Tips for using Photoshop or Lightroom

To Retouch or Not to Retouch, THAT Is the Question

This morning I read an article by Beate Chelette, (, titled “Advertising Under Fire for Doctored Images” asking photographers where they stand on the issue of retouching images and the ethics of doing so. Click the links above and read the story. It’s short; I will wait here for you.


Tap, tap, tap…. Oh you’re back. Sorry, I got distracted.


If you read the article you may have seen my response as well: “Some retouching is a good thing, too much, not so good.”  I whole heartedly believe that and I live it with my work too. I am not opposed to doing whatever my client wants. If the client wants china doll skin, I can do that. However I prefer to keep the image looking real.

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Are You (re)Touched?


I have been asked many times if I retouch my work. The answer is complicated in a sense because although I don’t like to retouch, I still want my clients to look their best when they get their portraits. So it comes down to more of a question of how much is too much.


We all know that in magazines like Glamour, Vogue and most of the celebrity magazines the images are retouched and often to the point of fantasy. It is easy to go overboard when retouching someone. When the natural texture of the skin is taken away and the skin looks like porcelain, it is overdone. If the photographer or retoucher makes someone look so ‘perfect’ that you wouldn’t know the person if you met them on the street then they have gone too far.


At the same time if the client wakes up the day of their portrait session with an acne breakout you don’t want them to look less than their best either. That is where retouching can be a benefit; it is not however the only time that some retouching needs to be done.  An example is my recent shoot with Sydni, a beautiful young lady who has a natural beauty that shouldn’t be altered or hidden by retouching.

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The old adage that opposites attract remains true in all aspects and especially in photography. Powerful images from the likes of Helmut Newton and his industrial women series, Robert Mapplethorpe from his powerful nudes to his delicate orchids in B&W and many others show how something soft and beautiful when placed up against a contrasting opposite not only stand out but scream to the viewer about how a harsh background makes a soft subject jump out at you.


I recently had an experience with a couple of my models that happen to be roommates. The two young women are also my neighbors and I asked both to model for me. These two women are both full of energy and life; they both are very attractive in different ways. I had a certain expectation of how each shoot would go but as this was a “fun shoot,” meaning it was more just for each of us and no specific results were needed, I decided to start each out in a certain direction and then just let it go and see what we got for the final shots.


I was not surprised by the energy and life they both put into each separate session. These women are fun loving and full of positive energy. I did have a certain expectation in my mind though of where the shoot would go and boy was I wrong! The one that I thought would be all beauty and glamour turned out to be the intense dramatic images and the one I thought would be the lighthearted jump around and get goofy showed the beauty side. Not to say we didn’t get goofy, she made some faces in the beginning to get relaxed and those shots were fun and turned out well. However the images that stood out after the shoot were of a more sedate side of the model. Her intensity and strong features just screamed glamour.


I think the highlight though was the fact that each of them can do both just shows how even individuals can be almost polar opposites in life. The images of the women turned out better than I had anticipated and we were all very pleased with the final results. In fact both of their images are being included on some of my new marketing materials. Even my success coach (Beate Chelette) says that my new promo cards are some of the best I have done to date.


In case you like the images and the models, well, they will model for others but I have told them that I have to be their manager. 😉  A huge thank you to my models, Brooke and Sydni!

New Year = New Opportunities

In this new year everything has changed and nothing has changed.  Many people say that the economy is getting better; many others say it’s staying the same or getting worse. Is the glass half full or half empty?  It’s a matter of choice.


So what are your choices this year?  Most choices you have this year haven’t even presented themselves yet; it is a whole year after all. Although the choices have not yet presented themselves, you can wait for them or you can go out and make the opportunities that create your ability to choose.

Many people have spent the last year or more sitting and waiting; waiting for this or that to get better, for the situation to improve. However a few people have gone out and decided to make their own opportunities and they have driven themselves and their businesses forward. Which were you?  Better question, which do you want to be?


The old saying ‘there is no time like the present’ has never been more true. There is, and never has been, a time like we have today. We have an opportunity to remain paralyzed in fear and do nothing. If we do nothing, then nothing will get better. Or we can invest in our future and begin to heal not just our economy but ourselves too.


Each person needs to decide to invest in themselves. When each of us take this little step and if we are honest and willing we will make things better. This will spill over into our businesses and into each aspect of our lives. When the attitudes change businesses will get busier and that will in turn spark a recovery that is based in empowerment and growth, and it is sustainable.


Not that many years ago there was a movie called” Pay It Forward”. In that movie a young man did exactly that; he paid debts forward by helping others. Even insurance companies have picked up on the idea. Perhaps you have seen the commercials where the guy stops a woman from walking into the street when a car is coming. She then helps someone with boxes, who helps someone with a door that lets out the guy who stops the first woman from walking into the street.


The idea is to do the next right thing no matter whether it is for you or for someone else. So what is the next right thing?  I believe that the next right thing is to grow, not just as individuals but as a neighbor, a city, a country and eventually a world.


So what does all this have to do with photography and the photography business? A better question is how will my comments above help you or me? By each person investing into their own future they also invest in yours and mine. They pay it forward.


So what future will you invest in today?

Breaking the Rules


As many of the regular readers of this site know, I am a huge fan of HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. I love how you can create images that really pop and have deep, rich saturation of color.  In many cases, it can be over done to the point of surreal and almost (and in some cases, very) unrealistic. Many believe this is the only way to do HDR; it is the “HDR Rule.”


Another rule is the Rule of Thirds. In the rule of thirds the thinking is that you should divide an image into thirds or 9 cells as the image below shows. In the final image that you present it is strongly suggested that pour points of interest (POI) should be along those lines and even better, where they intersect (the red circles).




This rule is not a hard fast rule but one that is “strongly suggested.” Many images you have seen break this rule.  More however, almost break the rule. They way they will do this is to place a person into the image center but keep the eyes on the third mark and perhaps place one of the eyes over the POI intersection.  The latter is usually done by using a fast lens (2.8 or 1.4) and keeping the depth of field so shallow that one eye is softer and less sharp than the other eye. The sharper eye is then placed over the POI intersection to grab your attention.

This image I took this past weekend of a really nice guy I met in DC while shooting the Lincoln Memorial is a perfect example. Victor is from Holland and I have to give him a nod as he is traveling the US before starting his career this come summer. If all Dutch are as intelligent and friendly as Victor I am moving. Enjoy the rest of your trip Victor!




Anyway, back to my point. The image above shows Victor in the middle of the shot, however his eyes are on the top third parallel. In fact, his left eye (on our right) is exactly over the upper right POI. I superimposed the first image over Victor to show what I mean.


Obviously the image of Victor is not HDR. But whether your image is of people, still life or anything this rule is applied more often than not. The same is true of the over saturation and uber sharpening of what is called HDR. The reality is that HDR is High Dynamic Range, not High Reality Delusion.


In the image below I break another rule too. The rule that, “The horizon line should never divide the image in half.” This is just a variation of the rule of thirds so I won’t go into it again. Keep in mind this image is a composite HDR image made up of 4 separate images processed in the same fashion that I mentioned in my last blog post. Let’s look at the rules that have been broken here.


  • HDR Rule of Surrealism
  • Horizon Center Division
  • Rule of Thirds (sort of)




In fact, although I did separate the image in the center with the edge of the reflecting pool, and I created realistic saturation, I didn’t really break the Rule of Thirds. In fact, I multiplied it. Notice the Capitol Building. Not only is it the main subject in the upper third of the image, but so is the reflection of the building in the lower third. This actually broaches on another rule of only having one main subject per image. In fact, I do have only one main subject, I just have it twice. Does that break that rule too?

The main point of this post is simple. Rules are meant to be broken. The idea is to know the rules so that when you break them, you have a reason and purpose in doing so. Take the time to learn all the rules you can, study how they work, then go out and break them to show only a positive result.


How are you going to break the rules today? Leave a comment to tell us.


Until next time…

Happy Shooting!

HDR Images – Photomatix to Photoshop


On my last tutorial I showed you how to generate a good HDR image from Lightroom to Photomatix then to Photoshop. I got a few comments saying “I don’t use the plug-in!” or “I don’t have Lightroom!” Well, Photomatix is a standalone program too. So in this 3 part series of video tutorials I will walk you through the entire process starting in Photomatix and ending in Photoshop CS4.

This tutorial is a little longer than the last one totaling just under 30 minutes for all three parts combined. You may want to sit back and grab a cup of coffee before you start. I don’t think I sound boring, in fact I was surprised how long it took to get through it all because it felt like a lot less than that when I recorded it. Click the image below to watch part 1 then come back and watch the second two parts!

Part 1

Click the link below for parts 2 &3!
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HDR in Photomatix Pro 3.2 (Plugin Version)


I was looking for information on Photomatix recently and I found very little helpful information. There were 5 pages of YouTube videos but 90% of them weren’t very helpful. So many of the videos said thing like, “I don’t use this slider/option so just leave it as it is.” Or, “This is how I use the software. I’m not sure what this does.” Unacceptable!

I took it upon myself to give a better overview of the software. I did not get into the batch processing, or any of the other tools that are in the stand alone program. I looked only at the Lightroom Plugin in the overview/tutorial. As it is, I had to do this in three parts. What I do is I take an older set of bracketed images and show you how Photomatix can manipulate the merged HDR image. I then re-import the image back into Lightroom and Photoshop and take the process through to saving the final image.

Below is part one.

Click the link below it to see parts 2 and 3.
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Picking the Trash – 1 Handed Photoshop


First let me apologize for the lateness of my post. I spent last week reformatting and reloading my computer. And before anyone says I should use a Mac, A) I don’t like them and B) I chose to do the reformat, it wasn’t a crash. Every once in a while it helps to clean house and take out the garbage. That leads me to this weeks One Handed Photoshop tutorial.

Trash, garbage, crap. What makes an image any of these things? Do you delete or throw out “bad” images? If you do, STOP! If you don’t, its time to take a look at them again. I have always believed that all the images I take have some value, some how. I keep them all. I have over 40,000 on just one hard drive. That doesn’t include the hundreds of CDs and DVDs I have backups on or any of the negatives in that huge filing cabinet behind me.

Click the link to see what you can do with all that trash.
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Hear That Noise? – More 1 Handed Photoshop


In this week’s video tutorial I take a look at noise and the different ways to reduce it. In the past, I thought that Photoshop, Camera Raw or Lightroom could clean up noise fairly well, and they can. Severe noise was another story and I thought I was just stuck with it. But then I learned what 3rd party plugins could do.

Talk about a difference! I was able to save images that I thought were lost to the noise. I mean we were talking the image versions of a heavy metal concert. Then I had a shoot where I got nothing but noise all day long. Shot after shot of noise infested images.

Check out the video and what I do about noise by clicking the link.
I broke down in desperation and bought Noiseware from Imagenomic (they also make Portraiture). I got it because I got a discount on it from being a member of NAPP. OMG what a difference! This stuff was astounding. It literally saved my entire day of shooting. From none of the image being usable to all of them being usable!

Then last week I got the most recent copy of Digital Photo Pro and they had a short piece on reducing noise. I thought “Great! I can use noise and maybe some of their tips for my next blog post. Their tips didn’t really work for me. The first step in the tutorial is very similar to what they were suggesting. Watch the video and see how it turned out.

So now you know why I use plugins. Simply put, they work. And if they save me time and effort and they work better, buy them. You will never look back. It’s not important that you buy the same versions I use. Get what works for you and your work flow. These are just what works for me. most have trial versions that you can try out so give them a shot!

Until next time…

Happy Shooting!

1 Handed Photoshop Part 3 – Edge Effects

Well, I am still in a cast and I am still doing everything one handed. The advantage I have over last week is moving my fingers is easier so i may be able to get this post typed in in less than a day! Check back at the end and see how I did.

This week I thought we would do some finishing touches on our image of James, popular guy that he is, I am getting tired of looking at him. So this week its Edge Effects! It seems that everyone wants to know how to do the best edge effect. Well that depends on a few things, the image, the look you want and how you wan the image to be seen. All depend on you!

Click the link to see the video
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