your personal photography – aiming for more than just snapshots

This just might be my most favorite photo of my daughter, Janine. It’s from 2003 when she was 9 years old. I was trying out my new Nikon D100, reveling in being able to instantly see any photos I took. We were outside in the garden area of the apartment complex we lived in at the time. With a long focal length, I concentrated on capturing her expression, and some element of who she was at the time – that interesting blend of confidence and shyness … and a fortunate dose of just indulging her dad with the new toy.

Simplifying the composition, the photo is all about her expression and those soulful eyes. She still has that. But she has grown into a confident young woman.

She’s currently (2013) studying to become a Chemical Engineer and doing very well at university. Yup, she’s bright. That obvious intelligence is also blended with an amazing confidence now. She always was independent; even more so now as a young adult. There’s an individualism there that I can see others are drawn towards. Magnetic. It’s astonishing at times to watch her interact with other people with an assuredness I didn’t have until much, much later in my life. I’m very proud of her, and in a large way also in awe of who she is. She’s an incredible person to know. Even more so as her dad.

It’s interesting to look over the older photographs now, trying to recognize traces even then of who she is now.

And if I sound a little nostalgic, I am. She moved out of the house when university started in 2012, and she has gained momentum with her own life. So we see much less of her now.

While all the memories are intact, the photographs I have of her have an even more powerful resonance now. And I wish I had more photos of her.

Like any new parent, I shot rolls and rolls of film of her as she grew, but this tapered off as she grew older. In a way , as the “newness” of the baby was shed, we became more used to her as being part of the family. She’s just *there* with us; part of us.

Now I wish I had many more photos of her taken during later stages. And not just camera-phone snapshots, but more carefully crafted portraits like this image.

I think there is a danger there – if danger is the proper word – that we reach for our camera phones more readily than before, instead of using a “proper” camera to record events. Make no mistake, I do value having a camera and video-camera as capable as the iPhone on hand, everywhere. In fact, this weekend I surreptitiously recorded a 10 minute video clip as she railed about something. The gestures are amusing. Not that I’d show her now, but to her mother and I, this is an incredibly endearing thing to have. It’s very much her.

While having an iPhone / camera phone on hand is just dandy, I think that as photographers we easily become a little too lazy over time. We gradually start to neglect to properly photograph those who are dear to us with better cameras than just our phones.

So this post is a touch self-indulgent as I reminisce, it’s also a gentle reminder to everyone that there is real value in taking the extra bit of time and effort. We shouldn’t stop taking careful, meaningful portraits of those who touch our lives. With time, we’ll be ever more glad we did.

 

To counter-balance the sweetness of the photograph at the top, here are a few anecdotes from the past year …

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photography book: Direction & Quality of Light

Yes, it’s here! It’s available now. And I’m very proud of this book.

Since my previous two books, and with so many years of maintaining the Tangents blog, and doing numerous workshops and presentations, my “voice” has matured. My photography has improved. With all that combined, I really believe the material in this book is very strong. Essential even.

As I’ve told friends – I wish someone had told me everything that’s in this book, at a much earlier time in my development as a photographer. I feel it would’ve made so much difference to my understanding of the vital element of photography – light!

Right after I understood all the essentials – depth-of-field, shutter speeds, composition, timing, and all of that – instead of getting caught up in specific areas such as flash & off-camera flash & studio lighting … I wish that at the time I had truly grasped that it is all about the direction and quality of light. With this book, I try my best to share those “aha!” moments with you.

With that, I do believe this book can make a difference to your photography.
I believe that strongly in it.

The book might be at your local bookstore, but it’s definitely available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And if you like to, you can order an autographed copy directly from me. Of course, you can also order the book via Amazon.

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lingerie photo session with studio flash – model: Olena

During this same photo session with Olena – the first in my new photography studio space – we also worked with just the studio flashes. Actually, this part of the photo session was first. An easy setup just to get things rolling.

We used two lights here – the main light was a Profoto D1 head in the massive Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella (vendor). It’s an easy light modifier to use, since it gives a wrap-around light that is very forgiving. Forgiving to how the photographer places the light, and also forgiving to the subject – not that Olena really needed that!

The background light was another Profoto D1 head with a Profoto 7″ reflector (vendor) and a Profoto Honeycomb Grid – 10 Degrees (vendor).

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seminar: wedding photography – style & technique

I presented a seminar on wedding photography on
Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 at Unique Photo in Fairfield NJ.

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.

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lingerie photo session: video light & studio flash – model: Olena

With my new studio space pretty much ready, I’ve been itching to actually use the studio with a photo session there. Olena is a model that I’ve worked with once before during an individual photography workshop in New York, and I was really impressed with her, but we never quite got the opportunity to do further photo sessions. So this was a good opportunity to shoot in my new studio, and re-acquaint with a wonderful model. (Here is Olena’s model mayhem portfolio.)

We shot several outfits, using different lighting setups. This one is interesting because of the simplicity of the setup – using a 1×4′ softbox to control the light, and a Lowel ID-Light (vendor) as a back-light to give that warm glow to her hair. It really helped enhance the intimate feel of the sequence of photographs.

Here is the pull-back shot that will show how the lights were placed.

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how to mount multiple flashes / speedlites

Quite often, a single speedlight just isn’t enough. You need more! You might need a smaller aperture than the single speedlight would provide (even at full power), or you might be battling very bright ambient light. High-Speed Flash Sync doesn’t help you in that case. Then you need to add another speedlight.

The mount / bracket that I settled on is the  RPS Light Bar with Four Accessory Shoes RS-3102 (vendor). It is a bit unwieldy, especially when you have 4 speedlights mounted. But when you need it, you need it. It is this bracket that I use when I’m shooting family groups with speedlights, as described in this article: wedding photography: positioning your flash for the formals.

I’ve used this setup for some of the photography workshops that I’ve presented, where I need to simultaneously have Canon and Nikon speedlights. I have also at times mounted both PocketWizard and RadioPopper triggers. This bracket allows me the flexibility to choose my setup, and to do multiple setups with different systems.

Now, the reason why I settled on this device, is that none of the other devices that I’ve seen, have enough space for either the PocketWizard TT5 units, or the Radio Poppers.

While these are all ingenious solutions to the problem, they just don’t have enough space around for the base of the radio trigger, whether the RadioPopper or PocketWizard. Others that I’ve seen that do allow for this, just don’t seem as sturdily built.

The  RPS Light Bar with Four Accessory Shoes RS-3102 (vendor) is quite sturdy, as you might see in this detail image of the hot-shoe mount:

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wedding photography – lighting large groups of people / formal portraits

Relating to the article positioning your flash for the wedding formals, where the family portraits and groups where photographed with a single umbrella and two speedlights, the question then inevitably comes up – what do you do when you need to photograph a large group of people.

The obvious answer is – you need a lot more juice! You either need to add more flashguns, or use a more powerful unit.

As a wedding photographer of Indian weddings, I know that I will be dealing with huge groups of people. And that means a small aperture – and that means a really powerful flash.

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wedding photography: positioning the lighting for the groups & formals

In setting up the lighting for wedding formals in the church, the question often crops up – where do you place the lights. How far from your subjects do you place the lights.

The photograph above shows how and where I place the flash with the umbrella – about 3 pews in, just behind me or to my left (or right). This is approximate though. Two pews in would be fine. Of course, if you’re shooting the wedding formals elsewhere in a different location, just use the same idea.

The closer you bring the light, the more you risk having the light come from too steep an angle, and giving you shadowed eyes.

In positioning my light here, I can be slightly forward of my light – no chance of lens flare – and I have proper perspective for full-length photos. You really do not want to shoot full-length portraits with a wide angle lens. Step back, rather than zoom in!

Placing the light relatively further back like shown here, does bring the light in at a fairly low angle – but it gives open, clean lighting. This is how it looks:

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Las Vegas mini-workshop: on-location flash photography

With WPPI coming up again soon, I’ll be in Las Vegas in March 2013. And like previously, I’ll be having a series of mini-workshops of my own.

There will be 2 such mini-workshops; each 4 hrs long.

  • Sunday, March 10,  1 – 5pm  -  sold out
  • Monday, March 11,  1 – 5pm  -  sold out

The mini-workshops will be limited to only 3 people at a time. Definitely un-crowded! Therefore these mini-workshops will be closer to being individual tutoring sessions.

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video clip: Direction & Quality of Light – your key to better portrait photography

Thank you to everyone that came out to the presentation at B&H’s Event Space. It was jam-packed! That’s always a big compliment. The photo was on B&H’s Instagram feed, and was taken in the minutes before the presentation started. And no, it’s not my doh! facepalm realization that I’ve forgotten something.

The topic of the presentation was – Direction and Quality of Light – and it is based on the material in my new book. I do think this presentation was solid, and going by the stream of questions, very well received.  So thank you for being there and participating.

Learn more inside…

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