D-I-Y engagement photos: part 3 of 3 — beyond the camera and tripod

September 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

At last, Part 3!  It has been too long, here are reminders of the two D-I-Y engagement sessions that O.T. and I had back in the summer (is it really officially fall?!?).

Part 1: Ed Levin Park, Milpitas

Part 2: Napa Valley, California

As mentioned in the previous posts, we used a regular pocket-size digital camera, a tripod, and a heavy dose of post-processing.  In this part, I will discuss the challenges you’ll encounter as well as the techniques of achieving a “dreamy” soft focus to any of your regular pictures, even if you don’t have the most up-to-date equipment (as neither do I) and even if you don’t have Photoshop!

My modest little camera is an old Canon PowerShot SD870 IS purchased at the time of its release in 2007.  I really loved this camera when it came out; its performance outdoes most others in its category of compact digicams.  I am still quite happy with it after four functional years, however, lately I’ve become aware that it doesn’t successfully serve the purpose of this blog.  I do hope to retire it soon for a DSLR (*hint, hint, O.T* :p).  Regardless, this little gadget didn’t stop me from taking our own engagement photos or all the photos you’ve seen on this blog thus far.

I must forewarn: the set-up of shots takes the most time, more so than we anticipated.  We took turns setting up the shots.  While setting up the camera, one would tell where the other should stand, before bolting to take their place in the shot.  The timer was set to 20 seconds (which was sufficient time to bolt and freeze) with three consecutive shots at 5-second intervals.

The challenge of doing your own photography session is that no one will tell you that his hand is totally cropped out of the picture.  Or that your belt is not perfectly centered in the shot.  Or that your sweater is a bunched up hot mess. Or that your cupcake liner flower necklace (tutorial next!) has been turned over backwards by the wind.  You may be disappointed by the number of times you will have to run back and forth from the tripod (though exercise is good for us all).  But all in all, the efforts will be worth it!

We took 15 shots just for the scene with the “love at first flight” airplane props, until we both got annoyed and decided we’ll use whatever is “best”, even though there was none we were truly happy with.  Over the two days (a Friday at Ed Levin Park and a Sunday in Napa Valley), we took a combined 337 shots, out of which we were happy with about 60.  A more discerning photographer would likely be happy with about 6.  A professional photographer would likely be happy with none.  But we’re easy to please!

For post-processing, I found some helpful Photoshop tutorials online at: www.photoshopessentials.com.  I mainly used the techniques in the tutorials:

http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/soft-focus/

http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/soft-focus-lens/

The technique for a soft focus effect is incredibly simple:

1. Duplicate the layer, then choose Overlay as a blend mode,

2. Apply a Gaussian Blur filter to the overlaid layer, then adjust opacity, and

3. In most cases, a mask is required to remove the soft focus on parts of the photo that should be sharp, such as the face.

The above Photoshop-edited version has 30 pixel Gaussian Blur with 50% Overlay.

This is the unedited version:

I realize that not everyone has the access to Photoshop, so if you require a free photo-editing program, GIMP is available online for free download.  GIMP is a really impressive imitation of Photoshop, for the fact that it is free.  It offers the same filters (such as the Gaussian Blur that you’ll need) and blend modes (such as the Overlay that you’ll need).

This is the GIMP-edited version:

Of course, cropping provides impact in the composition of shots, as in the final chosen edit for the scene above:

There is also a trick you can do by adding lens flares in the photo-editing process, such as in these shots.  The tutorial is found here: http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/lens-flare/

Just to give you an idea of how post-processing can change the life of your photos, here are some raw shots and their corresponding Photoshop-edited shots.

Play around with the blur and overlay to adjust the softness as you’d like.

Remember: a bulk of what you pay photographers is to compensate for the enormous time they spend on editing photos.  Some refuse to believe this fact: most award-winning professional wedding photographers heavily edit their work.  Plenty of photographers, professional and amateur, invest in add-on actions and presets, such as those found in Totally Rad!, in order to jazz up Photoshop and Lightroom photos in a few clicks.  I am so impressed by the things you’d find in Totally Rad!

If you already have a great camera, you are already half way there (even more ahead of me in these pictures I’ve taken with my PowerShot).  I suggest taking the time to study the work of your favorite wedding photographers.  Look at style and composition, such as subject placement, angle, perspective, frame.  Especially look at wedding photography trends.  Did you realize the more current wedding photos are composed with a lot of room above the head?  And that often the subjects are cropped in ways that aren’t conventional, such as the cropping of feet or of bodies?  After you analyze your favorite works, with a bit of help from Photoshop or Gimp, you can mimic the styles and save a lot of money.  They are not going to be perfect, but you cannot beat the personal touch of D-I-Y!  How many people have said they took their own engagement pictures?  Now you can!

Click on any of the above to enlarge.

D-I-Y engagement photos: part 2 of 3 — napa valley, california

August 6, 2011 § 8 Comments

Here’s the second installment of our self-taken engagement photos, this time in the verdant vineyards of Napa Valley!

Just like the first set of photos, these were taken with a camera on a tripod and softened with a heavy dose of photo editing, all of which I will explain with more depth in the next and final post of this three-part series.

If you missed the first set, please have a lookie here for part 1.  I admit I am a lot partial to that previous set now that the pictures are up for comparison.  They express much more dramatic flair than this set, what with the tall brown grass on the knolls of Ed Levin Park, and the wind blowing through my curled hair and chiffon dress.  The sheer effort of hiking up hills in a dress as my curls fought for their survival is, in my mind, the clearer winner.  However, O.T. is not fond of days when I actually make an effort (a lot of it) to look made-up.  This seems to be true for most men.  They prefer women in jeans, hair undone, without the slightest trace of powder, and maybe just a smidge of lip gloss.  So, these here pictures — a version more plain and less panache — are for O.T.

Though both sets of pictures display props I’ve made to highlight our long distance love, I do favor these airplane props in this set over the red tin can telephones in the previous.  For one thing, as most of you have already read, our fateful love story began at an airport and in an airplane.  Secondly, I used the logo I designed for this blog (with a few changes in theme).  Third, I wanted to make use of paper, I am obsessed with paper afterall.

We went into Napa without a single plan of what to see.  Neither being wine drinkers (a cardinal sin in Napa), we knew we were visiting to take pictures.  From downtown Napa, we drove up and down the Silverado Trail searching for the perfect spot.  There are plenty of beautiful spots, though not what we were seeking.  Most vineyards are fenced in and close at four o’clock in the afternoon.

We diverted out of the Silverado Trail and headed southwest to Carneros and discovered a beautiful spot right at the entrance of Cuvaison Estates.  We had gotten there well past 6 pm.  Despite the gates being closed, we were able to walk through rows of unfenced vineyards to take our shots.  The gates were far from the main road, so we drove further in to discover a pond waiting to be photographed.

Other cars had driven in, one driver paused a while to watch us take our pictures as we made our poses in front of the camera and tripod.  He waited around after we finished one set (we were doing pictures in threes) and gave us the thumbs up from his seat.  He drove past us on his way out, rolled down the window, and asked if we needed his help taking the pictures.  We thanked him for his thoughtful offer but happily explained that we had undertaken the exercise to conduct our own engagement session.  He smiled, puzzled, and disappeared past the vines.

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed taking them!  Feel free to click on each set for a larger resolution.  Up next: D-I-Y engagement photos part 3 of 3: beyond the camera and tripod.  Stay tuned!

D-I-Y engagement photos: part 1 of 3 — ed levin park, california

August 4, 2011 § 9 Comments

I’m back from sunny California with sets of photos I couldn’t wait to show you — our very own engagement session!

For my pocket’s sake, I never considered engagement photos.  Not until my inner frugalista decided it would be a great DIY project to tackle on this blog.   Yes, believe it or not, all these quasi-pseudo-professional-ish photos shown here were taken by us, the way self-portraits are best taken: with a seemingly ordinary pocket-size digital camera on a tripod.  And, well, without denial, a lot of post-processing.

I admit, it was a wee bit of an exhaustive ordeal to acquire these shots.  First, the convincing.  When I broached the subject of taking our own engagement photos (and I had never once broached the subject of wanting any engagement photos to begin with), O.T. thought my DIY streak was out of control.  I understand, there are certain things left to professionals.  When I told him how much wedding photographers cost, he happily conceded.

As I talked (and talked) about all the DIY details, such as props and shots I planned for these DIY photos, he became more excited (he’s a fantastic listener, can you tell?).  I talk. He listens.  It’s perfect.  We are on the same page.

He, in fact, conjured up a lot of the frames and I gave no resistance (as much to his credit as mine).  He truly has a lot of creative input and, yes, I do my share of listening, too!

I will talk more about the inspiration to undertake this project and the behind-the-scenes details including a photo editing tutorial, but I will wait until part 3 of this three-part series (I did mention exhaustive ordeal, didn’t I?).

We took these shots on the magnificent hills of Ed Levin County Park in Milpitas, California.  We had visited this park two years ago, taken some beautiful shots during our hike, and were familiar with the scenery.  In fact, when I decided we would do our own engagement session, my first and only thought was Ed Levin.

We made sure to come in the late afternoon when the sun was low.  We arrived at 6:00 pm and fumbled along as we posed shot after shot.  After much fumbling and retakes, we had well over 200 shots, during which time the sun had waned in the distance.

There were brief moments of frustration (entirely due to our inadequate understanding of photography and light, and consequential thump of reality that this stuff isn’t as easy as we thought), but we had much more fun than we ever imagined.  So much so that we decided to take more pictures later that weekend, in a different scene — the vineyards — with different props.  Up next: DIY engagement photos part 2 of 3: Napa Valley, California.  Stay tuned!!

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed taking them!  Feel free to click on each set to zoom in for a larger resolution.  If you missed our fateful love story and the wonderful way he proposed, you can find that right here.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Photography category at paper, plate, and plane.

%d bloggers like this: