Playing with Color and Contrast

I have an obsession with extracting color in or out of photos and playing with contrast during post-processing in Lightroom. I don’t do this with all my photos, just the ones that call out to me for more of an artistic spin.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJackie Venson singer/songwriter | Beautiful in my favorite color, brown.

Ironically, these are typically the photos that are technically challenging to edit which have been under or overexposed, not-in focus, or with other lighting issues that most logical people would discard. Those types of photos really excite me because I anticipate being able to create a really unique image with them.



Jai Malano |  I love the color in this photo, the composition, the expression on her face, her amazing hair, and the bright highlighting on her face which really draws focus to her lashes and cheekbones.

I am also drawn to photos with strong geometric lines, are clean and not too busy, have strong lighting contrast, or that have interesting composition.



Loulou Ghelichkhani, singer/songwriter, Thievery Corporation, Bonefur, and recently, Night Glitter | The clean lines in her jacket, her hat, and the backdrop drew me towards this geometric-mod rendition. BTW, she is amazing!

Here is a set of photos I did during rehearsals and sound check for the 2017 SXSW Austin Music Awards for the Craftbox Agency and The Austin Chronicle. Photos of musicians are always so much fun for me to post-process. I’ll often spend way too long working on one photo because the artistic possibilities are endless, not to mention that the artists are typically so visually interesting in themselves.



Michael RamosMichael Ramos, Charanga Cakewalk, music producer, The BoDeans, toured/recorded with John Mellencamp, Los Lonely Boys, Patti Griffin, Paul Simon, Rembrandts, and many others | I’ve had the opportunity to photograph Michael several times over the past year and a half. He’s typically behind a Nord or a Baldoni. In this shoot, I tried to compose him in a unique way than I had in the past. It’s the composition that I love so much about this photo.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdrian Quesada, music producer, The Echocentrics, Brownout, Money Chicha and formerly with Grupo Fantasma | I love taking photos of Adrian. He’s always super laid back in the studio between sets, and that’s when I typically like to take a shot of him. I kept this photo warm, toned down the color and brought up the luminance to achieve something metallic-like to compliment the metal in his guitar and specs.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACharlie Sexton, guitarist/singer/songwriter, 1985 hit “Beat’s So Lonely”, Arc Angels, guitarist for Bob Dylan and David Bowie | Charlie is so much fun to photograph because he’s always got great hair and a huge smile on his face. This was a more serious moment. I’m not sure what was creating the bokeh in the background. I think it was actually the drums, but it was the inspiration for how I processed this photo.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConrad Choucroun, 2016 Austin Music Awards Drums/Percussion Artist of the Year, drummer with Bob Schneider, NRBQ, Kelly Willis, Patty Griffin, and many more | Here is another musician who’s hair I worship:-) I decided to get a different vantage point for this photo and composed and processed it to feature his cymbals and the interaction in the background between Erika Wennerstrom and Charlie Sexton.



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJose Galeano, Grupo Fantasma | I love the three predominant colors in the photo that I enhanced: blue, purple and the pop of red. I also love the intensity on his face and movement of the drum sticks.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGilbert Elorreaga, Grupo Fantasma, Brownout | The lighting in the studio was very challenging but interesting. The original photos were very red. I could’ve taken out more of the warm tones but chose to keep them because I liked how they looked with his trumpet. Bumping up the luminance gave his skin some of the same lustre as his instrument.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMark Gonzalez, Grupo Fantasma and Brownout | I definitely wanted to emphasize Mark’s profile in this pic so I darkened the background to hightlight it.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJosh Levy, Grupo Fantasma, Brownout | I toned down the color contrast and bumped up the luminance to create a luminous look to go with the moody feel of the room.



Beto Martinez, Grupo Fantasma and Brownout | I processed this in infrared and played around with the color hoping to achieve a funky result. Ironically, I ended up really liking this almost monochromatic metallic result.




Meet Lily

My daughter Lily hates that I’m a photographer. Oh how she despises when I pull out the camera, MOST of the time. But there are instances, mostly when she is starts dancing out in public, or when she is running around being her five year old self, that I can capture her free-spirit.

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I’ve always thought of her as a wild mustang, hair blowing wildly in the wind, untethered by fences and straps. She is so perfectly beautiful in her stubborn freedom.

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I love shooting my children this way, just being themselves, out in their natural environment, not limited to having to look perfect or playing a role in a meticulously planned pose. But I’ll be honest, it’s a challenging concept to apply to my portrait sessions.

We are so used to seeing the beautiful family portraits hanging up in pediatricians’ offices with the Pinterest-worth pose and soft, glowing, even lighting. You know the photos I’m talking about. I’ve pinned so many of them, aspiring one day to be able to take photos like those. Unfortunately, I lack whatever magical skill one needs to produce those types of photos! I’ve tried.

Or maybe it’s because I want hair in the face, shadows and depth, sun flare and funky light points, blur and movement. This isn’t going to land my portraits on a wall at the Ob/Gyn’s office, but that’s who I am as a photographer. I know that my photos just don’t look like the rest. They are different, for better or for worse. I honestly haven’t figured that out yet. This is the journey, right?

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Beauty, art, wine, are all in the eye (or palette) of the beholder. I’ve given myself permission, after much internal struggling, to say, “So what if my photos are different?”. I appreciate them. They make me happy. And so, I’ll keep shooting tomorrow!

I leave you with this gem of a photo from Lily’s Pre-K graduation recently. I laughed so hard that my stomach ached captioning this photo.

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Let Love In, C