Terms – Exposure

I have written several posts that mention photos should be properly “exposed”. What does it mean to properly expose a photo? Good question. That is exactly the issue I intend to demystify.

“Back in the day” when every photographer used film to capture a scene for posterity the process included light rays piercing the film and chemical coating. When I refer to exposure, it is based on this process and how long the film is “exposed” to the light. If the film was left available to light it will be unintelligibly “bleached”.

So what this means in our digital world is we look at our digital exposures for areas that does not accurately represent the colors of our scene.

Proper exposure is not dependent on your field of photography. For example, a photo-journalist does not use a different measure for proper exposure than a commercial portrait photographer would. Each vocation specialty may prefer different exposures for their purposes, but there is one common key; they all want their subject in this range of proper “exposure”. We will discuss this more in-depth in our next post “Terms – Exposure 2”.

Exposure is effected by length of shutter speed, amount of added light (flash, strobe or constant) and lens aperture. All of these we have covered in earlier posts. For now, what are the keys that will help us discern a proper exposure?

Detail – How much detail is visible in the photograph? Detail represents the photographic subject and the surrounding scene.

Depth of Shadow – How dark are the shadows in the photograph? This will cause detail to be obscured.

Bright areas without detail – What areas in the photograph are saturated with more light than necessary? This will cause detail to not be visible.

As you look through pictures take some time to look at shadows and bright areas. Look for detail and consider other places the photographer could have stood for more or less light to expose the shot.

Portraits – Versus ? Part 2

Stock Photography is a field of scope more broad than portraiture because it does not cause an emotional attachment alone.

Stock (at-least in my opinion) includes styles Commercial, Product, Scenic, Wildlife, Botany, Oceanic, Astronomic, Architectural and Historical opportunities giving objects to be the primary focus in the photo.

Portraiture ought to emphasize the person over their surroundings, even if the photograph is not designed to prominently showcase the subject.

The difference between Stock and Portraiture is in the photograph’s use. For instance, a company selling a consumable product will use a photograph of the product for visual communication is a use of stock but meant to sell a different product than the photograph.

The Stock Photography industry is designed to sell photographs, rather than photographs being used to sell other products.

It is important to consider the purpose of the photograph whether displaying it in home or sale. Just as a photographer is critiqued for how they captured the subject and displayed the photo’s purpose, so an image out-of-place or incompatible with its surroundings is important to consider when placed.

If a portrait is placed in a photo frame intended to be used as a stock photograph but is an obvious portrait of the subject, it looks out-of-place as it sits on the store shelf. There are aesthetic changes that can be made to the portrait to show the commercial use, but without these changes it would seem that someone had left a framed photo at the store as they shopped for a new picture frame.

The same principle applies to stock photography. If a person or an object is in the photograph distracting from the photographic statement, it is better to change perspectives or wait until the person leaves the frame and not “shoot around them”.

One of the best investments in a shot is time. Do not be afraid to invest!

Portraits – Perspective

In the field of Photography, the word perspective comes up every now and again, but what is it and how can it better my photos? Good questions! I will answer one at a time.

What is “Perspective”? For an example I would like to illustrate an a subject with an immovable object like a tree. For illustrative purposes say this tree is a sapling about your height with strong and well-formed branches. Now a practical explanation of “Perspective” is looking at the tree from the side, below, top or anywhere in-between. Please do not misunderstand, “Perspective” is not only speaking to the “X” or vertical axis (from top to bottom) but also the “Y” or horizontal axis (side to side).

Now a tree does not so well show good reason for taking a different perspective side to side, but what if this tree were replaced in your viewing frame with a human subject? A human is not symmetrical like a tree and because of this fact, moving to one side or another can add or subtract from the viewers interest.

This leads into the second question, “How can ‘Perspective’ better my photos?” Take as an example a simple, straight on portrait as compared to a portrait taken slightly from the side with their head turned toward you. Not that there is a problem with the straight on portrait, however the perspective change can be a useful addition to the photographer’s tool-box.

This is one of the reasons that photographers will have subjects sit at a funny angle to them and then have the subject turn their shoulders one direction and have the subject look toward them. Now perhaps the strange “contortions” or poses will make some more sense at your next portrait session. *Grin* Enjoy!

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!

Portraits – Lighting

Light is what I call one of the “basic three”. Without light, either natural or artificial, it would be impossible to see or photograph anything. Now we have an understanding that light is important, but what are the other two parts of the “basic three”? They really are so practical we think too hard when trying to answer this question; A quality camera and a well designed lens.

Onto our topic for today, light is so common and we have so much of it in so regular a time that we take if for granted. Lighting is essential for contrast and definition but before we scatter into all the areas to which light pertains, let us take a moment to remember some things which we have previously discussed.

Lighting angles are vital:

  • Portraits are best lit when the light source is within a 45 degree angle to the subject on a horizontal plane and not to high above the subject to avoid deep shadows around the eyes.
  • Silhouettes can be made when the light source is behind the subject and the camera is appropriately set.
  • Back-lighting is meant to remove shadows and highlight the edges of the object.

We have also talked about a few things which will add light to a shot by reflecting the natural light which already exists in a setting and how to soften this light. This is all well and good, but I would not serve you well if I did not address equipment which can add light in your photos.

Flashes and studio strobes are wonderful tools for adding light, however I must say they are not the cheapest tool. I am grateful to have some experience with studio lighting but it is this experience I want to share with you.

Studio strobe are adjustable in intensity and power as well as offering tethering ability, which enables the photographer to use more than one at the same time. In our next post we will look into strobes and how they use other methods of lighting with one source.

Portraits – Property

Little things that might otherwise never be considered in portraits are good to keep accessible. These little things should target a purpose for the photo.

  • Is this a yearly portrait session?
  • Is this special birthday session?
  • Is this a business portrait session?

These three examples are a start on the purposes for portraits but what kind of session do you most often shoot? Which session properties will be the most valuable to your business or in-formal shots?

Property or “props” are added elements which suggest motion, share information and set the mood within the photo. Listed below are some “props” which may help you get your “prop” inventory started.

  • Numbers – Numbers apply to birthday and yearly portrait sessions by signifying the age of the subject or the year the portrait was taken. This is the basic use of numbers in a shot, but what other ways can you bring the number into a portrait?
  • Letters – Most commonly a letter is used to state the first letter of the subject’s last name.
  • Umbrellas – Making a statement to Weather or femininity, umbrellas are incredibly versatile! Umbrellas range in design from large to small, dainty to rugged and sporty to fashion.
  • Bean-bag chairs – Styrofoam pellet stuffed chairs give the ultimately conformable property for the wiggling young child or relaxed appearance for older children and young adults.
  • Large stacking blocks – Boxes made of wood or other solid materials can create fun variations on a set. Making impromptu stairs for your subjects to ascend or a small pattern to partially separate activity in your photo frame.
  • Picture frames – Picture frames can be a visual reminder to the viewer of the portrait’s focus in an artistic way or even offer a pictorial time-line with a photo inside of a previous event. (For instance; during the bridal portrait session the bride could hold her favorite picture of her engagement portrait session.)

These are all suggestions which I hope inspire you to use things I have never thought about. I look forward to hearing your success stories and the “props” you use!

Portraits – Color

It is not every time that a portrait will look best in color. There can be many reasons for this, however let us begin with the fun we can have with color portraits.

Q. How can I use the fall colors in my portraits?

A. Fall color is brought to the fore with fall fruit, vegetables, leaves and more subtly flowers that bloom in fall. City maintained gardens may decorate with large gourds, pumpkins and fall blooming flowers which surely bring the visual cue of fall to viewer.

Q. Shooting up at my subject is not an option. How can I use the fall colored leaves in the portraits?

A. If the colored leaves or nuts as acorns have not fallen to the ground there are always optical “tricks” to play. One of the quickest and easiest ways to bring in that fall color still on the trees is to bring your lens to a wide-angle view and get very close to your subject. This will give a high angle view into the trees for the color and your opportunity of shooting a level portrait of your subject’s face. Possibilities are endless!

Q. How can I simulate the look of fall and fall color?

A. Bringing in elements which pictorially describe fall will help a lot. Jackets, a wrap if your subject is a woman or even little things like having her hair styled so that she can wear it down to gently flow in the wind. One of my personal favorites is a lite scattering of colored leaves on a thick carpet of grass and the subject looking up from the center of the scene.

For what it is worth, I have found a cooling statement which helps draw the visual effect of fall with prominent shadows behind the subject and sun light illuminating their face. Enjoy!

Portraits – Setting

As fall approaches the possibilities for outdoor portrait settings are wide open. The weather cools down to temperatures pleasant enough that a smile automatically graces your face without thinking about it.

Personal Note: I walked outside last week with a cup of coffee in my hand; as the door opened I felt the wind rush and I was surprised that it felt cool for what I was expecting. Walking out front with the cool temperature sensation continuing on my arms and face, I began to smile. Taking in a breath of fresh, cool air it only seemed natural to smile and laughter began to bubble up from a heart full of joy and inspiration.

With cooler temperatures and fall rains, fall bearing trees begin to produce their fruit and leaves change color making this the perfect time for many portrait occasions. This opportunity is too good to pass up, so with school starting up it is a good time to pick out a park or garden that provides the situations you want. Let us discuss some possibilities.

    1. Park bench
  • There are at-least three angles or perspectives on one place, so do not be too hasty on abandoning one place for another.
  • A Change of sitting positions offer more variety without changing locations.
  • Simple elements such as a book, flower or jacket can take a picture from good to favorite as quick as your shutter can move.
    2. Tree row
  • Peeking from around tree trunks are a nice touch for mystery and surprise, however caution is to be used to prevent too much of your subject from being hidden.
  • Taking shots of a pair of children can be fun especially when the camera is using a vantage point to see both children.

These are just some thoughts for you to use as you design your personal portraits.

Stock Contrasting Portrait Photography

I titled this post with “Contrasting” being the comparative term because Stock and Portraiture are not competing in a common market, but rather completing the market with a whole new set of shots to be used where portraits may not and should not be used.

I would like to be clear that while Foetoss Light Photography is a Stock Photo company (or “Commercial Photography” for tax purposes), the Foetoss Light Business Blog is focused on providing tips, hints and helps to parents and hobbyist photographers who want to learn more about photography and taking those captivating images of people and things you love.

Here is my opinion of the difference between portrait and stock photography.

Portraiture as we well know is designed to center around personal recognition. With this basic description we understand that style and artistry also “enter the picture” to draw on the beauty and personality of the person or persons.

Stock is specifically purposed to display a product or experience without requiring personal recognition.

You will see stock photography everywhere in product advertising, wall art and topic based editorials. In fact, since I am a stock photographer, all of the photos I have used in my posts have been stock.

I am finding that even stock photographers will be asked to do portraiture even though it is not a specialty. I have taken portraiture contracts but carefully for several reasons. I do not see in my photography something specifically drawing out the beauty or personality of my customers and I want to keep focused on stock. Having written that, I do realize that I would not be asked to shoot these portraits for customers if they did not see in my photography something they want in their portraits. So thank you customers for your confidence and business! I appreciate you!

“All aboard!” Part 1

There are so many things that can be used  as a fresh “vein” in cultivating creativity, but I do not want to ware you out with all of the possibilities. There are literally a million and more options waiting for you!  So this will be the final post in the series of “Cultivating Creativity”.

Could it be possible that we give ourselves too many options in a photo shoot and therefore hinder our ability because we are not focused on the best two or three shots with any variation requested?

Shooting by location can be one of these “open ended” opportunities. On the other hand, there could be some “creative” ways of narrowing the probabilities to make the possible become reality.

Take a train station for an illustration: A train station contains so many possibilities that to use it as a portrait location would require some organization in order to come away with a profitable portrait set. In the same way it can be too much for one imagination to work in for stock photography.

Let me first define some terms: (Or at-least this is how I define these terms.)

  • Portraiture – photography which centers on a person and generally includes a recognizable portion of the face.
  • Stock – photography designed as art for any range of uses which may include the human figure for interest.

The basic issue comes down to this; portraiture is photography designed to sell because of emotional attachments, whereas stock sells because of the artistic value. I would sound rather cold if anyone were to hear me say it this way without this explanatory context. This by no means is a put down to portraiture! Portrait photography is one of the most recognized markets in the art world and a very good job done by all of my photography peers, professional and hobbyist alike!

Now let us consider some more ways to narrow our options of shots by location. Shooting some of the basics of composition, such as; leading lines, focal direction, rule of thirds and time lapse.

How about photographing components of an object, or vehicles that come and go from the location? Buildings on the grounds or doorways? You can even make it complicated if you wish; regarding physics, shoot the components of an object which create or absorb friction. …

 

Part 2 will come out this Friday. Stay tuned!