Peeking Behind the Curtain

Lately I've been answering questions here and there about my process. When I was working on my Cherish This Day image last week I thought it might be fun to share a peek behind the curtain in how I go from everyday life to my collaboration contribution.

In no way do I have all of this figured out but the way we each approach our photographs is unique to us and since I always enjoy seeing the before and afters of other photographers I thought it might be fun to share a little bit about my approach. 

The backstory of last weeks Cherish This Day image is that a few Sundays ago my oldest had a 6PM baseball game at a new to us field. We took 30 minutes to leave the house after I thought we were ready to go because the littles needed batting helmets, books, soccer balls and of course snacks. I thought we would never leave the house. But that is the story of my life.....

When we got to the baseball field I was so excited to see this wide open field where the littles could run free and it didn't hurt that the sky was putting on a show that afternoon. 

In case you ever wondered, the helmet is real the littlest is obsessed with his oldest brothers sporting activities and I purchased it for $3 from a neighborhood swap group, the adorable shirt is a hand-me-down two times over now and this isn't some great location its just baseball.

The series below occurred in 56 seconds which seems really quick but with fast moving little ones it can be an eternity. While he and my middle kicked the soccer ball I framed the scene to cut out the baseball fields and underexposed my littlest to keep the detail of the sky. I stayed in the same position tracking him, recomposing to create the right frame as he kept moving. 

I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark iii and was using my 24mm f/1.4 II USM which rarely leaves my camera body. Because my objective was to not blow out the sky my settings were ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/180. I was shooting in AI Servo which tracks your moving subject.

If I hadn't been outside in full sun with no shade these settings wouldn't have worked since my littlest moves fast - he would have been blurred. I was also experimenting to see what combination worked to keep him in focus and maintain the most detail of the sky. Also, important to note, the sun was dipping in and out from behind the clouds which helped that I was not shooting into direct sun. 

I am self taught and always trying to push myself to grow so I am constantly shooting, experimenting, figuring out what settings give me a desired result. 

I settled on the above frame because I loved that his arm and fingers point at an angle to create a leading line to him, that I can see his serious expression when kicking the ball and that his face/head cleared the tree line so he had a clean background behind him. 

Just like my shooting I am self taught with my post processing and prefer clean edits that stay true to the moment as I perceived it. The above frame is processed in Lightroom where I :

  • straightened the horizon a bit
  • bumped up the exposure a little
  • bumped up the shadows a little so I could see his face better
  • brought down the highlights all the way to not lose the clouds
  • ran the preset Darker Skies that comes in Lightroom
  • clipped the blacks a little to add some richness
  • bumped up the contrast a little
  • brought down the clarity
  • bumped up the vibrance a little
  • cooled off the image a little so my tan baby wasn't too tan
  • clipped the black just a smidge more

The final image above was refined in Photoshop by adding three photo filters. First, I added a blue filter for the sky and then "erased" it from his face and everything below the tree line. Second, I added a yellow filter to add warmth to him and "erased" it from everything else. Lastly, I added a green filter for the grass and trees and erased it from everything else. I am fairly certain this can all be done in Lightroom as well but I feel like I have more control in CS6.

I could have cloned out the soccer net, people and cars in the background to create a line of greenery but I prefer to keep it in because it gives context to the story of where we were. Since they are so far behind him, despite the f/5.6 the are still blurred out enough to not distract from my littlest. 

I can guarantee that there are several things "wrong" or  "inefficient" in my process but this is where I'm at today. I can also guarantee that it won't be where I am a year from now. But I embrace that growing and stretching is part of the process. 

If you are looking for continuing education I highly suggest checking out I Heart Faces, The Define School, The Bloom Forum or Clickin Moms where the resources are plentiful. 

Coco & Dash

The Adventures of Erwin