technique

deconstructing a portrait photograph

My friend, Chuck Arlund, visited New York with his son Lachlan, for a few days. At the end of the trip, I had a short opportunity to photograph them. Since this is Chuck, whom I greatly admire, and his son (who is so used to a camera by now), I wanted to come up with something outside of the usual guaranteed way of working with a longer lens, and a simpler background. I wanted something a little out of the ordinary.

What I envisioned was some place in New York that was very busy, and then go to a slow shutter speed, and let everyone that is moving around them, turn into ghostly figures. The idea I had in mind, was with the two of them central in the image, and figures flowing around them on either side. I wanted that symmetry.

But as usually happens, real life limitations and opportunities kick in, and you end up with something slightly different than originally envisioned.

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New Jersey family photographer

photo session: adding off-camera flash to bright daylight

Someone emailed me to ask a few technical details about this family photo session. How did you expose for the family photos? Was a soft-box used? Or did you expose for the shadows and use fill flash? For those who regularly follow the Tangents blog, the thought-process here should be familiar. Let’s take a walk through the process.

As described in the article, controlling bright daylight w/ direct off-camera flash, when trying to over-power the sun with flash, the best algorithm is usually:

– maximum flash sync speed,
– lowest ISO,
– find the aperture for your brightest area that you want to expose correctly for,
at that specific shutter speed and ISO.

Because the sun was hard, and high up already, the best start was to have their backs to the sun. This ensured no one would be squinting, and that I’d have a fighting chance with a single speedlight inside the Lastolite EZYBOX 24×24″ softbox (vendor) as the light-source I could directly control.

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bounce flash photography

bouncing your on-camera flash behind you

A comment posted to the article, directional light from your on-camera flash, asked a lot of questions about bounce flash photography. While most of these have been answered over time in various articles, it might be a good thing to pull it all together in directly answering those questions here.

An uncomplicated portrait of Anelisa that shows the specific elements that I work toward with bounce flash:
– catchlights in the eyes
– directional light which can be observed here as that gradient of light across her cheek
– no hard shadows from direct flash

I most often do this by bouncing my flash behind me, or towards the side.

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wedding photography – improving your shooting workflow

As a companion piece to the previous two articles
– tips & advice for second shooters at weddings , and
– tips on improving your photography technique,
I want to offer some advice on shooting workflow. Not post-production workflow, but rather some things to look out for while shooting.

These articles with tips are just as relevant for any area of photography. The techniques here are applicable to any field or level of photography. I feel so strongly about the advice here, that I’d go as far to say that the further anyone strays from these, the greater the chances of mishaps or even catastrophic problems.

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When I posted the article with tips and advice for second-shooting weddings, it generated a lot of conversation in the comments. I’d like to follow it up with two related articles, of which this will be the first – tips on how to improve your technique as a second photographer / 2nd shooter.

second shooters – tips on fine-tuning your 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 is a list of a few simple elements, which 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.

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Using back-button focus (BBF) on your Canon camera

There are two ways to initiate (and lock) focus on your Canon DSLR
– using the shutter button, and / or
– using the AF-ON button on the back of the camera, near your thumb.

The AF-ON button can be set to be the only way to initiate focus, disallowing the shutter button from doing so. Depending on how you program your camera, the AF-ON button could allow you to trip your camera’s shutter independently of your focusing. Whether this is useful to you, (or perhaps even cause problems for you), depends on:
– your style of shooting, and
– the focusing mode that you use on your camera.

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best photography tips

April 24, 2012

best photography tips

There are numerous tips and ideas in photography that helped me improve as a photographer over the years. This came via magazines and books and other photographers. Many sources.

One of the best tips that helped me develop a style over time – when using a zoom lens, zoom to the longest focal length, and then frame your shot by walking forward or back, to where you have the composition that you want.

Doing so will result in the most compression in the image, helping to isolate my subject against an out-of-focus background. (Of course, using a long lens with a wide aperture makes the difference here.) I touched on this topic with a recent article: composition for full-length portraits – step back!

I would like to hear from other readers of the Tangents blog, what their best or favorite photography tips are.

And we’ll make it a contest for the best entry.
The contest has now closed, and a winner has been announced – check my comment #190

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photographing in bright sunlight – find the shade!

Hard sunlight must be one of the most difficult lighting scenarios to work under. But with a bit of thought, we can work around it and still easily get photos that look great. It’s a topic that we’ve touched on a number of times on the Tangents blog, (see related articles at the end here). The simplest approach for me though, is where I can, is to just not deal with the hard sunlight. I find shade.

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composition for full-length portraits – step back instead of zooming wide

A comment in the article on a simple lighting setup for the family formal photos, asked why I recommended that a photographer should step back rather than zoom wide when photographing a group. The reason is that the perspective distortion that a wide-angle lens will give to your subject, is not all that flattering.

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off-camera flash photography tip – find your background, then your settings

With flash photography on location, we nearly always start off by figuring out what we want to do in relation to our available light. We might just need fill-flash, or or flash might need to do the “heavy lifting” and expose correctly for our subject in relation to the available light.

When we have our subject in (relative) shade, and need to figure out our flash exposure, we also need to decide exactly what our background is. It usually works best to be specific about our background … and how we position ourselves and our subject in relation to that.

So let’s run through that thought-process, using the image at the top.  Alex was our delightful model today during an individual workshop in Manhattan.

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