Firstly, what is a “low key” image?
Low key images are often described as dark, moody,
classy or even sinister
A broad definition is that low key images have plenty of contrast and dark tones. Images are often described as dark, moody, classy or even sinister. In the pre-digital days, getting the exposure correct on transparency film where the highlights that define the subject had to be light but not overexposed, was a challenge that involved careful use of light meters and polaroid. Modern cameras with immediate feedback and histograms, that show at a glance where the tones of the scene lie, have made things much easier, especially when you’re controlling the light source such as with flash or in a studio.
The natural opposite of low-key is high-key—lots of light tones like a bride in a traditional dress shot in a pristine white studio.
With “low-key” in mind I revisited a few of my images that weren’t shot with that in mind to see if I could Photoshop them to be darker, moodier and vastly different from what I originally shot. Playing like this always leads to new knowledge about the software, which feeds back into your photographic sensibilities next time you’re shooting. And it’s fun to see how far you can push pixels into places they were never meant to go.
The slideshow below can be enlarged with the button lower right.
Welcome to a brief insight into our Protrack 3 event and the art of shooting directly into the sun.
The whole idea of producing a great photograph is one of total balance. Balance of design, balance of lighting and proper balance (positioning) of yourself in relation to the subject and background. Lens choice is also a major consideration to a great outcome. Thanks to Billy-Ray Stokes, one of our students on the day, for this great pose of Nicole. At one stage I thought he might have her doing hand stands, however she threatened to go home so he started to behaved himself. lol..
Billy-Ray was not going to settle for any old (ordinary) pose and I was totally impressed with his perseverance and also that of Nicole’s. When Lauren, another attendee, chimed in with the female perspective I knew we would get some great results across the whole team. In fact I was so impressed with this arrangement that I quickly pinched this shot while the others where still getting organised :)
I’d like to say that it was a pleasant day out but in reality the conditions were really, really lousy despite the sun being out. The wind was freezing and blowing at better than 35 knots. Sand was flying everywhere and I’m so pleased that I carry a roll of Glad-Wrap with me. I loosely wrap a piece around my camera to keep the sand out and it always pays off, especially against salt spray. I know Nicole looks “pretty as a picture” perched up on the pipework like she is, however the truth is it was really tough going. Ever sat on a piece of pipe for better than 15 minutes or more with the wind threatening to knock you off and into the water? Now that’s balance. She also near froze to death, but battled on regardless. Perseverance personified.
Protrack 3 is all about shadow control and control in general. Any photograph shot against the sun will render the subject as a silhouette against the background. A silhouette is for all intentions and purposes (and in this case) an unwanted shadow. Design, lighting and camera control is what all the Protrack photography courses are about. However, there is one other overriding consideration: PERSEVERANCE and the desire to push through, under all circumstances, to get the MONEY shot. Your knowledge base gives you the confidence to see past the obstacles and win the day.
Then a great capture is ready for balancing again with Adobe Photoshop.
Thanks to all those who came from far and wide to the photography and Photoshop seminar in Shackleton on Sunday. Kathy Morris and I had the pleasure of spending a fabulous, long day amongst a terrific group of enthusiastic digital photographers on a very cloudy but fine Sunday. All of you who were there have already heard from me via email but this blog post is a nice way to showcase some of the pictures we set up and experimented with, including the shots we took in the wheat paddock when it was almost too dark to see! Thank goodness for high ISO sensors.
Big thanks from me to everyone who made it a huge success. An event like this took a lot of organising and there were many, many of you who contributed. Kathy’s spacious photography studio was the perfect venue and access to areas outside gave us plenty of areas to practice our photography.
Mel was our amazing first time model who made it easy for everyone to shoot, learn and get great images. You all saw just how lovely she is when I projected and edited a couple of images in Photoshop after the shoot. The finished images are on this page to click and enlarge (including the orange backlight flare shot which is a lucky accident that’s too nice not to use :)
I’ve included a landscape image I took on the drive out from Perth on Sunday morning. Next time I’ll give myself more time to shoot—there are photo opportunities around every bend that I didn’t have time to stop for.
See you all for the next seminar.
I posted recently about really looking at common things that are all around us. Here are a few examples of things I’ve tried to look at afresh over the last few days.
The greenery image is made from a picture I took of the leaves of a blackboy grass tree which is right outside my office window. I noticed how it looked late in the afternoon so I enhanced for emotion and didn’t concern myself with how it literally looked. I retouched for mood and colour. Click to enlarge.
I love shiraz. The label on the bottle I opened for dinner looked interesting side lit so I shot it with my desk lamp as light source, hand held 3200 ISO. Vignette, blurring and recoloured in Photoshop.
Way back in 1978 (yes, I said 1978!) I went to a photography seminar in Perth (Workshop 78—anyone remember those days?) and saw the legendary British photographer Sam Haskins (worth a Google if you don’t know him). Naively I asked him what sort of light he used for his pictures, as if it mattered. He tolerated my inane question and his reply “I use available light and by that I mean whatever is available”. I’ve never forgotten that. You don’t need fancy stuff to make pictures you just need to make pictures. Use the sun, a torch, a mirror, car headlights or $10,000 worth of studio flash. Judge the image not the tools used to make it.
Beautiful decay. Natural texture.
A couple of mornings ago I decided to halve a pear to dice and add to my breakfast cereal. By mid morning I noticed that the unused half (yes I’m lazy it was still on the chopping board) was starting to wither and I liked the texture and honesty. I put it outside for a couple of days to speed things up and photographed it tonight with a single off camera flash from behind with a small reflector fill. I like the Photoshop split tones on this one. The reduced colour range seems appropriate and I used a weathered background to push the ‘worn and wrinkled’ look I was trying to get.
Love these digital days—it’s so easy now to plan, shoot and retouch to get an image just the way you like. The only problem is that the world is filling up with amazing photos as more and more of us learn to shoot and use Photoshop. It’s getting harder to find an audience as we all click our way around the internet.
Still, I for one love this stuff. I’m blown away by how much fun it is to be a digital image maker.
Very short post today about photographing and Photoshopping some flowers (who hasn’t photographed flowers as “test shots” before).
I went out for a meeting this morning, grabbed my camera bag just in case. After the meeting I noticed some pretty looking tulips and other stuff in the garden bed outside the office. I spent about 20 minutes shooting. Tonight I downloaded and chose my favourites and tweaked and adjusted in Photoshop for a couple of hours. Fairly casual photography but I made a serious attempt in software to get something clean and pretty.
I just never tire of Photoshop—it gives me the inspiration to keep shooting pictures.
Anyway here they are. Hit the full screen button under the slideshow for bigger images. I decided not to show the ‘before’ pictures You’ll have to imagine the originals before retouching. Good luck.
I’ve been thinking about what inspires us, makes us grab a camera and head out to make photographs and how to stay motivated. This post is a bit of a thought bubble about how creativity and motivation can change over time and what to do about it.
Creative vision is about seeing, not just looking.
When there’s a disconnect between what we shoot and what we get from the camera it’s because what we see is influenced by how we feel. We see with our brain as well as our eyes, we react to our subject emotionally. The camera just records information and as we all know, cameras don’t make photographs—photographers make photographs. Creative vision is about seeing, not just looking. Do you have a vision for your image when you point your lens at a subject, see it in your mind’s eye after post-production hanging on a wall or on a website? Or do you just shoot and hope for the best? Creative vision has nothing to do with your gear. So how do you get it and how do you keep the fire burning? Some ideas:
- Learning the craft of photography is important. Being sensitive to your subject is a damn sight easier when you’re head isn’t stressed about the technicalities of the camera. Get comfortable with your equipment.
- Learn computers and software—it’s at least half the equation nowadays.
- Remind yourself about the reason you picked up a camera in the first place, when you thought “wow, look at that” and had the urge to record it.
- Every photographer struggles with this stuff and every one of us is learning all the time. We are all on the same creative journey and it’s exciting and inspiring one day, frustrating and disheartening on others. Join the club, you’re not alone! Keep going.
- Put as much “this is how it feels” into your images with post-production techniques. It’s where the image is finally revealed.
- When was the last time you saw an image that resonated with you? Why did it? What is it you like about it? Why don’t other images get through to you? De-construct and learn from those pictures and apply (not copy) to your own stuff.
- We all want a reaction to our images. Strive for the emotional connection when you shoot and when you retouch.
- Try to look at the familiar with fresh eyes. I did this recently. I’ll post the images soon.
- Look at other media for inspiration. When was the last time you were in a gallery to see other artist’s work?
- Don’t just sit at your computer, get off your @#$% and go out and shoot. Stop thinking about it and do it. Only you can make it happen.
- Work hard at your photography and it will improve. I’m into cycling—guess how you get better, faster, fitter. You ride!
For anyone making creative work—painters, writers, photographers, craftworkers—sometimes the fire goes out for a while. That’s natural. Nobody fires on all cylinders, all of the time and everyone needs to recharge their creative batteries. Creative vision is the difference between what you’re looking at and what you see. Refine yours and apply it to your images.
If you have any ideas to share, please hit the comment button and let us know what works for you.