New York photo session

camera & flash settings: photo session with a couple in bright sunlight

Analyzing other photographer’s work to figure out how they got the result, and figure out how to re-create it if you want, is a solid exercise. I do it often. It’s part of expanding your understanding of photography and lighting, and a way of expanding your technique and your repertoire.

The challenge to figure out the camera settings and additional lighting for a sequence of photos from an engagement photo session – reverse engineering an image: photo session with a couple in bright sunlight – had some interesting guess-work, and some good sleuthing.

Let’s have a look at the images posted in the challenge, and then slowly step through the thought-process. Some of these are near-instinctive decisions, but some are done with a quick frown and an “ok, let’s do it this way then”:

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reverse engineering an image: photo session with a couple in bright sunlight

When I posted this sequence of photos on Facebook of Jessica and Tony’s engagement photo session in New York, there were a flurry of questions. Which lens? 50mm? 85mm? What type of lighting? What were my camera settings?

Well, this stuff has been covered before with numerous articles on photography technique, and lighting with photo sessions. So by now, anyone who regularly follows the Tangents blog, and have done some reading, will be able to figure this out.

So here’s your challenge – look at the photos, look at the location, and reverse engineer the camera settings and lighting. Figure out the possible camera settings, lens choice, focal length, and details about the lighting. I’ve added 1200 px images if you click through, to make the thought-process easier.

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adapting your photographic style during a shoot

I had the pleasure of photographing Rebecca and Max’s elopement wedding in New York. They’re both from Denmark. (Actually, Max is from Spain originally.) They both planned to get married in New York while over on a trip here. I met up with them at City Hall on the day, where I was the witness to their wedding ceremony. That’s quite an honor too. Then, after the ceremony, we ventured out into Manhattan for an extended photo session.

And this is where there is a certain balance that I need to maintain. If I have a specific style in photographing on-location portraits, it is one of simplicity.

The straight-forward recipe is to make my subject(s) the center of the image by:
– careful composition,
– minimizing extraneous clutter,
– eliminating distracting backgrounds,
– compressing the perspective with a long lens,
– by using a wide aperture on a tele-zoom for shallow depth-of-field.

Great. This works well when the area that we’re photographing our subject in, is just something to have as an interesting, but non-specific background. The background might even be defocused so you can’t really tell where it was. Now, when the location is very much part of what is happening, then as a photographer we need to definitely include the location as part of a “character” in this story. I recently did it with the father and son portrait in Times Square.

And so it is with a wedding taking place in New York, where New York was very specifically chosen as an exotic destination. The photographs of Rebecca and Max had to show a wide range – from the more specifically portrait-like images, to photos which show the city they are in. But I also wanted to avoid a cookie-cutter touristy thing where we move from landmark to landmark and just have them pose in front of things and buildings.

I still wanted to show how they interact with each other. For me, wedding photography, and photography of couples, should be about how they interact with each other. It should reveal something very much *them* along the way.

So there’s the challenge – to take photographs of the couple in Manhattan, and have the range of photos – from elegantly simple portraits, all the way to showing them against the backdrop of the busy city. And yet, not have that same busy-ness intruding, and distracting attention away from them when their family and friends look at the photos.

Let’s run through some of the images and look at the thought-process behind them …

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photo session with model New York

photo session in New York – model: Sarah R

I have already showed part of the photo session with Sarah Raley, in the article, vintage photo session w/ off-camera flash. It was part of a longer on-location photo session in New York. With four changes of clothing, we aimed for a diverse look during the photo session. I’d like to share some of them here, along with some of the lighting techniques, and post-processing.

Most of the photos were taken with the Canon 5D mark II (B&H), and two zooms:
the Canon 24-70mm  f/2.8L II (B&H), and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (B&H).

The lighting in nearly all images were with a Canon 600EX-RT speedlights (B&H) in a  Lastolite Hot Shoe EZYBOX Softbox Kit (24″x24″) (B&H) held up on a monopod by my assistant for the day. I controlled the Canon 600EX-RT with the Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter (B&H) on my camera. The built-in radio capability of the superb Canon 600EX-RT speedlights (B&H), really made it all so much easier. Check out my review of the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT.

With the 15 main images selected to show here, I wanted to show some of the thought-process during the shoot, as well as the influence post-processing has on the final result.

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New York photo session with Sarah & Mark – off-camera flash

Sarah and Mark were in New York, dressed to the nines, to attend the Rockettes show. And while they were dressed up, and with some time before the show they were attending, we did a photo session. You might remember them as the couple in my book, off-camera flash. I’ve also photographed Sarah on other occasions. I thought that the New York skyline at dusk would work as a perfect backdrop to how stylish they were dressed. (I did ask Mark if he felt like James Bond, all suited up like that in his tux.)

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Alvin & Lucia – their wedding in Central Park, New York

A groom holding up the softbox for me … as you may well guess, there’s a story here. Alvin and Lucia are from the UK, but decided to get married in Central Park. Of course, there’s a story here too.

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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 …

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