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This photo has been knocking around in my collection for a while now but always draws me back to it to enjoy it.

Sea-read
Sea Read – Matt Preston

Some of my best work has come when my mind has suddenly latched on to a composition. When i saw this man reading in a up-turned converted boat, the way he was sat, the symmetry of it all, I was so glad I had my camera that day!

The subject matter and bold lines work so much better in black and white. Colour would never do this photo justice.

As ever your thoughts and comments are welcome.

I saw these guys during a Busking Festival, a very simple image that offers so much in the way of narrative and comedy.

Will dance for food
Will Dance For Food – Matt Preston

I think this photo speaks for itself in terms of artist merit yet asks so much in terms of subject matter!

As ever your thoughts and comments are welcome.

This photograph was created for a local photography group I am a part of. Setting ourselves a monthly theme to help broaden our skills and challenge our minds.

I wanted to depict my journey to work, before i’ve left the house. From waking up (very slowly) to being late for work!

Self portrait before 9am
Self Portrait Before 9am – Matt Preston

Welcome to my lounge before 9am. On a week day at least!

The technique used to create this photo montage is called “Cloning” not to be confused with the Clone tool you often find in photo editing software. The Cloning I did involves using photoshop to create 4 layers, one for each image. The first image is used for all of the background you see (me on the far right to be exact)

I then roughly cut round each other Me, using the erasor tool with a feathered edge on it to remove unwanted background that may have a differing exposure to the main background. Sound a bit confusing? It’s not as hard as think. I’ll post a full tutorial one day!

As ever, any thoughts, comments or questions always welcome.

This is still one of my favourite photos. Partly the composition and partly the subject matter.

Forgotten door
Forgotten Door – Matt Preston

I rarely walk past this door as it’s very hidden out of the way in an uninviting area of town. In fact hardly anyone would go there.  The door would lead underneath roads and buildings so what it’s actually for I don’t know. Nor do I ever want to know. It’s the non-descript nature of this door that draws me to it.

Rusting, unmaintained, unloved, does anyone still use it? Where does it go? Maybe it hasn’t been used for a hundred years (its possible). Why is it painted bright red!?

The darkening of the edges of the image help spotlight the door, making it all the more magical. Funny how such a flat, 2 dimensional object can create so many questions.

As ever your thoughts and comments are welcome.

This was taken a few months ago. It’s still surprisingly compelling to look at. So simple to create too. When viewing a shadow in 3D some of it’s appeal is lost. But transfer it to a 2 dimensional media and it takes on a whole new life.

Daddy long legs
Daddy Long Legs – Matt Preston

Everyone should have a go at this. Just wait untill sunset, stand still and take a photo. High contrasting images like this often work better in black and white or sepia. Your camera maybe able to do these effects but if you know how to it’s always better to add these effects later with a photo editing programme like iPhoto, Lightroom or Photoshop.

As ever your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

This is one of those great moments-in-time shots. I turned round and notied a Seagull sat on a CCTV camera. They both appeared to be looking down at us.

Birds Eye View
Birds Eye View – Matt Preston

From the angle both the Seagull and camera seem quite powerful. I think most would agree the Seagull wins when it comes to who has the greatest view.

I added a cross-processing effect to increase the gritty urban theme and a very heavy vignetting effect around the edges to make it feel as though we too were watching them. An almost telescope like appeal to it.

As ever your thoughts and comments are welcome. Have your say.

I was walking along the promenade overlooking the public basketball court when i noticed the long shadows. They were mesmerising. Darting from one place to the next, forming new shapes as they cross each other.

Shadow Play
Shadow Play – Matt Preston

I’m not really into Basketball, I have nothing against it. But my indifference to the sport led me to those shadows. It’s a rather unusual composition for me. The original had much more of the players in it but i cropped it to bring the emphasis on the shadows. They really draw your eyes in to them.

You thoughts and comments are always welcome.

Back in the days before Digital photography there were two methods of processing your photographs. Negatives and Transparencies. These two formats were created using different developing and fixing chemicals. Both had their merits but photographers soon discovered that if you processed a negative film in the chemicals made for transparencies you ended up with a rather eye catching effect on your images.

Day dreaming
Day Dreaming – Matt Preston

Skin tones are more pale, dark areas have a strong blue tint and the image has a higher contrast. It gives the image more punch, often a more surreal look. Compare the above to the version below without cross-processing and you’ll see what i mean.

Day dreaming without cross processing

Cross processing – Digital style!

You can of course replicate this effect digitally so you too can apply it to some of your digital photographs. It’s pretty simple. You can do it in Aperture 2, Lightroom, Photoshop and any other photo editing software where you can modify the “Levels”. If in doubt look it up in the help section of your software.

The premise is simple. You are either increasing or decreasing amounts of red, green and blue from your image. The range of each of those colours, from dark to light can be fine tuned so that you’re adding blue to dark tones and green to light tones, etc. There are a few ways to do this. I personally use the Levels tool to set 5 points to the following settings on each colour.

Cross processing - Red levelsCross process - Green levelsCross processing - Blue levels

You can then set these levels as a preset so you can apply them to images in the future. If you’re using Adobe Lightroom then someone has already created these presets for you! You can download it here.

Curves

If you’re using Photoshop or another editing tool or maybe you can’t set the Levels at 5 positions (some only allow 3) then you can always create the cross-processing effect with Curves. They work in much the same way as levels but connect your entire range from highs to lows with a line. You can bend the line to increase and decrease contrast, brightness and tones.

Select just the red from the drop down and drag the top right of the curve to the left. Create two points on the curve so that it forms an S. This will darken the shadows and brighten the highlights.

Cross processing - Red Curve

Select the green channel and create a shallow S curve. This will increas the contrast in the highlights.

Cross process - Green curve

Now Select the Blue channel and drag the curve’s top-right point down a little, just enough to remove some blue from highlights. Drag the curve’s bottom-right point up a little, this will add more blue to the shadows.

Cross processing - Blue curve

Save your settings

Be sure to save your settings if your software gives you that option. Then in future you can quickly apply them to any images you have.

Experiment

These settings are the be all and end all of cross processing. You can adjust the greens and the blues especially, have a play around and see what works best on your photo. You can also add a yellow tint to your images for a more authentic cross-processing effect but personally I find it a little too much.

While it really compliments some photos, especially portraits, it doesn’t work on every photo.

For more examples of cross-processing visit my Flickr Photostream.

As ever your thoughts and comments are welcome. If you’ve tried cross processing I’d love to see your work so post a link. If you have any advice or experiences with cross processing be sure to let us know.

I love this pic. So simple but just goes to prove that anything from the right angle can be eye catching.

The go-faster flames and cross-processing effect help a lot! But sometimes just getting down to the level of what you want to shoot rather than standing and pointing your camera at the subject, can make all the difference.

The Mighty Robin!
The Mighty Reliant – Matt Preston

The thin depth of field works really well adding a slightly surreal quality to the subject. I used a 50mm lens with an aperture of F3.2. The prime is great for perfect picture quality. Sometimes you really do notice the difference.

Critics and comments welcome. Let me know what you think.

To become a good photographer you should BE a photographer as much as possible. It’s a pretty simple premise. The more photos you compose, process and analyse the greater you will understand photography and improve upon your skills.

So.. it’s simple.. TAKE YOUR CAMERA EVERYWHERE! You never know when a good photo opportunity might appear or a good excuse to just experience photographing a new subject matter.

So, living up to my own good advice I took my camera with me to a recent night out with friends, playing Pool (or Billiards depending on where you are in the world).

Pot luck
Pot Luck – Matt Preston

This kind of environment is a great challenge. Not only for you but for your camera! The relatively low light conditions means you’ll be shooting at high ISO ranges, with the aperture wide open to get in as much light as possible. This of course has the side effect of drastically reducing the depth of field.

Good Advice?
Good Advice? – Matt Preston

Personally i love the low light conditions and narrow depth of field. It really adds to the nostalgic, smokey (until they banned smoking) night time feel.

Wide open

Most of the photos were shot at around 5000 ISO with the aperture between f1.8 and f3.5. You’ll often find a lot of your images are focussing on the wrong area. Mainly due to it being dark when you’re looking through the view-finder. Autofocus either doesn’t work at all or will focus on the wrong area of your composition, drawing your eye away from the area you wanted your shot to be about! If the focus is in the wrong place you lose that emphasis and the photo (usually) doesn’t work. So keep it on manual focus, you can always take a few shots at different focus settings to ensure one of them works out ok.

Deep in concentration
Deep in Concentration – Matt Preston

Motion Blur

Pool is a great game for capturing some action with motion blur. You’re not likely to have a tripod with you (and you might upset the landlord!) so expect to also capture some of your own motion in the process! Sometimes that doesn’t seem to matter. I personally love this shot as the motion of the players hand and cue along with the movement of the pool balls and myself seem to make the photo work quite well.

On the move
On the Move – Matt Preston

Helpful friends

One of the great things about taking your camera with you on a night out is that your friends know you. They feel relaxed around you and are more likely to smile when you point a camera at them rather than feel awkward and shy away. This really helps, without my friends it may have been a lot tougher to get such natural looking shots and some of them worked out really well like this one.

The best medicine
The Best Medicine – Matt Preston

Your photos don’t always have to be in colour either. Sometimes they work so much better in black and white, or in this case black and white with a slight purple tint. If you’re shooting in low light conditions with high ISOs you’re likely to end up with noise in your image, something that may annoy you in a colour photo but can really add to a black and white shot. Give it a try. You may just fall in love with a shot you would have otherwise deleted.

More is more!

Shoot lots and shoot often. Take your camera everywhere, try and capture “photos” rather than “snapshots”. Oh and be sure to give a copy to your friends! After all they just gave you another reason to shoot!

There are more photos from my pool night here.

As ever your thoughts and comments are welcome. Share your experiences, your advice, or let me know if you think there are ways to improve upon some of the shots I’ve taken.

I look forward to seeing some of your photos.