an informal portrait with the 85mm lens – Sarah S.

Like pretty much every photo geek that I know of, I carry a camera with me wherever I go, to get images for my personal photography. Now when the photography isn’t for an actual planned shoot or professional shoot, but just for fun – just for a walk-about, then the choice of gear somehow becomes more involved. What lens should I take – wide, normal or tele. Fixed or zoom. The bulk and weight become considerations – you don’t want to schlep around too much gear.

Creativity and motivation quickly dissipate when your back and feet start to hurt from a camera bag that is too heavy. Nowadays the Fuji X100s (vendor) is my walk-about take-everywhere camera. The 35mm equivalent lens is a good choice for more scenic views. For example, during my visit in 2014 to South Africa, it is the only camera that I took. Here are some of the results from it: hot-air balloon ride

I tend to oscillate in deciding between 2 lenses for my own photography when I am just out exploring.
– 35mm for more scenic views in mind,
– 85mm when I have tighter perspective and portraits in mind.

I have a specific love for the 85mm lens. I believe this is the best lens to change your portrait photography. That short telephoto gives you some compression to your perspective, and the wider aperture allows you to throw pretty much any background out of focus.

When a photographer friend, Sarah Smith, visited New York, I met up with her and we roamed the streets of Manhattan a bit, exploring. With me I had the D700 that I owned at the time, and the 85mm f/1.4 lens on it.

On 42nd Street, there is a McD’s with this brightly lit ceiling to its entrance. Very New York glitz, especially for a fast food place. I knew that shooting up towards it with a tight composition, would make a beautiful background for an impromptu portrait. I asked Sarah to stop, and then asked her to turn her gaze slightly outwards to the light coming from the street side of the Manhattan sidewalk. I carefully framed the image in my camera’s viewfinder, using shallow depth of field. An interesting background, beautiful light and a very photogenic subject. (The lens helped a little bit.) Sometimes it’s this easy, and this quick.

Learn more inside…

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review: Bolt VB-22 barebulb flash

These are good times for photographers who love using off-camera flash. There are more and more options coming out for us to choose from and use.

B&H has rebranded their own version of a popular series of flashguns. The Bolt VB-22 bare-bulb flash (B&H) looks like the Cheetah Light CL-360, and the Godox Witstro AD360, and the Neewer AD-360. They all seem to have similar spec. So if you’ve been browsing for any of those options, B&H has the Bolt VB-22 flash at a competitive price.

For the photo at the top, I had my camera set to 1/200 @ f/3.5 @ 100 ISO to have the window appear in a certain way – bright enough, and out of focus. I used the Bolt VB-22 flash with a white Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella (B&H) as the large light modifier. More about this further down in the review.

 

contest & give-away prize

I have one of these Bolt VB-22 flash units (with accessories) to give away as a prize! (USA entries only.)

To be in line to win the main prize, (the Bolt VB-22 flash), post in the comments how you could use such a flash (which is 2 stops more powerful than a speedlight), or how it would make a difference to your photography. Make your entry informative or fun. Show us your website if you want. Show us an image or two.

I will pick one winning entry on Monday, Feb 2nd. The most interesting or informative or deserving entry chosen by myself and my assistant, gets the prize. Unfortunately, due to high shipping costs, this part of the contest is only open to people in the USA who live in the lower 48 states.

However, there is a secondary prize which is open to everyone, worldwide! A copy of Tilo Gockel’s book – Creative Flash Photography.  The winner of this book prize will be chosen via random number generator.

Creative Flash Photography

Creative Flash Photography, is divided into 40 chapters, or as the author calls them, Workshops.  Over the course of 290 pages, Tilo Gockel gives us insights in how he uses speedlights to photograph a diverse range of subjects:  portraits, product photography, macro photography, shooting for eBay,  photos for Catalogs, food photography.

Check out my book review: Creative Flash Photography for more.

If you order an eBook, then the coupon code Flash40 offers 40% off the ebook version of Creative Flash Photography.

Learn more inside…

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book review: Creative Flash Photography, by Tilo Gockel

Tilo Gockel (website: FotoPraxis), is a German photographer who some might remember from guest articles that has appeared on Tangents. His article on innovative product photography on a budget – Diver’s Chronograph, was particularly impressive when you compare the results with the home setup. You might also know Tilo from various impressive posts in the Strobist group on Facebook. Prolific and innovative.

The subtitle of this book is the best description of what you’d find inside: Great Lighting with Small Flashes: 40 Flash Workshops. Over the course of 290 pages, this book breaks down numerous techniques into digestible chunks – 40 chapters discussion subjects which range from portraits to product photography and macro photography.

What is particularly impressive me about Tilo’s work and this book – the variety in subjects.

The author concentrates on speedlights and affordable accessories. So the techniques are well within the reach of every photographer.

The book starts off with a description of the gear he uses, as well as basic technical stuff you need to know before getting into the heart of the book.

The material in the book is easily accessible – the techie stuff is also distributed in each chapter as Tips, Tricks and Notes. There are also side-bar articles and In-Depth notes within each Workshop chapter, where topics are discussed on their own. There are also notes on any Photoshop techniques he used in post-processing an image.

 

 

Learn more inside…

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promotion – Jennifer Rozenbaum’s lingerie guide for boudoir photographers

Jennifer Rozenbaum has released an 80-page guide teaching boudoir photographers about lingerie, accessories, tips and tricks to help them relate to their clients better. In addition it includes a 6 page cheat sheet that the photographers can customize with their own logos and images to present to their clients. It also includes a customizable check list for client use.

First, you learn about all different types of lingerie. You’ll learn the difference between a bustier and a corset. Which type of bra is best for flattering your client. The difference between the different thigh high styles. Then, you will read about tips and tricks. What do I keep in my studio in case of emergency? What kind of shoes are my favorite? Etc…

As a bonus – when you order you will get a customizable cheat sheet to present your clients to help THEM pick what is best for their shoot. Just add your logo and images and BAM! Better boudoir sessions for everyone!

The PDF is 80 pages. The Cheat Sheet is 6 pages and I also included a bonus packing list, customizable for your clients.

This package sells for $49, but there is a 10% discount for Tangents followers via this link.

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high-speed flash sync (HSS) with the Profoto B1 portable flash

The already impressive Profoto B1 500 W/s AirTTL flash (vendor) became even more awesome in Dec 2014 when high-speed flash sync (HSS) capability was added through a firmware update.

The photo above was taken at 1/2000 @ f/1.4 @ 100 ISO. I wanted that super-shallow depth-of-field, and I wanted the light to be more flattering than you’d get from a bare speedlight. In this case, I used a Profoto RFi 1’×3′ softbox with the Profoto B1. (I kept both baffles on the softbox.)

The summary: it works! But there are a few minor limitations or quirks though that you have to be aware of. (More about this in the summary at the end of this article.)

Learn more inside…

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business headshots in the studio, with a contemporary / modern look

When Matt Sweetwood, the owner of the largest Camera Store in New Jersey, discussed doing new new business headshots for him, we agreed that a more contemporary look suited him. There’s a large dynamic personality at work here … and using an 85mm f/1.4 lens wide open would place attention on his eyes and his expression. Nothing else is really in focus aside from his eyes, and this really makes for a compelling portrait that grabs your attention.

We shot various sequences, with the background brighter and darker. In the end we settled on a sequence of images with the lighting shown in the top photograph – it has an airy brightness to it, and looks modern. With the colors muted like that, it draws attention to his expression even more. No bright colors to distract.

We also had fun with various expressions just to mix it up a bit.

Learn more inside…

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photography workshops

January 20, 2015

photography workshops for 2015

The group photography workshops are full-day events – and are a mixture of seminar presentation and practical shooting. The workshops will be held at my studio space in NJ. There is free parking, and it is easily reached from the main highways in the area. There is also regular bus transport from NYC. (We can fetch you from the bus terminal.)

The fee for the full-day workshop is $600 and the workshop is from 9am to 8pm. Lunch and refreshments are included!

The workshops are now limited to 6 people – and working within my own studio with more equipment readily at hand, gave the workshop a relaxed tempo. The material is always streamlined a little bit more, from workshop to workshop.

More info about the photography workshops.

The three workshops for 2015 will take place on:

  • May 17, 2015  (Sunday)
  • July 19, 2015  (Sunday)
  • Sept 20, 2015  (Sunday)

Book a spot at one of the workshops.  Each class will be limited to 6 people.

If you would like an individual workshop, or a personal tutoring session, those are available as well throughout the year, depending on both of our schedules. The studio is only 17 miles from Manhattan. Just a short hop from New York and quite accessible by bus. Oh, and there’s parking at the studio. Free parking.

If you are limited in how far you can travel, there are Skype sessions and also video tutorials to help you get a much better understanding of photography and lighting techniques.

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photo gear for sale

January 17, 2015

I have a few pieces of photo gear (and other items) available that I am selling.

I’m only selling in the continental USA, and the price includes UPS ground shipping.

Check the B&H and Amazon links for full details and spec on each item.

Learn more inside…

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flash photography: how far can you bounce your flash?

The question regularly comes up: how far can you bounce your flash? The answer is quite straight-forward: It depends on the power of your flash, the bounce distance (and surfaces), ISO and aperture.

Power, distance, aperture and ISO – the four things that control flash exposure. Yup, we can’t really escape this.

So how far can you bounce your flash? It depends on how far (and reflective) the surfaces are that you are bouncing your flash off; as well as how high you’re willing to take your ISO and how wide you can take your aperture. And obviously, it depends on how powerful your flash is – which is why I would always recommend that you get the most powerful flash you can afford. There are advantages to this.

As an example, let’s analyze this image from a wedding, and see what went into creating it.

Learn more inside…

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personal photography projects & goals for 2015

With photography technology and trends changing more and more rapidly, something like a 5-yr business plan would be tough to draw up. Be successful and be awesome! That’s about as far as you can aim ahead of you as a photographer. Still, as we enter a new year, it’s as good a time as any to consider a forward-going path for personal photography and projects.

Still, looking back at a similar post I made two years ago, amusingly perhaps, most of the intended projects didn’t quite happen. Not yet anyway. This isn’t so much plans going awry, but rather things changing. I had planned to create video tutorials – but then Craftsy approached me to create video tutorials. The artistic video clip of Anelisa is still on a back-burner. The intended promotional video for a boudoir photographer was postponed, and then had to be paused until some future time.

All of these in favor of other developments that I hadn’t anticipated in Dec 2013 – such as finally getting my own studio space! This opened up many other avenues for me. It didn’t so much help me change direction, but really broaden what I can do as a photographer. So yes, plans change. As they should when other opportunities come up.

Still, I strongly believe that personal projects help keep creativity alive. There’s that forward aim with your personal photography, instead of just drifting along, directionless. I still have this intention to figure out a plan – a schedule where I work on several projects during the course of the year.

 

what plans do you have for your photography in 2015?

I’d like to hear from you what you are contemplating with your personal photography projects for 2015? What has caught your interest and what has intrigued you enough that you’d like to get into? What themes or ideas or techniques do you want to explore?

So let’s make it fun, and inspire each other.

Post your ideas and plans in the comments section. To make it interesting, there is this book to be won as a prize. I will pick one winning entry at random on Sunday, Jan 4th.   [edited to add: Shanelle, with entry #11 wins the book prize. The entry was chosen via a random number generator.]

Photographing the Child

Photographing the Child – Natural Light Techniques for Beautiful, Profitable Portraits.

The author, Jennifer George, wrote this book with the intention of teaching photographers how to deliver images that sound out and will dominate their markets and create life-long clients.

No matter what your skill level, her techniques and advice will elevate the quality of your images, and set you apart from your competition, and enhance your reputation as a photographer.

Learn more inside…

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