Tiffen’s Dfx 3.0 offers photographers software that can make their images stand out from the crowd. The bundle is a digital emulation of 2000 of the company’s glass filters that for convenience uses the same names of the company’s Soft/FX or Pro-Mist filters, so those who’ve shot with their filters in the past know exactly what to expect when applying their digital equivalents. For those who haven’t, rest assured that the company who made their name in filters knows their stuff. As a bonus, the software also includes effects created by lenses, lab processes, film grain, color correction, plus natural light effects.
I must confess that previous versions of Tiffen’s Dfx Digital Filter Suite, while interesting, did not make the final cut of power tools in my personal digital toolbox. All that’s changed in 3.0. It takes all of the good stuff from the previous versions, blends in new options, and wraps it around an interface that, while still containing a few less-than-elegant elements, retains its individuality and provides for smooth workflow.
One of the guiding philosophies for my personal work is to “have fun with photography” and that involves using image manipulation software to create either an idealized version, as in a portrait of a subject, or an interpretation of a previously captured photograph. Retouching portraits goes back to the hand-tinting Mathew Brady added to daguerreotypes delivered to his customers but in more recent times photojournalists have been fired from newspapers for applying a bit too much Photoshop on their images. The whole question of what is “too much” is fraught with contradictions: since we see the world in color, is a black-and-white photograph manipulated? Is burning and dodging or changing an image’s contrast a manipulation? Trying to find answers that everyone will agree on is enough to make you crazy so I don’t let it bother me because all I want to do is have fun with my photography. If you agree, here are some useful tools to help you do just that.
National Photography Month started in 1984 as the week-long American Photography Celebration but now runs the entire month. May was also the home of “Take Your Camera to Work Day” that was funded out of my own pocket but faded after a few years because of the cost of creating a user-friendly site. If anybody’s interested in helping relaunch the website I could restart it next year, depending on whether the Mayans were wrong or not. May is also my birthday month and I’d like to thank all of Shutterbug’s readers for their support over the years.
A monolight is a self-contained studio flash that consists of a power supply, flash head, and modeling light wrapped up inside a single housing. Monolights are typically powered by AC current but there are times on location when an electrical outlet may not be so conveniently located and long extension cords can create safety hazards, even when securely fastened down. I’ve had people trip over taped cords and believe me, it can ruin your day. That’s why a new breed of monolights, such as Adorama’s Flashpoint II monolights, offer a DC option with a battery pack when you might be out standing in a field or, at one time during my tests, in a big parking lot. A switch lets you choose between AC or DC power provided by a dedicated Ni-MH battery pack that measures 7x7x3” and weighs 2.65 lbs.
Tumblr (www.tumblr.com) is a free microblogging platform that lets you post text, images, videos, quotes, and audio using a short-form blog called a tumblelog. Using free or modestly priced templates, it’s the easiest kinds of photoblog to produce and you can literally have a blog up and running within minutes. With 6.8 million weekly visits the site ranks as the 10th largest social network so it’s a good way to keep clients and friends up-to-date about the kinds of photographs you’re making. You can see my own attempt at http://joefarace.tumblr.com. Give Tumblr a try and send me a link to your blog because I plan to have an all-Tumblr Web Profiles in the near future.
“Lighting is really common sense and personal observation. This is applied to a few rules of photography which cannot be broken and to others which I tend to bend a little.”—Paul Beeson
A monolight or monobloc to our European friends is a self-contained studio flash that is typically, but not always, powered by an AC power source and allows for different light modification devices, including reflectors, light banks, or umbrellas. The key phrase in that last sentence is self-contained. To my way of thinking the biggest advantage monolights possess is just that—if you’re shooting on location or for that matter anywhere and the power pack in a pack and head system stops working, so do you. If you have a couple of monolights and one of them fails, you can still shoot.
During a portrait session and perhaps to a lesser extent when shooting a wedding, you can control the lighting, background, and subject. During a portrait session, I try to manage everything from the subject’s pose, clothing, and makeup and the resulting photographs tend to be as much a portrait of me as they are of my subject. What often emerges from that control is a style, which is not something I’m conscious about when photographing, but the truth is that over time we all develop a signature way of shooting. The danger is that we keep shooting that same way or different versions of the same shot for the rest of our lives. Any style you develop must grow and change as you learn. Otherwise, what’s the point? As we continue to shoot and learn from experience, and reading magazines like Shutterbug, we start to tweak and improve those results until what emerges is truly a personal style.
Maybe it was the 17th Earl of Oxford (www.shakespeare-oxford.com) who really wrote the above line but it’s a nice thought nevertheless. The quote’s actual authorship was the concept proposed in the film Anonymous as well. (Look for a review of the film on my movie blog www.ihatepopcorn.com.) What’s for sure is that the creative endeavors of the four wedding photographers featured this month display work that transcends the genre, producing images of beauty, sensitivity, and love. And isn’t that what weddings are all about?
Color Efex Pro 4 is Nik Software’s (www.niksoftware.com) latest version of its digital photographic filter plug-ins for retouching and creative enhancements. It is Mac OS and Windows compatible and installs as a 32-bit and 64-bit plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS4 or later, Lightroom 2.6 or later, Photoshop Elements 8 or later, or Apple Aperture 2.1.4 or later. The installer searches for all of the hosts that are on your computer and if you already have Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture installed, as I do, it will install Color Efex Pro 4 for all of the host applications.
One of the biggest improvements in Color Efex Pro 4 is the ability to use Filter Combinations that let you stack multiple filters, adjust each one’s opacity, and make selective adjustments to get the desired look. Each filter contains single-click starting points, making it possible to explore different options. Shades of Emeril Lagasse, there are Filter Recipes that let you customize and share filter combinations with others. Bam! Reminiscent of HDR Efex Pro, the 10 recipes that are part of the package are a quick way to get started using Color Efex Pro 4 and more are available for download on Nik Software’s website.
In January I featured the work of Thomas Lee (www.thomasleephoto.com) in this column and while researching for this month, I came across the outstanding work of Ralph Lee. This coincidence got me to thinking: why not have an entire Web Profiles featuring photographers named “Lee,” a surname derived from Old English leah or meadow. The most interesting part of my search was discovering that these photographers are a diverse lot, stylistically and geographically, even though they all have the same surname. I’ve introduced them here in alphabetical order with Jeff Lee last as the custom for “Blog-of-the-Month.”