The Last Flickr Thursday

Happy Thursday!

Don’t let the title of this article put you in a panic. We are going to keep doing our weekly Flickr articles. I need an excuse to head over to Flickr and dig through all of the great work shared each week.

We will be moving the Flickr articles to Friday beginning tomorrow. Since these articles have been scheduled on Thursday for such a long time, I’ll indulge my appetite for images with an extra set of shots today. As always, you folks do great work!

Like free stuff? Check out our Photo of the Quarter Award. Your submitted photos could win you a fancy new lens. Details are in the article.

Enough hullabaloo, below are the last few Flickr Thursday picks.

Lola Mitchell Tracy Adams Daniele Cuccia David Boutin

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Flickr Thursday

Hey, Hey, Hey. It’s Thursday, again. Which means we have some awesome photos from the Alien Skin Flickr group to share. Check out the stunners below!

Don’t forget to share your best work for the Photo of the Quarter Award! Your submitted images could win you a nice lens. It’s worth a shot! (pun intended ;-) )

Andrea Livieri

Robert Hamilton

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Exposure for Photo Composites with Frank Bramkamp

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Hobbyist photographers routinely surprise me by the high level of work they produce. Frank Bramkamp, for example, creates great-looking photo composites. Intrigued by a couple of his recent accomplishments, he and I started chatting. As it turns out, his work has been featured on creativeLIVE, Xrite, Synology, and it can be seen in Practical Photoshop magazine.

During our correspondence, Frank spoke from his wealth of knowledge on the subject of photo compositing. He not only knows how to take a good picture, but he knows how to manipulate what he captures, thereby creating something completely different. His ace in the hole: Exposure 5.

I asked Frank to share some of the details of his compositing workflow. Below are a bunch of practical tidbits from him. Thanks, Frank!

Architecture

Long-exposure times can add more dynamic feel to the sky in an image. This can help accentuate architectural photos. A long exposed sky provides distinct advantages for manipulation in Photoshop because they respond relatively quickly within many different workflows. I prefer mixed dark blue skies that have some light and some darker clouds.

I am a hobbyist photographer from Aachen, Germany, near the border of the Netherlands and Belgium. By profession, I’m an aerospace engineer. My day-to-day is steeped in science much more than artistry, so photography is one of my creative outlets. I’ve always enjoyed cameras, processing film and prints, and the technical aspects of the art, as well as traveling the globe. When traipsing around a foreign place, I mainly shoot with a Canon G9 because it’s so convenient. Also, packing light is a necessity.

I focus on landscape, architectural, and travel photography for the most part. A few years back, I started into digital post-processing, which led me to discovering the art of compositing. I find it a great workflow to impart my own vision onto a captured scene.

What is most important to me is that any composite scene is first most believable, so that it conveys a story. My ultimate goal is to integrate the images well enough that you can’t tell it’s a composite. I feel that the viewer can’t truly appreciate the image with distractions from technical oddities, so I work hard to remove them from the composites I create.

Historic Hallway

I had a couple of photos in my files of historic buildings that inspired me for a new composite image. The model shot–with her historic clothing–would work well and would tell a story. I don’t do model photography, and I don’t have any historic gowns in my closet, so I use resources such as deviantart for free stock images. Nearly all of the model shots that I use come from there.
Jessica in the “Historic Hallway” was my first major composite, completed in 2013. The hallway, was a unique discovery in a local cemetery. I liked how the light entered the hallway through the stained windows, so I bracketed 5 exposures in order to more fully capture the dynamics of light and shadows.

Bracketing Tip

I use an aftermarket firmware called CHDK which allows me to bracket up to nine frames automatically. There are others available for Canon DSLR’s, like Magic Lantern. I bracket a lof of my pictures because it is so easy to do. I can decide later which version gives me the best exposure, or I can turn the brackets into an HDR. In most cases, I shoot all my images handheld. I don’t like to tote my tripod around unless it’s absolutely necessary.

To make a composite photograph believable, several technical factors have to be considered, such as clean and crisp selections, lights and shadows, and coloring. I use stock images of models, so I can’t control the perspective or the focal length of the shot. These aspects are usually not a major problem, but extremes are hard to fix.

Selections Tip

Cleanly selecting out a model is much more elaborate process than replacing a sky. Most of the time I only use the tools inside Photoshop, like the Quick Selection tool. When doing this, you’ll notice color fringing around the subject. Be careful as this is extremely important to remove. Any fringing will immediately make your composite look like a composite. I suggest that you proceed in small, careful steps refining the selection based on the image’s edges.

After you have a clean selection without fringes, use a small radius blur and darken the midtones to be rid of any tough spots. The blurring will help the transition of the subject’s outer edge and will blend it with the background.

Race-Car

The shadows on the ground added to the believability of this image. There are two, one near the body, and one that appears farther off. I usually use a small sized brush with a hard edge (80%) for the close, detailed shadows. I’ll soften the brush tip and increase the brush size when I paint in shadows that are farther away. This helps them blend in with the floor.

For geometric selections, such as machinery, architecture, or vehicles, use the Pen tool to create a path. This gives you full control over the selection, and you can go back for fine detailed adjustments later. The Pen tool makes easy work of machined shapes.

Color Adjustments

After retouching the model into the background, adding shadows, dodging and burning, I use Exposure for the final color adjustment. A global color adjustment to the final composite is a huge advantage. It harmonizes the colors of the different images in the piece. Photos from different cameras, taken on different days with different color temperatures, need this final touch to bring them together.

My secret weapon for color matching is to use the Average filter in Photoshop. This will produce a representative color for the background image. The layer filled with this color, set to the Color blend mode at a low opacity, will allow you to mask out trouble spots.

Grain

Another benefit of Exposure is its beautiful grain. Again, most of the images in a composite are completely different at the start, and anything you can do to bring them together is worthwhile. The images may already contain grain, so adding a little extra will help unify the image, as well as blend in any selections.

I also like to add dust and scratches, and the other texture overlays that Exposure can offer. I like to accentuate the vintage look, which fits nicely with historic scenes.

Endless Winter

Vignettes in Exposure are awesome! Especially when In contrast to a plain round vignette, which I think looks too obvious for a composite. Exposure’s vignettes allow you to add distortions and shape the vignette to better fit with your image.

Below are a few links for free stock model images:

faestock.deviantart.com | jumeria-nox.deviantart.com | kuoma-stock.deviantart.com

See more of Frank’s work on 500px, 500px Art, G+, and Twitter. If you’d like to purchase a print, some of his photos are available, here.

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Parker J Pfister

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Where to begin when introducing Parker J Pfister Esq.? He is a true master of photography across myriad forms and eschews any labels you want to throw at him to try to define his work. From his studio in downtown Asheville, NC, Parker J sells fine art prints of landscapes from around the world and delights his clients with his unique approach to portraiture, which leverages every photographic trick in the book from wet plate through to large format film and digital.

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Parker J’s work has been awarded many times over, both nationally and internationally, and his images and interviews have graced the pages of Professional Photographer Magazine, In Style, People, OK Magazine, Modern Bride, Martha Stewart, Today’s Bride, Rangefinder, Studio Photography and Design, Photo District News, Weddings Unveiled and many other publications. His images have also appeared on Entertainment Tonight and The Food Network.

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Earlier this week, I got on the phone with Parker to chat through his thoughts on Exposure and how it fits into his approach to photography and post-production workflow. Here’s what he had to say:

“I guess you could say that I am somewhat of a photographic architect; building from the past, present and future. With one leg firmly planted in the organic beauty of alternative process and film, and the other just as solid in this digital revolution, three things are a constant in my work: content, composition and personality.”

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“I find I am really connected to the feeling and personality of an image that shooting digitally fails to render. I have found that Alien Skin Exposure gives me back that personality in a way no other software can.”

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“I’ve been using Exposure for a long time now. I don’t remember exactly how long it’s been, but I remember that myself and two of my photographer friends came across it and really loved it from the moment we used it. Until then, I’d pretty much been doing all my digital photography post-processing by using my own actions in Photoshop. I was adding in textures, grain, borders and the like and I found myself asking, “Why am I doing all this the hard way in Photoshop when these guys at Alien Skin really have it nailed down in one easy tool with Exposure?”. It became a no-brainer really and I found myself just defaulting to Exposure time and again to finish my images and give them my signature look.”

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“I have looked at and used all the other plug-ins and effects on the market. I’ve pretty much tried everything, but nothing comes close to Exposure. The color film emulation is amazing and I particularly love the look of the Polaroid presets. I find they give me a great starting point for me to work off and find the look I want for each shoot. I still shoot a lot of Polaroid film today and the look of each image varies by how long the film has been expired, what sort of temperatures it’s been exposed to, etc. I use Exposure with my digital files to get a similar look by building off the Polaroid presets, going into the curves panel and working the overall curve, but also getting in and tweaking the individual RGB channel curves too. Curves are really a key area that I think a lot of people overlook in their workflow. I pretty much live in Curves!”

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“Aside from the color filters, the Black and White presets in Exposure are the best I have seen on the market too. A lot of people kind of default to using other B&W plug-ins as it’s what they know, but they are really missing out if they haven’t looked at Exposure. Everything about the files Exposure puts out is so much more authentic and organic looking. The film grain is perfectly rendered in the shadows and the structure per film type and speed just looks right. Nothing else even gets close.”

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“For my digital workflow, I ingest and cull my files in Photo Mechanic, before importing my  selections into Lightroom for some basic adjustments, dodging and burning, etc. From there, I either export my images out directly into Exposure or, if more in-depth editing is needed, into Photoshop for those and then into Exposure. Pretty much all my images go through Exposure at some stage to give them that signature Parker J look.”

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You can see more of Parker’s work over on his website. He also runs some pretty cool workshops, which you can get a great taste for in his fun yet educational videos over on the PPA website. Definitely worth checking out if you want to develop your photography skill set and get more creative.

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_D3X0001-EditWe’re really grateful to Parker for his time and feedback for this interview and look forward to showcasing more of his work and use of Exposure throughout the year.

As always, please feel free to leave your comments below and send any blog submissions you might want to share with us at blog@alienskin.com.

Have a brilliant weekend everyone!

Cheers,

Joe

Posted in Alien Skin Software, Exposure, Philosophy, Photography | Tagged | 7 Comments

Flickr Thursday

You should see all of the action in the Alien Skin Flickr group. The level of work is amazing! It makes choosing these weekly shots a tough job. After much deliberation, our selections for the week are below.

Hurry up and submit your best work! There’s a nice piece of glass on the line. Check out the details, here.

Hillary KladkeKevin BalluffClinton BrandhagenDanielle Cuccia

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Breaking Through with Andrew Foord

Andrew Foord, returns to the blog with encouraging suggestions to help you through inspiration plateaus. If you missed out on his other articles, check them out, here and here. The remainder of this article came from him. Thanks, Andy!

What’s the best thing to do when you get photographer’s block? Shoot something! Recruit friends, family, bring the dog, bribe your neighbors, order a pizza and kidnap the delivery person. Whatever it takes. Get out there and start clicking.

This is exactly what I did for this series. First I blackmailed begged a model friend of mine to pose for me, then I put a post on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to throw water on a model and learn something about photography. I didn’t specify the gender of the model–I thought it might help get more responses. I got 3 responses on Facebook, and my team was complete.

The Location and Lighting Set-up

If you’re like me, you have a 2000 sq ft. studio with roof access, an indoor pool, and lots and lots of big windows–I WISH! In reality, I usually shoot in my garage even though its tough to set up lights around the garage door opener. Sometimes I’ll shoot on location in a public place. For this shoot, my location couldn’t have been easier, or more budget-friendly, I used the street in front of my house.

For lighting I used 2 strobes with reflectors and grids, both were high up on stands to ensure the water wouldn’t reach them; always err on the side of safety then mixing water and electricity. The strobes were placed on either side of the model, the main aimed slightly in front and the other slightly behind. I set them both to pop at full power.

Next, I metered the light. I use a meter religiously. Proper procedure is to put the light meter underneath the model’s chin and aim it at the light, not the lens. My shutter speed was set to 1/125 with 100 ISO. The meter gave me an aperture of 5.6. I repeated the above steps for the 2nd strobe to confirm the results. Setup time, including running extension cords, setting up the lights, and metering took about 20 minutes.

The Fun Part

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DANG IT!

With my camera settings in place I was ready to shoot. By this time, I’m getting excited. Now I finally get to play photographer. I had two water throwers stand opposite each other next to the light stands. When I counted to three, I had them sling the water at the victim.

My camera settings were spot on, the lighting looked great, but my timing was off. This happens more than I’d like to admit, but it’s something that everyone has done before. Don’t panic. My ‘keepers’ rule of thumb is for every 100 photos I take, I want to get about 10 keepers. Out of the keepers, I’m happy with one shot that makes me say “Wow.”

Retouching

Below are two of my choice photos of the set. Yes!–one of them is out of focus. Was it intentional? Absolutely not, but I am drawn to it, and that’s all that matters. Don’t listen to anyone else’s opinion when it comes to your creativity. You’re the artist, your opinion is the only one that matters on personal projects. When you’re working for a client, their opinion trumps your own.

After I selected my favorite photos–9 out of the 50–the retouching portion was very straightforward. I did some minor sharpening and added a color cast with Exposure. I used the preset Kodachrome – Cyan Shift, one of my favorites. I completed the shots by cropping the photos to 5×7 and square.

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Conclusion

When photographer’s block hits, just like it does to everyone, try something new. Give a new lighting setup a try, you’re welcome to use what I did. Grab a couple of buddies and have your own water splash shoot. Dust your camera off and shoot something, anything! Get friends and family involved, but most importantly have fun.

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Flickr Thursday

There’s been a huge influx of great-looking shots in our Alien Skin Flickr group. I’d love to see this kind of action in the group all of the time! I think our Photo of the Quarter Award–and the chance to win a free lens–has something to do with it. Below are our top picks.

Katrinas Clicks

Stl Hakusho

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Andrea Livieri

Andrea Livieri is a rock star–no, really. He’s a great musician as well as an awesome photographer. Andrea’s photography work has been featured in multiple European magazines such as Fotografare and PhotoPlus. He has a great eye and a considerable talent for making beautiful photographs. Of course, he’s a big Exposure fan, too. Below, Andrea shares a little more about himself and his work. Thanks, Andrea!

alien_skin-1I’ve been a professional musician since the age of 15. It’s a passion of mine. I love all the forms of art and see it in everything that surrounds me, but my first love was definitely music–especially rock music with electric guitars. The expression of whatever devilry is in mind comes out in the form of a sound, which is probably why I love it so much.

I have always taken pictures over the years. At first, I used cheap compact cameras, then I bought a nice compact cameras, and then, during the summer of 2009, I bought my first DSLR. From there, I began reading and seriously experimenting with it. I started taking pictures of my friends, and shared them within social groups online. The positive feedback I received spurred me on even further.

alien_skin-5Now, photography is a fundamental part of my life. It’s a means of self-expression in realms where music falls short. For me, making music and taking pictures keeps a balance between real life and obsessive delirium. I have to admit that I’ve really come to love it. To this day I feel like I carry two prosthetics–a guitar in one hand and a camera in the other!

My approach to photography is still evolving, but the portrait interests me most. The interaction with people is a chemistry that is difficult, if not impossible, to replace with anything else. Photography is fascinating to me. I can create my own world to use as a stage for emotions, stories, and scenes that I find beautiful.

alien_skin-2I don’t always have a defined concept for a shoot beforehand. I just let myself be driven by what I find–the location, lighting, model. I’m not a gear geek, but I always try to discover new techniques and post processing tricks to refine my vision. If we didnʼt have cameras we’d have no pictures, so when we worry exclusively about gear, we lose the artistry we bring to the table. My point of view on photography and music is the same, I feel rather than analyze or rehearse.

There are many steps that help me to get the right sound or look that my artistic side is after. As a guitarist, the sound is emphasised with theory and technique. I make the guitar sound, and the amplifier adds ‘effects’ to mold the sound to my personal taste.

Photographer

In photography, it’s much the same. Exposure is one of the most amazing ‘effect weapons’ for my images. I use it in batch mode with Lightroom and with single images in Photoshop. There are numerous software titles out there, but Exposure produces the best looks to my eyes. Why? It isn’t just a film effects plug-in, there are a number of powerful controls at your disposal.

Some of Exposure’s attributes that I absolutely love are the simple navigation and fast intuitive workflow, the quality of the fully customizable presets for film simulation are unequaled, the grain and grain controls are absolutely amazing, and the new sun flares and light leaks in version 5 are marvelous (I use the new light leaks very often). All there is left to say is “Exposure Rocks!”

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See more of Andrea’s work on his website or his blog, or you can follow him on one of his social channels from the links below.

500pxFacebook | Flickr | PinterestTwitter

Posted in Exposure, Fun, Photography | 2 Comments

Chris Corradino’s 10 Photography Guidelines

Chris Corradino wrote an article chock-full of helpful tidbits to improve your shooting. He’s a New York-based travel photographer and a photography trainer. Chris’s passion for photography is inspirational. He diligently labors to create majestic images, and helps others do the same.

If you missed his article about capturing awesome shots in awful light, check it out here. The remainder of this article is from him. Thanks, Chris!

ChrisCorradino-YosemiteA young George Washington detailed 110 rules to live by, ultimately leading him to the first Presidency of the United States. Inspired by this, I decided to list the 10 guidelines that have consistently helped in my photography career. I hope they help you to reach new heights in your creative pursuits.

  1. Don’t waste your energies harshly comparing yourself against images in magazines or online. Instead, focus on creating your best work, and making it original.

  2. Accept jobs not solely for the money, but agree to only those that are artistically stimulating, providing an opportunity for creative growth.

  3. Avoid categorizing yourself with labels, or engaging in debates that seek to define terms such as “professional” and “amateur”. A good photographer is not concerned with these phrases, but rather focuses on their craft.

  4. Do not profess to have all the answers. Those with true knowledge understand how much more there is to learn.

  5. Face issues head on, putting fear and uncertainty in their proper place. Leverage study and practice to overcome obstacles. Rarely is the path to success found along the unobstructed road.

  6. Act not in haste, but with thoughtful deliberation, never quick to draw conclusions or join pessimistic company whether online or in person.

  7. Take all constructive criticism thankfully, as it holds greater value than superfluous compliments.

  8. Recognize that shortcuts will only cause you to miss important mile markers, ultimately postponing your arrival at the desired destination.

  9. When overcome with nervous anticipation, the only remedy is to prepare for every possible scenario that could go wrong, and formulate solutions for each.

  10. Starve habits you want to break. Feed goals you want to make.

ChrisCorradino-Snowboard

Check out more of work from Chris on his blog and website. Social butterflies can follow him through the links below.

Facebook |Twitter | YouTube | Instagram

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Flickr Thursday

Here are our selections from the Alien Skin Flickr group this week. Awesome work, people!

Your image submissions make you eligible to win a free lens, too! Check out the article for more details.

John-Sharktold Daniele Cuccia Richard Thwaites SONY DSC

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