Content Aware really IS your friend!


Yeah i know, off the radar again! I would love to say the reason for my blogging absence is due to being so mega busy that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day…etc…etc…

Fact is - i’ve been too lazy! Ok, a little bit busy too, but mainly lazy!

Anyhoo - as the title suggests, we’re going to touch a little on photoshop.

A couple of weeks ago I was over at Theater Oberhausen, doing a promo shoot for an upcoming production.

You’ll note, that yes, i have shot slightly less insane things.


The above image is straight out of camera. You’ll not that we’re shooting inside a built set, within a larger hall. We were actually in the set building hall belonging to the theatre. No much room to shoot inside this wooden box, and a ton of natural light flooding in through the windows.

It needed to be a moody shot anyway, so killing the ambient light and bringing in flash was always on the cards. The biggest problem though was framing the shot. I shot with the widest glass i had - 17mm on a FF sensor - and had to hold the camera to my side against the wall, so i had no real idea what i was shooting.

Anyway, because of the constraints i had, this meant there would be a fairly heavy chunk of post production coming my way in order to keep this shot wide-looking, but having it look like were just in this stripy room!

The final image

The final image

Obviously, i’m not a genius, and don’t have hours and hours to spend bringing images through post production. But, the content aware tool is your friend. Selecting parts of the image that are outside of our little ‘room’, and using the CA fill, really does help to speed up the process. In most cases, it’s pretty accurate in expanding the background.

There’s obviously going to be some imperfections to the background, but they can be tidied up using the clone stamp tool, and with some creative (and fairly liberal) use of dodge, burn and vignette, the image came up good!

Here’s another example:

Note the wall to the right of the finished image also came through CA Fill successfully

Note the wall to the right of the finished image also came through CA Fill successfully

Content aware is a fairly simple thing to use: use lasso, patch, pen tool, selection brush - whatever you prefer to select an area - hit delete, select content aware, hit enter - job done! There may be some fixing to do afterwards, particularly with busy images, however, the hit-rate is pretty good!

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So, this wasn’t really meant as a photoshop tutorial, but whatever! Thanks for reading!

Until next time!


Behind the Image


It's been a couple of weeks, and as i said in a previous post, i will be writing about my recent shoots with Theater Oberhausen, producing the imagery for their 2018/19 programme.

Well, here comes the first in that series.

The shoot for the theater's new programme involved photographing the permanent cast of the theater in various situations, performing 'other jobs' in the local area. We visited a hospital, funeral parlour, and a kiosk, to name just a few locations.

Most of the shoots were carried out at night, in order to take a look in to what people are doing while the rest of us sleep.

Midnight pizza

Midnight pizza

These shoots presented of course one major challenge; darkness. Something that can be overcome with knowing what you're doing, and a little trickery with lights here and there.

One of the most challenging shoots however was the team photo. All the men and women who work behind the scenes at the theater, who of course deserve their place in the programme, joined by some of the cast who were around on the day.

Photographing 50 plus people and making it look interesting isn't so easy. 

Thankfully, Franca, who i mentioned in a previous post, was on hand with some ideas and some sharp organisational skills!!

The plan was: use the main stage in the theater, bring some props in, and get everyone to lie on the floor in some kind of organised way so it looked like they were doing their usual jobs - or somewhere close!

IMG_6820 2.JPG

From a technical point of view, figuring out how to photograph the stage from directly above was a bit of a sticky point.

Sending the camera up with the lighting rig was the simplest option. Then firing the camera remotely. 

Gaff tape and cable ties. A dream combo!

Gaff tape and cable ties. A dream combo!

Instead of using cables to connect the camera to a computer to take the shot, i opted for using my reserve camera, a Canon 6D, and using it's wifi function to connect to my mac and take the shot. Easy right - wrong!

First, the proprietary software which Canon uses to tether the camera remotely is junk! The camera and computer can't see each other automatically like the camera can with Canons smartphone app.  You need to first set up an ad-hoc network on the computer, then try and force the camera to see it. 

When you are finally connected, the connection drops every few seconds. And you can't use more stable software like CaptureOne - or at least, i couldn't get it to work. 

The dropped connection of course could be due to the distance between camera and computer, around 15 meters; but once i had moved myself, and the macbook up into the rafters nearer the camera, the problem continued.

I tried my best to get as close to the camera as i could. This made communicating with the stage difficult.

I tried my best to get as close to the camera as i could. This made communicating with the stage difficult.

Franca meanwhile continued to coordinate things down on the stage, with me having to send a screenshot from the macbook over WhatsApp every few seconds. This was of course only possible while the connection to the camera was holding and i was able to see something.

Several test shots later, we were ready to go - and of course, the connection dropped again. Wi-Fi off, Wi-Fi on, close EOS utility, open EOS utility - you get the idea of what a struggle it was!!

We did however get there in the end, and managed to pull an image out with so many things to look at! 


The image features on the inside cover of the new programme, and can be checked out online here!

There'll be more stories about the rest of the shoots coming in the coming weeks! 

Until then... :)

Hot Off The Press!


You may remember from one of my recent posts, that i had a few late nights running around with my friends from Theater Oberhausen.

We set off on a project to complete the photography for the 2018/19 programme magazine, photographing all of the cast individually in alternative workplaces.

The general theme was that they would do jobs that are generally carried out at night. We had a few late nights, and a few early starts. Some delays, some re-edits.


....this afternoon, the magazine finally went to press!! About 40,000 copies are being produced (i think). Crazy seeing something being printed with so many different photographs in, that were all taken by me!


The magazine is released mid-June! So expect another post (or two)! And i will also be posting a series with a look behind the scenes from some of the shoots!



Much love! 



Late nights and mozzy bites!

Wow! Second blog post within a month. It's been a while since i managed that!!

The last few weeks have seen me once again out shooting for Theater Oberhausen. This time has been a little different to the usual production shoots though!

I've been working with the theater to produce the photography for the 2018/19 program. This involved photographing all of the actors and actresses contracted to the theater. 

The theme of this years program was to photograph the actors doing jobs that are usually done at night. So, the shoots, of course, took place at night too - with the exception of a couple in the early evening, and a few far too early in the morning!

Hanging out at the bakery early in the morning. Smelt good!

Hanging out at the bakery early in the morning. Smelt good!

Together with the theaters' head of marketing and PR, Franca Lohmann, we shot 19 separate shoots, including a rather challenging team photo involving all the stage engineers too!

The laptops view of the preparations for the team photo -. this will (have to) be covered in a separate post!

The laptops view of the preparations for the team photo -. this will (have to) be covered in a separate post!

The theaters cast were given the opportunity to decide on what kind of 'job' they'd like to be taking on. The first assumption many would have was that we'd be spending our evenings shooting at petrol stations or fast food restaurants; that couldn't have been further from the truth!

It's best not to ask! *not a real corpse

It's best not to ask! *not a real corpse

Ok, so not every shoot was as wacky as this one. But a funeral parlour really was an unusual place to be shooting! 

We also shot actors in some less high-brow occupations: a dj, market trader and a forest ranger (i got eaten alive by mosquitoes on that one!).

Life in the gutter.

Life in the gutter.

The actors were photographed performing their chosen jobs, and then a portrait in the same environment was made. After each shoot, we mirrored the first images using the actual person that does the job. 

The new program is released in the middle of June, after which, there'll be some posts going into more detail about each particular shot - especially that team photo! 

A great project to work on, with some wonderful people. And all of the people we met along the way that welcomed us into their workplaces were fantastic!

I can't wait to share more after the release of the program!

Until then! Thanks for reading!


In Search of a Street Lamp

I've been pretty busy lately. Who hasn't I hear you say? Busy is good right?

A big chunk of my recent work has come from a new customer. A theater in Oberhausen. How this relationship started is very random - a real case of 'right place right time', but i won't go into that right now.

Part of the process of promoting a production is of course taking pictures of it. Not just of rehearsals, but also a preview photo. An image that the theater can put out into the world to whet the appetite of it's patrons.

Last week, my theater colleagues and I headed out to shoot a promo photo for an upcoming production. 

The location had been found already. Some old workers houses, with street lanterns attached to the wall, to give the photo the feel of the period in which the production is set (WWII).

Problem was, arriving at the location, all of the houses with lamps attached had cars parked nose-to-tail in front of them. An actress in a 1930's costume, in front of a house from the last century with a new mercedes wouldn't really work!

We scouted the area and found a house with no cars, but no lamp!! Time to improvise!!

In the image below, you can see what i'm trying to do: balance the ambient light so that it's still visible a little, bringing in some soft light from across the road to light the subject but not cause to much shadow, and a flash from above mimicking a street lamp similar to the other houses. The next consideration here is keeping the aperture small enough to make the new street lamp look like a burst of light, and not a flash gun, while still achieving some kind of balanced exposure!

Balance the ambient, flash from front with as little shadow as possible, and a street lamp from above - easy right?

Balance the ambient, flash from front with as little shadow as possible, and a street lamp from above - easy right?

The final image below was a bit of a funny one to edit. It's pretty much as it was in camera, from an adjustment point of view not much has happened. Trying to decide what to do with our new street lamp was the problem!

Anna Polke

Anna Polke

I added several vectors of street lamps in photoshop. I even borrowed some street lamps from other images i found on the web. Nothing looked right, or better or more realistic that what came out of the camera.

It almost looks like a street lamp. And the stand it's on is not really dissimilar to the ironwork of the actual lamps on the other houses. 

To the untrained eye, thats looking at the subject, it looks fine. 

To me and you, it's a flash gun on a stand being held above a guys head who's hiding behind the house :)



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