Hand Color Engagement Image

We did family pictures and engagement pictures a couple of weeks ago. It was a big shoot. I did 2 studio setups and 2 locations for 5 kids and 1 adult, in 3 different groups – her kids, my kids and our kids. Then I handed my camera to my daughter and she did couple shots for the engagement, both studio and on location. First I went through the family and kid pictures which I posted in my previous entry. Then I moved on to the engagement image.

There was one picture I really liked. The composition was good, the moment was great. Lighting was alright. It was almost a wonderful shot, but it needed something. And going in I wanted to do something with some grit, some character.

I started with this (after basic LightRoom adjustments, cropping):

I went out to the internet and searched for Photoshop Instagram effects – looking for ideas. I found a couple that I liked, one using a Threshold adjustment and one on Hand Coloring.

I started with an exploratory and came up with the following:

Then I started with a new canvas and built the final, using higher resolution images:

The Steps to build the final image:

–   Background copy – no changes made

  • In the exploratory I added grain to this level, but decided I liked it better without

–  Converted to Black and white

  • I did this in two layers, one for Scott’s face and the area below the window (B&W Scott) and one for everything else.  When I lightened the faces by adding Yellow and Red it was losing highlight on Scott’s forehead against the wall. And the colored area below the window was losing its detail – I wanted to maintain enough to color.
  • B&W Scott (masked)
  • Reds: 40
  • Yellows: 60
  • Greens: 40
  • Cyans: 60
  • Blues: 20
  • Magentas: 80
  • B&W Cheryl (masked)
  • Reds: 79Yellows: 11
  • Greens: 40
  • Cyans: 79
  • Blues: 71
  • Magentas: 80

–  I added a Threshold Adjustment layer to drop out the fine details and add a graphic feel.

  • On the exploratory I got a lot more texture – but when I used it on the higher resolution image the range was much finer so I didn’t get the same amount of texture.
  • Had to adjust the Threshold level and the Opacity to get the affect I wanted.
    • Threshold Level: 76
    • Opacity: 12%
  • I had issues with the shadow areas
    • Blocked the hair out on the Threshold layer.
    • I had other shadow areas that were very blotchy, I decreased those shadows using the Localized Burn/Lighten layer until the blotch went away. This worked really well

–  Added Blank Layer for localized Burn/Lighten

        • Blend Mode: Overlay

–  Added Blank Layer for localized Burn/Lighten around Cheryl’s lips

        • Blend Mode: Overlay

–  Added Curves Adjustment Layers to hand color individual areas. Selected the area to be colored, then added the Curves Adjustment Layer, which masked out the selected area

        • Skin
        • Scott’s Hair
        • Cheryl’s Hair
        • Window Shadow
        • Below Window
        • Window frame
        • Scott’s Shirt
        • Far Right Shadow

The Tutorial I used said to change the Image Mode to CMYK. That adds the black layer. But I used the default RGB image mode.

I really like the way this turned out. It gave me just enough graphic grit and dropped out some of the fine detail.  That actually solved some of my lighting challenges on my face by softening the shadows. The hand color gives it a soft translucent watercolor look.

Here’s the final:

Here’s what I started with, for side by side comparison:

2012 McCuistion Family Portraits

I just added the family portraits I did two weeks ago of my ‘new’ family. This includes all the kids that are still at home – my 3 and Cheryl’s 2.  I failed to get one single picture of all of us – but that’s a little tough when I’m holding the camera.

2012 McCuistion Family

I also redid the Profile shot I did of the kids 2 years ago. I was going to do it every year, but the whole ‘life being seriously screwed up’ thing messed me up last year. But maybe every two years will work?  I added Cheryl’s 2 kids so I have three versions. One with all 5 of them, one of just my kids and one of her kids. I also built a base template that I can drop the images in, so it should be much easier and more standard going forward. This is the full composite of all 5 kids.

I’m still working on our engagment pictures. I have a couple of ideas I want to try. I’ll share them if they aren’t total bombs. Here’s a teaser.

This is the first test of my gallery concept. A way to post pictures for customers to view and select from. It’s worked pretty good so far, I think. It took a lot of time though. Uploading to the web site is slow – and WordPress is even slower when I have to fix things. It’s completely manual at this point. I will be looking for a better solution going forward. But this was a huge gallery. It consists of 7 sub galleries. I shot over 400 pictures, 4 groups, 2 sets of 6 individuals, 1 set of engagment shots (my patient daughter pushing the button under the direction of her impatient father), 3 locations and 2 seperate studio setups. I think I pulled out 140 final shots which I posted in the gallery.  I was wiped out at the end of the shoot.

I fine tuned shooting head shots on white seamless with my new strobes and gear. That worked well, except for when I shot before the strobes recycled.  I can’t adjust the grey out of the seamless on those, at least not cleanly, without impacting the subject. But the darker background looked nice on some of the shots and I always like the deeper shadows. I’m constantly fighting myself to pull up exposures.

I worked on my group shots. I’m getting better at arranging groups. These looked much better.

I’ve extended my work flow. I’ve setup a WorkArea on my hard drive where I will work on pictures that need more attention than just LightRoom, composites, etc. That way I can save source images, different stages, notes and the final image(s) all in one place. I am using the same LightRoom catalog (for now). We will see how that goes.

The fun shot…



Christopher James – Alternative Process – Future of Photography

I’ve been reading ‘The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes’, second edition by Christopher James.

Alternative Photographic Processes by Christopher James

I played with Alternative Processes in college. I wrote a research paper and printed Gum Bicromate images of a Ram’s skull and a beautiful young lady. I couldn’t find the Ram’s skull image, but here’s the young lady. It’s faded a bit in 25 years. Not that it was ever an amazing image to start with, but it got me the grade and I enjoyed the process.

It intrigued and interested me, but I haven’t done anything with it since then. But I never lost my interest, so I bought this book. Its was pricey, but it is rich in material. I intend to get into playing with some of these alternative processes in the next few months.

While researching the author a bit more on his web site, I found an interview by South x Southeast photomagazine – Vol IV, Issue 1, April 2012

I was intrigued by some of the comments he made regarding the future of photography due to the digital democritization of photography – the fact that there is a camera in everybody’s hand and that Photoshop is so prevelant and powerful. What does that mean going forward to photography as an art form? How do we seperate the ‘artistic’ image from the common iphone image? Or is there a seperation? This has been pounding around in my head of late.

The whole point in returning back to Alternative Processes is to re-introduce the personal, artistic touch that seems to be lost in the clean perfect digital image. The happy accident. The inbred flaws that add character. I miss the character film grain added to an image. It just isn’t the same to ‘add’ grain in Lightroom or Photoshop. The generated grain doesn’t have the umph that the actual physical grain does. There is a depth that comes from the physical limitations of the medium.

For your consideration:

We recognized that photography was squarely at a crossroads in the evolution of medium … predicated upon the philosophy that photography is no longer a single entity, but is unique among the visual arts in its ability to successfully merge new technologies, and traditional influences, with personal artistic production. It is, now more than any other form of visual expression, an ideal nexus of art and culture.

We are in an interesting time for our medium. Photography is evolving into something entirely new. From an alternative-process perspective: the opportunity of finding the future in the past, returning to the unpredictable and the hand-­made image. Consider the ramifications of photography in the early 1800s, a truly radical innovation that set painters free. With the current speed of processing and digital invention, I don’t think we have a clue about all of the ways in which digital imaging will influence and alter hand-made photography.

To the upcoming generation of photographic artists, schooled with the pixilated sterility of digital imaging, and a social-networking visual aesthetic, using one’s hands to make an image is a persuasive argument simply because it is imperfect… and as a result a profound and precise reflection of us all.

There is a hunger for the accident; I literally feel it in the energy of my students, …


… we are being inundated with photographic uniformity, simple and nearly-­free archiving, that is technology-­dependent, with imagery that is built upon an aesthetic of social networking and marketing. There is no price to pay for this work and with the exception of showing friends pictures of, and to, other friends, the experience of making images is often a sterile one, without relationships to the hand of the artist … or her senses

Students need to learn to love what they are seeing and creating without having to be told, via the “high priest” edictums, that their work could be important … and maybe “art”

The fact is, there is often precious little difference between the imagery selected by the Grand Poobahs of the museum and gallery world and much of the work I am seeing from my MFA students … it’s just a matter of right-place-right-time, intelligence, luck and being ready when you’re lucky. I really like the art-game but am not a fan of the religion or the politics of its high priests.

Like I tell my students, if you want to be really good at this, you need to learn how to play really hard. Little bears become very successful big bears through play, not because they follow the rules and current bear fashions.

That last quote hit me with the same hammer that has been pounding me in the head – You succeed through hard work. We (I) spend to much time trying to figure out how to be successful and to little time DOING IT!!!!

Just do it, damn it…

Jerry Uelsmann and John Paul Caponigro

These are excepts from a converstation between John Paul Caponigro and Jerry Uelsmann, first seen in the Nov/Dec 1997 issue of View Camera magazine.

You can see the full converstation here, on John Paul Caponigro’s web site.

The bolding is mine – the comments that caught my minds eye…

Jerry Uelsmann

I certainly don’t feel threatened by the computer. It’s a tool. It’s another way of making marks. Good creative artists will come along. We’re in this phase now where a lot of people are overwhelmed by it, feel it’s it, feel it’s the one thing. It’s going to be with us for a long time, but it’s going to find it’s place. I figured out pretty early, even in the darkroom, having too many options is counter productive to the creative process. The computer is the king of too many options.

John Paul Caponigro

Exactly. There is always the danger of doing too much. Knowing when to stop is important.


One of the things I’ve felt, a bizarre thing, was that photography had become so camera oriented. I had always liked the darkroom, it was this visual research lab, a place for alchemy to occur. When you look at photo magazines, for every enlarger ad, there’s a hundred camera ads. So that’s the focus, for the populace too, because many people like to take pictures and they don’t have darkrooms. That always was the emphasis for the whole industry. My analogy was a lot of photographers have many cameras and one enlarger and I have one camera and many enlargers. (I actually have more than one camera but I don’t have a lot.)


Painting felt threatened the minute photography was born. Yet later it was photography that liberated painters from the confines of realism. All of these restrictions and definitions are undergoing a process of disintegration. Technique and materials have been driving this relatively recent revolution too much, placing the emphasis on the wrong areas. Evolution is far too optimistic a word, but there has been a progression of vision. One would hope we could shift our concern to a history of vision and process, not a history of materials and technique.


The limits are up here. It’s not in the materials. It’s endless, the possibilities that exist out there for making marks with whatever you have. You name the system, it is wide open. The limits are truly in how people think about it. We’ve seen major, major changes in the world of art. It is only natural to accept that thinking is constantly challenged. It goes up and down, some things survive and some things don’t. It’s part of life’s rich pageant.


I maintain, and there have been a few books, that a part of the art scene is very much that work that has a poetic sensibility to it. I felt back in the fifties, even in the sixties, there was some effort to deal with poetic imagery. As we got into more politically correct art it was cast by the wayside.

Weston had this thing years ago, “When I was young you see, in my early thirties, I defined art as outer expression of inner growth. But I can’t define art any better today. My work has changed. It is not something to be learned apart, from books and rules. It is a living thing which depends on the whole participation. As we grow in life so we grow in art. Each of us in his own way.” Amen. Obviously that meant so much to me at one time that I memorized it. This modernist, romantic, poetic definition of art still works for me. I would modify it somewhat, but I still basically believe it.

Jerry Uelsmann’s web site

Bio of Jerry Uelsmann by John Paul Caponigro

Wikipedia entry on Jerry Uelsmann


Blending Modes – Composite Portraits

Here are a couple of examples of using blend modes to build composite portraits. I found these on 500px by Alfredo J. Llorens.

The first one uses multiple head shots blended together to create a single portrait image. I really like this:

25 Aniversario by Alfredo Lloren

Here’s another one using an environmental element to blend. I can’t say I love this image, but I really like the concept.

Alfredo Lloren A Forest

Thank you, Mr. Llorens

I’m back with some B&W’s

I’ve been amiss and missing for awhile now. Not because I’m lost – rather because I’ve been amazingly busy. My folks 50th anniversary was this month and I’ve been digitizing their old images. I’ve scanned over 800 images and I’ve post processed 130ish so far. A lot of work. I’ve been shooting for work, actually did a paying job a couple of weeks ago and doing my own messing around. I’ve been reading a book to get ideas to upgrade my web presence. Add to that some dramatic personal issues to spice it all up and the blog hasn’t been at the top of the list. Sorry about that.

Here’s a picture of me and my Dad when I was about 2, going fishing. Love this image.



Here’s a couple of B&W’s I did from images I shot while I was supporting my son’s 50 mile bike ride between Stanley and Lowman.



Drawing by Milton Glaser

I found this on John Paul Caponigro’s Blog.


This explains fundamentally why I’ve never been content with photography as a medium of expression. I’ve always felt I was lacking something important. As I’ve worked on my drawing over the past few months what Mr. Glaser says here has become more and more clear to me.

Photography is a medium of discovery. You look for patterns and moments of meaning within nature and within mankind. And you capture them in that moment. In photography I look for the wholeness of the compostion – the relationship of the parts within the frame.

Drawing is a medium of observation. You examine, understand, explore and capture the details of the object. There is a depth there I don’t find in photography. Which, honestly, is what makes it difficult for me to sit down and do it. It takes a serious commitment in time and effort to draw. While with a camera I watch and when I see it – I aim, compose shot and walk on. The commitment there is to carry a camera and to constantly watch.

A composite–playing around

I saw a painting in the BAM last week end that I liked. He had a color textured field with scattered shapes and some elements pasted in and around the shapes. I liked the idea so I played a little.

This isn’t a wow – just an exercise in playing with a textured background and dropping elements on it.



Duane Michals–Wow!

‘A Master of Photographic Narrative’

A new (for me) discovery – Duane Michals. His sense of social perception is powerful. His pictures are full of emotion, full of energy, full of varied view points. This isn’t about the visual – it’s about the message, the thoughts it provokes. Much what I’ve been trying to push toward. It’s hard to see that though all of the glossy, technically perfect stuff that is out there now. I feel this in my gut – I hoped it could be out there. And he’s done it. So that gives me hope that I can too. It takes vision, guts and the sweat.

There is nudity in this video and some slightly disturbing concepts. Don’t watch it unless your good with that.

Series of his work:


An interview (very long and stuffy, but good):