If you would like to submit photography or photo restoration tips to this blog, please email me at KevinRetouch@gmail.com.

We will gladly provide a link to your website or blog along with your contribution.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Portrait Photography Tips and Tricks

Take Better Pictures With These Simple Portrait Tips and Suggestions
Memorable portraits, and even quality family snapshots, often take careful, thoughtful planning, and the clothing you choose is one of the most important aspects of the photography if you want to insure the success of your final images.
To help you avoid future retouching or restoration costs, we'd like to offer a few tips for making the most of your portrait sessions and family photos.

About Clothing
The primary goal of any fine portrait is to direct the viewer's attention to the face or faces in the photograph. Simple, long sleeved garments in medium to dark tones of brown, rust, burgundy, green, or blue are pleasing choices when photographed against darker backgrounds.
Proper clothing allows the all important face to dominate the portrait. All other elements of the photograph should be secondary. Bold stripes, plaids, checks, prints, floral patterns, and ill fitting clothes are confusing and do not photograph well. Especially bright, bold colors, such as red, purple and orange, completely overpower the face and ruin an otherwise beautiful portrait. 

Light colored clothing calls attention to itself and away from the face. Try to avoid light shades of color similar to flesh tones such as beige, tan, peach, pink, white, and yellow. Darker hues are more flattering, not to mention slimming.
Light colors are appropriate against a white or pastel background, or with a dark background when an interpretive pictorial study is planned.
Couples and small groups should choose simple garments within the same tonal ranges. Light and dark tones together create visual confusion, as one subject comes forward and the other recedes.

In a family group, proper clothing coordination is crucial to a fine portait. When decorating a home, a major concern is to coordinate the colors and tones of the carpets, walls, window treatments, and furniture. This kind of coordination is also necessary when selecting clothing for a group portrait.
Choose clothing in the same materials and tonal ranges so that no single member of the group dominates the photograph because the clothing is too light or bright as compared to the rest of the subjects in the group.
Clothing that blends harmoniously creates timeless portraiture because the viewer's eyes are drawn directly to the faces.
Clothing in medium shades complement portraits made in outdoor environments.

More portrait tips coming soon.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Need help finding a photo restoration artist?

Here are some "insider tips" into the business so that you can make an informed decision and avoid disappointment and costly mistakes. 

  • Quality restoration artists will provide samples of their work, "before and after" pictures if you will. Study those photos carefully (do not be fooled by the quality of the actual image as most webmasters will upload low resolution files so that the website will load quickly for viewers). Ask yourself, do the subjects in the "after photos" look like real people or do they look like cartoon characters?
Unfortunately, many photo restorers simply do not have the required skills or artistry to repair photos without distorting the photo so completely that the subjects become cartoon-like characters. Unless you want Grandpa to look like Homer Simpson, move on to the next website.

  • Avoid the "don't pay until you receive the photo" restorers. 

It may be tempting to send your cherished photo to four different restoration artists who do not require payment upfront and then pick the best restored photo and pay only that "artist". But we strongly advise against that method of choosing a restoration artist.


There are many reasons. First of all, it's simply an unfair practice. Performing quality restoration work is an art that requires a lot of time and tedious work. It's simply unfair to ask four artists to devote their precious time to your photo when you have absolutely no intention of paying three of them for their efforts. More importantly, if you use the above method of selecting a restorer, you will essentially be selecting the "best" restored photograph from four mediocre restored photographs. Simply put, a true artist values his or her time and talent and will not give it away freely.

Contrary to popular belief, photo restoration and repair is not about computer magic; it's about art, experience, knowledge, passion, and hard work. Chances are, if an artist does not require payment upfront, he does not value his art, nor will he devote much time to your cherished photograph. If the artist places no value on his work or time, do you honestly believe you will be getting the very best results?

Selecting an artist who offers a money-back guarantee is much wiser than selecting an "artist" who places no value on his work and therefore requires no payment upfront.

Still not convinced? Let me just say this, 25% of our past clients attempted the above method of selecting a restoration artist. They sent their photos to various companies only to be disappointed by each and every final result. After wasting precious time and energy, they eventually sent their photos to us to be restored properly, and happily paid in advance.

In all our years of restoration work, we have only been asked for a refund three times.

  • Avoid restoration artists or companies that promise, or even guarantee, extremely fast turnaround times, especially for photos that require a lot of restoration work.

"Offering" fast turnaround times is not the same as promising, or guaranteeing, fast turnaround times. It stands to reason that if a company guarantees a fast turnaround time, they may not be devoting as much time to your photograph as it deserves.

Best Photo Repair always offer fast turnaround times, when possible, but our first priority is quality work not QUICK results.

  • Photo processing (This subject is so important, we probably should have listed it first)

Does your restoration artist print your photos on a home printer? Does he take them to the local drugstore for processing?  If so, you will probably receive a substandard final print and not even realize it until it's much too late.
Like photo restoration, photo processing is an art form. Only professional, highly trained technicians can provide truly beautiful, long lasting prints. And those professional, highly trained technicians can only be found at professional photo processing labs; labs that do not service the public but instead service only equally highly trained professionals in the industry.   

Do not be afraid to ask if a prospective restorer uses a professional lab. And if they don't, continue the search until you find one that does.

Making an online purchase can be a little frightening sometimes, but if you do your reasearch and use common sense, chances are you will find a restoration artist that you can depend on for years to come, like many of our own clients have.

Kevin Winkler

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Art of Photo Restoration

Let's face it, it can be very disappointing when your favorite photo of a loved one is marred by red eye or poor exposure, or when a cherished photograph from your past fades and cracks.

Luckily, with today's superb technology, along with a lot of hard work and talent, repairing just about any photograph, film or digital, is possible, whether restoring that which has been lost, fixing incorrect exposures, erasing dust and scratches, or even recreating reality.

But, as many of us know, not all restoration artists are alike. To restore an image properly, one must have an eye for photography, the technical savvy to solve any given problem, and, most importantly, artistic skill.

Because there are thousands of books and websites dedicated to the technical aspect of photo restoration, I'm going to concentrate on the artistry of the craft and offer restoration tips that will help you transform a nice yet damaged photo into a cherished heirloom.

                                               THE EYES HAVE IT

When was the last time you felt the urge to repair an old photo of your swimming pool? Or your TV? Or your stereo?

If you're like most people, probably not very often. Most people want to repair images of their loved ones, that special baby picture that was damaged in a house fire, Grandma's old wedding photos that faded and turned yellow, those wonderful pictures of Grandpa in his military uniform that Fido got a hold of. We want to restore those familiar faces, those special moments, those souls. And the most important aspect of the face is the eyes. Eyes captivate us. They run in the family. They tell a story.

Unfortunately, many restoration artists tend to neglect the eyes. They work diligently on the background, they sharpen the fingers, they patch the clothing, they correct the color, and they neglect the very thing that the reveals character of the subject.

Don't let that happen to you. When restoring a photo, pay close attention to the eyes. Ask yourself these questions, Are they soft and out of focus? Do they appear flat and one dimensional? Do they reflect true color? Or do they only reflect the yellow associated with an aging photograph? Study the eyes in quality photographs. Notice how the curve of the eye almost always captures points of light. Notice how most eyes are multicolored and have specks and streaks in them. Then return to your old photo and ask yourself how you can incorporate those characteristics into the eyes of your subject. 

                                            Mona Lisa Smiles

After the eyes, the second most important aspect of a portrait is the mouth. Is your subject smiling? If so, pay close attention to the teeth, the gum line, the tiny creases at the corner of the lips. Like eyes, the mouth, lips, gums are composed of many shades of color and all reflect light. Make sure your portrait, or more specifically, your subject's mouth, captures and reflects those subtle shifts in tones and light.

More restoration tip coming soon!

Kevin Winkler

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pros and cons of becoming a wedding photographer . . .

Should you become a professional wedding photographer? What are the good and bad things to consider?
As a child, I took disposable cameras everywhere, documenting every important moment with family and friends. When I dropped a camera off to be developed, I couldn’t wait to get the pictures back a few days later. It was always a treat to see what I had captured — I kept scrapbooks and boxes with images of every person in my life. Photography was my passion.

When it came time to find a career, my initial priority was financial stability, doing something I loved and cared about. But it never crossed my mind that photography was an option.
I tried marine biology — nope! I tried marketing — nope!

It wasn’t until I took my first photojournalism class at UNC-Chapel Hill that I was hooked and never looked back. My professor helped me to see photography as a way to make a difference in the world while doing something that I loved. Somehow, the financial aspect wasn’t as important as it used to be. In fact, studies proved (and these were definitely pointed out to me!) that the odds were against me, especially as a woman. But I knew I was a hard worker, and I felt that I was supposed to follow this path.

Since college, my photography career has led me to adventures around the world for online documentaries, to an esteemed internship in NYC with National Geographic Adventure magazine, to several fabulous newspapers in Colorado and Georgia, and to where I am now: working for myself as a business owner.

The flipside to that? I am ultimately responsible for the happiness of my clients. That’s a big responsibility — especially on somebody’s wedding day!

If you’re thinking of going pro with your passion, carefully consider the positives and negatives.

8 Pros

Here are eight aspects of the job that will make you smile every day:
  1. You get to be creative. Your clients will choose you based on your own personal style of photography, so don’t try to be like anyone else. Trust who you are and your ability to produce great work that others will relate to and connect with.
  2. You will meet and interact with interesting people that you otherwise may have never come across. Each door that opens leads to another, and your horizons are expanded with each new client.
  3. You will never be bored and will constantly multi-task. Whether you’re learning how to adapt to and please a new personality type or you’re faced with where to shoot in the rain, expect to face new challenges on a daily basis.
  4. As an industry professional, you will likely rent or purchase the most up-to-date gear, assuring that your images — best professional and hobbyist — will be the best that they can possibly be. Plus, your gear expenses become a tax write-off.
  5. If you enjoy traveling, you can seek out shoots and gigs in far-flung locales. Photography is a very portable profession!
  6. You will constantly be learning, from adapting to new technologies and styles to improving your own ‘eye.’
  7. If you are self-employed, you get to choose your own clients. When your business takes off, rather than taking every gig or assignment that comes your way, you will need to be choosey about what you accept so that you save time for editing and free time. Remember, you are interviewing your potential clients as much as they are interviewing you. You also get to choose your own work days. You have the power to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a potential shoot, depending on your schedule.
  8. On most days, you’ll be working with happy people. If you’re shooting weddings and portraits, you will be surrounded by people who are in good moods, who want you around and are very appreciative of your talent

7 Cons

It’s said that when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. That is true to some degree, but taking pictures is actually a pretty small percentage of what makes my business tick. It’s the business end of things that feels like work.

Here are seven of the little daily struggles that come with being a professional photographer:
  1. Gear is expensive. You may need to save up for the right equipment or take out a loan that you feel confident your business will be able to pay back.
  2. It’s a high pressure job. If you’re photographing weddings, you only have one chance to get it right. The weight of the world is on your shoulders and yours alone.
  3. Post processing takes a lot of time. Most photographers don’t realize this before getting into the business, and what’s worse is that your clients won’t either. You’ll need to educate your anxious clients on why their images aren’t ready immediately. You’ll spend hours upon hours in front of the computer culling, toning and perfecting the images. The longer the shoot, the more images to edit and the more time spent in front of the screen.
  4. It can be confusing to figure out taxes and the business end of things. I hire professional bookkeepers for the peace of mind that I’m doing everything correctly, and to allow me more time to do what I’m best at: taking pictures.
  5. You won’t always be perfect. Once in a while, you’ll disappoint someone or have to deal with a client who isn’t happy. That is never fun and will usually hurt your feelings because you care so much. Be strong, trust that you’ve done the best you can possibly do for your client and work hard to find a solution to restore their faith in your ability.
  6. Not everything you shoot will be happy. If you’re a photojournalist, you’ll be faced with difficult situations and decisions. You’ll need to document the negative realities of life to educate the world. That can be hard on the soul.
  7. Your work and vision is no longer just “yours.” A lot of people get into photography because it’s their passion or hobby, but once you become a professional, your job is to satisfy the person paying you. You may have to prioritize your client’s wishes over your own artistic eye.


It’s up to you whether you should turn your passion for photography into profit. Hopefully my pros and cons can help you with your decision. Most importantly, even if you go pro, don’t give up hobby photography. Keep shooting and maintain your love for the art!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ten Tips for Great Animal Photos

Stephen Oachs has composed 10 tips for taking great animal photos. Very good tips if you’re new to wildlife photography, or just want to improve your shots taken at your local zoo;

white tiger
Jaguar by Onrie (Profile)

Tip 1: Miss the eyes and you’ve missed the shot. Getting the eyes in focus is key to capturing a photo of an animal. It’s human nature to look at the eyes. It’s how we determine emotion and how we connect. When I was in Homer, Alaska, I came across a moose on the move. Given it was early morning and the light was low I knew getting a fast shutter speed to freeze his movement would be tough, so I quickly adjusted my camera to lock the focus on his eyes, and took the shot. The majority of the picture was a bit blurry, but because the eyes are in focus, the shot was saved.

Tip 2: Use a telephoto lens. Getting closer to the action, yet staying a safe distance, is the key to photographing wildlife. By keeping your distance you allow the animal to be in their comfort zone and are more likely to get natural behavior. Safety is also a factor when photographing in the wild. Always keep at least 100 yards distance from wildlife, for your safety and for the well being of the animals. Another good use for a telephoto lens is a trick not many people know, which comes in very handy when photographing animals in the zoo that are behind fencing. If you move close to the fence (keep a safe distance) and use at least 100mm of your telephoto lens, focusing beyond the fence, with a wide aperture, you can “focus out” the fencing and take a photo of the subject with no wires! Now, there are some exceptions, such as, if the fencing is black you’ll have a much better chance of pulling this off. Regular chain link fence is gray and semi-reflective, which in the sunlight can cause a glare and is often too bright to focus out. I’ve also had some successes at trying different angles, so experiment for your best results. I often shoot with a Canon 100-400mm IS USM and a Canon 28-300mm IS USM. If you’re new to telephoto lenses, on a budget and not sure what to get, I suggest the Tamron 28-300mm or a Sigma 70-300mm. I’ve also had great results with the Sigma 50-500 which, as of this writing, I consider to be the best bang for the buck. These lenses all work with teleconverters of 1.4x and 2.0x so you can easily extend your reach even further, often while keeping auto-focus (with Canon L lenses, a minimum aperture of 4.0 or less will support auto-focus. Above that a manual focus is your only option.)

Tip 3: Shoot with two eyes. This is a tip I’m sharing here, but often have a hard time remembering myself. I can’t tell you how many shots I’ve missed because I didn’t see the action coming. By keeping both eyes open you’ll see the subject in the viewfinder and you’ll also see what’s going to happen next.

Tip 4: Adjust your shutter speed to stop/show the action. When animals are on the move you need to decide quickly on the type of shot you want to take. If you want to freeze the action, you’ll need to shoot at 1/500 or faster and depending on light, that can be tricky. One option, if you’re shooting digital, is to adjust up your ISO, which will make your sensor more sensitive to light and give you that needed boost in shutter speed. Now, if you want to give a sense of motion to your image, try shooting with a shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/8 and pan your camera with the animal. Pan steady and remember, keep the eye in focus if you can! For best results, pick backgrounds that are uncluttered and simple, as this will make the subject standout in the image.

Tip 5: Anticipate behavior. This tip goes well with Tip 3, shoot with both eyes, because anticipating behavior is often key to capturing a rare moment, action and unique situations. Panning the camera to follow an animal can be a tiring process, so often I’ll study the animal’s behaviors watching for a pattern and then use some anticipatory shooting, and a little luck, to hopefully capture that perfect moment.


Tip 6: Use a tripod. Using a tripod is one of the best things you can do to improve your photography, and wildlife is no different. By mounting your camera to a tripod you reduce camera shake, which is usually the cause of blurry photos. To take this a step further, I use a shutter release cable, which eliminates the need to touch the camera while snapping shots and thus removes almost all potential for camera shake.

Tip 7: Composition – Framing your shots. Some simple framing advise can go a long way toward improving an image, and for those who are computer savvy, a little trick called cropping (software technique to cut a photo) can help improve composition that wasn’t quite right at the time the photo was taken. The best way to think about composition is to picture a tic-tac-toe grid in the view finder of your camera (I’ve seen some new cameras that come with this as a feature you can turn on!) and use that grid to organize your shots. There is no hard rule, but the general theory behind good composition is that your subject lies in one of the crosshairs of the grid. Setting up your shot to lead the eye is also a good example of composition.

Tip 8: Use a wide aperture. Learning the effects of adjusting your camera’s aperture will go a long way toward improving your photographs, especially in portrait style shooting. In a photo of a grazing elk I shot in Yellowstone, I chose a very wide aperture to blur out a potentially busy background and bring attention to the subject instead. As you learn to control your camera you’ll also find that adjusting your aperture will have a direct effect on your shutter speed. This will prove especially helpful when shooting in the early mornings and late evenings, when animals are typically most active and the light is warm and muted.

Tip 9: Plan for the best light. There’s nothing like a cloudy day to provide soft, even light for wildlife photography. Clouds act like a giant diffuser to the sun, spreading the light out evenly and taking away harsh shadows that are created by a bright, sunny day. Of course, a cloudy day has its challenges as well, such as lower light, which will force you to adjust ISO and shutter speed settings for stopping action and getting sharp, in focus images.

Tip 10: Use a flash to fill in shadows. It may sound odd, but using a flash outside on a bright sunny day actually makes a lot of sense. In this situation, you’re not using the flash to illuminate the subject, as you would in a dark setting, but rather to fill in the shadows and provide detail where harsh shadows would otherwise be heavy and dark. It’s important to use flash wisely and here are a couple of other suggestions:

1. Be conscious of the animal and whether flash will scare them and,

2. There are times where your only shoot is through glass — using a flash behind glass will ruin your shot. The glass will reflect the light back at the camera and you shouldn’t be surprised if all you get is a big white picture!

Bonus Tip: Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. This tip is a no-brainer for those of us who shoot digital. Shooting digital is cheap — technology is advancing so quickly that, as of this writing, a 4 gigabyte memory card is selling for less than $100 and you can get A LOT of photos on a 4 gig memory card. The bottom line of this tip is take photos….a lot of photos. Don’t be shy. I often take multiple photos of the same scene or subject and then later choose the best from the group. This is also a great way to learn; by adjusting your camera between shots you can experiment and see the results of different settings of your camera. And, don’t sweat the details of trying to remember which photo had which settings…another great thing about shooting digital is something called EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format). EXIF data is written to every photo so that later, upon review, you can see every setting your camera used to take that image.

About the author
Stephen Oachs spends every chance he gets looking through the viewfinder of his cameras. He is an accomplished nature photographer with an impressive gallery of stunning wildlife shots. Visit his photo journal at http://www.stephenoachs.com/. Read more about him at his blog, stephenoachsphotography.blogspot.com. When not taking photographs, Stephen’s day job is spent as technical director of VisiStat.com, a leading next generation Web Analytics service that specializes in real-time Website Performance Management.