Photography Class

Photography Class

I started taking a photography class through STL Community College last night. I’m trying to get the basics down, so I can stop having to butcher my photos in Photoshop to make them look half way decent.

I want them perfect in the camera, and then I can ruin them later in Photoshop.

Anyway, it inspired me to shoot some stuff today on the way to and from work. Here’s a few shots that I liked.

By the way, the shot of the Parking Meter is probably the best photograph I have ever taken. It will be hard to top that, and I wasted it on a parking meter.

5 Minute Design: Tilt Shifting

5 Minute Design: Tilt Shifting

‘5 Minute Design’ is a biweekly blog post that features tricks, tools and techniques in design. I only have 5 minutes to complete it, so I will make the design as basic as possible, use shortcuts, and cheat if at all possible. It is my hope that other designers, with your superior skill and intelligence, will have a quicker, cleaner and more precise way to achieve the design. Then you will punish me for my ignorance and lack of talent by posting your own solution.

And so it goes.

Tilt Shifting. I’m sure many have been over-using this technique for years.

I just started over-using it last week.

It is a style by which you take a photo from a high angle (from above), and manipulate it in Photoshop to draw attention to a specified area by masking and blurring out the peripheral. This makes it look like a scale model, and apparently, so awesome that it needs to be done to every photo hipsters take.

Lets get started.

1. Grab your iPhone and go to a high place with a sweet view of a low place. I chose the parking garage across from work.

2. Take some photos. Choose the best one. I liked this one:

3. Open that photo in Photoshop.

4. Press the ‘Q’ key to enter Quick Mask Mode.

5. Grab your “Gradient” tool from your tool bar. Choose a Black to White Gradient, then click the “Reflected Gradient” option from the top tool bar. Click on the focal point (for me it’s that car crossing the intersection). Drag your mouse in straight line until the entire height of the area you want in focus is covered in that transparent red color (This might take some experimentation, enjoy it!).

6. Now that you have your vertical space quick masked, we need to shorten the horizontal focal distance. We do this because a camera lens does not focus a straight line, instead it focuses on a specific distance, and blurs from there. Even though tilt-shifting is not reality-based, we do want to keep some degree of photographic dignity alive. So, select a White to Transparent gradient and click the “Linear Gradient” option from the top tool bar. From the right side of your image click, and drag your mouse toward your focal point. Stop and release at a point near where you want your focus to stop.

7. Repeat on the left side of your photo.

8. Click the “Q” key to exit “Quick Mask Mode.”

9. Now, start whistling “The Ants Go Marching One-By-One” like I always do, as your mask changes to the “Marching Selection Ants.” Immediately go to the Filter > Blur > Lens Blur menu item. A pop-up will appear.

10. Play a bit, but really you only need to touch a few things. Make your “Radius” between 30-40. Make your “Blade Curvature” between 30-40. And make your “Threshold” between 225-250. Check your preview to make sure you like, and click “OK.”

11. Click the “Command+D” keys to deselect your focal area. And WOW! look at that. Pretty cool.

12. Almost done. We need a bit more contrast, so under your “Layers Pallete” click the “Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer” option. Select the “Curves” Adjustment Layer. Make a standard, but subtle “S Curve.” Click at the top of the diagonal line (not the very top) and drag that point to the left a bit (15px). Near the bottom of that diagonal line, click a point near the bottom and drag that to the right a bit (5px). You want more rich dark and bright white areas. Click “OK,” or just be done when your done (CS4-CS5).

13. We are going to saturate the crap out of the image. This will make the things in the photo look like they were painted by hand. Really bright colors. Go back to the “Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer” and choose the “Hue/Saturation” option.

Bring your Saturation up to about 20-40 depending on the resolution of the photo (iPhone smaller, DSLR larger). Click “OK” when you like it, and you’re done.

Not to bad for 5 minutes. Impress your friends on Facebook. Maybe your mom will hang it on the Fridge.

Now, designers … What did I do wrong? Tweet me @robhutti or comment below.

If HDR is the Devil, then consider me Charles Manson

If HDR is the Devil, then consider me Charles Manson

Someone broke in (walked in the unlocked back door) to 4ORCE Digital and stole my Nikon D40 back in July. I still have a hard time believing that it wasn’t a prank by David Johnson, but by any degree the camera was gone.

Our Pres/CEO, Dan Curran was extremely generous when he offered to pay for a new camera for me. I owe him in a very big way.

He told me to upgrade a bit, so I went for a Nikon D5000. I know, I know… an upgrade is a bit of an over-statement, but for my purposes this camera has been a vast improvement. Mainly because it has bracketing, and thus allows me to shoot for HDR photos.

High dynamic range photos are considered evil sacrilege by most photographers and over-used by most amateurs. HDR photos are merged from three or more shots with varying exposures. The bracketing on the D5000 and most DSLRs allows the camera to do this automatically and Photoshop or Photomatix can merge the shots into one HDR image.

I’ll try not to get addicted, and I understand that my first go kinda sucks. But I have to post something. So, without further ado, WashAve in HDR:

Awkward Family Photos

Awkward Family Photos

My buddy Tom Buchok tweeted about this today, I think this site is really funny. It’s called, and the content is fairly self explanatory. I like making fun of people that are doing something completely innocent and that was intended to be personal.

Ones like this:

With the caption:

Never before has a birthday cake photograph been so chilling.

Love it.

Wisdom from Andrew Zuckerman

Wisdom from Andrew Zuckerman

I have been seeing this book, Wisdom, around for a while. On design sites, in bookstores and on However, I didn’t know there was a film associated with it. I saw this trailer for the film thanks to this really cool blog

Wisdom – Introduction from SLNSW on Vimeo.

Aside from the superb design, layout and art direction of the book and portraits, the film adds another level to this historical chronicle of figures over the age of 65 speaking about their lives, what they have learned and their perception of the wisdom that is supposed to come with age. Actually hearing the voices associated with the face and the story is tremendously impactful.

Look at this line-up of great figures of our time:
Chuck Close
Clint Eastwood
Nelson Mandela
Bill Withers
Jane Goodall
Dave Brubeck
Ted Kennedy
Buzz Aldren
And like 40 more more amazing people…

Everything about this is really smart and beautiful. Just the concept of all theses figures speaking about their experiences, and their take on a similar subject is a conversation for the ages.

Wisdom is directed by photographic master Andrew Zuckerman. He specializes in that super high contrast, high resolution, HDR style of photography, where every detail of a photo is present and beautiful. Take a look at some of his photos from his last project Creature:

The great thing about this is that the 60 minute film comes Free with the book Wisdom. You can buy it here. It’s like $30, which is not bad for what would be a perfect coffee table book, but also I can’t think of a better gift for someone who is either approaching that 65 age, or just starting out their adult lives.

Check out this book and film, and if you don’t find inspiration from the photos, people or stories you might need a hug.

Fun work

Martin Luther King Tribute

I wanted to attempt this style  in February, and being Black History Month I chose the Rev. as my muse.

His face is made up of the words of his epic Lincoln Memorial “I have a dream…” speech.

Take a look. I am having it framed as I type.

Smoking Goat Branding

I like beer.

Beer high in flavor, alcohol and price. I brew at home, but wouldn’t consider myself very good at this point. I’m working on it.

We have friends in Louisiana who I would consider really good. I designed some branding for their forthcoming brewery down there.

The Smoking Goat will hopefully be amazing, especially if I get some good beer out of the deal.

Have a look. Then drink a beer and have a look again. Continue this process until the logo looks awesome.

New Poster

This is a poster I made for my buddy Dustin.

A classic quote from him as we drove by Effingham, IL’s infamous and huge cross.

I thought it would look good in his new apartment.

Sheltered Perceptions

I recently got the chance to work on a project for the Humane Society. Given the fact that every time I walk into an animal shelter I have to be talked down from taking home every animal in the place, I was happy to help in anyway I could.

With the majority of pet buying in the United States coming from breeders, mall pet shops and unfortunately mills, animal shelters (specifically the Humane Society) are left overflowing with pets that need loving homes. They are running into a perception problem however, and many misconceptions about shelter pets are accepted as fact, and often repeated as such.

To get past this, we decided to take the problem head on, and address the most common misconceptions individually.

Here is where we landed:

Humane Society - Misconceptions"Mutt"

Humane Society - Misconceptions - "Bark"

Lauren and Dan sit’n in a tree…

My good friend Lauren is getting married in July, and though I am extremely jealous of her fiance Dan (don’t tell my wife), I made their save the date cards.

I use VistaPrint to print these types of things. Though the quality suffers, and the rumor is that they are destroying local community printers nationwide, for the price they can’t be beat. Check them out next time you want to customize your own holiday card or invitation.

Here’s how Lauren’s STDs turned out: