When it comes to black and whites, how do you go from murky to stunning? In this Adobe Lightroom tutorial, photographer Marc Javier shares with us his approach to getting stunning black and white conversions with true visual appeal!
When we created this site - we had two main goals. The first was to create a fun, warm, safe place for moms to show off pictures of their kids. Done - check! The second was to create a place where moms are continually challenged to learn how to take better pictures. Almost done- half check! :)
I (all bias aside!) think we are off to a GREAT start! The information is here and available to you, but I really want to to challenge you to take it a step further and start the process of taking better pictures! Don't worry, we are going to help! :)
So here's what I want you to do:
1) Participate in the monthly challenges! It's fun and there are cool prizes!
your set up. Myself and/or Adrienne will critique and give suggestions for improvement for every picture posted, from composition, to post processing, to focus, we will get down and dirty with SPECIFIC suggestions. We ask that you follow up our suggestions with another picture attempting to put them into action! It's going to be a conversation, give AND take to help you improve.
This thread will be in the same vein as "Critique Me", but will be much more in-depth and focused. Other members are welcome to jump in if they have something to add or a question about anything posted, but we promise to do the heavy lifting here. The goal is to have at least one thread strictly dedicated to helping you take better pictures! :)
SNAP TO IT!
When we think of Rockin' Momtographers, few rise to the top of our coffee cup as quickly as Allison of Snippets From Suburbia. Krista first stumbled across her work a couple of years ago and started following her 365 project on Flickr. All she could say was "WHOA!" This mother of two had some serious skill behind the camera! And Adrienne appreciates anyone who's not afraid to take themseles a little less than seriously - the humor in some of her work is just plain refreshing.
We were tickled when she agreed to be our February feature for "This Momtographer Rocks!" And we promise... if you don't giggle, smile and gasp once or twice while surfing her portfolio, we'll return your money, no questions asked (after you tell us where you put the money). Enjoy, and we'll just go ahead and say "Told ya so!" now!
Whether your shoot Nikon, Canon, Sony or Kodak, use a Mac or PC - to store and edit your photos on your home computer - the same truths apply.
1. You must import the photos from your camera to your computer.
How might you do this? With little exception, there are basically 2 ways:
- USB cord
- Card Reader
2. You must either store them in folders or in an organizing software.
What does this mean?
- Folders are generally just a place either on your hard drive where the files are stored. You can name them whatever you want, but you can't actually do anything with your pictures until you open them up in a software program
- Organizing software refers to programs designed to let you store AND view your photos and some even let you edit without ever leaving the program. Some of the more common ones are, iPhoto, Lightroom, Bridge, Picasa and Aperture
3. If you choose to edit, you will either edit in your organizing software, or make a trip to and from a specialized editing software.
- Above we touched on the fact that some organizing software also has editing capabilities. Some of the more advanced all in one programs such as Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture are great, but they are a bit pricey and also take up a lot of room on your computer. If you are are a Mac user iPhoto is a very powerful all in one editor. Google's Picasa also falls in this category is available for PC and Mac and is free.
- When we refer to stand-alone editors, there is really only one that stands the test of time and has become the standard by which all others are judged - Adobe Photoshop. It is a very pricey program, but extraordinarily powerful. There is also a "lite" version called Photoshop Elements that is very useful and about 1/5th of the price.
4. If you want to email or post your photos online, you must somehow export them.
All we mean by "export" is to send them from either your editing program or computer to another place (i.e. email, web or print agent)
The two most common ways to do this is either with the "attach" feature in your email or the "upload" button on your web program
5. If you want to make sure your photos will not go away with a terrible virus or crash, you must archive them.
This step is SOOOOOOOO important and the most often overlooked. Especially by those of us who don't do this for a living! All we are saying here is copy, copy, copy!!!! Whether you choose to make archived dvd discs or get an external hard drive, your pictures need to be kept in more then one location!
Have you ever taken what you thought was a wonderful picture, only to look back at it and see that your cutie pie has turned a Violet-tint of blue? Or that your mom's family looks orange? What's up with that?
Did you know that light has different colors? As if you needed one more thing to consider when taking pictures of your kids, right? It's true - different kinds of light have different colors. Bright sunlight can make whites appear blue. Late afternoon sun can make whites appear orange. And indoor flourescent lights can make white appear green. If your camera doesn't know what color light it's looking at, it can record something that look fine while you're in the moment looking at it, but totally off when you look back at it.
This is because your brain is still much much smarter than your camera. It just "knows" what white is supposed to look like, and automatically adjusts everything else in your head to appear correctly. Your camera, on the other hand, usually needs a little adjustment - a white balance - to tell it what white is supposed to look like under different conditions.
Here's a perfect example of different light sources having different colors. Do you see how the light in front of baby's face looks to be orange and glowing? Even the wall in the back-right has an orange tint to it. That's because the paper lantern has an incandescent bulb inside of it which is to the yellow side of the color spectrum. Now look at the light coming from the left - do you see the highlights on her forehead and hitting the top of the stuffed pig's head? They're much bluer in color - in fact, look at the wall on the far left, it's almost completely blue. That's because the afternoon sun of a cloudy cloudy day was pouring in through that window - that kind of has much more blue in it than the orange glow of incandescent light.
To understand what's going on under the hood of white balance, let's talk a little science. Light is different colors because (and this matters much more to physicists and graphic designers than to us) it's actually different temperatures. As all things counterintuitive in photography go, the cooler the temperature is the more yellow-based it's light. The warmer the temperature, the more blue-based. This becomes more confusing as photographers still refer to warm light as being orange, and cool light as being blue.
But you don't really have to remember those details past this conversation! The good news is that your camera does a lot of the white balance work for you. It has a few different settings to help you out. Just let it know what kind of light you're working with - bright sun, shade, indoor, etc. There's even an automatic setting that works most of the time.
We recommend that you use the automatic White Balance setting and shoot in RAW. Your camera will get it right often enough to save you the adjustment work 90% of the time. But if it doesn't guess right - then you can adjust the RAW white balance settings in your computer without screwing anything else up!
In the pictures below, taken on the cloudiest of winter days, the camera interpereted the light to be blue - too blue! But with a quick adjustmentt in our post processing software to the RAW white balance settings, thie picture looks correct to our eye.
So set that white balance to automatic, make sure you're shooting in RAW and it's just one less thing to think about while you're taking those beautiful pics of your babes.
What is it?
We made it! A digital photograph does not exist until your camera's image sensor is exposed to light. It's the place where all those mysterious megapixels you were sold on live. Quite literally, your image sensor is a rectangular-shaped platter of millions of little light sensitive pockets called pixels waiting for you to snap your shutter so they can collect light, divide it into red, green and blue and save it as a file on your memory card. All that to say - the image sensor is what receives the light and interprets it into an actual digital photograph.
How is it measured?
ISO is the measurement of how sensitive your camera's sensor is. Why it's called ISO isn't going to help our cause, so don't stay up at night worrying about it.
Depending on your camera, ISO numbers are typically 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc.
If you remember anything about film cameras, ISO is very much like film speed. Changing this setting doesn't actually change how much light your camera collects (that's up to the aperture and shutter), it just tells your camera how sensitive it needs to be in receiving it. A low ISO setting means the sensor is less sensitive, while a higher ISO setting makes your sensor more sensitive.
What does this mean to you?
When there's lots of light, there's no reason to increase the sensitivity of your image sensor. So on a bright sunny day - set ISO to it's lowest available setting. As the light decreases (shade, evening or darker interiors) increase your ISO. That's it - easy peasy!
Your camera was optimized to make the best images when ISO is set to it's lowest setting. If the right amount of light is let through the shutter from the aperture, a low ISO setting allows the image sensor to deliver it's best work - crisp, clear, pristine digital images. So, if you can, you want to keep it low.
Sometimes, especially indoors, there just isn't enough light available for your sensor to get a good exposure. Turning up the ISO increases your sensor's sensitivity, making more out of the light it receives.
But NOTHING comes free, right? The higher you turn up the sensitivity, the less accurate the sensor becomes. What's referred to as "noise" is introduced to the image.
Look at the photo above. The ISO on a beautifully lit late afternoon was accidentally left on 1250 when it probably should have been closer to 200-300 (hey, it happens to all of us!), and what would have been a gorgeous set of photos was marred with noise. But on the shots where the exposure was pretty good, the noise wasn't that big of an issue, even at full magnification. You can see some of the telltale dots, especially in her hair and in the shadows on her skin, but unless this photo was meant to be blown up, it really is fine for the family collection.
Where we run into trouble is in the photos where the exposure wasn't correct. Normally we'd just adjust the exposure in the computer after the fact, but photos with noise resulting from high ISO settings don't respond very well to even minor adjustments in post proccessing. Below is another photo taken on the same afternoon with the same unfortunate ISO settings. A beatiful moment was captured, but underexposed. Look what happens to the noise when we try to correct the exposure - the noise practically jumps off the screen!
You don't want noise in your photos, but unless the only place you take pictures is in the bright outdoor light, raising the ISO is, at times, unavoidable. The good news? Camera sensors are getting more and more accurate at higher ISO levels, especially when you get the overall exposure correct. Need more good news? Even pictures with a lot of noise are fairly pleasing at smaller sizes (see the picture above on the left). So no matter what, never sacrifice missing a moment because you were afraid to turn your ISO too high! Go for it!
A low ISO setting is ideal. But nothing's perfect and you'd be much better off raising it and getting some noise than missing your toddler's first sommersault because the lighting at the gym was less than ideal. (oh, trust us, lighting at the gym STINKS!)
Low ISO number = use in BRIGHT setting = lower sensitivity and less noise
High ISO number = use in less light = higher sensitivity and more noise