March 20th, 2011

Make Up Ad Brags About Being Photoshop-Free

Posted in digital editing, portraits by Greg Benson

The web site Jezebel has an article about a cosmetic ad that exclaims that it is the first unretouched make up ad. We are so used to every advertising photo being photoshopped that to stand out an ad has to tout its lack of retouching. Note the model’s imperfect arm contrasted with her professionally made up face.

August 4th, 2010

Lounge on Campus

Posted in architectural photography, digital editing by Fernando Gaglianese

University of Pennsylvania College Houses Catalog 2010-2011 Academic Year

For this academic year the College Houses at the University of Pennsylvania crafted a fresh new design for their catalog. They came to us with their design concept and ideas about the mood for the cover image. The result of our collaboration is this view of the Rodin House lounge that feels as cozy and inviting, as it is slick and stylish.

Daytime view of Rodin House lounge.

While on campus shooting other images for the catalog, Greg scouted several views of the Rodin House lounge. The above view was perfect for the cover, but daytime would not give this scene the mood our client wanted. The shoot was scheduled for an evening.

Lounge scene before retouching

On the night of the shoot we assembled a small cast of student models, posed them in various positions in the space, and asked them to interact with each other.

Detail of lamps and window -- unretouched scene on left and retouched version on right.

Above is an example of how we use Photoshop as one of our tools to get the desired visual effect. Elements from different frames are brought together seamlessly in Photoshop. The glow of the lamp on the right cannot be captured in the same exposure as the flash-lit interior. The exterior through the window was also shot separately, with the lights down and no flash to avoid reflecting the room (and the photographers) on those beautiful, large windows.

Detail of coffee table and woman's foot -- unretouched scene on left and retouched version on right.

During the shoot the accent coffee table above was moved out of the scene to simplify the shot. The frame that was finally selected for the cover was from somewhat earlier in the shoot before the decision to move the table was made. In Photoshop the table was removed, and our model’s foot was restored.

Rodin House lounge scene -- final version with all retouching

All of the pre-shoot planning, our efforts on location, and the final digital tweaks come together above in the final version.

February 12th, 2010

Happy Birthday Photoshop

Posted in blogging, digital editing by Fernando Gaglianese

Webdesigner Depot is toasting Photoshop on it’s 20th anniversary with a wonderful trip down memory lane that traces each of the many versions leading up to the current CS4.

Greg can fondly remember version 2.0 that came on a floppy disk and ran on a Mac with an 80MB hard drive.

For me the journey starts in 1998 with Photoshop 5 and 5.5 which was released just a year later and included the new “Save for Web” feature. This all coincided with my first year at Drexel University.

I had never owned my own computer until that time and Drexel’s policy required all students to have one of their own. I jumped in headfirst and stumbled through many clumsy attempts at webdesign, inescapably leading to Photoshop, image slices, and the “Save for Web” function.

“Save for Web” was also part of ImageReady, a companion program to Photoshop that has since been absorbed by Photoshop itself. At that time it never would have occurred to me that my new passions would eventually lead me back to my childhood love of photography.

One fun thing that Webdesigner Depot does not cover is that each of the more recent version of Photoshop have shipped with the “About” screen Adobe used in-house during the development of that version. This easter egg can be seen if you hold Command+Option+Shift while clicking on “About Photoshop” in the menu (substitute Control for Command on a Windows machine). My favorite was always Venus in Furs from Photoshop 6. A short history of these hidden splash screens can be found here. The current version, Photoshop CS4, has the above Stonehenge hidden screen.


A few weeks ago we shared some photographs of University of Pennsylvania’s Weave Bridge to make the point that even though sunny days are generally the best days to shoot architecture the sun can also create unwanted, distracting shadows.

The following is a great example of why sunny days are, as a rule, best for architecture:

One could not ask for better conditions to photograph this office building in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The direct sun’s contrasty light gives the brick facade an attractive color and makes strong, but open shadows that give an otherwise simple structure a sense of volume and presence. The beautiful blue sky also has a nice balance of soft, wispy, white clouds.

The weather does not often cooperate and can wreak havoc with deadlines. Above is a comparison between an unretouched shot of the same building during a cloudy and damp day, and the same shot with an example of the sort of retouching that is sometimes necessary. Even though the added sky improves the shot; the pavement is still very wet. It is clear that returning to the site when the weather was best yielded the better image.


The image above is a finished and retouched photograph from a recent shoot at an MRI lab. It is a great example of how the work done on location and during post-production complement each other. Each is a piece of the larger puzzle and good planning on location means that the puzzle will go together correctly.

Greg set up the shot knowing that one frame could not create the image he wanted: the brightness of the light in the room where the MRI machine sits is much higher than inside the control booth, the computer displays would be completely blown-out highlights, etc. On shoot he captured many puzzle pieces like separate exposures for the two rooms, and exposures for the computer screens.

On the left is the a small portion of the image as it was straight out of the camera, on the right we can see the same portion of the image after all the digital magic has happened. Click on the picture to view a larger version.