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“True” HDR Portraits (You Know, with Bracketing?)

On my last tutorial I received many comments on how changing the exposure level of a single raw file then creating an HDR image is not a ‘true’ HDR image. So I shot a bracketed self portrait and generated a new tutorial.  This is the image that resulted.


I am not sure how letting the computer in my camera do the bracketing is any less ‘true’ than doing the same thing manually in Lightroom or Photoshop.  But, I come from a purist photography background; as in I shot film, developed film and have lost years of my life in a dark room (go into the darkroom at 7 in the morning and come out and it’s still 7am, on a different day!), and I am actually fond of the smell of fixer.

I will admit that there are many, many photographs out there today that don’t look anywhere close to real. Some are meant to look that way but many more try to pass themselves off as some type of surreal reality.  I want people to know that you can achieve some very true to life images using HDR processing.

This morning I took many self portraits while bracketing 1/3 to a full stop. I shot sets of 3, 5 and 7 frames.  I found that when doing self portraits it is a bit more difficult to sit still than you think it is.  I was using a programmable shutter release (Nikon’s MC-36), my D200, one SB800 with a grid spot, and one SB900 for fill and of course a tripod.

In the tutorial below I start out with the three bracketed images and using Adobe Lightroom2, Photoshop CS4, Photomatix Pro3 and Imagenomic Noiseware Pro and I make what I think is a very true HDR self portrait. I do it all in about 15 minutes too! It’s actually very easy. Check it out! (tutorial should open in a new tab/window)


This tutorial won’t fit on YouTube so if you want to share it, feel free but send your friends to this blog post.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I think this should satisfy all those that wanted a ‘True HDR Portrait’.

Until next time,

Happy Shooting!

What Image Do You Have On The Internet?

If you are unemployed and anywhere near the Philadelphia area it’s time to get your portrait taken. In today’s age of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others, potential employers are finding out more about you before and after your interview than they are when you are actually there for the interview!

I learned a couple of years ago that employers were looking at peoples profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn and I thought it a bit odd. Social Media was supposed to be a personal thing. I guess I was wrong. If you are willing to put it out there, they are willing to take a look at it. So why not put your best out there? There are many ways to look professional, good relevant posts about your specialty, white papers about your line of work, the wonders of your career, all are very important.

If all of that is so important, why do I see profile pictures that are images from a New Years Eve party or where their spouse has been cropped out (but you can still see their hand on your shoulder). If you are going to put yourself on the internet, don’t just make it sound good, make it look good too!

On January 28th you will have a unique opportunity. Philadelphia’s Fox affiliate, Fox 29 and their reporter Michelle Buckman are co-hosting a job fair with JobCircle.com at the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia. This job fair is special. At “Jobs Gone Wild” you will have the chance to get your resume critiqued, your fashion updated and your professional photo done too! You can get more details about it here www.jobsgonewild.com.

The fashion consultant is Adrienne Simmons of P.S. I Love You (www.psiloveyoullc.com/), a Philly favorite on Fox 29 and Snapglow TV. Resume’ critiques will be done by Right management www.rightmanagement.com. And to make your new look come across as best it can I will be doing free professional portraits for anyone that is unemployed. I am working with Michelle of Fox 29 and Adrienne of P.S. I Love You to try and get a Make-up Artist there for you too. We want you to look your best and get the position you have always wanted. We all want to turn this time of stress into an opportunity of a lifetime!

See Michelle talk about the Jobs Gone Wild on Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia:

If opportunity knocks will you be in your sweats and slippers or will you be looking your best?

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

Free Business Portraits for the Unemployed (yep, again!)

It has been too long since I last did the Free Magick Portraits for the Unemployed so I am doing it again in January. This time I will be doing free portraits for the unemployed at the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia.

The event will be held during Fox 29’s ‘Job Shop’s Jobs Gone Wild’ on January 28th from 10am until 2:30pm. You will be able to see all the details after the first of the year at www.myfoxphilly.com and click on “Job Shop” right on the home page. Michelle Buckman, reporter for Fox 29 has graciously asked me to participate in the event and I have to admit that I am honored to say the least.

Free Magick Portraits for the Unemployed is my way of giving back to the community. Since I came up with the concept last summer hundreds of photographers from all over the world have asked me how they can put on their own events. I have had inquiries from Ireland, Perth Australia, Alberta Canada, Mexico, California, New York, Kansas, Washington State, Virginia, to name just a few. Below are just some of the photographers planning Free Magick Portraits sessions; some have been scheduled some are coming soon.

Kim Robbins – www.kimrobbins.net (California)
Richard Hockett – www.sunridgephoto.com (California)
Arnim Vogel – www.action-image.com (Canada)
Eugene Lane – www.eugenelanephotography.com (Ireland)

I have to say that I have never met a more grateful bunch of people in my life. Everyone is suffering the uncertainty and the stress of not knowing what is coming next; not knowing what they are going to do or how they are going to do it. Yet when they come sit for me, they smile and thank me. They are happy and positive. They know that this may help them and they are willing to show it. Each of them touches me in a way that I can’t describe.

Recently the LA Times wrote an article about a hair stylist who is doing a similar thing in New York. He is giving away haircuts for those in need and that are unemployed. He was only going to do it once but there was such a demand that he set aside a specific scheduled time to do them on a weekly basis. I know how it feels to give to someone in need and it feels good.

So if you are unemployed and want your picture done for your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other social media site, mark the date on your calendar. Come down to the Wachovia center on January 28th and get ready to have a productive day. You will have the chance to meet HR directors, Hiring Managers, myself and even Michelle Buckman from Fox 29! Don’t forget to bring resumes and lots of smiles. This is your chance to get the interview you want and to look your very best too.

In the mean time, check out the Job Shop on www.myfoxphilly.com and look for the announcement soon! Or E-mail me at freeshots@michaelalbany.com

Until next time,
Happy Shooting!

Has your company lost its face?

In the recent economy budgets have been cut, extras trimmed and marketing almost evaporated. But it’s time to update your face – the face of your company.

In today’s whirlwind of social media it is more important than ever to have current, strong images of your key executives. The images your clients and customers see online show the influence and confidence of your people, your product and your company. If these images are old or dated your customers will notice. It’s not just the person they see; it’s the face of your business.

When was the last time the business portraits on your web site were updated? Are these the same portraits your executives are using on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Dreamstake or other social media sites?

If a picture is worth a thousand words yours should say what it is that makes you standout. Current portraits and images representing your product or services need to be concise yet capture the attention of the viewer. Your potential client is going to spend 8 seconds or less looking at your home page or profile. In those 8 seconds you can get a good message across with the right imagery. If your images say who you are, what you do or convey a sense of trust and professionalism your chances of increasing that 8 seconds improve dramatically. This gets your viewer to read the content of your profile or home page and that is what you want them to do.

If you have spent any time at all on social media sites you have probably seen a comment by someone that sparked a reaction in you. When you feel that spark what do you do? Look at their avatar or profile picture right there next to their post, then and only then, do you look at the name. That image tells you something about that person. Maybe you relate to them, maybe you see that they have a confidence about them. Maybe you see an image that was taken with a cell phone or by their child, or even worse you can tell it’s an image of them with their significant other cropped out. Not an awe inspiring image is it?

If you have updated your images in the last 6 – 12 months are you sure that your staff is using as professional of an image on their social media profiles?

A good photographer can come to your office using a conference room and about a day or less update most if not all of your staffs’ images. These images will be professional, quality images that are strong and well done. The upper management and executives can and should, stand out more.

By taking a more creative approach you can place high level executives in more appropriate environments. An example is a CEO of a construction company on the site of a large project, a CFO with stock market video screens running behind him, an athletic shoe president in a collegiate track and field stadium, or the owner of a winery near large wine barrel stacks. It may take a little more time than the staff portraits but it will still be less time than a short impromptu meeting. A good photographer will come to the office or site and be ready to grab a few shots in a few minutes.

In these challenging times photographers are just as eager to find cost effective solutions as you are. Our goals are to get the image that shows you and your staff in the right light. We want you to look your best, to stand out and to get those thousand words out in under the 8 seconds.

Now the question remains, isn’t it time to update your face?

Until next time… Happy Shooting!

HDR Portraits

By now I am sure you have heard of HDR or High Dynamic Range Photography. Usually the images are done for landscapes or architecture where there is little or no movement from the subject. This is because you need to blend several images, taken at different exposures, together to show the full dynamic range of color. Doing this with portraits has been difficult or impossible because of the (however so slight) movement of a portrait subject. Not anymore.

In the tutorial below I show you how I got to the dramatic image above from an everyday image that is well exposed but is nothing special.


With Lightroom 2 and Photomatix Pro and a single image of James I was able to create an HDR photo in just a few minutes. The image isn’t perfect but it’s an example of what you can do in a very short time and a little creative thinking.

To do this tutorial, first find an image that you want to work with. Then make two copies of that image. They need to be the same size, exposure, etc.; exact duplicates. I jump ahead in the video to where I have three copies of the same image. Once you have your three, click the image below to watch the video.

(A new window or tab will open; then  just click the play button)


(Best viewed in at least 1024×768 or greater)

Not too tough was it? Do you like the results of your work? If not, go back and play a bit more. Tweak the settings until you get just the HDR portrait you are looking for. Remember, you will get your most dramatic results from portraits of those people that have a lot of drama and character to their looks.

Until next time…

Happy Shooting!

Retouching Parts 1 AND 2!

I have been asked many times to retouch images or to “make me look perfect” by clients. Personally I prefer 100% natural images straight out of the camera. The thing is, I’m not paying me, my clients are. Now it is possible to help someone lose a few pounds, or at least take off the “10 pounds a camera puts on you” but is it necessary? With just a little retouching you can make someone look fantastic! You would be amazed at how far just a little bit of skin softening can go.

The problem in magazines today is that many of the people responsible for the content don’t know and they go too far. Way too far. Don’t blame the photographer or even the retoucher, they both know what reality is; however, often the person paying them doesn’t.

To learn how far is not too far, click the link.
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Faded Old Photo? Easy!

When I did the tutorial on the image of my father I was reminded of a task he gave me before he died, restore as many of the old family photos that I could.

Being the good son that I am I gladly took the box of old photos and brought it home with great in tensions. I was going to restore the images and make them available online to all aspects of my family. Also being the typical son, the box sat in a closet, untouched, for a long time. Then I did the tutorial and remembered my promise.

I can tell you that my family is much more complicated than I ever thought it was. I was looking at the photos saying to myself in a voice like Jack Palance, “I don’t even know who the hell you are!” I spent hours putting older faces to the younger versions and then trying to match them to the faces I had never seen before.

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Selective Color In Photoshop CS4

Although many people liked the James image, almost as many like the image of the older man with the flag in the background. Well that old man, he was my father.

Although he passed away this year at age 84, I look at the image often and I wonder what I could have done better. Of course I am my own critic and I do that with a lot of images. This image though for obvious reasons gets a gander a bit more often.

As my father was very much the ‘Navy Man’ I often wonder what I could do to make that subtle reference pop out more. After all, If you ever met my father and let him talk, and trust me it was hard to stop him from doing that! He would have let you know rather quickly that he was in the Navy.

To make the image  pop I decided to add a little selective color.

Follow the link to find out how.
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The James Effect

By far the most popular image on my site is James – The Mystery Man. I have been asked if it is a drawing, a painting, everything. It is a photograph.

I shot Jim about a year and a half ago and we spent the better part of the day shooting. The image that first loads on the site is an image that was done in the early part of our day. We were in the shadow of a building and this allowed me to control the light completely. I used one SB800 flash unit to light the area behind him and one to light Jim. The light is about waist high and a grid spot used to light only his face.

After the image was captured I used Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to convert the image to what you see on the site today. The technique is a variation of Scott Kelby’s grunge effect. If you are a member of NAPP you can see Scott’s tutorial at www.photoshopuser.com and search on Grunge. I did alter the tutorial a bit and you can see how by clicking the link below.

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Equal Marriage Rights and Photography

I am going to step over my normally neutral line here for a few moments and write about a topic very much in the headlines, especially today; Equal Marriage Rights and what it means for photographers (and other small businesses).

Yesterday Maine voters repealed a state law that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed. Whether you are for or against gay’s right to marry, I want to point out how this affects my photography business as well as other small businesses in our economy.

First we need to look at a few numbers.

US Population as of 2009 – 307,855,901
Total Married in the US (not including divorced) – 67,314,661 (22%)
Gay Men in the US – 31,678,372 (21%)
Gay Women in the US – 34,541,432 (22%)
(Data sources: via www.census.gov, www.gallup.com)

Based on the numbers above we can make a few assumptions safely. If the average marriage rate among straight people in the US is 22% then we can assume that roughly the same amount of the gay population will also marry. That means that were gay marriage legal in all 50 US states, 14,479,384 more people would get married. Assuming it takes two people to get married (I don’t know another way) then there would be an additional 7,239,692 weddings per year. This is a minimum as we are not including the divorced in the above statistics.

Click the link to learn more
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