Reflection – Part 3

– Troubleshooting the reflections –

Reflections can be very difficult to “diagnose”, though remembering that the reflections in the photograph can only be fixed if they are fixed from the viewing perspective of the camera.

Reflections may be fixed from your perspective separate from the camera and I am sorry to say ‘it may not fix what the camera sees.’ The best way to be sure the reflection is fixed or blocked is to view the scene through the camera with software or directly through the camera.

Most professional line of cameras carry with them access to software for seeing the current camera view. If that is not an option, tripods or other mounting options will guarantee the least amount of movement possible. This will enable you to check the camera view and leave to fix the unwanted reflections.

Reflections will come in different ways. I will not have time or space in this post to help you troubleshoot them, but I will list those I have more recently met.

Round shiny objects, like Christmas ornaments, drinking glasses.

Flat reflective surfaces, mirrors, glass doors, heavily polished wood.

Liquids.

It takes a good head/eye for details to catch it early and a time or two of being caught with reflections in a photo to bring the point home, or paranoia. Okay, that  crack about paranoia was a joke.

I would caution that if you are taking portraits and your subject is wearing shiny jewelry or sunglasses which can give your reflection, be ready with alternate shooting angles and poses.

I wish I could give you draw illustrations of how reflections are made, but you are intelligent and very capable of learning this process or searching for other resources that will teach you in the way you learn best!

A quick story on myself before closing: “I was shooting a glass trophy that has an etched design in the center and an arched top. I was stumped how half of the arched trophy top was not block-able no matter what I put around it. Then I took the time to look closely at what detail I could see of the reflection and I realized, ‘I am seeing the etched inside!'”

No matter how you avoid some reflections, some will just have to be featured. Enjoy!

Portraits – Candid Scrapbook

How do I use candid shots in a scrapbook?

There are a few things to remember before getting into this process:

  1. Scrapbooking starts with a good photo.
  2. Scrapbooking does not need full face shot (unless  you “the creator of the scrapbook” require it)
  3. Scrapbooking is meant to tell a story (pictorially and in written narrative). It depends on how the story is written about what pictures the creator chooses for the book.

Now this is not to burden you down and squash your creativity; however this is meant speak on the photography side of what to expect in a candid shot and how many photos you may shoot or reject as you choose between the “good” and “great”.

As we have covered in the earlier posts, all photographers will take more shots in a portrait session than they would in a studio of a piece of jewelry. This is to ease the stress on the subject by asking them to hold an uncomfortable place for an indeterminate amount of time.

For instance, the piece of jewelry is not going anywhere and will not lose shape under common conditions. For a model or paying customer, this changes dramatically because even sitting in a relaxed position, their radiant smile, twinkling eyes and squared shoulders can become a dark frown, dull eyes and rounded shoulders.

So as to avoid these issues, I urge you to learn to let the natural motion continue of daily life and capture those moments and times of spontaneous laughter, joy and thought.

Do not be surprised about getting 1 good photo out of 15 or more, because it was the continuous shooting which enabled you get that 1 good shot.

Candid shot is best focused on the persons emotions. That is to say, ask yourself what could take away from the emotion being shown. Next ask yourself what is important to draw out the emotion being shown which is already inside the viewing frame.

Have fun, because that is important! If you are not having fun, your model or person of interest may be keying off of your attitude or intensity. Besides, it is the holiday season, fun is in the air!

Back Lighting – Part 5

Since this Back Lighting series started from Jewelry, I figure it only fitting to finish this series with some details of jewelry photography.

These are a few things I have picked up in experience, some of which would have been ever so valuable when I started out! Listed below are a few items and some information about them as to why they are helpful.

Light Stands: They say you never know what you are missing until you do not have it. Well, that is one way of looking at all situations. Me? I prefer to think of what I have as tools which will afford me new learning opportunities. Without throwing a pity-party, I understand that my learning opportunities could expand with more and new equipment, but one of things I do to keep myself financially responsible is checking myself to see that I am “unconsciously competent” with my current line of equipment. Light Stands are very helpful when you want to move lighting versus your subject.

Seamless Background: When shooting in-studio, Seamless Backgrounds are one of the accessories that give the viewer the visual relief that white space without giving the hints of spacial limitation. For some reason wall seams or the corner of the wall and floor took away my pleasure of imagining this one little ring on a table top in the expanses of a large room.

Macro Lens: Macro Lenses are designed with a closer focal range giving the photographer the ability to get closer-in without losing the sharp focus they live on. I cannot say that I have met anyone who did not like to look as closely as they could at the gems in a piece of jewelry they were looking to purchase. Since retail stores know that purchases will rise if the customer can see the product, the store managers will pay photographers very well for being able to capture the sharpest most accurate picture of the product they sell.

Jewelry Wax: For those pieces of jewelry that simply will not stand on their own without some help. I have read many photographers who insist on not paying more than absolutely necessary for wax used in jewelry shots, so they substitute dental wax. Personally, I am careful what I substitute for a product designed for a purpose. Waxes take many forms. Jewelry Wax is designed to be “sticky” without leaving residue or wax on the jewelry. I have not yet been able to test any other wax on my jewelry sets to determine if residue truly will be a problem. I am sure I will post about it at some point, after the testing is complete. *Grin*

God bless!

Back Lighting – Part 2

Specifics on soft-box set-up:

Lighting the space behind and around your subject requires a lot of care, patience and finesse.

Controlling the amount of light taken into the camera is another important concept to understand when trying to utilize the style of Back Lighting. We discussed controlling the amount of light your camera receives in “Camera Troubles” through “Part 6” and how it is based on the operation of the human eye, nervous system and brain.

Lighting for jewelry is a tricky occupation because of the many shiny surfaces we so enjoy not just of the metal but the gems too. Back Lighting jewelry uses the least direct lighting in my opinion. (I say in my opinion, because like any other profession you will find many an expert who: knows what others do not and used or has seen extremes which others have not. Yes, truly this is experience and opinion wrapped up into one statement.)

There are a couple of ways to back light a subject even in a “light-box”. The first way is to reflect the light off of the back drop. Another way is to light the object through the sheer fabric of the soft box back. I created a kind of soft box, only because I diffused the major lights in my set-up.

So my basic point is; there is no need to buy soft boxes if you are not focusing on staged macro photography. Have fun and improvise with the equipment you have or invest in basic equipment that you can re-use for other projects. Soft boxes are not designed to eliminate all shadows but do a very good job of softening them, especially since setting up proper lighting means more than one light source which the soft box technique so easily facilitates.

Step 1: Soften harsh lighting.

A studio set-up

Creating a studio background sweep for that “all professional” look is not that difficult. Your attention should be drawn to the object or subject of interest and not the lighting or set-up of the shot. In other words be sure that you lights are pointed directly at your subject and not slightly off to any one side.

Setting up your own studio does not have to be complex or involved! The basics can get confusing if they are not properly explained. I will post some pictures of my studio set-up with unusual equipment so that you can get a visual understanding of how it can work and improvise with your own set-up.

Equipment list:

2 lengths of 12.5 feet of paracord, 1 pane of 8″ x 10″ glass, fabric background sweep, Prop for glass and jewelry (cleaning pen cap and a 2 inch ring box), over head structure (Be certain it is sturdy! I used 2 securely installed ceiling light fixtures), tripod, remote shutter release, 2 soft light diffusers, 2 lights, camera and a good macro lens (as well as the obvious batteries and memory card).

I began my studio construction with an over head structure that would hold my background sweep and a light.

I began by taking a length of paracord, tying an overhand knot in the end and inserting it between the wood of the light fixture (pictured on the left) and it’s diffuser. Thus with the pull of gravity and the light weight pull of hanging objects it will be caught in a “pinching” hold.

I used this same technique for each time I made a contact point with the light fixture. For knots that were not at the ends of the paracord I used the overhand knot on a bight.

Be creative while playing around with methods of friction because friction properly applied is your best help and not destructive!

Friction, as illustrated on the left, is holding the light in one place along the paracord. The paracord is looped around the open end of the stand making it easily adjustable along the support line and providing way to  adjust the placement of light on the object.

It rarely is a good idea to have hard light shining directly on the object or subject, so I removed the reflective outside of photo reflectors and used the white fabric of the reflector disk as a diffuser. Again I used the convenient open end of the stand from which to hang the reflector disk. The reflector disk must be pulled back so that it covers the “shooting area” where the object or subject is placed. I used a straight pin to gather the reflector disk fabric around the power cord, nicely covering the shooting area of the background sweep.

A note of caution: Be careful of hanging anything heavy on the line. The weakest part of the over head structure in this set-up is the diffuser.

We have discussed how one of our lights is set-up, but there is another light that needs to be set-up at a lower angle and portable to figure out the best position to illuminate the facets of the piece or person in focus.

Let me introduce the “chair mount”. If you are familiar with lashing techniques I used the square lash to secure the light to a chair back making sure that the power cord for the light was long enough to reach any place the light may need to be positioned.

Having extra paracord from lashing the light to the back of the chair, it conveniently became the securing point for the reflector disk.

Now that the studio is ready for some of the smaller details, an 8×10 inch piece of glass (clean from dust and dirt) is a nice addition to reflect an object. Bring in you camera, tripod and objects to photograph and begin to play with object position and camera perspectives. Take your time with the first piece being sure you have properly set your cameras white balance, ISO and shutter speed to properly show off the beauty of your photo’s focus.

Have fun and  be creative, because fun and creativity will make a better statement than perfect professional rigidity.