A Model with Real Curves (Nude Photos)
Eva Forte is another model I recently worked with. I selected her because she’s a bit older than the usual 20-something women I’ve been photographing. As Eva says, she has “real curves.” I enjoyed working with Eva because she’s down-to-earth and practical (must be her Hungarian heritage.) She doesn’t try to be something she’s not! She comfortable in her skin and isn’t trying to prove how “cool” she is.
Right from the beginning, I had no thoughts of retouching her features and skin to make her look like anyone other than Eva. I like her scars, stretch marks and curves just as they are because she likes them. When something didn’t look quite right, it was usually my fault because I hadn’t more carefully considered the light or angle.
All these photos were made with a Canon 5D MkII and a Canon 24-105/4L IS. The lighting was from two Canon 580EX II SpeedLites in an Impact Luxbanx 36″ strip light. For horizontal poses, the light was suspended about 24″ above the model while, for vertical poses, the light was on a stand about 24″ to one side or the other.
One of the cool things I found for this shoot was a LumoPro Double Flash Bracket Speedring. It was a bit pricey since Midwest Photo charged nearly 30% for S&H but it allowed me to attach two flashes to one strip light. That way, I could set both lights to 1/2 power to speed up recharging and still get full power. I had originally planned to use a 2nd light hair light but decided to forego that in keeping with the KISS principle.
Test Strips in Lightroom
Test strips are a basic darkroom technique for adjusting the lightness/darkness of a photo without wasting time, chemicals and expensive paper. The concept is to divide the print into several pieces (strips) and expose each strip at different values. The print is then be developed and the different strips compared to find the one with the desired exposure. The final print is then be printed with the settings used for the best strip.
In the digital age, it’s much easier to print both color and B&W. However, the problem of getting the right luminosity remains the same but, now, with the added issue of color management for color images. This post describes how to create “test strips” (in reality, test patches) in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom so you can make one print with multiple patches and select the desired settings before printing a final version. This technique can also be used when printing through a commercial printer such as Walmart, CVS, Costco or other vendors.
First, open the file to be printed in LR and, with the Crop Tool, select an appropriate Aspect Ratio. I typically use 2×3 or 4×3 because that lets me to fit 4 to 6 patches onto an 8.5×11 inch sheet of paper. LR doesn’t have a way to crop to an exact pixel dimension so keep the final print size in mind. For example, if your file is 5000 pixels wide and you plan to print at 16″ wide, your 2″x3″ patch should cover ~20% of the width )3″x5=15″.) Although LR uses an excellent resampling algorithm, there’s no sense in pushing things too far.
Next, select a color and/or exposure critical area of the image and press Return to crop. That will create a small patch of the image. Don’t make changes to this patch, keep it “as is” as a baseline.
Press Control (Command) + apostrophe (‘) to create a Virtual Copy. This is exactly what it sounds like, a copy that simply exists in LR. Apply any changes you want to this VC (increase/decrease exposure, +/- contrast, +/- Saturation, etc. Create 3 to 5 VCs, making changes as desired to each. When done, Select all VCs and go to the Print Module.
In the Print Module, select a template such as 2×2 Cells or create your own template like I did for 6 x 2×3. At this point, the 8.5″ x 11″ sheet (assuming that’s what you have selected) will be populated with the selected VCs. Now, print per usual and examine the small patches for the best luminosity and color. Remember to keep careful notes of what changes you make to each VC so you can replicate the settings in the final print.
B&W Nude Triptych Project (Nude Photos)
I recently worked with an outstanding model. Nymph (Gwen) trained as a ballet dancer and has the long, lean, lithe lines of a ballerina. What I appreciated most was her intelligence that made it easy for her to understand and anticipate what I was trying to accomplish. With most studio shoots, I hope for 35% keepers and about 10-15 final images but, with Gwen, my keeper rate shot up to over 65% and I’m sure my final images will be over 30-35. That alone illustrates the value of hiring a professional model versus relying on amateurs.
My B&W Art Nude Triptych Project is progressing nicely and I hope to start printing in early 2016. Prints will be available as loose prints on Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster in 16″ and 24″ sizes. Custom prints on 24″ Canvas and Canvas Satin will be available as Special Order. The images can be mixed and matched as you like, e.g. head, torso, legs or all of one kind. I can only accept PayPal. Contact me for price and availability.
Door Prizes for Sedona Camera Club Program
Many sponsors have stepped-up to donate over $1000 worth of door prizes for my program to the Sedona Camera Club (SCC) on November 30, 2015. Sedona is a very art-centric community in the red-rock country of northern Arizona. As you might imagine, a camera club in such an artistically inclined town has many extremely talented members. It was an honor to be invited to speak to them about something I understand, the interface between art and technology. You can read about the presentation in the previous post.
The prizes range from Topaz Labs Complete Photography Collection to Chromix ColorThink2, X-Rite ColorChecker Passport and George Jardine Lightroom Training Videos. These are all products that I personally use and recommend without compensation or reservation. As long time readers know, I never accept money or “swag” for recommending products on my site.
If you can make it to my presentation, I’d really love to meet readers that I’ve only known through e-mails and comments. Who knows, you might be one of the lucky winners!
Most photographers know about Topaz Labs plug-ins for LR, PS and PSE so I’ll just show a example of some of my favorites using Topaz Adjust. Topaz Adjust and B&W are my favorite plug-ins.
Here are examples of what Chromix ColorThink2 can do for photographers and printers trying to understand how different printers, inks and media interact. By using ColorThink2, a photographer has a clear idea of the relationship between printer ICC profiles and image colors.
Finally, here are photos of an X-Rite ColorChecker Classic, the predecessor to the current sleek ColorChecker Passport. I should replace the old CC Classic since the colors can fade over time but I’m old school and like the big one.
As for George Jardine, everyone who reads this blog knows I think George walks on LR water. George is a former member of the original Adobe Lightroom development team and probably one of the nicest guys for being so smart and knowledgeable. George has never laughed at my dumb questions and patiently helps me. Recently, I conferred upon George the title of Dr of Unscrewology. He helps people unscrew self-inflicted ills. If you’re serious about learning Lightroom, you can’t afford NOT to buy George’s extremely cost-effective ($25-$30) video classes.
Art Nude Triptychs Project
After a lot of research, planning and just plain old thinking, my art nude triptych project is off the ground and I have the first two shoots “in the can,” so to speak. I plan to print these on canvas and mount them as gallery wraps that can be hung as triptychs or as individual prints.
I have 2-3 more models lined up for early November and hope to have a series of 6-10 triptychs (18 to 30 total prints) by next spring. If anyone knows of any galleries that might be interested in showing them, please let me know.
CMS (Color Management System) Tips & Tricks
The above screen grabs are from a very powerful tool I bought while researching color management. Chromix ColorThink plots icc profiles as well as image colors in 2D and 3D. The “squiggly” orange area in the 2D chart (top left) represents all the colors in my friend’s photo (right) which appear to be fully contained within the printer gamut (multicolored outline) but when converted to a 3D graph, it’s easy to see that many colors are actually out of gamut meaning the printer can’t reproduce them. The second row shows a 2D graph of all the colors in the PDI test chart (right) versus a 3D graph (center) showing some colors are out of gamut. The main difference is that the colors in the PDI chart can be brought back into gamut without visibly affecting the print but the colors in my friend’s image are so far out that major compromises will be required.
Anyone who prints photos knows it can be tough getting just the right colors from either their own printers or from a service provider. If you’re just pumping out a few prints for Grandma & Grandpa, spot on color probably isn’t a big deal but if you’re printing an 8×10 to frame, getting the right color can be a pretty finicky process. If you’re producing a print for competition, spot on color can be the difference between winning and also ran.
Six months ago, the Sedona Camera Club invited me to present a program on CMS. Specifically, they wanted a program to help members who don’t own their own printers and aren’t interested in spending lots of money to implement a “proper” CMS. Of course, I said, “Sure, no problem” before thinking through what I was getting myself into.
In a flash of inspiration, I decided to break down the presentation into two distinct parts. First, I’ll explain how and why proper CMS is such a huge, complex and expensive endeavor. I’ll explain the science behind color from human eyesight to camera capture to editing and, finally, to print. This will be a 30,000 foot overview, so to speak.
The second half of the program will concentrate on an “old school” technique borrowed from the darkroom, test strips. I’ll demonstrate how to quickly and easily create digital test strips in both Photoshop/Elements as well as Lightroom to avoid multiple, costly bad prints. This isn’t a particularly innovative idea. I used to do this all the time in the old chemical darkroom days. I first read about the digital version in Rob Sheppard’s book, Epson Complete Guide to Digital Printing (Lark, 2005, out of print.) In fact, I posted an article about this technique back in 2011. The post was specific to Photoshop Elements and contains a minor difference from what I now recommend but produces nearly the same results.
It’s doubtful most people will spend $150 for a copy of ColorThink plus another $1000 to $3000 for a printer, suitable monitor and colorimeter. However, using test strips, you can get very close. Over the next few weeks, I’ll post step-by-step procedures for making test prints using Photoshop CS4, Lightroom 6 and Photoshop Elements 9 & 13. Stay tuned.
1500 Miles Later
Since my last post, we’ve traveled from Kaibab Lake National Forest Service Campground (NFS CG) outside Williams, AZ to the Badlands of South Dakota. We’re now on our way back after surviving loud, obnoxious motorcycles on their way to Sturgis and 45+ mph wind gusts & headwinds through Wyoming. A motorhome has all the aerodynamics of a brick. Our brick is 31 feet long, 13 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide so driving in strong winds is tiring and stressful.
We’re now safely ensconced at a small RV park in tiny Fillmore, UT, doing laundry, cleaning the cat’s litter box, vacuuming the RV and all the same housekeeping things we do at home except, in an RV, it’s more of a hassle.
I haven’t been able to get into the groove this trip so most of my photographs have been touristy sorts of snapshots. Here are the best of the bunch. My favorites are the LDS kids on a “handcart trek,” a recreation of Mormon pioneer journeys. These photos were made at Independence Rock, WY where the kids re-enact a 10 mile segment at Martin’s Cove, WY, an important LDS historical site. The first thing I noticed were the modern fluorescent sneakers worn by many of the young girls. They were more than happy to show off their sneakers and period clothing.
The Mormon kids I’ve met in Utah are among the most polite, upbeat and intelligent kids I’ve ever met. The last on in the green skirt was a real ham. Notice the snazzy nail polish on few of the girls.
This next batch is from Williams, AZ including shots from their 4th of July parade and lady bugs atop Bill Williams Mountain Lookout. The antennae are just one tower of about 15 towers at the summit.
These last five are from Red Fleet State CG near Vernal, UT, Bryce Canyon NP in UT and Devil’s Tower National Monument in South Dakota. The rabbits at Red Fleet were so tame it was funny. They were driving our cat, T, crazy by feeding within 2-3 feet of him as he sat caged in his “catio.” At Devil’s Tower NM, mulies were everywhere. I only had my 24-105 with me so this is a small crop but mulies didn’t seem worth unlimbering the “big guns.”
As you can see, when talent takes a vacation, I resort to HDR and other post-processing techniques to make the photos appear interesting. I hope to get out of this “foto funk” when I get home the end of August.
All of the above photos were made with a Canon 5D Mk II and Canon 24-105/4L and processed in Lightroom 6. For HDR, I used Photomatix from HDRsoft. I tried Merge to HDR in LR6 but didn’t like the results.
From here, we’re headed back to Kaibab Lake NFS CG via Las Vegas, not because we’re enamored of LV but because we want to avoid US Highway 89 from Bitter Springs to Flagstaff. We’ll spend two weeks in the AZ high country where, hopefully, the temperate weather will hold throughout August. After that, we plan to stop in Flagstaff for a day or two to get work done on our RV and then head home where it should be a cool 100F.