Tutorial – The Impossible Reflection Technique – a Photoshop How To

A wedding photographer friend posted yesterday asking how some images he’s seen could possibly be done.

The images essentially look as if you are looking at a reflection on a glass showing a subject that is blocking the light from the sky and causing the part of the glass where their reflection blocks the light, to reflect some background image.. for instance a cityscape, or in the example someone posted in response – from Davina + Daniel’s site, a landscape with a volcano in it… presumably the backdrop for the couple’s wedding.

Please note that I am in no way representing that Davina+Daniel or any other photographer used this technique or any photoshop technique to create their art.  This is a tutorial for accomplishing a similar result, no more, no less.

Here’s the ending image for this tutorial, so you have an idea of what I’m talking about.  I would stronly suggest you do take a look at the photo on Davina+Daniel’s site above, unlike my photo below that one was clearly shot with the purpose of creating that final image and it therefore works significantly better than the example below as it meets more of the “suggested requirements” I’ll mention.

how to do reflection couple with city in the background.  Di Sciascio Wedding Photography

Ok, so my fellow wedding photographers (and other photographers of course)… how could that be done?

Well my friend’s question resulted in a number of possible answers…  a few of which were:

1.  a complex combination of glass and possibly mirrors

2. the cityscape is actually a transparency print placed near a glass upon which the couple is reflecting

3. done using the multiple exposure feature found in most Nikon cameras available during the past decade and newly introduced by Canon on the 5D Mark III

That last answer is the one that got most support and it may indeed be how these images were created.  One thing is for (almost) sure… there’s probalby no way that these images can be done in camera with just a single exposure… though the jury may still be out on that.  The problem lies mostly with the fact that the portraits all appear to be shot with long lenses… and yet we have depth of field such that the couple reflected in the mirror is in perfect focus… as are buildings half a mile away.

Ok, enough of the “how did they do it” stuff… I don’t really know how THEY did it.  But I can tell you how YOU can do it, easily and consistently out of camera.

Ok, one more thing about the multiple exposure hypothesis… there are two problems with that approach:

1. When you use the feature you snap the first shot and then you have to snap the second… just like with multiple exposures in film…  so you cant’ be as creative as you can with the technique because if you decide you want the backround to be something that’s a 5 minute walk away… that camera is useless for those 5 minutes.

2. If you shoot the couple and then after you take the shot they change their expression to a much better one… you’re screwed.  Same if you grab a fantastic shot of the couple but then find a less than ideal background… only to find a perfect background 4 seconds later.

Ok, so on to the technique.

Here is what the two source images for the above looked like:

how to do reflection couple with city in the background.  Di Sciascio Wedding Photography

how to do reflection couple with city in the background.  Di Sciascio Wedding Photography

The technique is pretty easy once you have suitable images.

Simply place the couple’s image over the background image, in Photoshop, and set the couple image’s blend mode to “SCREEN”

how to do reflection couple with city in the background.  Di Sciascio Wedding Photography

Where the couple image is pure white the end image will be pure white showing none of the background.  Where the couple image is black the ending image will show the background image fully… and in between the two images will blend.

Ideally your source images should meet these criteria:

The couple (or subject) image should:

1.  Be a silohuette or near silohuette… with a blown out or nearly blown out sky and your subjects probably exposed for the highlights along the edge of their profiles (this is where my image fails, and Davina+Daniel’s doesn’t their subjects are exposed much more dark)

2.  Preferably only include the subjects with no other background elements as the geometry of reflection will then start falling apart if there’s other stuff in the image

The background image should:

1.  Make sense as a background image in terms of scale and angle (this is hard to explain in words but basically you need the background to work as a believable reflection in a window when shot with whatever lens you’re shooting the subject…  in fact it couldn’t hurt to actually SHOOT the background as a reflection off a surface if one is available… shooting with the same lens used for the subject … at a similar height angle…

2.  Probably consist of something that is randomish and texturish enough to not cause your brain to melt down when looking at the image… cityscape – yes…  mountainscape – yes… forest yes… group of 200 people… yes… 4 dudes, probably not.  Though these aren’t rules, just suggestions.

Anyway, before I mention some “refinement” things you probably will want to do… and show you the step by step, let me point out that there’s at least one pro shooter who I totally respect who insists this can be done without photoshop trickery…  I’ll prolly find out at some point but won’t post about it… I guess it’ll be one of those things where you’ll have to pay the price of admission (I attended his workshop) … I can decide to give away what I figure out but it’d be crass to give away someone else’s gift to me.

Ok, so on to the refinements…

here’s what my image looked like with just the couple over the cityscape in SCREEN mode.

Davina plus Daniel reflection photo.  Di Sciascio Wedding Photography

It kind of works already, but the couple is more washed out than I’d like.  So I decided to darken the couple by creating a Curves adjustment layer, not making any changes to the curve but setting the adjustment layer mode to MULTIPLY (this is a neat trick to just darken an image).  Of course the adjustment layer is “clipped” (applied only to) the couple photo.

Here are the layers:

Davina plus Daniel reflection photo.  Di Sciascio Wedding Photography

and here is the resulting image:

Davina plus Daniel reflection photo.  Di Sciascio Wedding Photography

That’s A LOT more like it.  And yeah I know I say A LOT but the change is subtle… well yeah I don’t do the crazy editing stuff… so subtle can be A LOT for me 🙂

Ok, there’s one more issue.  We want to really give the illusion that there’s a reflection going on.   Under most circumstances if you were to see this kind of thing happening in real life, the blown out areas would be FAR LESS REFLECTANT than the dark areas, but some reflectivity would probably be retained.

So we need to have some of the background show even through where the couple image is pure white.

Many ways to skin that cat, I chose to create a levels adjustment layer and use it to essentially slightly darken the highlights of the couple photo (note the output levels set to 0-235 rather than 0-255) and also tweak the shadows and midtones (notice the adjustments to the input levels)

Davina plus Daniel reflection photo.  Di Sciascio Wedding Photography

and again, the final image… showing some reflectance even in the bright areas.

how to do reflection couple with city in the background.  Di Sciascio Wedding Photography

If you found this useful or interesting please let me know in the comments.



P.S.  And yes I do realize that doing this in Photoshop lacks all of the elegance that you might get from doing it in camera… I have no answer to that.  I agree, but at the same time if the end result is a fantastic image your clients love… I find it hard to criticize the artist for using more than just one paintbrush.

Delivering a Much Better experience to your iPhone clients

Yeah… a techie post… apologies to my photography-only visitors.

For those of you who may start reading and think “Oh WPTouch” I know about that…  or those who prefer a different mobile plugin I’d suggest you hang around for a few minutes as I’ve added a killer hack to WPTouch (or any other mobile plugin) which will undoubtedly make the experience MUCH better for your iPhone (and other mobile device users).

So… if you have a WordPress blog … and display a lot of large images … and you’re either plagued by a pathetically slow host (yeah that would be me), or you simply want to help out the clients who pay based on bandwidth usage, and give them a much faster user experience… this post is for you.

In the remainder of this post I will presume that you will be using WPTouch but as I mention at the end you can use this with any other appropriate plugin/theme.

Continue reading “Delivering a Much Better experience to your iPhone clients”

How are my Clients protected if I can’t shoot their Wedding?

Those of you familiar with me know that aside from doing my best to provide my clients with awesome photography (it says it right on the back of the business cards:  You, Looking Awesome) I am very aware of the need for a professional to go well beyond by ensuring that all risks where they are identifiable are handled in  the most professional and smooth manner possible.

In a previous blog post I addressed the question of How my Clients’ Images are kept safe.  If you haven’t read it I would certainly advise you do so.  In the future I will address other “catastrophes” and how I have implemented plans to deal with them.

Before I go any further… I want to point out that I realize many people are uncomfortable with even thinking about something like My not being able to shoot their wedding (due to illness, or worse) and I understand that.  But at the same time, having put a strong plan in place (and one that I continue to improve upon as time goes by) I am actually freed from having to worry about this… and my clients are too.

Ok, so … what happens if for whatever reason I can’t shoot your wedding?  Well for one you can rest assured that if this were to happen it would mean that I’m either too ill to physically stand up and think straight, or that I’ve suffered an incapacitating injury that makes it physically impossible for me to peform as expected, or worse yet that I am no longer among you.  In any of those cases, please spend a moment to have a warm thought for my wife and children.

The key point above is that I’m very aware of the demands of the job and while I can certainly come up with scenarios that would prompt most to not feel capable to “show up for work” … I will show up for work unless what I mentioned above has happened, and let’s leave that at that.

So…  what have I put in place to mitigate the “loss” to my clients in the event of my inability to shoot the wedding?  As with everything else there is no silver bullet… however I feel fairly comfortable with the plan I have in place:

  • I select second shooters whose skills I feel confident in.   While you can certainly expect me to bring along someone with limited experience on an engagement shoot, a family portrait session, or any other session where their presence isn’t really “required”, you will not see a rookie roaming your reception on your wedding day.  While they might not shoot exactly the same way I would, second shooters are familiar with my style and would most likely be able to provide you with photography you would be thrilled with.  Of course that would NOT leave you without a second shooter as I try to have a “bench” I can draw from should the need arise.  This would be the default solution if something were to happen to me during the event or immediately prior, where any thought of finding a replacement would be moot.
  • I am friends with a network of professional wedding and non wedding photographers many of whom shoot in a style similar to mine – I would be able to tap this network to help you quickly find a replacement photographer if that is your preference.  Note that the netowork is actually two networks… one local and one global… so even in the event of a destination wedding I should be able to quickly find an awesome photographer that could replace me should you approve of such.
  • I “charge” a set “fee” to myself against every wedding I shoot and set that money aside in a self-insurance fund.  The purpose of this money is to pay to have a higher-priced photographer come in and shoot your wedding if I can’t – having such a fund makes it so that if the situation were to arise I could truly recommend based on my perception of the other photographers’ work quality, rather than having to be significantly limited by a budget.  Of course this may not be an issue depending on the relationship I may have with the photographer
  • Finally as a member of the Professional Photographers of America Association I am covered by an indemnification trust that would cover many kinds of losses, including possibly restaging the wedding for the purpose of taking the photographs.  This one is clearly not a particularly appealing solution, but it is a final safety net in the event that nothing else worked.

If you read this and think of other things I could/should do to further contain this risk, please share it with me either via email or by commenting at the bottom.

If you find this useful and think you will benefit from what you read here, I would really appreciate it if you would add a link to my site from yours.
Please use the following html for the link:

Many Many Moments photography by Alessandro Di Sciascio <a href=”http://www.disciascio.com>South Florida Wedding Photographer</a>

if you add a link please send me a quick note at my email address so that I may thank you.

Lighting Lightning McQueen


I thought it would be fun to try and make some posts about children photography… as in … involving children in photography.  So let’s see how it goes 🙂

A few days ago my son was playing with his Lightning McQueen model car and I was playing with my camera… son comes over and asked me to take a photo of the car.  Sure… let’s do it together!  He was very excited (he’s two and a half, it doesn’t take much LOL).

So I gathered a few supplies:

  • A Sheet of 600 grit sandpaper (the black use-wet kind) to serve as the asphalt
  • a plastic dinosaur (to serve as the reflector stand)
  • a sheet of paper towel (the reflector)
  • my LED head light to serve as the main light

We set Lightning McQueen on the sandpaper in a position that work in terms of framing the shot, set up the dinosaur and the reflector off to camera right-back, and I placed the LED headlight on my son’s head and asked him to direct the light at the scene.  Here is the setup shot just before moving the reflector in much closer to the car (it was having zero effect where you see it in the shot)


and here is my son having fun with the LED light.


At any rate… if you want to take a photo of one of your children’s little cars the first tip here is to use the black wet-use sandpaper as faux asphalt.  It works even better than real asphalt because the texture in asphalt would look too coarse next to the little cars, making it painfully obvious that it’s a model car.  The second tip is that yeah maybe I could have gotten the lighting more techincally correct if I positioned the light myself… but how do you beat having your 2.5 year old act as a VALS (Voice Activated Light Stick)?

How my Clients’ images are kept safe

You often hear this statement, and if you ask Firefighters (I did) it does appear to be true:  When a home is on fire, after making sure that family members and pets are safe, the first thing people try to save is their photographs.  This was true before digital and should continue to be true today.

I’ve had a few clients ask about the safety of their images in the event of a Computer crash, a fire, theft, and other such events so I decided it might be a good idea to write a post about my backup/data safety strategy, so that my clients could have the answer available here whenever they want and readers could offer their feedback and maybe suggest improvements to my strategy.

I’ve identified the following risk factors:

  • Camera Failure that does not affect the memory card
  • Camera Theft
  • Camera Bag Theft
  • Camera failure that affects memory card or Memory card failure
  • Computer Failure
  • DVD disk failure
  • Fire/Flood/Theft
  • Unanticipated Data Corruption
  • Forgetting to Backup

In the following section I specify how I mitigate the impact of each of these risks – and yes the correct word is mitigate… for a few of the risks factors I may feel 99.9% confident in my ability to make the risk a complete non-issue, but a few of them cannot be completely eliminated.

Camera Failure that does not affect the memory card – In the middle of your wedding my camera shuts down and stops working.  This one is extremely easy to mitigate, and frankly I find it astonishing when I hear of people passing themselves as “professional photographers” who show up with only one camera… in fact frankly even two cameras is only a bare minimum… if you don’t own three or more bodies and you’re charging customers for your services, RENT a body for the day.  As you can see I feel strongly about this.  At any wedding I bring my 5D, my 40D, 30D and even a point-and-shoot as a last resort if EVERYTHING goes wrong.

Camera Theft – Obviously losing a camera that cost thousands of dollars is not something I look forward to, but frankly what I’m more concerned about is the priceless photos on the cards.  To mitigate this risk I make sure that any camera I am shooting with is attached to my body (via my cameraslingers strap usually).  In the event that a determined thief were able to wrestle the camera away from me, every memory card I use has, as it’s first image my contact information and a plea to keep the camera but return the memory card anonymously if found

Camera Bag Theft – This is only a problem for my equipment.  I know photographers who store their memory cards (fresh and used) in their camera bag, and I always try to let them know them about the availability of inexpensive holders that you can clip onto your body and/or place in a pocket to ensure they’re with you at all times.  So this risk is a non-issue.

Camera Failure that affects the memory card or Memory Card Failure – While I’m shooting an event my camera fails corrupting the card  or my memory card fails.  I have a five step approach to mitigating this risk

  1. I routinely shoot with two cameras and make it a point to constantly switch from one to the other.  I do this for artistic reasons, but a significant side-benefit is that if I were to lose a whole card I would most likely still have a lot of shots of the affected timeframe, on the card in the other camera – also for critical moments that last only an instant (for instance the first kiss) my second shooter will be there firing at the same time.
  2. I use relatively small memory cards.  Rather than shooting on 32GB cards as some others do, I stick to 4GB cards max.  The difference here is that if I were to lose even a FULL 4GB card, I might lose 10-15% of the photos from a wedding.  Someone with a 32GB card would lose… the WHOLE Wedding.
  3. I don’t fill up my memory cards – cards are much more likely to fail once you get them close to capacity.  I stop way before that which both means less chance of failure, but also fewer images affected BY a failure.
  4. If the unthinkable happens and I do need to try and retrieve images from a corrupt card, my strong IT background means I have access to the right tools and more importantly I know WHAT NOT TO DO when you’re trying to retrieve data from a corrupt card
  5. I only use top quality cards and use them for a maximum of 2 years, after which I sell them on Ebay – yes I keep track of when they were bought.

Computer (Hard Disk) Failure – So let’s say that everything went well at the event and I transferred your images onto my hard drive and started working on them… and my Hard Drive Failed.  Now what?

Here’s what I do when I copy your images onto my hard drive:

  1. Copy Images from Card to Hard Drive
  2. Backup Images from Hard Drive to External Hard Drive that sits on my desk
  3. Backup Images from Hard Drive ot my WD Passport that I carry with me all the time
  4. Synchronize my Passport with an Off-Site computer which writes the files to another external drive
  5. Once Images are complete I upload the final image to Zenfolio which has it’s own data-safety procedures
  6. When the whole project is done I archive it onto two sets of  DVDs.  One set is kept at my home, the other is kept at an alternate location.

So when all is said and done your images are stored in 7 different copies at 3 different locations.  I’d say I’m keeping them pretty safe 🙂

DVD disk FailureTHIS ONLY APPLIES TO CUSTOMERS WHO HAVE PURCHASED A LONG-TERM DATA STORAGE PLAN – SEE YOUR CONTRACT TO DETERMINE HOW LONG YOUR DATA WILL BE STORED BY US – DVDs aren’t forever.  They have a usable shelf-life that isn’t infinite.  I’ve read reports that suggest that 10 years is a reasonable time frame to expect the average self-burned DVD to last without developing issues.

For customers who purchase a Long-Term Data Storage plan I implement a staggered, forced 4 year rotation which works like this (Imagine we are only dealing with ONE DVD of data, but of course two copies… A and B):

  1. After 2 years I copy Disk A to a new one and destroy the original, I also verify the data on disk B
  2. After 4 years I Verify the data on Disk A, and I copy disk B to a new one, then destroy the old version of B
  3. After 6 years I copy Disk A to a new one and destroy the original, I also verify the data on disk B
  4. After 8 years I Verify the data on Disk A, and I copy disk B to a new one, then destroy the old version of B
  5. and the cycle continues…

Fire/Flood/Theft – The same combination of off-site solutions that protects your data from a Hard Disk Failure (see above) protects it in case of a fire.

Unanticipated Data Corruption – My synchronization software is set up to use “Versioning.” What this means is that whenever it copies a new version of a file to backup, it keeps the previous version as well for a configurable length of time.  So if a file were to become corrupt it would probably propagate through my backup system but the previously good version would be there as well, ready to replace the corrupt files.

Forgetting to Backup – It’s all automated… your images don’t rely on my brain to remember stuff 🙂

I hope you found this helpful.  If you want to use the same PC synchronization software I use it’s SyncbackSE

If you find this useful and think you will benefit from what you read here, I would really appreciate it if you would add a link to my site from yours.
Please use the following html for the link:

Many Many Moments photography by Alessandro Di Sciascio <a href=”http://www.disciascio.com>South Florida Wedding Photographer</a>

if you add a link please send me a quick note at my email address so that I may thank you.

If you’re interested in finding out how my Clients are protected if I can’t shoot their wedding follow the link.

Inserting Multiple Images into WordPress at once – Two even Better ways

As a photographer needing to blog photos from my South Florida Weddings, Engagements and other photography sessions, I find myself needing to post a number of photos at once in a blog entry with more frequency than your average blogger.

I’ve researched this extensively and already had a post that suggested using attachment-extender and another post that offered what amounts to a wordpress hack to help solve this problem.

Today I have two new solutions (which are the ones I’m currently using).  I don’t have a specific preference of one over the other because I’m a Windows user.  Someone who isn’t a Windows user will only be able to go with my first suggestion.

WordPress Plugin Solution – works on all platforms

The plugin I’m using these days, which has replaced the previous ones I wrote about is Faster Image Insert.  It offers a number of features (many of which I don’t even use) including making it ridiculously easy to add many images in one fell swoop.  What the plugin does is add a panel to the New Post scren in WordPress, which gives you direct access to uploading images from your PC, from a URL, as well as your media library.  Once you have the images loaded into the media library you can see them right here on the same page as the post, check off the ones you want inserted (one at a time, or many at once) and click Insert Selected Images.

Simple as that.  And portable because it lives in your wordpress

Microsoft Live Writer Solution – works only in windows

The plugin above would make it seem that using a blog-writing tool would be pointless, but sometime you’re so lazy you don’t even want to deal with having to search for your images to upload, and would rather just drag them into a post.

Microsoft Live Writer lets you do just this.  It’s very customizeable, easy to use, free.  And you can drag/drop as many images as you want, compose your post offline and then publish it on WordPress.

It gets a big thumb up from me.

Let me know what you think, in the comments.

If you find this useful and think you will benefit from what you read here, I would really appreciate it if you would add a link to my site from yours.
Please use the following html for the link:

Many Many Moments photography by Alessandro Di Sciascio <a href=”http://www.disciascio.com>South Florida Wedding Photographer</a>

if you add a link please send me a quick note at my email address so that I may thank you.