Posts Tagged With: advice

Controlling Ambient Light – A Commercial Portrait

Portraiture of all types can be the cornerstone of many photographers’ business.  Sooner or later, in one way or another, someone will want you to take a portrait.

The difference between a good portrait and and a great portrait is in the details.  Below I offer you the details to what might look like a simple location portrait, but was actually quite complicated to shoot.  Lucky for me, the most unpredictable factor in many portrait sessions, the subject, was incredibly natural and easy to work with.  Unfortunately, another important factor in a portrait, the light, wasn’t as cooperative.

Read all about this photo after the jump.

Taiwan Portrait Photography

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Photographing Lightning

Photographing lightning is a misunderstood technique that’s actually quite easy to do… once you learn the basics.

Most people seem to think that you have to have a quick trigger finger.  They think that you wait to see the flash of lightning, then quickly press the shutter button.  Truth is, this technique might actually work…  I’ve never tried it but some forms of lightning seem to linger in the sky for 1/4 sec or more… so if you have a fast enough finger and camera you might be able to catch the tail end of the flash.

But, if you want to learn the proper way to shoot lightning and get the whole flash!-boom!-bang!… read on!

This is a 30 second exposure at f/13 and ISO 200.  I set the shutter at 30 sec, then adjusted the aperture until the temple was properly exposed.  Louang Prabang, Laos.

This is a 30 second exposure at f/13 and ISO 200. I set the shutter at 30 sec, then adjusted the aperture until the temple was properly exposed. Louang Prabang, Laos.

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Techniques – DIY Soft Box

DIY photography gear being all the rage, and me being a bit of a Mr Fix-it, I decided to see if I could build my own soft box.

I feel that I should start this blog by telling you that you can buy a mini-soft box for fairly cheap, but if you’re like me and like building stuff (or are incredibly skint), read on…

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Techniques #7 – Handy Corporate Portrait

Corporate portraits are something you almost have to do as a professional photographer.

I recently shot a portrait for a client that wanted a very specific looking style.  They’ve been running a series of ads for a long time that have a consistent look to them.  Basically, one of their art directors must have come up with this brilliant, easy way to get consistently-styled photographs from different photographers.

The brilliance of this portrait is that it has style and is easy to reproduce…

Here’s how you can do it:

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Portraiture, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Techniques #6.1 – Off Camera Non-TTL

That last post explaining the basics about how to use remote flashes and strobes had a picture in the end that I never fully explained.  Shot with two strobes, this is a good one to help visualize how to set up a simple, two flash set up.

Two flashes were used for this quick skateboarding shot.

Two flashes were used for this quick skateboarding shot.

More remote strobe set-up after the jump…

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Skateboarding, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Techniques #6 – Off-Camera Non-TTL Flash

Once you’ve mastered the on-camera flash techniques you might want to start thinking about how to take that flash off and get really creative.  This is the good stuff.  This is the “Strobist” stuff that you’ve heard so much about.  There’s lots of information out there about choosing the right umbrella, the right softbox, making you’re own DIY grip gear, snoots, grids…bla, bla, bla, bla.

None of that is going to do you any good if you don’t know the basics.  This article is dedicated to helping you figure out those first few steps.

First Thing: Make Those Flashes go POP!

i-TTL and E-TTL:
One way is to use the relatively new i-TTL (Nikon) or E-TTL (Canon) systems.  These are pretty good systems but have their limitations.  To use them, you need an on-camera flash, even if you don’t want it to fire.  You also need all new, expensive flashes, and they have to be in the “line of sight” of your camera.   Old flashes aren’t going to work, and forget about hiding a flash behind a rock or wall.  The truth is, I don’t know a lot about these two systems because I don’t use them, I do it the old fashioned way.  But they are very interesting and may be the future of flash photography.  If you want more information look in your camera’s user’s manual or do some googles.  Maybe I’ll cover Nikon’s i-TTL in the future, but it’s really not on my radar.

Words, words and more words about multiple remote flashes after the jump…

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Techniques #5 – On-Camera TTL Flash

Using an on-camera TTL flash (aka “strobe”) properly is one of the easiest ways to take your photography to the next level.  Once you have a DSLR and a lens or two (or three), probably the next piece of photographic equipment you’re going to want to buy is a flash.

Many DSLRs come with a built-in “pop-up” flash right on the top of the view finder.  This flash can work OK in certain situations, but it can be limiting due to its low power and inflexibility.  Buying a larger hot shoe mounted strobe will drastically increase the creativity you can get out of flash photography.

Much, much, more on on-camera lighting techniques after the jump. Continue reading

Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Portraiture, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Lighting Lecture at the Taiwan Photo Club

The Taiwan Photo Club will be having its monthly meeting this Sunday, Feb 22 at noon at Yuma Southwestern Grill in Taipei.

These meetings are a lot of fun and if you live in Taiwan and would like to meet some other photographers stop-on-by!

The presentation this month will be on portrait lighting and given by yours truly.

Here’s a quick run-down of what I’m going to talk about:

The basic concept is how to get good lighting for portraits but I’ll also show you a few other ways that this stuff can be used for non-portraits. I want to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to learn something, whether you just have a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR.

We’ll start talking about how to get good, natural lighting for portraits. I blogged about this a few weeks ago, and I’ll basically just review and elaborate on that.

Then we can start to talk about flashes and some good techniques that you can use to make your flash pictures look better. We’ll briefly talk about pop-up flashes and move to bigger on-camera flashes. Then we can get a bit more advanced and play around with off-camera lighting.

The cool thing about doing all this flash lighting is that we’ll be able to do it in real time. I’ll shoot all the flash pictures tethered to my laptop and we’ll be able to see the results instantly on the big screen at the restaurant. We can’t really use the natural lighting techniques because we’ll be in a basement, but I think all of that is easy enough to understand by just looking at some pictures and diagrams.

There’s a lot that we could talk about with these subjects, but I’ll try to move fast. At any point, I welcome questions and comments and other opinions, so let’s try to make this more of a discussion rather than a lecture!

I’ll write on my blog about it after we’re finished and I’ll include all the pictures and stuff. In the mean time, have a look at the blog on natural lighting for portraits to get a preview of the first part.

I hope to see you all there, and please don’t heckle me!  ;O)

Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Techniques #4 – Natural Light for Portraits

Getting good natural light for portraits is an easy concept to understand.  It can often be difficult to find the perfect location, but once you know what to look for, it becomes easier.   This post is dedicated to helping you take good portraits and learn how to see and use good natural light.

I recently posted a series of portraits on Flickr. I got a great response, so I though I’d explore why these portraits were successful.  I was just playing around with a new camera and decided to shoot some quick pictures of a bunch of kids that I teach English to here in Taipei, Taiwan.

I use the term “quick pictures” very deliberately.  All of the portraits were taken on a playground at playtime and I’m sure you know that 5 year-olds don’t stay still for very long.

What’s nice about this playground is that it’s got great light that is fairly even all over it.  Before we talk about the light specifically, let’s look at some other things you need to remember to get a good portrait.

First, of course, you want an interesting subject.  Cute kids, old wrinkly people, skateboarders, and monks are among my favorite subjects.

Learn more about natural light portraiture after the jump…

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Portraiture, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Techniques #2 Patience

There’s nothing more important to photography that patience.  Whether you’re working with a nervous model or waiting for that perfect moment, you need to be patient. I’m going to talk about patients in regards to travel photography.

I can say for certain that 90% of my photographs are well planned out.  Often they’re planned out days or months before I get to where I’m going.  And yes, I’m even talking about travel destinations that I’ve never been to.  Go online.  Do a google image search for the place you’re going.  Check stock agencies like Magnum, Corbis, Getty, and PhotoShelter to see what the place looks like.  Try Flickr, TrekEarth, and National Geographic.  If you do some research on the place you’re going, you’ll be more ready for it when you get there.  You’ll know that sunrise is the time to be at Angkor Wat… sunset is a great time to be at India’s Golden Temple…

Learn more about patience after the jump…

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Portraiture, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Techniques #1

It seems like everyone these days has a website dedicated to lighting techniques.  Why should I be different?  I’ve always liked helping people learn about photography, so I guess this will be my attempt.

I’ll start off with an easy one that I shot last night.  I was too lazy forgot to take a picture of the set up, but this is an easy one to visualize, so close your eyes and continue reading.

  1. Step 一 – Never admit to anyone that you’re a hippie.  Then burn some nice incense in the living room while listening to SLAYER…  That’ll keep ’em confused.
  2. Step 二 – Hang a dark sheet behind the incense.  The one in the picture above might look black, but it’s actually dark brown.  The reason it looks dark black is because I shot with a shutter speed of 1/250 and an aperture of f.8.  That’ll kill the ambient light and guarantee that no light from the room will make it to you camera’s sensor (or film, if you all artsy and stuff).
  3. Step 三 – Set up your camera on a tripod.  I used a Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 lens and kept adjusting the focal length, but about 150mm seemed to work pretty well.  That said, I don’t think the focal length matters that much.
  4. Step 四 – It’s time to decide on an aperture.  I wanted as much of the smoke in focus as possible so I decided on an f-stop of 8.  This gave me a pretty good depth of field and also made sure the background would be black and not get contaminated by the ambient room light.  Why didn’t I use f/11 or f/22 or whatever?  Because that would require entirely too much from Step 五.
  5. Step 五 – Set up a flash.  For this one I used a snooted* Sunpak Auto 555 set about 2 meters (9 feet) to the right of the smoke.  I think it was set on 1/2 power and pointed directly at the smoke.  The reason I used a snoot* was to keep the light from the flash from hitting the background (that would have ruined all my careful “kill the ambient light” settings mentioned above).
  6. Step 六 – Focus on the tip of the incense because smoke isn’t really there and you can’t focus on something that isn’t there (or is it?  I’m a science major and I never figured that one out).
  7. Step 七 – Import it all to Apple Aperture and change the color temperature to really, really blue.  This last step is actually a mistake.  If you’re smarter than me, you’ll think ahead and realize that you want it to be blue and set the white balance on you’re camera to tungsten.  After I did it in Aperture and cropped it a bit, it brought out some digital noise.  So then I had to take the noise out using some other fancy software.  No matter how fancy your software is, doing too many steps like this will degrade the end picture quality.

Thanks for reading!

* If you don’t know what a “snoot” is, stop laughing, you really should be reading strobist!

Note:  This was originally a page, now it’s a post.  I didn’t realize that I couldn’t add to pages like I can posts on the home page… live and learn.

Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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