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06/06/2014 - 11:57 AM

The Box 2

The Box 2A good attempt at surreal imagery.

The cut outs are fairly good. However for me the image doesnt look quite right, and its down to the lighting. Theres a very heavy shadow from the box top left (the dimensions of which dont look qute right - the shadow that is) - The shadow appears in front of the box too (as it does on the other 3 drawers). Yet there no shadow on the left hand wing - which seems to be in full light.

The shadows from the keys are straight on, and not of to one side. The right hand side of the main box, in the hole where the statue is is in full light - again this would be heavy shadow.

Whist it is digital art, and you dont often see a decapitated woman in a box, you still have to pay attention to lighting to make the viewer to "buy" into the image. If you look at the likes of Dali & Magritte they paid particular attention to the lighting.

Continue with this type of image, its worth it in the end - a lot of trial and error. One piece of advice i was given, is think where the lights coming from and cast the shadows accordingly. If you have problems visualising, get a match box, maybe one of those wooden drawing dummies. Get a torch and place it where you envisage the light - see where the shadows are - alternatively use brooding overcast skies the light then is much more diffused and you can get away with much more creative licence with the shadows.
01/12/2013 - 10:09 PM

China girl

China girlIf you want to get it "right in camera" it's imperative you get the settings right long before the model turns up. Get the WB set with a grey card, use a light meter to get perfect exposure, don't place the model close to the backdrop, or it won't be black. If you are insistent on just using a JPEG produced in camera you have to be so thorough in the set up being perfect. You will need to get the reflectors and fill lights set perfectly to control the shadows (it could have done with a reflector under the chin here).

A model will want you, the photographer, to ensure she is shown in the best light, she won't be interested if you shoot RAW or JPEG. If not she won't be in a rush to work with you again.

I would still use RAW, every single image can benefit from adjustments no matter how small, you can set up a standard preset in Lightroom and it will apply it to all images if you so wish, then you will only need to alter those that need a little extra.
01/12/2013 - 7:12 PM

China girl

China girlA good attempt.

Most of the points have been covered. One thing is the black (or should I Say purple)background , I can see detail and creases in it, this is easy to correct, do a levels correction, pull in LH slider until all the background turns black - then paint on the white mask with black over the model).

Keith, Willies comments are to do with the image not what lens / camera is used. Willies point is that it's irrelevant what camera is used, colour correction is relatively easy with any camera/ lens combination. I don't use a grey card, what I do is use Auto white balance. If I think it looks a bit purple, I decrease the tint, if green increase the tint. If it's too yellow (warm) decrease white balance, if it's too blue (cool) increase the white balance. But Willies solution is the better, if you don't have confidence in you "eye".
06/10/2013 - 10:21 AM

Self portrait (second attempt)

Self portrait (second attempt)Your right, use the ISO necessary to get the shot. Can I ask why such a long focal length? The longer the focal length the shallower the depth of field. With a self portrait it's very difficult to get the focus right, so you are making harder on yourself. With say a 50mm length you may have got away with F5.6 and had more DOF (and reduce ISO in half - or more accurately 1 stop).

One tip you will see in many self portraits a prop (you can even have one just out of shot). If selected carefully this can be used to set the focus. - just when sitting make sure your eye is in the same plane. Also look at a cheap trigger (eg from Yongnuo) these can double up as a wireless triggers, which is far better than using a cable release or self timer.
04/10/2013 - 11:24 AM

Muscle Power

Muscle PowerTo me this cries out to be converted to Mono, as Moira suggests (but hands up, I prefer mono). I like the subject matter, and its well captured.

My main issue, is I dont feel the image is sharp enough where it matters. You have a D700, and your using quite a wide aperture (F4.5), so you are compromising in not getting all the guys fully in focus.

For this type of subject, and knowing your camera, I wouldn't think twice about using ISO800 - 1000 (and if converting to Mono even higher), then use F8, you will also be able decrease shutter speed to ca about 1/160 - 1/200 which can make a world of difference for subject movement.
Noise really isnt an issue at the settings suggested (for your camera)

As your using a 24mm lens if your trying to get an out of focus background, it wont really happen as its too wide so I wouldn't even think about it - it needed you can change that in post process later.

Oh and watch the dodging around the stone as I can see a halo appearing on the LHS.
14/08/2013 - 1:11 PM

Arise Batman

Arise BatmanIan, a good attempt at a composite. When making them there are a number of points to bare in mind, the extraction of the parts, fine tuning of layer masks, harmonising the light / shade, colour balance of the elements.

Here the most noticeable part is the quite rough selection of the statue, there are bits where you can see the background etc. when I started DMs a couple of years back I had the same problem, I referred to it as looking like it had been cut out with scissors. What I do, we'll first always work with layer masks! Then to perform the extraction I use a number of different ways. The easiest being the quick mask, you use your graphics pen (forget the mouse for selections - I picked up my first graphics tablet in Asda for 20) then use the quick mask to select the statue, then click refine edge and gently go over any obvious bits that are missing, output to new layer with mask. Then carefully look around the selection at 200-400% magnification, then paint on the layer mask black anything you still don't want (remember this is fine tuning) and white anything you do.

My other choice method is the pen tool (the one with a fountain pen icon) this is becoming my method of choice, unless there is fine hair - it's what I would use on this. It's difficult to explain easily, but you click where you want the selection to be, then move the pen and click on the next anchor point etc, until you have selected all the image, that's very brief and when your used to it you can drag the pen to go round corners etc. I use it because I often reuse selections in the paths( I won't go into that now). What photoshop has done is create a Path, then when you have done this right click, make selection from path, and now the key bit, select feather, I tend to use 1 or 2 pixels this will then sort out your jagged effect. Then with the dancing ants click on the new layer mask icon, and you will have a ready made layer mask, refine as described above.

I do use other methods but the above 2 I use in 95% of cases.

Now to help blend the image, I don't want to confuse you any more, but basically, I use dodge and burn tools, and black brush set to darken (all on separate layer so I can change if I make a mistake).

The simplist way to match colour balance - is use photoshops match colour function, tbh I tend to do it by eye with various methods ( eg colour balance adjustment layers), but when I started I used match colour.

I hope the above isn't too confusing. The best bit of advice I can give is get Katrin Eismanns book on compositing its a bit outdated now, but I still refer to it when I'm stuck.

What I would say this is a very good attempt, I know it takes time to master the skills, but keep going it will be worth it. There a numerous people on here who will help if asked just drop them a PM, it's what I did 2-3 years back.
13/08/2013 - 8:16 AM

Spooky Castle by The Rhine

Spooky Castle by The RhineNathan makes a good point. What I do is make an accurate selection, use fill colour in this, then take the opacity right down in the layer (say 15%) then on numerous layers above use a feathered brush and slowly build up the glow, increasing the diameter sas you go. The advantage of using multilayers is you can adjust the effect opacity) if you go too far. If it still looks harsh use a bit of Gaussian blur on the layer.

This is an example of what I have done in my own work. The building was shot in early afternoon with no lights on.
12/08/2013 - 8:33 PM

St Mary's Quayside

St Mary's QuaysideThere are a lot of comments here, some good, some ok and some unhelpful.

The idea behind the composition is fine, but it doesn't quite work. The eye is drawn from the central runner, to the boat and straight to the power station, whoosh, I the out.

I like the use of the lead, but the main problem is the position of the boat.

I'm lost why you need to HDR, HDR is designed to combine images with a dynamic range outside a single RAW, I would be very surprised if this couldn't be combined in one image. Often in HDR you les vibrancy, introduce halos and noise, although with care this needn't be the case.

What I think you we're trying to do is increase detail, hence the HDR, or should I say tone mapping.

It's an almost image (in terms of composition) just consider all the elements, don't just think lead in, or thirds etc, but look and think to yourself "isit harmonious?" If the answers yes you will invariably find its a good composition.
06/08/2013 - 4:46 PM

'Do You Want Ice?'

'Do You Want Ice?'Most has been said, it is under exposed, quite easily corrected either in RAW or photoshop.

Open a levels adjustment, then drag the RH slider in until it just touches the edge of the graph. Then the same for LH slider (for more accurate result hold down alt key when doing it then you will see the pixels that are been affected - then back off a fraction).

Then adjust the central slider to increase the exposure

I may also be tempted to add a curves adjustment - place an ancor point in the shadows as you dont want these to block out, then about 3/4 the way up the curve pull it up slightly (dont overdo it). This will make the whites pop

Oh and change blend modes of levels / curves to luminosity. Why? well when you make levels / curves adjustments in normal mode it increases saturation and sometimes causes colour crunching - luminosity only affects the brightness values and not saturation.

I also think your white balance is too cool - the shadow edges of the glazier are a very distinct blue so for accuracy it could do with raising a bit (I understand if its a creative decision). As you increased vibrance this would have exaserbated this somewhat.
26/07/2013 - 4:59 PM

the performer

the performerCant understand why you kept it hidden Les. If your concerned about the piano how about a squarish crop - with the top diagonal of the piano lid forming the junction of the crop - then it looks delibrate & dynamic. Yes you will loose the mirror - but thats pulling the eyes away from the model.

05/07/2013 - 12:01 AM

Shrouded Tay

Shrouded TayLike it Paul, - Could crop a fraction off the top - no be bold a square crop, as the top isn't adding anything, and pulling the eye away from the focal point. (But I know you like the 3x2 Aspect ration Wink )
29/06/2013 - 11:36 PM


ElwoodExcellent subject and tones, good mono conversion. I really like the image, but I'm not sure about the guy in the background, did you sharpen the whole image? Looks like it, or there's too much global structure if you've used Silver EFEX ( which knowing Ade is how he would adviseWink) The reason I ask is the bokeh on the background buy just jars slightly. His left shoulder (right as you look) has quite a harsh halo.

Mask our the structure / sharpening and you have a superb image.

Edit: just checked the colour image, the bokeh there's fine, if must be structure sharpening in the mono conversion. If using silver efec pro put a control point over the back guy and set structure to a negative value (including fine structure).
02/05/2013 - 7:17 PM

Lady In Red

Lady In RedYou have a good subject there, and you have done a good job.

There are a couple of issues, the dtress doesnt do her any favours as its pulling in the wrong places. Also watch the positioning of the lights its catching the dress in areas which are distracting from her natural beauty.
23/04/2013 - 8:43 PM

Moore on the Moors

Moore on the MoorsPaul its a great subject, and I can see the reseblance of a Henry Moore / Barbera Hepworth sculpture. Im privaledged to live down the road to oneof the largest collections of their work.

I guess I think you know whats coming, there is a but. IMHO you have pushed the light areas a bit far, they have gone to almost white, and you have lost detail (I'm sure in camera it was perfectly exposed) I can see you were looking for a graphic image, and may have worked if the white on the stone wasn't fighting with the wall behind...sorry
10/04/2013 - 7:00 PM


KateWhat a wonderfull study, an image with great potential, some great points above.

Have you done some cloning work on the RHS, to rescue the highlights? It looks a bit blotchy and soft.

I see you use RAW great !have you tried pulling back the highlights? - if you use lightroom, use camera neutral with, with a linear curve. If you know you are to convert to mono, don't worry too much about colours, but check the histogram (the graph at the top) now zoom in to the overexposed areas, and watch how much detail you can pull back by playing with the white balance. Also adjust the exposure to get set the brightness. Then go to highlights and move it to the left, this pulls back highlight detail.

How do you convert to mono? Again this can have a big baring. My guess with this you may need more blue in the mix, play with the sliders, to get optimum detail (I often combine several mono conversions to get the look I'm after).

If you still can't retreive the detail, clone on a separate layer, my guess you used a soft brush, at low opacity, sampling from different areas. Now there are no hard and fast rules, but I clone on a seperate layer, with a relatively hard brush , say 80% and I'm normally at 100% opacity. I know others will disagree. Now chose the sample area very carefully. Zoom to 200% and build up slowly , keep re sampling for different area. Any mistakes can be erased easily (or layer mask). I'm assuming you are using a graphics tablet? It really does help if you can get one. Until recently I used one I bought in ASDA for 15.

I hope this helps.
09/04/2013 - 11:37 PM

Hidden Church

Hidden ChurchEric and Coast make some good points. The main too issues are the harsh light, caused by the time of day. I don't know the orientation (n,e,s,w), but your better taking this type of image in the golden hour (about an hour after sunrise, or an hour before sunset). You have a good basis, the composition isn't far off, and I can see you tried to use the branches to frame the view. However, it hasn't quite worked, to frame they should not cut into the main focal point (the church). I think there are too many branches, but explore, try closer, lower etc. spend time looking in the viewfinder before pressing the cable release.
07/04/2013 - 9:44 AM

Slieve Muck From Spelga

Slieve Muck From SpelgaTo add to Paul's comments, very few of us carry a lightmeter these days. Use the review screen and histogram on the camera. What your looking for in snow scenes, with regard to the histogram, is a large peak on the rhs, that is close to the edge of the graph, but not clipping, otherwise you will lose detail in the snow. I don't think the metering was too far off in this.

What the cameras meter tries to do is render the scene 18% grey. Tho they are a lot better than just a few years back.

One tip I had years ago and still use when in difficult conditions, is turn the metering to spot and use the back of your hand to meter off, try it it works!

Always use RAW, that way you can rescue an image, even if you overexposed slightly.
05/04/2013 - 2:28 PM

Motorcycle girl.

Motorcycle girl.I quite like the pose and expression. I like where theres no eye contact it gives a sense of mood.

It would work better cropping in from the LHS (as you did in the mod). Looking at the shadows, I would guess you are using bare flash. I'm not a great lover of bare flash, particularly on women it gives rather a harsh effect showing up every pore. And the shadows are so distinct and deep. If possible use an umbrella or softbox, alternatively a beauty dish (for this I think that would have worked very well).

Paul is right it is a bit underexposed, however that can be a matter of taste, do you want a good record shot, high key (which wouldn't suit this image) or low key.

Its a shame you recorded in JPEG, as a lot what I will cover below could easily be corrected using RAW - i.e. alter exposure, lift the shadows, and brighten the whites very very easily (and when your happy with one shot, you can copy the settings to all the other images in the series).

What I think it needs a couple of adjustment layers, a curves on for the black dress and , lift it in the centre. Mask out bits you dont want it to affect.

The second ajustment is for the skin, again a curves ajustment, but this time take highlights and lift slightly, and the shadows a very very slight lowering for a gentle s curve. Again mask to taste.

I would remove the red blob on the RHS in the background, and maybe desaturate the background by 5-10% just to make the main subject pop.


04/04/2013 - 9:30 AM

Lady in Shadows

Lady in ShadowsI really like the colour palette used .

How was it lit, natural light, conventional flash, strobes or continuous light? You say you are limited with the lighting as you don't have barn doors etc. Did you not watch Blue Peter as a kid?

It's amazing what can be achieved with an old Corn flakes packet and a bit of gaffer tape. make a cone for a snoot, cut into squares (or wedges) for barn doors - a few straws for a grid, an old pillow case for diffusion - white card for reflectors, tin foil etc, etc the only limitation you have is your imagination and ingenuity. I can really recommend a look at strobist.com for ideas, even if you use continuous light. It's much better to get the light right at the time of taking. Not that I'm against the use of Photoshop (far from it), it's just if you get it right to start it makes life so much easier.

Onto the image, there's a couple of issues, what's that cross on her upper leg? Did you paint on the actual layer and not the layer mask by accident? My main issue, is all the image looks too soft for me, not soft enough for a dreamlike quality, and not sharp anywhere for my eye to rest on anything.

One final tip, coloured sweet wrappers (or similar) make good coloured gels, and even if funds are tight, you can get exceptionally cheep strobes and triggers from eBay (I have some Youngnuo ones)
28/03/2013 - 7:06 AM

Murlough Bay

Murlough BayI love landscapes that use a narrow DOF.

That said it jars on the eye a bit when you have 2 out of focus planes (front and back), particularly when it's very central.

The ideas there, good use of diagonals, good placement of the stones, maybe a little more seperation between the back stones, and the drift wood. But I would focus on the front stone, bring the second one forward a bit, and the back stone forward just enough to see all the driftwood.