January 2, 2011
The flagship articles on flash photography techniques was (and probably still is) the backbone of this blog. But since I posted the first few pages on flash photography on planetneil back in 2006, my own understanding and technique have steadily improved, as has my writing style.
Part of my list of things-to-do this year then, is to update the older pages. The images especially needed to be updated. Stronger images, and with less of a wedding bias. Although the techniques can be applied to pretty much any field of photography, I think that some people might have been dissuaded from reading further when they saw the site predominantly featured wedding photography. For this reason, I’ve also made an effort in the past year or two to bring a much wider spread to the range of topics here.
And with that, first up for a face-lift is the page on how to bounce flash. While much of the material will be very familiar to regular readers of this blog, hopefully with new images, and adjusted text and links to other articles deeper in the site, it will be a welcome refresher on the topic.
November 15, 2010
portrait using a gridded softbox
It’s been about a year since I last took a more formal portrait of my daughter Janine. Last year it was her with the steam-punk goggles, when I used a beauty dish (with a sock) as lighting. During a restaurant dinner last night I noticed Janine had ‘LOVE’ scribbled on both her forearms with a felt marker. I asked her about it, and she explained the idea behind ‘To Write Love On Her Arms‘. So I decided to include this tonight in the portrait of her.
Lighting her and the words on her arms was a slight challenge. I wanted a moody portrait, instead of just flooding it with even light from something like bounced flash …
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.
September 6, 2010
influences and inspiration
Triggered by the most recent post on the pin-up photo session, I thought that an on-going theme about influences and inspiration in photography would make a good topic.
The photo above was taken during an engagement photo session. In posing Melissa and Dennis for the one sequence, I wanted to use an idea that I saw on the cover of the disc of a movie I had watched just a few days before – An Education. (Amazon)
The young actress, Carey Mulligan was nominated for an Oscar for her role in this touching coming-of-age story. Beautifully told and acted and filmed. It was based on a book written by Nick Hornby. He was also the author of ‘High Fidelity’, a book dear to my heart.
The cover image of the DVD / Blu-Ray disc caught my attention – the two actors, elegantly posed. When I saw it, I immediately knew I would reference this image some time during upcoming photo session.
August 24, 2010
Photoshop Tips – retouching for portraits
When retouching portrait photographs, I have a certain look that I (currently) like – a slightly ‘polished’ look, but still natural. Definitely not ‘plastic’. With a few steps in Photoshop, and a few steps that I may or may not add, I can easily get to the styling in post-processing that I want. Some of the steps are specific, but others are added depending on taste or ‘feel’. Some of the steps involve Photoshop plug-ins which are essential for me …
July 22, 2010
photographing people – available light portrait
While unloading lighting gear from the van to shoot a last few images for a certain section for my next book, I turned around and noticed the way the light fell on Anelisa. Beautiful portrait light. The (cropped) pull-back shot will show why ..
April 4, 2010
simple lighting setup for headshots
This is one from a series of images for Graham, to use at casting calls. We did a number of straight-forward portraits at first .. but towards the end of the session went for a more free-form portrait session where Graham performed in front of the camera. This in the end showed a lot more of his personality.
More about the lighting set-up ..
March 27, 2010
style in photography – intimate / boudoir photo sessions
I did a recent photo shoot with a model, Carly Erin, to expand my boudoir portfolio.
Sometimes you get to work in large spacious rooms or studios. Sometimes you work in smaller more intimate locations. When you work in a tighter, more intimate setting, the choice to include the surroundings or not will greatly affect how you shoot. I made the decision that I didn’t want the location to be identifiable and this affected how I shot …
February 20, 2010
photo session: Jeannie Dee
Last weekend I had the great pleasure of photographing Jeannie D, a well-known South African TV personality. Actually, “well-known” is an understatement – she’s a bit of a star.
The shoot was for the cover of Top Billing magazine. The cover image had specific requirements for the setup of the scene – a Manhattan apartment, with a view of the city in the background. I’ll post more of the actual cover shoot later on, but in the meantime wanted to show some of the portraits of Jeannie D that I got in between the TV crew setting up, and the setting being prepared …
For the shoot I brought in 3 Q-flashes and a barrage of umbrellas and softboxes and reflectors, as well as a Profoto AcuteB 600R kit (B&H) with softboxes. But I photographed a number of portraits, such as the one above, using just the available light in the apartment. The apartment was a corner apartment, and so had a lot of light flooding in from two sides. The light then reflected back from the white walls inside. It was like shooting inside a massive softbox. You just couldn’t go wrong!
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January 4, 2010
combining flash and ambient light
Going by the emails that I receive, one of the areas that many photographers struggle with is that of combining ambient exposure and flash exposure. This question is also expressed in other ways. It can be a frustrated, “where do we even start?” I also often see it expressed as an involved step-by-step deconstruction of technique, making the entire process more complex than it is.
In reply to that, and many other emails I’ve received in the past few months, I’d like to offer an analysis of a few images from a recent shoot.
[ click on the photo for a larger image ]
One of my favorite clients has the most adorable baby boy that she wanted some portraits of. I had to shoot fast, since his attention span was .. oh, zero. He’s still a baby! I also wanted to be able to cover myself in getting some available-light only portraits, and some with bounce flash. I didn’t want the flash to be overwhelmingly bright. And in bouncing the flash, there was also less chance of disturbing the baby. So I had to mix it up in order to get some variety, and be sure of images that worked.
The image at the top was shot with the Nikon D3 and the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S
Lighting here was a combination of available light and bounce flash. And as usual, I used the black foamie thing to flag the flash so NO light from the flashgun fell directly on the child.
My camera settings: 1/100 @ f4.5 @ 640 ISO, using TTL flash
The FEC was not recorded, but would’ve been around 0EV because my flash isn’t merely fill-flash here, but fairly dominant.
Now where the settings look like they might be informative, I also often feel that these numerical values are a diversion. Too many photographers will get hooked on the choice of f4.5 over another aperture. Whey 1/100th of a second? Why 640 ISO?
The truth is that this could’ve been a different combination of settings. What is important here, is the quality of light. It is our major concern here, and should interest us more than f4.5 at this moment.
The light on the baby’s face is directional. There is more light coming from camera left .. and from this you should be able to deduce that I did indeed bounce my flash to my left. Using that piece of black foam to flag my flash, I was able to get directional light like that.
The light is soft. Since I bounced my flash into the room, and it bounced off the walls, and furniture, I will have soft light.
So those two aspects of the light from my flash is easily understood – soft directional light.
Now let’s look at how I chose to balance my flash with the available light …
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