Shooting in black and white can force you to stretch your art muscles in new ways. When you subtract the color from an image, you subtract an element of drama and emotion. Black-and-white photography makes you look at the composition of your photograph more closely, reconsider your subject matter, find ways to evoke mood without the aid of color. But I’m not going to tell you to shoot in black and white today. What I am going to tell you is that I’m not a fan of the black-and-white setting on most digital cameras. The setting simply doesn’t create true black and white. Continue reading
Last year, a 14-year-old girl started a petition to demand that Seventeen magazine stop Photoshopping the models who grace its pages. She’d had enough, saying young girls deserved to see real bodies and real faces as they struggle to love their own physical appearances. In 2010, the actress Emily Blunt was quoted in Los Angeles Times Magazine as saying that she once instructed a photographer not to Photoshop her into looking thinner.
“I can understand there are things like shadows they need to fix after a shoot,” she said, “but it’s unfair to represent an image of yourself if it’s not true.”
After seeing herself digitally thinned for a mass-market magazine, Actress Shailene Woodley was recently quoted as saying she strives to have only realistic images of herself in print.
“That’s BS,” she said. “That’s not what I really look like.”
Years ago, a friend of mine attended a holiday party at her work. Some of the images from the party were later posted to the company’s website, and right away, she noticed that she didn’t look quite like herself in them: Her thighs were thinner, her teeth were whiter, and some of the wrinkles on her 50-something face had clearly been airbrushed out. Worse, not everyone in the pictures appeared to have been altered. Even as she envied this more youthful and svelte version of herself, she also felt hurt—and judged. Someone was sending a message: You’d look better if you were thinner, had whiter teeth, and were less wrinkled. Thanks a lot, right?
Professional photographers use Photoshop all the time, especially to improve composition. But when it comes to altering the subjects’ physical appearance, the rules of engagement have yet to be set in stone. Should permission be sought? How much is too much? Should you stick to erasing flyaway hairs and giant zits? If it’s okay to shave off a little thigh curve, is it also okay to add a bigger bust line?
I see a distinct overlap between Photoshop and plastic surgery—that is, with many of the same questions at play. Do you strive to make your subjects look like themselves, just better? What does it mean, to look better? Most important, why are we doing it at all? It’s a complicated discussion, and as photographers, we should all be part of it. Clearly photographers now hold some collective sway over body ideals and, therefore, body image. We best be careful how we use it. Your thoughts?
Back in the ‘80s, there was a great ad campaign for cassette tapes (anyone remember those?) put out by Memorex. It suggested their tapes made such high-quality recordings, a person might not realize they were recordings. “Is it real or is it Memorex?” was such a popular campaign; people started using the phrase to describe any fake that was convincing. These days we’ve got a new question for that situation, at least with photography: Is it real or is it Photoshop? The difference now is that it’s often harder to tell.
The rise of photo-editing software spurs the skeptic in us all. Almost any striking photo makes us question whether we’re seeing something from reality or something doctored up—perhaps even completely Frankensteined together—from the artist’s imagination. Skeptic is not a bad word here: Photographs are powerful forces, and when documenting (as with photojournalism) or influencing (as with fashion magazine covers), there’s a strong argument to have them vetted. One 2012 study even showed that our very own memories can be revised by doctored photographs. To think, a stealth Photoshopper could rewrite someone’s history!
On the brighter side, there are also studies that show how photography can reinforce accurate memories of real things in our lives. And ironically, this is where I think digital photo-processing, done right, can be a godsend—because, hey, sometimes photos become truer with a little doctoring. They might not tell the truth about the photographer’s raw camera skills, but they tell the truth about what the photographer saw. Particularly for amateur photographers, SOOC (straight out of camera) photographs don’t always do that. With photo-editing software, it’s possible to make corrective adjustments until the photograph comes to life in a way that makes the photographer go, “Ah-ha. Now, that’s what my mind saw.” Isn’t that the point? We want to remember what moved us, and why.
Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Is it real or is it Photoshop?” Photoshopping doesn’t necessarily make an image “not real.” Sometimes it can do quite the opposite. Maybe the question should really be Does it tell the truth?
Did you know that every year the Pantone Corporation chooses a Color of the Year? I didn’t until recently, so I kind of got to wondering how they make their selection. Is it arbitrary? Turns out, no. Pantone apparently spends months analyzing worldwide color influences from things like the entertainment industry, traveling art collections, new artists, popular travel destinations, technology, and even upcoming major sports events. In a way, they don’t choose the color; they notice it. The 2013 Color of the Year is emerald. Incidentally, emerald is also the birthstone for the current month. So, with spring in full swing, it seems like a good time to talk about photographing the color green. I’m already noticing a lot more “green” photography from Lawrence Camera customers sharing their images on our Facebook page.
If you’d like to join the party, here are some helpful hints for photographing the color green:
- Go with complementary colors. You can make green really pop by pairing it with reds, purples, and/or pinks. For nature photography, you don’t need to look far: Mother Nature is very generous in providing complementary colors! Keep in mind that green is a receding color, so if you pair it with an advancing color like yellow or red, it can appear to recede into the background. Pairing advancing and receding hues can add great depth to a photograph.
- Go monotone. Showcase the color’s different tonal shades. One way to do this is to incorporate a reflection of your subject using something other than a mirror so that you get the suggestion of the same green but not the same exact green. Of course, Mother Nature is also generous here by providing lots of different greens in addition to actual shade, as in tree shade.
- Use a polarizing filter. A polarizing filter increases color saturation and can help your greens (and blues) appear more vibrant. Go easy, though. A sapphire noon sky or blindingly green foliage can make photos appear downright unrealistic.
- Beware of color casting. If there’s a lot of green in a scene, be vigilant. The brain makes adjustments so that the eyes don’t see the resulting color cast that the camera will capture. Try custom white balance, or fix the casting later using photo-editing software like Photoshop.
- Shoot slightly under exposure. Shooting slightly under-exposure can create more vivid colors in your photos. Green has a large range in brightness values—one of the largest of all hues—and is the hue to which the human eye is most sensitive. That is, our eyes can detect the huge variety of green tones created by different brightness values. Take advantage!
Are you up for a challenge? Photographing a full moon certainly qualifies. This is your week to try your hand! Thursday night is the full moon, and we’re expected to have partly cloudy skies, allowing us (hopefully) a view of it. April’s full moon is called the Pink Moon, for a variety of wild phlox that blooms early in spring.
Keep in mind that there are whole books written on the topic of moon photography, so we’re just scratching the surface here. However, there really are just two basic challenges that stand between you and a good moon photograph: proportion and light. With the right equipment—if not some post-production finesse—you can manage.
Let’s start with perspective. You are really far away from the moon, so much farther than you are from anything else that will be in your scene. Your brain makes visual adjustments for that disparity; your camera, left to its own devices, does not. A longer lens will help. Grab a lens that is at least 200mm. Otherwise; the moon will look tiny and sad. For good detail, 300mm is more like it, but a telephoto lens is your best bet. Remember: With big zoom, you risk shaky photographs, so be sure to use a tripod and your shutter delay.
Now let’s talk about light. Though you’re shooting at nighttime, your subject is illuminated in sunlight. Try the Sunny 16 rule: Use an f/16 aperture with the same shutter speed as the ISO (e.g., ISO 100, 1/100 s). From there, experiment with different settings to find the sweet spot for your equipment and conditions. Also, remember how we talked about HDR photography last week? If you’re trying to photograph a moonscape, bracketing together multiple exposures can really help. You’ll get the best lighting of the moon in one exposure, then the best lighting of the rest of the scene in another exposure (or two). The composite of these images will more closely approximate what your brain saw.
While it’s a huge thrill to get a photograph that looks beautiful straightaway, your pal when it comes to photographing the moon is a photo-editing tool like Photoshop. Back at home, you can sharpen the angles and make micro-adjustments to the brightness, contrast, and colors to get the photograph looking its best.
Ready to try? Moonrise is at 7:10 p.m. tomorrow!
P.S. Check out this stunningly beautiful real-time video of a moonrise:
When people hear the term monochromatic photography, their minds tend to fly to grayscale or black-and-white images. Indeed, that’s the most notorious form, but have you ever experimented with colorful monochromatic photography? Since any photo that uses one color with either black or white is monochromatic, you can really have a heyday with it. This delicious effect can be achieved easily by desaturating a photo to black and white and then adjusting the color balances in a photo-editing program like Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Yet there’s another way to achieve the monochromatic photo or at least something approaching it. That is to choose a monochromatic subject or create a monochromatic composition. Food makes a great tool for this kind of project. Think heaps of apples or rows of shucked corn.
The natural world can be wonderful for it, too!
Don’t these pictures just make you itch for the lushness of April and May? Get your cameras ready. Spring’s zenith is just around the corner, and we’d love to see some of your very own monochromatic compositions from the natural world as it continues to reawaken—from the green grass to the happy yellows of wild primrose to the downy whites of flowering serviceberry trees.
Show us what you’ve got! Share your photos with us on our Facebook page!
It’s obvious how much we love cameras. We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t want people to love photography as much as we do. But, we don’t just like to sell cameras to amateurs or pros. We want to help them grow whether they do this as a hobby or as a career.
Do you want to be a better photographer? Do you think you can always learn something new? Maybe one of our classes will help you out. We kick off our photo classes January 12th with a discussion on exposure, composition on February 9th and lighting April 6th.
If you are interested in Basic Photoshop, we will have a class February 2nd and if interested in Studio Lighting, classes are January 26th and April 13th.