making your images pop – through choice of lens and technique
The immediate reaction when considering how you could make your photographs *pop* might be to juice it up in Photoshop. But the process should start much earlier – in camera. With a few easy techniques, we can consistently create images that jump off the page or screen.
The most recent photo session posted on my Facebook photography page, had some comments about the 3D look to some of the photographs, and that prompted this article on how to make your images pop …
1. choice of lens
The way that the couple, Lindsay and Chris are isolated / separated from the background, is mainly due to my choice of lens – the 70-200mm f/2.8
With workshops, I’ve seen attendees make a common mistake in choosing a focal length. They stand at a certain (comfortable) distance from the subject / model, and then zoom to fill the viewfinder with the composition they want. The problem here is that most often they are standing too close to the subject, and are zooming to a too-wide focal length.
A better approach is to zoom to your maximum focal length, and then step backwards until you find your composition … and then only zoom wider if necessary. Doing it this way, forces you to use the longest focal length that makes sense for a specific composition. It might seem like a trivial adjustment to your technique, but it could very well change the way your photo look by forcing a longer focal length.
The longer lens also helps in eliminating distracting elements in the background because of the tighter field of view. With the image at the top, I also lay down on the grass to hide people in the background, exactly as described in this linked article. Eliminate and simplify!
2. choice of lens aperture
A wide-ish aperture with a longer focal length, will give you shallower depth of field. This shallow DoF will blur the background. With this in mind, I most often work in the f2.8 to f4 range when I use a 70-200mm lens. And to reiterate something – shallow DoF is not the same as bokeh.
3. distance to the background
Coupled with the choice of wide aperture and a longer focal length, it helps to position yourself and your subject so that your background is distant. This is why the 2nd image has such a painterly feel to the background – it is distant enough and the lens aperture is wide enough to blur it.
The lighting here is also important to lend a certain crispness to the image and help separate the couple from the more muted background. The sky was overcast, so the light was soft … but it was top-heavy, giving shadowed eyes.
C. Post-processing of the image
Finally, I have to mention that I did in fact use a basic Photoshop technique to give the images a bit more contrast and saturation. I did this by creating a Soft Light layer at 30% as described in this linked article.
But long before I even felt the image could need a bit more punch, the essential techniques were there to ensure that the images I got in-camera didn’t need Photoshop work to make the pop.
equipment used during this photo session:
Nikon D3S (B&H); Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II (B&H)
Nikon SB-900 (B&H); Nikon SD-9 battery pack (B&H)
PocketWizard FlexTT5 transceiver (B&H)
PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller (B&H)
Lastolite Hot Shoe EZYBOX Kit (24″x24″) (B&H)
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