Showcase Lighting

Have you seen those pictures that take your attention and your will to look at any other photo dwindles? Maybe it is a picture of a young woman looking out the open window with the curtains blowing toward her.

The “best lighting” is directed from natural light source placement. This is what I mean by “natural light placement”, light should be coming through the window (back to the photo description above) and not around the window.

There is an important lighting technique which I refer to as “even lighting” or as others say “flat lighting.” “Flat lighting” means that the light is spread across the subject without creating harsh shadows or excessive amounts of light. Not meaning the shadow is absent but having control of the harshness or contrasted effects of the shadow is important!

I used to think that I needed no other light source but the ambient light of the outdoors; while the lighting is always perfect outside with the sun as the source, reflectors, diffusers and shades are great ways of flattening the ambient light.

Adding light with flash and strobe was my primary apprehension, because it is so easy to displace the natural lighting with one overpowering light source. This is not to say adding light with flash and strobe is bad, just a word to the wise that adding light in this way brings a lot more skill and thought to the table than anticipated.

“Showcase Lighting” is all about drawing the viewer’s attention to a specific place in the photo. This is to say, consider what your picture shows. Motion? Draw the viewer’s attention with the movement direction. Personality? Highlight the facial expression including eyebrows, eyes and/or mouth.

Lighting really is a way of communicating where you want people to look without words. Learning how to do this is not easy nor can it be reduced to a formula (at-least not to my knowledge).

Holiday Parades

Since yesterday was Labor Day, “Happy Labor Day!” I am grateful for the opportunity and ability to earn a living by labor!

Parades are some of the best times to get shots of the children and the excitement on their faces of the candy flying in their direction or fantastic clowns pulling their usual antics. Keep your camera handy because these moments can come faster and more frequently than every day events! In addition to those great shots of the children there are plenty of opportunities for any number of shots and a wonderful way to meet friends and neighbors.

The plethora of shots I speak of can pose some wonderful opportunities for learning the speed at which your shutter should open and close depending on your style. Artistic shots may use some motion blur while viewers of portraits prefer eyes perfectly in focus. However, more than talking about techniques in this post which we have more than amply covered before, I encourage you to take these opportunities to train yourself to anticipate each shot.

In a spontaneous environment such as a parade the subject of a shot seen is all too easy to forget. When the subject is forgotten, proper lighting can be one of the most elusive prey to capture. Thus when the photo is taken, the subject is either under or over exposed. So be wary to survey the amount of light around your subject rather than the light filling your general surroundings. It is an easy mistake to make, but “perfect practice, makes perfect!”

So enjoy the opportunities you have for pictures, because if I have learned anything it is this, if I don’t pick up my camera and take some shots, I give myself less opportunity to get better by learning from my mistakes!

Camera Troubles – Part 6

What can I see that my camera does not?

There is not an easy way to answer this question, although I will say to say that our visual capability can not be directly and equally compared to the output of film or digital cameras.

Our sight is taken in motion whereas photographs are still images possibly showing movement by blur or subtle indications of motion. So while we may remember a certain pose, facial expression or scenery of a person or place we appreciate as if the memory were a still photograph does not mean our Eye and Brain receives these memories in just such a way.

Video recorders are truly much like cameras in this way that they capture motion or movement in 72 still frames a second or more. A video recorder more closely resembles our vision in that it records motion in so many frames.

Beyond multiple frames to give the illusion of complete motion, our vision is affected by the ability to change so quickly between seeing detail in the shadows from previously inspecting the details lit by broad daylight.

From observing myself and questioning what I see and how I see it, I believe now to better understand the difference of what I see and how I can operate my camera to photograph a scene as I see it.

I see: the bright sunlight streaming through the ceiling of tree leaves, illuminating the grass and garden floor in a brilliant array of color. As I continue to observe and breathe in the wonder of the contrast and illuminated detail, I begin to notice more detail which remained hidden until I had gotten close enough to notice for the first time.

This is done in photography in several ways. Let me begin with the best and quickest being the first.

  1. Simplicity – Photography studios will set-up the portrait studio with solid color backdrop and lighting to evenly light the subject while still allowing some shadow to remain but lighting enough to see detail in both shadowed and lit areas. This is the effect of many additional flashes.
  2. Specific detail – Scenery which cannot be reproduced or moved in-studio must be shot as is. This requires additional flashes or shooting 3 or more photos  from the same place and position of varying shutter lengths and putting them together in HDR format. (For more on HDR, please see our blog posts “High Dynamic Range” and “The Make-up Of An HDR Photo“.)

So it is not that our cameras cannot reproduce something similar to what we see, but that we have some understanding of how we can enable it to see. There are no quick and simple steps to follow for every camera to shoot fantastic photos. I wish there were! Though if this were the case I believe we would have lost some of the adventure in photography.

It can be this simple though, to know that the camera does not as quickly adjust its Lens Diaphragm and Sensor to see detail in shadow and light as do our Iris and Retina. Thus we seek to separate detail we want captured per photo by the varying amounts of light in its surroundings.

Photography truly is an amazing art. The amazement is not intrinsic to itself, but because it is base off of our visual ability which we are blessed to have received from the kind Providence who created us and the world we love to photograph.

Thank you for reading! I pray you have learned and enjoyed reading as much as I have in writing!

Camera Troubles – Part 3

The Correlation Of Physical Human Vision And Photography Camera truly makes a lot of sense when the purpose of each part is clearly explained!

As we have studied in the last two blog posts (Camera Troubles & Camera Troubles – Part 2) the camera Lens is comparable to our Cornea, Iris and Pupil. The Lens glass is designed to focus and adjust for telephoto. The camera Lens is comprised of at-least two pieces of glass (I say “at-least” because there are “Prime Focal Lenses” and “Variable Distance Lenses” which we call “Zoom lenses”.), the first being the lens we can see and should refrain from touching; the second being capable of moving microscopic distances for the purpose of focusing.

Perhaps this is a bit more theory than anyone would choose to know. Although I would not be writing this series of posts if I did not believe this information would benefit you as you daily take joy in photographing your life and the wonderful moments with your loved ones.

In side the camera Lens is the Diaphragm adjusted in stops which we photographers call “f/stop” or “Aperture”. The solid and flat construction of the Diaphragm is a little hard to explain, but let me tell you about its purpose; it is designed to adjust the opening in small amounts to regulate the saturation of light to reach the Sensor. This is the same purpose that our Iris serves by regulating the size of our Pupil and allowing just the right amount of light to pass onto our Retina.

The camera’s Sensor is a sensitive piece of equipment because it is made to be able to see things in relatively low lit situations. In fact I would say that the Sensor is the most delicate pieces of a camera when subjected to light. If anyone remembers the days of film photography, the Sensor in our digital cameras are the modern replacement of film. Do you remember looking for the right “film speed” and handling one film set after another? Oh the questions I had; and the answers I received were such an education! The camera Sensor and its inspiration our Retina (even the original film) are designed to be sensitive to light, leaving temporary impressions to be received into our memory.

There is a notable difference between our Eye and a camera’s Sensor system. The difference is this, Our Eye sees things in continuous motion and high rates of speed (something along the lines of video), whereas the camera is designed to see things as individual momentary pieces of halted time.

This is a lot of fun to discover new things about our camera! There is more to discover about the camera and some specifics as to how we can get the best out of them. Stay focused; we will capture some more details later this week!

“All aboard!” Part 2

Continuing on at our present location…when shooting on location it is important to keep in mind your objectives.

Here are two photos I took by way of illustration.

The image on the left is my attempt at creating a feel of an older train station set in unavoidable elements of our modern age. Something by which can recall memories of a by-gone era. On the right is an affect I have been working on for a little more than a year. This technique is unique because of intended motion blur on the photographer’s part. As this commuter train passed me I faced the direction it was headed and opened the shutter as I looked over my shoulder and panning with the train as it moved. This affect left everything a blur but the lights and number of the middle train car.

Lest I leave without a word on how these methods and principles can be used in all photography, I would like to point out that simplifying your objective to something achievable is the basic message. The second emphasis is learning how your imagination works and beginning to organize the pieces of the shot with the focal point and the elements. Yes, it can get complicated quickly, but it only has to be as complicated as you want.

Let me share a hint with you. I began in photography as a hobbyist who would look for “shots”. That means that if I saw something of beauty that I wanted to capture in photograph, I would bring out my camera and find a way that best captured what I saw in my mind’s eye. Take your camera with you everywhere you go and ask yourself questions; What attracts me to this scene or object? How can I express what I see in my mind in this picture?

Take one thing at a time and observe how it is used in other works of photography.

Until next week, take each photo opportunity as an adventure, exploring the ways of expressing yourself via photography!