March 20, 2011
on-location headshots that work (w/ Meagan Lee)
This image is from the recent photo session with Meagan Lee, getting headshots for her portfolio. While this specific photograph is perhaps not useable as a headshot, I loved the way the wind whipped her hair around.
An uncomplicated portrait made stronger with a few things working in its favor:
- effective off-camera lighting via a softbox,
- a complementary but non-intrusive background,
- strong diagonal lines created by Meagan’s pose.
With that, this photograph again shows a simple and effective method for great portraits on-location:
February 4, 2011
The previous post about metering modes was all set to be part of the on-going theme where I look at search engine queries, answering a selection of 10 questions more specifically. But then it expanded into something longer than just a quick reply. Same with today’s post. It was going to be a short explanation, but then expanded into something which is probably better as a stand-alone post. The question was stated in an interesting way:
do natural light photographers always use fill flash?
The question curiously implies that you might not find natural light which is perfect. However, as photographers, that is something we’re constantly searching for: perfect light. It is out there, somewhere. So, resisting the temptation to just answer with a cheeky “no”, let’s consider an example of when you would not want or need fill-flash.
The thing with natural light, is that you have to look at it. You have to look at the direction of light. And see whether it gives you the quality of light that you need …
February 2, 2011
which metering mode to use -
Matrix / Evaluative, or Center-weighted, or Spot-metering?
I noticed that search engine query come up in my web-stats – ‘which metering mode for outdoor photos’. So it might be a good idea to answer it specifically. Which metering mode should you use for outdoor photography? Or for that matter any kind of photography?
My approach is quite simple: Since I’m using manual exposure mode nearly exclusively, no matter which route I take to get to a specific shutter speed / aperture / ISO combination … I would be getting the exact same exposure regardless of which metering mode was used.
In this way, the metering technique is the essential factor, not the metering mode …
January 11, 2011
aperture and depth of field
A question that came up in the forum recently was whether an 70-200mm f4 zoom would give you the same kind of look that an f2.8 zoom would.
For me, the f2.8 aperture is essential, especially with a telephoto zoom. For the same scenario, it gives me a higher shutter speed than the f4 zoom. Or I can use a lower ISO. More importantly, since I often bounce flash in large areas, the f2.8 aperture gives me more chance of successfully bouncing my flash than an f4 aperture would.
But what does the change in depth-of-field look like?
Keeping in mind that the how much the background appears to be blurred, depends on a few things:
– the chosen aperture. The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth-of-field will be, giving a more blurry the background. (This is the main factor that affects how much the background will be blurred.)
– how far your subject is from the background,
– your chosen focal length.
– The bokeh of the lens will also affect whether the background appears more blurred, or less. (Note that bokeh and shallow depth-of-field are not the same thing.)
The change in depth-of-field is incremental. If you had to look at a photograph showing amazingly thin depth-of-field, you wouldn’t be able to tell just from the photograph alone, whether f2 was used or f2.8 … but a side-by-side comparison will reveal the answer. An individual image won’t. However, it will be obvious when an image was shot at f 8 or f11 (on a 200mm lens for example), compared to either f2 or f2.8 … we should be able to recognize that a shallow depth-of-field was not used on the f8 or f11 image.
There are hordes of examples of how depth-of-field changes with aperture. But I thought it might be interesting to see with an overlay of images, just how much the depth-of-field appears to change …
January 7, 2011
Kate – a photo shoot in New York
Kate is from Ukraine and has a deep fascination for New York. As a present, Kate’s sister flew both of them out for a vacation here … and had me photograph Kate around New York yesterday. The idea was to get a mixture of portraits of Kate and some photos of Kate in obvious New York locales.
We started off in the Meat-Packing district because I wanted a photogenic spot that wasn’t too crowded during a weekday (in winter), so we could have an easy start to the photo session. Since Kate might not have been experienced with photo shoots, I thought this would be the gentlest start. From there we wandered around a few other chosen spots.
Shooting on my own, I brought along a 70-200mm f2.8 and a 24-70mm f2.8 and two speedlights. Even though this winter’s day was slightly overcast, giving us soft light, I still didn’t want to rely entirely on just the available light …
December 27, 2010
why should you use a higher ISO?
The advice for optimal camera settings for best image quality are usually:
- use the lowest possible ISO:
- at an aperture about 3 stops down from maximum (the widest) aperture;
- at a shutter speed fast enough to avoid camera shake and unintentional subject movement.
Taking this general advice at face value, means using the camera at its base ISO, which would either be 100 ISO or 200 ISO. However, while this advice is sound in theory, in practice this doesn’t have direct consequence on my decision about my camera settings.
In terms of exposure settings, we obviously want correct exposure, even if ‘correct exposure’ is open to interpretation. Now if we are using only available light, then we have what we have for that specific scenario. If the ambient light is low, we would need a higher ISO / wider aperture / slower shutter speed. There’s no wriggle room here.
But if we’re using flash, why not use the flash to give us correct exposure at these optimal settings? Why would we even go to a higher ISO?
The reason: when using flash on location, I am mostly concerned about balancing my flash with the ambient light. Or somehow taking my ambient light into account to give some context. It just looks better!
Let’s get back to the photograph at the top:
November 22, 2010
non-photography goodies in my camera case
Work as a wedding photographer isn’t just about the gear – cameras, lenses and flashguns – and about taking photographs of key moments. 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 in a photo-journalistic or story-telling motif. 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. And in my camera roller case, I keep some extra non-photography related goodies …
November 19, 2010
shooting in bright sunlight with off-camera fill-flash
This adorable kid looked at the camera briefly because I was singing to him. Kids are devious little creatures. They know when you’re calling them and will purposely ignore you. So you have to be crafty too in getting their attention. Of course, you have to be ready for the moment … and shoot a lot. Sometimes that Decisive Moment is to be found in the edit.
The photo session was from 12 noon to 1pm. So the sun was high overhead. We’re often told that the sun directly overhead isn’t the best time to take photographs. While this isn’t as ideal as the fabled ‘Golden Hour’ – that time just before dusk and just after dawn – there are ways of working with hard sunlight and still get great images …
November 10, 2010
tips for posing people / working with a model
So you have a great camera and lens; and someone who is willing to be photographed and willing to work with you; and you have a great idea for a setting or backdrop … but now what?
Quite a few people have asked about advice on posing their subjects in the thread on future topics for the Tangents blog. Posing your subject is something that can be quite intimidating to a newer photographer. The pressure is now on YOU to create magic .. or at least an arresting image. Leaving everything up to the model or your subject to do, or for them to come up with ideas … while you just click the shutter, makes you just an owner of a camera, and not a photographer.
When photographing portraits of people then, at some level you need to be able to pre-visualize what you want. Or, recognize when you actually have something in front of your camera that makes a good subject. The point I’m aiming at here, is that if you want to photograph portraits of people, you can’t be passive. At some level you have to exercise control, whether it is the location or the light, or some element that you add or make a decision about. You have to be active in creating the portrait. And this often means directing your subject or posing them.
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October 27, 2010
creating a background with narrow depth-of-field & great bokeh
I met up with my favorite model Anelisa yesterday in New York, specifically to shoot images for a more extensive review of the Nikon 85mm f1.4G AF-S lens. And then it struck me how pointless it is in a way. This is truly a superb lens. It improves on the legendary Nikon 85mm f1.4 AF-D lens in some key areas. (For me the updated lens was an immediate upgrade.)
But ultimately, you could get similarly beautiful images with any short portrait lens that gives you a very narrow depth-of-field AND has great bokeh. (Just to reinforce that again .. narrow DoF and bokeh are not the same thing. But I digress.) So, whether you’re shooting with a Nikon 85mm f1.4 lens (B&H), or the Canon 85mm f1.2 (B&H), or Canon 85mm f1.8 (B&H) … these images are easily attainable. It is more about the technique and thought-process and approach, than any specific piece of equipment. However, you do need photo equipment that enables you to achieve what you want to, technically and stylistically.
So walking around with Anelisa, looking for great backgrounds I saw this fantastic Art Deco styled exterior of a diner. And I knew that with the various colors and shadings in the late afternoon, it would give beautifully colored reflections at various angles. Here is the pull-back shot …
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