Jul 28, 2008

Head Swapping

It's been a full week with my surgery and a sick baby on our hands. We've taken a break from photo shoots for the time being. However, we wanted to post a little about some of the work Jacob has done in his Special Edits work including head swapping. It's a little trick photographers use in post processing to get all the faces looking right. It takes some work, but the results are very nice.

First, you have to have two (or more) photos that you can use to form the composite. That's why I often take several shots of the same pose when I do group portraits (like this shot from a kids photo shoot earlier this summer). Obviously, the goal is to make sure all the people are looking at the camera and smiling at the same time without any help from photo editing. But when that doesn't work, I try to get at least a nice shot of each person looking and smiling at the camera in the same pose so we can "head swap" if we need to.

Here are the two photos Jacob used to create the composite above:

Good expressions on both of the little ones' faces, but not so good on the two oldest

Pleasant smiles on the two oldest, but "deer-in-the-headlights" look on the two youngest

Next, Jacob finds a place where he can swap one part of the image out for the other. Sometimes, head swapping is as easy as taking a head from one photo and putting it over the other photo, then blending the background to match. In this case, Jacob had to swap out whole bodies, so here's how he ended up editing these originals.

Put the two jigsaw pieces together and ta-da! After all that work, we had fun playing around a little with the color levels and added a bit of a vignette to the one at the top of the post. But the full color one below looks just as good, and hopefully doesn't draw any attention to the photo editing that was done to it.

Jul 21, 2008

Family Photo Shoot at Hembree Park

Saturday, we met a beautiful family at one of Roswell's smaller parks, Hembree Park. We found a lot of great places to shoot, though Jacob reminds me that he had to adapt the environment to make some shots look right. In fact, Jacob was very busy during the shoot: moving sticks and logs out of the stream, shifting a rather heavy garbage can out of the background, and keeping our little toddler happy while steadying me on the step ladder. Thank goodness for great assistants (and husbands)!

Our clients were great! Not only did they wear perfect clothes for the shoot (simple, similar outfits in neutral colors), but they also were easy to work with. Mom and Dad will be celebrating their anniversary this week. Happy Anniversary!

Their daughter impressed me with her self-confidence and outgoing personality. After getting the shots we wanted while she played her violin, I mentioned that she could stop. But the piece was nearly over and she finished with a flair! That's a true musician.

At home, I generally stick to the camera side of things while Jacob handles any special edits. But this time, I wanted a try at it. With a little guidance from Jacob, I added some subtle vignetting and adjusted the levels a bit on the first image of this post. I wanted to emphasize the family without compromising the other details of the stream and rock bed. Here's the original without the vignette. I think those changes made a big difference!

This is my last photo shoot post for a while. I will be taking a small "vacation" after an outpatient surgery this week. It will give me a chance to rest and prepare for the upcoming months before Christmas (typically very busy for photographers).

Jul 19, 2008

Swingin' and Readin'

A fellow blogger and photo enthusiast volunteered her kids to model for my Kids and Teens Project this week. We did a few photos in her backyard and then headed out to their subdivision's private park for a few more. I love Alpharetta! There's the greenway, beautiful parks, amazing trees, and wonderful hidden treasures like private community parks and ponds. Discovering these "secret gardens" is one of the highlights of being a photographer.

Big sister loves the monkey bars. She uses a mixture of sand and clay (fifth photo) to help her hands grip the bars more easily. And quite a grip she has! She hung on those monkey bars while mom put the two twin girls in a row. Then, they all held long enough for me to get several pictures of the siblings. I love how big brother is framed by the playground equipment.

Big brother prefers reading. He can read a thick book like Inkspell in two days. We got to talking books before we went to the park and found out we have a common interest in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I had no idea there were three more sequels to The Lightning Thief, and my reader dashed upstairs to get me the second book to borrow! I'm halfway through it already.

Lately I've been working on my posing techniques. It's something I think most parents want: a nice posed picture of all the kids looking and smiling at the camera. But it's not so easy to achieve. Mom and I posed the kids and even persuaded them to take off their shoes for the photo. Then, I told the two oldest to just look and smile for the camera while I worked on getting the two youngest to smile. (Older kids are great this way. They will usually go along with a plan, as long as they know the purpose.) Well, it turned out pretty well! I had the two youngest close their eyes and then on "3," look and smile at the camera. Snap, snap, snap! And we have all four of them looking and smiling. Great job, kids!

Do you have school-age kids who would like to model for me? You will get wonderful candid photos of your kids doing what they like best, and your kids will get some fun experience modeling. Please contact us to sign up for my Kids and Teens Photo Project which I've extended until the end of August.

Jul 14, 2008

Maternity Portraits and Silhouettes

Saturday, I tried out a few new things: studio-style maternity photography and silhouettes. As you can see, both turned out pretty well! My model and her husband agreed to pose for silhouettes (something I've been doing location scouting for recently), and I agreed to try some studio-style maternity portraits.

First, we did the silhouettes at Alpharetta High School. It's an ideal location for this because the whole complex is built on levels. I stand down on one level while my models pose on the level above. That way, I shoot up from the bottom of the hill and get beautiful silhouettes against a setting-sun sky. I was inspired by a series of maternity silhouettes by Colorado-area photographer Barb Lattin at Perfectly Natural Photography. We belong to the same email group, and she gave some great tips on how to do silhouettes. Thanks, Barb!

The studio-style maternity portraits were an entirely different matter. I am not a studio photographer, so I don't own mono or strobe lights. However, I'm an avid listener of StudioLighting.net's LightSource podcast. So I've learned a lot about studio lighting and do-it-yourself set-ups from podcast episodes.

To create these shots, I knew we would need some powerful lights and a black background. So, Jacob and I rigged a lamp stand with 5 mini halogen lights! We then bounced the light off of a bedroom wall so that we wouldn't have harsh shadows behind the model. I also had to adjust the exposure compensation on the camera so that the charcoal-colored material we draped in the background would go completely black.

After an hour of shooting silhouettes, we spend the next two hours getting the rest of the shots. Whew! I have new respect for studio photographers. Not only was set-up time drawn out, but each shot took meticulous posing and each outfit change made for a longer shoot. Despite all this, my model and I had a great time, and we were delighted with the results.

Candid outdoor shoots are my real love however. They are fun and fast and spontaneous. In fact, I'm positively glowing from the praise a few of our clients blogged about on their sites. One mom wrote a whole description about our shoot on her 3 Cute Kids blog. (Check out more mom reactions from that shoot at Urban Adventures and Adam, Lisa, and Ellie.) Another mom posted some additional pictures from a family photo shoot I did the week before. I'm also seeing some of my work pop up on Facebook as clients take advantage of the low resolution image files I include on the CD for online sharing. When clients post their pictures online and tell others about us, it's about the best compliment we could recieve. Thank you!

Jul 10, 2008

Location Scouting

Today I went location scouting with my little guy after lunch and again after dinner while Jacob watched the baby for an hour. I'm always on the lookout for good spots to take photos, but lately I've been working on finding locations close by. That way, when clients ask if I know a good spot to take photos, I have a few that I know well and that are easy to get to.

I've been using Google Maps lately to do some initial decision-making on where to go. Google Maps has satellite, terrain, and street views that are quite accurate. From those, I try to find local ponds, trails, and other spots I wouldn't ordinarily see on a regular map. (The first two photos from this post are from a beautiful little trail and pond area I found this way.)

This afternoon's project was to find out what the Big Creek Overlook area looked like. On the satellite view, I could see a nice open area (rare in tree-covered Alpharetta), and I thought a field or an open area like that might look great in some photos. Well, when I got there, I found that it was a residential area. I really loved the look of the field I could see from the road though. So with baby in arms, I knocked on the owner's door and asked him if I could go down and take some pictures of it. "Knock yourself out," he said. The second two pictures are from this lovely area.

An artist friend of mine once asked me how I compose a photograph, and I've been thinking about that question again today. A photograph is a two-dimensional object, but you can create the illusion of three dimensions by including a foreground (slightly out-of-focus), middle ground (in focus and where the subject of your photograph will be), and background (blurred nicely by a wide aperture and long focal length). The third picture demonstrates the kind of composition I'm talking about.

Then again, there are times when you want your photograph to have that two-dimensional quality. After my initial success with some silhouettes, I'm excited to try them again. So, after dinner tonight, I scouted out some great spots for silhouettes at Alpharetta High School. Now all I need are some people to put in my new locations!

Jul 7, 2008


This 4th of July holiday brought together a lively bunch of cousins, and Jacob and I had a ball shooting the whole group last Saturday. With nine children ranging from 2 months to 7 years, this was our biggest "kids shoot" to date. The parents came prepared: snacks, drinks, bubbles, and flags . . . plenty of things to keep the kids interested while we caught some amazing moments on camera. My favorite event was the impromptu parade, led by an enthusiastic mom singing "You're a Grand Old Flag" at the top of her lungs while the kids marched up and down the sidewalk. Of course, there were some nice quiet moments like these: watching the bubbles float away on the breeze, holding a tiny frog they found by the side of the trail (third image), and breaking into smiles for the camera (the 2-month-old smiled especially big for Mommy).

Jacob was a real lifesaver on this shoot. He has a talent for doing Muppet voices and brought his Kermit puppet along this time. We did get quite a few smiles with our green frog friend. Besides helping with the group shots, Jacob also set up and took down equipment, as well as watched our little son who often accompanies me on shoots. Thanks, love!

One of the best parts of this photo shoot was hearing from the parents. They commented on how much nicer an experience this was than previous years' attempts at cramped photography studios. With all the room to run around and play during this outdoor shoot, the kids were much more cooperative and happy. And after the initial posed shots were over, parents were free to stand back while I shot candids and the kids played.

I love this style of photography (often called "lifestyle photography") because it feels so much more genuine and real than posed studio shots. Maybe the kids will remember that they those outfits were chosen because they'd look good for the pictures, but I think they'll also remember that they had a fun time playing with their cousins and waving their American flags high in the air on a fun July 4th weekend.