Auction for Charity + Kaleidoscope savings!

Hi Friends,

Well, we have found our way (temporarily) to Lynchburg, Virginia while Irene cuts her way through our area.  My most sincere prayers & best wishes are going out to everyone who chose to stay behind.  Choosing to leave is a hard, hard decision, and I totally get why people decide to stay.  We have family in Newport News, Portsmouth & Virginia Beach, all of whom chose to stay, plus dozens of friends throughout the area.

In the meantime, I wanted to let you all know about an AMAZING opportunity to score some Kaleidoscope coin for a really, really low price.  Jen Cooke Photography is sponsoring an awesome auction to support those affected by the famine in Somalia, and all proceeds will go to benefit those who are in need.  There are some amazing, amazing auction prizes….camera bags, mentoring sessions, all sorts of digital darlings from some awesome designers, and a $200 Kaleidoscope gift card!  I think the last bid was around $50 (which would equal 75% off) so go and get your bid on and give to a great cause!


Black & Whites.

Hello friends,

Well, first of all, I have to say a huge thank you to absolutely everyone who sent kind thoughts, emails, comments, or prayers regarding my bout with Lyme disease.  You have no idea how much your kind words meant to me and  I am SO happy to report that I am 100% cured!  I have absolutely no residual side effects and all of the neurological issues have gone away.  Completely.  Unfortunately, I’ve been crazy busy this week prepping for Hurricane Irene’s arrival….and as things stand right now, we have no idea if we are going to evacuate or not.  We live in southern Yorktown, Virginia in the “Hampton Roads” region, near Norfolk/Virginia Beach/etc. so needless to say, things are starting to get a little interesting around here….

In the calm before the storm, I thought I’d share a quick little collection of black & whites that are near & dear to me.  My first photography love has always been a good black & white.  In fact, the majority of the images I have in my house are all black & whites….with a few colorful family shots here & there.  I absolutely love black & white photography….it is classic, cool, moody & a little mysterious all at the same time.  When my son was born, I decided to create a collection of black & white images of him to put in a book some day as a gift when he departs the nest.   That will be a while, I know, but I’m hoping to have some shots he’ll want to keep forever.  Below are a handful of my favorites, along with tips for capturing dramatic B&W’s, and how I like to process them after-capture.

1. The two of us when I was learning photography.  Still learning.  This image  has some exposure issues, but I love it anyhow.  It’s a reflection, and the blown out/under-exposed parts actually add a lot to it overall.  Love it.

2.)  This was a sweet one.  A few Christmases ago, he wanted to set up this nativity scene with an old box, and I let him.  I used either my 24-70 or my 16-35 on this one, can’t remember, but again, I love it.  I did my “under-expose” trick that I’ll describe later because I knew it would be converted to black & white.

3.)  Another one I love.  Used the “under-expose” trick below, because I knew this was going to be black & white too.  Absolutely love how the reflection from the table lights up the silhouette of his face just a tad.

4.)  This was one of those “throw it into AV and see what you get” series of shots.  Although there are some definite exposure issues, again, I can’t tell you how much I love this series of images.  It’s also one of the sets that people always comment on when they visit our home.  Printed, it’s not quite as contrasty looking.   I love it – especially because it is of my two favorite people in the world.

6.)  This is my honey waiting for his carpool ride to pick him up for preschool.  It was raining that day.  He was prepared.

7.)  Another all time fave.  Had this one professionally framed.  He’s just standing in some windows.  I post processed using the below methods described, and adding a little lens blur.

Okay, here are my tips for how I shoot black & white…these are not standard photography guidelines – just the way I like to do it.

I like backlighting and silhouettes – in fact, I totally love them.  In order to get the look seen in pics 3, 6 and 8 above, I typically meter for my subject (in these cases, it was the back or side of my son’s head) then actually under-expose the subject only by just a tad (I’m usually photographing what you may think of as “grey space” at this point – in other words, my in-camera readings are right at “0”) while opening up my F-stop as much as possible without completely blowing out the image.   I’m also using the lowest ISO possible at this point to avoid too much graininess.  A little grain is no biggie, but too much will totally kill the mood of your black & white.

Did that make sense?  If not, go back and read it again and/or post questions in the comments section below.  I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

Alrighty, now on to the post-processing part.  I hate to disappoint you all ( I’ve gotten so many requests for post-processing black & whites) but my photoshopping method – 90% of the time – consists of a very, very basic Gradient Map conversion, then mild tweaking of brightness/contrast & selective coloring.  On occasion I’ll go hog-wild and play with levels a bit, but that’s typically just in the event that an image doesn’t have enough contrast to begin with.

This is my basic formula:  I add a gradient map via the adjustment layers icon in the layers palette, then I convert it to black and white.  If you have no idea what that means, these handy screenshots should help.  They are in Photoshop CS5.

See how that works?  Easy Peasy.  Now, here is the basic tweaking that I do.

1.)  Make a copy, then lower the brightness just a tad and increase the contrast just a tad on the copy.  If you don’t know where to find your brightness/contrast just go to Image/Adjustments/Brightness Contrast.  I typically lower the brightness to anywhere from a -3 to a -7 and increase the contrast just a little itty bitty bit (maybe to a +2 or +3 or so) and then that’s it.

2.)  I am fussy about skin tones (which btw, all skin smoothing, wrinkle removal, etc. should be done before you convert to B&W, not after….it’s just easier that way) so I will typically use my eraser on the layer I just performed the brightness/contrast adjustments on, and remove the brightness/contrast from the skin – face, hands, etc.  If you need to go back & burn your shadows just a tad over the eyes you can.

3.) If I’m really in a perfectionista type of mood, I’ll whiten the skin a tad by going to Image/Adjustments/Selective Color & then I will select the blacks, only from the pull down menu.  I’ll bump those up just a tad – maybe to a plus one.  (I’m doing this on a layer so I can erase/remove the effect over skin if needed) and then (In another layer) I’ll do the same thing, only select the neutrals instead of the blacks, and remove the blacks from them just a bit.  Then I’ll do a reverse layer mask on that layer, and paint it back in just a tad over the skin….this will suck the grey out of your skin, and give you really bright, white skin without blowing out your highlights in the rest of your image.

4.) I pop my eyes just a tad by using the methods described here, and then I run my Multiply Action to darken all around the edges.  I think you can see the difference just in the images below.  The first is a basic BW conversion (using the Gradient Map method outlined above) and the second is with my tweaks added.

Alright friends, well – that concludes today’s post.  Keep all of us “East-Coasters” in your thoughts and prayers as we make the best decisions we can regarding evacuation, supplies, etc. during the coming days.   I have no idea what the next 72 hours holds for our family, so if I don’t return emails right away, you’re going to have to give me a break.  As always, I’ll return your emails as soon as possible.  In the meantime, feel free to leave comments or questions here.  There is a good possibility I’ll be spending a lot of time in a hotel room this weekend – a bit further inland –  with (hopefully!) an internet connection and no Irene.  I’ll need something to do.

Until next time…XOXO – PB

June 26, 2012 - 2:06 pm

Charlene - I live in Georgia and the rain is flooding us out—-could use a little sunshine.

September 20, 2011 - 8:16 pm

Tara Mcrae - I am sooooo glad I found your page whilst surfing the net (when I should be doing work :}) I look forward to having time to pop back in & try out some of your tips. Thanks for sharing!!

September 17, 2011 - 6:35 am

Toni - Thanks for all you do, Patti…glad you’re feeling better!

September 4, 2011 - 3:03 am

Donna Reid - Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and generosity and that Irene didn’t leave too much damage behind.

August 27, 2011 - 1:35 pm

Patti - Melissa, you stay safe too! Thanks to everyone for the kind words – we are perfectly safe in a cozy hotel. Just praying our friends & family don’t experience too many difficulties.

August 26, 2011 - 1:57 pm

Sue Beatty - It’s great to hear of your recovery – thank You God. Thanks for another great tutorial too.

August 26, 2011 - 10:46 am

Patti A - So glad to hear of your recovery!
Love these B & W’s. This is something i haven’t played with much so I will be giving it a try.

August 26, 2011 - 6:57 am

melissa - Thank you so much….I love seeing how others work their magic!!!
You were in my thoughts and prayers for a quick & full recovery, so happy to hear that you are 100% better.
Stay safe w/Irene…I didnt know you were so close to me…Im here in Virginia Beach/Chesapeake area.
Thank you again for the great post & tips…I still use your overlays, love em!

August 25, 2011 - 7:16 pm

Inspired by christy - Thank you for the detailed info here on your processing! And although I’m a bit delayed, I’m so glad to hear you’re recovering! What an incredible ordeal you’ve gone thru but I love how you referred to God’s timing thruout your struggles.

August 25, 2011 - 6:35 pm

Lisa - All of these are absolutely stunning. #1 & 7 – Oh. My. Goodness. Awesomeness.

#4….. I cried.

Thank you so much, Patti, for including the screen shots because I had no idea what you were talking about.

Sorry I’ve been MIA in comments but I haven’t missed reading a post. 🙂 Hoping you get rain and no damage. Wishing you could send some rain down here to Georgia. We’re drier than a bone here. Even my weeds are dying. 🙁

Mega Kaleidoscope Discount through Clickin’ Moms!

Hey gang,

If you follow my Facebook page, you’ve already received a “heads up” about this, but wanted to let you all know  that if you receive the CM Post, the newsletter available through Clickin’ Moms, todays issue has a 50% off Flash deal for ALL Kaleidoscope products!  Here’s the catch:  it’s ONLY available to the first 300 customers, and expires at midnight tonight!  I will not honor price adjustments on this, since it’s exclusivlely through Clickin’ Moms, and  limited to the first 300 responders only.  Also, I will not give the code out here…you have to get your hands on a cyber-copy of the CM Post!  So, if you don’t get it, beg, borrow or steal a copy from a photog friend who does!  And make sure to get on their mailing list.  The flash deals are truly amazing.  For future advanced notice and exclusive discounts, make sure you “like” me on Facebook.

Enjoy! – PB

July 25, 2011 - 8:04 pm

Ginger - HI Patti!! Thanks for the amazing offering! I just ordered the Light Play and Light Set and I can’t wait to start working with them! 🙂

July 25, 2011 - 4:10 pm

Jo Lien - Thanks Patti for all the free goodies!

July 25, 2011 - 2:48 pm

Debbie - I’m freaking out that my iPhone won’t let me access your product site!! 🙁

Mr. Magic & “Happy Snaps.”

Mr. Magic is my 4 year old son.  He has super powers.  He’s able to get me to do things that nobody else can, many of which are far, far beyond reason.  The child owns me, and although I know I should be putting snapshots of him up every week, like so many other photographers do, I keep him to myself most weeks….and let’s just say I have my reasons.

However, I’m in a sharing type of mood, so here he is on the 4th.  With his bubbles.  I took some “Happy Snaps” – a concept that was originally introduced to me by Nichole Van in a workshop of hers I attended a couple of years ago.  Nichole’s workshops are amazing, and she’s an awesome photographer, so I was really intrigued when she brought up “Happy Snaps.”  Here’s what they are:  Happy’s are the snaps you take of your kids, friends, family, etc. when you’re just enjoying every day life.  You can take them with the most expensive camera you own, or your iphone – doesn’t matter.  They are fun, happy, easy….and I personally think that as photographers we should take more of them.  These were shot with an older camera on a recent family vacation.  Sometimes a photo doesn’t have to be composed for hours, edited into art, and printed on the finest paper available.  Sometimes, you just want to capture an awesome scene – like this one – of a 4 year old Magician enjoying his bubbles.

The only “editing” I did to these were very minor Lightroom adjustments, and that’s it.  I think it took 5 minutes to “edit” the entire batch (there are about 50 more not shown) and I love them.  I have learned how to light a photograph fairly well in natural light, so that helped, but the point is – they aren’t perfect.  However, they make my heart flutter and I’m so, so happy to have them.

So, this summer, give yourself permission to relax a bit and snap a few happy’s.  You can even (gasp!) feel free to post imperfect, minimally edited  images on your blog if you’d like.   It’s summer.  It’s happy time.  We’ll save the more serious stuff for next season, okay?

For those of you who love details, I popped the brightness and warmth a tad in Lightroom.  Then I just sharpened them & resized them for this blog.  We were in Minneapolis visiting extended family, and the grass was really that green.  Gorgeous gorgeous city.  I didn’t run Portraiture or any of my other usual tricks – these are 99% SOOC.  Ahhh….happiness.

Enjoy – PB

July 18, 2011 - 5:39 am

Patti - Sheila – had I known I would have loved to have gotten together! We were in the Northern Suburbs most of the time, but I would have squeezed in a quick coffee at least. Hope you are good and all is well in your life! Hugs, PB

July 18, 2011 - 5:38 am

Patti - Thank you, Sue! These are truly the best days. – PB

July 18, 2011 - 5:38 am

Patti - Hey Paula, so good to hear from you! Please do get stationed out here if you can…we’d love to see you all! Love & miss you – PB

July 16, 2011 - 1:39 pm

Paula Reynolds - What a handsome, and SO big, young man! Where has the time gone? I love your photos. I don’t know photography slang very well so forgive me choice of words, but I really like the one that has Magic Man blurred in the background, with the bubble in focus. Bokeh, or something?

July 15, 2011 - 7:38 am

Sue Beatty - Lovely pictures – you enjoy your holiday and your time with family. Thank you for sharing.

July 15, 2011 - 7:36 am

Sheila - Adorable! We were in Minneapolis on the Fourth too. In fact, I’m still here! It would’ve been fun to see you, but I imagine you were as busy as we have been here. 🙂