Evolution Of An On-Location Portrait Session

rick sammon 4.jpg

My 37th book – Evolution of an Image – will be available on amazon on October 5th. For each end-result image I take the reader through the entire photographic process, from start to finish – including my Lightroom enhancements.

This example (updated from a previous post) is not in the book. I share it in the post as a bonus. Enjoy!

While going through the images from one of my Spearfish, South Dakota workshops, I came up with the idea to share with you a few images that illustrate the "evolution of an on-location portrait session." Here goes.

Above: HDR image, which is a hand-held, in-camera Canon 5D Mark III HDR image. I had to shoot HDR due to the high contrast range. My lens: Canon 24-105mm IS, which is my favorite lens.

Here's why I like the image: nice light rays, low camera angle, cowboy looking toward the light, night light on his face, relaxed pose, relatively plain background.

I shot at ISO 4000 - yes 4000 – due to the low light. Even at that high ISO setting, I saw little noise in the images.

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 10.03.09 AM.png

Above: Adobe Bridge screen shot of the three raw files and the in-camera produced HDR JPEG image.

The final setting (in opening image) in the old barn was not my first choice for posing the cowboy.

rick sammon a.jpg

Above: This location was my first pick for our portrait session. I liked the light, but it turned out that the scene was just too cluttered, plus the light was not working for me.

For more on light and composition, see my KelbyOne classes.

By the way, the scene looks soft because there was a ton of dust in the old barn.

rick sammon b.jpg

Above: A behind-the-scenes shot showing the students shooting. On my workshops, everyone has the opportunity to make great pictures.

The message of this post: When you are on location, keep looking - and testing - for the best light and best background, as well as the best pose.

Also think about the digital technology (in-camera HDR in this case) can help you make the picture you see in your mind's eye.

In my new book, I go into much, much greater detail for each image.

Explore the light

Evolution of an Image: Black Bear Encounter in Yellowstone

"Hey Swapan, can you grab a photo with your iPhone of those people on the other side of the road who are too close to that bear?"

That's what I asked my new friend Swapan Jha – while our 2016 Yellowstone photo workshop group stood on the opposite side of the road photographing a black bear (circled below).

Swapan, a.k.a. The Raven, took a quick shot for me, which I knew I wanted to use in this blog post, and perhaps in a future book or seminar.

My idea: illustrate how a quck snapshot can be turned into a great shot, illustrated by the opening image for this post and the original image below, taken with my Canon 5Ds and Canon 100-400mm IS lens.

Swapan's photo also captures part of the bear-jam along the road. People went nuts trying to grab a photo. We even heard that a car fell off the road and into a ditch during this photo session. By the way, our vans were parked about 600 yards down the road to the left of where and I took our shots.

Before I go though my enhancements, the Canon 5Ds has a 50 megapixel sensor, giving photographers giant files from which they can make nice enlargements even when cropping in on an image.

The 5Ds also offer low noise at high ISO settings. Due to the relatively low light, I set my ISO to 6400 for this hand-held shot.

Here my are Lightroom enhancements:
• fairly tight crop;
• reduced highlights and opened shadows;
• increased Clarity;
• lightened the eyes.

In Nik Color Efex Pro, I used Tonal Contrast and then Darken/Lighten center to give the image impact.

What "makes" the picture for me, as is often the case in wildlife photography, is "gesture." In this case, the black bear's legs (taking a step) and the look on his face. Gesture also "makes" the photo below of a mommy polar bear and her cubs, which I took in Churchill, Canada.

So: think gesture!

Gesture also "makes" the image below on the right, taken on the Mara, which is featured in my next (and 37th) book.

That's a super quick look at the evolution of my black bear image. In my next book, available October 5, I go into great detail for each image - from start to finish, including Lightroom enhancements.

Evolution of an Image is a follow-up to my best selling book, Creative Visualization for Photographers. I recommend that you read that book first, because it's more about getting the very best in-camera image.

Thank you again, Swapan - the Raven . . . and a very cool raven indeed!

Explore the light,

P.S. All the images in my books are recorded on Lexar memory cards.

Landscape Photography - analyze this

Above is a favorite Iceland image that I made in July with my Canon 5D Mark IV (pre-production model) and Canon 17-40mm lens – mounted on my Really Right Stuff tripod with RRS ball head.

The image, with excellent detail in the both the shadow and highlight areas (thanks to the dynamic range of the 30.4 mega pixel image sensor), illustrates several basic - and important - photographic techniques, illustrated by the marked-up image below . . . which I composed using Live View (which I recommend to all my photo workshop students).

But first, take the time to analyze your images. The process will help you determine which are your very best photographs. Try it, you'll like it . . . I promise you.

1) The black line shows the movement of the water running through the image.

2) The corner-to-corner white arrow shows that everything in the scene is in sharp focus, a goal I try to achieve in all my landscape images. For max depth-of -field, use a wide-angle lens, small aperture and focus 1/3 into the frame. You can use the touch screen to focus!

3) The circles on the intersecting lines of the tic-tac-toe grid illustrate the "rule of thirds" composition technique. The two waterfalls are the main subjects.

4) The open area at the top of the frame illustrates breathing room.

5) The letter "E" is placed over the brightest part of the image. The tip here: expose for the highlights (by checking your histogram and highlight alert).

The image also illustrates an important tip for waterfall photography: Experiment with slow shutter speeds to get the desired effect - the degree to which YOU want the water blurred. Here I used a 1.3 second shutter speed.

For more on composition and exposure, see my latest book: Creative Visualization for Photographers.

Hey, if you are in the Costa Mesa, CA area on October 6, I hope you can come to my landscape and seascape photography seminar at the Canon Live Learning Center. Click here for info.

Explore the light,

P.S. FYI: the new Canon 5D Mark IV camera has a built-in GPS, so I can easily find this exact location when I return to Iceland. The full touch screen is also very cool. And, for photographing in Iceland, the improved weather sealing is most welcome!