general photography

informal / candid portraits on the street – applying what you know

New York City abounds with characters – interesting and colorful people. This is one of those constants if you’re out on the streets in NYC, especially when taking photos or busy with a photo session … or as in this case, during one of the individual photography workshops in NYC. This man approached us to sell his artwork … and we ended up taking a few photos of him. With a few quick, automatic steps, the informal portrait is improved.

I’m one of those people, who, if tourists in Times Square give me their cameras, I will also pose them and correct a few things. Adjust an awkward pose. Hide shopping bags. Any quick fixes that will immediately improve even a camera phone snapshot.

Similarly here, I immediately asked him to go to this doorway a few yards away – the gold trim and black of the facade would perfectly match the dark suit and warm tones of this flower and his skin. Working in this doorway also meant we had shade – no struggle with hard sunlight. The pose is all his! He immediately went to this pose.

If you look at the 4 images in the entire sequence, you will notice the first image he had his left hand out in the sun. I asked him to drop his hand a bit so that he was entirely in the shade. Then another 3 quick photos, as I adjust my composition slightly to pull in more of the blue sky reflection. I knew the blue tones would balance the warmer tones to the bottom of the frame.

All of these micro-decisions to adjust an informal portrait, are done in a few seconds. Decisively, but gently. This is all done with the idea of elevating a random snapshot into an informal portrait that could hopefully stand on its own as an interesting photo of an interesting character we met out on the street.

Learn more inside…

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portrait photography – show us a favorite or break-through photograph

This photograph remains one of my favorites. It was taken circa early 90’s during a studio shoot-out arranged by a camera club (CCJ) I belonged to in Jo’burg. In this photo, the models are waiting for their turn to be photographed in a studio setup, using studio lighting, as well as available light in the large studio. It was a candid moment, as I knelt in front of this model, Megan.

For me, this was a transitionary photograph – I was at a point where I knew basic photography techniques. I read voraciously, and devoured magazines and books. But my own images at the time – landscapes and cityscapes and such – were mostly “found” images. For me, there was still a gap between what I was photographing, and the images I was drawn to – portrait and fashion images which were more controlled. Even then, the portraits and fashion photography that appealed to me, had a fresh and “loose” feel – and I felt I wasn’t quite  capable of that yet. It wasn’t just insecurity, but also shyness in working with people, and posing them. I lacked the courage to involve the people in my photography.

Yet, here I had a photo that had that spontaneity and elegance that appealed to me. Even though the moment was presented to me, and I had nothing to do with how it was arranged, I still felt really proud of it … but more so, the realization dawned on me that I could do this. I could have set this up and shot it. It was within my reach.

I was aware of the problems with this photograph – the fingertips cropped off, and the tilt. The pillow she held to herself is incongruous. The background is cluttered. A more controlled photograph would’ve been more successful. Still, this was one of those photographs which sparked a change for me.

This photograph then, was pivotal in my progress as a photographer. For the first time I took a photo that looked (nearly) as good as I saw in photography magazines. I could do this!

 

I would like to hear your story, and see your favorite or breakthrough portrait.
It need not be perfect. It just needs to be important to you.
There are two book prizes to be won:

 


The Portrait: Understanding Portrait Photography

The Portrait: Understanding Portrait Photography, by Glenn Rand & Tim Meyer, is a good introduction to portrait photography. Over the course of 200 pages, the authors explain the essentials of Portrait Photography.

You can order this book from Amazon, or directly from Rocky Nook.

If you order an eBook directly from RockyNook, then the coupon code Portrait40 offers 40% off the ebook version of The Portrait.

You can also buy it at a discount as an e-book bundle, along with Tilo Gockel’s book, Creative Flash Photography. (review)

Learn more inside…

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tutorial: focusing modes for your camera

I want to expand the exposure metering tutorials with other basic tutorials on camera settings and photography techniques. It’s been in the works a while now, and here is the tutorial on the focusing modes of your camera. Similar to many of the other tutorial articles on Tangents, I wanted to distill the essential elements, and make it as uncomplicated a topic as I could.

The more I delved into the various AF options and how they work, it became more difficult to generalize it in an accessible but still truthful way. I’d love to hear your feedback.

About the photo above, it was a playful idea based on Milla Jovovich’s character, Leeloo, in Fifth Element. In the one scene she beckons the evil aliens closer with a jiggle of her fingertips. It’s an image that stayed with me – a pivotal scene in this very enjoyable Sci-Fi movie. This is the moment everything tips over into an avalanche of crazy action.

So I posed Anelisa like this during a recent photography workshop, with the express idea of using it in an article on the auto-focus modes. The key idea here is that we don’t allow the camera to decide what we focus on. We have to be deliberate about where the camera should focus.

So check out the tutorial on the focusing modes of your camera.
I’d love to hear your feedback and comments.

Now, the techie details of the photo at the top:

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: Erin with entry #13 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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your best & worst photography purchases of 2014

Looking back every year, I’m sure you too are happy with some of your purchases you made in photography, whether gear or software or website related. Purchases that you love and made a difference to you as a photographer. But similarly there are also those purchases you regret. What was I thinking? I should’ve done my homework?

In the past I’ve bought some spur-of-the-moment bad decisions. It is especially easy to get swept away at photography trade shows. But I’ve gotten better at it, especially unnecessary software purchases. So I am actually happy with most of my purchases this year. Here’s my list of best & worst purchases, with even a few “meh” purchases listed.

Better yet, add yours to the list of Best / Worst Photo related purchases, by posting in the comments section. To make it interesting, there was this book to be won as a prize. Entries closed on Sunday 21st Dec.  [edited to add: Roy Barnes with entry #34 wins the book prize. The entry was chosen via a random number generator.]

How to Photograph Weddings

Behind the scenes with 25 leading pros to learn lighting posing and more. Names such as Jerry Ghionis, Jim Garner, Dave & Quin Cheung, Brett Florens, Huy Nguyen, Ken Sklute, and myself included.

Inspired by Fashion. Stories, not Pictures. Connection is the Key. Two grooms. Big Groups. A Sense of Humor.

These are some of the themes which are explored in the 58 chapter entries, covering a diverse range of topics which go beyond the technical, to also cover style and approach.

Learn more inside…

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on-location headshots and promotional portraits – Jonathan Arons

One of the things I like the most about photography, aside from the cool toys, is that you get to meet interesting people. Characters. People with spark. The challenge is then to capture that and show it in the photographs. A headshots photo session needs to be more than just a mere glimpse of your subject’s personality.

Jonathan Arons, also known as “the trombone dancer”, is a multi-talented actor, singer, dancer and musician, based in New York. Jonathan needed some professonial headshots and some portraits for promotional use. We shot these on location in New York. As you can see, there is a dynamic persona here with a lot of energy! With portraits, the intent is always to show the personality and charm. Even some of the playful spiritedness. All of this added up to make the photo session real fun. That glitter suit though!

Learn more inside…

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non-photography goodies in my camera bag / roller case

Work as a wedding photographer isn’t just about taking photographs of key moments, or about the photo gear. Often enough it is up to you as the wedding photographer to help guide the day’s time-line and flow, and also just to help.  For me, wedding photography isn’t just a passively observed event where I take photographs. And if you shoot with a photo-journalistic style in mind, it doesn’t mean you have to remain uninvolved.  I’m there to record the day’s events, but also to help, if necessary, making it a spectacular day.

In the photo above, I took over from the maid of honor when her fingers weren’t strong enough for that final button and clasp at the back of the bride’s dress. My fingers were stronger, so I finished the last button. So as a photographer I’m often called on to do more than just take photographs.

With that in mind, here’s a look into my camera bag, and the non-photography related goodies I keep handy:

Learn more inside…

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hot-air balloon ride

August 26, 2014

hot-air balloon ride

During my visit to South Africa, two of my friends, Jerry & Linde, arranged a surprise for me – an early-morning ride in a hot-air balloon in the Magaliesberg area. This was a first time for me – and I have to wonder now why I had never done this before – it is exhilarating! (This must be old news for those who have done this before.)

With this entire 2-week visit to South Africa, I decided to forego all the heavier, bulkier camera gear, and only take my Fuji X100s (vendor). It’s a specific decision where I forego the versatility of getting every angle from super-wide to tele, and just accept the single 35mm-equivalent lens.

So that’s all I had with me – just this one small camera. Within the limits of that single lens, it became a fun challenge to still get meaningful and interesting images.

Here is the slideshow with 24 images, from the start to a few seconds before touch-down. I hope it shows some of the beauty of this winter-time landscape in the Magaliesberg area. There was a certain 3-D look to the scenery with the early morning sunlight coming in low over the horizon. You can see various antelope dot the grassland by the shadows they cast.

The one thing missing from these images is the sheer stillness of gliding over the landscape, with just the dogs barking way below, and some cars driving by. Oh, and then the rushing sound of the burner filling the balloon again to remain buoyant. This experience was a high in every sense.

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what are your personal photography projects for 2013 ?

This photo shows me setting up to shoot a time-lapse clip of the New York skyline from Brooklyn. The bride is a model being photographed by someone else. She just looked good as part of the composition of this shot. (photo by Peter Salo) The motive behind shooting time-lapse is no more than it’s just to do something creative. You know? Something for the soul. Something to keep the interest in photography alive, and to remain motivated to create something new and interesting.

For those very reasons, I think it is essential for any photographer – in fact, any artist – to keep exploring ideas and avenues.

As this year winds down, and my workload eases up a bit, I’ve decided that 2013 is the year where I want to devote more time to personal projects of various kinds. I do want to explore HD video further and shoot some short clips. In fact, I’ve been talking to Anelisa (my favorite model), about doing a video clip centered around her, in a music video / Fashion style. I’ve also discussed with a friend who does boudoir photography, to do a promotional / instructional clip with her.

I have this intention that during December, I’ll figure out a plan – a schedule for 2013 to be posted in my calendar – where I work on several projects during the course of the year. That’s the grand scheme. To do more stuff!

let’s make it interesting … 

With that, I’d like to hear from others what they have been contemplating or are planning to do as personal photography projects for 2013? 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.

Learn more inside…

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When I posted the article with tips and advice for second-shooters, it generated a lot of conversation in the comments. I want to follow it up with a related article on how to improve your technique as a photographer. It is general advice for any photographer. And it is especially pertinent if you’re a second photographer / 2nd shooter.

tips on fine-tuning your photography technique

Camera technique can be distilled into a few elements:
– composition & framing, including lens choice
– timing of the photograph, ie that moment
– choice of aperture (for depth of field)
– choice of shutter speed (for subject movement)
– exposure metering, (which obviously ties in with aperture & shutter speed)

That’s it! There’s not much more we can do with our cameras at the time of exposure. Sure, we can get fancy and zoom during exposure and do double-exposures and so on. But essentially, that is it.

This list of a few simple elements can become very complex, very quickly … especially when we’re on a photo shoot, or photographing an event. When the pressure is on, our fingers need to move over our camera’s controls without us having to really think about it. Instinct and finger-memory need to kick in when we’re under pressure. We have to know our cameras!

All of which brings us to this topic – tightening up your technique. Over the years I have used numerous assistants and 2nd photographers. When their work falls down, it is usually on a few technical points which are actually easily remedied.

It most often it boils down to shutter speed / aperture / ISO choices, and how they inter-relate.

Learn more inside…

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