Techniques

A Different Perspective…

…Is the simplest way to better pictures. Plain and simple.

Most images are taken from eye level (booooring). It is what we see on a daily basis. So I ask you this: When was the last time you saw someone crawling around on the ground and, when you inquired (quite concernedly, I would assume) as to what they were doing, they simply replied “I just wanted to see what it looked like from down here.” NEVER! So be that person. Look at the world in ways most people can’t or don’t. Just make sure you have a camera in your hand so you don’t look too crazy.

Spring has sprung-3

Although better than a typical angle, this shot has been done time and time again.

Spring has sprung-2

Instead, get down and shoot up to the

Spring Has Sprung

subject to create something different

Decoding the Exposure Triangle

Far too often, people get caught up in, or tripped up by, the numbers involved in Photography. f/stops, shutter speeds, ISO values… You might as well be trying to decode the Bermuda Triangle. But once you understand how they work, both individually and together, the world of creative photography opens up like the proverbial oyster. For years, I’ve been teaching students to keep it simple… The more you over-think the numbers, the more frustrating it becomes.

I’ve seen a lot of graphics outlining the Exposure Triangle, but haven’t really come across a comprehensive, yet easy to understand visual representation of it. So, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to devise a way to illustrate a comprehensive version of the Exposure Triangle, while keeping it simple enough so that it doesn’t overwhelm. Hopefully this helps some of you that may have been struggling with putting it all together.

Click for full size, printable version.

Click for full size, printable version.

Kids are Colourful

So why not use a splash of colour to enhance their portraits! In the images below, I used Honl Photo’s Speed Strap and coloured gels on a Nikon SB910 (with the wide angle diffuser pulled out) to add a pop of colour to the background. I chose colours that would accent their personalities, clothing and eye colour. The lighting setup was a simple 2 light arrangement. The main light was another SB910 in a 26″ Westcott Octagonal Rapid Box (with diffuser panel) to camera left and at a 45 degree angle. Both lights were triggered by a camera mounted SU800 and the RadioPopper PX system (no line of sight required).

The key with kids is to try and keep it fun. Let them make some funny faces in return for some genuine smiles. It might not always work, but when it does, the results can be great.

Eli

Ben

Tips for (but not just for) Concert Photography

Last week, a former student emailed me and asked for some tips for shooting concerts, and seeing as I had just shot one the week prior, I figured now is as good a time as any to post some tips, tricks and pics (note to self: start a regular segment with that title.) Below are my ‘go to’ settings for concert photography. This tip doesn’t just cover concerts, but any low light event where there is any kind of movement involved, such as; Plays, Indoor Sports, Graduations, etc.

Tall Tall Trees

Tall Tall Trees | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Here is what you need:

Equipment:

  • A high-end camera (just kidding. No I’m not. Yes I am. Well, kind of.) What you really need is a camera that handles really high ISOs with as little noise as possible. Sensors have improved by leaps and bounds since I first made the switch to digital in the early 2000’s and they just keep getting better. All this to say: if you have a newer camera, chances are you can push your ISO to its limits and still get reasonably clean images without the excessive noise that is usually prevalent with high ISOs.
  • An appropriate lens for where you will be located in relation to where the action will be, and how much of the stage you want to cover. For the shots below, I was right up at the stage and I still used a 70-200 lens so I could get in close. This will ultimately depend on what works for your situation and the gear you have available, but typically a longer lens gets you closer to the action. And that’s where we all want to be, right?
Tall Tall Trees | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Tall Tall Trees | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Settings:

  • Mode: Manual – This is a necessity so that your lighting stays relatively consistent.
  • Aperture: As wide open as you can get it to allow the most amount of light in. In other words, use the smallest f/number your lens will allow. Somewhere between f/3.5 and f/5.6 is typical for standard kit lenses, but if you’ve invested in better lenses, go as low as you can.
  • Shutter Speed: I typically start somewhere around 1/200 to 1/250 of a second to ensure that I freeze regular action on stage. Depending on how much or how fast the performers are moving, you may need to increase your shutter speed. (examples below)
  • ISO: As high as you need to go to get the right exposure. Typically in the 1600 – 6400 range. Will there be noise in the images? In the immortal words of Stompin’ Tom: Darn tootin’! Ask yourself this: “Would you rather have noisy images or blurry images?” Exactly.
  • Flash: Probably the most important thing here is to keep your flash off. It will do you no good. None at all. And it might just get you booted out of smaller venues if you’re distracting the band.
Lucius | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Lucius | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Just as an example to try and tie it all together for you, here are 2 situations that couldn’t be more different and the settings that you might need to capture each:

Example: Leonard Cohen

  • Mode: Manual
  • Aperture: As low as it will go
  • Shutter Speed: Potentially as low as 1/80 of a second because he doesn’t move much or at all.
  • ISO: As high as you need to go for a good exposure. Likely the lower end of the 1600-6400 range.

Example: Slayer

  • Mode: Manual
  • Aperture: As low as it will go
  • Shutter Speed: A minimum of 1/250 of a second to freeze all that thrashing around on stage.
  • ISO: As high as you need to go for a good exposure. Likely the higher end of the 1600-6400 range.

Here are a few more pics from Lucius and Tall Tall Trees Live @ The Garrison:

Lucius | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Lucius | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Lucius | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Lucius | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Lucius | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Lucius | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Tall Tall Trees | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Tall Tall Trees | Live @ The Garrison | Toronto, ON | April 26, 2013

Fong on a Stick

I’ve been using this relatively simple little lighting setup while shooting on location for a while now and have suggested it to a couple photog friends. After trying it out, most of them come back singing its praises, so I figured I would pass it along here as well. This is an extremely easy way to add dimension and direction to your light, all the while diffusing it for a softer effect. I call it: Fong on a Stick!

Now, I know some people curse the dreaded “tupperware bowl” that is the Gary Fong Lightsphere, but there are also those who swear by it. I happen to fall somewhere in between. Is it the be-all answer for diffused lighting? Not even close! Do I like walking around an event with a big white bowl on top of my flash? Not at all! Do I like the results I get from it? Obviously. Otherwise why would I be walking around with this stupid thing on my flash?

The issue that most people have with the lightsphere is the cost ($70 for a plastic bowl, some velcro and a rubber band?!?!). I like to try and build my own “knockoff” of a product using inexpensive materials before laying out $50 or more, but this is one of those things that I wasn’t able to quite get right. The ridges inside the lightsphere serve to spread and diffuse the light in a way that I wasn’t able to replicate in my homemade attempts, so I ended up forking over the $$ to buy one. And it just so happens to be the lynchpin in the setup below. I guess that is stating the obvious… It would have been weird if I called it Fong on a Stick and then used an umbrella.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • External Flash
  • Gary Fong Lightsphere
  • Monopod
  • Wireless flash trigger or built-in flash capable of triggering an external flash
  • Small flash stand (if using built-in flash for triggering)

Simply thread the flash stand (pictured above) or wireless trigger to the monopod and attach your flash to it. Then mount the lightsphere on to your flash. Have an assistant hold the contraption and direct them as to where you want your light source to come from. If you don’t have someone available to hold the monopod, you could could always substitute it for a tripod (but that isn’t quite as versatile).

The end result is a magic light stick capable of all sorts of creative lighting. In fact, all of the images in this previous post – https://mnrdphoto.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/esession-michelle-george/ – were taken using this surprisingly flexible tool.

Shoot the (Super) Moon

For an event from which we tend to see the same image ad nausea, the SuperMoon on May 5th, 2012 sure garnered a lot of hype. And most of the pictures all look the same (mine included). But just because other people will likely take the same picture doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Especially new photographers. You can learn a lot by shooting a little white dot in an otherwise vast black nothingness. Seeing as the moon is something that new photographers tend to struggle to capture, here are a few variations of how you can shoot the next Supermoon (or any moon, for that matter.)

  1. You can try Exposure Compensation, but your camera may not give you enough leeway to underexpose enough to retain detail in the Moon.
  2. You can also try Spot or Center-Weighted Metering on the moon itself to retain detail.
  3. However, the best way to learn how your camera works is to use it in Manual mode. Start with settings along the lines of: ISO 100, Aperture around f11 and  a Shutter Speed in the vicinity of 1/30 of a second. Keep in mind that this shutter speed requires a tripod for stabilization (remember my mantra… Below 60, stabilize), which is almost always a must when shooting scenes at night.

The key thing to remember here is that we need to under-expose the shot, because the camera’s light meter will see a primarily black image and try to bring it up to what it thinks is the “proper” exposure, resulting in a black sky with a bright white dot with no detail in it.

Always be prepared!

Last night we went to a wine and food tasting/pairing at Deer Creek (a local country club), put on by the local wine shop where I make my wine. As is common with most events we attend, I brought my camera, just to take pictures of the food and general snapshots for my own uses. Well, it turns out that the photographer/videographer for the event broke his leg earlier that day, so they didn’t have anyone dedicated to capturing the event. Enter, Moi! I constantly complain that I always take too much gear with me for fear of not having something I need/want, so last night I made a conscious effort to “pack light.” I only brought my camera, a 16-50mm f2.8, a 30mm f1.4 and a flash. It was all I needed in a pinch and it simply reassured me that less is often more when packing gear. And trust me, my back is VERY happy about this revelation.

The owner of the shop and the marketing team that put on the event were very grateful for my last minute substitution and it could very well lead to more work… Not to mention a few selections from the owner’s private cellar.

Always get set-up shots when shooting events. Remember, your telling a story with your images.

Lamb Lollipop

Chocolate Mint Cheesecake Lollipop

 

The Owner, Trainer, Caterers and Marketing Team

*Clink*