Rainy Day Project

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Bad weather can bring on some of the most fascinating and interesting shots outdoors. However, you don’t have the necessary equipment to keep your camera safe, or you just don’t feel like going out, here’s a cool little project you can try out in the comfort of your home.

I call this ‘Around the house in circles’ (so creative, I know) 


Basically what I did was look for circular objects around the house and took a picture of them, and scaled and combined them all together using GIMP (which by the way is a great free substitute for photoshop).
You can pretty much choose any shape you like. Or you could look for colours! Pick one colour and try to get some interesting, creative shots of it around your house. This one’s next on my list for another rainy day.

What are some rainy day projects that you have tried? I’d love to hear about it! Leave it in the comments below! 🙂


How to Create an HDR-like Effect in Lightroom 5

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          HDR, which stands for ‘High Dynamic Range imaging’, is a method of adding more dynamic range to your images. Check out the this article here to really understand the concept of dynamic range in more detail: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/dynamic-range.htm  

This effect is usually created in photoshop by using three different images at different exposures  (high, medium and low) taken using exposure bracketing, and combining them together into one single picture. Mobile devices that have an HDR option in it’s camera settings also uses that same method, which is why it usually takes longer for those images to process.

In Lightroom, we are not able to use layers to combine images, but we can still create a similar effect using just one image and the tool bar options.

Before I get into the tutorial, I’d like to remind you that the values I used for the example image below may not be the best values for your own image. Remember to use your own judgement and adjust the values according to your picture and your own taste.

The image that I will be using was taken at The University of Guelph Arboretum, in Guelph, Ontario.

Here is the image before adding any HDR effects:


The first step to creating an HDR look is to decrease the highlights all the way to -100 and increase the shadow bar all the way to +100.


This gives us the following image:


As you can see the shadows in the fence and the grass underneath have become lighter in the picture, and the trees in the background pop out more. Overall it just looks so much more defined. There’s such a huge difference already with just adjusting two bars. (The magic of lightroom ;D )

Next, we’re going to bump up the whites and bring down the blacks. The trick to getting this part at the perfect spot is by pressing the option key on Mac while clicking on the slider (in Windows I believe you would use the alt key, but I could be wrong). This causes the entire image to turn black. While continuously pressing down on the alt key, move your slider to the right until you start seeing specks of white or colour. As soon as you see those specks, move your slider back to the left just a tad to get to the spot where the image stays all black. (I hope this makes sense.) For the blacks, you do the same thing but in the opposite direction and opposite colours. So instead of black, you will see a white image and as you go further left you will see specks of black. However, for the blacks, you want to stop the little pointer at a spot where there is still some black on the image. Unfortunately I couldn’t print screen it, but I did take a picture of my screen with my phone.


I hope it is clear enough for you to see. If you notice, there is some black in the fence. This, to me, seemed like the perfect amount to give it just enough detail. For this picture, my whites were at +44 and blacks at -38.



After adjusting both the blacks and whites, we get this result:
The next step is to bump up the clarity to +100. This adds more detail and sharpness into the image and makes it look clear and crisp.
This gives us the following image:
For this particular image, I would stop right here and make this my final product, because personally I’m satisfied with the outcome.
However, if you wanted to go further and create a more dramatic HDR look, you can add additional clarity by using the adjustment brush tool.
Click on the adjustment brush tool and ensure that all values are at zero. Next bump up the clarity to +100 and sharpness to +25. Ensure that your brush size is large enough so that you can easily cover the entire image, and also make sure that auto flow is checked off, and that density and flow are both at 100.
Paint the brush over your entire image, and you end up with the following:
You could also choose to only increase clarity in certain areas of the image, such as the fence. Feel free to experiment with your image and find what works the best. 🙂
If you wanted to go even further and add even more clarity, you can simply duplicate the last step instead of painting over the entire image again and again. In order to do this, you want to go back into the adjustment brush tool, but instead of creating a new brush, bring your cursor into the image so that you see the dot, which shows you where your last brush started. Then, right click on the dot and hit duplicate as many times as you wish in order to get the look that you are aiming for.
The reason my image looks red in the above picture is because I have the ‘show selected mask overlay’ option checked in the bar below the image in Lightroom. This just shows me where the brush is applied on the picture, which in this case, is everywhere.
After duplicating the brush effect once, I end up with the following image.
You can continue to duplicate it as many times as you wish until you get the desired look that you want.
And there you have it! HDR using Lightroom 5! 😀
Here’s a quick look at all three states again, the first being what we started with, the second image is where I personally decided to stop, and the third image is with the adjustment brush additions.
I hope you found this tutorial helpful, and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!  🙂

How to Create a Warm Sunset Effect in Lightroom 5

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This is a Lightroom 5 tutorial, where I show you how to take an image with neutral blue tones and give it a warm sunset effect. The image that I will be working with today was taken during the afternoon while the sun was still fairly high and bright in the sky. This effect would work better on images that were taken later on in the afternoon where more warmer tones were available, but I wanted to give you an idea of the range of possibilities available in Lightroom while only using the sliders, especially when trying to get the most out of an otherwise unimpressive image.
I did not use any graduated filters or brush enhancements in this tutorial. All I did was play around with the sliders to achieve this look. This is a great tutorial for beginners who are still getting used to Lightroom and post-camera editing.

Here are the before and after shots:

I started off with the before image shown above, which was shot in RAW with a Canon EOS 60D and a focal length of 32mm, 100 ISO, f10 and an exposure time of 1/1000. I also added an exposure of +1.00 in Lightroom and did a bit of cropping.
The settings that I have used in this tutorial are just rough guidelines that worked well with this particular image. You will most likely need to tweak them when applying it to your own images, depending on what you’re working with.


Step 1: Basic Adjustments




To start off, I wanted to add a little bit of warmth to the image by increasing the temperature. I also increased the tint just a bit towards the magenta side to prevent the image from looking too green. This also adds more of the rich warmth effect that we are after.

Next, I increased the contrast to about +50 to add some depth to the image. I also increased the shadows and blacks while decreasing the highlights and whites to add even more depth.




Finally, I decreased the clarity to give some softness to the overall image.

And we end up with the following image below:


Step 2: Tone Curve

We can give a nice boost to the image by adding additional contrast through the use of an ‘S’ curve, which will deepen the shadows while brightening up the highlights.




Step 3: Sharpening & Noise Reduction

Since I did crop the image, I decided to add some sharpening to give it a crisper look.


Cropping an image, as well as sharpening and adding depth through shadows and highlights, is bound to give the image some noise, so it’s a good idea to incorporate some noise reduction to smooth things out.


Step 4: Vignetting

If you find that the brightness is not very even around the borders of the image, adding a lens vignette can definitely help even everything out. I did not incorporate a lens vignette in this image (simply because I didn’t feel like it), but I did incorporate a vignette effect.
I personally enjoy adding vignette effects to images because I just love the overall look of it. This is purely a personal choice that really depends on your own taste.
Here are the vignette levels that I added:

And this gives me the final look:

And there you have it! I hope you found this helpful. I would love to hear your thoughts on this tutorial, so please feel free to leave comments/questions below! 🙂

New Adventures!

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I have always dreamed of becoming an environmental photographer, but it seemed so far fetch to me that I never took it seriously until recently. And I am so glad I did take it seriously because I have been accepted into Environmental Visual Communication, a 7-month post-graduate program at Fleming College!! I hope this will allow me to really work on my skills as a photographer and give me the field experience that I need to get my career rolling. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and I am beyond excited to start this new adventure! Good things are coming! 🙂

P.S. I apologize for the inactivity recently. I’ve been extremely busy with school and just haven’t had the time to mess around with my photography. But I will post again soon! 🙂


DIY lightbox

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Lighting is a very important aspect of photography, and can make the difference between a good shot and an excellent shot. However, for most of us that are just starting out, it can be quite expensive to invest in studio lighting, flash diffusers, etc.
Digital Photography School, one of my favourite photography blogs, has an amazing list of tutorials that show you how to create your own lighting equipment at home without spending a ton of money. You can check out the list here: http://digital-photography-school.com/diy-flash-and-lighting-hacks-for-digital-photographers
One thing I noticed in many commercial photographs is the crisp white backgrounds that appear behind objects. A great way to achieve this look is by using a lightbox that creates a soft light effect on the object from above and gives the image a crisp background.


I created my own versions of the lightbox today, one with a black background and one with white. The fabric I chose to use was white fleece, simply because I already had some lying around at home. But any type of fabric will work well. I wasn’t very picky with the box sizes, since it was just to try it out and see how it works. But after seeing the final results, I wish my white box was as big as the black box. I may end up creating another one that’s a bit bigger.


I also created my own lighting (with the help of my awesome dad). At first, I went looking for table lamps and desk lamps that I could use, but I was unsatisfied with everything I saw, so I ended up creating my own version of lighting that can be used to light up the lightbox, as well as be used for portraits and other shots. Here’s what my light looks like:

DIY lightbox

As you can see, the cone is pretty tall. I tried different sizes, and this was what satisfied me the most in terms of how well it lit up the lightbox. Of course, the sizes will vary according to the light bulb you use and the size of your box.

To make the light, I took an old extension cord I had lying around at home, and cut off the end that had the sockets (don’t cut off the end with the plug!). Afterwards you need to pull out the wires from inside the outer rubber covering and attach it to a light bulb holder (my dad helped me with this part). Basically, you need to get one of those light bulb holders (I got mine at Home Depot for 3 bucks) and attach the wires on one end and the light bulb at the other end, and screw it all in place. It only took about 5 minutes to put everything together. I used a bright white light bulb, and a 12ft extension cord (this allows a bigger range of movement if I decide to use the light for portraits). For the cone, I used a piece of black bristol board, with white paper glued on the inside, and wrapped it around the holder and taped it in place.

Here are some samples of how my pictures turned out when taken inside the lightbox:

It’s super easy to make, super cheap, and works super well!! 🙂


If you decide to try it out for yourself, let me know how it turns out! 🙂