Every time you make portraits you should make one shot that pushes your limits or gives you a little thrill. The client may not like it, but it will help fill your soul. I usually use one light from the front to make portraits, but it's amazing how much impact moving the light can have, and that's the case with the following picture. It's made with just one light, and it's the kind of portrait I love to make even though I know my client probably won't love it. Big Light To make this kind of lighting, you just need to get your subject very … [Read more...] about Portrait Tips: Deep Drama With One Light
If you know anything about HDR, you probably know it shouldn't be used for portraits. High Dynamic Range photography techniques usually increase the ability to see details, and nobody wants to see more detail in the skin in a portrait. However, used properly, HDR can give you softer transitions from shadows to highlight areas, and that can be flattering and it can help rescue portraits made in bad lighting. Harsh Light Makes Dark Shadows I made this picture late in the morning on a mountain top and the sun was quite direct and … [Read more...] about Portrait Tips: Use HDR For Softer Light
A simple and impactful way to make a portrait is to position your subject next to a window and in front of a dark background. With the proper exposure, your subject's face will stand out starkly against the dark background with dramatic light coming in from the side. This is probably my favorite kind of portrait. But there's one key that will either make the portrait striking or bland. The Shady Nose The thing that makes the picture look dramatic is the play of shadows and highlights across the face. See the highlight on the edge of the … [Read more...] about Portrait Tips: Dramatic Light Made Simple
An Alternative to Focusing Fresnel Spot Light with the Benefit of Easy Custom Shapes I have been experimenting with digital projectors as a light source in my Glamour Photography Workshops. If you don't have access to large movie hot lights with focusing fresnel lens systems, a digital projector provides a wonderful simulation! You can create any imaginable shape to project in Photoshop and use the projector like a light source. The example below was created by strapping the projector to a platform attached to a light stand - this accessory … [Read more...] about How to Use a Digital Projector as a Glamour Spotlight
One of the biggest reasons why I don't like pop-up flashes is that it gives uneven, harsh lighting directed at your subject. Even with an on-camera speedlight, the same effect can happen. And while you can play around with the power output of your speedlight, there are other ways to avoid an unattractive look. With a few tricks, you can create a softer light that spreads across the environment you're shooting in — which in turn, creates a more natural photograph. Bounce Off a Ceiling I use this technique often at indoor events, and it … [Read more...] about Avoiding the Harsh, Direct Flash Look
I highly recommend a 5-in-1 reflector as a tool for helping you get terrific light under many circumstances. It should be the first lighting tool you buy, and you should learn to master it before buying more lighting. The good news is that a 5-in-1 reflector is relatively cheap. I recommend the oval shaped reflectors because they give you more room to work without covering the surface with your own shadow. The trouble is, one of the surfaces is a gold reflector and since it's included many photographers think it must be there to use for … [Read more...] about Portrait Tips: How To Use A Gold Reflector
Happy Summer! It’s time to get away from the computer or out of the darkroom and enjoy the beautiful weather and shoot! Here are 3 tips on making great beach photographs. I shot these photographs at the end of the day, catching the very last bit of light, at the same location, yet achieving very different visual impacts. All of these photographs are shot without a tripod even though they are fairly long exposures. Exposing for the last light of the day. Start by using the in camera meter to read the light on the horizon. Make sure you are … [Read more...] about Shooting on a Beach!
Summer is Here - Time for Flower Photography I just thought I'd share a quick little lighting technique for your flower photography. Now that spring is past and summer is here, it is almost mandatory that, as photographers, we document the emergence of dormant life in the form of flower portraits. I have some lovely Amaryllis, just now blooming at my windows, and these make great subjects for close-up photography... It is very easy to get great close-up shots with limited depth of field, soft pastel colors, and gorgeous semi-abstract … [Read more...] about How to Light Close-up Flower Photos with a Flashlight
Experimenting with different lighting setups can transform a simple image into a creative portrait. It’s not hard to experiment. If you don’t like the look, keep experimenting until you find one you love. Here’re two examples on how to add killer catchlights to a portrait that will help jumpstart your creativity. Ring Light A ring light adds unique lighting to a portrait. You place the lens through the middle of the light, causing the light to come from the same plane as the lens. This produces very few shadows and a unique catch light. … [Read more...] about Create Killer Catchlights
A popular way to make portraits is to place the sun behind your subjects (often done in a field of tall grass at sunset). It's a pet peeve of mine, however, that these pictures are often the wrong color. White Balance for the Faces Your camera's white balance control helps you make portraits with great color by correcting for the color of light illuminating your subject's face. The common problem with backlit portraits is that the photographers thinks to himself, "My subjects are standing in sunlight, so I'll use the Daylight white balance," … [Read more...] about Portrait Tips: Remember the White Balance, Forget the Histogram
I just received a pre-production Illuminati incident light meter that uses bluetooth to connect to a smart phone. I am really excited to use it on a job... Why use an incident lightmeter? The answer is really simple. The meters in our cameras are kinda crippled. Want to see what I mean? Go find a white wall. Fill the viewfinder of your camera or camera app on your phone with the white wall then take a photo. Is it white? Nope. It's gray. 12.5% gray. Here's a screenshot of my iPhone of white wall I shot with it at the Las Vegas Convention … [Read more...] about The Smartphone Lightmeter on the Job
The Illuminati meter is a cool new device that makes it easy to choose the right camera settings as well as the right white balance settings for a camera. Normally, these two meters will easily set a photographer back $2,000 or more. But the Illuminati meter is wireless and uses a smartphone and app to process the light and color in a scene. This makes it ideal for both photo and video uses. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4Dw_eip97M To find out more about the Illuminati meter, I reached out to its inventor. I always find it helpful … [Read more...] about An Interview with the Inventor of the Illuminati Wireless Light & Color Meter
Controlling a speedlight's zoom head allows you to spread or focus a beam of light. Normally, this is automatic but sometimes you need to take control. Here's how to take control of a speedlight's zoom head. On Camera or TTL Mode Normally you don't need to worry about the zoom head. Placing the speedlight on the camera or using TTL will cause the zoom head to adjust based on the focal length of the lens. When you zoom your lens in, the speedlight's head narrows, allowing for light to travel a longer distance. When you zoom your lens out, the … [Read more...] about Studio Tip: How to Manually Control the Zoom Head on a Speedlight.
Feathering the light is a technique of angling the light source at different degrees across your subject’s face to soften or strengthen facial contours. Little Change to Quality or Quantity of Light As you rotate and narrow the light over the first 45 degrees, there is little change in the quality or quantity of light—but there is more rapid drop-off as the light disappears. This is the "feather." Experiment by rotating the light little by little. Photographing a Group of People Feathering the light is great when photographing a group … [Read more...] about Studio Tip: Feathering the Light
Dragging the shutter is a technique that balances the exposure of strobe and ambient light sources in one photo. For example: taking a photo of someone outside at night by using a portable flash and also capturing the city lights in the background. Balancing Strobes and Ambient Light Strobes put out a powerful amount of light so, in order to balance with the ambient light, we need to use a long shutter speed, hence “dragging the shutter.” There is quite a lot to know about this technique because it involves color balance as well as exposure … [Read more...] about Dragging the Shutter Part One: The Step-by-Step Guide to Balancing Flash and Ambient Light
The Photographer’s best tool is light, and there are many choices. Light is used to mold, define, describe and set the mood of a portrait, so knowing how to recognize the light or control it, is of ultimate importance to the artist. I’m both a natural light, or “Portraits Unplugged” kind of photographer, and also have a lot of experience with using studio strobes or portable flash, which gives me huge control. Which kind of light to use? Knowing how and when to use artificial vs natural can be a challenge. I recently photographed Ceasar … [Read more...] about Shooting Portraits on Location: Natural or Flash?
ThinkTAPLearn has released a new training title with Joe McNally—Location Photography: On Assignment with Joe McNally. You’ll have a chance to watch over Joe’s shoulder as he works his magic on the set of a dance shoot. An industry legend, McNally began as a photojournalist and has worked for publications like Life and National Geographic. Joe continues to work on assignment today, producing amazing images and inspiring photographers. Watching him work is a treat. Who’s this course for? To get the most from this course, you’ll want to have … [Read more...] about Location Photography: On Assignment with Joe McNally
If you’re new to working with speedlights or studio strobes it can get overwhelming. Here’s a quick tip to ensure consistent exposure from shot to shot and avoid damaging your lights. Single-Shot Mode Make sure your camera is set to single-shot mode and not multiple shots or sports mode. This will ensure only one photo is taken when you press the shutter button. This will give your light time to recharge to full power before the next shot—making sure exposure is consistent. You can set an option for the light to beep when it reaches full … [Read more...] about Quick Tip: Use Single-Shot Mode when Shooting with Lights
Your job as a photographer is to match your light with your subject’s pose and emotion. In our image, we want a gritty, edgy look. This requires controlling where the light falls on our subject. Here’s how to use stripboxes and a beauty dish to create this edgy style. Stripbox Start with an empty set and take a shot--setting your exposure to create a completely black image. This proves the ambient light does not affect your image. Next, add side lighting with stripboxes to create the edge light. Looking at the subject, position one stripbox … [Read more...] about Photography Strip Lighting
I shoot a fair amount of theatre and concert productions. You know, the kind with dark environments with harsh red, green, blue and yellow lighting…where you can’t use any lighting gear. What I’ve learned is with a mix of exposure, ISO and aperture optimizations, you can create a template that will allow you to photograph these type of events with ease. ISO Don’t be afraid to boost this up. In these environments, ISO is your best friend. I usually crank mine up to 2500-3200 for performances. But, what about grain? To put it simply, it’s … [Read more...] about Red, Green and Blue All Over: Theatre and Concert Photography
I caught up with my Photojournalist friend, Rick Friedman, at the New England Camera Council Conference. Rick showed me images he took of Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots for Sports Illustrated. Rick is best known for photographing Presidential races—he started in the 70’s photographing Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan—but he’s also a talented portrait photographer and lighting expert. I asked him how he lit the shot. Intrigued with his story, I asked if I could share it with our Photofocus readers. There are lots of great tips and … [Read more...] about Photographing New England Patriots Gronk
The Platypod Pro Max is very versatile. Attaching a ballhead and camera makes it as rock solid as a tripod with the advantage of being able to place it almost anywhere. By attaching an Avenger 5/8-Inch Stud, you can mount a large studio light and hide it in a small space behind your subject without getting it in the shot. This gives a photographer freedom to shoot from different angles without having to use the subject to hide a light stand. Here’s how to hide a big light in a small space using the Platypod Pro Max. Attaching a strobe to a … [Read more...] about Platypod Pro Max – Hiding a Big Light in a Small Space
Whenever I see a new piece of photo gear, one of the first things I ask myself is "what else can it do?" You'll find great reviews of Platypod Pro Max by my fellow Photofocus authors extolling it's virtues as a camera platform - and while it certainly excels at that - I'm more interested in what else it can do. Its large flat surface and 3/8-16 thread made me immediately think it could also be perfect as a lighting platform whenever I wanted to place a kicker light close to the ground. I've improvised many times in the past, using everything … [Read more...] about Get a Grip with Platypod Pro Max
As anyone who's been to WPPI can tell you, it's pretty insane. Between the Classes, Expo Booths, Parties, Socials, After Parties, Dinners, and well...everything else that Las Vegas can throw at you, seeing everyone / everything you want too is next to impossible, let alone keeping your professional schedule in check! 2016 was no different, however this time, I was on a mission. I decided to start a new photo project digging back into an old one for inspiration...one of my favorites of all time, Film Noir. As I began casting for this project, a … [Read more...] about Photography Projects – Expectation vs Reality
This morning I woke up and had to share this with you right away. If you love photography more than you love good food then you're going to love this. There's a FREE 3-part photography training series that starts today, May24th, 2016 and ends the day after Labor Day. It's not every day we get to learn something valuable and free without putting in a lot of time and effort. I've personally been to five different seminars and workshops this year already and for each one, I had to fly, stay in a hotel, and eat out for every meal. The FREE … [Read more...] about Do you love photography more than good food?
When shooting a portrait or head shot outdoors or inside a studio, I always use a reflector or bounce card to add some sparkle to the subject. This is Emily, I first shot her without any reflected light indoors in my studio. Now, I will add some reflected light directly below her and just out of the bottom frame. Notice Garrett is holding the reflector. Some photographers will ask the talent to just hold the reflector because they have no one to assist them. Get a stand or something, never ask your subject to hold the reflector on … [Read more...] about Reflected Beauty
Here's a great tip I got from watching some grips quickly change gels on some frames. In the past, when you removed an old gel or diffusion material you always had the mess of the sticky material. Either the 2-sided tape, or the foam stuff from 3M double stick, which ever material was used it was a challenge. I was observing some grips used the following technique and it was fast. This is a standard 18"x24" frame. The first thing you want to do is apply Blue Painters Tape around the entire frame. Here you can see I'm using 1" … [Read more...] about Getting Taped Up
I don't use flash very often and I especially don't use it very often with wildlife but it is possible. For this image made with a Canon 1D MK II and Canon 500 f/4 lens, mounted on a tripod with gimbal head, I used a Canon flash with a Visual Echoes FX-1B "Better Beamer" Flash Extender because the eagle was hiding under the canopy of some trees. He was very tame and patient but there just wasn't any light to speak of. Because I didn't want the flash to overpower the bird and blow out the highlights I used on-flash exposure compensation of … [Read more...] about Wildlife Photography – You Can Use Flash
So often someone will take the time to light the talent to look great but forget to light the background and give the image some depth: One method is to use a Cucoloris. Some will refer to it a s a cookie cutter:The Cucoloris will create a shadowed texture onto your background depending on the distance the light source is from the Cucoloris. The general rule with light is that the closer the light the softer the light, the larger the light the softer the light. Allow me to show you this theory in practical application:As you can see in the … [Read more...] about Cucoloris for Shadowed Texture
One of the most used tools on a Hollywood set, oh heck on any set, is the C-Stand. C in Roman numerals representing the numeral 100 is how the C-Stand got its name, 100's of uses. When closed it's 53" high, it can be extended to 10'6", it usually is ordered with a 40" arm and Grip Head. The C-Stand is a very versatile tool in the photographer's arsenal. Allow me to show you how to take advantage of the C-Stand. One way is a reflector holder:You simply secure a piece of foamcore or any material that you're using to reflect light onto the talent. … [Read more...] about C-Stands 101