Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And now for something different

It has taken us some time to start catching up on a backlog of sessions to blog. I truly thought that staying at home with the family during the holidays was going to provide me with ample opportunity to take care of all the little business details that get put on the back-burner for me while school is in session. You see, normally, I teach school full-time still, and David is a Stay-at-Home Daddy, Housemaker, Construction-Worker, Garage-Builder, Photo-Editor Extraordinaire... And he makes it all look so simple! And so, as so often happens, I really felt that being off from school and tending to our wonderful 17-month old son would allow me to get all sorts of work done while Dave was putting most of his efforts into finishing off the garage work. I, like so many "working parents", lost sight of all the WORK the other partner puts into keeping everything running smoothly.

Truly, the most meaningful Christmas gifts for me this season was time spent with my husband and son, and the heightened awareness of how very lucky I am to have them in my life.

Thank you, David, for being the amazing man you are.


Family Photography - Victor and Irma

Lyzette was a student in my sophomore English class many years ago, and I have known her mom Irma and adorable sisters almost as long; as a result, it was a real pleasure to get to spend an afternoon with their family.. despite the bitingly cold weather the day of the shoot! They were all wonderful sports - even little Lolita, the pup, was willing to pose for a few of the photos.


Happy and Hectic Holidays

And now Melody is up.

It has been a busy holiday season, during which we did numerous shoots, in addition to attending all of our own festivities. We were so busy, in fact, that I didn't even start Christmas shopping until the day before Christmas. Oops.

One highlight of this holiday season was receiving holiday cards from people we had photographed... and whose cards featured our images. We know of several different families whose Christmas cards included our photos so far! We are so pleased that they liked how we portrayed their families enough to share with their friends and loved ones. These are the two cards we picked up in the mail yesterday. Greg, Nicole, and Emilie are a family we've had the pleasure to work with on more than one occasion, as has been the case with Lyzette and her family (you'll see more of her in her recent sessions with her family, her honey and the baptism we shot of their godson).

Thanks to all of you who shared a piece of your holiday season with us, and for entrusting Melody & David Photography with your memories. We hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours... and that you didn't gain the 5 pounds I did in the past two weeks!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Playing Catch Up: Modesto Area Photographer

Hello all, David here. Well it would seem as though Melody and I are way behind on the photography blog. The reason is a good one, trust me. We haven't had time to post because we've been so busy doing actual photography! But that's not all, we also put down two weddings in the books for 2010! That meant a long and very boring weekend of contract preparations.

Aside from the two wedding meetings last week, plenty of shoots, and photo edits, we also had our first indoor shoot that turned out rather well considering what we had to work with. Typically, indoor, posed shoots are done with a whole host of intricate lights set up. Lights set at 45 degree angles, a back light, fill light all with diffusers. It means spending a small fortune. Our first option was going to be an outdoor sitting where light wraps around subjects beautifully, unfortunately Mother Nature had other things in mind . . . like rain. So we got the family of nine in front of their fireplace and did our best.

Shhhh, it's a Christmas present for Grandma.

I hope to have time in the near future to show you our lighting setup. Needless to say, we didn't go with the small fortune gear. Believe it or not we lit them with a series of modified shop lights, shown through our ring diffuser on one side and then through a shower curtain on the other. I wired the shop lights up with dimmer switches and built a collapsible frame for the shower curtain to hang on. I'll have to set it up and take a couple shots of it so you can see what I'm talking about. All in all, I'd say it worked out just fine. Really, it doesn't matter what everything off frame looks like, it's the picture that counts.

There's one more shot that I wanted to share before I head off to bed. While I was packing up gear, Melody went around the house and took candids of everyone. She got an especially cute one of my good buddies niece. It was cute when we presented it to the family, cute enough for them to choose it as one of their top ten choices to be touched up.

Generally, the way Melody and I work is that we come home from a shoot and she's incredibly excited about the images. Sort of like a kid that can't wait for Christmas morning to get here so they go and shake all of the presents. She uploads all of the photos and starts working on filtering out the bad ones and making general lighting adjustments to the rest. What you see to the left is how this image got cropped and exported.

After the client views their photos to be touched up, I usually take over and go in to do all the magic photoshop stuff. I might replace eyes from one shot with those of another, trim up waist lines, fix folds in clothing, rid eyes of dark shadows, clean up complexion, take out unsightly distractions from the background. Basically, you name it, I can pretty much do it. What I tend to do is start over with the image. I use Melody's initial changes as a direction to aim for but create a copy of the raw data and go back and start over. With this pictures I decided to even go so far as to change the crop.

 The new crop brought the focus in on the niece. That was pretty good, but I wanted to take it even further. Although I don't think she was swinging her cousin around in a circle, the above image implies that she is just through the motion of her hair. I wanted to capture that motion in the background of the photo as well so I went in and did something that I NEVER do, and blurred the background.

Generally, a blurred background created in a photo editing program is an excellent example of an amateur photographer. What they're trying to accomplish is something called "bokeh." It's a beautiful effect when done right, but it's only done right when you do it the way you're supposed to, and that's with the camera.

Bokeh is when you narrow your depth of field. It has the greatest success when using a lens with a very short focal length. The reason it works on camera and not in a program is because the amount of blur is lessened the closer you get to the point of focus. When you try this in the computer everything is blurred evenly. There's no sense of depth, just this blurry mess of a background that mysteriously stops when you get to the subject. What makes it even worse is that most beginners use the basic blur function or a gaussian blur. This blurs the pixels in every direction, creating a sort of fuzzy, or soft appearance depending upon how far you push it.

In the case of this image, I decided that a motion blur, angled with the plane of the table, would be perfect for capturing that sense of motion. It gives the viewer the impression of moving with the two girls as they spin around when in fact they were stationary. Frankly, I absolutely LOVE this shot. It's a perfect example of how well Melody and I work together as a team.

Well, winter break is coming up and I'm hoping it will be filled with photo shoots and time to catch up on things like this blog and editing the website. Thanks for stopping by.