Terms – Perspective

Taking a perspective on an object can show its many sides. I refer to a view as illustrated below as perspective versus squared.

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By perspective I mean that one part of the object is further away from the viewer than the rest. I have found that looking at an object from more than one of its sides gives me a better idea of how I best like to see it.

Learning how to take a photo of something from the angle I like to see it can be more challenging than first expected but it will come in time. Start by using one lens only and find its range of limitations. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the equipment. Observe and learn how what you photograph may seem distorted or disproportionate as compared to reality. All of these things give a “perspective” and will help us learn what to avoid as well as how to make this look if ever we want to use it. Learning in this way teaches us a more thorough understanding of our equipment and technique than if we learned only by textbook. Experience is key. Schools and employers both know this so do not feel like you are cheating or being cheated. This is a natural learning process that some professionals wish they had more of early on in their career.

Have fun, shoot something straight on and then find a perspective that looks good to your eye through the view of your camera and lens!

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).

Product – Natural Light

Product photography can be executed with natural light in an everyday setting. Yes, YOU can photograph your own products in your home as long as you have the proper light source – the sun. This is especially beneficial for entrepreneurs of crafts and homemade trinkets who need to advertise their own merchandise.

Pay attention to your home and where the window light spills in throughout the day. The quality and amount of light can accentuate the product you are trying to showcase. For instance, when the sun is newly risen or close to setting, you can catch soft golden hues that will not  been seen throughout a normal day. The sun is also less harsh at those times so you can have a better balance when dealing with “shiny” objects. Shiny objects are any products made of reflective material. Overexposure of shiny objects are much easier to do when the sun is strongest and highest in the sky.

If the sun is still too harsh, it helps to have a “diffuser” at hand. A light diffuser is used to even out the main light source that is being projected on the product. For example, in direct light, a product made of or containing amounts of shiny metal may have a spot that is too bright and visually overpowering. We call that a “hot spot” and there should still be detail visible in those brightest areas. A light diffuser can be purchased already made and in different sizes at a photographic equipment store. If you are on a limited budget, a light diffuser can also be made of plumbing pvc pipe, 90 degree angles, and swimsuit nylon. Determine your chosen size and assemble into a square or rectangle. For ideas and a better visual picture, check out images of light diffusers and normal sizes on the internet. Stretch the nylon tightly over the pvc pipe and sew the corners to keep in place. Swimsuit nylon can be purchased at a local fabric store and pvc pipe at a hardware store. Angle the diffuser between the sun and your product to soften the light.

Proper styling, simple backgrounds, and pertinent lighting can showcase your product in a way that can wow your clients. Bring as much confidence into advertising your product as you showed in creating it.

Portraits – Flash

Flashes are designed to do just what their name suggests, “flash”. This operation is different from a studio strobe because flashes do not light as lamps before firing. Flashes are smaller when compared in size to studio strobes and much more portable.

Flashes are a quick and easy way to add light to a photo without requiring a full light set-up and accessories like reflecting umbrellas. Just to be clear a flash is no substitute for the full lighting set-up.

I have so long kept back from writing about strobe, flashes and every other studio light because it is very easy to think “If a little light is good, then more is better!” or “This shot isn’t quite right because of this dark spot, it must need more light.” These assumptions are not always true.

Up to this point I also have not defined the venue of the photography. Many portraits these days are shot outdoors. Yes a good number are shot in a professional in-door studio, but just because more or less are shot in one place over another means absolutely nothing when it comes to doing your best job with each portrait. As I write this article, I have an outdoor setting in mind with some great texture variations and color fusion. Something like your nearest botanical garden.

Never hesitate to use the light already in your setting. The more natural the lighting looks will enable you to focus on your subject’s personality and facial expressions.

I understand there is a lot to think about when taking photos, believe me, I do not work like some photography super hero. We will get better, faster and smoother the more we practice the right techniques and processes.

Having your subject looking into the sun can be hard to do for a while, so offer for them to turn their back or side to the sun and fill your shot with a flash. Perhaps even getting the hard shots over first and then just dealing with the flash in the rest of the shoot will not be as difficult.

Always being considerate to the subject so that looking any one  direction is not kept up too long, find a routine that works well for you and use it!

Light Has Color? Part 2 – White Balance

Have you noticed some shadows have a little bit of color to them? Clouds for instance; some clouds on mostly clear days have a sort of blue hue to them. I can not help but wonder in noticing this and with the understanding of the how and why rainbows are made we can understand the process of a camera’s White Balance.

Looking at pure light as a simple harmony of ROY G. BIV producing a brilliant “white”, we have laid the foundation to working with camera White Balance. Now camera are not charged only to filter natural sources of light but also other forms of light produced by man-made light sources. Since we have seen that light can be divided into 7 color forms, the basics of our study tell us that we will be dealing with more of 1 color than the other 6. It is possible that we would be dealing with a sever lack of 1 or more colors, but since our color pallette is only based with 7, our filters can be adequately limited.

White Balance is the effort of compensating for the lack of or overdose of a specific color through the use of filters. This is also the job of Image Specialists. One of their most common jobs is “color correction”. So software is outfitted with the ability to manipulate the colors which may lack or overwhelm the captured photo.

For interest sake I have made a list of ways that light is produced, natural and man-made.

Element (Metallic element made to conduct enough energy to glow without quickly exhausting the element’s lifespan.)
Vapor (Gases – Fluorescent, Mercury Vapor and Fire are uses of vapor in proper conditions to yield the production of light.)
Chemical (Liquid – Phosphorescence and Glow sticks)
Electronic (LED)

Take care and do not be afraid to ask questions. Learning is a wonderful opportunity!

Camera Specifics For Me

“Is it really necessary that I purchase an expensive camera to get nice photos?” Answer: “No. An expensive camera is not necessary to get nice photos.”

Even though I now am a professional photographer I still do not own the top of the line digital camera and a studio full of fancy equipment.

I actually began testing myself in the field of photography with a camera in a cellular phone. I have since the age of 4 played with differing film camera models which came from the late 1960’s, but this was different. This time, using a digital camera in a cellular phone, I did not need to buy for film and pay for processing.

This is not to say that I would be satisfied to go back to using the camera inside the cellular phone, however it provided me a great opportunity learn the angles and perspectives which bring the picture together to communicate a logical visual thought. [Woe! Okay Mr. Big Words; Let us read this in an understandable language this time! – Blog editor] It is important to capture the subject in a natural, comfortable pose. If a viewer looks at the photo and says what they are thinking, would they say something like “That does not look comfortable!” Or would they say, “Wow! I wish I looked that good.” Truthfully we all think that about ourselves, super model or not. The important thing to remember is that the beauty we see is inherent within the person and how they look comes from the way the picture was taken.

Go to a camera store, and I mean a camera store, not a computer super-store. Talk to a sales associate about renting a digital camera and take it out with you everywhere; subjecting it to all the situations in which you will find yourself, testing its abilities. Learn the camera’s strengths and weaknesses. If it will help you, treat the time you have rented the camera as a product review and you are a highly acclaimed journalist who could make or break this store’s sales quarter.

In other words, enjoy your time and put the camera through its paces.

A Theory Of Light

We are delving into an area where sciences meet theology and thus can easily escalate this post high into the nose-bleed section of intellectualism. I shall employ every precaution at my disposal to keep from being confusing as well as leave my aptitude and ability to speak on this subject. *Grin*

Light is invaluable to us both as human beings and photographers. Our bodies require a certain amount of light to continue necessary functions, one of our primary functions being vision.

Continue reading

Construction Zone – Part 3

I cannot be sure that I can say enough times that safety is very important in Construction Zones. So without belaboring the point I will let you know that being always observant of your surroundings and scanning the work area will not only show you new possibilities for your next shot, but could very well save your life.

If you have been invited into a Construction Zone, the Safety Officer will give you some very important information and guidelines to follow, both for your safety and the safety of the workers with whom you will come into contact. Please pay special attention to these instructions!

Even if you are not allowed into the Construction Zone, it was well worth the asking!

Another minor point of discussion would be not to assume the Construction Zone to be road construction alone, but also housing construction, business zoning, and what about small projects around the house or artists such as sculptors? There are many items Constructed from many substances! Use your imagination and consider the possibilities!

How do these mentioned projects fit into the category of backgrounds for portraits? Is this not getting a little far afield of the original post intent? I will let you judge that, I only wish to help you cultivate a fertile imagination for your photography. Small projects around the house are great for portraits of children and perhaps an artist wants to showcase themselves as well as pieces of work.

Portraiture and Stock have an odd way of working across their lines of definition. As well they should; to keep us on our toes, showing us that life is not all cut and dried. I have just finished several photography projects. As I bring them to a close, I am learning a lot about what it means to put into practice what I have learned as well as some finer points, just so that a photography experience with my studio is natural, coordinated and inspiring.

We all have our own “Construction Zones”.