3 Things to Remember at Your Next Composite Shoot

I have a nasty habit – or not so nasty habit, I’ll let you decide – of solving all my lighting problems by compositing separate frames in post. It’s super easy because you can just set up your shot, place your camera on the tripod. and move the light around to get different highlights and shadows until you have every part exactly how you want it. If you plan on trying this tactic, there’s a few important things to keep in mind while you’re on set.

1. Go into it with a plan.
You don’t want to go into this kind of project blind. It can be easy to say “oh I’ll just wing it on set,” but that can get you into a lot of trouble with something that has this much work in post. You’ll want to know exactly the frames you want to shoot so you can go in, set up, and start lighting everything how you need it. My advice? Sketch it out. Most photographers go into their shoot with at least some idea of what they want. It will really help you here if you know exactly what frames you want and will save you a ton of time! You’ll spend a good chunk of time getting the lighting right and you don’t want to waste any time of set trying to figure out the next step. Plan as much as you can ahead of time. The time you save on set you can use to capture those few sparks of inspiration in the moment. You’ll thank me later.

2. DO NOT move anything, this is not a drill.
It’s extremely important to not move the product, your camera, or any other aspect of the shot once you start shooting. You strictly want to move the light and nothing else. This will make things about 1,000 times easier once you get into Photoshop to start putting everything together. The closer everything lines up, the less work you’ll need to do with transformations, masking, and other tricks to make each part of the frame fit in the right spot.

3. Try more than you think you’ll need.
With the checklist you made in the planning stage, it’s easy to only shoot the bare minimum. This can be a problem when you’re in Photoshop and looking for a different shaped smudge to fit behind your foundation brush. If you have a bunch of shapes, shadow directions, etc. you’ll have more to work with later when you’re compositing. It will also save you the hassle of creating a fake shadow after the fact. (Check out this video to see what I’m talking about)

Try this out for your next still life shoot. You’ll be surprised with how much you can achieve.

Stay Creative.

–KS

Photoshop Magic

There’s how many photos in that picture?!
Well in this case, just three. I’ve seen and heard of others using far more to get every shadow, reflection and texture just right.
How does that work? It’s just one photo?
Well other self, that’s the magic of photoshop at work.

So how do you do it? Like everything else in photoshop, there’s about a thousand ways to combine photos together to make a single image. No one way is entirely right or wrong. It depends on the project, the files you have, and what the file will ultimately be used for.

For the photo in the video (above) I knew I wanted to clearly show the texture of the bristles, have a nice shadow, good reflections, and a swatch of foundation in the background to show what the brush would be used for. I got lucky that I was able to photograph this so I only needed 3 shots. The bristles and the shadow are one image, the reflection on the brush another, then the swatch.

Before I do anything else, I make each image a smart object. This retains the original quality of the photo no matter what else I do to it. Using a wide variety of selecting and masking techniques I was able to show only the desirable parts of each photo. I then grouped the photos into folders to individually edit hue, saturation, exposure. This was I able to adjust the hue of the foundation and the hue of the brush separately and leave the bristles as shot. I used a soft brush to only include part of the original shadow in the middle image.

About 2 hours of editing later and you have the final image above. Once you get down the basic concepts of this, the creative (and problem solving) possibilities are endless.

Stay Creative.

–KS

Getting Started with Tethering…

Shooting tethered is the decision to shoot directly from your camera to your laptop. This allows you to see your photos on a larger screen and with much greater detail than the back of your camera, giving you time to make changes while you’re still on set. You can check focus, overlay type, put photos in a layout, and even start processing them.

You’ll need only a few things to get started:

1. The Software

Before you start planning your shoot, you’ll need some sort of software to view the photos as they come in. Capture One and Lightroom both of tethering capabilities. Each program has their own benefits. I personally prefer working with Capture One for its advanced color correction and editing capabilities. However, Lightroom has the added benefit of tethering straight into your catalog. It may be beneficial to try both programs and see which works best with your shooting and processing style. Both offer free trials and can be bought on a subscription-based service to keep the program up to date.

2. A Cable

You’ll need a way to get the photos from your camera body to your computer. Different cameras require different cables for tethering. I really like TetherPro high visibility cables by TetherTools. The orange color of the cables makes it really easy to see on set and differentiate from all the other cables on the ground.

3. A Table or Flat Surface

You’ll want some place to keep your computer or laptop safe during the shoot. With a long enough cable, you can set up on a rolling cart or table for easy mobility. Make sure whatever you choose is sturdy and safe. You’ll be connected to the computer like a dog on a leash, so you don’t want to start dragging the computer off the surface by accident.

4. A Tripod

Think about how important consistency is for your shoot as well. If you’re looking for the same angle or composition in a series of photos, you’ll want to keep your camera on a tripod. This will be especially helpful wth still life. By tethering, you can make small changes as you go pretty easily, so you’ll want to eliminate other variables as much as you can (or need to). It can be helpful with fashion and models, too, especially if you’re doing something more product or catalog oriented. However, I find it easier to shoot anything more editorially fashion-based without a tripod.

And that’s it! Get familiar with your new tools and software before heading on location or to the studio to make things as seamless as you can. Know how to snap a photo from the program, how to make exposure adjustments, setting white balance, and any other specifics for the shoot.

Get out there and create.

Interested in learning more? Head to my blog here!

-KS

4 Video Editing Tips From Someone Who’s Done it Twice…

And Voila! I have created a behind the scenes video. My second video of all time. It’s by no means perfect, but I’m pretty proud of the work I’ve done. I worked in Premier to keep that in mind for the following tips. Press that play button above for a behind the scenes look at one of our Thread shoots. It’s pretty cool.

1. Organization
The biggest thing I found while editing this, is that it’s super important to stay organized. The way I managed everything was by creating a folder titled by the project name (on my desktop for easy access, I’ll be backing it up and storing it away later). Within that folder, I saved my project, created a folder for my video files, and a separate folder for my audio. Then, I imported all that into my project.

2. Shorter is Better
Most of the original clips I had were way too long and I shortened them significantly. True, it’s better to have a clip that’s too long than too short. However, it would be better to focus in on smaller actions and accentuate those by getting closer to the action. Having those kinds of clips mixed in with wider shots would have mixed in some more variety. Not every clip needs to be 10 seconds long. It’s probably best that they are all not more than 10 seconds long!

3. Good Editing Takes Time
I’m no expert, but even the very basic editing I did on this short video took me quite a while. Each clip needs cut down individually and edited. The sound is a separate entity that needs its own attention, then it needs to be matched to the video you’re using. It was a lot to take in at first. Luckily, I was working with a pretty even color balance and exposure.

4. Think Before You Film
The biggest thing I wish I would have done differently was film a larger variety of angles, head sizes, and content. Most of the clips are of our photographer working (Justin Gamble). The video would be stronger with more variety – including detail shots of the clothing, different angles of the photographer, etc.

Carly Matson, Thread‘s video editor, was a huge part in helping me along in this project and finalized it for promotion of the magazine. You can see Thread‘s video channel here to see more of our super cool videos.

-KS

Three Things I Learned about Filming Videos …

Video is the way of the future. The newest cameras all feature the coolest new video settings. Videos are all over social media. More and more often as new graduates we are expected to know video, because this is what clients are asking for. When the industry changes, we have to change with it. This is great because it allows for creative growth and exploration!

“But – I’m a photographer,” I found myself saying. “I take still pictures.”

Well I found it’s not all that different to record movement! Here are the most important things I found out doing my first independent video assignment:

Number 1: The Settings
So I actually found this part to be the most intimidating. I had only done video one other time before, and I had a lot of help with it. A friend of mine sent me this article on Nikon’s website which gave me all the information I needed. There’s five main settings to worry about: Frame Rate, Resolution, Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO. The Frame Rate is how quickly your camera is recording the images, or how many frames per second. Typically you’ll want to shoot at 30FPS unless you’re going for a specific look. Resolution is the quality at which your’e shooting. To get full HD, you’ll want to set your camera to 1920 x 1080. Shutter speed orgs a little differently with video than when you’re shooting stills. With video, you’ll want to work with a fixed shutter speed. To calculate what you should shoot at you’ll double your frame rate. So if we’re shooting at 30FPS, our shutter speed should be set to 1/60th. Since you’re working at a fixed shutter speed, you’ll need to control exposure with the aperture and ISO settings, both of which work pretty similar to when you’re shooting stills. The aperture will still control how much light you let into the camera. How wide your aperture is will give the same visual effects as it does in stills – the wider the aperture the thinner the focal plane. ISO will have the same effects too – the higher the ISO the more noise you’ll see.

Number 2: The Technical Aspects Are About the Same
Once you get the settings figured out, the technical stuff works pretty much the same. The rules about composition, light, and angles, all work as you would expect! What makes a good composition is no different in video than it is in photography. Same with exposure. OS keeps doing what you’re doing to get those interesting perspectives.

Number 3: There Are So Many More Possibilities
With photography you can’t move your camera for the picture because everything you capture is stopped in motion. That’s the nature of taking still photos. With video, you can creation motion in so many different ways – you can move the camera, change focus in and out, move objects, or capture actions. This gives you so many more avenues to tell your story. What’s more interesting is when you add video to your toolbox, you aren’t just limited to one or the other. With Cinemagraphs, you have the capability to add movement to still photos. Lindsey Adler has some cool examples if you’re looking for inspiration!

Next week I’ll have the behind the scenes video compiled to show you, and some cool tips about editing. So stay tuned for some cool videography exploration.

– KS

The Top 5 Things You Need in Your Camera Bag – Besides a Camera …

As a student working in a shared space, I can’t leave everything that I need at the studio, and it can be hard to decide what I need to bring and when. My first assignment in the studio, I was underprepared. Since then, I’ve come up with a pretty good kit of things I keep with me at all times, and I just add to it for special projects.

First of all– being on campus makes it really hard to get everything to and from whereever it is that you’ll be shooting, so let’s start with finding a good bag. You’ll want something big enough to carry the equipment you have now with a little room to grow. Camera bags can be a big investment (specially working with a college student’s budget). You won’t want to buy a new one right away. I like the Tamrac Anvil series. It has plenty of space, great support, and lots of areas to add on attachments when you get new gear.

So you’ve got a bag, but now what should you put in it? Your camera and some lenses to start, memory cards, a sync cable, maybe a tether cable too, but here is a list of some things you may not think to keep on hand.

Pocket Wizards
Many students prefer to use sync cables because they are inexpensive and accomplish the same task as a wireless transmitter. However, by using wireless transceivers, I get a wider range of motion on set and have fewer cables to step over. You’ll need one for your camera and one for each battery pack or strobe you’re using. I have two Pocket Wizard Plus III and one Pocket Wizard Plus X. The models are compatible with each other so I could afford to save some money when I got a third one. You can buy these new or used from camera supply stores or direct from the manufacturer.

Rechargeable Batteries and Chargers
One of the worst things that can happen on set is running out of juice! You’ll want to keep extra batteries on hand for your camera, transceivers, and any other accessories that take power. I like to use rechargeable batteries because I tend to go through a lot and it saves me some money in the long run. You’ll want to keep chargers for everything in your bag too, if you have the space. You don’t want to miss your deadline because you ran out of power! You can buy spare camera batteries from the camera manufacturer or a camera store. They make inexpensive off-brand versions if you’re shopping on a budget (I know I am). Rechargeable double and triple A batteries can be bought most places batteries are sold. The first time you buy, make sure you get the one with the charger.

Box Cutter, Scissors, Tape, and Fishing Line
This is particularly important if you do still life, but can also come in handy at any shoot. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to use my room key and some strategical ripping to open things in the studio. From opening new seamless rolls to cutting tags of clothes to cutting foam core for bounce cards – the possibilities are endless! The tape and fishing line can help hold items in place on a still life set or hold clothes in place on a model. Each of these are pretty inexpensive and can be bought at any superstore.

Multitool
You can spend about as much as you’d like on one of these. They’re like a swiss army knife but with pliers, screw drives, and even scissors! The pliers come particularly handy when you’re tightening acres on set. There are a lot of different sizes and types, so look around and find one that can do what you need it to. The prices range a lot too, but I chose to invest in a Leatherman. They hold up pretty well and are really easy to use.

A-Clamps
If the space you’re using doesn’t already have some of these stocked you should keep some in your bag too! These are great for rigging bounce cards and flags. You can use them to hold foam core on a light stand with an arm to help move the light where you need it to be. In the past, I’ve even used small ones to clamp a shirt tighter on my model. They also work to prop up smaller bounce cards on a still life set. A-Clamps are multifaceted, inexpensive and can be purchased at your local hardware store!

With these items in your pack, you’ll be prepared to take on everything your shoot throws at you. So load up your camera bag and get on set!


Want to learn more about photography or design? Head over to my website! Click here.

Kate, You're Pretty Attached to that Tablet

A few years ago now, as I sat in my photography class, I listened to my professor go on about these tablets that were available in our student check-out room. Wacom Tablets. He said they were becoming more and more of an industry standard and we should all learn to use them before we graduate. I had used the check-out room many times and had never heard of these tablets. I went back to my dorm room after class and looked them up.

I have always been very interested in new technologies. I spent an hour or more looking at all the different models and their uses. I had to learn how to use these!

I’m pretty interested in post processing, retouching, and digital compositing, making my Wacom tablet my best friend. Before I found my way to photography, I was very involved in drawing. My love for the arts in general came from drawing as a young girl, and it’s a skill I’ve pursued throughout my life. Using these tablets is the best way to combine my drawing skills and my love for photography. The possibilities seemed endless.

I use a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet. The surface is both touch and pressure sensitive. This makes using the pen on the tablet feel very natural. There are eight function keys on the left and a touch ring. The function keys and touch ring can be customized to any function you like and can vary based on the program you’re using with the tablet. They’re extremely convenient to use with your most commonly used hot keys.

Using a tablet has always been second nature to me because of past experiences with drawing and painting. It’s faster, easier, and more organic than using a mouse ever was.


To see more of my photography & design, head over to my website by clicking here!

Kate, You’re Pretty Attached to that Tablet

A few years ago now, as I sat in my photography class, I listened to my professor go on about these tablets that were available in our student check-out room. Wacom Tablets. He said they were becoming more and more of an industry standard and we should all learn to use them before we graduate. I had used the check-out room many times and had never heard of these tablets. I went back to my dorm room after class and looked them up.

I have always been very interested in new technologies. I spent an hour or more looking at all the different models and their uses. I had to learn how to use these!

I’m pretty interested in post processing, retouching, and digital compositing, making my Wacom tablet my best friend. Before I found my way to photography, I was very involved in drawing. My love for the arts in general came from drawing as a young girl, and it’s a skill I’ve pursued throughout my life. Using these tablets is the best way to combine my drawing skills and my love for photography. The possibilities seemed endless.

I use a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet. The surface is both touch and pressure sensitive. This makes using the pen on the tablet feel very natural. There are eight function keys on the left and a touch ring. The function keys and touch ring can be customized to any function you like and can vary based on the program you’re using with the tablet. They’re extremely convenient to use with your most commonly used hot keys.

Using a tablet has always been second nature to me because of past experiences with drawing and painting. It’s faster, easier, and more organic than using a mouse ever was.


To see more of my photography & design, head over to my website by clicking here!