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Everyone Else is Doing it...

I don't know if you know this about me or not...but I can be a little bit stubborn. I've been thinking a lot lately that stubbornness can lean one in two directions...that of being brave to pursue one's dreams OR that of just being stupidly stubborn. I think this is a story about the later, that I'm hoping to shift towards the earlier.

I've been doing a lot of learning and researching online for the past several weeks on the photography front. One of the areas which I feel I need to greatly improve as I prepare to put my photography services out into the world for hire is how I process my images once I pull them off my camera's memory card. I personally feel that the most important skill set I can develop are the skills that help me to capture images that need only minimal processing to go from good to WOW. If the composition, use of lighting, or focus are bad there's no point in wasting time trying to make a bad picture look just OK. Those are all skills that I will forever be honing. Yet in today's photography world if you want your work to stand out in the crowd, you have to make use of all the tools available to the modern photographer. I'm fortunate to have an older version of Photoshop to utilize for this purpose. Up to this point I've used what little information I have learned from playing around with various adjustments on my own, as well as the information that has been shared by my photographer friend Jenny. I've been hesitant to give in to using some of the downloadable processing short cuts, known as action sets, that are available online. I was bound and determined to find my own best work flow, my own processing style.

The thing way of working has not been the most efficient in terms of time and has yet to come anywhere close to being as affective as what you commonly see on photography forums and photo share sites. So today I decided to give a few free Photoshop action sets available from The Pioneer Woman and MCP Actions a try. It's easiest to make comparisons when various adjustments are made on the same photo, so I choose to work with one of the photos of Beckett that I took during our photo shoot in the park.

First, here's the picture as it appears straight out of the camera (SOOC) adjustments.

Next I adjusted the photo as I normally would without using any action sets. Generally those adjustments include increasing the contrast, balancing levels and curves, and in the case of this photo adding a little lens vignette.

Then I decided to see just what the action sets could do. With each of the action set examples below I began with the original SOOC shot and adjusted only the basic levels before applying the chosen action set(s). I did not apply any lens vignetting to these images.

This first image I simply applied the High Definition Sharpening action set from HCP Actions.

While there's not much difference in color and brightness over the image I adjusted myself, there is a difference in the sharpness.

Next I decided to get serious. In this next photo I performed a skin fix using the patch tool which I learned through one of the free video tutorials offered at HCP Actions. I then applied the Boost and eye highlighting action sets from The Pioneer Woman.

This photo is visibly more crisp and vibrant. I think the Boost Action Set could be very handy, but I also think it can lead to an "over processed" look if over used. And while some people like the look of heavily processes photos, I'm more drawn to photos that look slightly enhanced rather than heavily altered. I REALLY like the skin fix technique using the patch tool. It proved to provide a more natural looking fix than my previous method of using the heal tool. In this case I lightened the red splotch on his forehead and his busy boy black eye.

One of the sets I think I will use a lot is MCP's Crystal Web set. This action with only one click of the mouse sharpens and resizes the image for upload to the web. YEAH!

I also treated myself to a new lens this week...the very affordable, but much praised, 50mm/1.8. Which means a lens that is a fixed focal length (no zoomability) that has a large maximum shutter opening size to allow one to take photos in low light without a flash. (I'm really looking forward to utilizing the features of this lens Christmas morning!)This lens is well known among photographers for its usefulness in portrait photography. It probably should have been the first additional lens I purchased beyond my kit lens. But it wasn't. The lovely thing about the large aperture opening is that it creates a short field of vision...aka nice blurry backgrounds.

Here's a shot of Tilde SOOC I took this morning near a window in our dining room. (It's actually become my favorite spot in our house to snap shots in the natural light of the morning sun.)

And here she is after I applied the sharpen & define and eye enhancing actions from PW.

So...maybe I was wrong about taking a few short cuts here and there. Luckily I'm not stubborn enough that I can't admit when I am wrong. Most of the time...



My Most Read Thoughts


Today while I sat in a classroom supervising students as they worked on their math assignments, I watched Lexi through the window enjoying time with her friends during recess. My heart smiled.

Those moments, moments of learning and carefree fun, those are the moments that SHOULD make up a school day. As a Mom, and an elementary school employee, my heart is breaking over the news and images coming out of Connecticut today. 
I send my kids off to school everyday without a second thought that they will return safely come day's end, just as I'm sure each one of those parents in Newtown did this morning.
Every day I walk into my school for work without a second thought to my personal safety, just as I'm sure each of those teachers, paras, custodians, sectretaries, etc in Newtown did this morning. 
Theories will be published. Evidence will be presented. Words will be exchanged about gun control and the need for change in our current culture of violence. I don't suspec…

DIY: Reusable Produce Bags

With Earth Day festivities gearing up for tomorrow, I thought I'd take a moment to post a short DIY tutorial on making your own reusable cloth produce bags. (Tutorial inspired by my favorite crafty mom blog, Crazy Mom Quilts. Produce bags inspired by running into my friend Laura at the grocery store while she was stuffing her produce into these.) This is my next step in the fight against the excessive use of plastic bags.

Our family has been making small environmentally minded changes in our daily lives over the past few years. We use reusable shopping bags. We've stopped buying/using Ziploc bags and plastic wrap. I'm trying to commute around town via bike more. I'm being more mindful about where the food we buy comes from and how it was produced. We more often hang our laundry on the line to dry in the spring and summer instead of just throwing it in the dryer. (Which is convenient at the moment since our dryer has decided to quit drying.) As we use up chemically clean…

Sunday Morning Silly...

Once in a while Dando's curiosity urges him to venture off the bookshelf so he check out other toys in the house.

I think he thinks Froggy is missing a few marbles.