Yonko Shots

January 22, 2009

Fluid Mask vs Mask Pro still a popular issue

Filed under: Photos — johnyonko @ 8:20 pm

The question is being asked as often as ever:
What’s the best software for cutting out images?

Here is the way “Zorro” asked the question on the TeamPhotoshop forum:

“I am finally getting to grips with digital photography and photoshop (better late than never – I guess). Thing is how the hell do you cut out an image and make it look at least a bit good? The hard edges are pretty easy but what about the hair?? Its been driving me crazy, so I’ve been desperately googling and what I’ve found is Fluid Mask which looks bloody great but maybe too good to be true!! Does/has anyone used the software? If so does it do what it says? Here is a review on Mask Pro, Fluid Mask & Primatte from a blog I found. Is it worth paying for these Photoshop plug-in’s because I dont think the extract function in PS can do a good job. Just need some advice.  Cheers!”

Since posting the Fluid Mask vs Mask Pro review two years ago, more than 20,000 viewers have found their way here to the YonkoShots blog.  I expected hundreds, but not thousands!  And certainly not 20,000 plus and counting.

So, here is a copy of my reply to Zorro’s question on the Photoshop forum:


There is one simple answer to your question about cutting out hair, and one complicated answer. ( I assume that your question really is “how do I extract an image, preserve fine detail in the hair and then paste the extracted image onto the background of my choice without the viewer being able to tell that the image has been extracted? )

The first simple answer is: at the present time, it can’t be done.

The complicated answer is: yes, it can be done, if…….

The ” if ” word contains a full dozen variables, each of which must be fully controlled by the photographer in order to make an extraction of hair that cannot be detected by the viewer. Even with total control of these 12 critical elements, the extraction will not be perfect. However, the goal in extracted hair images is not perfection, but the appearance of authenticity.

Said another way, you know that you cannot make an elephant disappear, but a good magician can create an illusion wherein the elephant does disappear.

If you are seeking perfection, there is only one way to achieve it: shoot against the background of your choice and do not extract the image. After that, its a matter of degrees or percentages of perfection, the amount of time you are willing to spend on an image in post production, and the issue of what is required to achieve your purposes.

Extracted images are used all the time on the covers of national magazines. they are fairly easy to spot when you know what to look for, but they are acceptable for their purposes.

If you are a professional photographer, you can email me for details regarding how to make credible extractions of hair: johnyonko@gmail.com

If you are just having fun with extracted images, I suggest that you download the demo programs from the various companies and try your hand at it for free.

Speaking about free, here is a list of the variables involved in making great extractions of hair: 1. background color; 2. background complexity; 3. background lighting; 4. foreground lighting; 5. hair lighting; 6. color and thickness of the hair; 7. amount of color bleeding from the original background onto the hair; 8. amount of color bleed onto the entire foreground image; 9. degree of separation of the foreground image from the background; 10. new background color; 11. complexity of the new foreground; 12. amount of fly away hair.


April 14, 2007

Who Framed Charlie Daniels

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnyonko @ 4:12 pm

I cannot tell a lie:  it was I.

I shot him as well, but thank goodness, it wasn’t his fiddlin’ hand. 

Thanks for stopping by, Charlie.






April 1, 2007

Pete Parrot grows to 35 pounds

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnyonko @ 12:31 am

Pete Parrot grows to 35 pounds

In Animal Planet’s program “Most Extreme Animals: Smartest”, parrots are ranked #1 as the world’s smartest animals. Not only have parrots demonstrated intelligence through scientific testing of their language using ability, but some species of parrot are also highly skilled at using tools and solving puzzles.

Of course, you probably knew that.

What you might not know is that studies have shown that some parrots are able to associate words with their meanings and form simple sentences (see Alex and N’kisi).  While parrots have the distinction of being able to mimic human speech, an argument against the supposed intelligent capabilities of bird species has been that birds have a relatively small cerebral cortex, which is the part of the brain considered to be the main area of intelligence in other animals.

However, it seems that birds use a different part of their brain, the medio-rostral neostriatum/hyperstriatum ventrale, as the seat of their intelligence. Research has shown that one species in particular tends to have the largest hyperstriata, that being the talkative Carolina Parrot. ( T. Carolinensis ).

A few years ago, I began experimenting with adding a sprinkling of a popular lawn fertilizer product into the seed bins of two of my Carolinas. ( The diet of parrots consists of seeds, fruit, nectar and pollen and to a lesser degree animal prey. Without question the most important of these to most true parrots and cockatoos are seeds. ) 

Both parrots seemed to grow about 25% larger than a half dozen other birds I kept on normal diets. 

When one of my special diet birds produced offspring, I continued adding the fertilizer product with the seeds and other food.  I now call my “enhanced” diet GLAM, for Grow Like A Miracle.

Now I’ve added one additional enrichment to the GLAM: oxygenation.  I’ve induced pure oxygen into the water, fruit, nectar and general feeding environment of the parrots in much the same way you add oxygen to your fish tank.  The only difference is, I am using compressed oxygen from a medical supply firm.  For this idea I have to give credit to the Discovery Channel and their revelation that earth’s atmosphere was once much richer in oxygen than it is now and the higher oxygen content was probably the reason for the enormous size of plant life and animals in the mesozoic era.

And the birds are growing.  Pete, 4 years old, is now 35 pounds and stands as tall as a penguin.  Mary, the female, is 28 pounds.

I’m sure there are many bird lovers out there who have made similar experiments.  I know they’ve done it with pumpkins.  Perhaps someone has had success with a hamster.

That’s what I’d like to know. 

I’m ready to try adding ionic minerals to the water.  Has anyone tried this yet?

Here’s a Yonko Shot of Pete with my neighbor’s son, Jonathan.  Pete likes kids and loves to sing “Wheels on the bus”.  Actually, he doesn’t know the whole song, he just says “wheels on the bus’, but he says it in the right place most of the time. 

Mary is also in the picture, but in the background, so you can’t really tell.  That spot of red behind Jonathan’s ear is Mary’s beak.


March 29, 2007

Black Points # 2

Filed under: Photos — johnyonko @ 11:59 pm

Black Point #2

Each time I visit Black Point, I think of fishing.  Not because of the water, or the people there who are actually fishing, or the possibility of going fishing myself.  I am there, I see nothing, yet I want to catch something.  It is just like fishing.

Yesterday, I went to Black Point with a single purpose in mind:  to capture a white headed brown pelican.  Not asking for much.  Just a few shots.  I went late in the afternoon so that the sundown light would illuminate the bird in flight.  The tide was high, the sky was lightly pastel cloudy.  The sign post with no sign was surrounded by water.  There were no bicycles leaning against it.  There were forty, fifty or sixty seagulls flying low above the water, flocked together, searching for dinner.  One scooped a single fish from the top of the water.  The others caught nothing.

Neither did I. 

It was not a good day for fishing at Black Point.  The pelicans must have known, for while there seem always to be a half dozen or more working the bay, today there were none. 

I rescued a piece of driftwood instead.  Not any piece, but the piece everyone uses as a combination park bench – cutting board – table.  It was loose, floating by the water’s edge.  Probably loosened by some thoughtless someone who saw no value in this old 2 by 12 board, or someone so mean spirited as to want to deprive the great tens of people who visit this almost desolate spot from an unsharp place to rest and watch the general emptiness. 


I dragged it out of the water and propped one end up on a piece of coral rock, the way it used to be.  Only now, the spike that previously had anchored it to the land no longer did so.  The spike was there, at the end of the board, more visible than before, but no longer functioning. 

The sky was changing.  The light was fading.  I took a few pictures of the rusty spike, complete with its own personal rusting washer, protruding from the end of the board, for some unspecific reason.  It was just like fishing.

Fluid Mask vs. Mask Pro vs. Primatte / Round 4th & Maybe Final

Filed under: Photos — johnyonko @ 2:03 pm

 Leah Special thanks to test subject Leah

Why do a 4th Round of Fluid Mask vs. Mask Pro vs. Primatte when Fluid Mask seems to have wrapped up the number 1 position?

1st, because I’ve chosen simplified tests for Rounds 1, 2 and 3.  The photographs were more or less ideal for the tests and the masking procedures utilized only the basic or primary tools of the plugins.  Primatte, for example, includes an array of tweaking tools which were not employed in Rounds 1 and 3, a definite disadvantage when these tools are not utilized.

2nd, I felt that, since time is money for most photographers, I deliberately spent as little time and effort as I reasonably could to produce the masks for the 1st three Rounds.  I am familiar with all 3 plugins, so I do not believe I short-changed any of them, and I don’t believe most photographers would want to spend more time than I did in Rounds 1 through 3 in order to make their masks.  ( I work painstakingly slowly enough as it is. )

3rd, I wanted to give Primatte a fair shake.  It seemed that by choosing not to use their extra tools in Rounds 1 and 3, I might be creating a scenario in which Primatte could not put its best foot forward.

4th, I wanted to use test samples shot with less than ideal lighting.

5th, I wanted to use one or two sets of more difficult to mask hair than were utilized in Rounds 1, 2 and 3.

One last chance to give everyone a fair and level opportunity to strut their stuff.

The first test photo was shot with no lighting on the green background and only a single Photogenic strobe for the subject.  Following the original are the test results for Primatte, Fluid Mask and Mask Pro.





All three plugins produced decent results from a less than ideal photograph.  Fluid Mask, as it has in all three previous Rounds, produced more detail, but this time it also produced a bit of noise around the image.  Mask Pro also produced fairly good detail, but it too  produced noise, and more of it than Fluid Mask.  Primatte’s image was the cleanest with no perceptible noise.  Primatte also produced slightly less detail.

The next test photo was also shot with no lighting on the green background and with only a single Photogenic strobe for lighting the subject.  Following the original are the test results for Primatte, Fluid Mask and Mask Pro.





In this test, Mask Pro,  Primatte and Fluid Mask all performed well.  On close examination, you can find more detail in the Fluid Mask hair, but slightly more green as well than in the Primatte and Mask Pro examples. 

The 3rd test photo was also shot with no lighting on the green background and with only a single Photogenic strobe for lighting the subject.  I chose this image for the test because the subject is blonde and the lighting is a little on the low side, especially of the sides of the face where good definition is important for masking and minimizing green spill.  Following the original are the test results for Primatte, Fluid Mask and Mask Pro.





Well! Primatte finally looks like a winner here.  It did require two hits on the “spill sponge” tool to reduce the amount of green that was visible after the mask was initially created, but the final result is pretty good.

And this time, the surprise is that Fluid Mask brought along a lot of green.  Actually, that shouldn’t really be a surprise, because the extra green is the trade-off for the extra definition visible in most of the Fluid Mask test photos.  In addition, Fluid Mask does not contain a mechanism for removing green spill or other color contamination.

Mask Pro also produced a very acceptable mask.  There is excellent detail visible, and most of the green spill has been automatically removed.  All that was required to remove most of the green contamination was to check the “use color decontamination” box in the “magic brush” tool options palette.  Note:  the only place you can tell Mask Pro to decontaminate is in the magic brush options palette, and it is easy to overlook.

One of the beauties of Primatte is that it is both actionable and batchable in PhotoShop.  If you are working with a group of photos shot against the same background under the same lighting conditions and, most importantly, of the same subject, you can do a lot of work in a short time.  In my tests, it took about 80% less time to produce a subsequent mask once the initial keep-delete parameters had been established.  Plus, you can walk away while the work is being done!  Check out the batching and action info at: www.digitalanarchy.com/primatte/primatte_t-action.html.  There is a “how to” pdf file at the same link.

Primatte is therefore a great tool if you’re shooting against green or blue backgrounds and can take advantage of its batching capability.  You save a lot of time and trade off only a little detail.

Mask Pro does not offer a batching capability, but it does retain the settings for a previous mask.  This means you can jump into creating the mask without having to establish new keep-drop settings.  A great time saver.  ( Mask Pro also offers six views of the mask as it is being constructed, compared to three for Primatte and two for Fluid Mask. )

Fluid Mask automatically analyses each image and therefore offers neither a memory of previous settings nor a batching capability.

Conclusion:  my preference is Fluid Mask and for most of my work, it is my first choice.  I’ve shot multi-subject jobs and batched the masks in Primatte, but each time the subject changes, the results become problematic.  And for portraiture work, I avoid green backgrounds whenever possible.  Removing the color spill from hair and skin is often time consuming and annoying, especially if the subject is blonde and the skin tone is light.  As a result, Primatte has limited applicability for me.

As for Mask Pro, I find that it produces more hair detail than Primatte, but slightly less hair detail than Fluid Mask, and it takes greater effort to accomplish the task.  However, once you establish the keep-drop parameters for an initial image, you can work very quickly on subsequent similar images.  In most of my work, I like to see every detail, but many photographers prefer a soft focus look in their portraits. And many others don’t want or need to see every strand of fly away hair.  Once again, that’s what the demos are for.

Bottom line for me:  Fluid Mask for speed, simplicity and detail.  Please refer to Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3 for more information.

Link to Fluid Mask download and tutorials:  www.vertustech.com/fm_tutorials.htm

Link to Mask Pro download and tutorials:  www.ononesoftware.com/tutorials_mp.html

Link to Primatte: www.digitalanarchy.com/section/section_psd.html

email me: johnyonko@gmail.com

March 28, 2007

Fluid Mask vs. Mask Pro vs. Primatte / Round 3

Filed under: Photos — johnyonko @ 1:16 pm

This is the 3rd and what should ( but won’t ) be the final Round of the Fluid Mask vs. Mask Pro vs. Primatte transparency extraction masking PhotoShop plugin review.

The photography, testing methods, results and opinions are entirely my own.  Each plugin contains tweaking tools which were not employed in order to reduce the time and level of expertise needed to produce a test mask.  Each plugin is offered in demo mode, and links are provided below so that you may download and perform your own comparison tests.  Tutorials are available for each plugin and I advise that you watch at least one hair masking tutorial for each plugin for comparison purposes. 

Fluid Mask won Round 1.

Fluid Mask also won Round 2 in which Primatte was a non-participant owing to the nature of the photograph.

Round 3 will again test the transparency masks created by all three plugins.  The masks will then be set against a black background.  Black, it is anticipated, will be very unforgiving relative to the visibility sensitivity of edge transition ( feathering ) blending residue.

In order to bring Primatte back into the game, we’ll return to the test photograph used in Round 1.  (Primatte is designed to function with green or blue backgrounds.)

Here are the 3 test results:




There is obvious blending residue in all 3 test photographs. Close examination reveals that the Primatte test shows slightly more green noise in addition to the blending residue.  Mask Pro shows a slghtly reduced brightness in the blending residual (this is good).  The Fluid Mask example shows slightly more fine detail.

Clearly, you can produce a nearly equivalent mask with all 3 plugins. 

In deciding which of the 3 products to purchase, I would eliminate Digital Anarchy’s Primatte from consideration as a result of its limited applicability and because both Fluid Mask and Mask Pro can handle green and blue backgrounds.

As for the differences between Fluid Mask and Mask Pro, I found that there is a greater learning curve with Mask Pro and slightly less sensitivity to fine detail.  In addition, I much prefer Fluid Mask’s automatic image analyser to Mask Pro’s manual keep-drop selection system.  In addition, Fluid Mask’s edge detection method is both simpler and seems to be more exact.  And faster than Mask Pro’s.  Watch the Mask Pro tutorial and you’ll observe that defining edges can be a bit tedious, especially compared to the Fluid Mask system of painting in blue to tell the program where to look for difficult edges.

With all 3 plugins, post production tweaking would be required in order to obtain better results than were produced by the mask alone.

Your choice for the new background will ultimately determine the quality of the final image.  It will also determine how much post production tweaking in PhotoShop you will have to do in order to get your final image up to the 100% acceptable range.

Here is a “98% Final” of the image used in Round 2.  I’ve left it at 98% finished because there is a bit of blending residue visible in the hair, mostly on the left side of the subject.  (It is barely perciptible, but I aim for 0 tolerance ).  This can easily be removed in PhotoShop either by cloning, erasing or burning.  I use all 3 tools set to very low opacity, usually about 12.  Maybe a little darkening of the subject, also.

The following image was produced with Vertus’ Fluid Mask plugin.  The original is shown in Round 2.

Here are the links for each of the plugins:

For Vertus’ Fluid Mask:  www.vertustech.com/fm_tutorials.htm

For onOne’s Mask Pro:  www.ononesoftware.com/tutorials_mp.html

For Digital Anarchy’s Primatte:  www.digitalanarchy.com/section/section_psd.html

Here is an additional portrait shot on the same ivory canvas background as the test photos used in Round 2 and for the John Creighton portrait above, and then transparency masked with the Fluid Mask plugin. 


Bottom line:  Vertus’ Fluid Mask wins Round 3.

In these 3 tests in which speed and ease of use were considered important factors, Fluid Mask proved easier to use, produced its masks faster ( averaging less than two minutes per mask ), did less damage to the image detail and generated finer detail in the hair.  However, both Primatte and Mask Pro contain tools with which to tweak the mask.  Of course, that means more time is required, and more experience with the plugins. 

Look for Round 4 in which we’ll take the time to produce a quality mask and consider a reasonable degree of expertise as acceptable.  ( My knowledge of the ideosyncracies of the plugins and prior experience with them is what I consider “reasonable” .)

email me: johnyonko@gmail.com

March 27, 2007

Fluid Mask vs. Mask Pro vs. Primatte / Round 2

Filed under: Photos — johnyonko @ 6:34 pm

This is Round 2 of the Fluid Mask vs. Mask Pro vs. Primatte PhotoShop plugin transparency masking software review.  What happened in Round 1?  Scroll down a tad.  You should read it before reading this entry.

 Or, you could just wait for me to tell you that Vertus’ Fluid Mask won Round 1 primarily on the strength of the quality of the fine details left visible in the hair of the subject after masking the green background.

Digital Anarchy’s Primatte will not compete in Round 2 because this program is designed to function with either a green or blue background, and the test photo in this Round will be one shot against an off-white ivory toned canvas background.

A single Photogenic strobe – slightly offset left of center – was used to illuminate the subject.  Offsetting the key light created a slight shadow on the left side of the subjects face and neck and also cast a shadow on the background.  However, there is sufficient distance between the foreground edge of the subject’s face and the shadow on the canvas so that no complication is expected with the masking.  In fact, you should notice that the shadow on the face creates a fairly good if not great definition between the subject and the background.

Here is the original Yonko Shot of photographer subject John Creighton.  It is nearly a duplicate of the photo used in Round 1 with the only noticeable difference being the smile and, of course, the background color.  All else appears to be constant.

In general, despite the similarity of tones in the skin and background, it is expected that both Fluid Mask and Mask Pro should be able to handle the masking well.

Here are the resulting hair test photos after applying the Fluid Mask and Mask Pro transparency plugins.



Wow.  Nearly a tie!  I would give the top photo an A+ and the 2nd photo an A++.  Both Mask Pro and Fluid Mask did an excellent job. 

For speed, Mask Pro was faster by a few seconds, literally.

For ease of use, absolutely a tie!

For quality, if I’m obligated to make a choice, I have to say that Fluid Mask has more visible strands of hair, but they are not easy to find.  You have to have a really critical eye.  Look for the peach fuzz on the ear.  There is some visible in the Mask Pro example, but more in the Fluid Mask photo.

Don’t tell me after all this, we’re going to end in a tie!

OK.  I won’t.  Here are the two face test photos.  Unlabelled.

One is clearly superior.  What is your guess?

Face Test Photo # 1

and the winner is……………………

Face Test Photo # 2

This time, it was basically no contest.

For speed, Fluid Mask won easily because Mask Pro required several tries to avoid masking pieces of the face.  NOTE:  there are three ways to correct this ‘overmasking’ problem when it occurs – and it will occur. First, simply undo your last stroke and repaint more carefully.  Second, change the mode from drop to keep and paint over the deleted pixels you want to keep.  They’ll be restored like magic.  Third, after you’ve returned to PhotoShop, you can simply paint over the deleted area with the history brush.  Paint carefully.  Again, the deleted pixels will be restored. 

For ease of use, again, for the same reason, Fluid Mask won easily.

For quality of extraction, the bottom photo # 2 belongs to Vertus’ Fluid Mask.

Bottom Line:  Fluid Mask wins Round 2.

Click here for Round 3: https://johnyonko.wordpress.com/2007/03/28/fluid-mask-vs-mask-pro-vs-primatte-round-3/

Recommendation:  Download the demos and do an extraction yourself.  Use a good, clean, well defined photograph.  Here are links where you can download demos and watch tutorials:

For Vertus’ Fluid Mask, the link is:


For onOne Software, the link is:


Note 1:  Vertus has two tutorials for masking hair.  One is called “Hair & Alpha mask tutorial”; the 2nd is found towards the bottom of the page in the Tips & Tricks & Tools section and is called “Dealing with Hair”.

Note 2:  Watch Mike Wong’s Mask Pro tutorial regarding extracting hair and bubbles.  His easy style is pure joy to hear.

email me: johnyonko@gmail.com

March 26, 2007

Fluid Mask versus Mask Pro versus Primatte / Round 1

Filed under: Photos — johnyonko @ 8:08 pm

I advised Mike Wong at OnOne Software, Jim Tierney at Digital Anarchy and Steve Nelson at Vertus that I wanted to do a three product head to head comparison review of their transparency ( extraction ) masking software plugins for Adobe PhotoShop.  No objections.  In fact, all three responded with best wishes. 

The three products are:

 Vertus’ Fluid Mask; onOne’s Mask Pro; and Digital Anarchy’s Primatte.

So, as promised, here we go.  Fluid Mask versus Mask Pro versus Primatte.  Head to head.

The 3 benchmarks of the comparison are:  Speed; ease of use; and quality of transparency ( extraction ).

Hair, glass and smoke are always the 3 top candidates for doing extraction-transparency demos.   However, I am a non-smoker and mostly a non-drinker, so, with no bottle and no smoke, I stuck with hair for Round 1 of the test. 

 Round 1 utilizes a decent shot of a foreground subject ( photographer John Creighton ) set against a green ( chromakey ) background.  The reason for going green screen for the 1st test is simple:  Primatte only does green ( and blue ) screen masking.  Its a specialty item that comes to PhotoShop and digital photography from green screen film making techniques.

 Here is the original ‘yonko shot’ photograph in all of its green glory.

Original Green Screen Test Image

 For speed, Digital Anarchy’s Primatte ranked 1st, with Vertus’ Fluid Mask 2nd and onOne’s Mask Pro following behind in 3rd place. It took only a few seconds to specify the backbround and ‘clean’ the foreground with Primatte.  With Fluid Mask’s automatic image analyser, the various areas of the image were first defined by the program in about 20 seconds; then, the amount of time required to set the keep and delete areas was about equal to the time consumed to set the background in Primatte.  Mask Pro’s keep and delete mechanics take a little longer and, like Primatte, they are not automated.  ( Both Primatte and Mask Pro allow for previous settings to be reused on subsequent photos, while Fluid Mask does not.  This is not a defect in Fluid Mask, it is owing to the method of establishing what is to be kept or deleted. )

 For ease of use, it was Fluid Mask in 1st, Primatte in 2nd and Mask Pro again 3rd. The automatic image analyser function in Fluid Mask really simplifies things.

For quality of extraction, the most important issue for my purposes, Fluid Mask again ranked 1st, with Mask Pro  2nd and Primatte closing out in 3rd place.

Bottom line:  my personal Round 1 winner is:  Vertus’ Fluid Mask.

Because Primatte is expressly designed to extract the foreground subject from either a blue or green background, I expected that Primatte would have a clear advantage with the test photograph in which the green is uniform and well lighted.  However, the results proved quite the contrary.  True, Primatte did render its mask within a few seconds of opening the test photo  versus more than a minute to produce the mask in Fluid Mask, and longer in Mask Pro.  Still, the results were disappointing to me for the Primate extraction.

My test results photos clearly show that Primatte left behind more noise, and it also did more damage to the hair strands, delivering clunky – chunky – blotchy edges where I thought I would find fine detail.

I have to admit, I was surprised.  I’ve done hundreds of extractions with Primatte, but, speed aside, both Mask Pro and Fluid Mask produced better results in this test.  If the devil is in the details, then Primatte was the bedevilled masker, being bested by both Mask Pro and Fluid Mask.

While the amount of green left behind is virtually the same for Fluid Mask and Mask Pro, Fluid Mask clearly produced significantly better fine details by a factor of 2 to 1, in my rough-estimate-opinion.  That is, to my eye, the Fluid Mask hair details are about twice as good as Mask Pro.  Single clean and faint strands of hair are easily visible in the Fluid Mask test photo.

Conclusion:  in my opinion and under my testing conditions, (out of the box masking, speed and quality without having to become an expert at tweaking), Vertus’ Fluid Mask is the better choice when compared to Mask Pro, and both Fluid Mask and Mask Pro appear to have exceeded the performance of Primatte.

 PS:  Pros and amateur portrait photographers regularly ask “how can I take green screen photos, make perfect extractions and not have residual green contamination in the hair and skin tones of my subjects?”  “What are the best lights, what are the best lighting techniques, what are the best filters, what is the best distance from subject to background, what is the best green screen, etc.”

Answer:  For serious portrait photography, forget green screens.  Green screening is for movies and catalogs.  In other words, masking software is not yet capable of truly getting the green out of hair and skin tones.  Try it; you’ll wish you hadn’t.  But then, every kid just has to touch the oven to find out what hot means!  When you experiment, make sure you use a friend as subject, not a valuable client!

 Tune in for Round 2, and maybe Round 3, if necessary.  Perhaps even Round 4.

email me: johnyonko@gmail.com

January 31, 2007

Black Point Keys

Filed under: Photos — johnyonko @ 10:44 pm

NOTE: Click ‘BLACK POINTS’  for pictures.  All photos by photographer John Yonko except “Sunrise” by Photographer John Creighton.


When I first saw Black Point Keys, I was……..unimpressed.  A narrow spit of craggy land connected by six bridges to a string of rocks and stones, some with a tree or two, unlocatable by name on any map.  Actually, the Black Point Keys have never been officially named by anyone, to my knowledge, other than me.  Perhaps no one has ever cared enough to name them, owing to their small and scruffy character.  And, you have to walk a ways to reach them.

Fortunately, I was with photographer friend John Creighton and, doubly fortunately, he decided to challenge me to “see what we could do here”.  I think he won the competition with his Sunrise“.  Its in the Black Points album along with some of my own sunrise shots. 

First impressions are sometimes erroneous.  Despite its rough and ragged appearance, I quickly learned it is a friendly place, home to a  unique custom calling upon guests to leave behind a chair to provide future visitors with a comfortable place to rest.  Here is a picture of one such abandoned chair, and the view from it. 

 View from an abandoned blue chair.

Not hard to make new friends at Black Point, just start talking and they talk back.  English or Spanish, it doesn’t matter.  Everybody does their best to communicate.  Here is Juan Duran, talking about a fish that not only got away, it took his hook, line, reel and pole with him!  Right here at Black Point.

Juan Duran talks fishing

It is also home to a well anchored piece of driftwood that serves as a park bench for some, a cutting board for others, and a picnic table for still others.  Someone has taken the time to drive an old railroad stake, perhaps lost by Henry Flagler or his crews, through one end of the wood, preventing the tides from washing this valuable and very useful item out to sea.

driftwood bench

Still, despite the hospitality, the hardness and the harshness of the place prevail.  The range of the light is extreme, running from eyeball scorching bright white to dirty blue gray in the same cloud.  The same little patch of ground runs from slippery, slimy yellow green moss and sea weed to leather cutting brown black coral.  On the same day, one can see multiple shades of reds, blues, yellows and near blacks in the sky.   There is a  sign post with no sign remaining.  It probably said ‘You are here’.  It might have asked ‘Why?’.  It might have warned about the presence of crocodiles.


And yet, plants grow, ants dig, birds fly, raccoons rummage, rats scurry, people walk and jog and fish. 

And take pictures of……..

Empty chairs and crocodiles.  Is that irony, or sarcasm, or simple coincidence.   Not to worry, the sign about the crocodiles is on the other side over by the commercial shrimp boats and the old salts who live aboard.  They seem fine.  “Oh yes, the sign is for real”, says Captain Allan Carrington.  “Big ones.  You can see their eyes above the water when you come back in at night.  Their eyes reflect the lights.”

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