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Beginner Photography: Color

Color! The possibilities for this topic are endless. I had grand ideas of what I wanted to do, but limited resources. I had visions of bold lipstick, bold nails and a white background. Unfortunately I don’t have a studio to work with and I was my own model, so that limited my ideas a bit. But I was reminded of a shot I took for my food project of a clementine on a teal plate. 

I decided to work with the same color palette and more fruit. I painted my nails teal and found the most aesthetically pleasing clementine and lemon in our fruit bowl and took them into my back yard for the natural light. Harsh light is good for fruit because you want the specular highlights, not the flat light that you may want for portraits.

I shot in aperture priority with a low aperture to blur the background as well as I could, and took a bunch of shots of my hand holding the fruit. Some in front of the wood decking and some in front of the ivy. 

f/3.6, 1/3200th, ISO 200


f/3.6, 1/3200th, ISO 200


Next I wanted to shoot my lips in a bright color with the green background and teal nails. This was a bit more challenging, but I finally downloaded the Olympus app for my phone so that I could control my camera from in front of it. Compared to Canon and Nikon’s apps, this one is great. I was able to focus and shoot myself from my phone while my camera was on the tripod in front of me.

f/4.5, 1/800th, ISO 200


f/4.5, 1/640th, ISO 200


f/4.5, 1/800th, ISO 200


For all of these images I tweaked the colors so that they were more saturated and complementary to each other. I edit my skin a ton because it looked terrible, and lightened it a bit so the colors would pop more.

Chelsea has a great tutorial on changing colors in Photoshop here that might help you out, although I did all my edits in Lightroom:

Do these work for you to convey color? I think the fruit shots do for sure, but I’m not sure about the self portraits. This was a really fun project for me, and I’m feeling more inspired than I have in a while. 

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Controlling Vertical Distortion in Architectural Photography

The Mandir at Chino-large
Subtle distortion correction, both vertical and horizontal, was necessary here. But a choice was also made not to correct all the way. More on this below.

What is vertical distortion?

You’ve seen it before. It’s most obvious when photographing man-made things with straight edges, like buildings. If the thing you’re shooting is taller than you, you tilt your camera back to fit the entire object in the frame. Suddenly, lines that look parallel to your eye seem to converge toward the top of the frame and make what you’re shooting look strange. The wider your angle, the more of this you’ll see.

Peace Tower Vertical Skew
If weird is your goal, this kind of thing will get you there.

This is vertical perspective distortion. It happens every time your camera is not pointed at the horizon, and we’re going to talk about a few ways to deal with it, first while shooting, and then when you get the image into Lightroom. Sometimes you might want to keep the effect, but it’s good to know what to do when you don’t.

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Dodging and Burning in Portrait Photography

Dodging and burning (“D&B”) is the process of adding light or shadow to parts of a photo to create contrast and emphasis. Put simply, when you “dodge” you are increasing exposure to that part of the photo and when you “burn” you are reducing the exposure. These names come from the physical darkroom process, but for today’s example I will do my D&B on Photoshop, and I will assume you have basic knowledge of Photoshop layers and masking for the purpose of this tutorial (if not, you can see Chelsea’s tutorial here.) There are many other editing programs that support D&B, including Lightroom. The most important thing to remember when you are dodging or burning is to keep it subtle and work with the natural highlights and shadows that already exist in the image. Done correctly, D&B is an easy way to make a portrait more life-like and impactful.

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