Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

This article will walk you through some tips for how to set up a basic portrait post-processing workflow that can help you save time and stay organized.

The problem

When you’re new to photography, everything is exciting. Every time you come home with a full memory card, it’s a mad rush to the computer to see what you have captured. You’re eager to see every image and each one is treated as a separate entity with every technique you’ve come across. This is great. That excitement is what will keep you moving forward with photography and it is how you rapidly learn and grow as a photographer. That’s how it was with me, at any rate.

What happens, however, as you start taking more and more images? For example, regular portrait sessions a couple times a week can lead to an overwhelming amount of photographs. Approaching every frame as an individual becomes time-consuming and inefficient. If you’re not careful, you’ll have a backlog of images going back months and months. Often, many of your photos will be forgotten at the wayside.

The solution to this problem is to develop a portrait post-processing workflow.

Defining workflow

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

Straight out of the camera before any adjustments in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

After portrait post-processing workflow steps in this article were applied.

In the simplest terms possible, a workflow is a checklist of repeatable actions that you work through as you go through a task. If it helps, in business the equivalent be would systems and in manufacturing, it could be compared to an assembly line.

You can have a workflow for any part of the photographic process, from planning and coordinating sessions to setting up and tearing down equipment and finally the post-processing stage.

This article will outline the steps of the post-processing workflow that I’ve been using on my portraits for a few years.

Starting point

Because every photographer has their own way of importing, organizing and editing their images in Lightroom (and other software), this article starts at the beginning of the post-processing stage for individual images. It assumes you will have already imported your photos into Lightroom and you have already edited (culled) down to the keepers.

Lightroom

This workflow uses both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Each program offers its own strengths. To take advantage of them, consider using both with the Adobe Photographer membership – get 20% off (only $7.99/month) by using this link only for dPS readers.

Color corrections

The first step is to conduct any color corrections to your image. I do this in one of two ways. The first involves a ColorChecker Passport. If you don’t have one, just skip past it (or purchase one here on Amazon.com and follow along).

Xrite ColorChecker Passport

In your Lightroom catalog, find the photo you took with the ColorChecker Passport in it. Go to File>Export and export the image as a DNG to a folder where you can find it.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

To work in the ColorChecker Passports proprietary software, you need to export your image as a DNG.

Now open the software that came with your Xrite ColorChecker Passport, and import the DNG you just exported into it.

The software does a pretty good job of aligning the photo to the ColorChecker, but if it fails, just follow the instructions on the screen.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

The Xrite ColorChecker Passport’s software allows you to create custom color profile unique to each lighting setup.

Press the Create Profile button and give it a name that has something to do with the images you are going to be working on. For example, if you’re working on portraits of Jane Doe in a wedding dress which you took on April 15th of 2017, you could name the profile: JaneDoeWeddingDress041517. That’s optional, of course, but it will help you should you decide to revisit these photos in six months time.

Now, reopen Lightroom, find the image of the ColorChecker Passport, and open it in the Develop Module. Scroll down the panels on the right until you find the Calibration tab.

At the top, there will be the word Profile followed by Adobe Standard. Click there and choose the profile name that you just made in the external software (in the example below I called it “PortraitWorkflow”.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

Once created and imported into Lightroom, color profiles can be returned to at any point in the future.

This process has built a custom color profile, individual to the lighting present in the scene. This is a vital step if you want to get the most accurate colors in your photographs.

White balance with the ColorChecker Passport

In the right-hand panel, scroll back up to the top basic panel. Select the eyedropper. To correct the white balance in your image, click in any of the white or gray boxes on the ColorChecker in your image. That will correct your white balance automatically. Each box will have a different effect on your images, so feel free to go through them all to see which works best, or which you prefer.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

Any of the white and gray squares can be used to set your white balance. They all have different effects, so experiment until you’re happy.

Press CTRL/CMD+Shift+C and in the dialog box click the Check None box. Tick off only the boxes for Calibration and White Balance, and then click Copy.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

Setting the color profile and white balance to an entire set of images at once can save you heaps of time.

With your settings copied, you can go back to the Library Module and select all of the photos that you want these settings applied to. Select them and press CTRL/CMD+Shift+V to do this.

Make sure you deselect the group of images afterwards by pressing CTRL/CMD+D.

White balance in Lightroom

If you don’t have a ColorChecker Passport, you can set your white balance manually by using the eyedropper (click on something neutral in the image) and sliders at the top of the Basic tab. Once you’re done, you can copy and paste the settings to the other images in your set as described above.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

To adjust white balance manually, use the eyedropper and sliders at the top of the Basic panel.

Lens Corrections

The next step is to find the Lens Corrections tab and click both the Enable Profile Corrections box and the Remove Chromatic Aberration box.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - lens corrections

Enabling lens corrections will correct any distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations in your images.

Doing this will correct any distortion caused by your lenses and it will usually deal with any chromatic aberrations. It’s a simple step, but it can make a world of difference to your final images.

Before you move on, however, always zoom in and move around your image looking for any chromatic aberrations (look at the edges of the image) the software failed to correct. It’s usually very good, but sometimes it will fail in tricky lighting situations where there’s a lot of backlighting. For portraits, pay close attention to catch lights in the eyes. If you find any chromatic aberrations there, simply go to the Manual section of the Lens Correction tab, choose the eyedropper and click into any color halos that you find.

Basic Adjustments

For portraits, I try to keep my basic adjustments at this stage to a minimum. I will use the exposure slider as needed, the White and Black sliders minimally, keep the Clarity slider between +15 and -15, and often reduce the Vibrance to -10.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - basic adjustments

For more natural portraits, keep your adjustments subtle.

The reason for keeping these adjustments minimal is that they are global adjustments (apply to the entire image). I prefer to work with local adjustments in Photoshop, which give you much more control over the image. But, it is also possible to do local adjustments in Lightroom using the Adjustment Brush, Radial Filter and Graduated Filter if you would prefer.

Client proofs

NOTE: When working on proofs to send to clients so they can make their final image selections, this is where I usually stop. There is little need to spend up to an hour retouching a photo that will never see the light of day. Colour corrections and maybe a few small contrast adjustments are almost always enough at this point.

Black and White (optional)

If you intend to work in black and white and you like doing your conversions in Lightroom, this is the stage where I do the conversion process using the black and white sliders.

If you intend or prefer to do your conversion in Photoshop, then skip this part and make it the first step once your image is opened inside Photoshop.

Export

With the Raw processing complete, it’s time to export (or open) your image into Photoshop. Press CTRL/CMC+Shift+E to bring up the Export dialogue box. Choose a location and name appropriate to your own organizational system and export the image as a TIF or PSD (either of those formats will retain all your layers when you save your work). Close Lightroom and open your image in Photoshop.

NOTE: Alternatively you can open your RAW file directly from Lightroom into Photoshop by right-clicking the image and selecting: Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop – OR – Edit In > Open as Smart Object in Photoshop.

Photoshop

Blemishes

The first step of this workflow in Photoshop is to remove temporary blemishes from your subject’s skin. Create a new empty layer by pressing CTRL/CMD+Shift+N and pressing OK.

You can use either the Spot Healing Brush Tool or the Healing Brush Tool, or a combination of both. Once you’ve selected your tool, ensure that the All Layers option is selected in the drop-down menu labeled Sample. Also, ensure that you are working on the new empty layer (you just created above) in order to keep things non-destructive.

While using the healing brushes, zoom in to at least 200% on your image and use a brush that is only slightly larger than the blemish you are trying to remove. If you are using the Healing Brush tool, take a new sample after every click by pressing Alt/Option+Click to ensure the best results.

How far you go is going to be a matter of personal preference. I like to limit this step to only temporary blemishes and leave scars and beauty marks unless I’m asked to remove them by the subject.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - blemish removal

Before blemish removal.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - blemish removal

After blemish removal.

Note: It is possible to remove blemishes in Lightroom, but it is a time consuming and awkward process compared to Photoshop in my opinion. If Lightroom works better for you, go ahead and use it.

Color casts

Although we already covered color corrections in the first step, I like to revisit it at this stage. For example, in this image, the background is still too warm for my taste. Create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - hue/saturation layer

In the Properties tab, find the icon that looks like a pointing hand. Click it and then find a place in the image you want to adjust the colors. In this image, it’s in the background.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

With the pointer selected, click into any area of a colour cast you want to change.

Now adjust the sliders in the Hue/Saturation Layer until it has the desired effect on the color you are trying to change.

In this image, the background and the subject shared a lot of the same warmth. To keep them separate, use a layer mask. Click into the layer mask on your Hue/Saturation layer and press CTRL/CMD+I to invert it (hide all).

Now select the Brush tool (B) and set your foreground color to white and your opacity and flow to 100%. Paint into the areas (on the mask not the layer) you want to be affected by your Hue/Saturation layer. If you mess up, just switch your foreground color to black and paint over the mistake.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

Before Hue/Saturation Adjustments

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

After Hue/Saturation Adjustments

Dodging and burning

The next step is to deal with contrast. Instead of using the contrast sliders at the raw processing stage, it is best to use a technique like dodging and burning for small, local adjustments to get the most control over your images. There are a lot of different methods for dodging and burning, but I prefer the gray layer method.

By using multiple layers, you can obtain really fine control over the contrast and the tones in specific parts of your image with little effort. For example, you can have a set of layers for skin tones, another set for the clothes, a set for hair, and another set for eyes all independently adjusted. You can learn how to dodge and burn here.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - dodge and burn

Before dodging and burning.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - dodge and burn

After dodging and burning.

High Pass Filter

The last step of my workflow before saving is to use a High Pass filter to sharpen things up a bit. To use the High Pass filter, merge all of your existing layers into a new one by pressing CTRL/CMD+alt+Shift+E. Zoom into 100%, select the layer that was just created, and go to Filter>Other> High Pass.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - high pass filter

As long as you are working with a high-resolution file, set the radius between two and five. If you’re working with a smaller file, move the slider to the left until the preview image looks like a faint outline of your original image (as seen below). Press OK.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - high pass filter to sharpen

It’s pretty easy to go overboard with the High Pass filter. Try to keep it as subtle as possible.

On the Layer Palette, change the blending mode to Soft Light or Overlay. This is more personal preference than anything, but Overlay will give a far more pronounced effect than Soft Light. I prefer Soft Light for portraits and Overlay for other subjects. The last step is to reduce the opacity of the High Pass layer. Zoom into 100% and move the opacity slider to the left until you can barely see the effect.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

Use either the Soft Light or Overlay blending modes for your High Pass layer. Soft Light will be more subtle, while Overlay will be more pronounced.

Saving your image

When the image is finished it’s time to save it. This will different for everyone depending on your own organizational system, but I prefer to save files as 16-bit TIFFs with layers intact. Doing this means that you can go back and adjust any part post-processing at any time. It also means you can go back to your full resolution file at any time to create smaller images for web use and the like without potentially losing them. The downside to this is that 16-bit TIFF files can get very large and they do take up a fair amount of hard drive space, but to me, the peace of mind is worth it.

In the end

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

Straight out of the camera and before any adjustments in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

After adjustments and retouching in Lightroom and Photoshop.

The amount of time it takes to get through this workflow varies from image to image. Some photos take five minutes, others take closer to an hour. Overall, having a workflow like this will save you countless hours of work. Knowing exactly what steps you’re going to take before you sit down removes a lot of guesswork and saves time. This is invaluable when you start doing sessions a couple times a week.

Obviously, this exact workflow may not be for you. However, I encourage giving it a try and then developing your own workflow that fits in with your style and existing skills.

The post Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized by John McIntire appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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First Look: Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wand

Portable light sources are essential to your photography toolkit when you’re ready to progress beyond natural lighting and take your images to the next level. While off-camera flash photography can be intimidating, LED lights can be quality solutions that are much easier to operate. One of the leading LED lights for photographers is the popular, yet pricey, Westcott Ice Light. If you’re looking for a similar solution that is significantly more affordable, the Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wandd might be for you!

First Look: Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wand

BrightSaber Pro Versus BrightSaber Travel

As its name suggests, the Polaroid BrightSaber looks very much like a sci-fi lightsaber, so it has the immediate bonus of functioning as a fun conversation piece or photography prop. But the main intent of the BrightSaber is to serve as a handheld portable continuous (LED) light source for photography or videography.

To be clear, there are two versions of this light, and they are quite different. The Polaroid BrightSaber Pro looks more like the Ice Light; it is more powerful, and thus more expensive at $169.99. There is also the BrightSaber Travel, which is less powerful, yet much more affordable at $69.99. This article is focused on the travel version.

BrightSaber Travel Specs

  • Dimensions of 16.4 x 5.4 x 2.1 inches
  • Item weight of 1 lb (450g)
  • Array of 98 efficient, low heat 32000k bulbs
  • 10 power settings for variable lighting output
  • Three included color filters and diffuser
  • Easy disassembly
  • 50,000 hour LED life
  • Tripod screw at the base for mounting on a light stand or tripod

What’s in the Box

  • Polaroid BrightSaber Travel portable lighting wand
  • Detachable wand handle
  • 3 color temperature filters and diffuser
  • Rechargeable lithium ion batteries and battery charger
  • Battery charger cables

First Look: Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wand

Pros

Intuitive and easy to use

Out of the box, the devices arrives in two separate pieces that must be snapped together. The button controls are located on the handle, which is also where the two included lithium ion batteries must be inserted. For most people, assembling the BrightSaber Travel will be a pretty intuitive process. Once assembled, the light works as advertised. The few buttons enable you to turn the light off and on and choose from 10 power settings to adjust the level of brightness needed. Unlike most other lightsaber LED lights out there, the BrightSaber Travel is flat rather than round. A thinner profile truly makes it easier for traveling.

Nice quality of light

The BrightSaber Travel packs an array of 98 low-heat 32000K LED bulbs that produce a very nice quality of light. If you wish to change the color temperature, you can simply slide on one of the three color gels included, or snap on the included diffuser panel. Due to the specific size and shape of the BrightSaber, it’s not very easy to get your hands on other color gel choices without resorting to a DIY solution.

First Look: Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wand

Lighting was done with the Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wand

Affordable

It’s really difficult to argue about the low price point of the Polaroid BrightSaber. Even the Professional version is significantly more affordable than the popular Ice Light, and the Travel version is even cheaper! While there are other competitively priced light saber-esque LED lights on the market, none of them are produced by as reputable a brand as Polaroid.

Cons

No bag included

As mentioned above, there are quite a few moving parts to the Polaroid BrightSaber Travel. There are the two pieces that must be snapped together, two lithium ion batteries, three color gels, and one diffuser.

Unfortunately, there is no bag included that will hold all of these pieces together, thus increasing the chance of losing parts. The lack of a bag is especially perplexing since this device is intended for travel use and its unique shape and size make it difficult to fit into standard camera bags.

Non-standard batteries

Another downside to the BrightSaber Travel is its use of two non-standard batteries. They look like elongated versions of double AA batteries, and in my experience, they take an extremely long time to charge. It would be preferable for the device to use either one single rechargeable battery like the BrightSaber Professional does, or to use two standard batteries that can be more easily replaced.

In Conclusion

If you’re seeking a portable, handheld LED light to one-up your photography, I highly recommend checking out the Polaroid BrightSaber. It comes in either the BrightSaber Pro version or the more affordable, slightly less powerful Travel version. Both work very well at extremely affordable prices.

First Look: Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wand

The Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wand next to the Ice Light.

First Look: Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wand

Side by side with the Ice Light

The post First Look: Polaroid BrightSaber Travel LED Wand by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Photographing Iceland Using Ultra Wide-Angle Lenses

It is no secret that I love using ultra wide-angle lenses for my landscape photography. I was especially excited when I received the new Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art lens just before I departed for my winter Iceland workshop. It has an amazing 122-degree angle of view at 12mm. Many photographers have a difficult time using ultra wide-angle lenses correctly when composing a scene. Why? The simple answer is that they do not get close enough to their subject.

Iceland Landscape Photography (3)
Canon EOS-1D X + 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art 016 @ 12mm, ISO 100, 16/10, f/22.0

In the image above of Mt. Kirkjufell and the falls, I used the ultra wide view to capture the curve of the foreground that was literally just at my feet. For optimum sharpness with a long exposure time, like 1.6 seconds in the image above, you must have the camera and lens mounted on a sturdy tripod and head!

Iceland Landscape Photography (2)
Canon EOS-1D X + 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art 016 @ 13mm, ISO 50, 6/10, f/22.0

Going vertical, as in the image above a few moments later, brings up another challenge when photographing at the ultra wide angles of view. Be aware that you may capture your tripod legs (or you own feet) in the image if you don’t position the lens correctly with the two front legs of the tripod positioned parallel to the back of the camera. In both of the images, my tripod legs and boots are just barely out of the frame. In this image, I am close enough to the falls that I am occasionally getting the spray from them on the lens.

Iceland Landscape Photography (6)
Canon EOS-1D X + 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art 016 @ 24mm, ISO 640, 1/13, f/22.0

Having a wide-angle zoom lens can be helpful for shots like the one above where I wanted to exaggerate my view. I positioned myself fairly close to this boat to both exaggerate its size and also capture the dramatic clouds. The zoom range on my Sigma 12-24mm f/4 Art allowed me to eliminate a few distractions on both the right and left sides without physically having to move from the spot I chose to compose from.

Iceland Landscape Photography (5)
Canon EOS-1D X + 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art 016 @ 20mm, ISO 640, 1/4, f/22.0

I really embraced this exaggerated view when using this lens and took full advantage of the incredible edge-to-edge sharpness with an approximate 10 inch minimum focusing distance even at 12mm! In the image above, I was about a foot away from the parking lot lines at the church in Stykkishólmur, which made the “cross” in the foreground very prominent. This minimum focusing distance and wide angle of view allow for endless creative possibilities.

Iceland Landscape Photography (1)
Canon EOS-1D X + 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art 016 @ 24mm, ISO 50, 6/1, f/22.0

I can tell you from experience that when working in extreme environments and very close to steep edges, having a bit of zoom versatility gives me more confidence once I find some solid ground to position myself on. It was very windy and started to rain the afternoon of this shoot, so it was nice to not have to worry about repositioning my tripod and myself. I was approximately 4 feet from the edge to capture the curve of the foreground and keep the base of the falls from merging with it. I’m estimating that ledge at 500 feet high, but if I were a betting man I would bet it is even more!

Iceland Landscape Photography (4)
Canon EOS-1D X + 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art 016 @ 24mm, ISO 100, 1/1, f/22.0

As you can see, this zoom range has served me well all the way from the ultra wide view at 12mm to the far end of 24mm with exceptional sharpness throughout. Because of the weather, I didn’t get a chance to use the lens at night at the wide apertures, but I’m sure I will have other opportunities to use it on other night photography projects in the future and will keep you posted.


This guest post has been submitted by Roman Kurywczak, a proud member of the Sigma Pro Team. Roman has been a professional nature photographer for 15 years and he regularly conducts workshops across the globe. The author of several instructional eBooks on nature photography, Roman strives to share his passion for photography as others have shared with him. He lives in New Jersey and is married with two sons. You can find his galleries, blog, tour schedule, and more on his website.

The post Photographing Iceland Using Ultra Wide-Angle Lenses appeared first on Photography Life.

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JPEGmini Server Review

After I had a chance to test and review the JPEGmini Pro software, I realized how powerful this software is not just for exporting images and being part of a Lightroom workflow, but also for many other uses, including optimizing images that are already sitting on our large storage devices. Another use I immediately thought of, was the web server where Photography Life traffic originates from. Given how much traffic PL serves worldwide on a day-to-day basis and the fact that images alone account for roughly 5 Terabytes of traffic per month, the thought of being able to compress JPEG images using the JPEGmini engine was something that I really wanted to implement sooner than later. So I embarked on a new project – to save both traffic and money in the long run for PL, using the JPEGmini server.

Photographers Beware: this is a very technical review of software that is not related to photography. I decided to publish the review at PL, since I feel that other photography-heavy websites could hugely benefit from implementing the JPEGmini server.

JPEGmini Pro

1) Server Environment Overview

Before I go into the review, I would like to point out a few potentially important bits of information about my web server setup. First of all, I run CentOS Linux on every server (and there are a few of them). The two back-end web servers that handle PHP calls from the load balancer is where I installed JPEGmini server, although only the first one really matters, as it is the one that handles all uploads to the site (WordPress cannot handle this directly, so it is only possible to watch for wp-admin calls and direct them to the appropriate server via nginx/apache). Unfortunately, there is no easy way to run more than one WordPress server without file upload hassles, as it is not designed to be used in a cluster environment (moving everything to AWS with EC2 running server instances, RDS running the DB and S3 handling the files would be a good solution, but after I tested it out, it was not a cheap solution by any means, especially once you start spawning a few EC2 servers that would handle the back-end load). Therefore, I have been syncing all uploads via rsync. Not an elegant solution, but it works fairly well. I have rsync monitoring the “wp-content” folder, so all changes are replicated one way (basically, once images are uploaded to server01, they automatically get picked up by server02). Takes a second or two to sync up, but once it happens, the images get served easily to load balancer requests.

All web server calls get handled by a load balancer, which only serves https web traffic. All images are handled by an external CDN. The main reason for implementing JPEGmini was to reduce CDN costs, which are only going up each month as we continue to publish more content.

Keep in mind that your web server must be running a flavor of Linux – JPEGmini server does not run on Windows servers. Here is the list of supported server platforms.

2) JPEGmini Server Installation

The installation of JPEGmini server is very easy, especially if you run RHEL, CentOS and other popular Linux distributions. For my CentOS server, JPEGmini provided an RPM file, so it was an easy install with a single command. Once the binary file was installed (/usr/bin/jpegmini by default), the next step was to copy the .jpegmini.cfg license file in the home directory of the user. From there, running “jpegmini” should output something like the following:

============================================ Start jpegmini 3.14.2.84235 ============================================ -f option is required: -f= Use -help for help ============================================ Finish jpegmini 3.14.2.84235 ============================================

My initial testing started out with the JPEGmini server version 3.13, but after a few requested changes to the executable, JPEGmini provided an updated 3.14 RPM file. The major addition to the 3.14 version is the ability to skip already optimized files, which was a big deal for me, as I do use the desktop version of the software and I did not want JPEGmini server to re-optimize uploaded JPEG images.

3) WordPress Image File Handling

When an image is uploaded to WordPress, the admin scripts will either use GD or ImageMagick to process those images. By default, WordPress creates images of three sizes, in addition to the uploaded image (thumbnail, medium size and large size), but depending on how many add_image_size calls there might be added by the theme and plugins, there might be many more! Because of this, a single image upload could spawn a bunch of files on the server, letting the Uploads folder grow very quickly. And those smaller images are created by either GD or ImageMagick, so the files by default are going to be stripped of both ICC color profiles and EXIF data, which is not desirable on a photography website. They are also not going to be properly optimized for size, since neither GD nor ImageMagick have a smart algorithm like JPEGmini in order to be able to properly compress JPEG images. In fact, WordPress does a pretty horrible job with resizing images, often resulting in poorly colored (due to stripping of ICC profiles), soft and muddy images (due to heavy compression). To avoid this problem at PL, I have been only using ImageMagick to optimize images, with special options. We only strip EXIF data from thumbnails and compress them a bit more aggressively for a fast browsing experience. Once in a post, neither ICC profiles, nor EXIF data are stripped from larger images in order to make them look as good as possible. This way, we do not force our readers to click on an image to see the “right version” – images look consistent from previews to native uploaded sizes.

Therefore, in order to take a full advantage of the JPEGmini server, it is best to run the executable for each resize process – not just for the single uploaded version, as you want every file to get optimized by the engine, whether it is a thumbnail, a medium, or a large version of the original. This essentially means that JPEGmini should be intercepting every call to image_resize.

4) JPEGmini Server and WordPress Integration

Unfortunately, JPEGmini does not provide a plugin that automatically integrates into WordPress in order to do that, so I had to come up with a solution on my own. I started with the ImageMagick Engine plugin codebase (a pretty outdated plugin, but it still works), then added calls to JPEGmini executable in the ime_im_cli_resize function (I run a command line version of ImageMagick instead of a PHP module). If this modified version of the plugin is something that interests you, let me know in the comments section below and I will send you the plugin file. I am not sure if folks at JPEGmini are planning to release a WordPress plugin, but I would be happy to contribute some code for a good cause.

The code works and it has been tested with JPEGmini 3.14. As soon as each resized version is created, the code first optimizes those images, then it optimizes and overwrites the original JPEG image.

5) JPEGmini Server Test Results

There has been a lot of technical mumbo jumbo so far, so let’s get down to the meat. How much drive space was I able to salvage and how much did I save in CDN costs? In order to run the JPEGmini executable recursively on every folder, I had to request a script from JPEGmini engineers, which they provided very quickly. The provided file was a Python script called “jpegmini_recursive.py”, which only needed two commands – one to input the source folder and one to input the target folder (I modified the script a little after getting the new RPM version that can automatically skip already optimized JPEG images). After backing everything up, I created a folder called “uploads_jpegmini” and that’s what I used as the target folder. I ran the script and it took a while to go through each and every file. I came back after a few hours and the script finished executing.

Since JPEGmini only optimizes JPEG images and it does not touch PNG, GIF or other file uploads such as video, I had to make sure to copy the resulting folder back into my uploads folder. Again, make sure you fully backup everything before you take this step, since it is irreversible. Before I did that, I recursively changed permissions on the uploads_jpegmini folder by running “chown -R nobody:nobody /uploads_jpegmini”. Then the next command was “/bin/cp -Rpf uploads_jpegmini/* uploads/”, which overwrote existing image files with their JPEGmini optimized versions.

Let’s take a look at the before and after. Here is what my folders looked like before I copied all the contents over:

du --max-depth=1 | sort -k2 1252 ./2006 5272 ./2007 23332 ./2008 154872 ./2009 819580 ./2010 599084 ./2011 2124952 ./2012 2176548 ./2013 4504720 ./2014 6164472 ./2015 3812759 ./2016 559012 ./2017 Total Size: 20,945,855

Roughly 21 gigabytes of images. Now let’s take a look at what the folder looked like after all the images were optimized by JPEGmini:

du --max-depth=1 | sort -k2 1000 ./2006 2852 ./2007 15972 ./2008 127708 ./2009 647896 ./2010 461800 ./2011 1099676 ./2012 1252836 ./2013 3049696 ./2014 4378464 ./2015 2858628 ./2016 479416 ./2017 Total Size: 14,375,944

Whoa, that’s only 14.4 gigabytes now! Just in hard drive space alone I was able to reclaim over 6.5 gigs of space, which translates to roughly 31% in space savings. That’s basically one third of my CDN bill, which is a big number. And keep in mind that the last two+ years did not get as much space savings as earlier, since I already started optimizing my images on my desktop with JPEGmini Pro before uploading, so the numbers you see are uploads by other team members who are not using JPEGmini.

Here is a sample summary report from JPEGmini for June of 2012:

------------------------------------------ INFO: Summary report for folder http://ift.tt/2mELGgh [including subfolders]: INFO: Total number of files: 372 INFO: Total size of input files: 42900 KB INFO: Total size of output files: 28480 KB INFO: Recompression ratio: 1.51X (34% saving) INFO: ------------------------------------------

Different folders yielded different numbers, but on average it was between 30-35%, which is a lot, considering that our team is pretty knowledgeable about keeping file sizes small during the export process (we usually keep our export settings at Level 10 in Photoshop, which is equivalent to Lightroom’s 77-84% “Quality”, per our JPEG Compression Levels in Photoshop and Lightroom article).

5) JPEGmini Server Quality and Metadata Settings

For sites that don’t necessarily care about preserving high quality JPEG images with their metadata, JPEGmini can actually optimize images much more aggressively. I did not want JPEG images to look any worse than originally uploaded, so I kept the default setting of “qual=0”, which preserves best quality. Other sites might choose to run with high or medium quality, which will reduce the footprint of JPEG files much more aggressively. Also, one can completely remove all the metadata as well with the “rmt=1” command and if that’s not enough, there is even an option to force progressive JPEG output on every image. I am sure social media sites like Facebook heavily utilize such tools, since images and videos are a huge part of their hosting bills. For a list of commands available with the JPEGmini server, please visit this page.

6) Conclusion

While the JPEGmini Server product is definitely not aimed at photographers, the software is a very versatile tool for those who own large websites with a lot of images and traffic. As can be seen from my implementation project, JPEGmini Server was able to save over 6.5 gigabytes of space, translating to roughly 31% in space and CDN cost savings, which is a lot for a business of any size. At $199 per month starting price, JPEGmini Server isn’t cheap for a small business, but for a growing company with a large hosting footprint where a single server instance might be costing more than that each month, the product might be worth a serious look. If you are a part of a hosting company, if you own a website loaded with a lot of images like PL, or your CDN costs are getting outrageous, you might want to reach out to folks at JPEGmini and talk to them about how they can help you. For a start, you could try this page out, where you can input your website and see how much you can expect to save in CDN costs.

If you have any questions about any of the above, please feel free to drop me a comment below.

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St Mary’s Loch – 26 Feb 2017 – Flickr


St Mary’s Loch

One from my wander around St Mary’s Loch on Friday and the jetty you will have seen in a few of my images lately. I hadn’t planned on shooting the jetty again on this trip but when the light is this good then there is no reason not to photograph it.

Nicely balanced light on the jetty and foreground with the snow capped hills beyond.

St Mary’s Loch, Scottish Borders

Sony A7RII
Sony FE16-35mm f4

All rights reserved
© Brian Kerr Photography 2017

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Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

Are you one of those parents whose kids were born being comfortable in front of the camera? Are your kids complete naturals with no stage fright or anger management issues when you yell, “Look at me…for the last time…please look at me and don’t close your eyes”? If so, then just skip this article and move on to the next one that probably teaches some amazing tips and tricks on night photography, or posing or Lightroom tricks.

But, if you are like me, a camera obsessed parent whose children sprint at what seems like a-mile-a-minute when they see you, camera in-hand, and a determined look on your face, coming towards them to snap a frame, then keep reading. I have a few tips and tricks to help you maintain your sanity and snap a few Kodak moments of your pride and joy that you can “oohhh” and “ahhh” at for years to come! In other words, top for photographing your own kids.

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

Is this a family portrait you can relate to?? Imperfect timing + Imperfect expression = Perfect Family Photo

Note: Some of the images in this article are not edited and some are technically flawed – they are simply used to drive home the tips shared below. The images that I print of my family are edited to my particular style. You will find a lot of rules broken here but I am okay with these as my focus was not on photographic perfection but on capturing the moment.

Know when to click and when to back off

This one is a game changer in your relationship with your kids and your camera. Yes, the very definition of being a parent is that we are insanely in love with our kids and want to freeze every moment of their childhood, teen, and adult lives forever in our brain and forever in photographs. I mean, what parent doesn’t want to whip out images of their babies years later at their wedding. Not as a means of embarrassing them but as a way to cherish all the fun times they have had in their parent-child relationship.

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But sometimes, just sometimes, it is completely okay to skip that insane urge to freeze the frame and instead BE in the moment. I still remember many of my children’s “firsts”. Even though I may not have photographs to prove it, I have my memories that I have documented in their journals and talked about with them. I am okay with neither of us remembering these things decades later because I know that every day we create new memories that simply replace some of the old ones.

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

I tried for a good 20 minutes to try and get both of them to look at the camera and smile at the same time…but alas, this was the best I could get. But this is one of the most precious memories because a few months after this was taken, I lost my mom to cancer. So this grandmother-grandson memory is priceless…in all its flaws lies its perfection!

Embrace the chaos

This one is a little hard to digest because as photographers we tend to be perfectionists. The lighting has to be right, the styling has to be perfect, and the angle and composition has to be one of the allowed rules. You know, all those things that we learn in Photography 101, Photography 201 and perhaps even Photography 301!

But guess what, all of that doesn’t quite matter when you have all of three seconds to take the shot. Most of the time that my family is together is in the evening hours. When the night is fading and I am only left with either using the overhead florescent light or pop on an off-camera flash, neither of which I really like. But sometimes it is okay to break the rules and just go with the flow. Yes, every frame here will not be PERFECT and more than likely, it will break all the rules of the photography but

But sometimes it is okay to break the rules and just go with the flow. Yes, every frame here will not be PERFECT and more than likely, it will break all the rules of the photography but that’s okay. It may be more important to capture that fleeting moment than to be technically correct.

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Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

The first Lego car that he completed all on his own. I was just an observer and had one shot. The light was terrible, his clothes were completely mismatched, but it was a moment I wanted to cherish forever.

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

Another moment that means nothing to him but everything to me. My boys just hanging out doing their thing – reading and napping!

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

A creative lighting exercise gone wrong – thanks to a sleepy and nervous dog who was scared of the shutter clicking!

Follow their lead

This one is a little harder to experience especially if you have little ones. Right now, my kids are at the age where they are opinionated on what, where, and how they want to be photographed.

My son plays soccer and insists I take pictures of his games every weekend. My daughter, who is an equestrian rider, wants several hundred shots of her horse – from every angle, covering every detail. But I have found that if I oblige their photography wants, they are more likely to listen to me when the tables turn (a.k.a a little bribery never hurts). Besides like any parent, I know that these moments are just as precious as their traditional portraits even if they are blurry because I missed focus when he was kicking the ball or when she rides her favorite horse.

Besides like any parent, I know that these moments are just as precious as more traditional portraits – even if they are blurry because I missed focus when he was kicking the ball or when she rides her favorite horse.

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

A technically flawed image (out of focus) for my daughter. A shot of her favorite horse and her favorite instructor.

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

Something a little bit more my cup of tea – an action shot that makes me hold my breath every time she jumps!

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

This was the highlight of my son’s soccer game…for me and for him!

Hand over the reins

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A few years back there was a beautiful article that was written for moms who were also photographers. This really hit home to a lot of us moms. It encouraged moms who are generally behind the camera to be brave and exist in photographs with their kids, for their kids. It is absolutely acceptable if your hair is not perfect, you are in your sweat pants, and have no makeup on. Being present in photographs is more important than taking several hundred photos where you are nowhere to be found.

Since that day, I take the photos that I want but also hand over the camera to my husband or a stranger who volunteers to take our picture. Sometimes I even use the remote trigger so I can be a part of my kids’ childhood just as much as their dad, especially on important occasions like family vacations and birthdays.

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

The MUST have photo of any birthday party. Heads chopped off, goofy faces and partial cake – thanks to a helpful, willing volunteer! But I am with my child and that makes me happy!

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

Because out of focus photos are so very artistic! For a clearer picture, try switching to Auto mode and then handing the camera over to a willing helper!

Tips for Photographing Your Own Kids

The magic of a remote trigger! Our family in our element!

What are some tips and tricks that work when you photograph your own children? When all else fails, perhaps chocolate and candy are the way to go, for adults and kids alike! Please sure your tips and photos in the comment section below.

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How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

The theory

Bokeh (pronounced b??k?) is a Japanese term that translates to blur in English. Bokeh is used by photographers to describe the quality of the unfocused or blurry parts of a photograph. Every photograph has a depth of field – the area of a photograph that is in focus.

For example, in the image below, the upper half of foreground is sharp and in focus, meaning that it is inside the depth of field. The background, however, is blurry or outside of the depth of field. The reason the leaves in the upper foreground are focused is because I physically positioned myself close to them with my camera set to a wide aperture – resulting in a shallow depth field and an unfocused background. It’s this subsequent softness and shape in the background that is described as Bokeh.

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

Looking at the image again, you’ll notice that the points of light in the unfocused areas of the photograph are circular in shape. That’s because my lens renders them to appear that way. However, you can change this shape to create your own patterns by making simple filters and attaching them to your lens.

What you need to make custom bokeh

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How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

  • Camera
  • A large aperture lens (I used a Canon 50mm f/1.8, but the larger the aperture the better the effect)
  • Lens cap for the above lens
  • A sheet of black poster board
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Pen
  • Compass (optional)

Making the filterHow to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

To begin, place the lens cap on the sheet of black poster board and carefully trace around the outside of the cap with a pen. Alternatively, you can measure the diameter of your lens, set a compass to the measurements and trace an outline with the compass instead. Mark out an extra little tab coming off of the outline to help remove the filter later.

Cut around the outline of the lens cap and tab so that you have a circle that fits snugly in front of your lens. Usually, the filter diameter is about 0.5 mm smaller than the lens cap size, so you may have to trim the edges of the circle a little more for a tight fit.

In the very center of the circle, draw the outline of the shape or design you want to use. Keep in mind that to work properly, the shape can’t too be too big or small. Making the shape too small blocks so much light that most of your photos will be underexposed and turn out black. Too large a shape and you won’t be able to see the effect in your photos at all. It’s a little fiddly, but keep the shape to at least 5mm and at most 20mm. As an example, I cut shapes that were about 15-20 mm on the longest side for my f/1.8 lens. It may take some experimentation to get perfect.

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

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Keep the design simple

The simpler the design, the easier it is to cut with the craft knife, which will make for a more defined bokeh shape. I recommend shapes like 5-pointed-stars, triangles, hearts, crosses, or even question marks. Cut the outline of the shape out with the craft knife, tidying up any messy corners carefully or they will show up in your photographs.

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

Take your filter and press it into the front of your lens so it sits snugly in the ridges.

Using your custom bokeh filter

Set your camera to Aperture Priority or Manual mode. For maximum effect, you want to set the f-stop to be as wide as possible. On my lens, the lowest aperture available is f/1.8 but depending on the lens you use, you might be able to go wider still (f/1.4 or f/1.2). Because the filter blocks a lot of light, you will need to make longer exposures and/or use a higher ISO, so having a tripod will prove handy.

Remember that only unfocused points of light in the photograph will be affected by the filter. If you want a dramatic effect, try going out at night with your camera set to manual focus and see the results at different focal lengths. The most dramatic effect will be seen at the closest focus distance (when you’re close to the subject and the background is far away). Have fun with reflective objects, fairy lights, reflections, and even glitter to create some eye-catching bokeh patterns. My favorite shape is the heart, can you tell?

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

The outline of a tree is marked out at night by the pretty fairy lights draped on its branches. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to test one of my heart-shaped bokeh filters.

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How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

Moving the camera around during exposure with a custom bokeh filter can produce some interesting results

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

Light filtered through an oak tree transforms into an intriguing array of diamonds.

How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

This bokeh filter transforms car lights into a sprinkle of stars

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