Workshop - Salvage That Bad Photo!


Workshop Leaders:

Sabrina Modelle - The Tomato Tart
Irvin Lin - Eat the Love

Irvin - This will be about how to take a decent photo, but you don't want a bad photo and making it mediocre, you want a mediocre photo good. You're in bad lighting, you're in a restaurant, you're going to be a in a bad situation to take a photo, but you have a good chance of taking a better photo.

Sabrina - We've been to a lot of events where there are bad situations and we always look for a window or a paper to balance the photo.

Irvin - Prevention is key. If you can prevent a bad photo and get a mediocre one, you can make it better later in post-processing.

Sabrina - On the fly photos, there are always things you can do to save yourself from a really lousy photograph. There's always something around to make into a really pretty background, and no one knows what it is if you fold them well.

Irvin - You can get a tripod for your iPhone and set it up anywhere and use something like slow shutter app to capture the image in a dark space. There are also lenses you can pop onto your iPhone so you can get different effects. With composition, there are some rules to follow. Sometimes a bad photo is fixed by cropping.

Sabrina - Try to break the rules intentionally, but try to shoot with the rules in mind for a while if you are new.

Irvin - Rule of thirds, does anyone know these? Draw the lines and move the primary image over to the right because a plate in the middle is static.

Sabrina - It's slightly uncomfortable for people to see an image perfectly centered.

Irvin - Fill the frame is another one. Fill the frame with as much as possible. Pay attention to the edges and compose the photo to fill it.

Sabrina - You don't want the image to trickle over the top.

Irvin - Pay attention to the negative space as well. Depth of field is another one. When you are creating an image where the front or back is focused and the rest is blurry. You use a very fast or slow aperture to achieve this.

Sabrina - Have a narrow depth of field to deal with light issues. Because of the small focus it allows you to take photos in a lower light.

Irvin - Patterns and repetitions give you a sense of depth. It gives your eye an opportunity to bounce from item to item.

Sabrina - Point of view. Low and wide makes things look big and luscious. Overhead shots are becoming more popular.

Irvin - There is also the under shot that's kind of the worm's eye view. Balance is also important, and let's your eye take in the whole image. Subject matter and style is something that is well known. If you have a beautiful subject you can take a great picture no matter what you do.

Sabrina - Balancing with color makes subject matter easy.

Audience - What was the background on the hummus in the last slide?

Irvin - it is an old, well-loved pizza stone.

Sabrina - I no longer clean my baking sheets to develop the patina because it's so beautiful.

Audience - What are some other things you use commonly around your kitchen for creative backgrounds?

Irvin - Anything can work. I don't even stay in the kitchen - I use wallpaper, remnants, floor, old wood.

Sabrina - I used a wrought iron table on my deck and then some remnants.

Irvin - I like the art supply store for paper because it's easy to store.

Sabrina - Get some of these binder clips and clamps (Home Depot Orange things).

Audience - Nancy, Chef Impersonator. Shooting Mexican food. Brown, brown, brown. Please help me.

Irvin - Brown on brown is not bad when you use pottery or garnishes to add to the image.

Sabrina - Another trick I love is to go small with a small beautiful colorful dish or use chili powder or paprika to add color.

Irvin - So the actual ingredients themselves, like a bowl of them next to the dish.

Sabrina - Use a colorful colander and make sure the ingredients are wet and shiny from the sink to make them beautiful and balance the photo.

Irvin - Use hands to create a story with movement.

Sabrina - Cropping.

Irvin - I'm shooting a Canon 5D Mark II and the photo is slightly grey and dull. So I cropped and straightened the photo to give it a warm feel. Then I did an extreme crop, and they are very different photos you can use differently.

Sabrina - How many people use Lightroom? Photoshop?

Irvin - Anything else?

Audience - Aperture, Picasa, iPhoto, PicMonkey

Irvin - iPhone-ography - there are several apps out there. SnapSeed is only available for mobile phone. It's pretty easy to use and I use tune image and ambiance. It makes the images look better and focused. Vignetting is when the edges of the image are darker and brings your eye to the center of the photo.

Sabrina - I use Photo Toaster, and I use VSCO Cam because of the faster shutter. I took an image that was grainy and fuzzy, so I cropped to make it better. Sometimes you want the grain and noise, but not always.

Irvin - Noise and grain can add a nice grit, like street and sport photography, and that has translated into the photography world, as well. The other thing about noise, you can add noise to sharpen a soft photo. You can't make a super blurry photo sharp, but you can trick the eye.

Sabrina - Here I've cropped a photo and made a bad position into a good one, and I also turned a horizontal photo into a vertical one for my medium. So we were talking about the apps, and you can also import your photos into your computer and use PhotoShop or Lightroom.

Irvin - I upped the matte to give a softer, craftier photograph, to this photo. I have post-processed the photo into something usable, so I used Lightroom to crop it differently and make it more active.

Sabrina - It tells a story where the darker, unfocused photo is not great, but the sharp one on the right is very good.

Audience - How do you tell a story without hands?

Irvin - I've learned to use my left hand while I shoot. But seriously, bring friends. I shoot a lot of leftovers to make the happy food hero shot.

Sabrina - You don't want to shoot a dirty napkin, but a slightly dirty napkin with a fork on the plate. I take pictures of myself with the dog, feeding her nibbles.

Irvin - It's great to have a beauty shot in front, but it's about the eating.

Sabrina - I took a picture of the guts of the juice I was making, and you never know what people will like. I don't really like the over-produced - I want to see real life. Aspirational, but not out of range.

Irvin - I took a photo as a reference point for myself, and then I post-processed it and while I don't think I can use it on my blog, it is useful.

Sabrina - There's a setting called selective color that I use to adjust the vibrance and saturation of the colors in the photo.

Irvin - Saturation and vibrance. Saturation is making the colors brighter or duller. Vibrancy is finding something that is dull and grey and punch that up while leaving the parts of the image that is already vibrant alone.

Sabrina - If you do exposure that will edit everything

Audience - Can you talk about the difference between brightness and exposure

Irvin - You're taking something and making it lighter, lighter, lighter with brightness.

Sabrina - I play a lot more with bringing in shadows and coloration.

Irvin - Brightness in Photoshop is different than other software, too.

Audience - Someone told me if I increase the exposure, I should increase the contrast.

Irvin - You really need to be careful with blowing out colors with that approach. We like to finesse it now. You can edit some things in a jpeg, but you have so much more to play with in RAW. If you can, shoot RAW because you can do so much more.

Sabrina - If you shoot jpeg, is it a space issue?

Irvin - Space is easy and cheap - an external hard drive is a great place to store images.

Sabrina - Definitely play with the images. Imagine a filter as something that will make things softer.

Audience - Which version of Photoshop are you using?

Irvin - CS6. It's not cheap.

Sabrina - How are you using it?

Audience - I have to put them in banners and fliers, and crop and filter.

Irvin - Have you used Lightroom? I lot of professional photographers don't use Photoshop at all. I think CS4, for what you are doing is pretty decent. It's a collaging tool for me.

Audience - CS6 has a lot of new tools.

Irvin - If you are just using it for sharpening and things, CS4 is fine. Lightroom is good for processing photos. I use a developing panel using the aspect ratio so I want to make sure it's the same size when I finish it.

Sabrina - Sometimes there's just a lot of tweaking. With raw, I blow it up to 100% so I can see the noise, too. Sometimes a very stylized edit can make a horrible picture usable.

Audience - When you changed the background of the pan to more silver - how do you change the background color without impacting the rest of the picture.

Sabrina - there's a color temperature changer, so I use that.

Audience - On the really bad photo, the really bad one? I would have cut off the left and kept the spoon, and I wanted to know why you did the opposite.

Sabrina - I just liked it the other way.

Irvin - If you want to put a title or something else, you shoot with that in mind.

Sabrina - Try to see the image in your mind's eye.

Audience - I notice you added the banner to the picture and I know some bloggers think that takes away from the photo.

Irvin - We're both graphic designers, so we love type. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to that. My sensibility is that if it adds something to it, and it's not gratuitous, just put it in.

Sabrina - But keep it simple - not too many fonts or too many colors.

Irvin - Okay, so here's a workflow example. This is how I work. I took some photos and I use two screens. There's a little film strip that allows me to rate the photos in Lightshop, so I do that. Then you can filter based on the rating so you can develop the photos.

Audience - Is split toning available in Photoshop?

Sabrina - I think they removed it in the latest version, and there's something called underlayer, so I use the layers to get the split tone effect.

Irvin - Tethering is almost always a pain in the butt, but you have this giant cord.

Audience - But I don't like running to my computer to see it, so it seems easier?

Irvin - It just seems like it would make it easier and it doesn't. If I was with a client, I would so I could show them, but otherwise I really don't like to use it. And I don't like tripods, either. I may use one today for demonstration because the light in here is so bad for photos, but normally I don't use them. I'd rather use a white paper background to lighten things up. And this lighting is pretty typical for conferences and restaurants. I'll probably up the contrast and exposure, so you can also use tone curve to achieve the same thing. I like crumbs in my photo, but sometimes they are distracting and I use the clone tool to remove things that bug me.

Sabrina - I would like you all to start shooting in camera raw, but we'll show you a jpeg today.

Audience - How concerned are you about the colors on your reader's screen?

Irvin - Calibrate your screen to something neutral and then you have to let that go.

Sabrina - Yellowy green colors are great on a Mac, but hard on Windows, so there are certain colors I steer away from.

Audience - Do you have really embarrassing photos on your blog, so do you re-shoot or edit?

Irvin - I can't do that. You can see the learning curve through my blog, and I like people to see the growth and progression, but I would never point people to them.

Sabrina - I agree.

Audience - I disagree. I update my photos, about two a week, and now I do all the step by step photos and my readers love it, and then I show the old photo at the bottom. I consider my blog a resource for people who are looking to cook a certain way and I am trying to make my blog a reflection of me.

Irvin - That really depends on my purpose, but I write stories to go with my recipes.

Audience - I notice you have a lot of interesting text on your photos, and wonder how you do that.

Irvin - I use Illustrator, but it's a really expensive just to add text. And then I just export a file, usually as a TIFF file and save to web.

Sabrina - I am a Photoshop user.

Audience - I love to cook, but I consider myself a writer, and after I do all the work, I don't have the time to work on the photo, so if you had four things to get right, what would they be?

Irvin - Contrast, crop, white balance, saturation.

Sabrina - I agree.