Friday, August 21, 2009

Learning Photography Lighting

A person wrote me the other day asking for advice about learning lighting for photography. They said something to the effect of 'i'm looking into getting strobes and a softbox...' and I immediately thought 'Whoa! Slow down!'

When it comes to lighting it seems to makes sence to start with something simple and then work into more complex situations. So, what lighting is simple?

Well, lighting in general is fairly simple once you understand how it works. For this post I'm not going to go into any math or ratios, but I am going to go through a few steps in learning lighting.

First of all it's probably a good idea to start with natural light.  This is a great intro into seeing natural light the way god intended it. Go out and shoot natural light. Shoot in direct sunlight, shade, side lighting, back lighting, butterfly, etc...shoot until you get great dynamic images that get attention. Once you do, you have just mastered one light!

Now, pull out your reflectors and start bouncing the light around. Figure how to shoot great images with your reflector and natural light. Once you get the feel of controlling the given light, you will be ready to have a light source of your own!

Now, get one strobe and learn what heigth, angle and intensity you need to make good images indoors. Use the knowledge you learned in dealing with natural light and a reflector to your strobe. You will quickly learn how to use your one strobe.

Next, get a second strobe. This is the point where you will need to start measuring the light intensity with a light meter.

In my next post I will go over some basic ideas on using one strobe outdoors and two strobes indoors and outdoors. 

Until then, happy shooting! 

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Photography with Fire!

If you like fire, hand drums, hippie'ish style dancing and the smell of marijuana in the air, then this is a place for you! This is the first time for me to hang out at a Pyrotechniq event. It was fairly entertaining. I mean, people are freaking EATING FIRE! How is that not fun to watch!?

This event was held August 5th of this year (2009) in Chicago. There are going to be 3 more held this year. Check out the link above for dates and times.

People ate fire, spit fire, hula hooped with fire, had sword fights with fire, bo staffs, chains, whips, and just about any sort of weapon with fire on the end of it was spinning around.

Many photographers were there with tripods, flashes and all sorts of other cool toys. I shot hand held with no flash because I was late testing my ability to shoot hand held at slow shutter speeds. Most were shot between 1/30th - 1/80th at ISO 1600.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Photography Inspiration

Today I was thinking "what inspires people to shoot certain things?" Sometimes photographers will copy something they have already seen. Or, capture it in a slightly different way. Some simply guess and hope for the best. Others draw up every detail and create what was in their mind.

Although I have a folder on my computer that is also on synced to my PMP of images of other photographers that I really like, I have not once went to shoot and looked at them. I have ideas in my mind, but they are always foggy at best. Usually a generalization of an idea. I like this and it works for me. I believe it's because I have a small foundation for what I want to shoot, but I don't tie myself down with too many details for during the shoot things can move more naturally.

Just about every shoot I have done in the past few years feels very winged. I try and make the best with whatever situation, equipment, clothing, and weather was available at that time.

I'm slowly getting better at looking around and seeing what would and wouldn't look great in an image. I'd imagine most things could look great in an image if it were captured in some interesting eye-catching way.

I think it would be fun to get a few photographers together and all shoot the same scene, like this old loading dock in the image above, and see how each person interprets it. Of course the other photographers couldn't watch what the others are doing because that would alter the natural creativity of each person during their time to shoot.

In the end everyone could compare and discuss their ideas during their shoot and what it looks like in the end. I believe this could quickly open doors for everyone into thinking about capturing/creating images in a different way.

Then, everyone go re-shoot the same scene together and see what comes of it. I don't have time for any of this, but it seemed like a great idea. If you do it, e-mail me results and I will blog it! :D

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Why focusing and recomposing is a not-so-great habit in photography.

(Any image in this post that is hard to on it. It will load a full resolution version that you can see much better.)

I see this done often and I still do it myself from time to time. When one tilts their camera upwards to focus on the eyes of the model then tilts the camera back down to compose the image. Seems harmless, and it may be harmless if you are shooting at f/8'ish to f/16 or more.

(remember shooting at apertures of around f/8 - f/16 and more results in a wide depth of field whereas shooting from f/5.6 - f/1.8 results in a shallow depth of here for a visual example)

Now let's take a look at what happens if we are shooting between f/1.8 to f/5.6'ish.

Imagine holding the camera in this diagram that I spent 20 minutes drew up real quick for reference. We point the camera up to the eyes of our subject, which are 6 feet away. Perfect, the eyes are in focus. Since we are shooting in open apertures, lets say for this example, f/2.8, we have the eyes in focus and about 2 or 3 inches on each side of the orange line going through our subject is in focus. Beyond those few inches things are out of focus. Now, let's keep that focus point and tilt our camera down for our three quarter shot.

Now that we have tilted our camera, notice where the orange line of focus on our subject has moved to. It's not focused on the eyes anymore. Now our focus has moved several inches behind the eyes. Remember those few inches we had? Now the eyes are out of focus.

In the image of Tiffany above I did this very thing. Here is a close up of the focusing for you can see this error in action. CLICK on this image to load a bigger/clearer version!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The collective ideas of several are better than yours alone...sometimes.

I have talked with Tiffany for several months now and we finally got to meet up and shoot. Just like any first shoot things start off with typical cookie cutter type of shooting and then eases into an artistic blend of every one's ideas and expressions. This first shot I took about 15 shots and never felt like I totally got the pose right. I showed Tiffany the shot and she said "oh yes! it would look better if I moved this leg here." See, Tiffany saw what I was trying to do with this shot, picked up my slack saw my vision, and then added her valuable input to make it better than if I had done it solely on my own. Good work Tif!

In post I did some special steps for the feel of this image would be custom. I shot this using 4 stop bracketing and a tripod. Next I made two different HDR's and mixed the properties of those two HDR images. I then painted back in some parts from one of the original images. Last I did the typical retouching that most images receive. A lot of work, but not so bad with a new computer. I simply wanted to try something new.