Ken’s Photo Tips
Children are smarter than you might think, and they have a mind of their own. My general rule is to let them pose as they want. The two family portraits to the right give testament to the general rule.
In the top photograph, dad would like her to sit on his lap and smile for the camera.
The second shot was taken after we let her pose herself. I like how the baby is watching older sister. Guess which shot worked the best?
She knew we were taking family portraits and just wanted to have some control over the shoot. Our job was to keep things safe, keep looking at the camera, and see how she performed for us. The result was at least three great shots.
In this post I will explain my studio setup for taking narrow depth of focus (field) shots using studio strobes. You might want to take a look at two prior posts for some background: Shoot in the shade (part two) and Narrow depth of field.
The problem faced in the studio is that studio strobes flash fairly bright when close to the subject, and having the strobe close to the subject provides the soft quality of light that photographers strive for. This works great for f5 to f9 or so (ie the lens opening is closed down a bit for fairly wide depth of focus), but opening the lens wider to narrow depth of focus results in over exposure.
The solution is to put sunglasses on the lens. My choice was to try a three stop neutral density filter. The idea is to set up the lights at f8 (bright) and shoot at f2.8. That’s about 3 stops (darkness of the sunglasses). It worked, and you can see the results in the portrait to the left.
However: It is not a perfect world. As expected, cutting the light from the camera made it harder for the camera to focus on the subject. I had to turn up the strobe’s internal modeling lamps and the house lights to compensate.
Not for newborns, but for babies and toddlers that can hold on. The mum sits just out of sight of the camera as the safety person just in case the child makes the wrong move. The poser is excellent for helping the child face in the most complementary way and can be covered with a cloth to match the background.
My first photo tip on this BLOG was to shoot in the shade. The photograph to the left is an example of a photographer taking his own advice. The setup was quick and easy. The client simply posed next to an exterior wall that was shaded by a patio. Direct light struck some tall shrubs to her right (my camera left). I also used my Nikon 85mm f1.4 lens at f2.8 to obtain the beautiful and creamy narrow depth of field (subject of a prior photo tip that you can find below). The portrait style is called a “HEAD SHOT”, and is commonly submitted to casting directors of stage and screen.
I had a sunrise photo shoot on a dreary morning, but needed some brilliant color. The solution was to use High Dynamic Range and some post processing. Four images were taken at different exposures and then processed into one HDR file using Photo Metrix. Additional processing was accomplished by using Nik Software Ultimate Edition. Notice how the green grass and trees stand out? A normal exposure would have rendered the green black.
This portrait was taken later in the day, and in the shade. I needed more light. The dad held my flash unit that was attached to a light stand. The flash shot through a translucent umbrella. It provided a soft light aimed at the side of the girl’s face with a little bit hitting the other side’s cheek. The setup provided studio lighting in the playground (Nikon 85mm 1.4 at f5.6).
Last Sunday I had the pleasure to do some family portraits at 3:00 PM in a shade less playground. My subject was in direct son! His portrait on the left was taken with my expensive portrait lens (Nikon 85mm 1.4 at f8) and a Translucent fabric. Mum held the fabric that shaded her sun while I took the shot. The result is a nicely lit boy demonstrating his best boxing pose without the glairing son blasting his face, and the background landscape was properly exposed. Also note the smooth soft focus on the background landscape provided by the lens. Please click on the Facebook “Like” link if you haven’t already.
High key is the opposite of low key (see my post below on low key). The goal is the same, focus the viewer’s eyes on the face. See how the babie’s clothing blends into the white background making the adorable face stand out. This technique works best for subjects having light hair and of course white clothing.
I’ll be in Brisbane 5th-7th Feb to attend a conference hosted by the Queensland State Division of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP). I’m looking forward to networking with other professional photographers and hearing the best of them present timely topics germane to the profession.
Obviously a personal judgment call, good enough implies sufficient, adequate, and passable. Good enough is, let’s say, good enough for most people. It gets the job done, and it might be what they can afford. Good enough in photography could be a snapshot on an iPhone or a quick photo session at a shopping center or school.
Some of us, however, demand better than that, namely a photographic image that has been professionally crafted and printed using the highest quality processes. Having possession of the most expensive camera does not make you a professional. It takes years of study and practice, combined with artistic talent and creativity, to get to the point of having the ability to produce fine portraiture.
So why should you trust me for your next portrait session?
First of all, you shouldn’t assume that I’m the best photographer for you. That is one of the reasons you are invited to meet with me before we schedule a portrait session. This meeting allows you to explain what portraits you are seeking and me to propose ideas on how I can meet your needs.
Secondly, you have probably looked at my website and liked my work that is on display.
Finally, the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) has evaluated my portfolio and given me its higher rating of an “accredited photographer.” I have also agreed to abide by the AIPP Code of Ethics.
I found this on the CNN webpage the other day. You mught want to check it out at: CNN
I have been putting together an album for a client and decided to take a break by adding to this BLOG.
I love my job!
Take a look at your favorite magazines with an eye for photographs of people. Pay attention to how the person is posed and put yourself in their place. Rip out the ones you like best, and try to copy the pose. Share your rip sheets with the photographer.
Have you ever seen professional models posing with their arms at their side? I have, and I think I know why. First, they are showing off the garments and accessories so the pose is less important. Second, I think, they are trying to look a bit heavier than they are. Yes, heavier. You see, when the arms are at the side, the body looks wider. Is that pose good for you? Maybe not if you possess normal body weight.
A good rule of thumb, or should I say elbow, is to bend it. One way to do this is hand in pocket or on the hip. The most slimming pose would be to make a hole between the arm and body on both sides so that the camera can see through. Now strike a relaxed, comfortable, pose, and smile. You will look great (also see my Mug Shot—Photo Tip below).
I just saw a cool Facebook Profile photo and decided to emulate the effect in Adobe Photoshop. I tried to do it using the MS Windows programs that come with the operating system, but it just was not the same. The model will be getting a free copy so keep your eyes on Facebook and you might see it again.
I often see Facebook Profile Photos with more than one person in them and find it quite confusing.
Unless you want your subject to look like a prisoner, avoid straight on (face, shoulders, and torso facing the camera) shots. It is much more flattering to have your subject’s body angled at 45 degrees, close foot pointing at the camera and the other behind and pointing in the direction the body is facing. Then have the subject look at the camera or slightly to either side as you wish.
See how the mother is posed in my Shoot in the Shade—Photo Tip below.
First, see my Shoot in shade—Photo Tip located below. Second, consider using your built in flash for daylight shots of your friends. Do not rely on the flash firing automatically in daylight, just set the camera to flash. This works really well when the background is bright and your subject needs supplemental light.
One reason some professional lenses are so expensive is that the diameter of the lens is enormous, making the glass more costly. So why do they do it? The larger diameter lets more light into the lens, resulting in better low light performance and narrower depth of field, assuming the lens setting (f-stop) is wide open.
What is narrow depth of field? Contrary to what most of us expect regarding focus (everything is in focus), the narrow depth of field shot puts most everything out of focus except the subject. This is a good choice when the background is full of stuff you would like to eliminate.
Geometry lesson: Draw a line out of the lens to the subject and label the distance x. Now draw a surface perpendicular to that line. That surface is called the plain of focus. The depth of field is some delta of x where the focus is judged acceptable. With some lenses this could be plus or minus one inch from the plain of focus.
As confusing as all of this can be, one look at the photograph to the left should convince you that narrow depth of field can have a dramatic impact. See how the focus gradually gets blurry as the distance from the face moves towards the background. Especially note how the blurry background seems smooth and creamy. That smooth characteristic is called bokeh, another prized feature of an expensive professional lens.
Taken with a Nikon 70-200 zoom @ 200mm f 2.8 1/45 sec, hand held with available light crawling on the floor with baby.
The idea with low key is to draw the viewer’s eye to the subject’s face. The dark background and dark top tend to blend together while the face stands out. This example took dark to the extreme. The High School senior was a sheer pleasure to photograph, and the result was dramatic, wouldn’t you say?
Taken in studio with Nikon 24-70 zoom at 70mm, f 8, and 1/200 sec
Flatter your subject by avoiding harsh sunlight and the stark, high contrast shadows direct sun can cause by shooting in the shade. This portrait was taken in Peru without any special equipment other than my camera. There was bright direct sun camera right that lit a patio that was out of the photo. Reflected light from the patio lit both faces, while the subjects were in total shade. Additional fill light was provided by reflection from the windows and wall camera left. The result was a flattering portrait with brilliantly saturated colors.