For the break between our first and second years of the foundation degree course in photography (with video) we were tasked with completing four assignments. One of those assignments was titled Summer Development Folder. As far as I understand this assignment, we’re supposed to log what we do throughout the summer in terms of photography. I get the impression that it would be prefered if we created pieces of work rather than just went out a snapped things around us as the former is more creative and is what we’ll be asked to do in year two. Well, to be honest, I haven’t done anything in the way of creative, set up shoots but have been fiddling with the images I’ve taken at events in Lightroom as I continue to try and find “my style”.

Until I get on with shooting for my photobook, the images below are the only types of shots I’ve got from throughout the first portion of the summer break. Having said that, they are valid as being an event photographer is a way to make money within the trade so each event I attend to photograph at and then edit images from adds to my experience.

Bosworth Medieval Festival 2019

On Sunday 18th August myself and my family decided we’d take a trip to Bosworth Battlefield and spend the afternoon enjoying the medieval festival they were putting on. This is a place I spent time during year 1 of the course in order to get images and background information that would allow me to create my collaged triptych for Computers in Photography. If this event had been on back then, I’m sure I’d have got a better grade than I did (although I got graded down for not going step-by-step through my process as I’d done in the first assignment…I’d had enough of Photoshop by that stage, to be honest).

Anyway, I’d not picked my camera up for quite a while since the end of year 1 and decided it was time to get back into using it.

As well as continuing to work on my editing style within Lightroom, one thing I’ve learned from these images is that, the ones I’ve taken/cropped in the most work much better than those that haven’t been. This is because, as far as I’m concerned, the crowds of people in the background spoil the whole feel of an image if you’re trying to get the feel of the period that’s being reenacted. I guess as an event photographer, though, it’s good to sometimes get the crowd in to show the event’s popularity and to give potential future visitors an idea of what it’s like.

Having said that, my definite favourites from this batch are:

I’m not sure what it is about the top image as I’ve read that faces and eyes make a picture much more interesting to the viewer as they show emotion but, I really like this one and now have it as my desktop wallpaper. If I were to edit it some more, I may try to remove some of the shadows in the eye slits of the helmet to see if the knights left eye shows through. But, for now, it’s a good enough image from the day.

The second image has the eyes and the stern looks on the knights’ faces as they prepare for battle, but you can see the crowd in the background and I would try to bring the colour out a bit more if I were to go in and edit this photo further.

Harborough at War

Another event I went to with the intention of attempting to get some shots of the items and activities there was Harborough at War. This is a new event that was held for the first time and, if I’m honest, that showed through with the relatively low numbers of reenactors, vehicles and arena shows. I think this shows through in my images as I was disappointed with the event and so wasn’t as motivated as I should have been to take more photos.

The images I did get are ok and some would, perhaps, even have been good enough for publication by the event organisers were I an official photographer for them. If I’m to add event photographer to my resumé, I’ve learnt that I’m going to have to force myself to be enthused about things that I naturally wouldn’t be. This should help me to make better, more interesting photographs at a wider variety of events. 

During the editing process of these World War 2 era photographs, I decided to take some of the colour from the images via the ‘Vibrance’ slider in an attempt to make them look a little more ‘period’. I didn’t want to go full black and white but, at the same time, I also didn’t want brightly coloured images. I guess the look I was going for was that of the re-coloured films of World War 2 we now see on the likes of the History channel etc.

Throughout all the images I upped the Clarity, Dehaze, and the relatively newly added Texture. The latter was originally added as a means of smoothing skin in portraits as that’s what a lot of photographers were asking for. Adobe took it upon themselves to see if the slider would work the other way too, and it did. Sliding it into the positives is a less destructive way of adding sharpness and clarity to an image and, right now, I’m really liking it as I progress to finding that exact look I’m after through all my images; my ‘style’.

Although the image above is far from exciting or even interesting to most people, it’s the closest I’ve managed to get with these images to the look I’m trying to achieve. Although people sell presets for Lightroom and Photoshop, it’s obvious that the same settings don’t work the same on each different photo. It’s clear that I need to be taking plenty more photos and editing plenty more in Lightroom before I’m happy with my style.

Passport Photo

Another mini project I did this summer was for my daughter after she came to me the day before she was going back to school saying she needed a passport photo for her bus pass.

A quick internet search showed me what was required from a photo for such a purpose:

  • Space around the head and shoulders.
  • AN off-white background (grey or cream).
  • A plain background.
  • Natural lighting (if possible).
  • No shadows on the face.
  • Remove any headwear.
  • No glasses.
  • Don’t smile.

Although it suggests you should use natural light, I thought, “sod that”, I want to see if I can recreate a photo booth shot image using my speedlights and softboxes.

To get the images I was after, I set up two of my Yongnuo YN600EX-RT’s at roughly 30-degrees to my left and right whilst having the camera setup on a tripod. I started off with both softboxed speedlights at 30-degrees vertical also but brought them down a little to help remove the shadows from the face.

My cheap portable backdrop frame was set up and the white background was draped over it. Luckily, my living room is fairly long so I could get my daughter to stand about 5′ away from the backdrop to eliminate any shadows.

After 4 or 5 test shots I got the settings for the speedlights sorted, basically 1/8th power on her left and 1/16th on her right side, to give me what I thought would work for the required image but not be too over-poweringly awful looking like photo booths can look.

It’s also required that the photo is 1×1 in size so I put it into Lightroom and cropped it accordingly. A few very minor tweaks in the ‘Basic’ tab of Lightroom’s interface to add a little more shadow and it was done. Seeing as it was just for a bus pass and not an actual passport, I left the creases you can see in the backdrop but, if it had been for a passport, I’d have put it into Photoshop and removed them in there as the tools to do so work far smoother in that piece of software than they do in Lightroom.

As it is, the image works but, if I were to do it again and with more warning, I’d make sure the model had at least brushed her hair, for a start, and I’m not sure I like the catchlight in the eyes of the two softboxes. I’d probably clone one out in Photoshop. Also, if it were for a passport, I’d make sure the hair was fully out of the way of the face. I didn’t do all these things as this job wasn’t about getting a pretty image, it was about getting a usable image that meets certain requirements in a quick and efficient manner. I believe I achieved this and is why I posted about it here.

Style

The image of the Willys Jeep above in the Harborough at War section is, as I mentioned, a style I’d like to pursue and refine into a possible Lightroom preset of my own. I see many images in that style on social media and it’s something I like. There’s a hashtag on Instagram I follow called, Abandoned After Dark that employs the kind of style I think I’m trying to get somewhere near.

Abandoned After Dark is just a hashtag on Instagram and so the images are posted up by different photography artists and therefore the style changes from image to image. It’s the type of images above that I kinda like.

During the summer break, I went to Dorset and took some photos with the intention of trying to apply settings to them which I thought might work with regards to achieving the look I’m after. Below are a couple of examples I’ve found time to mess around with. Click for larger version.

The two images are similar in the fact that they’ve had a lot of post-edit work done to them, but they are also very different in that the workbench image has had colour strength added compared to the colour reduction of the train image.

The workbench has also had a lot of contrast, texture and clarity work added. Looking back at this image now, I’d say it’s too much. Even though the style I quite like is one of blatantly obvious post-edit manipulation, I still think this is a bit too much for me.

The train image, however, I quite like. The removal of some saturation with the increased amount of texture, contrast, clarity, dehaze and a slight vignette work on the image I feel. As I mentioned in my post about Alexey Titarenko, the removal of colour from an image is something I like, but I also like to leave a bit in there. This, perhaps, is an avenue I need to explore more.

Test Shoot & Style Trial

One of the potential customers for the work experience assignment we’ll be doing during the second year is a friend of mine who’s been contemplating setting himself up with a bit of a sideline business. He’s a trained mechanic with a love of modified cars, especially ones that are lowered beyond just sticking a cheap set of lowering springs on.

This potential client has asked me if I could create a website for him once he’s got himself set up properly and has some customer’s cars worked on that he could use as examples of his work. I’d be the one who’d be taking the photographs of these vehicles for placement on the website.

Anyway, all that business stuff is for another blog post but for now, this post is about what I’ve been doing photography-wise during the summer break. One of the things I did was to meet the above-mentioned client at a rather cool bar/restaurant called Caffeine & Machine down in Warwickshire. We met there as it might be a potential location for any shoots we do for his business.

Several images were taken with the intent of me putting them through Lightroom and/or Photoshop to see if I can progress the style I’ve been trying to achieve so far.

Looking at the original and then the edited version, I can’t help but think the edits make it too dark. Maybe further edits to the contrast and shadows need to be done. I’d say that there’s a style emerging but I’ve definitely not got it nailed down to just how I like it right now.

I currently like how the edits bring out things like the cracks in the stonework and the roof of the building and sharpen the image somewhat, but I feel that I need to find a level within the blacks that I’m happy with. I may even need to bring a bit of the colour back into images if I’m to sell myself and my style as a photographer.