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Hi again, it’s been quite a while since my last blog post.  For about the past month and a half or so I’ve been working on getting some new product shots together for my portfolio. Yesterday was the last day of finalizing edits and uploading my favorites to the website. Check out my Product Shots page for some new images, I’ll also link a few here in the post.

Product Shot- Belt
Today I’ll be reviewing this project and talking about the process I went through to get from my planning stages all the way to the final product shots. I have a feeling this post might be kind of a long one.

Back in early April/May I was starting to think about what I wanted to try and accomplish for myself this summer. Usually what I find happens when I have a large block of free time is I’ve really only planned my schedule a week or two out. The summer then just becomes more and more of waste of time and then at the end of it I wonder what happened.

What I’ve learned about myself is that I work best with lists and calendars. For short term goals my head usually magically fills up with stuff I want to do right before going to bed so I write them down in my phone and look at them first thing in the morning to remind myself what I have to do. Some people can just wake up and think “okay I have to do this, this, and this” I can’t really do that. If I try to get up and just think of something to do I draw a blank, my head doesn’t work like that in the morning.

Doing this long project with product shots was interesting because I’ve never really had to habituate on one mindset for so long. I’m used to doing one or two conceptual images and calling it a day and moving onto a different idea. I think the most time I’ve ever spent on one picture was about a week off and on. I knew going into this first project that I wanted to do three projects and conveniently I had all of June, July and August to do it (Minus time for portraits/headshots/client projects). I mapped out each week of summer in word document so there were 15 weeks with two product shots and two conceptual images a week. This format worked really well for figuring out what I needed to buy/borrow for supplies and products before I even started shooting.

The shot list looks like this: Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 11.26.22 AM

You can add more or less information depending on what you’re trying to do. For me, having any type of list or outline is a huge help compared to having nothing.

I shot the first eight or ten product shots in the first week and decided that since I was in that zone it would just be faster for me to shoot all the products first and get into a groove doing that before shooting or editing anything else. It seemed easier to me at the time to do it that way all at once especially since I don’t have the largest studio space to work with.

I photographed every product on this little product table from Amazon. Despite a lot of the negative reviews it has worked amazingly for me, I’m also not trying to break it down and set it up every single day on-location somewhere. I can imagine the difficulty of trying to make this table portable but for sixty bucks it is nice to have your own designated product table.

Towards the end of shooting 30 product shots it definitely got kind of monotonous. It’s also important for me to differentiate here that if I wanted to do 30 product shots I could’ve easily done them in a day if I wanted them all to look the same, with the same lighting and backdrop but I don’t think that looks good for a portfolio. For portfolio pieces (and unfortunately pretty much everything I photograph) I like to take the time to make it as perfect as possible. To me it’s sort of stupid to go through all the trouble of shooting something only to go halfway with it. You might as well take your time shooting. Take your time editing. Obviously if you never finish anything then you’re taking too much time but still, take a reasonable amount of time and put the effort in. A lot of people will disagree with me but my argument is that it’s your photograph, it’s your work, other people are going to judge your skill level based on your work so go ahead and make the best work you can. I cringe when people ask me to send them “all the photos” or say “you don’t even have to edit them” don’t give in to those people, make them wait for the finished product.

Product Shot- Lamp
I finished shooting all 30 products around June 10th and started editing the following weekend. The reason I was able to acquire so many products is largely because I love going to thrift stores and buying a million things for five bucks. The caveat to my method here at the beginning of the project was that I knew I was going to have to edit a lot more on thrifted items as opposed to buying something brand new. If you have a ton of money you can go ahead and spend all sorts of money on stuff just to shoot it but I decided to throw a little more time towards the backend of this project and save a little money upfront.

I did end up spending a significant amount of time editing. I was planning on it but just me being the way I am I always go a little nuts with the healing and clone stamp tools on things like dust and scratches. Most people would probably have never even seen a lot of the dust and stuff if I left them in there because of things like image resolution and viewing sizes on the web. Unless I give you the option somewhere on my website or on Flickr you’d probably never otherwise be able to get up close and look at every little detail. However, editing all that little stuff gives me peace of mind because it would’ve bugged me if I left dust in my pictures. I also plan on printing a lot of these images out in a printed portfolio and I’d rather not realize while I’m clicking print that, “gee, I probably should’ve edited all these little tiny things out.” So I guess the amount of time spent on editing would’ve happened sooner or later anyway and I hate going back and changing an image months after I’ve called it finished.

The reason I liked doing all the shooting first and all the editing second was that I got to establish a rhythm setting up and breaking down all my equipment. I can do it now almost without thinking about it. I also got to edit all the images together at the same time and make sure they didn’t all look identical. I think if I had finalized each image one by one without looking at them all together I could’ve just made them look too similar without realizing it. Doing things this way allowed me to choose between all 30 images and decide which ones would look better together and not waste as much time editing images I was never going to use. You’ll notice I didn’t actually upload 30 new product shots to my website and that’s because I narrowed down the 30 I shot to my favorite dozen or so images. In the future, on the next project, I’m not going to shoot everything and then edit everything. Now that I’ve tried that method it’s a little extreme. Taking a happy medium would’ve been better. Shooting a few things and making some edits sooner, like within the same week, before finishing the shooting period would’ve given me more of an opportunity to go back and reshoot or shoot something else entirely. Starting the editing earlier would’ve helped make the daunting task of “okay now I have to edit 30 product shots” a little less daunting.

Product Shot- Wine Bottle

I would’ve liked to finish 30 product shots and upload 30 product shots but you can always kind of tell when you’re going through things that some images stick out more than others. Some products get cut because I shot two of the same type of product and picked the better of the two. Some stuff just clearly doesn’t look that good. I don’t think shooting a stapler was the best idea because it’s still just a boring old stapler no matter how I light it. At the end of the day when I’m looking at my work I’d rather have quality over quantity, that’s why I didn’t put nearly half of the products I shot in my portfolio. Still though, I ended up tripling the amount of product shots on my website. I feel much more comfortable now saying, “Yes, I do product photography” and I do stand behind my work, that’s the point of doing a project like this.

It’s more important for me to feel confident in my work than it is to have a million pictures online. I like that I don’t have many images from class assignments on my website. I try to show that I do spend most of my time trying to improve my work by doing things on my own and creating my own projects set with my own goals.

As for the next project I don’t really want to talk about it too much right now but I am excited to finally have some closure on this first set of images and move on to something else. After a month and a half of working on a bunch of product shots I definitely got obsessive about it, which initially is kind of a good thing. I wanted to make sure I picked a project that would be challenging while still pulling some great work out of it and I think I did that.

Until next time

-Alex

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The other day I was printing some photographs and noticed when looking closely that there were some cut lines across one of my images.

Bicubic Automatic

An image rotated in the Free Transform tool using Nearest Neighbor Interpolation. Image is zoomed in to about 400%

Interpolation is something that, for the most part, goes unnoticed in Photoshop. I didn’t think too much of it either until I started seeing this jagged edge problem on a couple different photos. Normally I would disregard an issue like this as a resolution or an anti-aliasing problem but the lines are too uniform across the entire image for either to be the case.

As it turns out it is the Free Transform and Ruler tools that cause these lines because they use interpolation to perform their operations. In Photoshop’s default settings the interpolation method for all tools is set to Bicubic Automatic so you shouldn’t ever run into this problem unless your settings get changed. I won’t go into detail on all the interpolation methods that Photoshop has to offer but essentially what interpolation does is create or delete pixels depending on whether you want to size an image up or down from its original size. Interpolation also plays a part in rotating images which is why this issue is hard to find an answer for online. Interpolation is usually just associated with sizing images up or down but not rotating images.

After going through each of the interpolation options and trying a few free transforms I figured out that it’s the Nearest Neighbor (Preserve Hard Edges) interpolation option that causes this jagged edge problem after a free transform rotation or straighten with the ruler tool. The solution is simply to change your image interpolation setting back to Bicubic Automatic if it’s been changed which is what happened to my interpolation settings at some point without realizing it. To change your interpolation settings you can go to your Preferences in Photoshop by hitting Command+K (Mac) or Control+K (PC) and changing them in the Image Interpolation drop down menu under the General section.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 11.27.02 PM

You can also change your interpolations settings on the fly when you are using the Free Transform tool (Command+T) by using the drop down menu on the Free Transform options bar at the top of the screen.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 12.13.06 AM

Here is the same image from the beginning of the post rotated with the Bicubic Automatic interpolation setting

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 9.58.25 PM

An image rotated in the Free Transform tool using Bicubic Automatic Interpolation. Image is zoomed in to about 400%

 

Notice the lack of vertical lines in this crop. This problem shouldn’t ever occur while editing a digital image because it is digital. There will certainly be artifacts while upscaling an extremely small image to become billboard size but in a relatively small rotation like this there should not be so many artifacts, or at least not out of a file from a DSLR.

Until next time!

-Alex

this past weekend I figured I would edit some photos from shoots I had done recently but hadn’t gotten around to editing yet. This time though, I thought I would set myself a timer and see how well and how fast I could edit against the clock. Each image you see in this blog post took a about 5-8 minutes to edit.

Ashley

While I haven’t gotten each edit exactly how I wanted in such a short time, I think most of the heavy lifting gets done inside of those first five minutes. Previously when I had sat down to do some editing, I would just casually make my edits and take as much time as I wanted to get everything perfect. The result is a great image but if I had allotted two hours to make the edits, they would take two whole hours.

Allie

If I set a countdown timer (Download Howler from the Mac App Store) the edit time very closely adheres to whatever the timer is set to. It’s a strange phenomenon to witness and I’m sure there’s a scientific term that describes it more clearly. If you set a timer you would be surprised how many different activities can actually take less time.

John Hill

For me this came about because I’m in college classes during the week and if I have editing that needs to be done I can’t give it all day. The faster I can edit, the better off I am in the long run. While I love doing my photoshop work, I also love getting more than one thing done in a day and a countdown timer (and a few custom PS actions) helps me do that. A lot of the reason why I think a timer helps cut down on time spent on a project is because I usually go into something thinking “this is going to take forever” and it does. By using a timer there’s no question as to how long something is going to take because you’re allotting a finite amount of time to it up front before you begin. Knowing exactly how long something will take to finish helps me stay motivated and makes me get things done faster.

Carl Tempesta

I guess it’s never to late to learn that I work better and faster under a deadline.

-Alex

Hi again,

It’s certainly been a while since I’ve written here on the blog and I sincerely apologize. That being said I’d like to review what I’ve accomplished in 2014:

Finished up the photo track at school with Photo III and Large Format 

This year I was able to finish up the photo track at my college a semester earlier than usual because I became an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop. Last spring I was in my Photo III class which is predominantly studio work (which I LOVE) and a lot of Photoshop (which I LOVE). This was the class I had wanted to take since I started college and I had the most fun in that course out of any of my other photo courses. Here’s some of my work from that semester:

How I Became Art

Audiotechnica Headphones

The iPhone

Untitled

Product Shot- Wacom Tablet

Me The Machine

White on White

Untitled

Untitled

Creative Portrait 1

Imitation Shot

I still find myself doing things in the studio very often because I have so much control over my images there.

I also did Large Format this past semester which I was a little reluctant to do at first. The class consisted of about a dozen or so students. Each student had a partner in the class who they would share a large format camera with for the duration of the course. It made things a little more tricky at least in terms of logistics and 4-5 other courses to take into account but it was not impossible. Shooting the camera was, by far, the most cumbersome part of the photographic process this semester. If you have never seen a large format camera it’s very a classic Ansel Adams accordion-style camera. Or, at least it’s what I think of when I think of Ansel Adams. The 4×5 camera looks like this:

IMG_2432IMG_2846

IMG_2858  IMG_2842

It certainly got a bit overwhelming walking around and setting up shots after a while but I found the rest of the process (developing and printing) pretty laid back this semester. Now that I’ve shot, 35mm, medium and large format I think I enjoy medium format the most out of three. Because, if I really had to shoot film, I’d want a completely different experience from what you get shooting DSLRs and I think I get that more between medium and even large format. Again, I still find that large format is a bit too much to lug around to make it fun for me long-term. Still I’m glad I finished the large format course. I posted some scans of my negatives to my Flickr account:

Large Format Nature 2

Large Format Nature 1

Large Format Architecture 2

Large Format Architecture

Large Format Closeup 2

Launched my website

I finally started up my own online website where you can find me and some of my work. This is a big deal for me because now I have business cards with one URL on them which makes it much easier for clients to find me online. It used to be that I would have to give them my number and my flickr URL and my email address. Now everything is in one place, nice and easy. I upload new work every so often. I may change the design around from time to time but for now, AlexHawkPhotography.com is where you can find me. It has my bio and a running list of awards and publications which is getting on the long side (not complaining).

Started getting into CGI

This year my interest in CGI work started growing after I became an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and started to branch out a bit. I think CGI is a very obvious next step up from Photoshop/image manipulation and it’s been exciting to learn about it so far. I started a CGI blog over at: https://4threality.wordpress.com a few months ago and I very quickly realized that there’s an almost endless amount of information to grasp onto when learning about CG work. In 2015 I want to take this interest of mine even further, so we’ll see how it goes.

Have a happy New Year my friends!

-Alex

A few months ago Wacom revamped its lineup of pressure sensitive tablets. The Bamboo was changed to the Intuos and the Intuos lineup was updated to the new Intuous Pro 5 models.

Many people wonder how I do some of the Photoshop work I’ve completed. They come up to me and ask “Hey, Alex how did you do such great Photoshop work? I would also like to do such great Photoshop work.” and I tell them that apart from using Photoshop for over five years now and becoming a Certified Expert, I use a Wacom tablet to do my editing and not a mouse. There’s no exaggeration on my part. Photoshop is built to fully utilize pressure sensitive tablets and using one has made a world of difference in the quality of work I produce. If I tried to do the same editing and retouching I’ve been doing over the past two years with a mouse I would probably tear my hair out.

What urks me the most though is that I tell people my response that really a tablet is a priceless tool when it comes to editing and they go “oh wow” and that’s about it. Very few people are willing to invest the money in buying this piece of equipment which, if you ask me, is probably the best thing I’ve bought in the last two years. Now there’s really no excuse to have a tablet as I was checking Amazon last night and found that the new Intuos Pen & Touch tablets now start at $75. I was thinking of picking one up just so that I don’t have to haul mine back and forth to school with me.

For the time being I can’t readily attest to the quality and durability of the Pen & Touch tablets but specs wise it’s worth every penny. If they’re anything like the Intuos 4 series like what I currently own then I would highly recommend it. It doesn’t look like it has as many buttons or a wheel to boot but I never use those features anyway.

Really, if you’re looking to do some solid editing, for $75 you can do a whole lot more than you would with a mouse.

-Alex

This morning I’m making modifications to some files at the click of a button thanks to batch processing in Photoshop. Basically what batch processing allows you to do is take an action you’ve created and apply it to photos in one location and make new saved copies in another location. This is a feature I don’t use very often but I love it when I find a use for it. Batch processing saves me the hassle of having to do the same thing multiple times by hand.

Ok so here’s what you do.

Find the Actions window and record a new action. Window>Actions or Option+F9 will get you there. Press the little paper folding button Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 1.30.21 AM on the bottom to name a new action just as you would in the layers panel. Then press the record circle to the left of that same button to start recording what you’re doing in Photoshop. It’s very important from here on, or at least while you are recording your action, that you do only what you want to be recorded. Doing extraneous tasks takes the action much longer to play back in the final output. You will be able to modify events in the pulldown view of the actions you’ve recorded and change events afterward if you wish, this is extremely convenient.

For those who don’t know, actions are little saved presets in Photoshop that you can use to record what you’re doing and play it back later. This is most commonly found with effects. Many photographers offer original recorded actions of effects that you can use on your photos. This is how you’d save a lot of time post processing and also be able to create the same look or feel across many photos. Just like there are presets in Lightroom, there are actions in Photoshop. Actions and presets also allow you to seem like you’re really good at editing when really you did nothing at all.

So you’ve got your action, great! Now we just need to batch process it. Make two folders in your hard drive, or perhaps for this exercise just make two on your desktop entitled Before and After. Put a file or two in your Before folder. I’ve added two files entitled Mock-Up

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 1.37.23 AM

 

Ok now we’re set to open up batch processing. Go to File>Automate>Batch and this dialogue will pop up.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 1.42.17 AM

This dialogue is pretty self-explanatory, select your set that your actions are in (sets are just folders to organize actions) and then select the action you would like to batch process. You can then choose your source folder which is our before folder in this case and then you have a few tick boxes to look over.

I have checked the “Suppress Color Profile Warnings” tick box because I know I’m going to be opening JPEGs into the batch process in Photoshop and they will conflict with my current working colorspace. I don’t really want to get into right now but for the sake of time my working colorspace is ProPhotoRGB and the colorspace of my JPEGs are sRGB. This tick box will make sure to handle that warning box that would otherwise appear. If I uncheck this then I will have to confirm the colorspace settings of each file as it opens during the batch process. So ticking this checkbox just makes it a little more hands free on my part and in my case. If you are opening JPEGs into your working space and your working space is already sRGB then you wouldn’t have this warning dialogue appear and could probably do without checking this box.

Now you can select the output/Destination folder which in our case is the After folder. There’s also the options for file naming to contend with. The settings I have above will maintain the original file name and extension which is great. A lot of the other options are again self-explanatory and can add or change things to the file names and extensions such as a serial number or alphabet letter.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 1.53.18 AM

Also unless you’re using a serial number in the file naming section you can leave the serial number at 0 and it won’t be factored into your batch process. I also have the “Override Action ‘Save As’ Commands” box checked. If you check it Photoshop will probably tell you what it does but I’ll explain. This check box means that you have recorded a “Save As” part of your action and will use those settings to save each of the files in the batch process.

If you didn’t record a “Save As” part of your action you can go back to it in Photoshop and click on the last event you recorded and press record to pickup where you left off. Save the file however you’d like to save it, I just saved mine as a JPEG with a quality number of 12. This “Save As” command when used in conjunction with the batch process in this case does not take into account the file path that is recorded in the “Save As” part of the your action. This is great because otherwise all the batch process files would be named the same thing and overwrite each other for the entire process. But if you don’t check the “Override Action ‘Save As’ Commands” box you will be prompted to save each file in Photoshop in its own location after the action has been run. This check box just adds more fluidity and automation to the already automated process, again, not necessary but nice to have. Small things like this are what make batch processing a one-click process where you don’t have to sit through the batch processing to warning boxes and saving dialogues. Checking things like this can make batch processing completely seamless so that you can click OK and then go grab a snack and come back with all the shiny new files modified and exported for you.

Now you’re all set to run your action and watch in childlike wonderment as each file flies through Photoshop, runs the action, and saves itself faster than you ever could by hand. It’s a beautiful thing.

Also just as a side note for those of you wondering, my action during this post is created to place a layer with a picture frame cutout onto each of my files, flatten it and save it. I’m doing this to replace the frames on the items in several images I took this week and an action is very useful for this. All I had to do was make sure I saved a PSD of my one frame on a layer with appropriate masking and make sure I referenced it during the recording of my action. To get this one layer into photoshop it’s best to have the PSD saved somewhere and locate it not using File>Open but File>Place. That way the file gets placed on its own layer as a smart object in the working file. Then all I had to do was confirm the placement, flatten and save the image and my action was ready to go for everything to work properly.

I hope you found this post super-helpful although it is sort of a niche technique. Bookmark it and come back later if you’re not doing batch processing today.

See you next week

-Alex

 

As I have already mentioned on the blog a few times now, I’ve been getting more into 3D and CGI work as of late. It’s been interesting to see what the CGI social media feeds post from time to time and I found this one article particularly interesting. Apparently, IKEA has been working on computer generating more and more parts of their catalogs since the earlier 2000s. You can read the full article over HERE on CGSociety.

The short version of the story is that, before CGI work was done for IKEA, a product prototype would have to be made, shipped and photographed, and then shipped back for production. If any changes were made after the product was photographed it would have to be photographed again. Using CGI allows IKEA to make that end of their business a little tighter and more efficient although it is cutting out the costs and logistics of professional photography unfortunately. I did begin to wonder how in the world IKEA has gotten all their interior shots to look so beautiful and of course, now we have the answer.

While it should be disconcerting news for me to hear that photography is being ousted from the IKEA workflow, I’m also amazed and intrigued at just how realistic their CG images look. I would not have known for sure that they weren’t real unless I read the article. I’m the type of person that doesn’t mind reading really dry technical text in order to learn something I think will help me creatively. I can almost guarantee right now that I’ll be incorporating CGI into my creative process very soon. Just looking at IKEA’s interiors, the possibilities are endless. You really can make anything you can think of with CGI and I would love to have that skill set in my arsenal sooner than later.

Now a lot of photographers are opposed to digital photography because it’s not technically real. With film, light from the scene is physically changing the particles in the roll each time you take a photo. At the end of a cross-country travel you’d end up with a roll that’s been to each place that you’ve been and has experienced and been physically changed by the light there. A digital camera digitally interprets light as ones and zeros on the sensor which is then saved into an image file with all that data before it is wiped clean for the next photograph. There is no bi-product that is permanently changed by the photographs you take, there are only the files you end up with.

I don’t really buy into all that crap. I think there is some definite science behind what I’ve just briefly explained buy I think it’s stupid to discount a beautiful image because it’s digital. I just want to make images in whatever way is the best way for me to have the most impact and control over the end product. I don’t discount Photoshopped files or CGI because it’s the artist’s choice to use those approaches and they can do art however they see fit. If IKEA thinks that making their catalogs in CGI is good for them, and it certainly looks amazing, then great.

CGI gets a bad wrap sometimes especially with things like this and obviously also in major blockbuster movies. I think it is partly because a lot of movies currently focus on leveling entire cities to the ground instead of good script writing (Pacific Rim *cough cough*). When just because you can annihilate an entire town doesn’t always mean you should. At the same time though, I feel that a lot of the destruction we see in CGI today is really just to showcase how far we’ve come with it. CGI and movies especially are probably one of the fastest advancing industries, always with new “cutting-edge” technological innovations. That being said I guess I really wouldn’t mind having to get a job in CGI if and when the world mainly uses that instead of traditional photography. A lot of the same concepts still apply with lighting and composition but again will occur in the computer instead of the camera or photography studio. When I really get to thinking about it, it’s not totally shocking or unheard of for IKEA to go totally computerized and it’s probably something we’ll only see more of in the future.

I’m excited to delve into CGI, for me there is all to gain and nothing to lose.

-Alex