Overuse of Color Grading (…look I clicked on a filter now I’m an artist.)

1/40 sec at f/4.0 ISO 800 80 mm color graded using split tones in Lightroom. Location Eastern States Penitentiary.

Everybody wants to be an artist, but sadly enough not everybody can be an artist. Actually pretty much anybody can be an artist if they were to actually take the time and put forth the effort to create something. Today we have a lot of “one click” artist wanna-bees. I love Instagram so much for several reasons; one reason for sure is it has helped me so much with my photography business. People find me, they contact me and I have a client to do business with. I like Instagram because I can build a network and I can reach a lot of people all around the world.

So many times I have heard it said “Instagram is for photographers” and that statement could be truer. Myself I rarely partake in using any of Instagram’s filters although I don’t begrudge anybody for using them. I edit most of my images in Adobe Photoshop and put finishing touches on in Adobe Lightroom so I really have no need for IG’s filters. However I do realize the vast amount of people using IG there is only a small percentage that would edit and do what I do. So for sure they want to use a filter to take their images to that “next level” and give it a “look and a feel” and again I have no gripes. Now with all that said we all no trends rise up and most often recede and some trends are so horrible we can’t wait for them to recede and fade away… hopefully!

I remember when I first got into learning how to edit skin in Photoshop, it was a time when the trend was to make the female skin look like plastic or porcelain, with no texture at all. It was horrible and I too was guilty of this horrible atrocity. For one it was a very easy effect to create and for two, all the magazine covers were doing it, so it seemed like it was ok to do it..

Then came along the overdone “HDR” with all the halos and graininess. I have to admit I still like to use the over-done HDR effect as an illustrative tool to this day, but not for photographic edits. Same goes for the smoothed out skin, as an illustrative edit it can be used, as a portrait… no way. But… I still see people using it.

So this brings us up to our current state of “what is being over used today?” I’ll tell you what it is… LUTs and color grading, these are being so over used it is pitiful. 2 years ago I barely knew what a LUT was, I did know what color grading was and for still images I performed most of my color grading by using “split tone” controls. Or I had other methods, some I learned from other photographers and some I just created through trial and error. Some of my color grading was and still is as simple as making a solid color layer and lowering the opacity. Does it work? You may ask… works good enough the clients love it and complements on social media are plenty.

But in both video and photos the color grading at present day can be atrocious if not done correctly. And when I say “correctly” I know editing is very subjective. It goes straight back to the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” quote. Photography, videography are all very subjective because they are creative and artistic, but with all that said I am so sick of the teal to orange color grading that is done incorrectly. And to be flat out honest I am no expert at color grading, but I am an expert at knowing what is distracting when you look at a photo or video that has poor color grading. It seems some of the worst videos are vloggers on Youtube. Some vlogs I can clearly see have had some high end color grading done and I envy it because I have not yet reached that level. While other vlogs are just… I want to say “horrible” but again it is subjective, so I will say “not to my liking.”

I wrote a post a while back about color grading and where it came from, it has been around a very long time. I what to point the finger at IG for the current dilemma, after all Instagram’s filters are just like color grading, but it is done with “one click” and using a given filter with the right image produces a great result. However this takes no real talent or effort and while one could make the claim it is creative, it is merely clicking presets till you find one that looks good. Either way it is kind of a moot point at this time… the fire has started all we need to do is wait for it to burn itself out and hopefully go the way of selective color and bad HDR. I remember the grossly overdone colored cinematic lighting that popped up in some of the 80’s movies and carried over into the 90’s. Using blue lighting to illustrate night time is ok by me, but making alleyways appear deep purple was just flat-out bizarre.

While I am learning more & more about creating and using LUT’s I still love my split toning, gradient mapping and other little tricks for my photo color grading.

Photo Notes: So this particular image I get a lot of compliments on. Many times the comments come from people who do not know about color grading, but they do know about Instagram filters. They ask what filter I used. Or have heard many times “this photo looks so cool I love the color, how did you do that.” The color grading was actually done in Adboe lightroom 4 using the split tone sliders and the saturation & luminance sliders in the HSL panel.

1/40 sec at f/4.0 ISO 800 80 mm

Life… A Series of Problems. (But somewhere between the written words of some wise sage and our actual daily existence…)

 

 

 

Shantae Taylor 1/125 sec at f/16 ISO 50 70mm

Shantae Taylor 1/125 sec at f/16 ISO 50 70mm

It started off as a photo shoot to update headshots in a studio and it ended as classic car shoot outdoors. But aside from the strange twist from how it started to how it ended, the really amazing part was being able to work with model Shantae Taylor. I had not worked with Shantae for just over two years and although we stay connected through Instagram I knew the day would come… and it did. Finished with school and carving her way into a broadcasting career it is amazing to follow a person as they make that journey to follow a dream. Sure it sounds easy and fantasy like when you write about it or as you are reading about it. But we all know the true reality is that life is not easy and things never come fast. It has been said that “life is nothing more than just a series of problem and our job is to solve the problems.” That statement when read makes life just seem “so easy,” and the statement could not be any truer, life “is” a series of problems. But somewhere between the written words of some wise sage and our actual daily existence this so-called “series of problems” is really nothing more than a murky abyss. A place where you cannot see through to the other side, a place where some days you can’t see your hand in front of your face, a place where moments of clarity appear and happiness abounds, but never stays. A place where sometimes nothing seems real and yet in the blink of an eye it can all becomes so real it hurts or even kills.

Maybe this blog post seems a little off pace for a photographer who just had an amazing shoot with an amazing person. We talked about all kinds of things, her career path, creativity, jobs, and life and so on… But all the while I’m working with her my mind drifts back to a mere 24 hours earlier where I sat with a wonderful and courageous friend who was recovering from a horrible motorcycle accident that was no fault of his, in which he sustained massive injuries and worst of all he lost his wife. A problem that came into his life with no wrong doing of his own. While my friend is on a long road to getting life back to a somewhat normal state it was a drastic contrast to my conversation with Shantae. She is young and full of energy and focused… As we finished up our shoot and she departed, I just sat there thinking… “Life… just a series of problems… all we have to do is solve the problems.” I wish her the best.

Shantae Taylor posing in a 1957 Chevy 1/25 sec at f/7.1 ISO 200 85mm

Shantae Taylor posing in a 1957 Chevy 1/25 sec at f/7.1 ISO 200 85mm

Photo of The Day (working with split toning and compositing)

Nixlot Dameus powerlifter/bodybuilder.  1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus powerlifter/bodybuilder. 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

 

Making a composite with chalk floating in the air is no easy task. But I have learned to overcome the problem with the help of fog brushes. Still it is no easy task at all. Like a previous composite where my mimesis was a veil I just keep trying different things. Sometimes it means using a plugin like Topaz ReMask 5, saving the image and running it through the plugin again. I have other ways, sometimes I can create the illusion that you (the viewer) is looking through the material, smoke, fog or in this case chalk. Capturing the image was not very hard at all, but I will admit that it took about 5 to 6 tries to get the image we wanted. The hard part about the capture was letting the plume of dust expand, but not too much. So it was a little bit of a timing issue. Camera settings were my standard studio settings of 1/125 second at f/7.1 or 8 ISO 50 50mm prime lens (although the 50mm is not typical)

So the final is a composite with a little of both the real chalk and some created chalk. Then to take it more towards an illustrative side I did some split toning. In the end I’m happy with the way the image turned out and I’m sure Nixlot will like it too. I think it falls into my 2016 goal for “creating images with impact” so I’m happy.

Photo of The Day (breaking records all the time)

Nixlot Dameus Weightlifter/Bodybuilder

Nixlot Dameus Weightlifter/Bodybuilder

I’ve been so busy I haven’t had much time to post to my blog. So here is a B&W of Nixlot Dameus record-breaking powerlifter and body builder.

Portrait of An Athlete ( he is well underway to carving out a name for himself in the powerlifting record books.)

Nixlot Dameus 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 70mm

Nixlot Dameus (17 Years Old) 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 70mm

Here is another edit from the session I had with Nixlot Dameus a few weeks back. It is extremely hard to look at this image and realize this young man is just that… A young man of only 17 years. He emigrated to the USA from Haiti. Nixlot resides in Philadelphia where he is well underway to carving out a name for himself in the powerlifting record books. He is a bodybuilder and a powerlifter and holds JR Mr. Atlas titles, he has also represented the USA at competitions in other countries. It was amazing to start off 2016 with photographing this talented athlete.

Moving Forward for 2016 (But having a big set of guns never hurts to keep the world around you in line.)

Nixlot Dameus  1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus
1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Keeping true to my goal for creating images with impact for 2016 I worked with an incredible young man yesterday. Nixlot Dameus a seventeen year old athlete from Philadelphia Pennsylvania.  Nixlot immigrated to the USA from Haiti in 2007 and he has an amazing story to tell, more about that later.

I found Nixlot when he left a comment on one of my Instagram posts several months back and I started to follow him. I found him very interesting and I could see from his postings that he was strongly dedicated to his bodybuilding and weight training. His physique is obvious proof that this young man is motivated and that is what I want for a photo shoot. I want “motivated” people and I want them for a few reasons. One reason is motivated people are usually on time and come prepared, they are interesting and always on the move and most of all they have a great attitude towards life in general. I feel making an impactful image takes more than just a good camera & lens. All the editing in the world cannot add the impact that somebody like Nixlot brings to a project. I want to promote my photographic & editing capabilities and what better way than to get interesting and motivated subjects in front of my camera. So Nixlot did not disappoint at all and we had a very creative shoot. I would like to thank my friend Brendan for offering up his studio for the project and for his amazing input and ideas, a great help indeed.

If you’re reading this post, (obviously you are lol) just take a moment to remember the name “Nixlot Dameus” because I have a very good feeling you are going to see and hear about Nixlot’s accomplishments in the not so far off future. Nixlot has an amazing story about young little boy who felt the cold evil wrath of street bullies when he first arrived in Philly. In a way it is not a new story as I think we have all heard about people who overcome being bullied through whatever means or route they chose to escape it. But in my opinion there is only one true way to disarm a bully and that is a face to face stare down. Nixlot flipped the tables on the bullies and I think it is fair to say that no street bully in his right mind would dare cross this young man. In-fact while talking with Nixlot he said he now trains some of the guys who used to bully him. There really is a lot to be said for the power of love in this world, love yourself, love your family & god, and love all others too. But having a big set of guns never hurts to keep the world around you in line.

Nixlot is already an accomplished record-setting power lifting and bodybuilding athlete at his young age of 17 years old. Read more about his story here http://articles.philly.com/2015-11-01/sports/67904486_1_bodybuilding-haiti-marie-innocent

A Jazzy Afternoon

Chloe

Chloe

Today has been one of those relaxing days. You know where you have nothing scheduled… No work, no play, but yet still productive. I woke early and started tending to little tasks that are always in need of being done, yet somehow never get fully finished. You know things like cleaning out email and cleaning up my workspace where I edit. Somehow for me these days are far and few between. While I always do what needs to be done, I never seem to be relaxed about it. But today was one of those days that brings the hint of things to come. The air is quite cool today and the sky was sunny but has turned to gray and there is a brisk, calming breeze coming in my window. The house is quite and once in awhile the wind rattles the papers on my desk as the curtains flail and then fall again. I love jazz, smooth relaxing jazz, but I can only enjoy it… well, when I’m relaxed. Crazy I know, but relaxing music doesn’t relax me, I have to first be relaxed, then I can really enjoy it. Being relaxed and listening to smooth easy jazz is such an experience for me.
So the hint of things to come is the cool air, for I know Autumn is coming and it truly by far is my favorite time of the year. Holidays are so stressful, but Autumn is my time. Personally for me the Autumn and relaxing really go together, because it was the Fall of 1984 that I had spent totally incapacitated while recovering from a horrendous car wreck that had happened in August. I could not walk and I wore a horrible neck brace, so all I could do was either sit or lie on a bed. Some days a family member or friend would help me outside to the lawn swing where I would just sit by myself for hours. Just sitting and thinking, relaxing and enjoying life. I lived with my grandmother at that time and her house was at the end of a dead end road. How relaxing. Flat broke, no more car and lucky to be alive… just sitting watching to colors change day by day, talking with God and the birds. Occasionally a friend would stop by and ruin my day… Well not really, but you know what I mean lol. I couldn’t even play my guitar because my right arm had been broken, as well as my leg, foot, ankle and so much more.
So today I relax and at this time in my last life I like to sit and look
at my images.
So as the cool breeze brings light drops of rain I leave you with an image of Chloe. She is maybe the most spontaneous model I have ever met. Although this image is just her gazing at me she truly is a very talented person and spontaneity is her greatest asset.

Have a great day and thanks for reading.