We're moving!

I’m sorry to hop blogs in such a short time. It has been really difficult to keep this one updated, despite my best efforts (which usually end with me thinking about a new post and never actually making it to writing one)…

There are still questions I need to answer and I will, as soon as I can. I promise I have not ignored or forgotten about them.

You can now find me here: http://blog.klodjanadervishi.com/

This new blog was actually my oldest blog of all but it had died as well. In the attempt to get things going again I am merging the two. It will not be solely about before&afters or answering question, but generally about the photography I do when I’m not working. The photography that does not pay my bills but is equally (if not more) gratifying!

Let me know what you think about it!


Studio Lighting - a few examples

Nina: Can you post about studio lighting? I would love to see what you use and some techniques ;)

I thought about this and since I don’t have much time to make a long post about it (sorry, I’m packing for Italy), here are a few examples of different lighting methods with one, two or even three lights.

My choice on studio lighting fell on Elinchrom. I own two Style 400BX, which I love dearly! I also have an Alien Bee with battery pack, purchased for outdoors use, but, in all honesty, it doesn’t even begin to compare to the consistency of temperature my Elinchroms give me. If you are wondering what temperature I’m talking about, google Color Temperature.

To go with these lights, I have a few umbrellas (translucent white and black/silver), a beauty dish, reflectors and two soft boxes (one rectangular – cheaply purchased on Ebay and a Rotalux octabox from Elinchrom – love, love, love). My best reflectors, at times, are made of styrofoam boards. You can find those at stores like Home Depot. Cheap. Functional!

Examples of one-light schemes:

Style 400BX + beauty dish

A little more directional – rectangular softbox

Same softbox as above:

Beauty dish + styrofoam board:

Other examples are: one light + octabox, one light + translucent umbrella

Examples of two-light schemes:

You can obviously see one of my Elinchrom heads in the shot. I was so lazy I didn’t even remove the power cord, but it doesn’t really bother me.

Style 400BX in the back has only one light modifier and it’s the small reflector the heads come with. The one lighting the subject has a rectangular softbox.

Julie asked me about this shot: “I want to know how you did it. Are those all your props? Who is she? Just some random client? or a model posing for a magazine? How did you come up with not just the photo, but the idea for it? I just think it’s amazing an I’m sitting here “Wow”ed at my desk… again.

Courtenay is a model that I worked with when we first moved here. This shot was taken in 2008. There are no props going on in this photo, other than the “curtain”. And that’s mine. As for the idea of the photo, we were just playing around with different things and my eye fell on this prop and in about 2 seconds I changed my set to this. This other shot was taken only a few minutes earlier. Same dress, hair down.

Softbox + black/silver umbrella – Subject close to background as I was specifically looking for her shadow.

Other example with two lights, softbox on the front, black/silver umbrella in the back. Same lights and modifiers as above, yet so different.

Two rectangular softboxes. These were rented as I was shooting in a studio in Milan two years ago. She is also the model I’ll be working with on Saturday, same studio and probably same lights.

Examples of a three-light scheme:

I rarely ever work with three lights, unless I am looking to blow out the background but I prefer off white backgrounds to start with.

One Style 400BX on the front with black/silver umbrella and the other Style 400BX+ AlienBee lighting the background.

These were only a few examples that I randomly picked through the numerous studio shots. If you browse through my blogs you’ll notice that I like directional light. I look for it every chance I get. Flat light won’t be my first choice. While people work to eliminate shadows, I work to create them. Shadows give depth and make shapes more interesting. As we all know, though, art is very subjective.

I forgot to post anything with only backlight… Maybe next time as right now it’s really time for bed.

Composite Images

Today I will share an image I shot this past Sunday in San Francisco. I just got around to editing it for RJ’s blog and it might be a nice example to show how composite images can be obtained.

My husband calls them my very own version of HDR. Did you know that HDR was not invented to create those utterly fake looking landscapes? No offense, by any means, to lovers of HDR. I’m just not a fan myself… Especially of the over-saturated ones. Anyway, back to today’s photo.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D markII
Lens: Canon 20mm f/2.8

f/8 – 1/125 sec – ISO 400
focal length: 20mm
subject distance: 1.3m

Shot in Manual mode. Auto white balance.

Step #1: SOOC. I won’t be using this one, just wanted to show where I started.

Step #2: In ACR, adjusting exposure according to my main subject(s). I am perfectly aware of the fact that Union Square in the background is blown out and I’ll get back to that later. I also and added a little fill light and corrected the while balance. Nothing accurate, just warmed it up a little. Then I opened this file in Photoshop and “parked” it there.

Step #3: Back in ACR, I take the RAW file that I just worked on and underexpose it, by around -1 stop. This gives me back the detail in Union Square. As you can see, subjects are now very dark. I warmed this one up a little more and then opened it in Photoshop.

Step #4: I have now 2 .CR2 files opened in Photoshop. I copy the second file I opened into the first file. Add a ‘Reveal all’ mask to this second layer (the underexposed) and then paint with a black brush to bring out the underlying (overexposed) layer in the areas that are needed. I basically lighten the entire ‘indoor’ part of the photo. To finish up, I added two Curves layers for contrast/pop (S-curves) and one Curves layer that I call ‘Lighten’ (basically bring up the curve in the middle – in ‘Hide all’ layer mask). I think I forgot to sharpen this image before saving it for web, but you can see it bigger (and better) here.

How do you do it?

As much as I would like to share a new ‘before&after’ today, I can’t. We are in the process of setting up my new 27″ iMac – after being a PC girl for years, I am converting to the dark side. Or should I say ‘white’? Another new addition to the family is a drobo.

In case you are wondering why I decided to get an iMac, know that I have no major reason to ‘dump’ my PC other than I needed a new (and more powerful) workstation and since my son is always with me during the day he ends up under my desk all the time and I’ve been wanting to get rid of all the cables that come with a detached unit. The amount of cables is not drastically reduced by the introduction of the iMac but most of them now run on my desk rather than underneath it and within an almost toddler’s reach. I was also needing an additional big screen so here goes all in one.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that I’m on a forced vacation from work for a day or two, until everything is up and running, with the most important part being restoring disks and their backups. So, I will answer another question instead. This is less technical and more personal.

Q. Julie: Now I really want to know how you do it.
Not just make a pretty picture, but everything, what does your day look like?

A. My days are ruled by the little man. I depend on him and barely get ANYTHING done at all. I certainly do not edit during the day as it is impossible for me to sit at my desk long enough. Emails will be taken care of from my iPhone most of the time.
This post was supposed to be about me but I guess it will turn out describing more of RJ instead. He keeps me very busy and since he is such a bad sleeper (on a good day he will take 1 45-minute nap – on a bad day it will only be 5 or 10 minutes and no, I’m not kidding) I never get a break. Whenever I do get a little break, I sit to have some food in peace, without a child yelling at me from underneath the table. And then if it’s a really good day, I will treat myself to some cleaning around the house. Exciting, right?

Being a working at home mom may seem like the best of both worlds, but it means working 2 full time jobs! A business requires a lot of time and so does a child. Most days I can’t wait for him to go to bed, I’m that exhausted. But that does not happen until after 9pm. Lately it has shifted to 10pm. The joy!
The moment I close the nursery door and turn on the monitor, my working day begins. Emails, editing, proofing, designing, scheduling… with breaks to pick up toys from around the house, clean, laundry, dishwasher… and have DINNER (made with love by hubby), finally. Dinner time is the only sitting-and-watching-TV break I get. About 1 hour. At midnight, almost as if I was Cinderella, I have to run away, sit at my desk and work some more. I usually get up from that desk around 2 or 3am, only because I force myself to go to sleep (I’m exhausted but I also have tons to take care of). Oh, and between midnight and the time I go to bed, RJ will certainly be up at least once.

This is my average day. Nothing glamorous. I make sure I take a shot or two of RJ for the 365 project (which is kicking my butt, by the way, because some days I just don’t feel like grabbing the camera at all).

You must be wondering how much sleep I get? The answer is VERY LITTLE, and not nearly enough. At 3am I’ll head upstairs, take my time getting ready for bed and then it’s usually time for RJ to wake up again. We are so exhausted we bring him in bed with us and there he stays (nursing on and off) until 8 or 9am. To this day, I get no good sleep with him by my side.

There will be days when I feel like I’ve lost my ‘mojo’, like everything I do is just not enough and that I should probably take a break from my business and focus on taking care of RJ but of course, I don’t. I love what I do and I’ve come to terms with the fact that for a while, my life will be challenging, to say the least.

Q&A - sharpening and resizing

Q. What are your steps for resizing and sharpening? Do you resize first, then sharpen? Or vice versa?

A. I always resize first and then sharpen. Sharpening a large image is harder than sharpening a web size one. Not to mention quicker.

Q. I know you are using an unsharp mask…do you use the #s from that one screen shot you showed (199, .2, 0)? Or does it vary?
A. It does vary depending on the specific image I’m sharpening. I do not sharpen closeups and full figure shots the same way, of course. I keep the radius at .2 and the threshold at 0 at all times when sharpening for web, but  the amount will vary from 100 to 500 (usually somewhere in the middle, though). Rarely ever do I need to go all the way up to 500, unless it’s a really closeup capture.

Q. Also, when resizing for web, do you change the resolution to 72 or leave it at 300?
A. My images are, by default opening settings in ACR, set at 240 DPI. When I resize for web, I just resize. Resolution in DPI remains at 240. You can check by looking at the EXIF data in any of my picture (pick a blog, pick a picture and go look).
The Myth of 300 vs 72 DPI has been widely discussed by people far more knowledgeable than myself. Here are a few articles you can read about it: The Myth of DPI, The Myth of DPI and DPI Demystified.

Q. What sizing dimensions do you select or do you let it select the pixel dimensions based of the resolution you set?
A. Depending on where the photo goes, I will resize from 600x400px (or 600px on the larger side) to 900px. Never larger than that. I find that a good size to display a web image is something between 700 and 800px, on the larger side. I, personally, hate scrolling the page to view huge images (storyboards excluded).

Sorry for so many questions! I just LOVE how super sharp the web image becomes! When I resize and sharpen, I don’t really see a difference in my image and am wondering if I’m doing somethign wrong.

It takes a little practice to find the optimal values for sharpening images. I see way too many over-sharpened photos out there. Makes my eyes hurt. What I did when I started out, was go through all the sharpening methods and try them out, with different numbers and on different types of pictures, until I came up with my couple of preferred ways to do it. You can also look at the countless tutorials out there, play with it and modify to fit.


I know there are a few more questions among the comments and I’ll try to answer them, too. Comments and new questions are always welcome!