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Behind the scenes

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at Katie Smith Photography?  Probably not but I’m going to tell you anyways!

If you think my job is done when I leave the session, you’re saddly mistaking.  My work is just beginning!  It usually starts with me sitting at the computer with some chocolate and listening to the Breaking Benjamin station on I Heart Radio.

Getting down to business, I start uploading.  I take 200+ pictures during the session.  It takes a little while to transfer all the images.

Now it’s time to sort.  Unflattering expressions, out of focus, and any other images that don’t pass my strict guidelines get 1 star and are banished to the computer’s recycle bin.  I only want to show you the best.  Then I go back through and find my favorites.  I double check them at 100% (so close I can count your eyelashes!) for perfect focus.  If it passes, I give it five stars.  I’ll end up going back through those and cutting images that are too similar.  There’s a minimum of 20-25 images but I’ve been known to do 40 when I can’t bare to cut anymore pictures.

Next up is Lightroom editing.  This is mostly basic work.  Fixing the exposure so it’s not too dark or too light and fine tuning the white balance so you aren’t too blue, yellow, green, or magenta.  I try to get it pretty close in camera but stuff happens.  Clouds pass over.  Strange color casts come from walls.  I shoot RAW so I can fix these items with no damage to the digital file.

It’s finally time to export to Photoshop!  Once there, I do a little contrast.  While this example shows a flawless model, I do fix blemishes including but not limited to cleaning up runny noses, tucking in muffin tops, removing acne and scratches, smoothing fly away hairs, and softening skin.  If there’s a background object that I couldn’t move at the session, such as a car, trash can, or powerlines, I use the clone tool to make it disappear.  Then it’s time to darken and saturate the color on the background.  That’s going to give the image some depth and make it look rich.  Each file gets individual attention so it can go from “eh…” to “WOW!”

From start to finish, the process takes 5-7 hours depending on how extensive the editing is.  It’s all worth it in the end though when it goes from a good image to a professional portrait.

Have questions?  Feel free to ask using the contact page!

Lighting Experiment: Fort Hood Photographer

Yesterday while I was booking sessions for 8am and 6pm, I realized some folks don’t understand the method to my madness.  It’s not that I want to roll out of bed early on the weekends or that I want to keep your kids up late.  It’s that good photography is all about the light and the position of the sun can make or break a portrait.  To illustrate that point, I took my two favorite little guinea pigs out for an experiment… an experiment that cost me half a bag of chocolate and one batch of cookies.

8:30am and foggy-  Oh the soft, peaceful feeling of morning light.  You add a dose of fog and you get a serene portrait like this.   *sigh*

Full Sun, Noon-  Bold, contrasty but not very flattering for portraits.  See that bright spot on my oldest’s head or knees or my youngest’s hand.  We call those “hot spots” and they’re photography no-nos.  We also risk losing detail in the shadows, which doesn’t sound bad until you see blobs of black ink on your large portrait.  This was actually the first picture take yesterday.  A storm blew in that evening and knocked all those lovely little petals out of the tree.  It makes me sad but that’s just how it goes in the Spring.  This is also a lesson on clothing.  Individually, my kids are adorable and wearing portrait clothing.  Together, they just don’t go together due to the different tones (light and dark) and colors (pastel vs bold).  Tristan’s shorts cause his knees to battle for attention since the eye travels to the lightest object in the scene.

6:30 and cloudy-   This one is really interesting to me.  A storm was moving in from the west so the sky was dark where the sun was.  There was a tiny patch of white clouds to provide the soft directional lighting.  If it had not been for the bright patch, this would have been flat lit with little contrast between darks and lights.  You need that contrast to make the image pop. Between this and the Shoot & Mingle photos, I have found a love for “before the storm” light.

7:20-  Tonight’s image. We’re getting close to sunset and getting some yummy backlighting.  It’s warm.  It pops your subject from the background.  It’s just screams summer (and fun when your kids aren’t acting sour about the fifth shoot they’ve been dragged out for.).

7:30-  Ten minutes after the picture above, I took this one.  We get a little flare and haze from the sun setting behind the apartment in the background.  I usually can’t get images like this at client sessions.  I have to start early to make sure I get plenty of time but then the kids are done before the sun has gone down.  If parents can just hang on a little longer, even if it means taking a break and just hanging out for fifteen minutes, I could give pictures with softer backlighting with the golden sun bathing the family in light.

So what’s your opinion?  What time of day would you schedule your photo session?

And which image do you like best?  One of these will be on canvas and hanging in my new home this summer but that’s another post for another day.

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