The beauty of minimalism in photography

Bird and Mountains, black and white

This is a picture I edited a few months ago. I really like the minimalist composition and the crisp contrast between the black and white. I used the Snapseed app to achieve this effect, but this could be done easily on Photoshop and other editing tools too.

The original picture was in color and taken with an iPhone 4S. It was around sunset time, and it was one of those glorious days with no clouds in the sky. Problem is, since there were no clouds, there was no texture in the sky, and the overall picture looked kind of bland.

I also tried boosting the saturation to really bring out the sunset colors, but I think the black and white version turned out better. My friends on Instagram seem to agree. What do you think?

bird and mountains, color

bird and mountains, unedited



Combining Two Images in Photoshop, Part II

Since my last post on combining two images in Photoshop, I’ve been using more advanced techniques in compositing and masking. This time, I added a subject to a new environment to create a very interesting scene. The final picture became popular on 500px within the first half hour.

First, I had this picture, which I took at a fashion show in January. The model and dress were beautiful, but the background was so blah that the picture as a whole didn’t work.


I decided to add the model to a new environment. I looked in my files for a good picture, and came upon this shot, which I took in Sayulita, Mexico during a vacation last December.

beach in Sayulita, Mexico


I used the same compositing techniques in Photoshop that I outlined in my last post to combine the two pictures. This was the first result:

Photoshop Composite Intermediate stage

Pretty cool, heh? I was pleased with how the beach scene was made even more interesting with the woman walking along the shore. However, I felt like the masking and compositing looked a bit obvious. The light on the beach was coming from the front, but the woman was being illuminated from the back. What to do?

I decided to try masking the woman more to make the overall scene more realistic looking. Parts of her became transparent, but this would subdue the light coming from her back.

masking in Photoshop

Mask further to make parts of subject transparent


Ta-da! Here’s the final result. I thought this looked a lot more natural. But could it fool the experts? I decided to put it up on my profile on 500px, which I consider to be the ultimate test in photography. I was very happy to see that the picture scored a 93 and hit the popular section within the first half hour. Yay!


Combining Two Images in Photoshop

March 7, 2013 1 comment

Today, I learned a neat technique of combining two images in Photoshop to improve the overall picture. I’ve practiced this technique four times already today, and it’s great fun.

First, I had this picture of my friend Kiana. I think her face looks very pretty, but I was curious to see if I could combine this with another picture.

photoshop composite exercise

Photoshop composite exercise

I liked her long legs and boots in this pose, but I didn’t think her facial expression worked as well. Because of the differences in size and angles of the two photos, I knew it would be a challenge to make the composite look natural. But with a little patience, I saw how Photoshop can make pretty much anything possible.

Ta-da! Here’s the result:

Photoshop composite exercise

I’m excited to start using this technique for more advanced composites and make some truly stunning images.

Here are the instructions to combine two photographs.

  • Put the pictures in two separate layers.
  • Make the top layer transparent and move it to lay on top of the second image as desired.
  • You can try using Edit > Auto-align to align the two pics. (In the above example, I couldn’t use auto-align, and actually had to rotate the second image so that the position of the head would look natural.)
  • Add layer mask on the top layer.
  • Choose the paint brush. Choose black for color. Adjust hardness to 0 on the brush.
  • Use the brush on the mask.
  • The new face should appear as if by magic.
  • If you find that you’re masking too much, switch the brush color to white and go over the parts of the mask you want to adjust.
  • Try changing the brush size and hardness to 100 to fine-tune the image.
  • For an additional effect, put a levels layer at top and adjust colors.

Fix for broken Twitter feed

October 25, 2012 2 comments

Yesterday, one of the sites I maintain was displaying Tweets. Today, they disappeared. What’s going on? After digging through Twitter’s developer site, I found that Twitter recently updated their API. This has caused some websites to stop displaying Tweets within a page. Luckily, there is an easy fix for this.

Go to the line of Javascript on your site that includes this:

Change the first part of it to:

Voilà, problem solved.

If you’re using WordPress with the GoodLayers Twitter widget and it’s not loading your Tweets, you’ll have to make this change in the twitter-widget.php, as outlined by Clark Communications.

Categories: Twitter Tags:

Gangnam Style Translated

September 11, 2012 2 comments

Several of my friends have been sending me links to Psy’s video Gang-nam Style, asking me what the song is about. Gangnam is a wealthy district in Seoul, filled with expensive shops and slinky young women with Louis Vuitton bags and perfect faces sculpted by their plastic surgeons.

Here’s the meaning behind the Korean lyrics, courtesy of my dad and Some of the lines are so culturally specific, that I’m afraid they’re lost in translation. The freedom of a cup of coffee?

Brother is Gangnam style
Gangnam style

A girl who is warm and kind during the day
A girl who knows how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter at night
A girl with that kind of twist

I’m a guy who’s as warm as you during the day
A guy who gulps his coffee in one shot before it cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy

Beautiful, lovable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end

Brother is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Hey, Sexy Lady, Brother is Gangnam style
Hey, Sexy Lady

A girl who looks quiet but is frisky when she plays
A girl who lets her hair down when the right time comes
A girl who covers herself but is sexier than a girl who bares it all
A girl like that

I’m a guy who seems calm but plays when he plays
A guy who goes crazy when the right time comes
A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles
That kind of guy

Beautiful, lovable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end

Brother is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Hey, Sexy Lady, Brother is Gangnam style

On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two

You know what I’m saying
Brother is Gangnam style
Hey, Sexy Lady, Brother is Gangnam style

Bike Rap Video

Some of you may not appreciate this, but I think this bike rap video is funny and well-made.

Categories: Bicycling

Sharing Email and Facebook Passwords – Way of the Future?

January 19, 2012 1 comment

Crazy kids. The New York Times reported that many teenagers are sharing passwords to their email and Facebook accounts as a sign of affection. It’s the ultimate show of trust when a young couple reads each other’s emails and text messages. Aww. The article goes on to compare this to teen sex, because both are discouraged by parents.

And because a penis and an email are like the same thing.

Seriously, this got me thinking about the bigger implications of privacy on the Web, and the difference in adults’ and kids’ attitudes toward sharing everything, including passwords. Adults may think that password sharing is verboten because:

1) the Web was once a place where you could communicate privately, sometimes anonymously. Remember those snarky comments you used to be able to make in 2002?

2) we’re accustomed to secure passwords in the workplace requiring at least 8 letters and a special character. Sometimes this is so secure that we have to write it down on a Post-It.

3) we make purchases and manage our bank accounts online.

While we still conduct a lot of business online, the Internet is no longer the private space it used to be, thanks to Google and sites like Facebook that require people to use their real names. Try registering on a new site, and you’re hit with the Open Graph, which asks you to sign in with your Facebook account, thereby sharing all your activities and comments on that site with your mother-in-law.

Kids may not think sharing passwords to email is such a big deal because they don’t use email much anyway, preferring IMs and social media. I remember once when I tried to interview a teenager for an article, he didn’t reply to my email for two weeks. When he finally responded, he asked me to message him on YouTube instead, where he was active every day.

Kids think email is for old people, and their posts in social media are public. So really, where’s the harm in sharing a password with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Especially if the messages are anything like, “OMG, did you see what Derek and Lisa did today? They are sooo cute!”

Or: “I’ve gotten my mom addicted to Fruit Ninja. My plan is all coming together now; I expect a new iPhone very soon.” (This is a real post by a girl from Albany, Calif. Not sure if she shares passwords with her mom.)

Most adults think passwords should be kept secret. But teenagers, and the evolving trends in social media, not to mention the dumb mistakes that public figures make—Oops, did I just Tweet that naked picture to all my voters?—are showing that privacy on the Web is a thing of the past. Perhaps now, instead of Elaine from Seinfeld wondering if a guy is “sponge-worthy,” she would question if he’s “password-worthy.”

In the end, if a relationship sours, you can always change the password—and then share it with your next love interest.