Professional Portrait Retouching

I’ve been retouching photos for many years, and always found retouching portraits to be tedious and difficult.

I found that my old habits die hard. I easily fall back on methods that work, but take forever to accomplish.

Photoshop has evolved and keeping up with all the new tools can be daunting, unless you take the time to learn.

I finally decided it was time to improve my skills, and Joined NAPP and Kelby Training.

As a creative director, it’s important to be up-to-date with computer skills, and as a part-time weekend-warrior photographer, I began to feel the pressure to improve quickly.

I purchased Scott Kelby’s Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques book, and was thrilled with how much material there is jam-packed into his book.

I put many of the exercises through their paces, and began practicing.

I was thrilled with how much time I saved, and how great the results are.

The results are subtle, but you’ll see Samantha’s skin is smoother, her eyes are brighter and sharper, I added color to her lips, and highlights to her hair. Removed blemishes and stray hairs, and cleaned-up a rough edge of clothing on her shoulder.

Here’s the results:

Before

After

Let me know what you think!

Cheers, Ivan

To eat or not to eat…

Chakra

 

 

 

 

 

 

May is a big month for my family.

Lots of birthdays to celebrate. Dads, mine and my wife’s. And, they all fall around this time in early May. So, my sister and I decided to book a reservation at a restaurant. Good idea… uh um… we’ll see.

We wanted to stay local, since our parents are up there in years now, and also to make it easier for us all.

I was in the mood for Indian food and I know my family likes it a lot, so I picked a place that I’ve been to before that I liked a lot.

My sister agreed, but wanted to try a restaurant we had never eaten in before. The restaurant she picked was called Chakra. She said it was Indian, and I thought great! Linda is what I call a foodie, so I completly trust her. Well, this time, I was I wrong. What a big mistake.

We all met at Chakra at 6:30 for our reservation. I quickly learned it was not Indian food! Well, no biggie, it looked pretty upscale and worth a try for this auspicious birthday occasion. And, being a pricey place, I figured it should be good.

http://www.chakrarestaurant.com/home.htm

We sat down in a small, uncomfortable booth, and the room was large and loud. Acoustics were terrible. We had to shout to hear each other. Right away this is a sign that we made a mistake.

Nothing on the menu seemed to appeal to me either. Perhaps because I was hoping for Indian, but really, there was nothing that jumped out and said “order me!”.

There were some hot or cold appetizers, salads, and the main courses. All ala carte. Several dishes sounded unusual, but most were rather common.

The more unusual were asparagus soup, chili-cinnamon glazed chilean sea bass, vetearian eggplant tart, with sacred chow tofu and tomato-bell pepper coulis.

Hmm, coulis?

Everything else looked common and plain.

I ordered the hors-radish encrusted crab cake appetizer and for my main dish, Fettucini with Shrimp, Fra Diavolo.

Mom ordered the Chilean sea bass, dad ordered the surf and turf, and my wife ordered the crab cakes as her main dish. My sister ordered a salad.

It took a while for our appetizers to arrive, and we dug in. The crab cake was decent. Not the best I’ve ever had, but it was ok. Portions were small, and the food presentation was che-che fancy. Lots of effort into making the food look good on the plate. A lot of “show” but no “go”, as I say.

Next came my main dish. The plate was a large bowl, and was searing, blazing hot. So hot, you could feel the heat emanating, and the food was steaming. Too hot to eat, and I had to wait. The dish consisted of a large, heavy portion of thick, fettuccine noodles. They were way over cooked and pasty to taste, drenched in a thick, gooey tomato-paste like sauce. It was supposed to be fra diavlo spicy. There was hardly any spicy heat. I had to dig around to find the four shrimp. They were large size, certainly not jumbo, and they had the consistency of shoe leather, way overcooked. Those poor shrimp.

I was never was so disappointed with a meal in my life. I’ve had stouffers frozen fettuccine that tasted better than this mush.

The waiter stopped by and asked how our food was and let him know.

He apologized and offered to get me something else. I said I don’t think so, everyone else would be finished eating by the time my dinner arrived. He promised they would make my new dish quickly.

Another waitress brought me a menu and I ordered the salmon.

While waiting, she brought me a tiny cup of their asparagus soup. That sounds great! It was foamy, with the consistency of a beaten egg white. The taste… like a beaten egg white with a ton of salt! Yech.

The new dish arrived as they promised, shortly thereafter, but it too was a failure.

Salmon is a favorite of mine, and I know good salmon.

This salmon was nothing to write home about. It was served on a broiling, blazing hot plate, same as previous, and the fish was mostly raw on the inside, but cooking quickly on my broiling hot plate. Ok,  that should be fine,  but the taste was so disappointing. Bland is the best way to describe it. A squeeze of lemon helped save it from being a total disaster.

On the same broiling hot plate were some leafy salad greens, over drenched and soaking in a bland, vinaigrette dressing. Yup, even the vinaigrette was boring, and wilting fast on the sizzling hot plate! (duh!)

Dad hated his surf and turf. The steak was dried out, just awful, and the half lobster was so tiny it barely had enough meat in it to feed a tiny new born sparrow.

Dad complained to the waiter who seemed to care less, and if else, looked annoyed. Dad sensed this, and did not want to go through what I went through and chose just not to finish his meal.

On to the desert!

Yikes. The desert menu was the weirdest, most un-appetizing menu I had ever seen. None of the ingredients seemed to be a good match with each other. Like coconut tapioca pudding. Dad ordered it, and it had the consistency of lumpy water with yellow clump of (i think) ice cream in the middle with one of those che-che, dress-it-up, make-it look expensive, wafer’s stuck in it.

Blah.

Another was some sort of strawberry rhubarb tart with (i think) asparagus ice cream. Yech.

I can’t remember the rest of items, but they also sounded awful. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like unusal, and love interesting, new flavors. But nothing sounded good on this menu.

Nothing appealing, and no safe, fall-back choices either.

Disgusted, I ordered just a coffee.

What could go wrong with a wonderful, hot cup of coffee!

Everything. The coffee was awful. It was served in a french-style coffee press, and it was dark black. I added milk… still dark black. I added more… ok… finaly getting a little lighter.

It was rot gut coffee. Bitter, way too strong, and tasted as if it was strained through a tube sock that was ripped off the foot of a hobo.

It was that bad.

Got the check, paid over $200 plus 15% tip (I should not have left any tip, but didn’t want my wife to feel embarrassed) and we left.

It was the first time I wrote a note on a check receipt

“A terrible and very disappointing meal… :-(”

I cannot recommend this restaurant.

It’s pricey, and the quality of the food is poor. The service is not much better. The atmosphere is attractive, but too dark and far too loud to enjoy a dinner with friends or family.

Decoration or Design

Thinking about all my years as a creative director and a photographer, design is embedded in me. I may not always succeed, but I know when it’s right and why. By definition, design means problem solving. Communicating an idea through visual means. Not to be confused with art. Art is self expression.

As a fan of Paul Rand, the legendary designer, I’m reminded of how he loathed the direction design had taken when the personal computer took the world by storm in the early 90’s.

Rand was teaching at Yale when he wrote several papers on this very topic. Young designers took to the new medium and began to explore it’s potential. The outset of that exploration was a lot of bad design, still happening today unfortunately. The principles were quickly forgotten in lieu of a filter that would produce “a cool effect”.

Design became less of a problem solving discipline and was turning into mere decoration. Colors, textures, swirls, mixtures of fonts, various sizes and weights… the list goes on. In a short time, trends would develop, and various filter effects and styles would come and go.

The designer was becoming a decorator. Little thought on how, why or for what purpose, just merely to choose a font or apply a filter, was good enough. Worst yet, clients bought it. Design standards lowered.

Paul Rand so eloquently expressed his displeasure with this new direction in a piece that I recommend all creatives should read:

Confusion and Chaos
http://www.paul-rand.com/index.php/site/thoughts_confusionChaos/

More about Paul Rand here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Rand

In recent years, I have re-invigorated my passion for photography. I have observed some parallels in photography with design. Brought about by the advances in computer technology today, things like high dynamic range (HDR), tilt shift, and pre-sets and filters to achieve painterly effects, are all employed.

I understand the need to explore and try new ways of self expression. But I can’t help feeling that we are entering the trap of becoming decorators again.

At what point is it art? I suppose if there’s a large enough audience that appreciates the aesthetics, you could call it art.

But, is it? I have some thoughts I’d like to share.

A good composition, to me, is far more important than any decoration or filter applied to it.

When the filter or effect becomes the dominant focal point, it detracts from the composition.

As for originality –

The French painter, Claude Monet invented a new style that was never done before. Called Impressionism, Monet was an original. No painter had ever expressed their work in this way before. However, despite his new technique, Monet’s compositions were spectacular.

Pablo Picasso used Cubism. Another original.

Georges Seurat was famous for Pointillism. His technique, composition and style are unmistakable.

These painters did something new. Not always liked by the masses at the time, but new and evocative.

All these painters developed forms of self expression we know as original art. But make no mistake, their compositions were exceptional.

That brings us to today. I find it hard to imagine what Georges Seurat would have thought of the Pointilist filter in Photoshop.

The styles and techniques were original. I suppose if someone creates a style or filter that is truly original for a particular photo application, that can be considered art.

Absolutely.

I’ve seen some astonishing work by some young, and original artists/photographers. Just visit the galleries in Chelsie, NYC, and you’ll see for yourself.

But one must be so careful not to get caught in trends, filters, effects, and and lose sight of overpowering a beautiful composition with mere decoration.

Go ahead and experiment, and explore. It’s fun and it’s how we discover new things.

Just remember what Paul Rand said about mere decoration.

Don’t let the effects over power. The original intent will be lost.

Cheers,
Ivan

I was think’in

Photographers everywhere are taking it on the road. Twittering, flickering, facebooking, blogging, flogging, schnogging… every way possible to promote.

So, i thought why not moi! I can take it on the road to!

I’ve got wheels!

I’ve learned a few things!

I can even do facebark, dig this, flick that, twip, flop, scartch and sniff !

In my bag, I’ll be carrying peanuts to feed the squirrels, a whistle for my dog, and my old trusty camera.

That ought to do it.

So, without further ado, here’s MY ride:

scooter

I would’ve posted a map with pins, but there’s no map small enough of my driveway. Not even google.

Here’s how I got the shot:

My ride, rigged with Manfrotto magic arm.

Ok, so I won’t be visiting 29 cities in 6 weeks.

I don’t even have a philosophy. Just me and my dog, and the squirrels.

More here: on Flickr

Read the Terms!

I was about to enter a photo contest promoted by a photographer to whom I admire, with hopes of winning the prize of some nifty FJ Westcott lighting equipment, but I’m glad I didn’t.

The photo I was to enter was of  a little girl I had photographed at a charity event family photo shoot with the  Smiles Are Free organization, but I thought best to read the Terms before I press the upload button. Good thing I did!

Buried in the legal text was this copy:
“(ii) You agree that Content shall be,…a “work made for hire,” …with all rights therein, including without limitation the exclusive copyright, being the property of Sponsor. Otherwise, if your entry or any element thereof is considered not to be a “work made for hire,” …unconditionally and irrevocably transfer to Sponsor all right, title, and interest in the Content (including, without limitation, the copyright) in any and all media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, wherever produced or located, including without limitation the right to use, copy, distribute, perform, display and to create derivative works of the Content for advertising, trade, other commercial purposes or any other purpose.”

Yikes!

Nope! No way will I relinquish my copyright of a photo I took, just to enter a contest. I find this deceptive, and feel terrible for all those who blindly uploaded photos of kids, just for a contest.

Shame on the people that do this!

End of an Era

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
…Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
– Paul Simon

The last nine frames of Kodachrome were developed.
photographer Steve McCurry

Last lab to process Kodachrome:
Dwayne’s Photo Lab, Parsons Kansas

The CBS Sunday Morning show’s story: