Tag Archives: photography

Vanguard Creative Services Retrospective 2014

Perhaps you are an expert doodler, executing masterful abstract patterns in the margins of the Meeting Minutes. Or a frustrated poet, illustrating mournful truisms for a Tumblr blog. Maybe you sing in the shower for an audience of one — each unrecorded performance lost to the ages. But surely, one way or another, everyone is a secret artist.

This year, Vanguard Direct gave its employees a special opportunity to showcase their diverse artistic talents, at the 2014 Creative Retrospective of arts, crafts and multimedia. Many of our professional designers opened up their personal portfolios to reveal a rarely-seen side of their creativity ­ but some of the most intriguing works were exhibited by Secret Artists who work for Vanguard in a purely non-artistic capacity.

Following is a sampling of our employees’ observations:

Will Lovell, Designer         

At Vanguard Direct’s first art retrospective, people were treated to a look at the creative departments skills outside of the digital world. Page layout and digital design are seen every day in the workplace, but rarely is anyone exposed to traditional mediums such as watercolor, oil painting and photography — the sort of work that hangs privately in homes or kept locked away in closets or basements. Imagine the amazement of a client walking in and seeing all this creative output adorning the walls of the 22nd floor. After all, it’s not something you see every day at Vanguard Direct. It was even said that one client asked if any of the work was for sale. Quite a testament to this department’s efforts.

Samanta Ramroop, Accounts Receivable Specialist

Vanguard’s art show was absolutely amazing and well presented. I love not only your yummy crackers, but Will’s creation really blew me away, together with Miguel’s and Wally’s photos. I felt that everyone that participated did a great job. Thanks for doing such an eventful art exhibit.

Vivian Rosado, Accounts Payable Supervisor

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the Vanguard Art Gallery. It’s inspiring to know that we are surrounded by such talented people. It also explains why our customers are so happy with Vanguard. I’m thinking of taking up photography! I love taking pictures as I am the “designated” photographer at home.

Rita Orphanos, Account Representative

I expected something good, interesting, unusual; never did I imagine this extraordinary gallery of unbelievable art by unbelievably talented people. Thank you.

Velda Gardiner, Senior Production Coordinator

Who knew some Vanguardians possessed such unique talent for expressing and portraying an array of artistic vision.

The exhibition displayed a real diversity of skills, media and perspectives inviting us to embrace the artists individually and collectively. While we may not be seeing through the artist’s eyes, each artist shared a vehicle engaging us to capture a special moment or convey an emotion propelling us to feel something and to react in some way. After all, isn’t that what it’s ultimately all about?

Congratulations to what was a successful and appreciated unveiling of inspiring vision. I’ll look forward to the next viewing.

Check out this video of opening day, and check out some of the submitted work. Stay tuned to our next blog to have some insight into the pieces with the artists themselves!

Author: Jay Zilber

Beauty Retouching: An Easy Photoshop “How To” for Skin Enhancement

From beauty magazines to portraits, from advertisements to LinkedIn profile pictures, the process of beauty retouching has become an art. Too little retouching shows the realities of our lives––late nights, early mornings, and all the in-betweens that have caused wrinkles, dark circles, and imperfections. Overdoing the retouching process creates Barbie and Ken replicas––unrealistic figures and unnatural features that create a disconnect between consumers and the product or message.

When it comes to retouching, the key is to utilize the filters and effects to harmoniously land in between realism and idealism. Many think that only professionals can master the art of beauty retouching, but with Adobe Photoshop (the program of choice for most retouching gurus)––along with a foolproof, step-by-step guide and a little experimentation––designers, avid photographers, and/or profile-picture aficionados can enhance photos realistically, too.

So if you’ve been searching for that simple, straightforward guide to Photoshop skin retouching, look no further. Open up a portrait (we won’t tell if you pick one of yourself!) and follow these steps to retouching with ease.

Important: Make sure that you have an original file stored away in a safe place. This way, whatever editing you do, you always have a backup file tucked away somewhere in the event that you need it. This is also a great way to compare your original and your retouched masterpiece, so make this a habit!

1. Once you have your photo open in Photoshop, start by duplicating the image layer, making a new layer to begin the retouching process. This is important because once you’ve begun to alter the image, your original will serve as a base layer that you use later on.

2. Now add a Surface Blur filter to the layer. Choose Filter > Blur > Surface Blur. When adjusting the Radius and Threshold settings, find a happy medium where the skin is smooth but the facial features haven’t been affected. (A good starting point is to set your Radius and Threshold between 10 and 20.)

3. Next, create a layer mask to hide the blur (you’ll know you’ve done it correctly when you see the original file instead of the surface blur) by holding the Option/Alt key and clicking the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.


4. Using the brush tool (the eighth icon down on the toolbar) and selecting white for your paint color, paint over the bad skin and around (not over) all facial features (eyes, eyebrows, nostrils, mouth, etc.). Toggle your background image on and off to see if you’ve covered the areas you want to retouch thoroughly. Using the eye icon on the Layers panel, turn off your original layer. Your image should look similar to this:

5. Now you’ll need to adjust the colors and tones so that the skin isn’t looking blotchy. Hold down the Alt/Option key and select New Layer in the Layers panel, opening the New Layer options. Name your layer so that you can tell it apart from your other layer and check the box below “Name” that says “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask.”

6. To ensure that you give your portrait a natural complexion, use the eyedropper tool (Alt/Option to turn the arrow into an eyedropper) to grab a color from the smoothed skin that you think would look natural. Once you’ve found a swatch you like, use your paint brush at a low opacity (below 50%, but experiment around until you’ve found a level that works) to paint the areas of the skin you wish to cover up.

7. Now you’re ready to bring the original skin back to really enhance the realism of your retouching. Start with your “Paint smoothing” layer and bring down the opacity until you think it’s at a good level. Next, move down to your “Blur” layer and bring down the opacity until you find a spot where the original skin is apparent without adding in all the problem areas you wanted to cover up in the first place.
8. You should now be looking at a retouched portrait that has rejuvenated the subject, hidden imperfections, but all the while has remained natural.

Now that you’ve managed to master skin retouching, explore other ways that Photoshop pros alter images to create portraits that enhance the subject––and showcase the retoucher’s skill.

Author: Elizabeth Zouzal

Lytro Lives?! Photographic Innovation Enters the Room

Physics is said to rule the world, and whatever flavor you fancy––classical, relative, or quantum––the modern method of capturing photons in an oriented manner, aka photography, hasn’t changed much over the years. There is a relatively short list of technologies that haven’t changed since their “mainstream” adoption, and photography has remained on that list for some time. Digital photography was an update to the capture method associated with the capture of light, but for the most part, film was replaced with a sensor and the light converted into data. The mechanics of the single-lens reflex (SLR) camera have remained fundamentally the same: lens, aperture, shutter, film, and focusing mechanism. The system was based on the sun sending photons toward earth, objects on earth reflecting or absorbing those photons (depending on the composition of the objects), and an observer capturing those photons in an oriented manner with film or a digital sensor. The photons bounce off all the contours of an object, and a subset of the photons that bounce back to the observer arrive at the eye of a human (or the aperture of a camera) at different angles (vector directions). This is why different types of lenses are used to enable various quantities and angles of photons to reach an image sensor or film. The vast majority of the modern lenses on SLRs require some function of focus, or the selection of the point in the image at which all photons meet uniformly, thus making one area of the image in focus and other areas blurry or less sharp. The concept of focus has been fundamental to photography, but there has been little innovation on this front.

Meet Ren Ng and his company, Lytro. The Lytro camera captures all light in the light field (think all possible reflections of photons from a given object and the angle of each photon) and enables the user to select focus after the image is captured. As explained on Lytro’s website, the camera’s “light field sensor captures the color, intensity and vector direction of rays of lights.” Capturing the direction of the light is the big innovation in the imaging technology used by Lytro.

The after-the-fact focus aspect of Lytro images has seen its share of scrutiny among both techies and photogs, but this development means a change in the mindsets of both worlds. The company approached a traditional system of photography, took the concept of the light field (the amount of light traveling in every direction at any given point), and developed an image-capture method that could exploit the main benefit: control over focus after image capture.

Lytro demonstrates the power of the image sensor and algorithms associated with the processing of those images and their application in traditional photography and 3D imaging. The design of the Lytro camera is inspiring, with only two buttons and a touch screen––the square aspect ratio adds a level of intrigue.

Consider Lytro’s camera to be a major innovation in photography. As a competitive product, it could change the trajectory of the photographic industry, which is closely linked to modern technology. Also, add “living image”––an image captured with directional vector data––to your vocabulary.

Author: John Carew

Will Low Image Quality Destroy High-Quality Printing?

On February 17, Rachel Sterne, the newly appointed Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York, re-tweeted a post on the promotion of several EMS members. In her desire to share the event with her throngs of social media followers, she also re-tweeted a photo of the event on stage.

Photo Quality from a Blackberry Tour
Note the image quality from the picture taker’s BlackBerry Tour. Just like most people’s smartphones, the camera was probably covered with dust, pocket lint, and grime from daily use, which resulted in the out-of-focus image shared by Sterne. Sharing the image is great, good PR and all, but it undermines the public’s expectation of high-quality images.

Photography in the early twentieth century was nothing compared to what technology and digital image sensors can do today. Early photographic lenses, camera technology, and image-capture methods could only produce soft, poorly sharpened, grainy images. Film grain does add an aesthetic quality to early images that is difficult to reproduce with digital image sensors, but there’s no contest between an old image and a professional digital photo.

Traditional photographic printing technology, using chemical or silver-based processes, was designed to create a continuous-tone image where the human eye cannot discern the grain or image pattern. Halftone printing systems were created to mimic that continuous-tone process using a series of aligned dots separated by four printed ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). Using the weakness of the human eye, the halftone system can achieve pseudo-continuous tone with a sufficiently resolved image (300 dpi) and properly executed print quality (line screen, screen angle, dot uniformity, registration). This is the high-quality printing that has existed for the last 30–40 years and was printed on modern presses using the four-color printing process (CMYK).

As the media “publish” more and more low-quality cell phone images, the expectation of quality will be diluted. High-resolution, sharp, well-composed images will become the exception, not the norm, and high-quality printing will no longer be required. The printing industry has invested huge amounts of cash over the past twenty years developing digital imaging technology––primarily ink-jet and electro-photographic technologies––that can mimic continuous tone. Sure, printers can print low-quality, pixelated images just as easily as they can high-resolution images, but as a graphic arts professional trained to identify those low-quality images, I must object.

How can we stop high-quality image annihilation?

Destroy all low-quality image sensors worldwide. Not a viable option unfortunately, but if it were, I would eliminate a few typefaces as well.

What do you think? How can we stop the slaying of high-quality images?

Author: John Carew