Feb 26, 2009

The ‘Ultimate Workshop’ book shoot


This is a story about how Jeff Schewe and Martin Evening got together in Chicago last year to shoot a set of pictures especially for our new joint book ‘Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop‘.

The title is kind of self-explanatory. This is a brand new book in the Photoshop for Photographers series (published by Focal Press) and forms a masterclass type experience with two leading Photoshop experts. It’s a book aimed at intermediate to advanced-level users and assumes that the reader is already pretty familiar with the Photoshop interface and basic tools and there is therefore no need to have to explain the basics all over again plus color management etc. You can already find all that information in the main Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers book. This new title contains 400 pages of Photoshop techniques shown in step-by-step tutorial form.

We like to think that what will set this book apart from most other books is that we both have a lot of professional shooting experience int he studio and on location. Many of the photographs that are used in the tutorials were specially shot with the book in mind and we can sometimes go into more detail about the shooting techniques used with side panel images that also show the lighting setups. Over the next few months we’ll also be publishing a series of Movie tutorials from the DVD. These will feature techniques that are described in the book. So watch out for these coming soon on

Appropriately enough we began with an early morning shoot to photograph the Chicago city skyline at sunrise. We loaded up the car and headed off to a pier on the south side.


For Jeff,  a multi-shot Starbucks coffee is essential to get the day rolling (especially after getting up at the crack of dawn).



Here is a shot of me lining up a series of shots with a view to creating a single  Photomerge panorama of the cityscape view.


We were also joined by a keen photographer who was shooting the traditional way using a 5×4 plate camera with dead cow material to record his pictures.


That’s either a disapproving look or me trying to deal with brand new digital technology that doesn’t always behave itself either (especially when it’s early in the morning).


Here is one of the panorama shots that we ended up producing. We initially thought this might be a good picture to demonstrate the content aware scaling tool with, except the content aware scaling didn’t really suit working with a photo such as this (hey, it had only been available for us to play with for a few weeks at this point – we have to learn too).


Later during that week I made this panorama at night from more or less the same spot. Even this shot didn’t make it into the ‘Ultimate Workshop’ book, but at 10,000 x 4,000 pixels its a useful image to demo the fast GPU scrolling and panning in Photoshop CS4.


A little later that morning we headed into the center of Chicago, where I photographed this building tower that was nearing completion.


This was a useful image with which to demo how to use the Vanishing Point tool in Photoshop. Here is the end result image that appears in the book.


Time to move on to the next location. Boy, it soon get’s hot in July in Chicago.


Jeff thought it would be fun to get a high viewpoint capture of the building seen in the background, seen from the inside lane of the road that passes on the other side. Question was, who’d take the shots and who’d drive the car. Jeff did try to see if he would fit through the roof (I wish I had photos of him trying ME). So  it was down to me to capture the shot.


It really wasn’t such a wise idea in the end and yet again we had to accept that this particular idea wasn’t going to work. Well, at least we tried and you can’t expect every idea to yield results, but the day wasn’t over yet.


Later that day we returned to the center to take a series of photos of the Anish Kapoor sculpture in Millennium park, popularly known as ‘The Bean’ (you’ll see a similar giant sculpture outside the Rockerfeller Center in New York). Now, we did photograph this scene earlier in the morning when there were no people about, but we also wanted to show how you can do this the hard way when there are lots of tourists passing through a busy location like this.


Jeff and I set up a Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII camera on a tripod and between them shot more than 100 exposures over a period of an hour. img_6214

Here is the end result in which we blended the 100+ photos together using the Median Stack blending mode. Interestingly, we were spotted by a young Dutch photographer who was intrigued by our technique. We explained the basic steps and were quite amazed to be emailed a photo later where he had managed to achieve a pretty similar result from no more than a handful of hand-held exposures.


Millennium Park is a great location and we particularly wanted to get a shot of the Pritzker Pavillion. The shot below was used to later demo adding the Lens Flare filter.


And so, back to Jeff’s Studio in West Willow Street. One of the shots Jeff wanted to do was to photograph a complicated subject such as the electric fan shown here and use a silhouette exposure as a simple shortcut for making a mask. You’ll notice that we used a Phase One back for all the following studio shots with Capture One software running on a Mac laptop.


Jeff needed to light the background so that he could fire these lights only to capture the silhouette exposure.


This shows a shot taken without the background lights switched on.


And here is the final image in which Jeff shows how to use the mask created by the silhouette exposure to blend with a completely new backdrop image.


One thing we discovered early on is that medium format digital backs can get awfully dusty. Fortunately, Doug Sperling from ProGear was on hand to clean the sensor for us.


Another shot we wanted to create was one of a glass of water with droplets on it to give the impression that the water was really cold


Fake ice cubes were used in the glass and Jeff then sprayed the glass using a mixture of glycerine and water to add the water droplets.


There is quite an art to getting these to look right



Here is the finished result and in the book you’ll be able to read how to create a combination of a custom brush setting plus layer effect style to add realistic looking water drops to this picture.


Another shot we had on the list was to do a food shot which we would shoot using a normal stopped down exposure, but then show how to apply a selective focus effect to the image using the Lens Blur filter in Photoshop. Here is the lighting setup used.


And a closeup view of the table top setting before we added all the ingredients.


Becky (Jeff’s wife) and I did the shopping and I prepared the noodles and stir fry dish.

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Meanwhile, Jeff made some final adjustments to the lighting setup…


And Becky helped dress the set and apply the finishing touches.


Here is the final image that appears in the book, showing the shallow focus effect.


Jeff did some pretty unmentionable things to the food to get the steam effect you see in this shot. Basically it was inedible by the time he was done. Fortunately there was enough untouched ingredients left over for us to enjoy a well-deserved light lunch.


This next setup was designed so as to capture  a series of bracketed focus shots. Jeff carefully lit the diamond ring you can just about make out in front of the camera lens. Note how the body was positioned on a Sinar monorail mount so that focusing could be done by moving the whole camera backward or forward).


Originally we meant this to be used to demo the ability to Auto blend layers and acheieve maximum depth of field. Indeed that technique was applied successfully here, but in the end Martin used this shot to demo how to create a custom sparkle brush shape and add sparkle reflections to the image.ring-merged

Lastly, we come to the Wine pour shot. This one was Jeff’s baby, as Jeff really wanted to do a photo of wine being poured into a glass and create a composite of the best wine pour exposures. In the set shown here, Jeff had a wine bottle with the bottom removed clamped in position and with a suitable wine glass also clamped below.


The trick here was to use an infrared trigger setup to detect where the wine started to break the beam and then experiment with a few pours of water at first and adjust the time delay to trigger the flash at the correct point to capture the optimum wine splash in the glass. By also varying the delay setting it was possible to accurately capture a good range of wine pour steps from when the wine had just left the bottle to a late-stage pour.


After a few tests Jeff was ready to start shooting. Once real wine was used the wine glass had to be replaced and the dribbles dried off from the neck of the bottle.


Here is a snap taken of the laptop showing one of the individual wine pours that Jeff captured.


And here below is the final image that appears in the book. This is a composite photograph that is a blend of several of the best shots. The wine used in the photography wasn’t the expensive stuff. Jeff consulted with his photographer friend and wine connoisseur Greg Gorman to adjust the wine colour to make it look like a typical Pinot Noir.


That rounds up the story of how we both shot some of the photographs that will appear in the forthcoming Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop, 400 pages, published by Focal Press. The book is due to be released in March and should be on sale very soon in the US and later in other countries. We can say that with some confidence because the books have already been printed and were bound this Monday. You can also find out more about the book by visiting the Photoshop for Photographers website where you can preview more of the content that will be appearing in this book.

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