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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wedding photography: bounce flash “indoors” … in the limo

This is a reminder that when you have a high-contrast situation such as when photographing the bride and groom inside the limo – then using on-camera bounce flash is your easiest way to control the lighting. Simply bounce your flash behind you into the limo. Even with the dark interior and fittings inside a limo, enough light should spill back to lift the shadow detail.

The trick here of course is to expose correctly for the ambient light, if possible. With the camera settings then dictated by the ambient light coming through the window, simply use TTL flash to give enough fill-light. Dial down the FEC if necessary.

If you look closely at this image, you’ll see the slight trace of the shadow from the flash – this is because, even though I bounced the flash upwards behind me, I hit the ceiling of the limo and with it so close to the flash, it created a secondary smaller light source instead of just the larger bounced light source. Even with that, the effect looks quite natural, and the reduced contrast certainly did help post-processing.

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85mm – the first lens that could change your portrait photography

If that hat seems familiar, yes,  Elle was the model in the series of photographs for the Nikon Df review article. For some of the sequences of photos that we shot, I used the 85mm lens, wide open. This had the effect of just melting the background. You can pretty much shoot anywhere, and make the background look good and non-intrusive.

While a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens can be even more effective in controlling the background, the shorter focal length, an 85mm lens can make this somewhat easier in some respects. Specifically, it’s a smaller lens and less intrusive when you photograph portraits. It’s less “threatening” to the person you’re photographing, and easier to carry around.

Just how well can you blur the background when shooting wide open with an 85mm prime lens? Compare the photo above with the pull-back shot, taken with an iPhone from the same spot …

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camera review: Nikon Df – the steampunk Nikon D4

The anachronistically retro styling of the Nikon Df (B&H), along with the digital trappings, really makes this the steampunk D4. Especially so since it has the same top-notch sensor as the Nikon D4 (B&H).

If you have used a film camera, and specifically one of the F-series cameras, this camera will catch your eye. It’s obvious that Nikon is aiming at the same sector of photographers who found the  Fuji X100s (B&H) so appealing. That vintage look and styling definitely brings a certain cool factor into play. I bought the original Fuji X100, and then the Fuji X100s partly because it looked sexy. It looked like a fun and eye-catching camera, that also happens to be a serious machine.

Now we have the Nikon Df, and it takes all your Nikon lenses and accessories. Perfect for those photographers who would find this styling interesting, and already have an array of gear. I really think this camera is meant for the connoisseur – someone who wants a camera that is stylish looking, and a superb image-making tool.

Yup, it’s all quite interesting. But let’s have a look at how the Nikon Df (B&H) performs and handles in actual use. At the same time we’ll see how it stacks up against the bigger super-awesome Nikon D4 (B&H)

You can pre-order the Nikon Df now from B&H. It comes in a Silver and Black style.
You can also buy the Nikon Df together with some Nikon lenses (B&H)

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photographers … so you think P on your camera stands for Professional?

I know, I know .. it’s a funny comment that P stands for professional. But somehow it always irks me to the extent that I just can’t suppress my reply. Maybe it’s the purposeful dumbing-down making it seem okay not to want to know more and continually improve. Maybe that’s what gets to me. Still, I think my reply is more cute.

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photography: the progression of an idea – Regal Portrait with a Ferret

While on a trip to Denver, I had some time free to meet up with my friend, Lynn Clark, one of the best boudoir photographers in Denver. I had asked her to be a subject for my next book, 60 Portraits, and she indulged me. I want each portrait to reveal something of the person I am photographing, and also have some interesting snippets of info for anyone who dips in the book, and of course, for anyone who follows the Tangents blog.

So while Lynn is an accomplished boudoir photographer, I didn’t want to go with the obvious idea of doing a boudoir photo session of her. I met up with Lynn, and our mutual friend, Petra Herrmann in Lynn’s studio. (You may remember Petra as a recent guest on Tangents - increase your sales in boudoir photo sessions.) Lynn’s boudoir studio is home-based, with two large rooms that had been converted in shooting space. I spent some time looking around, and figuring out angles and lighting and backgrounds. The usual things we need to juggle when we consider the setting for portraits.

I liked the one direction where I knew I’d be able to compress the perspective with a 70-200mm lens, and shoot from the adjoining room. Then I could use the red drapes in the background, and throw the chandelier and the rest of the room out of focus. So far, so good. This would be good for a basic portrait. Solid, but not engaging yet. Lynn and Petra and I bounced some ideas around.

Lynn and her husband runs a Ferret B&B in Denver , CO. They take care of ferrets when their owners are on vacation. Lynn and her family also keeps 6 ferrets. So there are ferrets … and they are adorable. In chatting with Lynn and Petra, they mentioned that Queen Elizabeth had been fond of ferrets, and there was a portrait of her with a ferret. And then the idea clicked!

Throwing the chandelier out of focus and keeping it in frame, we’d have a glowing halo of light above Lynn. The red drapes worked too. Then … the costume. We didn’t have anything nearly as ostentatious so we went for a tiara and some bling jewelry.

And then we added Elliott, the energetically curious ferret you see in the photo.

The final portrait of Lynn is whimsical. There’s an absurdity about it. Hopefully the portrait is also quite cute and amusing. I do think it shows that playful aspect of Lynn, though she insists she’s actually a serious person. This impromptu homage to the portrait of Royalty with a pet ferret, was certainly fun to shoot.

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headshot photography in the studio

Mike is an actor / musician friend of mine, who also works with the Modern Gypsies at times. We recently updated his headshots with a session in and around the studio. As a working actor in New York, he has appeared on stage, as well as some spots on television. Amusingly enough, while shooting outside the studio against the warehouse building’s facade facing the main street, a young boy, walking past us with his mom, turned around and asked Mike, “Are you famous?” Of course we couldn’t disappoint the kid.

Being a character actor, and shooting with that in mind, we took many photos where the expressions were quite goofy and strange. But I’ll leave that up to Mike to show to the world. Someday perhaps. Here’s a small selection of headshots of him, where we show some of the character and expression. That’s actor Mike. For raconteur Mike, you’d just have to meet him in person.

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review: Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lens

November 15, 2013

review: Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lens

The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G (B&H) is an odd focal length. It’s not-50mm. More than that, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G (B&H) is only $440, and this new 58mm lens is $1,700 … yup, that’s a pretty hefty difference! The price of the 58mm lens is in line with the 85mm f/1.4G … so could one expect improved performance?

I have to admit that the 50mm f/1.4G is my least used lens, along with the fish-eye. I’m just not that excited about using it. The focal length is just not wide enough (like a 35mm might be), nor tighter like a 85mm lens might be. So while the 50mm lens is affordable, it doesn’t set my creativity alight. So here’s a new version, which from the outside, looks like it is only slightly different. So what would set this new 58mm apart?

Looking at Nikon’s info about the lens, a little more is revealed:

Its fast f/1.4 maximum aperture produces outstanding evenly lit images with edge-to-edge sharpness—virtually no sagittal coma or light falloff. Its unique design and rounded 9-blade diaphragm produce stunning bokeh and depth of field control from f/1.4 to infinity—equally useful in daytime portraits and nighttime cityscapes.

So we’d expect a crisply sharp lens with minimal optical aberrations when used wide open. This would make the lens geared towards low-light photography (with pin-point light-sources that are controlled well.) And this lens is designed to have great bokeh.

That it handles coma very well, would indicate that this lens might be seen as a successor to the Noct Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 which is a legendary performer.

I was fortunate in being able to try out the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G (B&H), and took some photographs at night in Manhattan. I also did a few comparison shots with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G (B&H). Now, I didn’t shoot that much because it’s cold out there! So I’m only posting a few images for now, but they should suffice to show the optical performance of this lens.

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book review: Gregory Heisler – 50 Portraits

Gregory Heisler is an undisputed genius when it comes to photographic lighting. If ever you get the opportunity to attend a seminar by him, do yourself a favor. The story behind each portrait, and the motivation and the struggles to create those images, don’t just make for entertaining anecdotes – and Gregory Heisler is an entertaining speaker – but the stories are insightful. Educational. But not just educational in a do-this-do-that explanation of technique. It’s much more than that.

In this book he has collected 50 of his his best portraits he has taken during his career, and he discusses the thought-processs behind each image. He offers insight in how he came to take specific images, and how he decided why to set up up certain portraits in certain ways. Gregory Heisler’s humility, and the way he allows glimpses into the frustration and disappointments along the way – the struggles to get to iconic images – all this is told in entertaining and thoughtful way. There is also much to learn here.

This is a book to devour, and then dip into again and again. What truly impressed me about Gregory Heisler, is how innovative he is. He seems to want to steer clear of repeating formulas that work, and come up with portraits based on ideas that are challenging and full of risks.

Something I also found refreshing are the “Thoughts on Technique” at the end of each photograph’s description. Here he discusses technique – but not in the statement of bland numbers, but again, always with the thought-process in mind. And this is where the value lies in what he shows us – the way his mind works. The why and the how.I highly recommend this book.It needs to be on your shelf! For a mere $25 you have an amazing collection of images and words in hardcover, from a man who is endlessly inventive when it comes to photography lighting! That’s incredible value for money. This is a book to immerse yourself in, again and again, and feel inspired by.

 

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