Sep 27, 2011

Just for fun, another editing blueprint, which I’m entering to win a set of Quick Clicks Lightroom presets over at MCP Actions.   Photoshop actions are a great way to spice up photographs (and, in some cases, correct mistakes made while shooting!).

I generally try to get my images 90% of the way to how they will look finished as I am taking the shot. I want to spend the least amount of time possible in front of the computer!  So I work hard to get a correct exposure, good sharp focus, and a clean composition while I am shooting.  However, things don’t always go exactly according to plan and every now and then an image sneaks in that isn’t technically perfect, but is still worth saving.  Like this one.

You can see the “before” image on the left is a bit underexposed (that means it’s darker than it should be).  I also really wanted to highlight her beautiful blue eyes and the interesting colors in the background (which is actually a painted wall – pulling her about 15 feet away from the wall produced this beautiful, blurry background effect you see here).  Here are the steps I went through to edit this photo using MCP Actions:

1.  Used the Patch tool to clean up some small bumps on her face

2.  Used Magic Midtone Lifter from the Bag of Tricks set and increased the opacity to 63%

3.  Used Dream Color from the Quickie Collection and turned off the Over Exposure Fixer layer – this added some beautiful contrast, enhanced the colors and gave the image a subtle glow

4.  Used Magic Light from Bag of Tricks on her face (with a 21% brush) to brighten her face just a bit more and then flattened the image

5.  Used the Eye Doctor set (I purchased the Eye Doctor/Dentist bundle) to enhance her eyes:  Brighten Catchlights layer with a 54% brush, just on the bright spots in her eyes, Brighten the Iris layer with a 36% brush, and Sharp as a Tack with a 50% brush, then flattened

6.  Ran Powder Your Nose from the Magic Skin action set and painted on her face with a 100% brush, then reduced the opacity of the layer to 36%

7.  Ran the Magical Color Finder action from Bag of Tricks and painted only on the background using a 100% brush, then lowered the opacity of the layer to 46% then flattened

8.  Ran the Dentist action set and used the Whiten layer with a 100% brush and the Polish Your Teeth layer with a 100% brush.  I lowered the opacity of the Polish layer to 9%

9.  Ran the Sharp People action from the Quickie Collection and left at the default opacity


And since my before/after template cut off some of that beautiful background, here is the whole image.  Isn’t she gorgeous?  🙂

Sep 23, 2011

Have you ever wondered why professional portraits are often so crisp and clear with such vivid colors?  The process starts by getting a well-exposed image at the moment the shutter is pressed – which means knowing your camera well enough to know what camera settings to use to achieve your desired outcome, as well as where to place the subject in relationship to the light, posing the subject (in the case of an older child or adult), and moving the camera position to a flattering angle.  THEN you take the picture.  🙂


But a lot happens after the photographer gets to their desk and downloads the images.  (Technical side note:  many photographers shoot in RAW mode, which means that the raw data is what they begin to work with in their photo editing software.  Most point-and-shoot cameras will give you a jpg file – and you can choose the level of quality you want – but when an image is turned into a jpg format, the camera automatically decides how much contrast, color saturation and sharpening to apply to that photo.  Shooting in RAW enables the photographer to retain complete creative control and make all of her/his own processing decisions in the editing software of choice.)


Here’s how I work:  I download the images into a client file on one of my external hard drives.  Sometimes I rename the files with the client’s initials and shoot date.  Then I import the RAW images into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, where I sort through them and decide which ones to keep and which ones to cut.  I normally end up with 25-35 images from a full session that I will edit.  Then I make any adjustments necessary in Lightroom – I usually adjust the white balance (which changes the overall tone of the photo, from warmer to cooler or vice versa), tweak the exposure if needed (which makes the photo lighter or darker), add some contract (which means the dark ares get darker and the light areas get lighter).  Once I have the photo pretty much how I want it, I’ll take it into Photoshop (I do this directly in Lightroom so that the Photoshop file becomes part of my Lightroom collection as well) and give it some extra punch by retouching and sharpening the eyes, removing dark circles under the eyes, cleaning up and smoothing the skin, whitening teeth if needed, and adding some overall sharpening to the photo.


Because I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to win MCP Action’s new set of Lightroom Presets that will debut next month, I created this before-and-after image using only Photoshop – none of my usual Lightroom adjustments – to show you how actions can easily enhance your photos.  I’m entering the contest by writing this blog post.  🙂

As you can see, the “Before” image is pretty good – it’s well-exposed, there is nice light in the baby’s eyes, and there’s some color going on (although the color is a little flat – remember, the camera did not apply any processing, such as contrast or saturation – to this photo at all).  After importing the RAW file into Lightroom 3.2 and then opening it in Photoshop CS 3 (from Lightroom), here are the steps I took to edit this photo:

  1. Created a duplicate layer and used the Clone Stamp tool (Lighten mode, 20% opacity soft brush, two “swipes”) to lighten the skin under the eyes.  I then flattened the image.
  2. I softened the skin on the face just a tad using my own skin softening action with a layer mask, applied the effect with a 20% soft white brush on the layer mask, then flattened the image.
  3. Now comes the magic!  I ran MCP Actions’ Eye Doctor action set (which I purchased as a combo with Eye Doctor/Dentist) and went to work on the eyes:  Enhance Catchlights layer with a 49% brush, only on the small dots of bright light in the baby’s eyes, then Lighten the Iris with a 35% brush on the blue parts of the eyes, then Brighten the Whites with a 100% brush and 12% layer opacity, then Sharp as a Tack with a 49% brush.  (If this was an adult photo, I would probably whiten the teeth just a tad using the Dentist action.)
  4. I used my own Blue Eraser action to remove the blue tint from the whites of the baby’s eyes.  Then I flattened the image.
  5. I ran the Magic Midtone Lifter action from MCP’s Bag of Tricks action set, and took the layer down to 25% opactiy. This lightened the skin tone and some of the background tones.  I didn’t want the background much lighter, so I used a 56% black brush on the layer mask to remove the effect from the edges of the photo.
  6. I ran the Magical Color Finder action from Bag of Tricks and used a 56% white brush on the background and pathway and 30% brush on the clothing.  This action makes the colors in the photo more vivid, and you just paint it on wherever you want the effect.  Easy peasy!
  7. I ran the Pot of Gold action from Bag of Tricks and lowered the layer opacity to 18%.  This added a little bit of warmth to the photo.
  8. I ran Sharp People from MCP’s Quickie Collection and left it at the default opacity.  Sometimes I remove the effect from the skin, but that wasn’t needed here.  I use this action on almost every photo I edit.
  9. At this point, I’m done in Photoshop.  I saved the photo, which updated the Photoshop file in Lightroom.  I can now see my edited image with all of my actions improvements in Lightroom.  I added a vignette around the edges in lightroom using the Lens Vignetting feature, with the amount slider at -82 and the midpoint slider at 32.  I almost always add vignettes in Lightroom – it darkens the edges of the photo to keep the focus on your subject.
  10. Last, I exported the file out of lightroom as a jpg file.  Lightroom adds my text watermark when I tell it to (but it can also add a graphic watermark if you choose).


My editing style is natural but with a bit of punch.   I want my photos to look true to self and realistic, and MCP Actions helps make it easy!  They also have a number of free actions for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements that you can download and try for yourself.  And if you are new to Photoshop and have no idea where to start, there are a bunch of free tutorial videos on the MCP Actions blog that are really easy to understand and will get you off and running in no time.  Warning:  it’s addicting and you will find yourself staying up much later than you should playing with your photos – just ask my husband!  🙂

Sep 22, 2011

Hold on to your seats y’all – fall mini sessions are coming in October, and you will not want to miss them!  Not only will you receive beautiful, professional images that perfectly capture your family’s personality, just as is it, right now…you’ll get it all at some irresistible prices!

Let’s face it – most people don’t invest in a large family wall portrait every year.  (I mean, eventually you run out of walls, right?)  BUT, every family may want to consider a smaller-scale, annual family update session that chronicles the growth of your family – both the physical growth of the kids, and your growing relationships with each other.  Mini sessions are perfect for that purpose – at only 30 minutes, they are long enough to get some great images of everyone and short enough that everyone is still in a good mood when we’re finished!

On to the good stuff…

I’m offering two options for mini sessions – both are a great value, and both include 30 minutes of photography, 8-10 edited images in a private online gallery for viewing, and web-size files of each image you order.   Take your pick from two glittery collections:

Shine – $250

(25) 5×7 custom, 2-sided cards printed on thick, luxurious linen paper with envelopes

OR 1 high-res digital file with print release to create your own card

5 gift prints (8×10 or smaller)

Collection value:  $350


Sparkle – $450

10 high-resolution digital files (with print release) in a keepsake photo CD case

3 gift prints (8×10 or smaller)

Add on a digital 5×7 custom card file for $25 (you’ll get printer recommendations)

Collection Value:  $835 (!!!!!)

So there you have it.  If you love digital files, this is your chance to grab a bunch of ’em at a super price.  BUT…I can only do a limited number of sessions at these awesome prices.  So…on to the dates…

October 16 and 29 in northwest Houston

October 22 & 23 in central Houston

*NEW DATES* Nov. 12 in central Houston, Nov. 13 in northwest Houston

Only three sessions are available each evening. So don’t wait to book yours!  Call 713-419-3884 or email to set your appointment.

The fine print…

Sales tax will be applied to all collection prices and additional orders.  Half of your session amount is due at booking to hold your appointment time.  The other half is due one week prior to your session.  Credit cards and checks are accepted.  Deposits will not be refunded but may be applied to another session date.  Special collection pricing is only available for the dates specified above.  A confirmation letter will be sent after your deposit is received that lists your appointment time and location.