flash photography: applying the Sunny 16 rule and the flash Guide Number

In essence, if you know the GN of your flash, then you could use (bare) off-camera flash to match the sunlight, without even metering!

There is a super-useful shortcut built into those two simple values: Sunny 16, and the Guide Number.

Now, I am pretty sure that when you hear mention of the Guide Number of a flash, you’re most likely switching off already, thinking that it is just an arcane list of numbers – different apertures against different power settings. But hang in there – this is very useful stuff to have a grip on.

And yes, since: GN  =  distance  *  f-stop
that is what the Guide Number tells you – the distance multiplied by the aperture is the GN.

But there is something immediately useful there in the Guide Number, which is hugely important. If you understand this, then you have an important key in your pocket about how to quickly match bright sunlight with your speedlight. It’s really simple:

Learn more inside…

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portrait photography – show us a favorite or break-through photograph

This photograph remains one of my favorites. It was taken circa early 90’s during a studio shoot-out arranged by a camera club (CCJ) I belonged to in Jo’burg. In this photo, the models are waiting for their turn to be photographed in a studio setup, using studio lighting, as well as available light in the large studio. It was a candid moment, as I knelt in front of this model, Megan.

For me, this was a transitionary photograph – I was at a point where I knew basic photography techniques. I read voraciously, and devoured magazines and books. But my own images at the time – landscapes and cityscapes and such – were mostly “found” images. For me, there was still a gap between what I was photographing, and the images I was drawn to – portrait and fashion images which were more controlled. Even then, the portraits and fashion photography that appealed to me, had a fresh and “loose” feel – and I felt I wasn’t quite  capable of that yet. It wasn’t just insecurity, but also shyness in working with people, and posing them. I lacked the courage to involve the people in my photography.

Yet, here I had a photo that had that spontaneity and elegance that appealed to me. Even though the moment was presented to me, and I had nothing to do with how it was arranged, I still felt really proud of it … but more so, the realization dawned on me that I could do this. I could have set this up and shot it. It was within my reach.

I was aware of the problems with this photograph – the fingertips cropped off, and the tilt. The pillow she held to herself is incongruous. The background is cluttered. A more controlled photograph would’ve been more successful. Still, this was one of those photographs which sparked a change for me.

This photograph then, was pivotal in my progress as a photographer. For the first time I took a photo that looked (nearly) as good as I saw in photography magazines. I could do this!

 

I would like to hear your story, and see your favorite or breakthrough portrait.
It need not be perfect. It just needs to be important to you.
There are two book prizes to be won:

 


The Portrait: Understanding Portrait Photography

The Portrait: Understanding Portrait Photography, by Glenn Rand & Tim Meyer, is a good introduction to portrait photography. Over the course of 200 pages, the authors explain the essentials of Portrait Photography.

You can order this book from Amazon, or directly from Rocky Nook.

If you order an eBook directly from RockyNook, then the coupon code Portrait40 offers 40% off the ebook version of The Portrait.

You can also buy it at a discount as an e-book bundle, along with Tilo Gockel’s book, Creative Flash Photography. (review)

Learn more inside…

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workshop: wedding photography, style & technique

I’m presenting a workshop on wedding photography on:
Sunday, on April 26, 2015 at Unique Photo in Fairfield NJ.
12:00pm – 4:30pm

 

the program description

We will discuss real-world practical steps to help you develop and achieve a personal style in wedding photography. We will also discuss photography techniques, as well as topics such as posing and lighting. We will cover various other aspects that photographers can work on and develop, so that they aren’t overwhelmed and daunted by the wedding day.

Please note that this seminar is about the techniques and styles of wedding photography, and isn’t a seminar on business and marketing per se, although we will touch on those topics.

This program is a repeat of a program presented two years ago, with the course material finessed and updated.

Learn more inside…

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Photoshop tutorial: create a Photoshop action to add texture overlays

guest post by Adrian, at Five Star Studios
wedding photographer, Mackay, Queensland in Australia

 

Neil’s post on applying a texture to the background, made me think of the things I do to give photos ‘that special look’ and when I told Neil about it, he kindly invited me to write an article on this topic – adding texture layers to photos. This can be easily applied via an action, outlined step by step further down.

The post by Neil was a texture ‘replacement’ background as opposed to laying a texture on the image itself, a big difference, and that involves a lot of ‘cutting’ out, brushing, etc, which just simply cannot be done via an action unless a lot of  ‘Stops’  – read a message (messages on what to do can be built within actions) – and then continue.   It’s just not practical with some images.

Remember, we are laying a texture over the image, as opposed to using a texture for replacing the background, so before we start, you need to have some images that you have found or even shot yourself.

Images like rusted metal, old painted peeling doors/walls, rocks, absolutely limitless.

Google ‘textures/patterns’ and there are 1000’s of free images to source.

Also, give them names you can relate to, makes it easier rather than eg: Image1.jpg, Image2.jpg, etc.

The textures we are going to use will first need to be made into Patterns and the beauty of this method also is you only have to build just the one action, but you can apply countless different numbers of texture variations over the image/s by merely changing the ‘Pattern’ itself on the ‘Pattern Adjustment Layer’ built into the action.

Learn more inside…

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photography – inspiration; overcoming fears & maintaining momentum

It was high time that I updated my bio photo on my websites and profile photos. I wanted something casual, yet with a certain gravity. While at WPPI last week in Las Vegas, I was surrounded by photographers. I asked … well, prodded and pushed my friend Annie Sullivan to take a series of photos in various locations inside the MGM. This is the photo I settled on. We have other photos that are equally good, and less serious, but this one really says “I’m the one who knocks…” So this is now going across my websites.

Annie was hesitant to take on the task of shooting new bio photos for me. Apparently I can be intimidating. But it’s often a high pressure event to take another photographers’ photos – you feel like you’re being scrutinized. She admitted to being scared witless at the start of it, and then again when I posted this photo. As she told me afterwards, “I have confidence in myself as a human, it’s my work I struggle with. If I’m honest, I’m just afraid people will be like “she needs to go work in a toll booth.””

This ties in with a regular theme with photographers, experienced and less experienced – fear of failure holding you back. Getting out of your own safety zone, and trying the new and unexpected – these are tough hurdles to overcome.

However, in the inspiring words of Eleanor Roosevelt: We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.

It really is as simple as that – systematically attempting things which we would rather not because they are too difficult. Or scary. Or too much like hard work. Then, in addition to that, we need the energy to maintain momentum. This is why personal photography projects & goals are so good to have – things we do for fun to inspire us, and make us reach further.

 

staying on track & keeping momentum

While we’re quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, one of her sayings made a huge impression on me the first time I read it:

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

How true is that? If you think of friends and acquaintances you have – there is a pattern that people who are negative will talk badly about others and gossip. People who reach higher and are successful, are usually the ones who are brimming with ideas. The ones who would rather consider “how do we change this?”, instead of whining about a problem.

Is someone else doing better than you are at either the craft or the business? Don’t resent them for their success. Instead, it should motivate you to do better. It is something you aren’t doing, or it is something you need to be doing better. That’s where the focus should be.

Whenever I feel myself slump into negativity, I remind myself of this truth – great minds discuss ideas. That is where the energy is. That is where the upward trajectory starts – ideas and concepts and projects.

As an aside – chatting the one evening at WPPI with a few people who are prominent in the photography industry, I took to heart something that Roy Ashen of TripleScoopMusic said. In an interview he was asked about his marketing strategy in having created a successful business. He laughed when  they were surprised at his answer – his business strategy is built on a simple idea: be nice to everyone and help people were you can.

Again, such a clear truth. Be nice to everyone and help people where you can. Now couple that with: great minds discuss ideas … and add consistent hard work. That’s the road to success.

Learn more inside…

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destination wedding photographer

podcast interview w/ Wedding Photographers Unite!

Looking at previous podcasts I’ve participated in, it would seem that the opportunity to sound off in some podcast comes around about once a year. This time I get to chat with Neil Urban and Andy Buscemi who hosts the Wedding Photographers Unite podcast. And I do have opinions!

We touch on various topics, including how the wedding photography business has changed over the years. Neil Urban questioned me a week or so later about a comment I made in the podcast that the days where a wedding photographer could sustain a family just with a wedding photography studio, is waning. I do think that more and more photographers will diversify in future, instead of specializing. Have a listen to the podcast, and let us know what your thoughts are.

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promotion – special offer: iDrive – an affordable online backup system

It is tough for me to summon up sympathy for someone who wails on FB that their hard drive has failed. My advice is always simple – go to your back-up! It’s so obvious.

Hard drives fail. You need to rigorously take that into account, or else you will lose your photos … and potentially your business. It can be that devastating.

Even more devastating is complete loss of everything, with no chance of even having a hard-drive that could be rescued. Fire, hurricanes and tornadoes – all of these things can obliterate your office and home, leaving you nothing … unless you have everything backed up online. For example, as described in this article – photography workflow and back-up plans for disaster – the photographer pretty much lost everything in Hurricane Sandy, but he was okay in that all his data was backed up to the cloud. He didn’t lose his files!

There are a number of options which are easy to use, and inexpensive. Which means at this point it would be inexplicable foolishness to not have an online back-up for your images.

 

special offer

iDrive is one such service available – and there is a special discount for followers of the Tangents blog!

1TB of Cloud Backup + 1TB of Cloud Sync space for only $14.88 for the first year, for followers of the Tangents blog, via this discount page. (For transparency: it is an affiliate link.) The regular price of $59.50 for 1TB for one year, is discounted by 75% if you sign up through that link.

Learn more inside…

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photography tip: available light portraits – finding that sweet spot of light

A regular theme on Tangents, is using interesting found light sources while shooting portraits on location. For example: using sunlight reflected off a traffic sign.

With this straight-forward portrait of Irene, a photographer friend in New York, I want to show a neat little trick here – helping your subject understand exactly where you want them to stand.

Here we had random reflections of glass structures in Manhattan, giving random spots of lights.  I wanted to use one of these spots of lights here as naturally found light for Irene, and another splash of light to give a high-light behind her, as I framed her against it.

Instead of giving your subject incremental instructions – “a little to the left, a little to the left, no, come back” – the simple trick to have your subject turn around so they can see this highlight, and have them move a little until they can see their own shadow in the splash of light …

Learn more inside…

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in-camera special effects with gobo projection

I still have this old-school preference for effects done in-camera and effects achieved with interesting lighting, over effects achieved nearly entirely through digital manipulation. Absolutely no disrespect to digital artists who create astonishing work. However, my jaw drops when I look at the sheer scale of the work of a photographer like Gregory Crewdson. Naturally then, my hero is Gregory Heisler, who has a true genius for creating diverse work through amazing lighting. So that would be my inclination – how much can I achieve in-camera to create an image that grabs attention. Of course, having a striking looking model helps a lot.

Still exploring the possibilities of projection effects with the Light Blaster (vendor), a speedlight based projector, I met up with Viktoria in my studio. The Light Blaster has several effects kits, but I still prefer the stronger and starker outlines of the gobo kit over the various gel kits. With previous experiments in the studio, I used the Light Blaster to project patterns on the background, or into smoke. Working with an idea I saw from my friend Josh Lynn, I projected the pattern onto the wall in the studio, and had Viktoria in the mix there somewhere.

Learn more inside…

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tutorial: focusing modes for your camera

I want to expand the exposure metering tutorials with other basic tutorials on camera settings and photography techniques. It’s been in the works a while now, and here is the tutorial on the focusing modes of your camera. Similar to many of the other tutorial articles on Tangents, I wanted to distill the essential elements, and make it as uncomplicated a topic as I could.

The more I delved into the various AF options and how they work, it became more difficult to generalize it in an accessible but still truthful way. I’d love to hear your feedback.

About the photo above, it was a playful idea based on Milla Jovovich’s character, Leeloo, in Fifth Element. In the one scene she beckons the evil aliens closer with a jiggle of her fingertips. It’s an image that stayed with me – a pivotal scene in this very enjoyable Sci-Fi movie. This is the moment everything tips over into an avalanche of crazy action.

So I posed Anelisa like this during a recent photography workshop, with the express idea of using it in an article on the auto-focus modes. The key idea here is that we don’t allow the camera to decide what we focus on. We have to be deliberate about where the camera should focus.

So check out the tutorial on the focusing modes of your camera.
I’d love to hear your feedback and comments.

Now, the techie details of the photo at the top:

Learn more inside…

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