Picture Imperfect

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New Year’s Eve day (is that an oxymoron or a paradox? or neither?) I had  a few errands to run, and while I was out I popped into the local Pier 1 that is in the strip center where I was picking up some other things. They had a 50% off sale for Christmas items, and since over the years I’ve used a lot of stuff from the store in my photographs, I always stop in there when I’m nearby (while I share some photos and talk about this shoot, I’ll also work in a few other random shots for older sessions that I’ve edited while on vacation – both the one above and the one at the end of this post).

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See that furry little bird there? It didn’t survive the shoot – or rather, the wrath of Simon.

I had a free day New Year’s Day, since Doug and I typically don’t do much and just hang around the house, so I got all gussied up and jumped right in. I’d purchased several wigs over the past few weeks that I wanted to try out, so between those and the props from Pier 1 I figured once I got my makeup on and set up the studio I’d be good to go:

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Unfortunately, the photography gods were not smiling on me this day – or rather, the prop gods weren’t on my side. Neither was the god of unruly pets; my biggest issue on this day was Simon, who would not stop messing with my things. Every time I turned around he was knocking something over, trying to eat something, or making off with an item I needed so he could bat it around and play with it in a corner. I always have to keep him locked out when I am taking photos because he’s too curious and rambunctious, but on this particular day Doug wasn’t home and I felt bad just locking all the pets out of my studio for that long (silly, I know, but there you go). Normally Doug is here, and he keeps the animals occupied while I lock myself up in my office and snap away, but on this day I kept the doors open so the pets could wander in if they got lonely. In the end, I had to lock Simon out though; him knocking over an entire bottle of Coke from which I was sipping onto my makeup counter and getting everything wet was the final straw (no pun intended, but I did have a straw in the bottle since I always use one when applying my stage makeup so my lipstick doesn’t get messed up, and Simon LOVES straws which is what tempted him to knock the bottle over). Unfortunately, as I ran around I kept forgetting what doors I’d left open, and through the entire shoot I was finding him in the most disruptive places – the costume closet, for example. At one point I left the door where I had all my wigs and props laid out open since I’d just gone running in there for one item, and he not only managed to sneak in and out with a little feathered bird ornament I planned to put on my head, he then left it on the floor in the den for Sprocket to chew to pieces. Grr.

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The bird that survived

Simon was not my only frustration this day; my props just wouldn’t work with me, either. I started out OK, but the more costume changes I tried the more frustrated I got with how  nothing was working as easily as I’d hoped it would; clips fell off of ornaments I’d planned to pin to my wigs, this adorable little crown ornament would NOT stay pinned to my head no matter how hard I tried, a few really cool ornaments I wanted to wear as earrings didn’t have any way for me to attach them to my wig (I usually can use the string that hold the ornament on the tree to bobby-pin them to my hairpiece), and then there was the aforementioned cat-stealing and dog-chewing. About halfway through the shoot, I just said to hell with it and abandoned the props entirely, choosing to spend the rest of my time simply putting on the new wigs and flinging them about in the photos, which is probably what I really wanted to do all along anyway.

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The rare cooperative prop

Not only was all that a royal pain, but my camera was being finicky. It wouldn’t focus properly a lot of the time – a problem I also had when I went with my father to photograph airplanes right before the holidays – and I’m starting to think this 7D is in need of replacing. It’s not such a bad deal, since I knew I eventually wanted to upgraded 7D anyway, but it is a lot of money to spend for a new camera body so I was not wanting to make the purchase any sooner than I had to. The time may be coming, though.

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Even as I was viewing the results of this shoot on my LCD screen, I was pretty frustrated with what I was seeing. Throughout the shoot I felt that I wasn’t getting many really good shots, and for most of the time I was feeling irritated and discouraged. So imagine my surprise when I went to load the images onto my computer and discovered I’d taken close to 700 photos. I haven’t taken that many in one session in a long time; I’m sure the number of new wigs had a lot to do with it, but for whatever reason it happened, I ended up with a TON of really great shots to process. Don’t I always say that? Anyway, it’s true; once I could see the images on a full-size screen I was pleased to find so many I liked. And I made many costume changes, too, which I haven’t done in awhile, and which will make it more interesting for me to work with lots of shots from the shoot since there are many different looks to choose from.

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This was my second attempt at erasing my real eyebrows and drawing on fake ones that are much higher on the forehead – I think I did better this time but i still had to do a lot of smoothing in PS

I’ve been using my Portraiture plug-in religiously to smooth out my skin and even the tone, but I haven’t much gotten into the Retrographer with these photos since they came out nicely without all the extra processing. I’m sure I’ll play around with it more later, once I start to get bored with editing the photos straightforwardly and want to start messing around a bit. I’m still loving  both programs though; hours of fun playing around in Photoshop with them both.

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Ugh, I hate this. Didn’t come out at all like I envisioned, but I worked hard on it so I’m sharing it anyway.

More to come as always; school starts again on Tuesday and we have to report for a staff development on Monday, so one more day of relaxation and then it’s back to the grind. Hope your new year was festive and your 2016 shines bright! Let’s get to it.

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Self-Possessed

Still working through the portraits from Valentine’s Day, so here’s more to share.

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This expression is still a favorite

I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve been asked a few random times for prints of my photos, and for the most part I just blow people off about it because I don’t know how to do it. Although I should know all this stuff by now, it involves planning and thinking and numbers and math, so I’ve never bothered to figure it out. Well, I did that one time a rep for that florist’s magazine emailed me and offered me three hundred bucks for one of my pictures, but then I promptly forgot what I did. Anyway.

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I don’t like this one; I completely started over on it three times but am still un-thrilled with the results

A friend of mine runs a little small-town art gallery in our area, and she asked me today if I’d like to hang some of my photos there – she’s also mentioned the possibility of a show. This finally prompted me to try and figure out just what I’d need to do to get my photos print-ready, and while I still don’t totally get it, I know that almost all I’ve done so far can only be printed rather small. The problem is that I have so many photos (well over 4,000 by now) that I never keep the edited TIF files once I’ve converted a photo into JPEG to save space on my hard drive, so I can’t go back and correct some of the formatting errors without compromising quality (I do keep all the original TIF files, but it would involve me re-editing them to use them, which I may end up doing). I only did so much research before getting bored and dropping it, so I’ll keep checking into it and see what I can come up with. I really thought because I keep my files as huge as possible that was all that mattered, but once again it turns out I am clueless. Moving on.

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I’m still getting mileage out of the shoot, primarily the shots with the vintage plaid dress since it moved nicely and created interesting images; I’ve had some mis-steps along the way but have still stumbled across a few winners here and there, like the one above. So far, that one has generated the most positive response; I think it’s all that color.

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I don’t normally smile when I pose since in general, I don’t think my smile is all that great. I always try, but usually it looks stilted and false. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve spent hours practicing my photo-smile but for the most part, it still reads false (this usually happens in non-studio photos too, when just hanging with friends or whatever). I swear I’m not being down on myself when I say this – I’m speaking from a photographer’s perspective and not from some negative perception of myself – but in general, smiling is not my best pose; it just isn’t. But this one actually worked; probably because it’s more shouting than smiling, but whatever.

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This one was blurry but I wanted to try because I liked the idea; the end result is MEH

I’ve noticed that as I moved into the second costume of the set, the lighting I created for the curly red wig shots became too bright; I don’t know if it was the change in costume that create more flash bounce or if I just inadvertently moved in closer to the camera where the external flash was mounted; but my facial features were pretty blasted out in this part of the set for the most part, creating a flat appearance. I really should start hooking up my camera to my computer while shooting so I can catch things like this before it’s too late; the LCD screen really doesn’t work that well to reveal such things. I had to work pretty hard to tone my over-bright skin and bring back some of the definition to my face; I was only so successful at this and had to settle for merely OK facial features in most of these.

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Used several Topaz filters here to mess with the color – can you tell I’m starting to get bored?

Not sure how many more of these I’ll work with, but since I haven’t had time for a new shoot, and probably won’t for a few weeks more until Spring Break comes around, be prepared for more of these or nothing at all. And who knows, maybe I’ll be able to print some photos and hang them in a gallery soon. It was a passing comment on Facebook, so we’ll see if she really even meant it, but still, it was nice to be asked.