Friday, January 25, 2013

Camden Harbour Inn - "Quick Edit"

Im kicking off my first blog post with an edit I worked on a few months back, an exterior image of the Camden Harbour Inn taken at dusk. The assignment was to photograph a few of the guest rooms, a bathroom or two, dinner service on the porch as well as provide a few views of the exterior at dusk. Certainly a full days worth of work by any measure. Ideally for an exterior shot like this one we would prefer to use hot lights expose the exterior, the rock wall and the plants in the foreground. However, considering the shot list we had, setting up hot lights would have taken too much time away from our day or would have required additional assistants, two things that were not available with the budget for this project. In addition to those constraints we were unable to access the guests rooms to turn on their lights. I suppose that part of the lure of an Inn like this is the ability to "get away from it all" so any unnecessary interruption could break that illusion. There are times like this while on an assignment that you encounter situations that are less than ideal. As a photographer you have to roll with the punches be ready to adapt and accommodate the clients requests while at the same time meeting your own expectations for the caliber of images. Every image that we turn over to clients goes out into the vast digital expanse and represents the quality of our work in perpetuity. There's no taking an image back once it leaves our hands. This is always on our minds when we are working through the process of creating an image.

In order to make an image like this work it takes pre-visualization and a bit of Photoshop magic. Pre-visualization is a subject I am confident that Irvin and I will address frequently in this blog and was essential to making the final image possible. There's a nice piece on it at Andy Ilachinski's blog, Tao of Photography if your interested in the meantime. The ability to create an image that perfectly conveys the story you want to tell is heavily dependent on having a clear idea in your mind of what you want the final image to look like before you trip the shutter. That's especially true when you have to assemble that image later from separate pieces. I also think it is a key element that can cull the herd of professional & amateur photographers. Additionally it's important to know what your capabilities are as well as those of your editing software. We knew this edit would be a challenging but feasible. Irvin and I truly enjoy the lessons learned as a result of pushing the boundaries of our abilities.

Knowing our limitations and confident we could pull it off we decided to create a composite image by taking multiple exposures and precisely blending them in Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is an incredibly versatile tool, and although it can give us the flexibility to shoot a bit quicker on location, that time saved isn't a net gain, it's just reallocated. In fact the time saved on location is often compounded three fold once we start the editing process. That was certainly true here. With the constraints on our time and no access to the interior lights this shot would not have been acceptable without Photoshop. Below you can see a before and after photo with the base exposure and the final edited image followed by a time lapse video of the edit.

(click image to view full sized)

Notice that we had just one lit window on the third floor and none at all on the first. That meant that all the interiors needed to be custom painted by hand. The video below will give you an idea of how we brought in additional exposures and adjusted the contrast levels to even out the lighting on the front of the building. It's the same process we used for the lawn and garden in order to give more drama to the the foreground. Ultimately I cleaned up the small but distracting details like straighten the lamp posts, erasing the vent pipe, removing the A/C units and bringing back the detail in the sign. This edit took me more than twelve hours to complete and the final file had 74 layers. Lets not forget, this is only one of two. The other before and after photo is included below as well.

(view in full screen mode)

This image of the Camden Harbour Inn is a great example of how being able to pre-visualize the final image, when married with the skills needed to execute a challenging edit, can return a stunning photograph that couldn't have been captured any other way.

Moving forward I will post more of these type of "Quick Edits" as well as more in-depth versions that will give more detailed information on how we are able to accomplish them.  If you have any questions about my process please post them below in the comments section and I will try to respond as swiftly as possible.

Until the next time,


  Software used

- Adobe Lightroom 4
- Adobe Photoshop CS 6
- Camtasia ( screen capture and video edit )

(click image to view full sized)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Welcome to the Irvin Serrano Photography Blog

(click on images to view larger)

Hello and welcome to our brand new blog! This is a first for us at Irvin Serrano Photography. We hope to use this forum to share with you some of what we have been up to and where we are going. I say “we” since you will be seeing posts from me and our studio manager Mike Bowker (aka, the schlepper). We both love what we do so much and feel fortunate to have found a profession related to our true vocation and not just a job that we do to pay the bills. We are always bouncing ideas around on a variety of themes we may find interesting and nurturing to our craft. I guess you could say we are our own little support group. This is your invitation to become part of that dialogue. Through our posts we invite you to join us in the conversation and exploration of new ideas. Come along with us on photo-shoots; see what we have produced lately. The sky is the limit and who knows what you may see posted here.

I have been making images for longer than I care to admit. Have had some great people in my life who have inspired and guided me through this creative endeavor. I feel as mature as I ever have in my image making process, yet sometimes I look at my images and know there is still so much out there. Becoming complacent with image making, its process and what moves me about it has always been a fear of mine. Sometimes, I feel, in order to continue the search for ones creative self we have to abandon what is typical or familiar. Of course, sometimes it means also going back to the basics.

With creative evolution and exploration in mind I would like to kick off our blog with something entirely new for me. It has been more than a year in the making and a process that has tested my patience wondering if after the long wait it would be worth it or even possible to execute. I have always been impressed by the look of pressed flowers, how they become paper thin, subtly exposing what appears to be their cellular structure while preserving a semblance of what they used to be. I found the process rewarding and somewhat introspective when I thought about my own different states of being. Hope you stay tuned and enjoy the image above and its details as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are not yet familiar with the rest of our work, I invite you to visit Irvin Serrano Photography.

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