Monday, July 20, 2009

Editing: Phun with Photographs (Cheesy? Yes, I think so.)

Sometimes I draw little faces around the girls' belly buttons and then squish their actual belly button up and down so it looks like the drawing is singing. It's definitely a sure-fire way to brighten the stinkiest attitude. After our belly concert the other day, the girls took it upon themselves to draw on every other body part that was visible while I was cleaning the kitchen and out of sight...and then we had to rush out the door to somewhere. Right before we left and I sat open-mouthed at the penned mess my girls had become, I secretly wished that I had one of those erasers on photoshop where I could digitally remove all the imperfections the girls had created on their skin. It was right after that moment that I realized that I did have such an eraser...but it was called soap and water. However, the photoshop tool would have been much faster.

Editing is a blast!! You can create so many different moods and "feels" to a picture by just changing your editing techniques. A few small intros: I use Photoshop CS3 for editing. I started out editing on Paint Shop Pro 9.0, and I think that it really helped ease the transition to Photoshop because it taught me the different terms and tools. I have also heard great things about Lightroom, but I have never used it. Photoshop is my gal for editing.

One of the biggest helps with editing is getting the original picture (straight out of the camera: SOOC) to get as close to the colors and light and exposure that you want. Then, with just a few tweaks in the editing process, you can have picture that achieves your final desired look. Personally, I do not use the same process for any of my pictures. I do use actions (I'll talk about that more later), but I always tweak the pictures quite a bit after I run the actions. I usually always play a little with the curves, levels, color balance and contrast. I also usually burn some parts of the pictures, usually the edges (ever so slightly). I also use the little band-aid thingamabob on photoshop to get rid of unwanted boo-boos, boogers, and dried food from lunch. It works wonders for wrinkles and pimples as well. Finally, I sharpen all of my pictures just a little to help the picture become a teeny bit crispy (know that these are just crazy terms I've made up or picked up from other photogs along the way).

Actions: actions are steps in editing that someone has recorded and saved so that others can use the same series of steps in usually one click. Actions are usually purchased from the actioneere (another made-up word). They can usually be run using Photoshop and/or Lightroom. Actions are like gold! I love them because it cuts the editing time in half. I have purchased a few action sets throughout the past couple of years, but I tend to only use a few of them. My favorite actions are the B&W Actions and Substantial Actions by Light on Kids and the Color Set Actions by Lily Blue (love these for beach shots). I love these because they give great effects and are so easy to manipulate for your own liking.

Here's a run down of what I do with some of my shots...

Nathan: sooc (straight out of camera)
First, I cloned in some grass in the upper left corner, used the band-aid tool to get rid of the scratch under Nate's nose, get rid of the stain on his shirt, and erase some of the dried yogurt particles around his mouth. I then ran the Light on Kids Color Pop action and changed the opacity on that action to my liking. Then played around with the curves and color balance, highlighted the catchlights in his eyes a little, and burned the edges just a tad. Voila!
Same pic...ran the Light on Kids Vanilla Medium B&W action and tweaked the opacity quite a bit. Played around with the curves and burned the grass a bit more:
Second verse, same as the first...used the color-pop version and added a second action: Lily Blue's honey...manipulated it a bit to get the look I wanted. Added a bit more contrast, darkened the curves a bit, and burned the grass even more. This version is my favorite for some reason. I love the hazy look it gives.
Emma: sooc
I love just expirementing on different shots and playing around to get different looks than what I am accustomed to creating. This picture was one of those adventures. And to be honest, I could not tell you all the steps I took in achieving this look below and could not replicate it if I even tried. But if I remember correctly, I added color with Light on Kids color pop, tweaked a bit, ran Lily Blue's honey action, tweaked (curves, levels, etc), ran Lily Blue's Haze action, tweaked (curves, color balance, etc) and burned different parts of the picture. I also erased a few of the eye sores (a stray seaweed pile here, a few shells there).
Someone once asked me if I was always having to erase things in the background of my shots or if I just never shot pictures with any "eye sores" in the background. Truth be told, after shooting over and over and over again, you train your eyes to see the entire frame before you click the shutter. You know everything that is in the background. If there is something that is an awful eye-sore, you either move it out of the way or move to reframe the shot. But, if there are minute things in the shot that are taking attention away from the subject, you can usually get rid of them in the editing process.

A weed thingamabob that I am pretty sure has a speck of Whoville on it (don't mind me, the kids and I went to the free theatre this morning and saw "Horton Hears a Who"): sooc.
On this shot, I added some color pop, tweaked, and cropped it in quite a bit. I then added two different texture layers by Beth Armsheimer Textures, which adds a fun little effect to the picture. Textures are fun to play around with, but they can either make a picture look really cool or really bad. It sure is fun to learn how to work with them though.
You can even spice up a picture from a point and shoot camera pretty easily by editing it. This pic was taken with my Sony Cybershot Point and Shoot when we were at Marco...sooc:

I played with the curves and contrast of the picture a bit and then ran the Light on Kids Vanilla Medium B&W action. Tweaked some more, got rid of the dark plantlife in the background (takes attention away from the subject), and highlighted the catchlights in her eyes. I love this picture because that is so Abby...
Here is a cropped version of that same pic, where you can see her adorable freckles and scrunched nose even better. Love that kid.
In the end, editing is just a matter of preference. No two people edit the exact same way, and it is very difficult to replicate someone's editing style...mainly because we don't really know all the steps we take to get a photograph to look a certain way. After you get used to the different steps of editing, you just move through without really thinking about what you are doing, but focusing on the finished product in your head and stopping when you reach that point in the editing process. It's time consuming, but it's such a fun process and really sets you apart from others by giving you a certain style and look. I highly recommend trying to learn how to edit your photos.


Dana on July 21, 2009 at 10:04 PM said...

There is ONE thing that you can't duplicate, no matter, what "secrets" you share...and that is the God-given talent you just have that "eye" :)

Christine on July 21, 2009 at 11:32 PM said...

i totally agree with Dana...even when you had your little ol' point and shoot before the beloved rebel and psp9 and cs3, your pictres rocked!!

Melody on July 22, 2009 at 1:01 AM said...

Well...that was all greek to me. All I know after reading that is that you take some AWESOME pics! Boy I wish you were closer and I could get you to take some pics of my crew!

Jennifer on July 22, 2009 at 8:55 AM said...

Amber- you know i LOOVE your pics!! I have the rebel and you need to teach me to use it the way you do! And edit!! I love the camera and have no clue how to use it!(HA)


April and Robert on July 22, 2009 at 9:59 PM said...

Amber, I am loving your photo tricks posts. This one was very awesome because we are trying to figure out this whole editing process anyways. I had to message you mostly because that last picture of Nate on the sidewalk is a dead ringer for your Dad. There are some pictures that bring out the Gowens in all of your kiddos but that one was a Mike Gowens shot if I have ever seen it! Love to all of you.

Heidi on August 1, 2009 at 10:01 PM said...

Amber, again your talent is amazing. I always look forward to your photography tips, youve really helped my relationship with my camera, lol. Really though, the best tip you could of ever suggested was keeping your camera dial on the "M" setting for at least 2 weeks. Since then I havent moved it! My pictures are coming out better than ever and now Im finally learning to understand lighting and those dreaded shadows that always ended up on my kids faces (not to mention avoiding the harsh looks of using the flash) Thanks for continuing to help the photo challenged! Now I just wish I had the $$ to buy another lense and some of the cool filters youve suggested. Thanks again, I cant ever get enough of all your kiddos! hugs to your little man, from his buddy Jack :)

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