Don’t Give Up.

A student recently sent me this picture, saying that unfortunately, she could not use it as homework because of the low quality:

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It was a small (700 pixels height) picture. Blurred, low contrast, and inaccurate colour. So she has a point: not great, though an excellent moment.

But wait. If I put that picture into Lightroom (just drag it onto a grid view), I can use the “Develop” module to fix exposure, white balance, sharpness, highlights, blacks, contrast, and not to forget clarity (presence). Would that help?

It certainly would:

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Much better, and now suddenly it is a useable picture.

I suppose the take-away is this. First, of course, that Lightroom is easy to use and powerful. Second, that even “bad” pictures can often be fixed later, especially when small sized, like for use on the web. We often inspect too closely: usually, even a bad picture today can easily beat any picture made from a negative in 1980.

From all this, a few things follow. Namely:

  • Do not delete bad pictures: you may find a use with them anyway, if not now, then maybe tomorrow, with new digital processing techniques.
  • If a picture is bad, try making it smaller. Imperfections are less noticeable in smaller size photos.
  • Try alternates. Black and white, for instance. Or shift colours. And so on: often, these things can bring out the quality in a photo.
  • Use parts. Crop off the bad part, or selectively sharpen the important parts.
  • Learn to use Lightroom (see yesterday’s post).
  • Above all: do not give up on a picture too soon.

The improvements I made to the above picture were from a small picture. Imagine what I could have done with the original sized picture: I am sure it would have been even better.

A bad picture of a great moment may still be worth it. But often, you can make that bad picture into at least an acceptable picture.

A fun exercise is this: go  through your old photos, those of five years ago, and see what the processing techniques since then can do with them. You will often be surprised.

Do consider coming to my Lightroom seminars in a few weeks. See the post immediately below this one.

 

Congrats to students!

Congratulations to my students who won in the recent Capture Oakville photo competition!

  • Overall First place went to my student Kevin Workman
  • Hillary Currer won first prize in the “Unaltered/Out of Camera” category
  • Roger Passmore won first prize in the “Capture the Human Spirit” category… see his entry below.
  • David Hook won first prize in the “Capture Oakville” category.

Ha! That means that two thirds of the winners in this prestigious contest have been my students. Well, I am certainly proud to have contributed to their success, and this makes me extra happy to be a teacher of photography.

Congratulations: excellent work.

As for contributions: I think perhaps I contributed a little more than average to Roger Passmore’s winning entry “Michael”. Here it is:

Michael Roger Passmore

See what I mean? He captured my spirit wonderfully: serious, perhaps even grumpy, and depressed at many of the things I see in the world. Yup, that’s me!    :-)

 

Sunday 22 Jan: Learn Lightroom

This coming Sunday, January 22, I host two Lightroom courses at my home studio. Small size, only a few students (4-5 max).

Adobe Lightroom: optimize setup and file structure

Sunday, Jan 22, 2017, 11:00 AM

Michael Willems Studio
48, Wilkes Street Brantford, ON

1 Emerging Photographers Attending

Lightroom ROCKS. Forget Photoshop, Lightroom can doing all if you’re a photographer. But to get maximum benefit, set up your file structure, preferences, and presets properly! That’s not always done… I see many users with messy file structures and sub optimal settings and presets. The good news: everything in Lightroom can be changed, an…

Check out this Meetup →

… and part 2: https://www.meetup.com/Brantford-Photography-School-Meetupome-join/events/236919051/

Who is this for?

For you, if:

  • You have always wanted to use Lightroom effectively.
  • You are not sure how to set it up: where to store the files? How?
  • You are always losing files.
  • Importing is a big gamble: you always end up with things more confused than before you started.
  • You see question marks meaning “can’t find file”.
  • You wish you . could make your own presets.
  • You still use Photoshop for editing, but you wonder if it is doable in Lightroom.
  • You, too, would like to edit your shoots in one fifth of the time it took you in Photoshop.
  • You get the big picture but it’s the tips and tricks that elude you.
  • You know a lot of functions, but you’re not sure when to use them.
  • You want to learn an effective workflow

…and so on. Come join me; bring a camera and a laptop and, if you have it, an external drive, and I’ll set it all up for you.  Lightroom is the way to manage your files, and to edit them and to use them: in one day, learn how. 

Follow the links above, or contact me to reserve your spot. Only 4 students allowed, so hurry before it’s full .

Time and space

Sign up now: there’s time and space to learn all about flash. A model and make-up artist will be supplied for the workshop I am teaching on January 28 in Toronto. In this workshop, from knowing “nothing”, you will learn creative flash in half a day.

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Recent single flash shot. Studio settings; manual; off-camera; 1/8″ grid.

And this includes:

  • Setting up your camera for flash.
  • Why use flash when it’s bright outside?
  • TTL or manual flash: Why go manual, and when?
  • Speedlights or studio strobes?
  • What are the limits to using speedlights?
  • Modifiers: gels
  • Modifiers: grids and snoots
  • Modifiers: softboxes and umbrellas.
  • “Magic recipes”: shortcuts for outdoors, indoors, and studio flash.
  • Common mistakes – and avoiding them.
  • Off-camera flash: How? Why?
  • Using radio triggers (which ones?)
  • Secrets of creative lighting – examples with model and make-up artist.

You will leave with a few great portfolio shots, but also with an understanding of, and “quick start” recipes for, handling each flash situation that you will come across.

This course is intended for everyone from beginner to pro. What you have in common is that you have an SLR camera, you know little about flash, and you want to learn all about it. Bring your camera! If you have a flash, bring it; if not, no worries: everything is supplied.

There are spots left but space is limited, so sign up now.

Blurrrr.

“How do I get a blurry background?”, asks a student.

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OK… so if you want a blurred background, as in a portrait:

  • Focus accurately (using one focus point?) on what should be sharp. The eye of your subject, for example.

Then, use some combination of:

  • Get close to your subject.
  • Zoom in on your subject.
  • Use a longer rather than wider lens.
  • Use a lens with a large maximum aperture, i.e. a low minimum “f-number”. (Most prime lenses and most pro lenses are like this).
  • Use a low f-number
  • Use “portrait mode” (which uses… a low f-number!).
  • Have a distant background

And that’s how you do that. As my students at Sheridan College are learning this semester.