this past weekend I figured I would edit some photos from shoots I had done recently but hadn’t gotten around to editing yet. This time though, I thought I would set myself a timer and see how well and how fast I could edit against the clock. Each image you see in this blog post took a about 5-8 minutes to edit.


While I haven’t gotten each edit exactly how I wanted in such a short time, I think most of the heavy lifting gets done inside of those first five minutes. Previously when I had sat down to do some editing, I would just casually make my edits and take as much time as I wanted to get everything perfect. The result is a great image but if I had allotted two hours to make the edits, they would take two whole hours.


If I set a countdown timer (Download Howler from the Mac App Store) the edit time very closely adheres to whatever the timer is set to. It’s a strange phenomenon to witness and I’m sure there’s a scientific term that describes it more clearly. If you set a timer you would be surprised how many different activities can actually take less time.

John Hill

For me this came about because I’m in college classes during the week and if I have editing that needs to be done I can’t give it all day. The faster I can edit, the better off I am in the long run. While I love doing my photoshop work, I also love getting more than one thing done in a day and a countdown timer (and a few custom PS actions) helps me do that. A lot of the reason why I think a timer helps cut down on time spent on a project is because I usually go into something thinking “this is going to take forever” and it does. By using a timer there’s no question as to how long something is going to take because you’re allotting a finite amount of time to it up front before you begin. Knowing exactly how long something will take to finish helps me stay motivated and makes me get things done faster.

Carl Tempesta

I guess it’s never to late to learn that I work better and faster under a deadline.



I’ve been shooting down at f/16-f/22 a lot over the last few months and noticed a debatable slip in sharpness on a lot of my images. It’s very slight if at all and gets corrected in post production so it’s not a really big deal. However, I did find a sweet little video from the guys at Fstoppers explaining this phenomenon known as diffraction.

This concept of diffraction falls in a similar vein to that of the Modular Transfer Function of a lens and is absolutely something to be thinking about when picking your f/stop next time you’re out shooting. If you’ve ever heard someone talk about the “sweet spot” of a lens they are probably referring to the f/stop that allows for the most sharpness before diffraction occurs.

Here’s the video:



Hi again,

It’s certainly been a while since I’ve written here on the blog and I sincerely apologize. That being said I’d like to review what I’ve accomplished in 2014:

Finished up the photo track at school with Photo III and Large Format 

This year I was able to finish up the photo track at my college a semester earlier than usual because I became an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop. Last spring I was in my Photo III class which is predominantly studio work (which I LOVE) and a lot of Photoshop (which I LOVE). This was the class I had wanted to take since I started college and I had the most fun in that course out of any of my other photo courses. Here’s some of my work from that semester:

How I Became Art

Audiotechnica Headphones

The iPhone


Product Shot- Wacom Tablet

Me The Machine

White on White



Creative Portrait 1

Imitation Shot

I still find myself doing things in the studio very often because I have so much control over my images there.

I also did Large Format this past semester which I was a little reluctant to do at first. The class consisted of about a dozen or so students. Each student had a partner in the class who they would share a large format camera with for the duration of the course. It made things a little more tricky at least in terms of logistics and 4-5 other courses to take into account but it was not impossible. Shooting the camera was, by far, the most cumbersome part of the photographic process this semester. If you have never seen a large format camera it’s very a classic Ansel Adams accordion-style camera. Or, at least it’s what I think of when I think of Ansel Adams. The 4×5 camera looks like this:


IMG_2858  IMG_2842

It certainly got a bit overwhelming walking around and setting up shots after a while but I found the rest of the process (developing and printing) pretty laid back this semester. Now that I’ve shot, 35mm, medium and large format I think I enjoy medium format the most out of three. Because, if I really had to shoot film, I’d want a completely different experience from what you get shooting DSLRs and I think I get that more between medium and even large format. Again, I still find that large format is a bit too much to lug around to make it fun for me long-term. Still I’m glad I finished the large format course. I posted some scans of my negatives to my Flickr account:

Large Format Nature 2

Large Format Nature 1

Large Format Architecture 2

Large Format Architecture

Large Format Closeup 2

Launched my website

I finally started up my own online website where you can find me and some of my work. This is a big deal for me because now I have business cards with one URL on them which makes it much easier for clients to find me online. It used to be that I would have to give them my number and my flickr URL and my email address. Now everything is in one place, nice and easy. I upload new work every so often. I may change the design around from time to time but for now, is where you can find me. It has my bio and a running list of awards and publications which is getting on the long side (not complaining).

Started getting into CGI

This year my interest in CGI work started growing after I became an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and started to branch out a bit. I think CGI is a very obvious next step up from Photoshop/image manipulation and it’s been exciting to learn about it so far. I started a CGI blog over at: a few months ago and I very quickly realized that there’s an almost endless amount of information to grasp onto when learning about CG work. In 2015 I want to take this interest of mine even further, so we’ll see how it goes.

Have a happy New Year my friends!


A few weeks ago I was doing a photoshoot outside for the first time in a while. I’ve almost exclusively been doing studio work for about the last year or so and I noticed some big differences when I went to go shoot outside again.

When I’m in the studio I’m usually trying to keep my camera between f/11 and f/22 to keep things nice and sharp. It shows in the final image especially with a 60D which doesn’t really have too many other scenarios where it can really shine. I’ve been getting so used to seeing images that are nothing but crisp front to back that it was kind of jarring shooting outside at f/4-f/5.6 again. Focus was noticeably less sharp on some but not all photos, making me a little uneasy but that’s of course to be expected given such a wide lens opening and the many other factors of outdoor shooting.

One of my big pet peeves with shooting outside is that I have to account for potential blurriness. In the studio you can keep your shutterspeed around 1/250th or even 1/125th of a second and still rarely encounter blurriness because the flash is what is freezing the action if there is any type of movement at all. Also, unless you bring a reflector, or some flash units with you, you’re at the mercy of mother nature. As I’ve been shooting in the studio I’ve really been enjoying all the control I have with lighting to create a specific look, feel or mood. Outside I find there are the two extremes of super flat, soft light from a cloudy day, or the ultra-contrasty-racoon-eye sunny days. There are a few in between situations but that’s generally what you’re dealing with.

More recently, I found that there’s also another factor that contributes to the sharpness, or rather the unsharpness of outdoor photos given the low f/numbers needed to create an exposure. Most big lens manufacturers like Canon, Nikon and Sigma have created a chart that represents what’s called the “Modular Transfer Function” of a lens. Essentially what the chart does is it maps out the relative sharpness/resolution and contrast of a lens on a scale for a lens that is opened at its widest f/stop and then stopped down to f/8. I was surprised to find that some lenses become almost 1/2 their total sharpness/resolution quality at their widest f/stop as opposed to f/8 which is significantly better.

The MTF Chart for the 24-105L IS from Canon's website.

The MTF Chart for the 24-105L IS from Canon’s website.


The black lines represent the lens wide open, the blue lines represent the lens stopped down. The thick lines represent contrast, and the thin lines represent sharpness/resolution. The Y axis is a 0-100% numbering system, meaning that for the wide angle of the 24-105L it is at 100% of it’s total potential sharpness/resolution and contrast. The X axis is from 0 (which here is the center of the lens) to the edge of the lens (20). Ideally, all the lines should stay grouped together in a straight line across the top of the chart. This is found more often with prime lenses at least on paper. There are many photographers and gurus on the web that will argue, given the right zooms and prime lenses, that both types of lenses are equally sharp. I think in today’s age, the difference between a zoom and a prime lens is negligible and even less so if you stop down to f/8 or higher on a zoom and on a prime lens. There are still many photographers that will only shoot their images using prime lenses.


Canon's EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens MTF chart

Canon’s EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens MTF chart

So before you think that you may have back-focused your lens while shooting and that’s why you’re getting soft images, check your lenses accompanying MTF chart on your lens manufacturer’s site. It could be that your lens is much more sharp at one f/stop down from where you’ve been shooting. For the future I will definitely be referring to the MTF charts before buying another lens.

If you need another explanation of the subject, there is a beautiful Luminous Landscape article that discusses MTF as well.


The other day I got an email from the good people over at Phlearn explaining a new affiliate program they’re starting up. What they’re doing is letting people like myself use a special link that essentially gives me a commission off of sales generated from that link. I immediately signed up and now you’ll find a “Learn Photoshop!” link here on the blog as well as on my website.

Normally, I’d feel a little bit like a sell-out or something from getting a commission for doing almost nothing but I feel like Phlearn really is “The Place” to learn photoshop. I’ve plugged their site a lot here on the blog and referred a number of my friends over there to learn how to do some insane PS edits.

I don’t know how many people actually have ended up on Phlearn because of me. The response I usually get when I rave about Phlearn and Aaron Nace’s work is something like “oh okay, ya I’ll check it out” and then it probably never happens but of course it’s their loss. I know I personally have found myself snooping around the PRO tutorials a number of times now and have never been let down or lead astray by anything that I purchased.

I think what happens with a lot of Photoshop videos and tutorial websites is that they all say the same thing but few deliver. It’s hard for a genuine and selfless Photoshop master like Aaron to break through the noise when so many other websites say “COME HERE FOR THE BEST TUTORIALS,” but I think Phlearn is slowly breaking through and I’m always glad to hear about them in more and more places online.

I’m super stoked to be amongst the first to know or to test new programs for Phlearn. I remember when they followed me on Twitter and Instagram and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. I’ll definitely post here if anything changes. Use THIS LINK if you feel like buying some tutorials and have a great weekend!


I noticed the other day that the good guys over at Flickr made a collection of 20 artists under 20 to feature on their website. Find the link HERE to take a look. Some of these artists I’ve been following for a long time and I’m glad to see they’re finally getting a lot more attention in the online community today.

These artists are a prime example of the peers I compare my own images to online. I feel I have created a few pieces I’m proud of that can stand up to some of theirs although I always wish I had more work that I really really liked. I love the process of creating my work just as much as I love seeing the final product but once an image is printed and on the wall I’m onto the next one.

I am working on a few new projects of my own at the moment but I’d rather not give anything away until I know I can actually pull off some of the things I’m trying to do. If nothing else I’m keeping things challenging.


Hello again, it’s been a while.

You’ll have to excuse my absence over the past month or so from the blog. I’m happy to say that I posted a new blog every week for just about a year which is a big accomplishment for me. That being said I’m probably not going to continue making weekly postings for a while.

When I was posting every week I had pre-planned posts ready to go with a concept in mind. I haven’t run out of posts for the blog but I think in order to keep weekly “filler” posts from showing up I’ll just go back to writing here whenever I feel the need. This way, the blog stays fun for me, while also letting me get on with my schoolwork and not have the “what am I going to write for my blog tomorrow” thought in my head every Thursday night. I guess we’ll see how it goes. When I find something worth sharing you’ll be the first to know here on the blog.

Also I’m happy to announce my new sneaky website is up at, I’m still finishing up a few more things but if I didn’t start putting work up this summer it wasn’t going to get done at all. As an artist it’s very easy to say, “No, I don’t want to launch my website yet because I haven’t made all the photographs I wanted to make,” when really I’ll probably never make all the photographs I want to make. I realize it’s better for me to do a more progressive approach to my website, launch it, and add work as it gets completed. If you feel like giving me some feedback send me an email or comment on this post.

I’m starting in on my Junior year of college this month studying Photography and Professional Communication so wish me luck.


A few months ago Wacom revamped its lineup of pressure sensitive tablets. The Bamboo was changed to the Intuos and the Intuos lineup was updated to the new Intuous Pro 5 models.

Many people wonder how I do some of the Photoshop work I’ve completed. They come up to me and ask “Hey, Alex how did you do such great Photoshop work? I would also like to do such great Photoshop work.” and I tell them that apart from using Photoshop for over five years now and becoming a Certified Expert, I use a Wacom tablet to do my editing and not a mouse. There’s no exaggeration on my part. Photoshop is built to fully utilize pressure sensitive tablets and using one has made a world of difference in the quality of work I produce. If I tried to do the same editing and retouching I’ve been doing over the past two years with a mouse I would probably tear my hair out.

What urks me the most though is that I tell people my response that really a tablet is a priceless tool when it comes to editing and they go “oh wow” and that’s about it. Very few people are willing to invest the money in buying this piece of equipment which, if you ask me, is probably the best thing I’ve bought in the last two years. Now there’s really no excuse to have a tablet as I was checking Amazon last night and found that the new Intuos Pen & Touch tablets now start at $75. I was thinking of picking one up just so that I don’t have to haul mine back and forth to school with me.

For the time being I can’t readily attest to the quality and durability of the Pen & Touch tablets but specs wise it’s worth every penny. If they’re anything like the Intuos 4 series like what I currently own then I would highly recommend it. It doesn’t look like it has as many buttons or a wheel to boot but I never use those features anyway.

Really, if you’re looking to do some solid editing, for $75 you can do a whole lot more than you would with a mouse.


This morning I’m making modifications to some files at the click of a button thanks to batch processing in Photoshop. Basically what batch processing allows you to do is take an action you’ve created and apply it to photos in one location and make new saved copies in another location. This is a feature I don’t use very often but I love it when I find a use for it. Batch processing saves me the hassle of having to do the same thing multiple times by hand.

Ok so here’s what you do.

Find the Actions window and record a new action. Window>Actions or Option+F9 will get you there. Press the little paper folding button Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 1.30.21 AM on the bottom to name a new action just as you would in the layers panel. Then press the record circle to the left of that same button to start recording what you’re doing in Photoshop. It’s very important from here on, or at least while you are recording your action, that you do only what you want to be recorded. Doing extraneous tasks takes the action much longer to play back in the final output. You will be able to modify events in the pulldown view of the actions you’ve recorded and change events afterward if you wish, this is extremely convenient.

For those who don’t know, actions are little saved presets in Photoshop that you can use to record what you’re doing and play it back later. This is most commonly found with effects. Many photographers offer original recorded actions of effects that you can use on your photos. This is how you’d save a lot of time post processing and also be able to create the same look or feel across many photos. Just like there are presets in Lightroom, there are actions in Photoshop. Actions and presets also allow you to seem like you’re really good at editing when really you did nothing at all.

So you’ve got your action, great! Now we just need to batch process it. Make two folders in your hard drive, or perhaps for this exercise just make two on your desktop entitled Before and After. Put a file or two in your Before folder. I’ve added two files entitled Mock-Up

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 1.37.23 AM


Ok now we’re set to open up batch processing. Go to File>Automate>Batch and this dialogue will pop up.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 1.42.17 AM

This dialogue is pretty self-explanatory, select your set that your actions are in (sets are just folders to organize actions) and then select the action you would like to batch process. You can then choose your source folder which is our before folder in this case and then you have a few tick boxes to look over.

I have checked the “Suppress Color Profile Warnings” tick box because I know I’m going to be opening JPEGs into the batch process in Photoshop and they will conflict with my current working colorspace. I don’t really want to get into right now but for the sake of time my working colorspace is ProPhotoRGB and the colorspace of my JPEGs are sRGB. This tick box will make sure to handle that warning box that would otherwise appear. If I uncheck this then I will have to confirm the colorspace settings of each file as it opens during the batch process. So ticking this checkbox just makes it a little more hands free on my part and in my case. If you are opening JPEGs into your working space and your working space is already sRGB then you wouldn’t have this warning dialogue appear and could probably do without checking this box.

Now you can select the output/Destination folder which in our case is the After folder. There’s also the options for file naming to contend with. The settings I have above will maintain the original file name and extension which is great. A lot of the other options are again self-explanatory and can add or change things to the file names and extensions such as a serial number or alphabet letter.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 1.53.18 AM

Also unless you’re using a serial number in the file naming section you can leave the serial number at 0 and it won’t be factored into your batch process. I also have the “Override Action ‘Save As’ Commands” box checked. If you check it Photoshop will probably tell you what it does but I’ll explain. This check box means that you have recorded a “Save As” part of your action and will use those settings to save each of the files in the batch process.

If you didn’t record a “Save As” part of your action you can go back to it in Photoshop and click on the last event you recorded and press record to pickup where you left off. Save the file however you’d like to save it, I just saved mine as a JPEG with a quality number of 12. This “Save As” command when used in conjunction with the batch process in this case does not take into account the file path that is recorded in the “Save As” part of the your action. This is great because otherwise all the batch process files would be named the same thing and overwrite each other for the entire process. But if you don’t check the “Override Action ‘Save As’ Commands” box you will be prompted to save each file in Photoshop in its own location after the action has been run. This check box just adds more fluidity and automation to the already automated process, again, not necessary but nice to have. Small things like this are what make batch processing a one-click process where you don’t have to sit through the batch processing to warning boxes and saving dialogues. Checking things like this can make batch processing completely seamless so that you can click OK and then go grab a snack and come back with all the shiny new files modified and exported for you.

Now you’re all set to run your action and watch in childlike wonderment as each file flies through Photoshop, runs the action, and saves itself faster than you ever could by hand. It’s a beautiful thing.

Also just as a side note for those of you wondering, my action during this post is created to place a layer with a picture frame cutout onto each of my files, flatten it and save it. I’m doing this to replace the frames on the items in several images I took this week and an action is very useful for this. All I had to do was make sure I saved a PSD of my one frame on a layer with appropriate masking and make sure I referenced it during the recording of my action. To get this one layer into photoshop it’s best to have the PSD saved somewhere and locate it not using File>Open but File>Place. That way the file gets placed on its own layer as a smart object in the working file. Then all I had to do was confirm the placement, flatten and save the image and my action was ready to go for everything to work properly.

I hope you found this post super-helpful although it is sort of a niche technique. Bookmark it and come back later if you’re not doing batch processing today.

See you next week



I know I did one of these inspiration posts on Imogen Heap some time ago and I think it’s time for another.

I’m a huge huge fan of Imogen Heap’s music. It’s funny really, I enjoy a lot of photographers on the web but for whatever reason I don’t find them as inspiring as musicians or other artists outside of photography. I think part of the reason for this is that when I see a finished image I think, “yeah that’s a cool concept” and seldom do I find myself imagining something else. Occasionally I do find images where, buried in the pixels, is a shred of inspiration or a feeling that I’ll incorporate into my work. For the most part though I find music much more inspiring and motivating.

I hope that makes sense to some degree. Maybe what I’m getting at is music’s often strong ability to trigger what’s known as relational memory to specific events and emotions. Images can do the same and have done so throughout history but for me personally I find those instances to be few and far between. I can listen to a song a million times and feel the same exact feelings upon each listen. But if I look even just at my own pictures my perceptions and feelings toward them change more often over time.

Anyway, I really want to share some of Imogen Heap’s new songs with you because maybe you’ll get some inspiration for your own endeavors. Her new album Sparks will FINALLY come out in August…