“I am..” a series about a feeling.

I published a preview on my facebook page about this series as I like to do to find out what people think. It didn’t take long to have people miss understand what the images were saying at all.  Some took it as I was just my condition while others just could not understand the concept at all. This is normal and I am glad people are talking about the image. That means I am doing my job.

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For those interested in why this series has come about in my mind please read the Medical Criminals post on this blog and for those who are interested in the things I hope to achieve in this series strap yourselves in and enjoy the next instalment in my mind.

This series has been a full on process for something I was hoping would be a smaller project. I was originally planning on doing it as close to accurate as I could to real life.

Lesson one was learned right here. Just because it is accurate does not mean you will create an effective image. For example the board is not held by the person in the photo but is off to the side. While this is accurate information it creates a sense of space from the subject and I didn’t want that at all. I want the disability to ‘own’ the person so this needed to be changed.

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Lesson two was a close second. It is much easier to connect with models than with real sufferers. I wanted this series to be made up of people who suffer the illness mentioned and a lot of the time these people are not comfortable doing this kind of project until they have seen all the information and proof pictures for such a series. They take care due to the subject but the effect is so much more powerful with a diverse range. Oh and for the record kids can be interesting to work with but having treats or toys for them to play with after the shoot help lots.

Lesson three came in post production of the pilot image. I started editing and then realised that my polished format on the last series should not carry over to this series. I mean how often do you see a flawless prison photo? There is always slight washed out or slight dark photo, there is often little consistency in the type of people in the images and lets face it if the people pictured were perfect they would never have been caught. So how can I show this in my images? How about a botch image? The lines are not straight or measured properly, they don’t match, the illness name has been added in post production and done clearly so you can see the lack of truthfulness in each image.

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The series is not about the truth or about what outsiders see looking at a person with one of these illnesses. This series is about how a sufferer can feel about their illness. I do know not all of us fighting invisible illnesses think we are seen like this however I do know some of us at times do.

I am risking doing negative things to my artistic merit doing these things in lesson three but I believe that these changes for this particular series increase the message I am trying to send. Any artist could do these things yes but tell me what other artist has already?

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Medical Criminals

This post is a part of the upcoming “I am… ” Series by myself.

I am a massive fan of Lie To Me. I watch them on a regular basis and love picking the emotions the actors are challenged with portraying in a microsecond. I sometimes wish my mind would just settle on this one thing but alas I am not one of those kind of people. My brain starts drawing connections to my own life. Small at first, after all who normally finds things in common with criminals? The pain caused is kind of like the pain I feel from my own medical ailments, people who they don’t mean to hurt get hurt, the lack of ‘normal’ emotion in their faces due to concentration and these are just the start.

 

Wow looking at these things I don’t feel much different to a criminal. But wait, I am not in jail or waiting on a criminal charge so why do I feel like this? There is a very simple answer here. I feel like this because I am disabled. Not in a chair like a paraplegic or even visible like a missing limb, no. My disability is invisible so this means I am quite often seen as average. I could, for every thought, be replaced by those people in the crime shows. Replace the people the criminal minds hurt with friends and family then replace the detectives and policemen with a range of medical staff designed to help me. After all a diagnosis is almost the same as incarceration. That board with their number and name is just the same as our diagnosis label. The only difference is we are not shown the way to others like us or given meals close to us. We are not put on a register that other people can see or publicised by the papers. We are just given this label and left to flounder around in hope we will find our feet.

So you see we are alike even though we are worlds apart. This leads me to ask however what would people think if medical illnesses, both common and uncommon are displayed like the sufferers see them? Something that should be shut up before it destroys their lives and that of their family.

Color Correction without a Spyder

I have seen a few people on Facebook and the likes asking about color correction and vibrancy.  These things are interesting subjects on their own but can cause a lot of drama together as well. Before I get into how I color correct an image in Photoshop without any added software please remember that sometimes a “color correct image” is not as good as an “incorrect color image.”  This is the case in things like Infrared photos that turn out quite red/orange normally out of the camera and also on occasion a visible light spectrum image that seems week or uninteresting at first can be made to be interesting with false color.  De-saturation is good and can be used to change the feel of an image. Much the same as an over saturated one.  I am not a magazine photographer by any stretch of the imagination. My work is at best compared to theirs, outlandish but would you compare Bill Henson to Andy Warhol?

Still want to be color correct all the time?

Now that’s out of the road lets get down to the nitty gritty.

Photoshop color correction is rather simple and can even be done on a black and while screen if you know what you should be doing. Each image should have a “true black” and a “true white” value in them at some point. These values ensure you have a good dynamic in your image and are a great way to correct the color in your image. So how do you use this to correct?

Step 1 – Open a Curves or  Levels layer. Once open you will see A black slider and a White slider. (little arrows at the bottom of your graph.) If you click on the sliders you will get numbers underneath them. These are important to change if you want true black found within a printers capability. Printers can not print at a ‘0’ value or a ‘255’ value. So you must change the values. On a levels layer you simply change the value that says ‘0’ to ‘5’ and the one that says ‘255’ to ‘250’. On a levels layer you need to click the slider and then change the input and output to ‘5’ for black and ‘250’ for white. Clipping the values by 5 allows for the printing color to be correct.  Refer to below.

Where to find the curves layer shortcut and the sliders to change the range of color in a photo.

Where to find the curves layer shortcut and the sliders to change the range of color in a photo.

Step 2 – The colors correction step it’s self. On the left there are 3 eye droppers. Eye droppers are used to “sample” a color or tone. In this case we are going to use them to Sample from our “true white” and “true black” places on our image.  The easiest way to figure out where to find a value is to find the brightest highlight and darkest shadow. The spot between closed legs is almost always true black if they have black pants. Pupils in the eye are another great one. For true white look for things like the shine on hair or the reflection of your softbox in the eyes.

So now you know your “true values” click your black dropper (top one of the 3) and hold down the ALT (PC) COMMAND (MAC) key while hovering over your image. The image will go very funny colors but don’t panic. The true black will appear to be the darkest color on your picture now. If you need to zoom in to make sure you sample the right pixel don’t be afraid to. Your zoom in shortcuts will not remove your eye dropper tool. Once this is done your image may look a little funny but that’s ok as it will be fixed when you use the lowest dropper or white dropper in the same way. This time when you mouse over with your modifier key to get that funny looking image you are looking for the brightest point of the image to sample from. Use the images below for assistance on what you should expect.

The black and white eye dropper locations on a curves layer.

The black and white eye dropper locations on a curves layer.

A view of how the ALT/COMMAND button will change view in dropper mode.

A view of how the ALT/COMMAND button will change view in dropper mode.

 

That’s all there is to it. I want to remind you that not all photos need or even should be color corrected. Some images are better with artists impressions and false color on them. As I was told many times before you should understand the rule before you break the rule. Also consider making sure your skin tones do not need to have an additional color correction layer on them to keep both them and the background color corrected. Sometimes a flash or reflector will change the balance of your foreground in comparison to your background. Layer masks and an additional layer are friends if this happens.

Consider printing out a Color calibration sheet and having it printed at a print house such as RGB Digital or Arthead (ask and they will send you the file and printed one from their machine)  and manually making sure your colors are correct in your computer to aid your color choices. When manually setting your screen it’s advised to use a daylight globe in the room and set while it’s on. It’s very hard to set a screen in the dark because there is no light hitting the paper so your brain is trying to compensate more while you do it.

Product tables and reflections

That amazing time of year! The time we all hold our breath and hope the tax man likes us enough to give us enough tax back for what ever it is we want at the time.  For me this was some new equipment and what do you know I was lucky this year. So after a little looking and a lot of planning I had enough to splurge on a new set of lights. In combination with my new product table that had been given to me for an early birthday and Christmas present.

My son has been asking me for a shoot with his skull money box for a while now and I had told him sure, when I get the new table we can. But alas I had miss read the description of my table and it was a non-reflective table. ( a little part of me had dead when I realized) But this could be fixed. A trip to Imageplastics in Padstow NSW set my happily on my way again.

It felt like a lifetime ago that I had been working with a product table and had forgotten something. The first photo I took was lacking the reflection, the second not much better and the third too. What on earth was I doing wrong? I had my light set up under the table and it had a low intensity too but I just could not get a good reflection like I did as a student.

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It took a good few minuets to think back long and hard about it until it dawned on me. We were using two lights not one when I was a student. One from the back and one from the bottom. Maybe it was the back light that caused the reflection so clear. Well worth a try if i am to deliver on my promise to my son I thought. So moving the light and keeping an eye on the time for being a mum I worked on my reflection dilemmas. Light had always seemed to fall into place for me so I was to say the least a little flustered at myself for not getting it within the first few shots. Then taking the next shot showed me a miracle. The reflection was much stronger now.

Reflection

So light manipulation is not just a throw here and laugh a bit. The angle and intensity is so important even for a simple little shot like this flower. I had a reflector underneath the table at one point too but found that the more intense light underneath the table was making the reflection less pronounced so took it away. The light underneath the table works against getting a nice reflection on the table. It’s all about the back light not the under light. This valued realization needs to be stored some place more than just my mind and so I hope now it will help you too.