Showing posts from 2014

Tips for aspiring models

Not many people know this but back in my youth I used to model. Yep, that image on the right is me when I was in my twenties. It surfaced recently when I was doing some attic cleaning. Handsome guy, wasn't I?

For six years I was an active model-for-hire for the Barbizon Agency of New Haven. Sadly there are no more Barbizon schools in Connecticut. I was also an instructor, teaching their Major Modeling curriculum. As you can tell, teaching has always been in my blood. But that's not what I want to address in this post. This article is directed to those who are looking to model. If you are a photographer looking to work with models you might want to read this too, but primarily I am targeting models here.

There are many young people (mostly young girls) who still fantasize about becoming a model. Maybe one of those is you. While I don't want to discourage you from that dream I would like to address some very important and serious points about pursuing a modeling career. So,…

Navigating the sea of lenses

When it comes to interchangeable lenses the choices can be very overwhelming. The number one question I get asked, which is also one of the most common ones found on internet forums, is, "what kind of lens should I get?"

It's an unfair question since no one can guess individual needs, considering there are so many variables. What do you have already? What do you like taking pictures of? What is your budget? What is the intended end use of your images? What kind of camera do you have? What is... well, you get the idea.

While the above question may be a common one the core problem is the lack of knowledge about lenses in general. I will try to cover some of the more common answers here, just keep in mind that it is by no means complete nor comprehensive.

DIY Lightstand Table

As a product photographer, shooting tables are a necessity. I have several DIY tables that I have built over the years that have served their purpose and been quite adequate for their needs. However, as an instructor I needed a very small elevated table for holding up a screen projector. It seems that not every venue I lecture at has presentation equipment. What to do... well, time for a do-it-yourself project.

Analyzing my needs was easy. I needed something small enough to be unobtrusive but large enough to hold my projector. It had to be stable enough so it doesn't come crashing down during my lectures yet light enough to transport. It also had to be high enough for a proper projection angle. Building a table that small and that tall wasn't so much the issue, but how do you transport such a beast? There had to be a way of utilizing or re-purposing some of the more transportable equipment I already had. Then it hit me. Make a small platform for something that's already d…

Building your scene back to front

Most beginners approach a photograph like this; they find a subject they want to photograph, bring the camera up to their eye, meter the scene for proper exposure, compose their subject in the frame then click the shutter button. After the photo is taken, a quick glimpse at the LCD screen on the back of the camera lets them know if the photo came out alright. If yes, they move on. If no, adjustments are made and the shot is retaken (if possible). Sounds familiar? That, my friends, is the anatomy of a snapshot.

The snapshot, something we all do. When all we want is a quick documentary photo, something just to record a scene or situation, the snapshot is quite appropriate. If that is all you want out off your camera, that's fine, you can stop reading here. Somehow I feel you want more from your images and for that you have to start thinking about building your images and that means approaching your scene like a pro. To do that you have to build your scene from back to front. Here…

5 tips for using reflectors in portrait photography

One of the most versatile tools to use in your natural light portrait lighting arsenal is the popular 5-in-1 reflector. They are inexpensive, light weight, easy to carry and offers some styling above what you can get with natural light on its own.

Although often used in outdoor natural light portraiture, the 5-in-1 can easily be implemented in your studio lighting set up as well. You can use it with continuous lighting, strobe lighting or to maximize your natural light set ups when working indoors.

Simple as they look, using a reflector isn't as easy or intuitive as it first appears, specially if you do not have an assistant.

Before we get into the tips on using these handy little tools let me first explain what they are so those who may not be familiar with them can get caught up to speed.

Carry you camera manuals the easy way

A couple years ago I posted an article about dusting off your camera's instruction manual in order to pick up a few tips and tricks about your camera's abilities. If it's been a while and you haven't opened up that manual to brush up on some camera functions, I suggest reading up on that post and following the advise.

But I'm not here to discuss what you should or shouldn't do with your camera knowledge. I know you're a smart person and don't need me to tell you to read your manual! I will, however, share a useful tip in how to keep that instruction manual handy for when you really need it. Like at one of my workshops when I ask you to set your camera in a specific way and you can't quite remember how to do it. Don't worry, it happens to many of us. Specially me, who has 'senior moments' more and more often. So what's this tip I mentioned? Read on...

Understanding Angle of Incidence

One of the hardest concepts for beginners is understanding light and how it behaves. As I've said many times before, we can not see light, just the effect of light. Once you start thinking of light in terms of particles of energy then it starts becoming easier to understand. Specially since light behaves in very predictable ways.

This article discusses angle of incidence. A fundamental concept that appears in many areas of photography. Getting a grasp of this concept will open up a whole new realm of possibilities for you as you move forward in your career or hobby.

An incidence is simply an occurrence, an action that takes place at a specific point. In our case this incidence is the point at which a particle of light strikes a surface. The law of physics states that whenever an object strikes another object there will be an equal but opposite reaction. Because we are talking about a particle of light, when that particle hits a surface it deflects off that surface in a very predi…

Useful tips for tracking batteries and memory cards

Batteries and memory cards. These are two essentials we as photographers need extras of. There is no worse feeling than being out on location to find that your camera or flash has run out of juice or you are out of memory. Sure, you can always carefully delete unwanted images to make more room on a crowded card, but that is a hassle and you might just miss the important shots while you are fumbling with your camera. If it's power you are lacking, well, there's no recovering from that. So the lesson here is to carry extra batteries and memory cards. Always.

While having extras of these will save your tail in a pinch, it presents a problem on how to keep track of their usage. It does you no good to swap out a dead battery for another dead battery, or a full memory card for another full card. Here is a simple tip that I have learned along the way that can help you keep track of both batteries and memory cards. This is a top secret, professional tip. Are you ready? The answer is …

When to use HDR

Recently I was in a conversation about exposure ranges and methods of extending them through the use of processing software, either through expanding on the RAW file or by tone mapping, otherwise known as high dynamic range or HDR photography. One of the question that came up that I'd like to answer here is, "how do you know when to use HDR?"

If you are unfamiliar with high dynamic range photography the image above is one example. In essence, high dynamic range utilizes a series of images captured of the same scene but with different exposures. It allows software to assemble, or tone map, a resulting image that contains an exposure range greater than the camera can handle with a single exposure. Let's take a look at what I mean.

DIY tabletop foam core bounce card holders

Working with tabletop photography presents its own set of challenges. It seems that the smaller the product the smaller the light modifiers seem to get. Specially when you are looking to highlight just a small, specific area of the product. Then there are the multitude of reflective and refractive surfaces that can cause any sane person to pull their hair out. When you start crowding all this onto a small table you have to be careful not to cause a domino effect of destruction.

When dealing with bounce cards (a favorite solution for a great many issues) the problem becomes how to support the cards without taking up a lot of valuable table real estate. One solution I found is the use of a simple DIY holder made from discarded 2x4 pine studs. You can see them in use in this photo (circled red) holding up some black and white foam core bounce cards.

Watch with flame background

For a while I have been wanting to do some studio setups that play with elements; water, fire, earth, air. An opportunity to play with fire came up and this is the results of that photo shoot. As you can see it is pretty impressive but when I describe the behind the scene setup you will be amazed at how simple this setup really is.

It is so simple, in fact, that the image at right was all done in-camera. While the watch looks like it is on fire, the flames actually sit a few inches behind the watch. No watches were injured in the making of this tutorial.

Small Critter Photo Hunt - a MPG meet up

Sometimes I hate Murphy and his law, you know, the one that says, "if something can go wrong it will go wrong."

That's how I felt with this past meetup event. "So what went wrong?" you ask. For starters, the nice field of tall grass had very recently been mowed by the city. All those wonderful insects I had photographed on my previous visit no longer had a home to play in. Instead, our group faced a vast open space that any remaining small critter could spot us coming from a mile away.

And don't get me started on the weather. Rain that was supposed to stop early the previous day ended up going on into the night. While rain isn't that big an issue, since it tends to bring the insects out in the morning for some sunbathing and drying out, it did make for some sloshy walking around. Not much fun. The only thing we found were the various species of birds.

Assigning exposure values to your DIY diffusers

As a product photographer I am always tweaking or building light modifiers. Since lighting products is different than lighting people, I find that making my own modifiers is easier than trying to find commercially bought equipment. Plus, it's cheaper and, since I'm fairly handy, appeals to my artistic creativity.

With my collection of modifiers growing I thought I'd take inventory and also take stock in the various exposure factors of the modifiers. Specifically with in-line diffusers like diffuser screens and soft boxes.

Because the source materials for many diffusers come from a wide range of readily available products, knowing how much light a particular piece of material blocks can be a handy bit of information. So with no particular scientific procedure in mind I set out to determine light loss from the various types of materials I was using in my modifiers.

For a quick rundown of what I had to deal with here is a short sample of some of the materials I have in my co…

Spring cleaning time

Winter is quickly leaving us and taking the winter blahs with it. Soon we will all be actively shooting everything in sight with our cameras. Some of us with new gear purchased or gifted over the holiday season. As is nature, warm weather stirs up all kinds of activities.

Since the days are not nearly warm enough to be spring, it is time to begin that yearly chore of cleaning and preparing ourselves for the warm weather. Spring cleaning is one of those traditions that we all must do. "Out with the old, in with the new," as the saying goes. That also pertains to our camera gear.

This is the time to go through all your camera equipment and do some spring cleaning. Find yourself a day in which you can work undisturbed and lay out all your gear. In particular, you should do three things, clean, maintain and unclutter.

Unique camera straps from Riley G Designworks

I am not one to push products but every once in a while one comes along that just grabs my attention. I received a perk request on our site from a company called Riley G Designworks. A perk is an offer from a vendor for our members and it is usually a win/win situation. The vendor has a ready made audience and our members get a sweet deal in savings.

The offer presented is a 10% savings on all their custom camera straps. As with any offer that comes across my screen I have a responsibility to my members to check it out first. To say the least, I was really taken in by this company's story.

A brief discussion on aspect ratios

Aspect ratio refers to the relationship of the width of an image to its length independent of the actual size. Aspects are typically written as two numbers separated by a colon; i.e 3:2, 4:3, 16:9, etc., where the first number represents the width. While it's not crucial to have a full understanding of ratios and how they are calculated, it does make sense to have at least a passing knowledge. "Why?" I hear you ask. The answer, in a nutshell, is this; if you plan on printing your images you need to understand what will fit into your picture frame. Let me explain.

How to critique photos

The biggest and most popular part of many photography communities (photography forums, Flickr) are the critique boards (read about "Finding a photo critique group on Flickr"). Just about every subject and type of photography is addressed. The reason for its popularity is the undeclared value it has to those who take advantage of them. If you are serious about your photography a well executed critique becomes an invaluable tool. It is a mirror that reflects both your strong points and your weaknesses and, like a mirror, you need to be willing to accept all your weaknesses no matter how hard it is to hear.

Having someone critique your work can be a hard blow to the ego. If you are overly sensitive about your work you may want to reconsider. However, keep in mind that the members making these observation only know you from what you post. They react to a request and will offer an opinion based on their level of experience and expertise. DO NOT take anything that is said about y…