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Join photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long on location in San Francisco as he explores the creative options provided by the kinds of lenses and lens accessories that don't always make it into most camera bags.
The course begins with a look at several common and inexpensive lens attachments, from polarizers to neutral density filters. The course then explores ultra-wide angle and fisheye lenses as well as ultra-long telephoto and macro lenses. The course concludes with a look at tilt-shift lenses, which are useful for architectural photography and special effects, and at offbeat lenses, such as Lensbaby and Holga attachments.
The course also contains Photoshop postproduction advice and examples that illustrate the creative possibilities that an expanded lens collection provides. And because some specialty lenses are extremely expensive, the course also contains advice on renting gear.
You don't shoot with a Lensbaby with the idea of getting a really technically perfect image obviously, but still there are things that you might want to correct from time to time. I have this Lensbaby shot that I've got here, and I really like this stuff over here, the smeared lights aiming right into Larry. His face is a little bit out of focus, but I don't think that's a problem. Again, I'm not aiming for a super-technically accurate image. Nevertheless, whether I'm going for technical accuracy or not, I still need to think about some corrections in this image to ensure that it's working well as a photo.
I don't like this thing right here; this bright spot is distracting to me. I've got all of this stuff in the image that's trying to point right into him, and then I've got this bright highlight that's soaking up my eye. The white balance is maybe a little bit off. I can see from my Histogram that I have some over exposed highlights. That's probably these bright light sources, so I don't have to worry about that too much. Overall though, there's a kind of consistent tone to the entire image. The wall is the same color as the floor, as the couch, and some of that is going to be white balance. I'm going to just cool the image off a little bit to put some white back into the wall, and that's helping.
But now instead of this being uniform yellow, they're all kind of a uniform beige, so I think I may want to look at that. Let's start by addressing this overexposed highlight question. Even if it is in the lights, I want to take it out, just in case there are some overexposed specular highlights somewhere. I'm going to darken the blacks to get a little more contrast in, and I think I'm going to bump up the contrast a little bit, just to try to put a little more punch into the image. I need to deal with this thing, so I'm going to grab the Selection Brush, or the Adjustment Brush rather.
And one thing to know: I'm doing these edits in Camera Raw; I can also do them in Photoshop just with adjustment layers. So what I'm trying to get through to you here is kind of just the conceptual details of how I'm thinking about this and what I'm choosing to do. However you choose to make the adjustment is up to you. You can do this with the Levels Adjustment layer in Photoshop or a Curves layer or whatever editing tools you prefer. So just to give you a before and after, that's the bright spot, and that's the bright spot darkened.
I like that a little bit better. It's still there so I think I might just darken that up a little more. Again, I'm just trying to do something that's not going to create such an eye magnet right there. My edit spilled over on to the post, so I'm going to click the erase bit of the Selection Brush and just take that edit off of there. Again, I know that I'm going quickly through this; I'm assuming that you know how to use the Adjustment Brush. If not, don't worry; there are plenty of places in the lynda library where you can learn how to use it.
So that takes care of that issue. I think the rest of what I want to do here I'm going to do in Photoshop, so I'm going to go ahead and open the image. There are a few things. There's a compositional thing that I want to change, and I want to continue to work some of the tonality. I'm going to do the compositional thing first, because I want to see if it's actually going to work. Here's my problem. I really like the post with the smeared lights pointing towards Larry. I like the overall sense of motion that the blur is creating. I don't like all of this space in here; I wish I had taken a step to the left, because if I've taken a step to the left, the pole would have moved closer to him.
This is why you work your shot; it's why you move your shot around a lot, or why you move your camera a lot while you're shooting. It may be that I didn't take that step to the left because there was a person sitting right next to me, I'm not sure. I'm going to try though, to fix this in Photoshop by going to Select All and then I'm going to go Edit > Content Aware Scale, and this is going to let me squeeze the image while trying to preserve the proportions of things in the image. So here's what I mean. If I grab this handle over here and just squeeze to the left, the post is getting closer to him, but Larry is not distorting.
The couch is distorting. It's gotten a lot thinner, but I don't think most people are going to notice that. So I've closed up some of that space there. I think I like that better. I have not distorted the post too much. I've added some weird artifacting over here. But it's a Lensbaby image; there's going to be weird artifacting. We're used to that, and I might be able to blur some of that away. So I'm going to accept that, and I'll let you see it before and after as soon as it's done calculating. Also, some of this distortion should improve after it actually does the transformation. Well it didn't, but anyway, I think it's still acceptable.
Before, after, before, after, so I've closed up the space a little bit. It's not a lot, but I still prefer this. I need to crop the image now with my selection still made. I can just go to Image > Crop. The important thing is he didn't distort at all. To take care of this, I'm going to grab the Blur tool. I'm going to turn the Strength up and get my brush size bigger. I'm using the right bracket key to make the brush bigger, and I'm just going to try and blur some of this out so that I don't see hard-edged bends. That's the part that makes it very conspicuous-looking.
So I think that's working a little bit better. I could also use a blur filter. So I like that. Still though, I need to get more focus onto him. I've got all these lines pointing in his direction, but I've got uniform brightness throughout the image. So I'm going to go here to the Exposure Adjustment layer and I'm going to lower the exposure in my image to darken it. I might even do a little bit of a gamma shift to get some contrast into those areas while I'm darkening them. Now the problem is I've darkened him also, but I have my layer mask here.
So if I simply grab the paintbrush and some white paint and a big soft-edged brush, I can--oh I'm sorry, and some black paint-- I can protect him from that darkening and end up basically putting him in a pool of light. Now, I don't want this halo around him, or around his feet, but I wouldn't mind having some brightness on the ground. If it is supposed to look like him in a pool of light, I need to have some of that spilling over onto the ground.
So now I'm just painting with gray, varying shades of gray, to blend that masking effect into the rest of the image. So black is completely protecting the image from the darkening; white is completely allowing the darkening; gray is going somewhere in between. I think I will try and work that area around his head a little bit so that he doesn't have a conspicuous halo around him. Finally, my lights got darker over here. That's no good.
So I'm going to put some black paint into these areas to brighten up this post full of lights. These were Christmas lights that were wrapped around the pole. And with the Lensbaby I can change the aperture to an aperture that turns bright specular highlights into funny shapes, so this was giving him a nice oval shape. I can also turn them into squiggles or diagonal lines. It's really a fun way to work if you're shooting in an area with some bright speckly lights. I think I need to just do one more thing, which is ensure that I'm getting this bit brightened up.
Now with my mask in place, I can go back and refine my settings here and if I let go, even a little--well, maybe I shouldn't go darker. I think I'll leave that alone, actually. Oh, I need to brighten that light back up. I'm just going to grab a brush and paint this into the mask. One of the things that very often happens with the Lensbaby is a loss of contrast. It smears stuff out so much that you really get textures and colors just blurring together into kind of an indistinct blob.
And I've got that happening some here through the image. I think that's why we've lost texture on the carpet, and because the carpet is so close to the same color as the couch, this is all turning into kind of one big dominant gray thing at the bottom of the image. I'm wondering, if I put a little contrast back into the floor, would I set it apart somehow? So I'm going to add Levels Adjustment layer. I am going to brighten the carpet a little bit but stretch the midpoint into the blacks and try and put some texture back onto the carpet, texture which has been smoothed away by the Lensbaby smearing.
I think that's looking a little better, but right now that's being applied to the entire image. So by pressing the D key, I have set these back to white as a foreground color, black as a background color. With my mask selected, I can simply hit Command+Delete and it fills my mask with black. Now, I can take my white paintbrush and just paint that contrast onto the floor. I'm also getting a saturation bump here, but I'm actually okay with that. That's not bothering me. I think this is helping. I think this is breaking apart the couch and floor problem that I had.
Here it is before. Here is after. So that's something you may find yourself doing regularly with your Lensbaby images, is trying to put back a little bit of contrast in areas that have been totally smeared away. Obviously, this is a very particular situation in this photo, but I think there are things you can take away from this for general Lensbaby use. Watch for low contrast, watch for details being smeared away, and then think about what you can do in any image with playing with that Content-Aware Scale thing for stretching stuff. Because Lensbabys, particularly with a wide- angle attachment, you're often working on a wide field of view, and you do that because you're going to have more smearing on the edges than in the center, so you tend to compose across large areas.
Having that Content-Aware Scale tool can be a really handy way where pushing elements back so that they're closer together.
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