Saturday, July 26, 2008

Photoshop's Photomerge


Stitching panoramas and multi-image composites has never been easier. The Photomerge feature in Photoshop CS3 has made this a piece of cake. In fact, the days of carefully leveling the camera, nodal points, and extensive stitching are over, at least for me. Of course, this news is not new as this feature has been well covered since the release.

What I have been having fun with is moving beyond traditional panoramas that are wide and narrow and instead creating panoramic collages. This image is Broken Arch in Arches NP, Utah. It is shot at sunrise and was taken during one of my workshops there.

The image not only goes left and right as far as individual frames, but also includes looking up and down across the field of view. Read on to see the PS layers.

When I am shooting this I am not shooting a leveled camera so that I have in essence, 3 across the top row, 3 across the middle row, and 3 across the bottom row. You certainly can shoot that way and you end up with roughly a square image. Instead, I am basically just shooting (in many cases, hand held) to make sure I am overlapping each frame. I try to overlap about 20% between each image capture generally. But with this hand held technique it is tough to be super precise.

So I start at one of the pano and start snapping, then raising the camera up and cpature above that first capture, then drop down below the first camera position. Then I move to the middle area and shoot more, but here I may begin to skew the camera angle meaning I am purposely not keeping the camera levl and may actually rotate it slightly.


In this image was I started on the left and then captured more frames raising the camera and lowering it and rotating it some in others. It is distorted substantially because of the 17 mm lens I used really enlarged the foreground and right side of the frame.


I then open all these frames in Adobe Camera RAW and make a few adjustments and then hit Synchronize to apply it to all of them. Then I open the Photomerge tool to create the composite. The cool thing about Photomerge is that is will blend, align, and even change perspective to 'collage' these frames together. Once you hit OK the files are composited and PS creates masks that show and hide parts of the image. What has also worked pretty neat is that you never know what you will get as the process is pretty random in regards to what it shows and what it hides and especially the perspective and how the changes are unpredictable.

I do not know if I have any commercial clients that would ever want anything like this, but you just never know. I could play all day with these fun and experimental techniques, but I got a studio and business to run! Gotta get to work.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Architectural Interiors and Photomatix: Pt 2


A few weeks back I posted about architectural interiors using Photomatix and if using it could replace the lighting of interiors and shooting with traditional methods. Although I believe that most interiors certainly benefit from artificial light to accent the interiors, there may be times when using lights are not an option.

Shortly after that post I received an assignment where adding lighting was not possible. My client builds a variety of projects in hospitals and other commercial projects and they needed pictures of a hospital and another medical clinic. These facilities were fully functioning with staff and patients and the thought of using lights was to much of a distraction and interference.

I love to light! I enjoy the challenge of using supplemental lighting to enhance and improve the scenes, no matter what they are. I think we as photographers and creative pros can do amazing things with lighting and we also have an obligation to do just that for our clients.

Some projects we are presented will require us to use other means to achieve the best result when we can do it the way we want. The clients expect us to be problem solvers. So here I am with this client; they have never used a pro shooter before, have no clue what goes into great interior photography, and want to spend as little as possible.

I was successful at convincing them that pro photographers are worth the cost and had the examples to show them the before and after, convincing them that they could not do this themselves.

I asked if we could use lights. They called the facilities and the answer was NO. Fortunately I have been using Photomatix for the last year and a half or so and my buddy at Chromasia guided me through the early stages. Well, this was clearly the answer for this assignment.

This is one of many images from that day and and shows the before and after. I will post more as I get them processed (still waiting for client decisions). It took 11 exposures to create this shot because that was the range between open shadows and the highlight from that ceiling fixture. I then took the image in PS and set black and white points, adjusted color balance, and tweaked curves. It still needs a little more work, but this is close to complete. Photomatix is clearly worth mastering!
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Stock photographs exists everywhere!


It was my buddies birthday on Saturday and his wife threw a big party: it was Casino Night. They rented all the stuff to throw a gambling party, ordered a big barrel of beer, and lots of fabulous snacks. It was a great time!

As a pro shooter, I am always on the lookout for a great stock shot when out and about with my pro gear and as such, I am working. After work I never touched a camera no matter where I was. But since I bought the Nikon Coolpix P5100 last spring after teaching alongside Joe McNally, David Hobby, Chase Jarvis, Bobbi Lane, and other fabulous folks, I carry it with me everywhere and it has opened my eyes to looking for everyday snaps of life around me.

Stock photography has transitioned immensely since I got into it 30 years ago and today's look is a lot more like snapshots. Less stylized, less setup, and more real people doing real things. So having a camera that fits in the pocket and is 12 mega pixels makes the whole approach to stock a different animal.

My nephews birthday is coming up and he'll have a cake and blow out the candles. I shot a big production of this exact subject years ago. It was a major production, but I believe in today's stock photo market the happy snap from the family party will sell better. 10 mega pixels is about the minimum for today's agencies, so the Coolpix produces just enough resolution for a marketable images.

Back at casino night, I lost all my money (Monopoly) as usual, but got a few nice shots of the food and gambling. Keep Reading: Full Post and Comments!