Monday, May 28, 2012

Using flash to darken your background



If you have been following along so far you have learned about the exposure triangle (Understanding exposure - exposure triangle) and how it controls timing and depth of field. Now were going to completely confuse you and throw in a fourth element; flash.

In a previous post we learned how to use fill light in high contrast scenes. When using flash for fill we are simply taking our existing exposure and adding light to the dark areas. The nice thing about using flash is that we can control the way the camera captures ambient light just by using the power of the flash unit to compensate our exposure.

One simple technique to illustrate this is the "invisible black background" technique as illustrated in the photo at right. The results are very dramatic. and the interesting thing is that this was all done in broad daylight out in the open.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Photography is a series of problem solving steps


As a beginning student in photography there are so many things to learn and it seems like you need to learn them all at once. On top of that you need to grasp an already difficult concept; light. So what is the beginner to do?

I teach all my students to take learning photography as a series of problem solving steps. Rather than getting hung up and bogged down by all the technical stuff I tell them to slow things down and analyze the problem first. The wonderful thing about digital photography is that you have the ability to preview the results right on your camera. A luxury I never had in the film days. That alone is a great learning tool.

The other great thing about this is you get to see the results right away and you begin to learn how a camera interprets certain scenarios. Here's how it works...

Snapshot



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

5 must know tips about your camera


In a previous post I discussed 5 tips for responsible workshop attendees. In that article I touched on some simple common sense rules workshop participants should adhere to in order to make their learning experience better. Today I am going to expand on that article and talk about five things you need to know before attending a workshop. Specifically, five thing you need to know about your camera before attending a workshop.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Using fill light in high contrast scenes


This past weekend Mid-CT Photography Meetup Group held their second annual "Capture the Wind" event at Hammonasset Beach in Madison, CT. It was a wonderful event and posed a variety of challenges to our photographers. I did a short mini-workshop on using reflectors and flash to fill in the shadowed area caused by the strong sun light. Here are a few of the tips discussed at the workshop.

The first thought most beginners think of in this type of situation is that they don't need to use flash. After all, it is a bright day and there's plenty of light. Unfortunately this is the wrong type of thinking and nothing could be further from the truth.

The main problem with a bright sunny day at a beach is the high contrast light creating harsh shadows. When you have strong directional light coming in from one side you will get strong oppositional shadows on the other. Not a very flattering look for anyone. To balance out the contrast you need to add light to the shadowed side. Two simple techniques are the low budget reflector and the higher budget speedlight. There are pros and cons to each and I'll cover some of them here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What do you mean, "my journey is not your journey?"


An interesting conversation came up with a member regarding the RAW versus JPEG article and a photographer's choice to shoot in one or the other format. To paraphrase the comment, "I really gave up on trying to 'convert' the JPEG shooters a long time ago. If someone shoots in JPEG and they are happy with their results, good for them, who are we to tell them any different. Lots of people create beautiful photo's using JPEG."

He further states that, "some photographers do use the images straight out of the camera and if they have a better eye than I do, their photographs will have much more interest in them than one of my perfectly post processed raw shots with a lousy composition."

I agree with his comments. I just point out the benefits of shooting in one format over the other. If your goal is to be a casual shooter, JPEG quality may be right for you. If your goal is to be a pro you need to step your game up and that means understanding the ins and outs of shooting in either format and then using them accordingly. However, I don't think the true point of his argument is whether one needs to shoot in RAW or JPEG. It was just a polite way of saying that not everyone cares to shoot in RAW or JPEG. To some the argument is insignificant and this is the point I sometimes fail to remember.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

One photo, many visions


A photograph straight out of a camera, no matter how prolific the photographer, is only a part of the process of creating an exposure worthy of sharing. The other part is the developing of that photo with photo editing software. Specially if you shoot in RAW. All RAW images have to be edited. It's just like in the film days; all rolls of film had to be developed.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, there are a great many ways to edit, or process, a photograph. It all comes down to the photographer's creative vision and the editing ability to bring that vision into being. So much hinges on being adept with the editing tools that without it the realization process can become frustrating and convoluted.

In this article I will illustrate how one image can be processed in numerous ways, each technique allowing for a specific feel or emotion. This first image above is my original shot of the pier at Lighthouse Point in West Haven. As you can see it is rather drab and generic.

RAW vs JPEG in editing


The argument of RAW vs. JPEG has been going on for some time and everyone is of different thoughts about what to shoot with which and when. I even put in my two cents in an earlier post; "Age old argument - RAW vs JPEG".

As strong as my convictions are I am still amazed when people ask about the benefits of one or the other. I thought this would be a nice subject for a post, so here goes.

To begin, the technical aspect of camera RAW files is much too broad to cover here. If  you are interested in learning more there is so much available on line to read. I will just touch upon some of the more notable benefits RAW files have over JPEG.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Make your outdoor portraits pop with flash


Bright sunny days are a horror for portrait photographers. The harsh light is never flattering and it makes the subject's eyes squint. Then there is the heavy contrast between light and shadowed tones. If you don't choose your location properly you can easily loose the nice mid tones. The trick to correcting this, of course, is to move the subject into the shade.

By moving into the shade you avoid that stark direct sun hitting your subject, blowing out details and enhancing flaws. While we loose the heavy contrast we also can gain a certain amount of 'flatness' to the photo. The reason is that in brightly lit days there are no real soft, diffused shadows. The transitions are sudden. You're either in direct sun or in shadow. No in between. This is where off camera flash can be of help.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

5 tips for responsible workshop attendees


As a photographer I attend a lot of workshops from various educators. This is one way I improve myself as a photographer. As a photography group leader I also give a lot of workshops on a variety of topics and to a variety of skill levels. That is another way I learn to hone my skills. But at times these activities can become discouraging when an attendee fails to meet the requirements of the workshop.

Before I continue this train of thought let me preface this with a disclaimer; I understand that we all have a desire to learn and there is no better way to do so than with hands-on workshops. Specially if they are affordable or free. I further understand that there is a certain amount of obligation an instructor has to give to a paying student and I know that when you pay for something there is a sense of entitlement. This article is not intended to make those of you who identify negatively to what I say feel bad. It is simply to try to put into perspective the student's place among their peers and in relation to the instructor. Also to give you an insight into what an instructor has to contend with. Take it for what it is, a guideline for future reference and nothing more.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Levels of photography


I got to thinking about the progress a photographer makes through the learning curve of this crazy business/hobby/obsession we have so wittingly embraced. I tried to analyze not so much the progress of learning but more of the progress of the finished product that comes out of the camera. That progress obviously increasing in technical ability as well as artistic ability.

Anyway, here are the levels I came up with. Keep in mind that these are not based on any standards and are just my opinion. Also understand that while we may move forward in our learning we are also guilty of 'backsliding' into the lower levels. After all, they do have a place in our photo albums. You know, the ones we keep to ourselves... Enjoy.

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