podcast interview w/ Full Time Photographer podcast blog

John Rossi who maintains the Full Time Photographer website, interviewed me for the latest podcast on his site. As the name of his website would suggest, the theme of the interview was centered around business advice, and how I got started with my photography career.

When people ask me what kind of photography I do, I find it hard to describe these days exactly what it is that I do. My career as a photographer has moved away from purely shooting weddings and portraits. With the books and workshops as well as the Tangents blog, the photography work has expanded. A year ago I got my studio space, and now I offer it as a rental photo studio to other photographers. Commercial photography, Corporate photography and Headshots have been added to the mix of work that I do. I was even able to sell some of my Time-Lapse clips that I’ve shot. So it’s really a mixed bag at the moment. This diversity of course helps to keep it fresh and non-routine.

And this is part of what I discuss during this long rambling conversation – how I started, and where I am now. It’s been quite a journey. Along with the podcast with Steven Cotterell, this podcast interview takes it further than just a discussion of flash photography and lighting, into something else which is perhaps more informative in its own way.

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bounce flash photography – adjusting the black foamie thing to be a snoot

During the day, as I photograph a wedding, I am continually mixing up the lighting, adapting and adjusting. It’s part of the process of giving my clients as much variety as possible, and also just being flexible in adapting to the demands of the various locations. It’s therefore a varied approach in using all kinds of light sources: off-camera flash, on-camera flash, video light and available light. It’s part of the fun, and part of the challenge of being a wedding photographer – thinking on your feet. Of course there’s extra pressure on you as photographer when you’re flown to Melbourne, Australia to photograph a wedding!

The morning after Peiwen and Eric’s wedding, they had the Tea Ceremony with the parents, and Peiwen was in traditional dress. I just had to get more portraits of the two of them, and with Peiwen in this striking red dress.

In the elevator lobby on their floor, there were these seats and mirrors and wood paneling that looked like it would make an elegant setting for some portraits of the couple. But the light there was uneven, and not very bright. I needed to add some light, but only had a video light with me, and on-camera flash. With that large mirror, someone holding up a video light would’ve involved a lot of Photoshop work. So the next option – bounce flash. But again, that large mirror there was a challenge.

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working with harder light sources in the studio – flash & continuous light  (model: Ulorin Vex)

With the recent photo session with Ulorin Vex in the studio, I played with variations of using harder light and using shadow as part of the image’s composition. The first setup was similar to a previous photo session in the studio with Anelisa:  smaller light = dramatic light. Ulorin Vex easily fell into poses well suited to this idea of using the shadow as part of the image’s design.

For this final image, I used a textured overlay to enhance the sun-drenched look. I also wanted to hide the texture of the wall a bit by cloaking it with the Photoshop texture. I used a warm colored texture, to echo the color of her hair, and which then also was a complement to the blue dress. The color also took away some of the starkness of the image.

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photographing a wedding in Melbourne, Australia

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wedding photography: dealing with the DJ’s lights

As wedding reception venues and DJs are becoming more sophisticated in their lighting, there’s now the added challenge of spotlights and lasers and other lighting effects that compete with the simplicity of just using flash.

So how do you deal with this? You just deal with this. One way or another.

You can either embrace the colors (as in the example above),
or you can use flash to neutralize some of the wild color casts.
Just how do you do that? Well, there’s a little bit of homework at the end of this.

Very often, I shoot towards the DJ’s booth, so that the wild colors become splashes of color, whether I add (on-camera bounce) flash, or not. This way I don’t have to directly compete with the lights, but they become an enhancement of the image.

With lasers skimming around – my advice is to shoot a lot to make sure you have enough images, in case some were spoiled by bright green dots. Also, learn to love photoshop and the Healing Brush.

With up-lighting that becomes quite prominent – well, there’s the little bit of homework to do at the end!

And if anyone advises you to use specific settings such as (for example):  1/60 @ f/4 @ 1600 ISO to cover every situation, they are fools who are misleading you. There are too many variables for generic camera settings. Scenarios and situations change. You need to adapt.

You’re not a passenger of your camera’s settings. You control them to allow more ambient light in, or less. And if you allow less ambient light in, you need to add additional light, whether flash or video light.

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window-light baby portrait photos – Liam

Any parent will know that the kiddo has a distinct personality from the moment it is born. For the photographer then, the ideal is to capture some of this personality.

My own take on photographing babies, is that I want to forego all the props and accoutrements associated with baby photography you often see – the hats and such. While the toys are often necessary to keep the child’s attention, I still like to photograph just the baby.

Liam’s parents were close by, getting his attention. I prefer that if anyone calls to him, that they do it right over my shoulder, nearly breathing down my neck. Snapping fingers and pointing where the child should look, never works. If anyone is going to call the baby, and I want the baby to look more or less towards the camera, then the other person needs to be right next to me, hovering right behind me.

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photographic style – inspiration, adjusting & adapting  (model: Ulorin Vex)

Photography has a never-ending learning curve. I think this is even more true as the technology expands and accelerates. Sometimes I feel that we’re running at full speed just to remain at a stand-still. That’s just the technology that we have to acquire what we need to know about to do our work and art the best. But even with the techniques and methods we have as photographers – we should always be investigating and analyzing the work of others, learn, and then rework and adapt it in our own style. Even if we acquire new skills in minute ways – it all adds up to where we are always on an upward curve, learning and becoming better.

When I first dived into photography, I spent countless hours reading books and photography magazines. I eventually discovered heaven – the Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography, in Johannesburg. Shelves and shelves of books on photography! That was then – now we have complete overload with the work of other photographers and artists just a click away.  With that, I am constantly looking at the work of others, soaking in what others are doing.

A photographer that has really stood in the past year or so, is Craig Lamere. His style is clean and striking looking. There’s a dramatic simplicity to it, with beautiful lighting and impeccable post-processing. Check out his work.

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review: Sony Alpha a7R camera

February 21, 2014

review: Sony Alpha a7R camera

Sony is still on fire with their new camera releases. There is the delicious full-frame compact  Sony RX1 (Amazon).  (Read my review of the Sony RX1).  For a relatively long while, the best compact camera on the market was the Sony RX100 (Amazon) which was improved with the Sony RX100 II (Amazon). The full-frame Sony A99 DSLR also received great reports.  So no doubt about it – Sony makes great cameras.

Another trend that has gained momentum in the last year or two – Mirrorless cameras. Without the bulk of the mirror and prism, the mirrorless cameras are more compact and weigh less. But instead of that direct optical view of the world around you, there’s an electronic viewfinder (EVF).  The EVFs tended to show lag – but great improvements have been made where they show nearly real-time what the scene unfolds in front of your camera. For some, it will be a huge adaptation working with these.

But I digress. Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras have become more popular. Or at least, the photo industry has been pushing these really hard, creating a buzz about these cameras. The photo industry are obviously keen on new markets that are created.

Until now, mirrorless cameras have been crop-sensor cameras. Until now – Sony has released the 24 megapixel Sony Alpha a7 camera (Amazon) and the 36 megapixel Sony Alpha a7R camera (Amazon). The a7R is interesting in that it doesn’t have an optical low-pass filter. (Anti-aliasing filter.) This allows for greater image sharpness, at the expense of occasionally risking moiré  patterns.

I had my hands on a review copy of the Sony  a7R camera (Amazon) and the Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA lens (Amazon) for a few weeks to give the camera a test run. My verdict? I kinda like it, but there are also a few surprises …

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Tammy Hineline is a Sergeant in the US Marine Corps serving as a Combat Photographer / Videographer. And … Tammy follows the Tangents blog! She graciously responded to my request asking if she’d be interested in writing a guest article about the life as a military photographer in the Marines. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a photography career outside of what most of us would ever experience.

Since enlisting in 2008 Tammy has done two deployments and has provided photographic support to multiple training evolutions, humanitarian operations, and other military events. She recently returned from Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In her spare time she enjoys taking pictures of people that aren’t Marines and assisting on weddings.

life as a military photographer in the U.S. Marines

a guest post by Tammy Hineline

In January of 2008, I enlisted into the United States Marine Corps. I was taking photography classes at my community college and shooting baby portraits at a Wal-Mart Portrait Studio. I wasn’t doing so hot in school and barely putting enough effort into my work to pass. I was beyond bored with everything I was doing.

One day, a Marine Corps recruiter set up shop at my school. I went home thinking, “Wow, wouldn’t it be crazy if I joined the Marine Corps?” So I did it. A break up with my loser boyfriend and some good timing on the recruiter’s part brought me to the famous yellow footprints at Parris Island.

I enlisted into the Combat Camera MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) and since then I’ve done two deployments, traveled to seven different countries, blown up a lot of stuff, eaten a lot of Meals Ready-to-Eat, sailed on a Navy ship, trained alongside foreign soldiers of various countries, once stood in line for two hours just to eat corn dogs, flown in more aircraft than I have ever wished to, and have taken a ton of photos.

The military is a beast of its own kind and a lot of people don’t really understand what we do; let alone what a photographer does in and for the military. I’m hoping today we can answer some of those questions.

The one thing to remember: We are Marines first, photographers second. We do all the things regular Marines do. We go to bootcamp, we shoot on the range once a year, get paid the same, have to meet the same physical fitness requirements, and everything else the entire Corps has to do. It’s the nature of the job.

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creating foreground bokeh effects in-camera

The closer you move to a foreground object, the more it’s shape and color and opacity will affect the image … in unpredictable ways. It’s a well-established technique then to create unusual color splashes and shapes in the image by creating flare highlights. It is often called “foreground bokeh effect”.

Ulorin Vex is an unusually photogenic model that I have photographed on a few occasions. When Ulorin visited the East Coast again recently, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with her again and play in the studio. Her striking looks and colorful latex dresses would work perfectly with this technique – the random kaleidoscope patterns and colors wouldn’t be incongruous.

With a standard lighting setup in the studio, using a beauty dish, I also added an extra light to throw light directly towards the camera. I then held up various colored objects right in front of the lens – a colorful translucent plastic flower with colorful petals and leaves worked best. Shooting through an opening between the petals and leaves of the decorative plastic flower, all kinds of interesting random patterns appeared. It was unpredictable, and that is what made the effect interesting in part – you wouldn’t quite know what you’re going to get.

If this effect appeals to you, it would make sense to collect all kinds of objects to try out – glass elements and prisms work well too. Anything that will create a pleasant visual surprise.

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