dramatic lighting with fresnel lights – photo session w/ Jen Rozenbaum

For the portrait session of Jennifer Rozenbaum, I wanted to show her in her “office” – the studio where she shoots boudoir images of her clients. But instead of photographing Jennifer in a boudoir style, I wanted this to be portraits of her, the boudoir photographer, where she works. Her office as such. Still, it needed to be sexy, a little feral, yet sweet, and very much her.

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using tele-converters: extra lens compression for tighter portraits

One of the techniques to have your subject really stand out from the background, is to use the longest focal length on your 70-200mm telephoto zoom. One of the first things I do, is to zoom to maximum focal length, and then step backwards to find the composition … and then only zoom wider if necessary.  Doing it this way, forces you to use the longest focal length. This compression focuses attention on your subject by creating separation from the background.

To extend the range of my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, I always keep a 1.4x teleconverter in my bag. This extra 1.4x boost in focal length gives me reach, or as in this case, that extra compression to help with my photograph’s composition:

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portrait & headshot photography: studio lighting tools – Westcott Eyelighter

With portrait lighting for head shots, there are so many configurations – all the way from dramatic lighting, to very even light – but always keeping in mind that the lighting needs to look flattering. It is all in how we balance the various lights, and how we add fill-light.

Westcott has released a curved reflector, the Eye-lighter (vendor), and it is quite versatile:

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post-processing workflow: solving a color banding problem in photos

Photographing people in the studio against a darker background, I’ve been plagued with banding problems. Some of it had to do with the limitation of working in an 8-bit environment in Photoshop. As described in this article – how to deal with color banding – a work-around was to editing images as TIFF, and thereby skipping a few steps where I would previously just have edited the JPG. The additional info in the TIFF file minimized color banding.

But then with darker backgrounds which have a bit of color in them, the problem still cropped up, as shown in the left-hand image. Then I stumbled on the cause of the problem – the camera profile in ACR / Lightroom.

At some point I had changed the camera profile away from the default – Adobe Standard – to Camera Standard. I liked the added contrast and saturation (as can be seen in the comparison above.) But this unknowingly, come at a cost – increased color banding in smooth transitions in darker tones. This isn’t something you’d notice in the background if it consisted of a landscape or an urban scene. But the moment you have smooth gradients of darker tones, this problem rears its ugly head.

It’s as simple a solution as that – keep the camera profile in ACR / Lightroom to Adobe Standard. Or, if you use a different flavor via one of the profiles you purchase, just be aware that this could be a problem.

I wanted to share this, since I spent an entire morning on Photoshop tutorials on dealing with color banding – none of which worked in this example. All it took was going back to the root – the camera profile used in editing the RAW files. If you see color banding in your photos, then perhaps, perhaps the solution is as simple as this.

Edited to add: The images were shot with the Nikon D810.

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photographic composition – a few guidelines (but no rules!)

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams

For me, if a photograph is intended for an audience, and not just my own records and memories – then its success hinges around impact. Does the photograph make you stop for a few seconds at least to take it in? Then you’re at least in part successful already with the portrait. With portraits so many elements kick in to make a photograph resonate with us: The moment. The expression. Gesture. Movement. Pose and position. Lighting.

In terms of composition, I strongly feel that one should react in an instinctive way. Look at the subject and scene and respond without the mechanical decision-making that all the rules of composition brings into play – the Rule of Thirds, diagonals, mathematical formulae, the Golden Mean, and so on.

Instead, take your time to look at what is actually presented in the viewfinder. Scan the whole frame; look at the sides and corners.

Is everything that you see, everything that you want? Is this the best way that the subject can be represented? Do you need to re-frame or move to another position?

The composition of this photograph of Anelisa can be analyzed in terms of the usual guidelines:
– negative space above her,
– the diagonal line implied by her arms,
– balanced by the S-curve to her pose,
– the vertical line by her body being (approximately) on a line of a third of the frame.

There is also the strong visual dynamic with her face more or less central to the frame, the curve of this industrial chimney structure pulls your eye towards the center.

All these things do appear in analyzing the image after-the-fact. But during the time of taking a sequence of images here, the decison wasn’t step-by-step like that. It was much more that instinctive recognition that, “hey, this looks good!

And, for me, that should be what determines the composition – does it look good, and does it add to the photograph’s impact.

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photography: gelling flash for late afternoon sun (& deep blue skies)

The warm light from the nearly-setting sun, accentuated with gelled flash. Towards the end of the recent photography workshop, we were shooting on the rooftop – the warm tone of the sunlight contrasting beautifully with the blue sky.

To punch it even more, we added gelled flash via an off-camera speedlight in a softbox. We had to gel the speedlight of course, to make sure the blue color balance of the flash didn’t kill the natural light. We used a 1/2 CTS gel here which brought the flash’s WB down to around 3700K. (This photo of our model, Melanie, was taken by Rosario.)

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review: Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS — Canon redeems itself

The title there is quite an exclamation – Canon redeems itself. And you may well wonder what Canon had to redeem itself for. Well, my experience with Canon over the years has been a clouded one. A number of years back I moved back to Nikon again when I couldn’t handle the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L going out of calibration every so often. Then, there was the untrustworthy AF performance of the Canon 1D mark III. In fact, I’m still waiting for Canon to send me an apology note for that camera. In fact, for all three bodies that I owned.

But I digress … we’re talking about Canon wide-angle zooms. The final straw for me with regards to Canon, was when I had worked through five copies of the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II and all five copies had issues and were soft to the edges. It’s all detailed in this post: Canon and Nikon. Then, I finally got to use the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G (vendor), and my struggles with soft Canon wide-angle zooms were over. I finally had a wide-angle lens that was razor sharp to the edges. And a zoom, to boot!

So with that, I was done. I had given up on Canon ever producing a wide-angle zoom that could perform. Sharp to the edges. No optical smearing. Just do what it is supposed to do – be a wide-angle zoom lens. Something the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8G excelled at. And that is something the Canon 17-40mm f/4L and the Canon 16-35mm f/2.L II didn’t quite do as well.

Then the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS (vendor) arrived, and I was curious. Could this finally be? And yes, Canon has redeemed itself. Finally, here is a Canon wide-angle zoom that is an excellent performer. You know, worthy of that red stripe.

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timelapse photography: project – commercial properties

Always busy, the most recent project that I was busy with, was for a client who had asked for a way to show their various commercial properties in a dynamic way. I had to help them show their warehouses and buildings in a non-static interesting way. I suggested time-lapse photography, and they accepted my proposal.

With time-lapse I could create a video clip that is dynamic in a way that isn’t possible with stills or even video. Above is a shortened version of the final project.

I have created other time-lapse clips with my Nikon D4, which was made easier with the built-in time-lapse mode of the camera. What I envisioned, was that as the day progressed, the shadows would move, and clouds would move. With the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero dolly, the camera would move as well, and it would be possible to get a final video clip that had an unusual cinematic quality to it that wouldn’t be possibly any other way.

All of this sounds easy stated like this, but there were a few challenges:

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posing technique – adjusting a pose with incremental changes

I’m not a huge fan of “flow posing” where someone is rigidly posed according to formula. I feel this doesn’t allow as much for personality and individuality as a more organic approach. I much more prefer a low-stress approach where a pose is adjusted, to where it looks good, and looks flattering. This does mean that I have to find that balance between allowing “faults” and finessing a pose. Sometimes it just works better for the flow of a photo session to not micro-adjust to the point where your subject might feel it as criticism.

Memorizing poses from a book or guide is a good starting point, but in practice, you’d still have to finesse body, hands, feet and your subject’s head. You have to look at individual elements and fix and adjust.

With this photo of my friend, Irene, I want to show some of the thought-process. She was kind enough to allow me to post some of the more awkward in-between poses, as we finessed it along the way.

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flash photography questions & answers (FAQ)

Like anyone who maintains a site diligently, I check my web stats daily.  I want to know where traffic is coming from, and how people reach my site. I need to know the referral sites. Of specific interest are the search phrases people use, and then end up on the Tangents blog.  I originally intended there to be a monthly series of posts, with direct answers to some of the questions that popped up in the Google searches. However, since Google decided to hide the exact search phrases, this idea came to a halt. But there were some really good material here, so I decided to amalgamate the best into one longer article.

Okay … let’s look at some of the questions on the topic of flash photography:

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