my book on off-camera flash photography is available again!

So here’s a crazy thing – it appears my book on Off-Camera Flash Photography, went out of print temporarily. And I suspect some retailers on Amazon have automatic price adjustment when an item goes out of print, but there’s still demand for it.

So for a few months now, some retailers via Amazon, had my book listed for anywhere up to $999.00 … yup, a thousand dollars. Now, I think the info in there is priceless, but even then, a thousand bucks seemed a little excessive. Anyway, the book is now available again at normal prices, as are my other books.

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Brian Friedman is an event and publicity photographer based in NYC. When I first became acquainted with Brian and his work, my reaction was, “damn! I wish I could shoot this type of work.” Looking at his website, you’ll see the kind of gigs that Brian shoots – interesting and diverse. Quite exciting.

Good news then for those attending WPPI 2014, Brian Friedman is presenting a class called, Shooting Stars: A Guide to Landing Your Dream Client In Any Area Of Photography. Yup, exactly that. I won’t be at WPPI this year, but this is one class I would definitely have signed up for.

So there’s good news for those of us who won’t be attending WPPI this year – Brian was gracious enough to describe the behind-the-scenes activity of a recent photo session: “Kitten Bowl 2014”

anatomy of a “simple” photo session for a client

a guest post by Brian Friedman,
New York portrait and event photographer

The assignment. Take a portrait of the gorgeous Beth Ostrosky, as well as some “action shots” of kittens. Kittens just “being kittens” and playing. Football that is. Say What!?

And so it is bestowed upon me by my client to do so – and not in a photo studio. I had to create my own studio in a common room of a sound stage. Okay then. It’s time to get to work. Here’s what I did for “Kitten Bowl 2014” gallery shoot which will be broadcast during the Super Bowl half-time show on Sunday, February 2, 2014.

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boudoir photography and the 50mm lens

With shooting space often times so tight for boudoir photo sessions, there is the temptation to use a 50mm lens for tighter headshots on a full-frame D-SLR. Instead of stepping back a bit and using an 85mm lens or longer, a bit of visual laziness comes into play, and we rely on the 50mm lens too much. It really is too short a focal length for a tight portrait. I think many photographers are even too in love with their 50mm lenses, and use it without thought of how this would distort someone’s face when used too close to their subjects.

I totally understand the need for compromise. Quite often the angle we need to shoot from, dictates a shorter-than-ideal focal length – whether because of the shape of the room, or the direction of the light. This still doesn’t make the 50mm a good lens to shoot tight portraits with. A longer focal length would still give you more flattering results.

The example photographs in this article are by Petra Hermann, Kansas City boudoir photographer.
(Also check out Petra’s workshops on boudoir photography.)

She used a 50mm lens for these images, but kept to half-length as the closest distance to photograph her subject. The 50mm really is more of an environmental portrait type lens, rather than a tight portrait lens.

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The Tangents blog has seen numerous iterations over the past 10 years that I’ve maintained it. Originally it was PlanetNeil, which was based on an HTML template. Right now, my website consists of various WordPress installations, spread over two domain names. It’s huge! And it is a massive under-taking to maintain and constantly improve it. For the past few years, my web techie guy, has been Griffin Stewart who has been invaluable in working with me on improving and expanding this site. Learn more about Griffin at the end of this post here.

I specifically mentioned that this website is based on the WordPress platform. It is a powerful platform, and one which is easy to use, yet endlessly adaptable. I would strongly recommend to anyone to use WordPress if they are looking to improve their website. There are also numerous WordPress plug-ins that make life easier for anyone who maintains a website …

 

5 Free WordPress Plugins to help maintain your blog

a guest post by Griffin Stewart

Thanks to Neil for inviting me to guest post.  I have enjoyed working with Neil since 2011 to help design, update, organize, consolidate, and tweak his various sites and I hope that you, his readers, have enjoyed and liked the front-end changes and back-end improvements we have implemented in that time.

Today I would like to share with you some helpful and free plugins that you can use to help you maintain, clean up, and customize your WordPress website or blog.

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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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