Monday, July 23, 2012

Photoshop or soft focus filter? Which is best?

The unsoftened image can be found here.

Back in the days that I shot film for the local newspaper, I played around with soft focus images. Soft focus does not mean out-of-focus. A true soft focus image is a blend of sharp image and a soft one. Soft focus images glow, the highlights may bleed into the surroundings, but these images have a sharpness that gives them the punch missing from simple blurry shots.

Some photographers used to try and produce the soft focus effect in the darkroom. This method didn't work well. One works with a negative in the darkroom with the result that the shadows bled into the highlights. For instance, bright teeth (high key areas in an image) were darkened by the bleeding of colour or tone from the surrounding areas.

I found that a Nikon Soft Focus No. 1 filter screwed onto the front of a lens worked best. These filters were perfectly clear with a pattern of diffusing dots scattered over the filter surface. The result was a Nikon sharp image with a soft glow. It was a very nice effect.

Now that I am shooting digital, I thought I'd like to try recreating the soft focus effect using Photoshop. I searched the web for ideas and tried a lot. They all, for one reason or another, failed to deliver the look I was searching for.

Then I found one site that had a method that was pretty good. I felt it produced a fine look that one could confuse, if one didn't look too closely, with the results achieved using the old Nikon filter.

Not one to rip off another blogger, here is link to the site with the soft focus effect instructions. Enjoy.

Link --- Soft-Focus Emulation in Photoshop

Monday, July 9, 2012

Kaleidoscopes for pictures with a '60s feel

Photography is about fun. Kaleidoscopes are about fun. When I found one of the cardboard toys in my basement on the weekend I immediately wondered what would happen if I tried to shoot pictures using the old thing.

When playing with stuff like this remember to try different lenses. For instance, I found that I got the results I was looking for with the kaleidoscope when using my lens zoomed to 105mm. The wide angle rendered an image trapped in a black circle. If you can control the f/stop, play with this, too.

The toy of the psychedelic generation pumped out some really neat shots. I learned that if you have an iPhone, there is an app for taking pictures that emulate my kaleidoscope. Check out Kooleido for your iPhone, if interested.

And of course, there is always Photoshop. For high quality results, Photoshop may be the best answer. Start with a fine quality image and let the software take it from there.

Still, there is something cool about using the real thing. It's a fun blast from the past.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

34-month-old shooter

Smile grampa Bill.
Fiona is only 34-months-old, but that is old enough to start learning how to handle a camera in my book. She has taken so many pictures with my Canon S90 she now calls it her black camera.

Only 34-months-old, Fiona loves cameras.
Last night she wanted to take a picture with her camera. I gave Fiona the Canon and warned her to keep her fingers off the lens. Her other grandfather started hamming for the camera and the little kid had a subject.We watched as she composed her picture and snap. She had her shot.

My Canon is a pretty solid camera but I watch Fiona very carefully when she is playing photographer. I think the risk is worth it. I hope it teaches her a little responsibility.

I also hope it helps her develop her photographic skills. She seems to have potential.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Shooting those ceremonial moments

Personally, I like the "moment captured" type of photo but often folk want a traditional "smile for the camera" picture. This is often the case when shooting events: weddings, baptisms, retirements, and the like.

When it comes to these pictures, you should have an edge over the hired professional shooter. You know the subjects. You are a friend. Getting a good, warm smile should be easy. Thanks to the instant feedback offered by digital cameras, you will know when you have the picture locked up. Don't stop shooting until you're happy with the picture. But, possibly break your shoot into two or more takes.

If getting the right image is difficult, don't subject your friends to the "just one more" torture. Take a break. Give your subjects a rest. Don't tell them that you are not happy with the pictures. Just move on. Later, try again without making too big a deal out of it. Keep the shoot relaxed and the good images should just flow.

Bright, contrasty sunlight mixed with shade is tough to shoot.
If you are shooting outside, look for open shade. Harsh sunlight makes for harshly lit images. In a word: ugly. Inside, look for well lit areas with clean light. Stay away from incandescents that turn subjects orange or cool lights that render folk with a ghoulish blue hue.

Lastly, watch for props. The couple above are celebrating their retirement, of that there is no question. Incorporate the prop into the picture neatly, with as little wasted space as possible. Keep your picture tight and get immediately to story at hand.

Keeping your shots tight and not requiring a lot of cropping after the fact will keep images, even from small point-and-shoots, large and detailed enough for at least an eight by ten inch print.