Thursday, 29 April 2010

120cm Octagonal Softbox – Video

I’ve always wanted to give a octagonal softbox a go. I’ve heard wonderful things about the light quality that such a large light surface produces. A few weeks back I finally got the chance to use one during a video shoot for

The more observant will notice this is the shoot is connected to yesterdays post. So if you want to know what was done to the images in Photoshop click here.

So what’s the verdict? Well lets start with the plus points.

First the light really is amazingly soft and I was only using the smaller 120cm version. A 400w flash head was easily able to fill the softbox with light and a quick check with a light meter showed the light drop off was pretty good at ½ to ¾ stop centre to edge. That gives predictable, controllable illumination making my job a lot easier.

As you’ll see in the video the large size of the softbox also enabled me to use it as an illuminated background making a it perfect for head shots where a white background is required. Just remember set the background light 0-3/4 stop brighter then the key light.

Another nice thing about the octagonal softbox is the eye catch light it produces is rounder then the rectangular softboxes I usually use. Having said that it’s not something my clients have mentioned so it may be one of those “photographer” things.

Now for the drawbacks and there are a couple.

First is its size. The very thing that makes it a great light is a big problem when space is limited. My studio is pretty small and the octagonal softbox made it feel even smaller. You also need to watch the balance. I found by using a sturdy lighting stand fitted with a DIY sand bag weight at the base kept things stable and avoided any expensive accidents.

If you to see the video in full or find out more about the Octaganal Softbox follow this link

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The unseen tutorial

Yesterday was the Photovison Roadshow at Hatfield House and it was a fantastic day with lots to see and do. I spent a large part of the day talking to lots and lots of fellow photographers, answering Photoshop questions and giving mini training sessions.

First of all I’d like to thank the Photovison team for the opportunity to be there, but more importantly a huge thank you to the many people who came up and said hello. I’m always totally humbled by photographers who shake my hand and tell me how much they’ve learned by watching some of my YouTube training videos, buying my DVD’s or reading this blog. I even discovered that one or two people, who I looked up to, are also following this blog. What an honour.

To give you a flavour of what I was doing, here’s a video tutorial exclusively for my blog readers.

If you missed the Hatfield Roadshow, never fear. Photovision moves on to Manchester in two weeks time. I highly recommend a visit, not only to talk to many photographic companies that will be exhibiting, but also for the excellent free seminars from Mark Cleghorn, Guy Gowan and Uzair Kharawala to name but three.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success

So a volcano erupts in Iceland and Europe grinds to a halt. OK that’s a bit of an over exaggeration but it’s certainly thrown a light on just how much we rely on air travel.

The ash cloud floating over parts of Europe has meant many peoples week in the sun has turned into a longer and potentially much more expensive stay away from home. For many more, it’s become an unwelcome road trip across Europe that’s cost them £000’s.

But as they say, one man's problem is another man's opportunity. For me that’s exactly how things might turn out.

Next Tuesday sees the Photovision Roadshow arrive in Hatfield, Hertfordshire (here’s the Photovision link). This one of my favourite events, partly because the road shows are less crowded then the big events like Focus, but mostly because they have some excellent free seminars.

One of the star speakers is Photoshop expert Guy Gowan. Unfortunately Guy has been stuck somewhere in Europe and may not be able to make it back in time for the Roadshow. That means there’s a spare lecture slot and I’ve been approached to fill it.

Sadly for me I get the feeling that by Tuesday everything’s going to pretty much back to normal and Guy will make his flight, but I’m feeling pretty chuffed to be asked to fill his shoes.

Although the Photovision Road shows are open to any photographer, both professional and amateur, the show is defiantly geared towards wedding and portrait photographers. Currently I don’t have an off the peg lecture that really fits that bill, so I’ve been busy pulling a few ideas together.

Here’s a portrait retouching before and after sample from the talk.

Even if I’m not giving a talk I’ll be attending the road show. Come and find me on the Photovision shop stand. I’ll be there with my laptop answering questions on photography and Photoshop

Friday, 16 April 2010

Long exposure technique - Quick Shots 05

UPDATE: The photos from this post are now on Flickr

It’s been a bit of a blog free week for me as I’ve been away with the family for a mid week break by the sea.

We managed to find one of the few places in the UK without a 3G internet connection, so I feel like I’ve been a little cut off from all the excitement that’s been going on around the launch of Photoshop CS5.

Just be for I left a Quick Shot question landed in my inbox from Daniel Roberts who asked a great question. Basically Daniel wanted to some tips and advice on how to get silky smooth water on long exposures.

Fortunately I was planning to take exactly that kind of shot whilst I was away, so I threw my video camera into my camera bag and set off for the coast.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Video - Focus stacking in Photoshop CS4

Yesterday I was giving a talk to the Lee Valley Nature Photographers and demonstrating the finer points of Adobe Camera RAW. But I always like to throw a few curve balls at my audience in my lectures and as I was talking to a group of nature photographer I got the chance to demonstrate a feature of Photoshop CS4 that’s amazingly useful for macro photographers.

It’s called focus stacking and automates the process of combining multiple images and gaining maximum depth of field. If you've not seen focus stacking it in action, then you have to watch this video.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Experiments with lighting

At the bottom of this post are a couple of images from a quick test shoot I did with my daughter. It came about because I’m working on a couple of new DVD’s that require portraits. One is a live action DVD that will teach a bunch of lighting setups and tips. The other is a Lightroom 3 training DVD on working with portraits.

These shots were the result of me testing a simple two light setup and a new background donated to me from a retiring professional photographer and an all round decent chap called Frank Page.

As is often the case, I like to share my knowledge with anyone mad enough to stop and listen, so here is the lighting setup I used.

It’s a really simple set up that’s great for head shots when you need smooth skin tones and gentle lighting. The only this missing from the diagram is a fan which I used to add movement to her hair.

The background was illuminated with a honeycomb grid light and that gives a natural vignette to the image. The power of the lights was carefully controlled to give me a working aperture of f4 which blurred away the creases on the background cloth.

And finally here are the photos. The first image is "as shot", without any Photoshop tricks being applied (apart from the border).

And this one is the same setup again but with the Vibrence turned way down in Adobe Camera RAW, which added to the slightly sad, far away look in her eyes.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Casement Collection

My good friend and fellow Photoshop expert Jack Casement ARPS, has recently finished updating his website. You can find it at

Jack is an incredibly creative photographer and an expert not only in Photoshop but in many other digital imaging fields. His work with Poser and Bryce is particularly interesting if surreal images are your thing.

For those of you who enjoy a bit of Photoshop learning and I count myself in that group, then Jack is planning to write a regular Photoshop tutorial. His first on a simple out of bounds trick can be found by clicking here.

Friday, 2 April 2010

This way for answers

Sorry, there’s no video this week. Two factors have conspired against me. First I’ve been very busy, which is fantastic for me but not good for your video. Second, I had planned to get out and shoot a couple of photography Quick Shots, but the weather has been wet and windy most of the week.

So this is a good chance to answer some more of your Quick Shot questions which I can’t quite make into a video.

Name:: shery
Question:: How one could create zoomin or zoomout effect in phttoshop
Answer: Copy the layer and apply Radial Blur. Then mask (or erase) away the centre. This video from the achieves should help.

Name:: Mattias M***
Question:: Here is a question from Sweden:
I often end up in photography situations where the light is mixed from different sources. For example, both day light and fluorescent light in the same picture. That gives me problem with white balancing. Any ideas on how to fix that?
Answer: The simple answer is shot in RAW and adjust the white balance back at base. When looking at the final image get the white balance right for the main subject even if that means getting wrong on something else.

Name:: Wilson
Question:: Can you make more 15minits photo challenge?
Answer: Yes, as soon as it stop raining!

Name:: Mahmud
Question:: How some wild photographs are taken where the sun looks so much bigger but subject in front it seems to be in usual shape?
Answer: Assuming it wasn’t done in Photoshop the technique is to use a really long telephoto lens and carefully arrange the subject to be in front of it.

Name:: Steve J***
Question:: Hi Gavin,
I would like to make a clock face with just the 4 numerals on it 12,3,6,9 on a 210mm diameter circle that I can then move around on any picture to form the clock face.
I would also like to mark the centre to pierce later.I can do it as a one off but not so that it is repeatable.
Answer: If you already know how to do it, make it into an ACTION in Photoshop. That way whenever you feel the need to make a new clock face you can just play the action and it’s done!

Name:: Timmy
Question:: Hi sir good day! Could you make a tutorial about slices. Thanks in advance
Answer: I’m not planning one, but here’s a handy tip for anyone who accidently turns on slices and gets that annoying number in the top left corner of every image. Go to View – Show and untick Slices.

Name:: david d***
Question:: hi gavin could you plz help me a i trying to take photo of the full moon what would be the best setting on my nikon d50 70mm 300mm all the best
Answer: Go somewhere really dark (away from city lights). Next get your camera on a decent Tripod. I would use ISO 100, Aperture Priority mode set to f8. Take a test shot and review. Adjust the exposure compensation as required. Use a cable release or self timer to trigger the shutter.

Name:: Mark H***
Question:: Gavin, Aside from the additional cost, am I better off with proshow producer than proshow gold. I'm doing advanced intermeadiate level stuff, but will not be using it for business purposes.
Answer: Proshow Producer is the best. It’s got some advanced features which you can learn and grow with. More over, it allows you to customise the loading screen with your business details and graphics for a more professional look.