Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Portrait Session

Now that you've had a consultation and gotten to know your client, it's time to put all that knowledge to work.  You've chosen the location, props, and a date and time.  This is your second point of contact with the client.  It's show time!  Here's how to make the session a success:

1. Be on time.  No, be early!  You need to be at the location or have your studio set up long before the client arrives.  This may seem like a no brainer but it's so very important we are going to talk about it anyway.  There is nothing worse than getting an entire family ready for portraits and rushed out the door, only to arrive at the appointed location and have to wait for the photographer to get there and set up.  I've been on both sides of that scenario.   If you are working with children you have a small window of opportunity for cooperation.  If they have to wait for you to get ready you have lost a good chunk of that window.  So be ready, greet the client and the family with a relaxed smile.

2.  Make everyone comfortable.  Welcome the client quickly and with enthusiasm.  Take a moment to greet everyone by name.  They will be impressed that you already know who they are.  You don't have to tell them that their mom already told you all about them!  I like to get down to eye level with kids.  They will respond well to you if you speak to them one on one for a moment.  Let them know what you will be doing and assure them that they will never be away from their family.  Find out what they think is silly so you can use it later to get those smiles.  Funny nicknames for Dad work like a charm.  Speaking of dads, they will reassurance too.  As a general rule dads hate the portrait session.  Let them know it will be quick and relatively painless.

3.  Do good work.  I know, duh!  Just remember that you are in charge of the session.  Don't let the client rush you.  Do what you need to do to make sure it is done right.

4.  Utilize flow posing and have a plan for the session.  Remember that small window of cooperation as you plan the session.  You should be done before the kids lose it or the parents are frustrated.  Once you lose control it almost impossible  to get it back.  Know your location and posing so that you can move easily from place to place and finish in a timely manner.  If you'd like a tutorial on flow posing click here.  It's a great video by a wedding photographer but the concepts work for any specialty. 

The goal of the portrait session is to provide the amazing photographs you sold the client in the consultation.  Plan ahead and make good use of your time.  Have fun and build new friendships.  If you can accomplish this, the next time see the client will be a great success. The Sales Session is my favorite part.  I know you are thinking it's because of the money, and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't a big part of it.  But that's not the only reason.  I'll tell you all about it next week!  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lightroom: Split Toning

Post 20
Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

The Art of Split Toning

Split Toning is great for artistic editing. If you are bored with where you are in your photography, using Split Toning can give you that “extra” you’ve been looking for. Sometimes the White Balance doesn’t quite fix your image. Try the Split Toning tool. Want a tone or flair that is your “signature” in your images?  Split Toning is where you want to be. Make your sunsets amazing? Create and aged look? Yep. Split Toning.

Split Toning has actually been around for a long time. The 1800s, actually. Ansel Adams would add highlights or shadows to high black and white images, and occasionally a very subtle purple.

Split Toning split up into two parts, Highlights and Shadows. You can alter them separately and then adjust the balance with the Balance Slider

First, go to the Lightroom Develop Module, and select the image you want.

Highlight Reel

In the Highlights section, set the Hue slider to the color you want to emphasize in the lighter parts of your image. I have the highlight tool set to a purple. How much color? Use the Saturation slider to decide.

Out of the Shadows

Setting the shadow Hue and Saturation is the same process. Use the sliders to set the image shadows the way you want.


Next post: Lightroom Details: Sharpening and Noise Reduction

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out, or look for her on

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lightroom: HSL / Color / B&W

Post 19
Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

H-S-L, the Big Three

What is HSL? HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. You might be familiar with Hue and Saturation already. Luminance is not found in many image editing programs, so this section could be new to you. Fun!

Hue Are You?

Just look at all those options for Hue variations. Making such targeted color adjustments is one of the benefits to using Lightroom and the Develop Module.

Saturation Specific

Increase or decrease the amount of concentrated color in your image. You can do this individual color by color, rather than a general/overall increase in saturation. This image shows a color-specific saturation in blue, aqua and green.

before & after

Luminance Magic

Ever wanted to brighten up an image, but using the contrast tool doesn’t work? Working with a portrait and you want to give the skin a soft “glow”? Want to give that landscape a magical shimmer? Luminance gives your images that extra “wow” factor. Try it out. Betcha you will be saying “wow”.

Tuna before

Tuna after

Targeted Adjustment Tool

See that circle in the top left corner? That is the Targeted Adjustment Tool. Click on it, arrows appear showing it is selected, then click on the part of your image you want to adjust. This allows you to choose only a part of your image to change.

Color Confection

Want to make HSL adjustements, but only to a specific color within your image? Choose the color from the boxes at the top, then use the sliders to reach your “just right” HSL point. 

B&W Ultimate

Black & White Mix turns you image grayscale, If you turn am image to black&white, you may find your image to be flat and dull. Lightroom remembers which colors were there. You can use the sliders in this section to make the corresponding parts of your image stand out. 

Greater options mean a greater control over the final result in your image. Of today’s tools, which is your favorite?

Next post: Lightroom: Split Toning

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out, or look for her on

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Photoshop Elements: Saturating Specific Colors

Editing Tips

In previous entries we have learned how to adjust saturation and vibrance when editing a RAW file.  What if you are already editing a JPEG and want to adjust saturation?  The shortcut is Ctrl+U, or you can go to the Enhance menu at the top of the screen, Adjust Color, and then Adjust Hue/Saturation. 

This opens a dialogue box with sliders to adjust the hue and saturation of colors in your picture.  Pretty straightforward so far, right?  But let’s say that I just want to focus on one color.  In the picture above, I want to focus on the blue colors without affecting the rest of my picture.  The hard way would be to try to select all the area with blue in it and then desaturate.  The easy way is to use this drop down menu:

The default is Master, which affects all colors in the picture.  I open up the drop down menu and select Blues.  Then using the saturation slider, I am going to move it to the left to desaturate the blues in my picture.  Here is the result:

If you compare the picture above with the first picture, you’ll see that the girl’s blue jeans are now faded.  To tell you the truth, I was also expecting the color in the guitar to be faded as well.  I guess it is more cyan than blue.  So back to the drop down box, select cyans, desaturate, and voila:

Wrap Up

It’s a pretty cool feature to be able to saturate/desature specific colors in a photo without the need to use the Select tool.  To me, this was kind of a hidden feature that saved a lot of time once I learned how to access it.  I know that Lightroom and other programs have this same feature. 

Next week we’ll discuss some other useful editing tricks in Photoshop Elements that might make your life a little easier.

Do you have any success or horror stories?  Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them.  Happy shooting!

Bryan Rasmussen owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper.  Follow him at  He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Consultation

One of the questions I get asked the most is about how I structure my sessions.  Everyone is going to do this a little differently and you will find what works best for you.  It will change over time as you get to know your business and clients.  I have at least four points of contact with my clients.  Every time, no exceptions,  I am going to spend the next four weeks going over each step in my structure.  It took my four years to really figure it out so hopefully this will help you figure it out a lot faster.  I prefer to have as much contact in person as possible.  If you are working from your home this may not be possible.  Each step will work for face to face or phone interactions.  Just make the obvious tweaks if needed.  And I am also skipping the initial contact which is almost always going to be the phone call from the client inquiring about your services. A successful phone inquiry is going to lead to the following:

The Consultation:

I love meeting my new and potential clients in person in my cozy studio.  It allows for a more personal experience and a chance to put my work right on front of them.  It also provides an opportunity for me to see them and get an idea about their style and personality.  I get to ask questions that will help me make sure they get the session they really want.  The questions I ask are basically the same for each client.  Here are some examples of my favorites:

1.  Who will be in the photographs?  If they just want the newborn in the pictures I will suggest that we get a few with mom and/or dad, siblings, etc.  If they are camera shy I will suggest using their hands only.  I can almost always get some kind of relationship photos that will lead to a bigger sale. I am always planting ideas about what products they will be presented in the sales session.  If it is a family portrait I need to know ages and names and something special about each member of the family.  Everyone in the family is going to be more comfortable with me  if I show up to the session knowing their names and a little something about them.  If there are going to be babies or young children I need to be prepared with toys and treats.

2.  What will you be using these portraits for?  In October I get lots of Christmas Card sessions.  These will almost always be cards and a large family portrait print.  If it is a newborn it is going to be birth announcements and prints for grandparents and the baby's room.  I like to have clients bring pictures of their home and the walls they are wanting to utilize.  I can better prepare them for what sizes they will want.  This is also important while I am shooting.  I need to know whether they need portrait or landscape orientations.  This is the point where I start suggestions albums and collages and other products that will allow them to have as many photos in a print form as possible.  Go ahead and make sure they know they are going to love all of the images.  Give them some ideas to alleviate the anxiety of having to choose at the sales session.

3.   What will everyone be wearing?  Now, they may have been planning this for months or they may have not considered it at all yet.  Either way, this question will lead to more than a discussion about clothes.  Colors say a lot about a client.  Are they bright and happy and ready for anything?  Or are they more formal, planning on dresses and suits?  This information will help you determine appropriate locations, posing, props, and how crazy you can get.  You do not want to be in an outdoor location with only rocks and grass to sit on if the family is formally dressed.  You never want your client to feel uncomfortable.  It's hard to get natural smiles in that situation.  Just to be sure, I will have the client go home and text me pictures of the outfits.  If they have not yet decided you have had a bit of time to get to know them at this point and can make suggestions.  Have some outfit suggestion pictures to show them  Some people will need more help than others.

4.  What else would you like me to know about you, your family, your child, your expectations?  Never ask the question "What do you want your sessions to be like?"  Just assume they don't know.  After asking the previous questions you may already know all that you need to.  This last question is just to give the client an opportunity to bring up anything else they may have thought of during your conversation.  You should now have a session scheduled with a date, time, and location. Make sure you understand each other and that you have each others contact information. 

 Now it's your responsibility to plan and prepare for that client's session.  Make sure you take their desires and needs into account so that they know you were listening and care about them.  Next time we'll talk about your second point of contact, the session.  Where all the magic happens!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shooting in RAW: Noise Reduction

More Reasons Why Shooting in RAW is Good

Noise.  Every photographer’s worst enemy.  It’s that grainy look in a picture when it’s too dark to get a good shot and your camera compensates for the darkness up to its limits.  Usually it happens when you are taking a picture indoors and to the eye it seems like there is enough light.  But your camera says otherwise.  Maybe you’re too far away to use your flash.  Maybe the flash would ruin the shot you are going for and so you adjust your camera settings to shoot in low light.  Up until recently I shot with a Canon T2i, so that meant setting my ISO to 3200 and praying.  I think the camera could handle up to 6400 ISO, but that was just asking for trouble.  My pictures always turned out to grainy even at 3200.  Now I shoot with a Canon 6D and I sometimes flirt with 10,000 ISO and the picture comes out fine.  Cameras are more than just the number of megapixels.  So what do you do if your best shots come out too noisy (grainy)?  Good thing you’ve learned and are shooting in RAW.  You can still adjust for noise with a JPEG, but as with everything else, I think the adjustments come out better in RAW processing.

The Details
If you are working in Photoshop Elements, like me, then here is a picture of the settings that we are discussing (circled in red).  Other programs will have similar settings.  Looking at the picture below, you’ll see at the top that we’ve switched from the shutter icon on the left (where most of the RAW adjustments are) to that triangle-looking icon.  This gives you access to Sharpening and Noise Reduction.

How it Works

There are two types of noise.  Luminance noise is that grainy look that we’ve been discussing.  Color noise is a purple/green outline around certain objects in your picture.  Color noise happens most often when using low quality lenses.  While the adjustments in the diagram above help combat color noise too, I’m focusing mainly on luminance noise here.  To reduce the graininess of your picture, move the Luminance sliders to the right.  

The pictures below give you an idea of how it works.  The first is a shot taken with my Canon T2i at 3200 ISO, so it’s pretty grainy.  It might be difficult to see with this example, but trust me, if you zoomed in you would definitely see a lot of noise.

Compare that to this next picture where I adjusted the Luminance slider in the noise reduction area.  You should see that the graininess that was all over the helicopter is mostly gone.

What You Give Up

It might be difficult to tell unless you zoom in on the second picture but the result of using the noise reduction is a loss of detail.  Compare the two pictures by looking at the guy sticking his head out the window near the front of the helicopter.  The noise reduction tool makes your picture a bit blurry…especially if you use too much.  This makes sense because the tool is getting rid of that fine detail that makes up those specks of noise.  It blurs them out so to speak.  But you also get a blurry picture as a result.  So the lesson here is don’t go crazy with the Noise Reduction Tool.  A little bit is OK, but if your picture is too grainy, it might just be a lost cause. 


You have probably picked up on the fact that the Noise Reduction Tool is purposefully placed in the same area as the Sharpening tool.  Sharpening is definitely a good idea when you reduce noise as a way to try to get some of that lost detail back.  However, what usually ends up happening is that people over-sharpen way too much as they try to recoup all of the lost detail.  Too much sharpening looks bad.  Just come to terms with the fact that some of the detail will be irretrievable when you do a lot of noise reduction.

Wrap Up

I have discussed what causes noise in a picture as well as how to compensate for it using Photoshop Elements in the RAW editor.  I have discussed the drawbacks of using noise reduction.  There are other aspects to noise reduction that you can research on your own if you wish.  For example, some cameras, such as my Canon 6D, can automatically do some noise reduction within the camera itself when the picture is taken.  Also, there are separate editing programs that focus only on noise reduction.  Some people swear by programs such as Noise Ninja and others.  I have not used these programs and so I cannot comment on how well they work. 

Next Week: Applying saturation to specific colors

Do you have any success or horror stories?  Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them.  Happy shooting!

Bryan Rasmussen owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper. Follow him at He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bringing Professionalism to Your Small Business

I know it's your studio and that most of the time you are editing and probably the only one around.  But that doesn't change the fact that you are also a business owner.  You never know when someone might stop by or the phone might ring.  Are you ready for either?  Whether you are in a retail location or working from a home office or your bedroom, you should always be a professional, ready to greet the public.
First of all, what is professionalism?  To me it means that you are always dressed appropriately for your work and well groomed.  Your speech and grammar are correct.  You are confident and have a complete knowledge of your products and services.  You take responsibility for your mistakes and work to correct them.  People can count on your to do the right thing and can trust you to deliver amazing service each and every time.  So now that we know what professionalism is, let's explore some of the reasons why professionalism is so important.

1. Image.  You represent your business.  What impression do you want to make?  Do you really want to greet the UPS guy at the door in your pajamas?  Of course not.  What self-respecting UPS guy would ever come to you for photographs after seeing that on a regular basis?  I spent a lot of days in my studio when I knew there were no sessions scheduled. Until the day I had a potential new client walk in the door and catch me in my yoga pants and the oversized stained and really nasty t-shirt I usually reserved for painting in.  She loved my work that was displayed in my adorable studio but must have been less-than-impressed with me as I never heard from her again.  After that I was never in my studio again without being dressed for a consultation.  You probably wouldn't walk into someone else's business all disheveled. Don't walk into yours that way.



2. Productivity.  Let's face it, how much more likely are you to take a nap in the middle of the day if you are already in your PJ's?  Even if you work at home it is important to set hours for yourself.  It's also important to get ready for your day, get dressed, make your bed, and brush your teeth.  Fix your hair and put on a smile.  How much do I sound like your mom right now?  Well your mom knew what she was talking about!  I'll wait while you call her and tell her that.....It has been proven that we are most productive in the mornings.  Take advantage of that time to do your best work.  Treat your business like a business.  Be on time and ready to work.  Even if it's just getting from the kitchen to the office, but especially if you have a retail location.  Your best customer may have come and gone while you were putting around the house. 

 3.  Client Relationships.  Always be quick to greet your clients or anyone else who walks through your studio door.  This Includes the UPS guy!  Don't let more than 10-15 seconds go by before acknowledging them.  Offer them a smile and speak in a pleasant tone.  This will set the stage for a successful transaction.  Take care of their needs, be it a session, consultation, package delivery, or inquiry.  Offer any further assistance that they may need or want.  Thank them for their business and invite them back.  And use their name as much as possible.  People respond well to the sound of their name.  They like to know that you are paying attention to them.

It probably seems like common sense to most of you but I think from time to time we can all benefit from a reminder.  It's easy to get lazy when you are working alone.  Just remember, you never know when that golden client is going to come knocking.  Always be ready!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lightroom: The Tone Curve

Post 18
Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Setting the Tone

The Tone Curve tool controls ranges of actual tones in the image. It may look complicated, but it is pretty simple to use. This azalea image needs after-capture adjustments we can take care of with Lightroom Tone Curves.

Math? Well, a Graph

The graph represents all tones in your image. The bottom axis shows shadows, midtones and highlights. The y-axis shows darks to brights.

The tones in your particular image will be shown subtly on the graph (highlighted in blue-green here).

Tones get darker as you move towards the bottom of the graph, and lighter as you move towards the top.

Making the Move

The Tone Curve tool can be adjusted by clicking on the actual graph and dragging, or by moving the sliders underneath the graph.  Which of the tones do you want to adjust? Choose from Highlights, Lights, Darks and Shadows. If you are making adjustments on the graph, the area you click in before you drag determines which of these you are changing.

Being General or Getting Pointed

Lightroom has two different curves you can change, the general curve and Point Curve. The general curve is the graph and sliders we have been working on. General Tonal adjustments to the sliders in Highlights, Lights, Darks and Shadows gives you more control. Lightroom’s general tone curve controls are also set up to keep changes smooth, so you don’t distort your image too much. At the bottom of the tone curve section is Point Curve. Click on the arrows to the right, and choose from 3 options, Linear, Medium Contrast, and Strong Contrast to see different instant adjustments to your image. Using Point Curve is the quickest and easiest tonal adjustment. 

Fine Tuned Tones

Whether making fine-tuned adjustments or a quick Point Curve selection, whatever your preference for changes to the tones in your image, you can make them with the Tone Curve tool in Lightroom. 

Next post: Lightroom: HSL / Color / B&W

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out, or look for her on