Monday, 28 September 2009

Soft edged border - bonus photoshop video.

Amazingly my videos have now been watched over 1.3 million times in 166 countries. That's an amazing statistic. No surprisingly that number of views generates a large volume of emails. Sadly, I don't have the time to answer them all, but I do read EVERY email and message I receive.

Occasionally I'll pick an email request and turn it into a video. So when madaca2813 wanted help to make a blurred edge border for his brothers wedding album I realised I could make a video tutorial quicker then I could type a message.

So exclusively for my blog readers here's a two minute Photoshop quick tip.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Friday Freebie

In yesterday's blog video I showed how to make a grunge border using a little bit of paint and a few minutes in Photoshop. If you missed it, here's the link.
Since the video went live I've recieved a load of requests to upload the orginal borders I painted in the video. So here they are.
Then right click the image and choose "save as"

Usual rules apply. The Action is copyright Gavin Hoey 2009. You may use it for personal, non-commercial purposes. Do not redistribute without permission.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

How make a painted grunge border with Photoshop - Week 71

In this weeks video I get the chance to do some painting AND Phototoshop. I can't claim to have any painting skills as such, but for this technique that's probably an advantage.

What I'm creating is commonly called a grunge border. If the grunge style of photography and Photoshop has passed you by, here's a link to one of the many grunge pools from Flickr.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Steady video advice for photographers

The last 12 months has seen some of the big digital SLR camera manufacturers head in an interesting, new direction. Along side the usual camera improvements such as more pixels, higher ISO and refined functionality, comes the new “must have” feature. High Definition video capture.

I would guess most serious photographers don’t spend their time making videos except for birthdays, Christmas and perhaps two weeks in the sun every year. But if making a video is as easy as taking a photo, could you resist the temptation to give it a go?

As someone who’s spent a lot of time making photography videos over the past year, I’ve had to learn video skills the hard way. That meant starting with the real basics such as how to keep the camera still.

It’s not a problem in photography, you press the button and freeze the scene, but in video the scene goes on and on and on. Unless you want to make your audience sea sick you’ll need to keep your camera still and your movements steady.

I use one of three techniques.

You already know the value of using a decent tripod when it comes to getting sharp photo’s, so it’s no surprise that a tripod will also deliver steady videos, but for portability a monopod is hard to beat. I use a Hama Star 08 which is perfect for my little camcorder, it’s a bit too flimsy for a DSLR. A more heavy duty monopod shouldn’t be expensive and is a great addition to any photographer’s kit bag.

Next up is a Steadicam. I use the Mini motion cam from Hague. It’s a low tech solution to the problem of smoothing jerky movements such as walking. The whole system relies on small weights at the bottom which counterbalances the camera on the top. It really works, but takes a bit of practice.
The final solution is fairly new to me, but it’s one I hope will greatly improve my videos. To really keep things smooth I’m playing with a piece of video software called Virtualdub and specifically a filter called DeShaker. The filter does exactly what it says. Watch this short clip to see the before and after effect. Amazingly this software is 100% free.

It would appear that the line between a photography and videographer is likely to blur over the next few years. You can choose to ignore it, or embrace it. If you don’t want to get left behind, I’d recommend you consider the later and soon.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Freebie of the week – Page Curl

As you have probably worked out by now, I’m passionate about photography. I’m also passionate about sharing what I know with others. So every week I’m giving away something unique.

This week I’m posting one of my favourite Photoshop actions which gives a quick and effective page curl effect. You’ll need Photoshop CS3 or CS4 to run the action and the effect should look a bit like this.
Usual rules apply. The Action is copyright Gavin Hoey 2009. You may use it for personal, non-commercial purposes. Do not redistribute without permission.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Photograph and Photoshop a Cross Process effect - Week 70

There's a real autumn feel to the weather at the moment. It's feeling a bit colder and there's the ever present chance of rain. The temptation is just to stay inside and put photography on hold until the sun comes out.

I prefer to take the opposite view and use this weather to my advantage. The weather may look grim, but that just means the light is flat and even. Flat light is great for keeping detail in high contrast subjects like the delicate petals of a flower. Rain showers make everything wet and shiny, which makes photography a lot more tricky when the light is bright. Once again low contrast flat light, becomes your best friend and can be used to your advantage in a photo.

It was this thinking that got me into the garden to see what I could photograph. After a quick look around I found a bit of old wood, some leaves and a flower, perfect photography materials.

The plan was to try and make a cross processed style image. The end result wasn't quite the look I orginally envisaged, but I liked it all the same.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Why you need to use RAW

Over the next two weeks I hope to put the final touches to my next Photoshop training DVD. The whole DVD is devoted to the subject of processing RAW files in Adobe Camera RAW.

Last week I gave a lecture at a local camera club and part of the evening was devoted to explaining the basics of RAW processing. As with any camera club my audience was made up of mixed abilities, some of the members were really clued up about the advantages of using RAW, whilst others could see nothing but disadvantages in the format.

In this post I’m going try and counter the most commonly voiced concerns I hear about RAW. Before I start I should point out that this isn’t an unbiased appraisal. I believe RAW rules and will try and convince anyone I meet that they should start using RAW today.
OK, let’s tackle the complaints I hear about RAW

RAW files take up too much space.
It’s true RAW files take up 3-5 times more memory then the same Jpeg file. That means a 4 GB memory card will hold around 800 images but that number drops to around 250 when I shoot in RAW. The solution is simple. Buy more memory. Looking at the Picstop store I can buy an 8 GB compact flash card for £14.99 and that includes postage. Now that’s a bargain.

I can’t see RAW thumbnail images in Windows.
This one really stumped me for a while. I could see JPG’s, tiffs and even PSD files in windows but not RAW files. Fortunately Canon, Nikon (and probably others) offer free windows plug in to sort the problem.

Canon: Click Here
Nikon: Click Here
Olympus Click Here

RAW files slow my computer down.
No they don’t, but being bigger means they will take longer to open and they will fill up your hard drive quicker. To get around this you could upgrade to a new computer but it’s much cheaper to buy a bigger hard drive. A 1TB (1000 GB) drive will set you back around £80 for an internal drive or £130 for an external USB hard drive.

Photoshop won’t open my RAW files.
OK I admit this is frustrating. You’ve just bought a flashy new camera but when you try and open the RAW files in Photoshop CS3 they’re not compatible and you’d need to buy CS4 to make them work.

There are two options. First, use the RAW converter that came with your new camera. Second (and probably better) use Adobe’s free DNG converter to batch convert all your RAW files to Adobes RAW format (called DNG). You can download from here

Will I still be able to open RAW files in 10 years time?
It does worry me a bit. RAW files are unique to each camera manufacturer and even unique to each camera model. Who’s to say you’ll be able to find a RAW converter for a Kodak DCS 14n (for example) in 10 years time. My solution is to set my camera to shoot both JPG and RAW simultaneously, that way I have two versions of every image.

RAW work flow is just too slow.
You’re kidding me! If you missed it here’s a short tutorial on using RAW to enhance texture. The last two minutes should convince you that RAW can be the fastest way you’ve ever worked.

So there you go. If you’re never tried RAW, give it a go today. Like everything to do with Photoshop there’s a learning curve, but once you see what RAW can do for your photography you’ll never change back.

Watch out for my “Totally RAW” DVD coming soon.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

British Wildlife Centre - Photo Day

Christmas was nine months ago, but that's when this story starts. Last year the christmas present from my wife was the chance to visit the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey and get up close with the animals. If you've not heard of The British Wildlife Centre, here's a link.

For a few days every year the wildlife centre closes it's door to the general public and opens the enclosures to photographers. Living only a few miles from centre, I'd been there before, but getting the chance to go inside the enclosures was a little out of the ordinary.

This was a photography day, not a guided course so there were no rules on the standard of camera to bring. I packed my trusty Canon 40D and a 100-400 IS lens and I felt confident I had the right equipment for the job. My fellow photographers (there were around 20 of us) sported a wide variety of equipment ranging from the professional wildlife gear complete with camoflaged lenses, right down to the happy amatuer with their point and shot digital compacts. Everyone was welcome.

The day started with a visit inside the fox enclosure. With the help of Laura, one of the british Wildlife centres' excellent keepers, the foxes were just a few feet away. No need for expensive lenses here as you can see from this photo. (clicking the images makes them bigger)

After that the group split in two. Half of us went to photograph the scottish wild cats and the other went to find the hedgehogs. After 30 minutes the groups swapped over. Stangely enough the the hedgehog proved to be the most challenging animal to photograph.

The day progressed at a gentle pace. Everyone was given as much time as they needed to take the photographs that they wanted.

As lunch approached we we're given some free time to have a break or move around the centre at our own pace. I decided to try and get some pictures of the red squirrels. These fast moving animals were tricky to photograph and during the free time we were not able to go inside the enclosure. Still, if you're patient and know how to make fences disappear from photos (no, not using Photoshop) then the rewards are there to be had.
By the way, I mentioned that this wasn't the kind of photography day you attend to learn. None the less I'm always happy to share my knowledge, so if you were the gentleman who asked me how to photograph through bars, I hope your pictures came out as well as mine.

The afternoon saw us in the otter enclosure. This was probably the moment I was very pleased with my choice of lens as otters are quite small when they're splashing around in the water.
The day was rounded off by a visit to the badger enclosure and the chance to get close to the owls.

So on to the big questions.

Was the day worth while? For me the answer is yes. I was able to get some great photographs of animals in a natural settings. The keepers were very knowledgeable and accommodating and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

What equipment should I take? A DSLR is the minimum I'd consider and learn how to use the burst mode before you leave home. A lens at least 300mm is required if you want to fill the frame. Finally bring lots and lots of memory cards, you'll be taking many hundreds of photos.

Would I recommend this day to other photographers? Yes as long as they had a fair level of camera skills. If your looking to receive training or guidance you'd be better booking for one of the workshop days run by outside companies. Of course you could always ask me to tag along...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

How to make a 3D film strip - Video Tutorial

A funny thing happened to me recently. I was at a photography workshop with a group of other photographers and as usual everyone was happily snapping away with their cameras. All of a sudden and quite out of the blue, I heard a surprising sound. It's a noise I haven't heard for years and one that bought back so many memories.

So what was the mystery noise? It was the sound of a camera rewinding a roll of film.

And so on to this week’s video. Keeping with the film theme, this week I'm going to show you how to make a film strip from scratch and then give the whole thing a 3D twist.

 (RSS and email readers may need to click on the post title to view the video.)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Why buy a lens when you can hire?

As your passion for photography grows, so does your desire for more and better equipment. For me it’s not the cameras themselves, but lenses that really set my pulse racing.

My thinking goes something like this. A digital SLR camera body is an amazing machine capable to recording stunning images, but all that technology counts for nothing if you’re using cheap, rubbish lenses. Poor quality glass = poor quality pictures.

Last week I realised I was going to need a Canon 100-400L to get the most of a photo day I’d booked at The British Wildlife Centre in Surrey (more about that later in the week). So I faced three choices

1. Spend £1300 on a lens I’d rarely use after the photo day.
2. Spend £500 on a lower quality lens and moan about its performance.
3. Rent the lens of my dreams.

I’ve always assumed that renting would be expensive and complex, but an advert in the back of Digital Photo magazine caught my eye.

The advert was from a company called Lenses for Hire and they promised a simple low cost rental without the need of a big deposit. That sounded exactly what I was looking for and after a few minutes of online form filling, I had arranged the rental of a Canon 100-400L for a cost of £70.00 (3 days rental and return P&P)

So here’s what I received.

The lens arrived by courier and was securely packed in a black rigid case with a combination lock, the code being sent by email. Inside the rigid case is a return address label and a brief instruction manual for the lens.

The lens itself came complete with lens hood (not shown), lens and body cap, plus a Hoya pro UV filter. On the outside the lens looks almost new with only a few signs of use. The glass was spotlessly clean. In fact, my rented lens looked pretty new.

Of course how a lens looks on the outside counts for nothing if the glass and electronics are damaged on the inside. But once again, this lens really delivered the goods. Have a look at these images to see what I mean.

So the big questions.

Would I rent again? 100% yes. The experience has taught me that I can get my hands on pro gear without the expense of ownership.

Would I recommend If you’re in the UK and looking to rent a lens, these guys are great. They provided a quick and efficient online rental service and when I hit a delivery snag, they were at the end of the phone to sort things out.

Will I be buying my own 100-400L? Probably not. It’s a great lens but I wouldn’t get the use from it. Besides I’ve got my eyes on a 70-200 L.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Actors, headshots and bonus photos

This week I had the great pleasure of photographing Sam Cassella. He’s a young chap who’s in the middle of his university career where’s he’s studying drama. Sam’s no fools and has realised that to make it as an actor requires experience and one way to achieve that is to become an “extra”.

That’s where I come in. One thing that every aspiring actor or actress needs is a decent head shot for their résumé. By and large these tend to be fairly routine images. From experience I know that a decent head shot has a few key ingredients.
• Be a fair representation of the individual rather then an arty portrait.
• Be black and white (which seems rather odd in these digital days)
• Be taken against a plain background.
In other words something like this…
Ok, lets be honest that wasn’t exactly the most difficult portrait to light and take, in fact any half decent photographer can take a picture like this the hard part is getting the sitter to relax.

So with a decent headshot in the bag of the casting directors, I had plenty of time to take the kind of pictures that I like. When it comes to portraits most of my clients want a pure white background, but for male portraits I tend to shot against a black or great background and use light that has a harder edge.
Sam was an amazingly easy to photograph. He arrived at my studio with a range of clothes from very casual to rather smart. He even bought his “trade mark” hat.

I’ve always had a problem with hats in the studio. Hats with brims cause shadows. Hats with big brims cause big shadows which go right across the eyes and are very difficult to fill. Sam loved his hat and wanted it in the pictures.

After a bit of head scratching and time adjusting the lights, I got some of the best shots of the session.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

15 minute photo challenge - Mount Etna - Week 68

Mount Etna on the Italian island of Sicily provided me with a challenging photo location. It's a stunning location, but getting that to transfer into great photos is no easy matter. It's a trap many of us photographers fall in to. It's so easy to get swept up in the excitment of a new location and all thoughts of basic photographic principles go out the window.

The trick is to keep a sharp look out for the great photos and keep thinking photo thoughts.

Once you think like a photographer you'll find amazing photos will appear in front of you.

To view the finished photos go to