After becoming a bit too comfortable with my painfully outdated editing software from 2012, I finally succumbed to peer pressure and downloaded Lightroom 2015. Well peer pressure and the pressure of my old software being unable to read the newest RAW CR2 files from my camera despite being updated. Thankfully, at one of the photography meetings for The Guardian, one of my university’s school newspapers, there was an introductory workshop on how to use Lightroom. This rendered me a bit prepared and I already knew the basics of how to import and “develop” photos on the software.
Anyone who has used Lightroom before knowns that it is essentially a really fancy photo organizer. But in order to gain experience using the adjustment tools I did the bulk of the editing for a recent portrait shoot using the program (the results of which can be found below). I have to admit that at first I struggled with basic controls, like panning once I was zoomed in on the image. Google searches were fruitless, they suggested holding down the space bar to reveal a drag and drop icon shaped like a hand. But when the hand appeared I couldn’t for the life of me get it to drag or grab anything. Eventually enough fiddling around revealed that the drop down “Navigation” menu can dictate what portion of the photo is displayed upon zooming.
More amazing discovers followed. My edits began with slight color, exposure, and sharpness adjustments in the “Basic” tab. Then I would venture down to the “Histogram” section and find “Luminance”, which has become my favorite feature, under the HSL/Color/Grayscale panel. Luminance works like a polarizing filter, and is perfect for increasing contrast, like in a white overblown sky that appeared blue when the picture was being taken.
Next, I moved to using the adjustment brush to work on minor details. I quickly learned the danger of not re-opening the brush function in the top right corner of the adjustment panel in between different brush uses, essentially creating a new layer, instead of just using the brush drop down menu. For example, I had just burned in some grass in the background, when I used the menu to change the brush effect to teeth whitening. It wasn’t until I had already completed all of the facial edits that I realized I had changed the grass burning into a patch of teeth whitening effect, thus I had a huge blotch of desaturated sad-looking grass behind the main subject. In order to correct this, I had to go into the “History” tab and undo all of my edits, fix the grass, and then re-do all of the facial editing.
One of the coolest Lightroom features has to be the way you can add adjustments to pre-existing adjustment brush options. This is something I wasn’t able to do with my old editing software and comes in handy if you want to make several changes to a specific area. I found that instead of using the “Enhance Iris” option on eyes that are darker in color, the “Clarity tool”, with an added adjustment of sharpness, creates a more realistic look.
The best feature I stumbled across in the adjustment brush selection is the “Soften skin” option. I never understood how photographers were able to make people look as if they have flawless glowing skin until using this tool. By decreasing clarity, it reduces the appearance of pores and oiliness. However, I do find the spot correction tool in Lightroom inconvenient, although admittedly I might just be bad at utilizing it. So finally, after making all my Lightroom edits, I went over to my ancient software and got rid of induvial blemishes there.
If you're looking to make a section of an image transparent first go over underneath the draw section of your tool panel (on expert mode) and click on the eraser tool. From here you can select a regular eraser, a background eraser, and a so-called magic eraser. The magic eraser works within the natural lines of your photo and erases whatever is contained in the area you use it on. It is also important to remember that the magic eraser's tolerance works a little differently. The lower the tolerance, the closer in color (to the area which you select) the pixels are, which the eraser then removes. Another tip that I have picked up is turning on caps lock while utilizing the magic eraser. This transforms your mouse into a single point no matter what tool you are using, allowing you to see more precisely which color pixel you are selecting and erasing.
The magic eraser can be helpful if you are trying to make a large block of your photo transparent, however without lots of practice it can be hard to judge how to correctly adjust the tolerance to achieve the right eraser margins. Thus I would recommend manually using the background eraser for smaller and more complex sections. If you are editing on a laptop I also suggest using a mouse when operating tools like this because it gives you more control. But you can also always become a track-pad master like myself.
Once you have set the size and tolerance (opacity) of your eraser you can erase away to your heart's content. After completion you may notice that saving your image normally, as a JPG, undoes all of your hard work and saves any transparent area as white empty space. This can be frustrating but is easily fixed. Simply change your format upon saving to PNG, if using the save as feature, and to PNG-25 if saving for the web, since the PNG format supports transparency. Happy Editing!
1. Lace Shadows: This trend has become increasingly popular among portrait photographers. The set up is pretty simple: grab your favorite model and have them pose in the mandala like pattern that occurs when sunlight shins through a lace curtain. I have also seen the same principle applied with straw hats and other objects that have small perforations. The resulting composition is sure to be more visually interesting than a typical portrait session in unaltered natural light.
2. Overlay: This technique requires some Photoshop experience but once mastered can become a go- to edit. It is extremely versatile and can be used on virtually any kind of photo. Whether you are going for a surreal effect or just want to enhance your composition it is easy to layer two images in Photoshop. Simply open both images and edit them before superimposing one on top of the other. Next, you can choose how opaque each image is and experiment with different modes like color burn or the classic overlay option, as done below by one of my favorite Instagram photographers.
3. Macro Eye: The human eye is something that every photographer aims to capture at one time or another. Personally, I have always loved the way brown eyes melt when sunlight hits them. Getting the pupil in focus is key to getting a stunning shot, although I have seen some outstanding photos that center around the lashes as well. However, there is a limit on how close you can get to your subject before your camera will not be able to focus properly and you will need a macro lens. You can see the difference in the two pictures below. The first was clearly taken with a high quality macro lens while the second is my attempt at making do without one.
4. Crystal Ball: While this effect is not my personal favorite it is sure to spice up any landscape shot. Crystal balls can be purchased for around ten dollars on amazon but if you are looking to re-create the mirroring effect on a budget you could always fill a wine glass with water and shoot through that as I did on the right.
5. Smoke Bomb: Smoke bombs can be purchased online from Pyro City Fireworks in a variety of colors for under twenty dollars. Many photographers use them in order to achieve a hazy dream-like quality in their photos but certain safety precautions should be taken when shooting with them. The pull string grenade smoke bombs are preferable as they can be held further away from your face than the smoke bombs that require lighting with a lighter. Smoke bombs have also been known to stain clothing and inhalation of the smoke is not generally recommended. In order to avoid burns dispose of your smoke bomb if it does not immediately go off after ignition because it might be defective.
6. Steel Wool (Light Painting): Photography stems from the Greek word "fosgraphy" which literally means light writing. Although steel wool perfectly embodies the idea that photography is painting with light, this technique has also been criticized by many photographers for its destructive results. Steel wool is speculated as being responsible for the burning of a favorite photo spot; a shipwreck at Tomales Bay in Point Reyes, California during February 2016 (as seen below).
Needless to say steel wool is a technique that should only be attempted by experts since it can be harmful to the environment and those participating in the shoot. Models should wear all black, gloves, googles, long sleeves and a head covering to protect their hair. Grade zero steel wool burns best and can be purchased in any hardware store for less than five dollars. The wool can be lit with a regular lighter or by rubbing it against a nine volt battery. Before burning the wool place it inside a kitchen whisk that is attached to a wire cable. You should generally avoid windy days and wooded areas unless it rained recently. It's better to pick a private location where the police will not bother you with lots of concrete like an underground tunnel.
Your camera should be set to a shutter speed of about thirty seconds and the aperture should be at F8. The ISO should be at 200 and the white balance can be either auto or tungsten. Feel free to adjust these settings as your shoot moves on. It is important to use auto focus before switching to manual focus by placing a flashlight at the center of the area where the steel wool will be spinning and letting your camera adjust accordingly. Packing your wool tightly will result in fewer sparks since there is less oxygen available to it as it burns. Lastly, make sure to photograph responsibly and bring along a fire extinguisher.
7. Flour Power: Aside from the many showers it took to get the flour out of my hair and the hours spent cleaning my tripod, this effect was fun to experiment with. It is paired best with movement, as seen below, and can accentuate the spontaneity of any moment. Just be sure to avoid rubbing your eyes and have your model come prepared in clothing they are willing to lose.
Edited by Sarah Goto
Many art critics are reprimanding cell phones for creating floods of self proclaimed "photographers." They argue that the high quality cameras on smartphones pump everyday people full with false confidence, which produces hoards of "artsy" photos. Their primary worry is that this trend will downgrade the expectations that the public holds for the visual arts and cause them to lose respect for fine photography. While I agree that the photos taken on a phone rarely match those taken with a DSLR or a manual camera, the smartphone has opened important new avenues in photography.
Being a photographer involves battling comments like "anyone could do that" or "all you did was click a button." Contemporary artists often face the same kind of criticism, when their pieces include paint drips or items a normal person would simply throw away, to which I find the appropriate response remains, "but you didn't do it." This trend may explain why some photographers have become so defensive of their titles and feel the need to discourage or look down upon smartphone photographers.
Anyone who has ever seriously attempted to immerse themselves in the art of photography knows that a picture is much more than just the time it took for the shutter to close. Having a phone on you at all times can actually help facilitate the development of your eye and aid you on your next big-time shoot. I for one do not always carry my DLSR, whether I want to bypass the camera strap tan or I'm worried it might get stolen. Cell phones serve as a great way to capture unexpected moments in everyday life and are an essential starting point for the progression of any amateur photographer.
Most cell phones surely outdo the quality of my first camera, whose memory card could only hold fourteen photos at a time. Admittedly, most of those photos were also of my thumb.
Any committed photographer knows that the composition of the final photograph is more important than how much you spent on the camera it was taken with. No one can deny technical skill when they see it. Even when I see photos that are not as focused as I would like them to be I can appreciate them if the artist was able to observe something I would not have otherwise noticed.
Shooting with a DSLR is hard work and although smartphones cannot capture the same resolution as a fancier camera, they allow you to be a photographer 24/7. Similarly, mobile editing apps are not as good as Photoshop or Lightroom but they remain a valuable creative tool. Combining the two spheres of photography is always an option and when I taken an exceptionally good photo on my phone I will not hesitate to download it and enhance it in Photoshop.
It is also important to understand what your phone camera is capable of. A good mobile photographer makes use of different modes, like HDR (rich tone), which is better for landscapes. But be aware of the limitations of other features like panorama. I have found that panoramas usually turn out better when several photos are manually or automatically pieced together using Photomerge on Photoshop.
Personally, I enjoy mobile photography because of how easily I can share my work with others. I rarely get around to updating my website, but with apps like 500px, which preserves full resolution, and Instagram I can reach a wide audience in seconds. It is incredibly encouraging to see acclaimed organizations like National Geographic holding annual Instagram photo contests, proof that mobile photography is creatively beneficial.
The photography community evolves with every new technological advancement. I can only hope that each change brings about more enthusiasm for the art form and that our society can find ways to avoid diminishing its the value.
Instagram username: farqi_fresh
View mobile photos: http://mobilephotoawards.com/
Editor: Sarah Goto
A lantern captured on my Samsung Galaxy 5 Mini.
This Labor Day weekend I had my first ever food truck experience. On the left you can see my Shrimp B.L.T. in all of it's glory, right before it ceased to exist.
As I was walking around, staring through my phone camera looking for the perfect patch of sunlight, my sister asked me why I always have to take pictures of my food.
Instagram alone is home to legions of food posts and naturally most people write taking a photo of your meal as typical "white girl behavior".
Well, I intend to defend the nature of seemingly frivolous food photos.
I rarely post any pictures of food. In fact, most of them get lost in the depths of my camera roll or in the dusty files of my PC. However, I continue to take them. For me their intended purpose has a simple explanation.
When I was younger I was in a constant panic that I would forget the things that I had done. I started countless diaries, and even asked my mom to help me write down the events of everyday. Eventually, when I was 13, photography became my avenue for alleviating this fear. I started documenting EVERYTHING. And I certainly haven't stopped. I now realize that memories naturally fade with time. But photos can make a moment last forever. Of course this sandwich is not important in the greater fabric of my life. But it was a beautiful moment....so I took a picture. Please keep taking pictures of your food, you never know when one will turn out especially nice .