March Assignment, and February Meeting Notes

This post, I am going to start with next month’s assignment! In a little twist for this month, to participate in the upcoming March meeting you will need print this assignment as an 8×10, and bring it to the meeting. I’m really hopeful that this is going to be a really great experience for each person as well as for the group– read on here for details!

Our March assignment, which I borrowed from our good friend Me Ra, is to do a very special Self-Portrait. Your self-portrait will be a picture, where YOU are featured in the image (i.e. not an abstract) that documents and tells a story about where you are in your journey of life right now. This exercise is designed to help us with our storytelling, and as a way for each of us to pause and take stock of where we are right now.

Now, this is not to say that you have to turn the camera onto yourself with a long arm (like those pics that my husband and I always do when we’re on vacation and want a couples picture of ourselves). You can direct another person to take the picture for you, you just need to set the scene and tone for the image. If you are in need of a partner from the club, I know that one person at least emailed me to see if there is anyone out there who would like a partner, so please comment on this post here and I will try to pair folks up!

For our meeting on Monday March 29th, we will do a special exercise with the portraits, and devote the whole meeting time to sharing the experience behind the exercise. Since we will be creating a safe environment to share of ourselves and our portrait creations, everyone is there will be asked to share and receive what others share equally– that is why you’ll need your portrait (printed as an 8×10) to participate.

I certainly hope that everyone will choose to do this assignment. We will hold the meeting with as many or as few people who are willing to brave the attempt at this exercise!

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On to the wrap up notes!

For our February meeting, Tara Clark came to speak to us on the topic of post-processing. A handful of the mamas at the club had participated in one of Tara’s workshops in the past, and everyone had really great things to say. Because post-processing is such a vast topic, and we only had an hour, she shared with us some basic principles to help us along.

1. Pre-editing pays off.

The first element of post-processing which she emphasized is to narrow down your pictures off the bat before even loading them onto your computer. She uses a program called Pic Sort (I couldn’t seem to find a recent link to this), which is software designed to help you rank and narrow down your images before you pull them off of the card. Even without any special software the basic principle she addressed here is, since you don’t have time to post-process all your images, don’t spend time on the “maybes.”

From a typical shoot, Tara aims to present 40-70 finished images.

2. Back up, back up.

Tara recommends multiple back-ups for images. She keeps images on her desktop, but also has an external hard drive and burns her internal hard drive photos onto DVDs periodically.  She keeps multiple folders by month, which she labels numerically, because otherwise they would get sorted alphabetically which would not be chronological. Good thinking!

3. Post-processing.

Tara uses Photoshop to post-process her images. Photoshop is expensive unless you are a student, she recommends Photoshop Elements which is around $99.

Because she does a TON on the computer, she uses a Wacom pad, which she highly recommends, since it enables her to manipulate and basically draw right on the images quickly.

Through the bulk of the meeting, we watched her go through the steps of post-processing and enhancing several submitted images. Rather than list keystrokes and commands here, since people are using many different programs, I am just going to highlight the general steps that she took to correct the images:

a) Check the histogram. For most images you want highlights & shadows both represented (at least touching) on the image.

b) Brighten eyes. A lot of time when shooting kids, the eyes will go dark. She showed us how to zoom in and create a layer around the eyes with a brush tool that brightens the iris. Don’t make it too white, because then it will look fake, she emphasized the need to be subtle.

c) Brighten skin tone. Tara pointed out that with children, the skin can sometimes go too red- she likes to brighten the skin by taking down the red tones and raising the exposure.

c) Burn edges. This is effect is also known as creating a “vignette” in lightroom and other programs. It basically darkens the edge of the photos subtly which brings the attention to the subject inside the frame.

d) Patch over any blemishes. She uses the patch tool to clean up any snot, or skin blemishes.

e) Enhance contrast through the curves. To get higher contrast, bring up the highlights, and bring down the shadows, it will add depth to the image.

f) Saturate background colors as necessary. Tara likes to bring out texture in her images, so she will boost the color tones in the background (leaves and pumpkins in the case example we were looking at) to accomplish this.

Overall, she emphasized that there is not one formula for post-processing, it is really personal preference and over time your own tastes and how you process your images will evolve naturally.

She recommends the MCP Actions Blog as a great resource for photoshop actions, which are actions that preset certain post-processing formulas onto your photos, which can help decrease the time you spend on each image.

She also recommends Kevin Kubota actions as well for black & white, vintage looks, etc.  He has an action called “magic sharpen” which helps sharpen soft images.

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So that is my wrap up! Feel free to add anything in the comments field that I may have missed as always! I also want to give a special shout out to one of our mamas, Sara, who made it as a finalist in Me Ra’s latest photo contest (see #5)! I am sorry that I didn’t get this blog post up during the voting phase, but anyway I wanted to congratulate her here on her beautiful image! It is great to see everyone progressing so amazingly since we kicked off last year!

Happy shooting everyone!