Pretending to be a sports photographer

I thought I would mosey on down to my husband’s rugby club one cold, overcast Saturday a few weeks ago, to try my hand at some sports photography. It might have helped if I had read some tips first. It’s bit hard when people keep moving.

LSH in action 1

But sometimes they jump straight up in the air which helps.

LSH in Action 2(Who says rugby players are not ballerinas at heart?)

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Sometimes they throw themselves on the ground. Sadly, too often, they threw themselves into touch rather than over the try line.

LSH In Action 2

Eventually they just walk off in exhaustion.

End of LSH v Hoylake Match

 

I would love you be able to give you some deeply researched information about sports photography this week but in reality, I turned up, put the camera on sports mode, took a lot of photos, tried not to be intimidated by the official photographers with their über-long lenses, came home, cropped the best and used a Lightroom preset filter on them, because they were so busy the colours were distracting, I thought.  (One thing I did learn though from the über-long lens people is that you can get photography gloves with grips on the tips and fold back fingers. Genius. Those are added to the want list. along with the nearest you can get to an über-long lens for a Micro Four Thirds camera)

I can’t even tell you who won the match because I kept getting distracted. There were characterful dogs

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and a cheeky little girl busy building a den out of sticks,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and two brothers warm inside the club house with their fruits shoots.

Clubhouse kids LSH

 

Who’s winning? Beats me!

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It was an afternoon just for getting out and having fun.

 

Learning Portraiture Part 4 – More Lightroom tricks

This is the final post about my portrait day with Rory Lewis. You can see the others here, here and here. Today, I am just going to show you quickly how I edited the colour series from that day.

With these I did want a very high contrast between dark and lights so I started with shots that had a lot of shadows in already. These were achieved by using black boards and a dark mottle muslin backdrop around the model to absorb light and placing a soft light to the side.

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Starting image straight from camera

 

All I did then was to play with the contrast, shadow, white and black sliders to increase the darkness of the image. Bear in mind I was just messing to learn and saw this image appear inform of my eyes. You have to try this! Its addictive 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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I also reduced the clarity to get the smoothness to the skin that give the image, in my opinion anyway, a slight dreaminess. Finally I added a post-crop vignette:

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That produced this image :

 

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I hope that these more technical posts are not too boring. My aim in doing them really is to share my excitement and amazement at realising how easy it is to edit in Lightroom and to maybe spur someone else to have a go and find the pure enjoyment I am experiencing.

Learning Portraiture Part 3 – The Lightroom Tricks

In my previous two posts here and here, I wrote a little about two different series of edited photos I produced from one day in Rory Lewis’s studio with his wife Sasha modelling for me. Today I am going to show you what I started with and how I got to the end results.

This is a quick iPad snap of where the images were taken. The L shaped background in this shot are just large painted pieces of polystyrene. Throughout the day we swapped them out in various combinations with the white side and with cloth backgrounds on a stand ( you can see one of those peeking out from behind the black foam board) . Mostly we worked with one flash head pointed backwards into an umberella which is white inside and reflects the light back onto the model. Other times we swapped that out for a strip soft box or a beauty dish over the light. Stupidly, I did not take an image of each set up in between the portraits so I could remember which were which. In the bottom of the frame you can see the edge of a round black reflector. This will be the first piece of equipment I buy as its so cheap, portable, effective and useful in natural light too. But that’s another post!

I had intended to make this the first day I shot in raw ( i.e without the camera doing any processing for me). However, although Rory said he’d set the camera up for that in fact he didn’t so I am working from large JPEGS. however, in Lightroom you can create virtual copies to work from. This means that although when you edit a JPEG you lose information from the file, I can at least limit the loss from multiple different edits of the same image.

So, let’s take this as an example of the starting image and do the black and white image first. It’s becoming a long post so I will do the colour edit version in a separate post.

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All the settings I used are in the panel in the right hand side of Lightroom.

You can simply click on Black and White to get a conversion and I do that sometimes to see quickly if an image has potential in Black and White but I learned that its better to do the conversion manually. You can do it by reducing the saturation slider at the very bottom of the Basic panel in Develop mode.

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But I did these by using the individual slider for each colour as shown here.

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You can see I reduced all colour to nothing but left a touch of the red in. In some of the images in this series there was actually red in the image other than her lips. In one the lipstick was reflected on her hands a little and in another for some reason her eyelids appeared pink when all other colours were removed. So I had to nudge the slider gently to the point where only the deeper red of her lips remained.

Beautiful though Sasha is, the images ( all taken with a Micro Four Thirds 60mm macro lens) showed the variations in her skin. If I had been taking an image of say an older person with wonderful life lines in their face I might well have increased clarity to emphasise the story written on their face. However, for this series I wanted a softer dreamer effect and so I reduced the clarity a significant bit to smooth out the skin.

 

Without clarity adjustment

Without clarity adjustment

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Final version with clarity adjustment

 

 

 

In Lightroom you can save the settings and then paste them to apply them to other photos. I did this at this stage so I could get a fairly consistent series. However, each photo was slightly different in lighting and composition so I tweaked each one individually. Sometimes I added a post-crop vignette to hide completely a distracting part of her arm or shoulder in the bottom corners. On some of the images, because the lighting was different, the lips appeared brighter or a different shade. I played with the hue and luminance sliders to get them as consistent as I could for all the images in the series. I think on one or two I adjusted the exposure a little. On some her face was quite bright so I reduced the highlights a little to get rid of excessive shine on her face.

Basically, it was a case of finding a look I liked then playing with sliders and seeing what happened and stopping when I got something that was pleasing to my personal taste. I remain gobsmacked at how easy it is to do this and I am looking forward to continuing to learn what is possible.

 

 

Learning Portraiture Part 2 – Inspired editing

Here are a selection of my (almost) black and white edits from the photo shoot with Sasha Lewis in her husband Rory’s studio. (You can see my account of how this came about here).

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One of the interesting titbits from the day was when Rory explained how he gets his inspiration for lighting and editing his portraiture work from other people’s art. In his case he has an interest in how Gustav Dorė uses light. He showed me how Cecil Beaton’s famous portrait of Twiggy was inspired by this character from a german expressionist film Metropolis.

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I would like to say that these edits were consciously inspired that way, but the truth is they happened because I was manually reducing all the colours to get a black and white image, left red to last and thought, hey, I love that, let’s work with that more. So often my inspiration is the serendipitous result of play. However, when my husband saw them he said it reminded him of portraits of Greta Garbo like the bottom one on this page. I will take that! I think in the future, if and when I buy the necessary kit and find some willing guinea pigs I might have a go at trying a particular look upfront rather than working backwards from what I had in the camera by chance.

In the meantime my next task is to try some environmental portraiture in natural light I think.

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In case you were curious, my next post will be about some of the editing steps I used to get these final images.

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Learning Portraiture Part 1 – Overcoming the fear

One of the reasons I upgraded my camera is that I knew in the future I wanted do a project which would include portraiture alongside textile work. But then I got a bit stuck. I didn’t want to take photos of people until I could do them well and I couldn’t do them well without learning by taking photographs. So, I broke the fear by paying Liverpool portrait photographer Rory Lewis to let me use all his studio equipment and to teach me how to get different lighting effects. His wife Sasha is a professional model and came along to pose for me.

I was somewhat amused when I got there to find that his studio is in what was the old Magistrates Court on Victoria Street where I spent many a day as a young solicitor. The building has not been renovated and these were all taken in Court 14, which would have been a criminal offence back in the day!!

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I was able to have hands on experience with various bits of equipment – light meters, flash heads and umbrellas, beauty dishes, strip soft box, reflectors and a variety of backdrops. So, now I have a very good idea of the type of equipment I might invest in. Dangerously Rory even introduced me to the best places to shop for kit! I am however, not yet tempted to upgrade to his £4,500 lens!  for my current purposes I am more than happy with the standard my Olympus mirrorless lens produced. All these were taken on a 60mm (120 equivalent at 35mm) macro lens at F5.6, 100 ISO and 100 Shutter speed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have to say that when I took photography up I thought I would probably slightly resent any computer time involved in editing photos but I have discovered I absolutely love, love, love the post-processing. It is amazing how you can take a pretty good photo from camera and enhance it to something you never in a million years thought you would be able to produce. I am still working pretty basically in Lightroom and haven’t even got to Photoshop yet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wanted to use the pictures from this course to practice that post-processing and to start to edit photos into coherent series and to find out from just playing what my ‘style’ was as I let it naturally evolve. This is the first set and I will do a couple more posts soon showing another set and then a post giving some explanation of how I got from original to the different series.

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Why shoot in colour then convert to Black and White?

Kathy Loomis was kind enough to comment on my post on Vivien Maier asking this question, so I thought I’d give a full answer here. Most cameras now will allow you to shoot directly in Black and White so why bother to strip colour out in post-processing? There are three reasons I can see.

1. Choice

A glib but perfectly good answer is that if you shoot in colour you can keep that and have a Black and White version, but you cannot create colour from a Black and White capture. Why limit your options?

2. The underlying presence of colour allows a better Black and White image

When you use a programm like Lightroom or Photoshop to strip colour out you retain the tones in the original. Shooting in colour allows you to manipulate that colour first to strengthen the tonal contrast or to darken/lighten areas for effect. Let me show you with this image of a boat on top of a boat taken at the docks in Liverpool. This is the original image.

 

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If I simply convert to Black and white by de-saturising it ( i.e. by simply sliding the saturation slider in Lightroom right to the left) this is what you get. Black and White yes but actually quite a lot of midtone greys,

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So, let’s go back to the colour image and make some adjustments. I am exaggerating what I might do here just for illustration, but here I have upped the contrast and clarity, increased the blacks and whites. as a colour image it looks a little garish to me right now and if I was seeking to enhance the colour rather than convert, I would pull back on these adjustments.

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However, when you then de-saturate the image you get this:

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Bear in mind I’ve done this quickly to illustrate the point and I am not presenting it as the best image ever, (not least because I should crop that bollard out!)  but I think you can see how you can enhance the strength of the image by playing with the colour first to get more contrast.

3. You can selectively retain colour for effect.

Using Lightroom there are three ways to convert to Black and White that I know of. there is the saturation slider I mentioned above. Or you can just click on the words Black & White in the basic panel. However, you can also reduce the saturation of each individual colour present in the image. It is therefore, possible to leave one colour in whilst stripping the others. That would not necessarily work for every image, but can be very effective where the colour appears only in one particular place. This is how I edited this image for example, with more care than the above example to leave her lipstick and the faintest bit of blusher showing.

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(This picture is a sneak preview of a series of four posts coming up about my day learning portraiture last weekend!) 

For these reasons I have been shooting in colour, but that is not to say that making a decision to shoot first in Black and White to train the eye for light and tones is not without merit. This article makes a great case for doing that and I might have to give that a go sometime. However, if you have a camera that shoots in raw format (as opposed to only JPEG) you can probably set the camera so that your display shows your image in Black and White but the raw file actually retains the colour. So, you will still need to do the post processing, but you can see and think in Black and white whilst working.

There are lots of blog posts around on this topic but this one from Northlight-Images is particularly strong on the technicalities if you want more information.

I hope that answers your question Kathy. If any other readers have anything they want me to write about please do contact me to let me know, I shall be happy to oblige.