Atlanta

The Jones Family

Last month, I had the pleasure of taking some family portraits for the Jones family. Previously, I had taken some graduation photos for Joy and, by some miracle, her mother liked them so much that she wanted some of the entire family.

First and foremost, I had so much fun doing this. The Jones family was so delightful and it made shooting their portrait extra fulfilling. Second, I was scared out of my mind. Most portraits I take are of a single person. Occasionally, I'll do some engagement portraits. But, this was my first time taking portraits of five people. It forced me to slow down my process and examine the entire fame before taking a shot. I also worked a lot in burst mode knowing that it's difficult to catch five different expressions perfectly. On the whole, it was an excellent learning process and experience for me and I think we made some good photographs. Here are some of my favorites:

Special thanks to Jill, Jerry, Jerilynn, Jan, and Joy for allowing me to capture their beautiful family. 

Practicing, Retouching, and Making Old Things New

This month marks one year since I started taking photography seriously. I used to believe that with a better camera I would take better photographs. In some small way, this is true. Having a DSLR allows me to take photographs that a point and shoot or camera phone wouldn't allow. But, in reality many photos straight out of a camera look terrible (sometimes worse than those taken with an iPhone). 

There are two truths to photography. First, it's the photographer that matters when it comes to making a good photograph - not the camera. Second, photographs aren't taken. Rather, they're made. That last one always sounded a little pretentious, but the more I explore post-processing techniques, the more true it becomes. Having spent a year retouching photos and watching hours of tutorials on image editing, naturally I'm far better at post-processing photos than when I started. 

Looking back at photographs I took a year ago makes me wince. Not because the composition or lighting was bad (though in many they were), but the retouching was lousy. 

Retouching or "Photoshopping" has a negative connotation and in many ways it deserves it. I tend to take two approaches. People think that the image out of a camera is truth, but that's not actually the case. In fact, the camera does a fairly poor job of capturing what your eyes see. I try to create an image that looks like what I saw (or felt) standing in that moment. The second, especially when capturing portraits, is to try to make the subject appear like what they'd look like on their best day (if you can write that last sentence better, please email me). The portrait should always look like the person. 

So, this month I've been going back to old photos and revisiting my post-processing workflows. Some changes in images have been dramatic. For example, here is a photograph I captured of Kristen 8 months ago.

Kristen (edited November 2015) 

It's not terrible, but it's not great - in fact, it wasn't even a select from the session. However, below is the same photograph I retouched this month.  

Kristen (edited May 2016) 

Clearly, the second is a more interesting photograph. But, it also does a better job of capturing what I saw standing there.

Other edits have been less dramatic, but make the photographs work. For example, below is an engagement photo of Anne and Ryan that I took back in January, straight out of the camera (left). I liked the composition of the first photo, but didn't realize that Ryan's face was out of focus. Looking back through the series, I didn't find one that I liked as much. However, I did find a second shot that was similar where Ryan was more in focus (right). 

Through Photoshop, I was able to align the two images as layers with my preferred photo on top and added a mask. I placed the second image with Ryan in focus below it and made a hole in the mask (top photo) to reveal the part of the image below where Ryan was in focus (the way my content management system down-samples photos probably doesn't do this justice).

Anne and Ryan, engaged (May 2016)

In the past, I would have tried to selectively sharpen the image, likely causing more damage than good.

Similarly, below is a picture of Will and Chelsea. I love this photo, but in the original Chelsea was out of focus - I was young and naive and misjudged the focus depth. But, I was able to find another photo in the series where Chelsea was slightly more in focus and used the same technique to composite a better image. 

Will and Chelsea (edited May 2016)

I'm glad I saved all these old images from previous sessions and had the awareness at the time that one day I might be able to make them even better.

Joy

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Joy to take her Georgia Tech graduation photos! Unlike past subjects or commissions, I didn't know Joy - she was referred to me by a mutual friend whose engagement photos I took a few months back. We met a couple days prior to the shoot to discuss what she was looking for and to get to know each other a little better. Not only were we able to get all the awkward silences out of the way, but it gave us the opportunity to get more comfortable with each other. It certainly made shooting easier. Joy knew exactly what she wanted and required little direction when posing. I was a little nervous that I wasn't getting the shots I was hoping for, but once I got into post I realized that there were so many excellent candidates! Below are some of my favorites. 

Chelsea and Will

This week, I dragged friends Chelsea and Will to The Goat Farm in Midtown Atlanta for a photograph session. It's a cool place and, despite having the distinction of serving as District 12 in The Hunger Games, it's surprising not too well-known. I had the idea of doing a spy-thriller themed shoot and they were kind enough to entertain me.

I tried to create a fairly stylized look. I can't tell if it works or if I went too far. Either way, it was good practice.

Kristen

Last week, my friend Kristen was kind enough to allow me to take her portrait. It was raining and I suggested that maybe an indoor location might be more convenient for her, but she was a great sport and was fine with being outside.

We went to a neat office park across the street from a favorite coffee shop that had some good backgrounds and interesting textures. Kristen was great - there wasn't a specific shot I was trying to capture and she was patient with me while I tried to figure it out what I wanted.

I tried some new photo editing techniques - some technical, others more artistic. Overall, I think they turned out well.

I'm still looking for subjects for the project. If you're interested, feel free to reach out using the contact form.