I’ve enrolled in the Beauty Retouching class with the Australian Centre of Photography here in Sydney. I started using Adobe Photoshop about 15 years ago, and although my retouching skills are decent, they have definitely been in need of a refresher for quite some time.
Anyone who uses Photoshop on a regular basis can probably relate to falling into a personally refined pattern of methods used to enhance any image one might be retouching. It’s familiar and comforting. The ease and speed of using your overly practised methods makes you feel like a pro. A stagnant pro.
I haven’t learned many new Photoshop skills in the last several years and it was time for me to jump start my learning once again. For anyone who has never really explored using Photoshop, it is a truly brilliant program. It never ceases to amaze me how extraordinarily powerful that one program can be. In the right hands that is.
So far I’ve attended two of the five classes of this coarse. My mind has been sufficiently blown multiple times. I don’t know if that was due to my Photoshop ignorance or if my years of previous knowledge helped me really appreciate just how amazing some of these new techniques are. I have spent countless hours struggling with smoothing out skin tones and blemishes while keeping textures intact. I have a high admiration for flawless gradations from highlights to shadows. Don’t get me started on cleaning up wrinkles in clothing.
My instructor made those problems look like child’s play.
Basically we learned a technique called Frequency Separation where it’s possible to separate the texture of a surface from the colours and tones of that same surface. What does that mean? It means I can now remove blemishes from skin with ease and without messing up the colours and tones. It also means that I can smooth out colours and tones without obliterating texture. It means awesomeness.
Below is a sample of my progress so far. The image on the left is the “before” and the image on the right is the “after”.
The technique is completely new to me so I have a lot of practising to do. It takes some mucking around in order to refine my brush strokes and settings. But I’ve lucky to have lots of material to practice on. I’m really excited to use these new techniques for the new portfolio I’ll be adding to my website. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me so I better get cracking.
This is my digital work space. Well, part of it. The light table spreads out quite a bit. There are heaps of photos scattered all over this screen.
I’m using a program called Aperture to lay out my images so I can sort them into my next portfolio section on my newly launched website. Several weeks ago I had to halt this process in order to focus on finishing the new site. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the pursuit of the perfect portfolio is never ending so I had to draw the line somewhere or I’d have never published the new site.
Years ago, I used to make small 4×6 prints of my work and spread those out on a large table. It really helps the thought process to be able to move photos around each other and sort them into different groups when you can see them all at once. It’s how I can get a better feel for the body of my work. I’ve since moved this process into Aperture so I don’t have to waste all that money on ink and paper. The bonus is that I can easily make duplicates of images if they need to belong to several groupings, or make quick variations with cropping or orientation. Better still, I don’t have to clean up my mess once dinner time rolls around.
Using Aperture is not as nicely tactile as the prints method, but it works well for me.
There’s always a really fun aspect to portfolio building. It’s essentially walking down memory lane. So many photo shoots with some really talented, creative people. Going back to shoots done months ago can also bring fresh eyes to the final results. I’m sometimes rather surprised at how pairing one image with another image from a completely different shoot can breathe new life into both. Take a look at the example below:
Both of these photos were taken in the last few months, but for different clients. Black & white styling using geometric shapes has been really trendy lately so I’ve done a number of shoots with those themes. With a few tweaks to the saturation levels and colour tones, these two images really compliment each other when paired together. Making time to rework and play around with my images is just another element in exploring my creative style as a shooter.
The combinations, directions, alternatives are all endless. And every time I do a new shoot, I’m adding more photos to the mix. Hence, the process that never ends.
Summer is fast approaching this year. The recent 30 plus days have been a foreboding glimpse into what could be the hottest summer I’ve had to survive here in Australia. I’m a born and bred Canadian. I may love the sunny skies and endless beaches, but my ability to function drastically slows in those searing 35 plus days. We pray to the air-conditioning gods that the air-con units will be installed in the studio before one of those days occurs.
In the last few weeks we’ve been churning out the summer season shoots. Swim suits, short dresses, and sun glasses galore. Check out the behind the scenes shots of our Icon Sunnies photo shoot. I know the models make it look easy, lying around smiling for the camera, but that’s why they’re pros. Poor Felix had a fresh sun burn on his back and that turf is in no way soft and comfortable. More like scratchy and prickly. Like needles. Every time I asked our models to shift left or right, I was met with a few silent faces of anguish accompanying every move. But in the end our clients were really happy with the results. Thanks for your great work guys!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of collaborating on a pin-up calendar project with Seattle based artist, Chad “Blacky” Shepherd for Blacky’s Beauties 2014 Pin-Up Calendar. The idea was to create a fun, Vargas-style pin-up calendar with a modern Cosplay/punk rock twist.
Blacky brought together a cast of strong, intelligent, real women to be photographed and then re-drawn in the old pin-up girl method of the 40s. Most of the models were shot in the USA, but I was tasked with photographing Ms. January here in Sydney. We had a lot of fun researching the poses, styling, and history of pin-up girls. The before and afters that compared the photos to the finished illustrations were quite interesting, and sometimes really funny. There is definitely a theatrical element to this genre and there was plenty of giggling on set. Here’s our before and after comparison:
Be sure to buy a Blacky’s Beauties 2014 Pin-Up Calendar before they all sell out. Original sketches and prints are also available, and just in time for Christmas!
I was that geeky camera chick who spent her high school lunch breaks in the darkroom. I still miss the smell of those stinky developer chemicals. Sort of.
Born in Canada, I graduated with top honours in Applied Photography at Sheridan College before spending several years assisting and producing for some of the best commercial shooters in Toronto. After gathering a wealth of valuable skills and getting my first DSLR, I bought a plane ticket to Asia.
It was my first backpacking adventure, but I managed to survive nine months from Seoul to Singapore with only some shoddy mandarin and a lot of luck. I had the time of my life. So I did it again. Seven months of zig-zagging around India and Nepal taught me ingenuity with limited resources, clarity when surrounded in chaos, and how to eat with just my right hand.
Sydney became my new home in 2008, and I’ve been enjoying the sunny weather and great coffee ever since.
Today, I’m a fashion and product photographer extraordinaire. Based at Studio 8 in the northern beaches of Sydney, I relish the challenge and precision of studio lighting. My clients are drawn to my clean, stripped back approach to every project. My simplistic yet direct style is refreshing and elegant in a market full of heavily Photoshopped images.
When I’m not in the studio you can find me hand folding dumplings or scaling walls at the rock climbing gym. I’m also really good at winning board games (or my friends are just really good at losing).
Finalist – Shoot The Chef 2013
Top 5 – Australia’s Emerging Travel Photographers of 2010 – Capture Magazine
Winner – Best Marketing Imagery Award 2010 – New Mardi Gras
Semi-finalist – Shutterbug Awards 2010 – Shutterbug
Short-listed – Travel Photographer of the Year 2009 – TPOTY
Finalist – Cultural Explorers 2009 – STA Travel
Winner – World in Focus 2007 – Photo District News
Top Emerging Photographers of 2007 – Photo Life Magazine
4/25 Ashburner Street
Manly NSW 2095
Phone: (+61) 0422 907 396