A Shared Experience; Photo & Digital Arts Go Hand In Hand
Monte Zucker• Posted Mar 1, 2006
Eddie Tapp, my personal Photoshop guru/teacher, and I joined together to teach portraiture and wedding photography in Hollywood, Florida, for our first annual class. I've been studying Photoshop with Eddie for years, but had never taught a class with him. We went from concept to completion. We did it all...created images, put them through a production routine, and finished by creating wall-sized portraits. Eddie showed us how to create a profile for printers, so that what we see on our computer screen is what we get on the finished print.
Although Eddie had lots of his own Photoshop Actions to share with us, he still showed us lots of the built-ins that are a part of CS2. Eddie had 30-day trial updates for us to load into our laptops, so we could all be on the same page.
Eddie and I both used the GretagMacbeth Eye-One XT color calibrator on our projectors, so that what we had on our computers was exactly what people were looking at on the screen. I saw Eddie using it last year and got one for myself. Now, there are no more excuses for the screen not showing exactly what's on your computer screen. What a boon for photographers who are selling from projected digital files rather than from paper proofs.
All of my portraits were created with my 1, 2, 3 style. That is...
1) A similar light pattern for everyone (light in both eyes--coming from slightly above the eye level of the subject, a shadow on the side of the nose, and a small loop shadow coming down slightly to the side of the tip of the nose).
2) Two poses (Basic and Feminine).
3) Three camera positions (Full Face, 2/3, and Profile). We had models throughout the week. Everyone also photographed each class participant. Every day the photographers had to create a portrait of a classmate, so that we all could see the improvement from day to day.
Full Color Or Sepia
Alex, one of the photographers attending the class, posed for me on the first day of the class. This profile was created with my Canon EOS 5D using three Westcott Spiderlites and a 1GB Delkin memory card. I placed one light in Profile position, the second as a fill light (toward the front of his face), and the third behind him to light the background. This shot was made in RGB and finished in sepia.
The Profile bridal portrait of Toby, one of my favorite models, was created with five Photogenic lights. Four of the lights came out of a single power pack, the light heads are so small and lightweight they fit easily into softboxes that can be put on boom arm stands. I had a main light, a hairlight (both on boom arms), a veil light behind her, and a background light. A fifth light came out of a second power pack that I also use for a backup.
Even though her veil was backlit, it still had a blue cast to it. No problem. Eddie showed us how we could select the veil and go Image/Adjust/Hue & Saturation. Instead of desaturating all the color, we changed "Master" (at the top of the box) to "Blue" and removed the blue totally from her veil.
Eddie retouched the picture and enhanced it even more by adding his own "glow" to her portrait. He vignetted the portrait by adding his "cookie-cutter" lighting around the edges of the picture. To do that he made a Levels adjustment layer and then darkened the entire image by pulling down the highlight side of the line.
Here's a shot of the picture being taken. Notice the placement of the reflector--always in front of the subject's face. The reflector is silver on the front, black on the back. The silver side helps to wrap the light around onto the shadowed side of the face. The black side of the reflector blocks the main light from flaring into my lens. The two lenses that I use primarily for my portraits are Canon's 28-135mm IS lens and Canon's 24-70mm.
Whether photographing by window light, or using flash or fluorescent, the posing and lighting were the same. I created a portrait of Judy, another one of the photographers/ students, by window light. I showed everyone how I could create the same effect with natural light as I did with two main lights in a studio environment. I did it by lighting just the left side of her face with the light from the window and then placing a reflector camera right...directing it toward the open window and then bouncing it back onto the right side of her face. Later, I toned down her hands and camera using Eddie's method with the adjustment layer. Without that subtlety her hands and camera would have been much too prominent.
Another thing that I learned from Eddie that week that was a major breakthrough for me was how to lighten or darken a small area of a photograph without affecting the color. To do this you change the mode of the picture from RGB Color to Lab Color. Then, go to Channels. You'll see that one of the Channels is called Lightness. If you click on that Channel you get a black and white image on which you can burn and dodge to darken or lighten an area without affecting the color at all. When you're finished working in that Channel you go back to RGB Color, of course. I used that technique in this picture to darken a highlight along the edge of her neck. It's an extremely helpful tool for your arsenal of Photoshop "tricks." The Lightness Channel in Lab Color mode is also an alternative for creating black and white images from color.
Alexis, another of our models, posed for us wearing some of her own clothing and then posed for us draped in a fabric supplied by Vered. Vered is Canon's representative, who came to the class to lend cameras and lenses to those who wanted to try the latest equipment available. She is also a photographer/stylist on her own, so she brought all kinds of portrait props.
I explained to the class that both of these last two portraits were a 2/3 view of the faces, yet they both have their own distinct "look." As one can see, my 1, 2, 3 approach to portraiture actually unlocks many doors, rather than being restrictive.
High-Key Natural Light
Dave and Cathie Barron, photographers in the class, brought their children in one afternoon for some family pictures. They dressed appropriately by having everyone in pastel blues. The matching clothing allowed me to blend their bodies together in the portrait, so that their faces would jump out.
I wanted to photograph them outdoors. On the way out I noticed that just inside the large glass doors of the hotel the light was beautiful. I decided to use a roll of seamless white paper for a high-key portrait of them there. I positioned them at an angle to the light to create the same light pattern on their faces that I would have used with studio lighting. Remember? One light pattern for just about everything that I do!
I laid them down on the paper and shot away. No one could believe how easy it was. Eddie retouched their pictures afterward, affixing his miraculous "glow" to both of these images and printed them out 24x36" on Canon's W6400 printer.
This began as a project to show how to put together groups using simple, stacking plastic outdoor armchairs. There were basically four people to each chair. One seated in the chair, itself. Women's legs are crossed at the ankles with the leg that's closest to camera crossed over the other. Men sit with their legs not crossed and their front leg pointed toward the camera. Then, there was a person seated on each arm of the chair facing in toward the center of the picture. Those seated on the arms sit behind the person seated in the chair. The fourth person stands behind the seated person.
This allows no two heads next to each other at the same level, unless there is a person between them above or below. We added a few more people kneeling or sitting on the ground between the chairs and a few more in the very back, standing on other chairs.
If you look carefully at the class picture you will see that Eddie and I are on both sides. Eddie did this by taking two pictures, moving the camera only slightly. Then, in Photoshop he "stitched" the two images together. His incredible finishing touch was done by applying a third party software (LucisArt, www.lucisart.com) that made the photograph take on an artistic appearance that I had never before experienced.
This was the first joint venture between Eddie and I, but certainly not our last as the five-day class was a huge success. A sell-out far in advance! We will repeat the joint venture again in Hollywood, Florida, in November--hopefully, though, not right after another huge hurricane!