How to Deliver Critique That Makes Photographers Better at Photography

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With the ease of the digital age and the internet, posting and sharing photos almost instantaneously, it is easy to critique photographs from other photographers. Proper constructive criticism can help a photographer grow and get stronger. When delivering or receiving critique know that many comments are opinions not facts.  When critiquing, be helpful and detailed, not rude and insulting. When reading the evaluation and feedback on your images, don’t get defensive.  Try to step away and take it as a learning experience.

So how do you offer critique that helps improve photographers without hurting their feelings?

Critique photographer who are asking for feedback.

Nothing is worse than posting a photo somewhere you think is fantastic and then another photographer swoops in and points out your imperfections when you did not ask for help.

When giving criticism and critique:

  • Make sure the person asked for critique/constructive criticism (often referred to as CC). If  you have something you want to tell them, and they did not ask, politely ask them if you can point some things out to help. Maybe they’ll say yes, and it will help them. Other times, they won’t want to know because they like it the way it is. It all depends on the person, but you should be the photographer who respects boundaries. Also remember every photographer is at a different stage and skill set.

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If someone says: “I love how this photo turned out, and I hope you guys do too!” This is not the time to point out that this person underexposed their image or the horizon is crooked. They aren’t asking.  They are just sharing.  Even if you are ready to pounce on it, they may not want your feedback – not matter how helpful.

If the poster wrote, “I’m not sure how to properly expose this image because of the harsh sun. Can someone please tell me how to make sure that in this poor lighting situation my images are exposed properly? I would also like to know how to lighten this up in PS.” There’s your cue – you can jump in and let them know the specs of a properly lightened image, how to achieve it in low light situations, and how to fix the current image in Photoshop. Look for cues such as the photographer asking for advice, CC, etc.

 

Follow the  “Rules of Conduct” by MCP. Click the NO MORE MEAN LOGO to read these:

Delivery: Be honest and helpful.

Make sure your feedback teaches the photographer something they can work on.  Also, focus on the positives and things that have room for improvement.

  • If your first thought is “I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but…” Then you probably need to rephrase the way you are talking to them. When you say a critique with an opinion that can be construed as negative, not only will the photographer not listen, but they could become defensive, or even feel you are wrong, even if you are right.
  • Make the critique helpful and educational. Don’t just point out what is wrong. Tell them how they can improve.
  • Highlight what you like about the image too.  Most images have something good about them, so make sure to mention those along with the areas for improvement.

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Don’t attack: “I don’t like the way you cropped this, it makes the whole photo look funny. It needs to be to the left.”

Instead explain, teach and encourage: “This may look better if it followed the rule of thirds. Perhaps if you cropped it to the left it would have more impact. In the future, try to encourage the mom to wear something that doesn’t have graphics on it as that is taking away from the baby.  And I agree, that smoochy baby is just precious. Keep it up and come back and show us as you work on these or your next session.”

 

Draft your responses.

If you are dealing with a heated discussion, or someone has started to hurt feelings, draft a critique response first.

  • Have a cup of tea or visit a funny website. Come back, and see how your response looks afterwards. You will have a clearer head and feel less emotional about it, and probably want to change your response.
  • Whether it comes to giving or receiving CC, try to put yourself in the position of the other person.

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When responding to rude feedback,  try not to get defensive like this. “You’re really just an arrogant, mean, egotistical person. I doubt when you started out your images were perfect! How about you get off your high horse and show us one of the first photographs you took?! Bet they wouldn’t be so perfect then, would they?!”

Instead, remain level headed and try something like this. “Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion; however, could we please keep this to constructive criticism only? I’m just starting out and could really use some help on how to improve my photos. I am sure you understand.”

 

Don’t take images and alter them without permission.

  • One of the biggest things we like to do, especially with the ease of software like MCP Actions, is to do a quick “fix” of other photographer’s photos. Unless the person has asked for it, don’t take their image and edit it. You may think you are trying to help the person, but your editing software may be something they don’t own, or they may not know how to follow your manual processing steps. If you feel you could help add to the image, let them know. Even when you say things like “I hope you don’t mind” or tell the person it’s something you like, that doesn’t always mean they are going to like that you edited their image without asking.

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Don’t edit without asking. ” I took your image and played some of my own favorite edits on it, hope you don’t mind. They are in Photoshop and from Action Sets X and Y.”

Instead ask “May I show you a quick edit of this photo?  I have an idea that would make your subject pop.”  Then make sure when you post the image to explain how you got to the end results.

 

Realize that you are not the master of photography.

This is one of the most important parts. We ALL could learn more about photography, even if we have been shooting for several decades. It is important not to let your ego get a hold of you and to remember that even the newest photographer can sometimes humble people. Take your time, and choose polite, nice and even loving words when critiquing. It’s okay to point out a flaw in a photo – as long as you do it in a helpful way, you will be doing the right thing.

Where to go for advice, feedback and critique on your images.

If you are thinking, “all of this is great but where can I get helpful critique?” Come join the MCP Facebook Group here.  The MCP Group is a large community of photographers who use MCP Products – the photographers love giving and receiving CC to grow their photography and editing skills using MCP products.  All levels of photographers all welcome to request an invite and join in the learning.

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Photo Studio Tour: Behind the Scenes Look at a Small Studio Space

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You know how sometimes, things just feel right?  That’s how I felt the first time I walked into the space that I now call my photo studio. It’s an old cottage building (situated among other cottage buildings for businesses in northwest Houston, TX) with a front and back porch and outside stairs to my second-floor space.  Sloped walls, reminiscent of an old barn, along with the cheerful pops of color from the furniture and pillows make clients squeal with delight upon entering the space.  Natural light pours in through the windows on both sides of the room, bathing the 600-square-foot space in gorgeous, soft light that is perfect for the way I prefer to shoot images.  Even on a cloudy or stormy day, there is ample light to shoot.

 

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Dreaming Big

Almost exactly a year ago, I caught the Sue Bryce bug and realized that despite about a million on-location, natural light photographers in business in the northwest Houston suburbs, no one in my area was specializing in contemporary, fashion-inspired portraiture for women. I kept wondering how I could better serve one of the most significant shopping demographics in the world (women fifty-plus) while at the same time generating additional revenue on a more consistent basis throughout the year. I knew I didn’t want to run a studio from my home (it’s against our deed restrictions anyway), so I began crunching the numbers and looking for a suitable space that would meet my shooting and budget requirements.  A few months later, armed with Sue’s CreativeLive workshops and a huge amount of faith, I took the leap and signed on the dotted line!

Below is one of my lovely 70-something clients.  In her pre-session consultation she told me, “I want to do this before I get too old!”  Funny that I have 40-year-olds tell me the same thing.  In the “after” shot, she was posed on the wall next to the window (main light source, which was camera-right) with a large white reflector camera left for fill.

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A Place of My Own

The studio is divided almost exactly in half by a staircase from the first floor (I only lease the second floor).  One side of the studio is dedicated to shooting, while the other side serves as the hair and makeup area as well as my consultation space.  This is where I meet with clients prior to their shoots and where I host my viewing and ordering sessions, if they have opted for an in-studio ordering session.  I also offer in-home ordering sessions; all ordering is done in person at the time of viewing.  One thing I love about having a studio – it is ALWAYS exactly how I left it (which cannot be said for my home!).

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Simply Beautiful

All of my images are shot in a small space using only window light and reflectors.  I use painted polystyrene boards as my backdrops, which I spice up in post with my processing and textures.  I can get lots of different looks with this setup, from a moody and contrasty black and white (which I achieve by almost completely covering the window and only letting a small amount of light through with no reflector) to a luminous backlit shot (using white foam core reflectors on either side of the model to bounce light back to the face) to classic loop and Rembrandt lighting patterns.  I love the flexibility that I have, given the simplicity of my setup.

All of the following images were shot in a five-foot area around the window, using either the white wall, backlight from the window, or painted polystyrene boards.

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Here is the shooting space.  Not a lot of room, but the resulting images are well-loved.  My Canon 24-105/f4L lens is my go-to lens for this space, but I often use the 85mm/1.8 for tighter headshots and the 50mm/1.4 as well.  I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark ii.

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It’s all about expression

The next image is one of my favorites.  I love the soulful expression in her eyes and the beautiful shadowing across her cheek.  To create this image, I stood one polystyrene board (painted a medium/dark gray) against the wall camera left, partially covering the window.  I stood another painted board directly behind the model, so that the two boards form a 90-degree “V”.  I then asked the model to stand inside this “V-flat” with her body turned toward the window, and to look at me without smiling.  I used the 50mm/1.4 lens at f/2.5.

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Showing Off

The sloped walls in the studio present a challenge for hanging multiple large prints.  A 24×36 canvas gallery wrap hangs over the makeup table (see makeup area photo above), and a 20×24 framed print is featured on a floor easel.  My goal is to sell either a wall portrait and folio box to every client, so I keep a folio box (from Finao) filled with beautiful sample images on the coffee table in addition to canvas and float wraps.  More matted images are on display with tabletop easels on top of the credenza.

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I found that having the studio and opening up the contemporary portrait/glamour genre in my business has really struck a chord with my clients.  Many of my shoots have been mother/daughter “girls’ day out” experiences in which they not only get to be pampered for a day, but also enjoy a fantastic day of making memories together.  I’ve had so many clients tell me that their session gave them a boost of confidence and really made them feel beautiful, which is better than any financial reward.  It has also benefited me financially though – I hit my total 2012 revenue at the end of June this year!

The image below was created next to my main window, using polystyrene painted boards behind the models and camera left with a large white reflector for fill.  I used the 24-105L lens at f/4.

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I think the things that have contributed to my success with the studio this far have been:

  • Knowing what I wanted in a studio space.  I knew I didn’t want a strip center or office building.  Knowing exactly what I was looking for helped me be efficient in my search for a space.
  • Understanding all of my business costs and knowing how much revenue I would need to generate to pay myself the salary I needed as well as cover all of my additional expenses.  This is a critical step – taking on the additional overhead of a studio without fully understanding the financial implications can spell disaster.
  • Really working with the clients to ensure they are posed in the most flattering way and are giving me natural, beautiful expressions.  Gorgeous expression and connection through the eyes is truly what makes the portrait.

Working in this space has been a dream come true, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

 

Amanda lives in Tomball, TX with her husband and two kids, whose social calendars put hers to shame.  She is in her fourth year of business as a portrait photographer, but just launched the new fashion-inspired portrait genre, www.femmeportrait.com, in January of 2013.  Amanda loves photographing women; enjoying wine, chocolate and fine cheese; and buying new makeup. You can see more of her work on her Femmé Facebook page, her babies/kids/families Facebook page and www.amandafaucettphotography.com.

 

 

 

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When You Should Upgrade From Your Kit Lens

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Can you image trying to figure out what lens to buy for your first DSLR camera? There are so many options out there and you’d probably have buyer’s remorse pretty quickly. So, the manufacturers take all the guesswork out of the way and provide you with a kit lens. Kit lenses are a good start for new photographers. They let you test various focal lengths and learn how the camera works.

 

The advantages of a kit lens when starting photography:

  • Usually the “kit” camera will have a 18-55mm lens. This is a pretty good range as it allows you a wide-angle view as well as a portrait length view. For a beginner this is a fantastic range.
  • It will help you decide what you need next – whether you need more reach or a wider aperture, etc.
  • These lenses tend to be very lightweight and made of plastic. That means no neck pain.
  • You won’t break the bank on these lenses even if you find you need to replace yours in the future.
  • The versatility of the lens is fantastic and will allow you to explore different areas of photography.

 But, as you start to know more about your own style and start to master some of your settings you might find that you’re ready for an upgrade.

 

You should upgrade from a kit lens if:

  • You need a wider view. You find yourself trying to take a large family photo at a wedding and just can’t fit everyone in the frame.
  • You need more reach. You enjoy photographing sports and nature and you can’t seem to get close enough to the action.
  • You are frustrated with slow focusing. Not a huge problem, but in a low lit area you could be waiting a bit to lock onto your subject.
  • You need better low light capability. Photos just keep coming out too dark or with tons of grain.
  • You want that lovely bokeh. You see it in other photographs and its just not where you’d like it to be.  Better quality lenses do a better job at getting a smooth bokeh.
  • You have some extra money and want to buy something new!
  • You want a pro lens. There are tons of articles online talking about what the best lenses are and you have decided to invest in the best glass.
  • You tested out a few other lenses and love the results.  Once you have a chance to borrow a friend’s lens or try some out at a camera store, you may realize you are missing something.
  • You want a lens with better optics or better build quality.
  • You have mastered your lens and are ready for a new one.

Once you upgrade your kit lens it can work well as a walk-around lens when you just want to something light weight and not too expensive.  It also makes for a perfect backup lens. Want to hear MCP’s recommendations on the best lenses for portrait and wedding photographers? Click here.

Tomas Haran is a portrait and wedding photographer based out of Massachusetts. He prefers working with natural light where the world is the background. He can be found working on his website or his blog.

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Learn How to Take Shortcuts When You Edit in Photoshop

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There is no shortcut to experience and hard work in photography. I am a firm believer that your style and nitche can only be discovered by taking the long road.

However, I want you to throw that ALL out the window because TODAY we are taking shortcuts when it comes to photo editing in Photoshop.

In addition to using MCP’s Photoshop actions, which save me a lot of editing time, these are shortcuts that I use to edit almost every single image in Photoshop. Repeat after me: “Completed Time-Savers.”

 

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ALL TIME FAVES:

These are shortcuts I use everyday whether in Photoshop, websurfing, typing, emailing and the list goes on. These should be in EVERYONE’S keyboard short-cutting arsenal. (Is short-cutting a word?  Well it is now.

  • Select All – cmd A (MAC) & ctrl A (PC)
  • Copy - cmd C (MAC) & ctrl C (PC)
  • Paste - cmd V (MAC) & ctrl V (PC)
  • Save - cmd S (MAC) & ctrl S (PC)
  • Save as - cmd+shift S (MAC) & ctrl+shift S (PC)

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MUST-HAVE EDITING SHORTCUTS:

  • Copy layer – cmd J (MAC) & ctrl J (PC)
  • Invert Layer - cmd I (MAC) & ctrl I (PC) – I use this one a ton when inverting a masked layer. Make sure the layer is selected and if inverting a masked layer that it is actually masked before inverting it or you’ll end up with a crazy image. Which is easy to fix by doing the shortcut once again.
  • Transform Layer - cmd T (MAC) & ctrl T (PC) – Brush Resize – there are a couple of ways to change your brush size and with any of the options you must have a brush/painting tool selected
  • Make brush smaller – press [   and    to make brush larger - press  ]
  • Change the brush opacity by using the numbers: 10% brush – press 1, 20% brush – press 2, 30% brush – press 3, and so on and so on all the way to 100% brush – press 0.
  • Make an exact brush size: push two number quickly. 34% – press 3 then 4 quickly.
  • Change the brush size is to hold down Ctrl+Option (MAC) while clicking the mouse or Ctrl+alt (PC)+ while right clicking on the mouse. Then simultaneously while you are pressing these commands you can drag your mouse left or right which will  increase or decrease your brush size or drag it up and down which will increase or decrease your brush hardness.

Oh Goodness have I lost you yet? If you need a break go ahead and pin this post or bookmark it for future reference. You are going to need it to refer to when you are editing, “Now what was that awesome shortcut Lindsay taught me? . . . Oh ya I pinned it so I could reference it later.” That is the conversation you will have in your head. icon wink Learn How to Take Shortcuts When You Edit in Photoshop And you can thank me later. Once you’ve pinned it come on back  we are almost done -  I promise and you’ll love the next shortcut.

My last and final SHORTCUT (step) is a levels shortcut trick that I learned & absolutely fell in LOVE with. It is a levels adjustment that helps to keep your blacks from clipping and your whites from blowing out.

Here we go: Open your image, here is mine for reference:

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Then create a level adjustment layer. With the levels layer selected you can click on the left slider while holding the alt key and move to the right. Once that happens you can see how far you can adjust the levels before your blacks start clipping. The portion that is black in the image below would be clipping if I were to leave my slider in that position. So I would move it back until my blacks weren’t clipping. Then I would let go of the mouse and the alt key and my image would return and I would adjust further to my liking if need be.

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The same concept can be done with the right side of the levels slider to work on the highlighted areas instead of the blacks. That image once the slider is pulled to the left while holding the alt key would look like this:

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And I know I said I was done, but last but not least I learned how to do a screen capture on a MAC while working on this blog post. cmd+shift+3.

We hope you learned a lot of new shortcuts.  Make sure to download the FREE Printable Shortcut Guide from MCP.

 

Now it is your turn.  Add your favorite Photoshop shortcuts in the comments below.

 

Lindsay of Sundloff Photography loves saving time with MCP and shortcut keys.  You can find her on Facebook and on the Sundloff Photography Blog.

 

 

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20 Funny Photography Bloopers And Outtakes

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Every photographer encounters the occasional bloopers and outtakes.

By definition, wikipedia defines a blooper as “a deleted scene, containing a mistake made by a member of the cast or crew…an error made during a live radio or TV broadcast or news report, usually in terms of misspoken words or technical errors.”  So, expanding on that, a photography blooper is an error made by the subject or photographer in a photo session.

Most photography bloopers and outtakes get deleted, but don’t discount all of them. Outtakes are often an opportunity to laugh and smile, and sometimes they end up your favorite images from a session.  Customers often have a soft spot for these funny moments and they make a great 4×6 print thank you gift to include with a purchase.

Here are a few favorites that MCP customers shared on our Facebook Group and Facebook Page (make sure to LIKE/JOIN us at both so you do not miss out on the fun we have). As you’ll see, some outtakes involve bodily fluid, while others have photo bombing, inopportune timing and funny faces. We love them all.

Got a blooper? We’d love you to upload your images in the comments below.  Also every Saturday afternoon on the MCP Page, we do a Silly Saturday post.  You can add your photo(s) to the thread, including iPhone pics, etc.

And make sure to SHARE this post and PIN your favorite photography bloopers and outtakes!

 

 

Photo by Jessica Roberts Photography.  ”Caught my baby spitting up at our holiday card shoot this year. Edited with MCP Newborn Necessities- Pick Me Up, Blushing for Lips & Cheeks, Sharp Eyelashes; and Natural Vignette.”

Photo by Heidi Radford Photography. “This was edited with Newborn Necessities and Eye Doctor to try and sharpen up the eyes. The shot was blurry due to my unsteady hand from laughing so hard…. The mom was a champ and didn’t even flinch.”

Photo by Sugarbee Photography. “This was taken during the senior portraits I did for my cousin. Despite a few bloopers, we did manage to get some gorgeous images during that session. This was edited with actions from the Newborn Necessities set (Paint on Gray Skin Fix, Baby Lotion, This Little Piggy, Peach Fuzz, Sharp Eyelashes, Crying for Contrast) and Eye Doctor.”

Photo by Cinnamon Wolfe Photography.  ”I have my families close their eyes and then open on the count of 5 … I snapped this before 5. They all look so peaceful? Or tired? Edited with Enlighten Lightroom Presets: Chamomile overlay, slight brighten and sharpen.”

Photo by Kristin Helsley Williams Photography. “This is what two-year-olds really think of photo sessions! Haha! Edited with Summer Solstice Base and Oasis.”

Photo by Heidi Radford Photograpy. “Dad was supposed to be kissing baby’s forehead but didn’t like the instructions mom was giving on “how” to kiss so this was his response to her. I had no idea it was coming but happened to snap the pic in action. Quickly edited with Newborn Necessities actions.”

Photo by Kristal Davis Photography. “This was edited with MCP ‘Take my Color Away’ from the Complete Workflow actions. The parents LOVED this shot. I titled it: How many more?”

Photo by Diana Welden. “Tried to get some of my girls at the beach; the little one decided to eat sand.  Edited with MCP Summer Solstice actions.”

Photo my Heidi McClelland Photography. Image kinda says it all…  Picked this one just for you. “Edited with Four Seasons actions.”

Photo by Sue Zellers. “Most bloopers like this make my Christmas Cards that go to my dog loving friends. Simple edit of Inspire Brilliant Base.”

Photo by Christine Sines. “I did use MCP Inspire Brilliant Color Base and Webify sharp to help bring life back to this scanned image. Original was lost when computer was stolen. This pic has always been my fav oops of my son, and the timing was perfect.”

Photo by Nancy Zagavlia.”The little sis was overly dramantic when she saw her brother lifted a log wood… nothing actually happened.”

Photo by Nikki Kutz. The face says it all. Edited with MCP Fusion.

Photo by Jenna Beth Schwartz. “We had just sat him down in the chair for a portrait and…. oops.  Edited with MCP Fusion and Newborn Necessities.”

Photos by Brent Burden Photography. “Part 1 (left image) – Edited with MCP Enlighten Presets chamomile and honey. I know, not much a shot, but you can see the groom just behind the dog… Part 2 (right image) – I call this shot ‘The Show Must Go On.’ Edited with Mini Quick Clicks Light Bright Color, decrease exposure 1/2 stop and slight brighten.”

Photo by Diedre Bruster Tasler.  I am thinking “Three’s Company” for this one. “Edited with Inspire actions: Inspire Brilliant Base 25% opacity, masked off skin. MCP Epic- Epic burn around the girls. Pumpkin tones painted on pumpkins.”

Photo by Posy Creative. “I took this photo of my family for our Christmas Card. I cracked up when I saw my youngest son. And by the way, this one is going on the card! I’m putting it on the back. Couldn’t resist. Edited with Bag of Tricks Photoshop Actions.

Photo by Jen Largent-Farnam. Love and… Edited with MCP Fusion: Color Fusion Mix and Match.

Photo by Kristen Livingston. “This is my 3 year old Hope! I was trying so hard to get a real smile and she kept making these faces they made me bust out laughing and eventually get THE shot! Edited with Autumn Equinox Ghost Stories action.”

Photo by Posy Creative. “As you can see, the dog snuck up from behind. Priceless. MCP’s magic black backdrop, magic fill light, and magic clarity – all from Bag of Tricks actions.”

If you counted, you’ll see this makes 21.  But I had to add it here.  Photo by Matt Friedman (yes – my husband took this photo of me) with a Canon 5D MKIII and 24-70 2.8 lens.  Doesn’t it “take great pictures?” Note the amazing blurred subject and perfectly centered subject (me). Edited with Fusion’s One Click Color – just for fun.

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