Useful Photography Tip #173: A Common Misconception Involved with Scanning Film Negatives

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If you’re a photographer that started out in digital and then went to film, you’re going to be very surprised by what I’m about to tell you. Okay, ready? It’s almost impossible to get the most out of a film negative through scanning it. The best way to do it is to print directly from the negative in the darkroom by burning and dodging the image.

Why is this? Well, when most scanners scan film, they basically just take a picture of it. But the more advanced scanners do more than that. To understand what they do, consider what happens when a photographer shoots an HDR. They start with a perfectly exposed photo, then +1, -1, +2, -2 and so on. Then the image gets combined and put all together into a single massive TIFF file. That’s why some of them are gigabytes large. But even then, the sensors are limited and they’re still an approximation of what the film is capable of doing. With that said, when you edit a digital scan of your film photo, what you’re essentially editing still is a digital photo.

The same thing will need to be done with the image when trying to Macro DSLR scanning method.

Still, to get the best quality from a film photo, you’ll need to print in the darkroom to paper then dodge and burn or clone scenes accordingly. Time to dust off those enlargers!

Useful Photography Tip #172: Don’t Forget About Graduated Filters in The Editing Process

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Ask any landscape photographer and they’ll tell you that one of their most valuable tools is a graduated ND filter. But sometimes they’re just not available on you when you’re shooting. Luckily though, you’ve got them built into Lightroom and Capture One Pro 10. And you can use them to get a whole lot more detail from the skies when you go shooting, and later on when you’re editing.

The best thing to typically do in post-production is first ensure that your exposure was taken as low contrast as possible or by underexposing to get more details from the highlights in your sky. Then pull the graduated ND filter down, nerf the exposure, and adjust the contrast and highlights as you see fit.

When you’re done, just go back to editing the entire photo and have fun.

The key here: have fun just like I said. I don’t usually shoot landscapes but the photos after the jump will show you what I was able to do in the editing process.

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Useful Photography Tip #171: Placing Off-Camera Flash to Make it Look Natural

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Think about this really quick: when you go into a room, where does light typically come from. Most people really prefer the look of lamp lighting. But the truth is that most light that we see actually comes from above us in some way or another. Think about the sun, or street lamps, or the ceiling in an office. All of these lights are from above.

So one of the ways that you can make flash output or off-camera lighting look more natural is to place the light source above your subject in some way or another. It could be in front and above, to the side and above, etc. This is just how we naturally see light. So when you place a flash in a scene, you typically shouldn’t light a subject from below. Think about placing your light source kind of like adding light to a room or a scene overall. Think about and consider the shape of it too.

This isn’t just how you’ll make the light look more appealing and flattering, but how you’ll also make it just look and seem more natural–by placing the center of the source above a person you’re photographing.

Useful Photography Tip #170: When Shooting Portraits, Raise the Chin

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One of the biggest problems that everyone faces in portraiture is making chins look good. Peter Hurley and other photographers tell you to direct portrait subjects to push their neck out just a bit. That works all the time, but another trick that also works well is making sure that the positioning of the chin is at the right elevation to begin with. This trick is a bit more complicated and requires you to “see light” so to speak.

Bringing the chin down more towards the chest squishes the area below it and therefore also makes a person look less flattering. Always have the subject bring their chins up just a bit. But to avoid having the scene look like they’ve got their nose in the air, have them stick their neck out a tad and place their face slightly off to the left or right.

Generally, I suggest that everyone faces the main light source in your scene if you’re working with off-camera lighting.

 

Useful Photography Tip #169: Creating the Out of Focus Effect in Lightroom

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In situations where you want to get a bokeh like effect to a significantly weaker degree than what an actual lens will give you, you can rely on the adjustment brush in Lightroom. To do this, all you need to do is create a custom brush setting with the sharpness and clarity all the way down. Then you brush it onto the areas that you want out of focus.

To make it even stronger, click on done and then add another layer.

Big warning though: this doesn’t work with every photo, but it can work a lot of the time.

More image samples are after the jump.

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Useful Photography Tip #168: Pitching Various Publications to Feature Your Portfolio

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So how does a photographer become more famous? As I state many times in my workshop, you often need to put your work out there and pitch yourself to various outlets. When photographers try to pitch themselves they often just do a massive, widespread pitch. Many times, it’s the same pitch over and over again instead of being tailored to specific people. This honestly makes no sense.

Let’s put it this way: would you talk to your boss in the same way that you would talk to the CEO of your company? Or would you talk to your local senator in the same way that you would talk to your President? To get even more in depth, would you talk to a plumber the same way you would a doctor?

Though it isn’t the exact same thing, it shows you that very different people and outlets need to be spoken to in different ways because of rankings and the way that they cover a specific beat. To that end though, I always recommend being respectful and pitching to smaller publications, influencers, and editors first. As you move up the line, you’ll have a number of publications and places under your belt to show off to the larger sites.

Working from the other way down can work, but sometimes doesn’t because it can be tougher for the smaller outlets to compete.

Just a bit of psychology about how to pitch yourself as a photographer.

Useful Photography Tip #167: Have Your Subject Face Your Key Artificial Light Source

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Hey strobist photographers: if you’re shooting a portrait of someone, the best thing that I’ve learned over the years is to actually make them face your artificial key light source. Of course, you wouldn’t do this with a natural one light the sun–but you can surely create more flattering portraits with a strobe or flash in a light modifier like a softbox, umbrella, etc.

Having your subject face the light source:

  • Makes the light look softer
  • Makes the light more flattering
  • Eliminates shadows on their face and sometimes body that may otherwise be unflattering
  • Gives them what I like to call the flattering spotlight effect.

When they’re facing the light source and the light source is shining directly down onto them, they’re illuminated to a certain point where they’re clearly made to be the main point of the photo. However, the light source isn’t as harsh as a spotlight, so it’s naturally more flattering.

As an extra tip: place the modifier so that the actual source of light is slightly above eye-level of the subject.

Also note: It doesn’t need to be direct; the light source can be slightly off to the left or right too.

Useful Photography Tip #166: Keep Colors in a Portrait Very Simple

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One of the best things that you can do to make your portrait subject stand out more in a scene is to use color coordination. Backgrounds can always be some sort of stagnant-ish color, but then focus on the wardrobe and make it work accordingly with the person’s skin tones. But more or less, try to keep the scene to three primary colors.

To do this, what I generally say is look at the color scale: ROYGBIV. In the photo above:

  • Fernando’s skin is correlated with orange/red undertones
  • Green background with some white
  • Blue tones in his clothing.

See how each of those tones are different? An image that sticks to the BIV or the ROY can sometimes be tough to make a subject really stand out unless you’ve got very effective lighting. Now, to be fair, we see all this just fine, but cameras don’t necessarily do. Adjusting the HSL of the color tones individually can also help. Saturation can really help in the same ways that it did during the film days.