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Monday, November 17, 2008

Meet Italian Photographer Daniele Mendini


I sure do meet some interesting people on the internet, and today's guest Author is no exception.  I have always been fascinated with professional photographers and the creative energy behind their body of work.  I often think, how did they get there?  Where did they learn how to be so good at what they do?  How did they start making an income from their passion for photography?  I suppose it is inspiring for me, even at 49, to be something more.  To be better.  To be more creative.  To maybe contribute to paying the mortgage and still love what I do. (I like to feel as though I contribute, even if it is only with the laundry).

I can't remember how I ran across his site, but somehow, in my walk around the web a couple of weeks ago, I ran across the website of Italian photographer, Daniele Mendini.  And so, started our conversation on photography and Photoshop, and I would like to introduce you to Daniele, as he has offered up some tips in Photoshop that may just take me and a few others in cyberspace to the next level of learning Photoshop.  Hey!  I'm all for daily improvement, whether personal or professional.  I am constantly looking for ways to be better at what I love to do, and that just happens to include photography.  Some day, before I'm too old and need someone else to feed me, I would love to work as a professional photographer, taking picture after digital picture, and editing creatively in Photoshop.  I could spend hours (and I already do) playing around with Adobe programs.  They make my eyes burn with creative delight.

So back to Daniele.  I asked him how he became interested in photography, and asked him to tell me his story.  You know, I should have been a reporter.  My new goal in life is to be the Barbra Walters of the blogosphere.  I have too many creative goals and not enough arms.  That's a problem.  Daniele shared his story with me, and also, at the end of this story, he offered up a really cool tutorial in Photoshop.  You're gonna love it! 

Daniele, it is all yours ...


"My name is Daniele Mendini and I am an Italian photographer. I live in Verona and I am 51 years old.  When I was eight, my father gave me a small camera, a Minolta, it wasn't new, but it was working.  Don’t know why, but I started to take pictures of my relatives, from the window of my bedroom, and of everything I considered interesting.  In order to save money, I only shot in black and white.  One year after I fell in love with this new photography game, my parents gave me an “enlarger” ( I am not sure of this word?? I mean that instrument used in the darkroom to get BW prints from the film) as a present.  So I set up my first darkroom and began to print my photos by myself.  Now, I must say, that it was a great school indeed!   My passion for photography was born there in that darkroom.   When, at the age of 23, I got a degree in geology and, as in Italy, nobody was interested in giving a job to a geologist, I decided to turn my passion for photography to a profession.  You know, when you are 23, your enthusiasm is much more predominant than your brain!  In the same year I got married too.


I was very fortunate, both in my work and in my marriage.  Of course, to move from an amateur condition to a professional photographer was not so easy.   It was the early 80s, so maybe it was easier then than it is today.  I started collecting some photos, taking inspiration from a photographic book published by Kodak in which some famous photographers explained, in a very clear way, how to compose and set up a studio, where to put the lights, how to use the lights and why, in order to obtain the desired result.  This was very helpful and I put together my first portfolio and soon started to arrange appointments with firms and advertising agencies.


Step by step I found my first clients. For many years I shot with film cameras, 35 mm, medium size and large size.  Some years ago, as you all perfectly know,  digital technology came about and, to get the best from it, it was necessary to study again.  No problem!  If I must, I will do it! 


I enrolled in a Photoshop course  - at that time there was Photoshop 4 – and passing hours and hours, and days and nights at the computer, good things happened.  Six years ago I shot my last photo with a film camera.  Now, I use solely digital photography, and now I mainly work in fashion, automotive, portraits, and corporate reports.

In my photographic composition I always try to have the most depth that I can create.  I mean, if I have a subject close to me, even out of focus,  and the main subject to a certain distance,  I get  the depth that I desire.  I love to shoot when the light is in front of me,  when the subject is backlighted.  Also this trick makes for a depth sensation.  As I learned to shoot with films, I mean, the composition, the lights, everything was definitively registered on the film, with no possibility to modify in post production, I always take care of  the details while I shoot. And I consider it very important also in the digital age. The less you MUST do in Photoshop, the better it is for you!


But you can do different things in Photoshop - and create what you WANT in Photoshop.  And here, alone, we can open an infinite chapter!"

..to be continued…


(SOOC shot to be edited)

"It was February, and, it was a cold and sunny day.  I was doing a shoot for the Mid-Europe catalogues and advertising of this Isuzu Pick Up.  The light was very strong and the shadows so black.  To optimize the costs, I always evaluate what is worthwhile for me to miss time on the set, and what I can do in Photoshop after production.

Mainly in wintertime, the days are short and the dark comes early.  I need to take that into consideration when I shoot.  To make this photo better during the shooting I had to put some electronic flashes on the subject in order to make the shadows lighter, and also put some white panels for the wheels.  But the white panels were visible in the reflection in the black car, and that was a problem.  Also the stands of the flashes and the lights themselves were reflected in the car.  I didn't want to shoot with the backlight anymore. In fact I hate the flat images!


I decided to shoot real, natural, and without the help of external equipments.  I perfectly knew that in Photoshop I could “open” some areas and “paint” with the light the chromed and metal areas such as wheels, the front panel, and front lights of the car, engine and exhaust of the bike, etc.  In the sky, I preferred a little shade going darker from left to right.

How do I do all of this?  By selecting each particular area and working in them area after area.  To get the chrome and metals more brilliant I use the dodge tool, setting it for highlights and an exposure of 6.  A brush at 0% hardness.  With patience, I paint the light where the sky had reflected the sunlight. In the shadows ( always in the chrome areas) I use the burn tool with a smooth brush set for midtones at 8% of exposure. For the sky, a shading quick mask is enough.

I make all these adjustments in RGB Adobe 1998.  Before converting the image in CMYK for the offset print,  I control curves and levels paying attention to keep the white and black areas printable with the right detail.  The last operation is to apply the unsharp mask.  It is better to apply it at the end of the adjustments because the unsharp mask creates a small artifact which might be enhanced while making other adjustments.

Before applying the unsharp mask, to get the best results, I usually convert the image from RGB to LAB.  I open the levels palette, I select "lightness" and only there I apply the mask.  Then I convert again in RGB or CMYK depending on the destination use of the image:  RGB for inkjet prints or internet use;  CMYK for offset print or 4 colours digital prints.  More or less, this was all I had to do for this picture.


Hope you all enjoyed our guest Author today, Daniele Mendini!  Your comments are appreciated.  Let me know what you would like to learn here in Photography and what subjects are important to you! 

Have some fun this week taking pictures.




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