option, sort of like Configurator.  I still like my Configurator Panels and have a full version of CS6 on my desktop machine so I can use mine. 

Maybe when I get a little more familiar with the changes I’ll do another post…….you never know? I hope you enjoy this post.

Like always, keep shooting and have some fun!

November 15, 2015

Shooting Ideas: Senior Photography

Well here we are in mid-November already with only about six weeks until Christmas. Bah hum-bug.  Seriously, I love the holidays, but they seem to come up way too fast don’t they?

Recently I was hired by a friend who needed some really quick photos of his daughter for her yearbook. He knew I was a photographer and had seen my work and asked if I might be able to help him out. When I say really quick, I mean he needed them within the week. If this were a normal customer I would charge extra for the rush job right off the bat, but this was a friend and because he lived relatively close by, I would try to make time to do it for him.

Originally he said he only wanted the one photo for her yearbook and his daughter would choose which one. If you’re a photographer, you know you’re going to take a lot of photos and give the customer some choices, which 99% of the time is your chance for an up-sell. I kind of knew that the parents would probably like most, if not all, of the shots I showed them and they are the ones that are paying so it’s up to me to do some selling to cover my expenses. I kind of knew they would probably choose more than just the one for the yearbook, which ended up being the case here.

Well because this was a friend I also waved my normal session fee. Because of the time constraints, we could only shoot it that Friday or Saturday afternoon because those were the  only times all our schedules aligned and we decided to shoot at a local park near his home. It was late in November and I live in New England so most of the leaves on the trees were gone, so I knew I’d have to be a little more creative with our shooting spots. I thought I’d use my trusty 70-200 racked all the way out at ƒ 2.8, that way I could just blow out the background for some nice soft bokeh. It worked nicely and I got some shots I was happy with.

Like almost every teenager, you have to deal with skin problems. Fortunately, she was a pretty girl and only had a couple blemishes to deal with. I knew I wouldn’t have to do any major surgery on her photos, just a few minor touch-ups in post. Some teenagers need a total overhaul if you know what I mean.

After taking getting the photos off my card, I reviewed them and did some minor tweaks to give them some images to choose from. I narrowed their selections down to about 30 shots or so to choose from. I didn’t know which one the daughter would choose but I had one particular photo I knew the parents would like and I did a little photoshop work on that before I showed it to them the next day. I cropped it tighter, added a nice vignette and softened it up. I kind of knew that they’d want prints of this one and probably order one matted and framed for a wall in their home. I was right.

When I do these types of shoots, I only do minor tweaks on the images before I show them to the customer. That way I only have to do my magic on the ones they end up purchasing. When I know what size the final output will be, I then determine what I have to do to the shots,such as sharpening and softening. When shooting boys, you process them totally different than girl’s photos. Girls all want their photos as pretty as possible, most boys want to look masculine. 

If you’ve ever shot high school photos, I know you really appreciate the Spot Healing brush, the Healing brush and the Clone Stamp tools. How’d we ever get by without these huh? They ended up choosing four poses. I did one set of 4 x 6’s of all the shots and on the money shot (which I matted and framed) I also included two 5 x 7’s for the grandparents. I usually start off by removing any acne or blemishes with the Spot Healing brush on a duplicate background layer. Then, depending on the size I’m printing, I’ll determine how I’m going to soften the skin.

For my smaller prints I duplicate the background layer, take out the blemishes with the spot healing brush, then duplicate that layer and do a nice soft Guassian Blur on it, and then apply a black mask to hide the blur. Then with my Wacom Tablet and a nice soft brush, I paint on the mask to reveal the blur layer below and adjust to opacity until I’m happy with it, to show off the nice soft skin. Then I highlight the top layer and do a Ctrl+Alt+Shift E to make a copy of all my layers, I brighten the eyes a little more and do some minor sharpening, and then I’ll make a flattened copy of it. If I’m doing the printing I’m all set, but if I’m sending them out I’ll change the color space to sRGB. This process is quick and easy and takes about 5 mins per image usually. Easy as pie huh? 

Of course for my larger wall prints the steps are a little different and require more detail work because you're viewing them from about 3 or 4 feet away, but its still pretty simple. My Final image was cropped for a 8 x 10 in. photo because I knew it was going to be matted and framed.  The 5 x 7 in. versions of that had to be cropped slightly different, but you get the idea. Check out the images of my workflow above. Quick and easy right?

I hope this tutorial helps you with your photography. This whole package only took about 10 minutes to do. As always, keep shooting and have some fun!

October 15, 2015

Halloween Photography

Hello to all my blogger friends, I hope you’re enjoying the change of season and getting out with your camera to capture all that fall has to offer. I’m fortunate that I live in New England and in my area we definitely have four seasons, each with its own special flavors and colors and photo opportunities.  

Around here, the humid hazy days of summer have given way to crisp cool days with clear air and bright blue skies. These are the perfect combinations for taking beautiful photographs. Not only that, but the sun is lower in the sky providing wonderful long shadows in early morning and late afternoon. So conditions are perfect for photographers — amateur or professional — to get out there and take some great pictures.

One of the things I really enjoy about the Fall are the Halloween displays and decorations. To me this means everything from all the cute kids in costumes to spooky haunted houses and the erie glowing jack-o’-lanterns. 

I can remember when I was a kid there were a lot more homes decorated for Halloween than there are these days and personally, I really miss them. Luckily for me, there is a person in a neighboring town that really gets into Halloween and goes all out decorating his yard and I try to make it a must see event every year. 

I found this place totally by accident and have been going back yearly. It all began one afternoon in late September a few years back that I had some free time and was out riding my bike. In my travels I happened to be driving by his home, which is definitely off the beaten path, and I saw the homeowner out in his yard setting it up. I saw how much work the guy put into his display and I stopped to check it out and speak with the man.


You could tell by his enthusiasm that this was his favorite holiday and that he was really into it. He told me that it takes him over a week just to set up his display and that he uses one of his vacation weeks every year just to get it ready. He also told me that he has his display lit up for the entire month of October and welcomes all visitors to come and check it out.

This was my cue and I told him I was a local photographer and gave him one of my business cards. I told him that I really loved Halloween displays. I asked him if he would mind if I took a few shots with my point and shoot and he told me to feel free. All the time I was taking photos, he was giving me the history of his display. We still had a few more hours of daylight so I could only image what it would look like all lit up. 
I told him that I would really love to come back early some evening with another camera and some equipment and take some serious photos. He told me to feel free and come back anytime. Like always, I offered to send him some images and told him that he could go online check them out. 

His yard display had everything from witches flying around the yard to a make-shift movie theater where kids could come on weekends to see classic horror films like the Wolfman and Dracula.

Well, to make a short story even longer, I’ve been back quite a few times over the years and I still enjoy it. Night-time photography is a tough subject for many people and with a little practice and some careful planning, you can get some really great shots of Halloween displays yourself. For myself, shooting Halloween displays like his, I approach this like I would any other low light photography situation. For these photos here, I went with just one lens, a Canon 24-105mm ƒ4.0, set wide open. In situations like this you want to be as steady as possible so I brought along my trusty monopod to steady my camera. I also brought one or two off camera flashes with triggers or sync cords and a light stand to hold the flashes if I needed to. Usually I have to avoid getting spectators in my shots but that just takes a little patience. When lit correctly, you can’t tell that flash is even used and that’s what you want right? 

Over the years I’ve told a lot of friends and fellow photographer friends about this display and personally I hope he puts it up for many years.  

Like always, keep shooting and have some fun!
© D. Gould Photography