online video class: wedding photography – the romantic portrait session

My third video tutorial series in conjunction with Craftsy, covers an interesting topic in wedding photography – the romantic portrait session. Craftsy is a company that produces professional looking online video tutorials, and with their help, we created what is essentially an online workshop.

We cover the topic thoroughly, from the initial client meeting, through to the engagement photo session, to how I would approach the romantic portrait session on the wedding day. Photographing a couple that is actually engaged to be married, we cover all the steps. We also look at go-to poses for the bride and groom, and how to improvise on those.

The link here has a $10 discount for readers of the Tangents blog.

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on-location portraits – speedway racer, Courtney Lefcourt

When Courtney’s mom first contacted me, she told me that Courtney is a race-car driver and that the camera loves her. Intrigued, I met up with her family at the Bethel Motor Speedway for on-location portraits of Courtney. To find out more about Courtney, check out her Facebook page, Courtney Taylor Racing.

So the challenge here was two-part. The sun was very bright since it was 3:30pm in the afternoon. The other challenge is that while speedway racing might be an exhilarating sport to watch, the speedway race-track isn’t exactly a visual feast. The race-track is a barren oval strip of tarmac at an angle. I had to accentuate her more, and the race-track less – but still keep it relevant as an environmental portrait.

Courtney’s fire-retardant suit was fortunately a vivid blue and black. This neatly matched the blue sky and black top. This especially helped with the wider images.

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portraits in the studio with an 85mm f/1.4 lens

Shooting portraits with fast lenses for that distinctive shallow depth-of-field look, works in the studio too. In fact, it works exceptionally well. But it is perhaps an unexpected way of working in the studio – the usual way is to work with apertures in the range of f/8 or f/11 for great depth-of-field and superb image sharpness.

That super-fast aperture portrait lens really focuses the attention exactly where you want it …

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wedding photography – using video light for macro detail photographs

With the details photos of the wedding rings, I generally resort to on-camera bounce flash for enough light … and for interesting light. Sometimes though, I mix it up by using video light instead.

The need for smaller apertures means enough light … but working with a tripod is often just too slow with the hectic pace of a wedding day. Then a stabilized macro lens is essential.

The photo above was shot with an LED video light, so we had to hold the light very close to the rings to get enough depth-of-field. Fortunately though, with a macro lens, you’re working so close to your subject, that the light source won’t interfere.

camera settings: 1/125 @ f/8 @ 1600 ISO

I purposely composed the image so that the one flower would be in the background directly behind the rings, otherwise they would’ve blended into the black background. The rings and flowers were all lit with the single LED video light.

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This is one of the most ironic things about wannabe professional photographers – while they invariably claim to be original and artistic, they flounder when it comes to writing text for their websites. Then they fall back on the old cntl-C / cntl-V trick, or in this example, be just as lazy and stay with what appears to be the generic text on a website template.

Just click on the image, and be astonished. Count the pages and then be even more astonished.

The long and the short of this is that there is no short-cut. Do your own work. Or just look foolish.

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dual or triple speedlight / flashgun mounting bracket

I use a multiple flash mounting bar during workshops where I need to have a diverse number of setups running simultaneously, but something more compact is also useful. In that article, I listed other flash mounting devices that allow multiple speedlights to be hooked up on one light-stand. Since then, I’ve discovered this triple flash mounting connector – RPS Lighting Triple Flash/Umbrella Mount (B&H) -  and it is superior to  others that I’ve tried.

What sets RPS Lighting Triple Flash/Umbrella Mount (B&H) from other similar devices, is that the flash cold shoe can be rotated. This doesn’t seem like much, but when you try and add wireless flash transmitters like the PocketWizard TT5, then the bulk of those wireless transmitters get in the way. By rotating the flash trigger by 90 degrees, you can more easily accommodate two or three wireless triggers and the speedlights. You then simply rotate the flash heads to have the flashes point in the correct direction – into your umbrella.

It’s a simple tweak to this kind of device, but it makes all the difference when using multiple speedlights with wireless triggers, on a single umbrella.

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2013 overview

December 30, 2013

2013 end-of-year overview

The slideshow is of my work the past year – a somewhat eclectic mix of photos of people – portraits, weddings, engagement sessions, as well as images shot for various projects and some from the various workshops during the year. As you could perhaps see from that slideshow, the past year has been a wild ride again – and again I have to thank everyone who has followed and supported the Tangents blog (and forum). You helped make this site such a vibrant place.

A number of photos seen in that slideshow is from my next book, 60 Portraits, which should be completed early in 2014. A big thank you to everyone who offered and who participated in this project!

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wedding photography – big bounce flash

In photographing groups with weddings, I have a preference to keep the light soft and even. This makes posing a large group easier, since you don’t have to worry about odd shadows. A big light source, just off to my side, is the simplest way of lighting this. Previous articles described how to do this with speedlights and an umbrella. (Check links at the bottom of the article.) Often enough though, you’ll find yourself in a scenario where one or two speedlights just don’t have enough juice, and then you need to bring out something bigger and more powerful – portable studio lighting.

There are numerous options out there for portable studio lighting – Elinchrom, AlienBees and others. I use Profoto. I always bring my Profoto 600R in the trunk of my car, just in case it is necessary. And frequently enough it is necessary, for example:
shooting wedding photos in the mid-day sun
lighting large groups with a large light

With Grace and Joseph’s wedding, I had to pull out the Profoto AcuteB2 600 Power Pack  (B&H) again. Lack of time due to the snowstorm delays had me simply use it as a big bounce flash. But it took a few steps getting to that point …

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portraits with continuous lighting – Westcott Spiderlites   (w/ model: Lauraine)

This striking portrait of Lauraine is a combination of that sparkling mischievousness … and on the techie side, the selective focus of a wider aperture lens, and the flexibility of continuous lighting. The f/1.4 deliciousness of an 85mm – the best lens to change your portrait photography - really brings her eyes to attention.

During this part of the photo session in the studio, I decided to use continuous lighting. Lauraine is new to modeling for the camera and working in the studio, and the lack of flashes popping, helped in keeping the atmosphere gentle. The shorter telephoto length of an 85mm lens, meant I could work close and give instruction on posing. Slight adjustments to her hand or the tilt of her head could be more easily relayed.

Lighting was with two Westcott Spiderlites:

I used the softbox in the background as a hair light and to spill a little bit of light on the background.

The background is this 4 panel room divider screen (purchased via Amazon). Spilling a bit of light on it, and angling it properly, it allowed a hint of color and texture in the background, making the final setting for the portrait series a little more nuanced.

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use light & lighting to add dramatic impact to your portraits

Simplifying your composition is generally a really good way to add impact to your photos – remove visual clutter, and draw the viewer’s eye to what’s essential. But there’s a converse challenge to this – when you have a location that isn’t necessarily that interesting , how do you add more impact? Light and Lighting is an obvious way to do this. Create impact and drama in how you add light to the scene, and light your subjects. A recent article discussed this in relation to off-camera flash: usting off-camera flash for that extra bit of drama – (model: Olena).

For the romantic wedding portraits of Grace and Joseph, we were landlocked to a few rooms inside the venue because of the snow storm outside. Then it becomes a challenge to come up with ideas and use nooks and crannies, and make it all count!

For the image at the top, we were in the room where they serve pre-dinner cocktail snacks and drinks. Nothing much there. But I came up with the idea of having Joseph sit on this table against this wall, and then adding Grace.

Posing tip: In terms of posing a couple, it is nearly always easier to start with one person, and then adding the other. Use the first person to anchor the pose. And I usually physically show them where to sit or stand or lean when I pose someone.

The pose works, now we just had to add dramatic light. Bounce flash would’ve flattened out everyone. Well lit, but too evenly lit. Off-camera flash with a gridded soft box would’ve worked like a charm as well – but as I most often do with the romantic portraits of a couple, I went with video light. This time around, I had more toys to play with, thanks to Ryan, the other photographer shooting alongside me, who had brought his video lights along as well.

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