Session Planning

I have been teased about being overly sensitive about small details and using time to fix them. Well, this is about the planning of a specific photo, we should step back and consider planning the event.

I have mentioned in other posts about planning your shots, choosing your locations and getting it written, but what about plans for specific events such as weddings, graduations, engagements or family portraits.

Ask (according to the event) for a list of photo priorities.

Write down and give a kind of visual demonstration shots you have in mind for the session.

Keep a list of poses and shots for “plan ‘B'”.

Weddings are events that the bride and groom will remember and certainly one that they want photographs of for time to come. Photos of weddings are all over the place and there will be almost without exception a photo or two that the bride will want of her and her man, so it is a good idea to ask her to make a list of her priority shots. Keep the list close on the wedding day. You can almost guarantee that the wedding day will be filled with nerves and schedules not making any of their deadlines.

After interviewing the couple there may come to mind a few shots which are perfect for them. Keep good notes for later reference. These shots will come in handy as you have already taken the stock wedding shots and one party or the other are busy.

‘Plan “B”‘ can take several forms. One solution is to have a second photographer picking up shots simultaneously to your own.

Another alternative could be taking two or three days before the wedding to stage the shots with the couple and taking candid shots “in the moment” during the ceremony.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Cameras & Light

Light is an incredible “force” in creation, and just in case you do not believe me, study the effects of light on plants (Photosynthesis), or the ability to permanently transfer the image of an object onto paper with light-sensitive photo paper. Even more so our fragile camera sensors demonstrate just how easy it is to get too much light in a shot, reminding us of the awesome power that we often take for granted.

I should have begun to realize just how powerful light is when most if not all of the camera settings and accessories work to shade the camera from full light or regulate the amount of light so as to properly expose the object in focus. The purpose of photography is not to fight light, but to work with it. Now I am not talking about anything zen or mysterious, I am talking about practical actions and changes to technique so that you will not feel as if you are swimming up-stream but letting the river carry you to your destination.

So how do I work with light? Slow down you exposure settings. Bring your ISO down from 1600 or 800 down to 100 or 200. Raise your aperture from f/1.8 to f/13 and breathe. Yes, it is true you will not be shooting very often at 1/250 of a second anymore. On the other hand, you will begin shooting higher quality photographs and have the opportunity to see possibilities for new shooting styles! When I started making this switch, I began getting more compliments on my pictures than ever before.

Quality is not something someone will always point out as a reason they like one photo over another, but when higher quality means the difference between eyes being out of focus or in, I am certain we all would choose higher quality and in focus!

Keep learning! It is the best way to grow.

Learning Your Equipment – Part 3

Learning your equipment sounds really easy until getting out into the field and realize, “I never thought about how to evaluate the amount of light put out by my light source!” Now this opens up a new area for questions and learning. “How sensitive is my camera to light?” “How does my camera’s sensitivity measure against its shutter speed?” “How does my camera’s sensitivity to light change with each aperture stop?”

Some answers can be “too simple” or rather purely informational without direction as to the application of the information. So in this post I hope to bring you two options explaining their application to the best of my ability.

Option 1: Light meter. Handheld light meters get more expensive the fancier features they contain. There is an excellent article by B&H Photo on learning about handheld light meters and information to help you choose the appropriate light meter for you. Most digital cameras are equipped with light meters (if you will remember the light meter I referred to in my first post on “Learning Your Equipment”). However, there is one key difference between a handheld light meter and a light meter in your camera.

The difference in light meters held in your hand or in your camera is this, the meter’s location. Now what will help you most? A light meter showing you the amount of light surrounding your subject or the amount of light around your camera? Answer: You want to know the amount of light around your subject. That makes it a little difficult to measure the light around your subject with your camera when it is more efficient to have it set-up on your tripod.

Option 2: Requires a lot of experience and a trained eye and mind. Using your own vision to estimate the light around your subject is cheapest and builds your skill. I am still tweaking my own skill, so I am not much practical help at this time. Some practical pointers to come in Fridays post.

Camera Troubles

I am frequently asked about how to adjust camera settings to reduce motion blur for photos. In each case I try to learn one thing; “How much light enters the camera lens?”

Let me see if I can bring technical specifics down to a lower altitude for us to work on without the fear of nose bleeds.

Taking photos is not all so different from looking at those beautiful scenes we are so blessed to wander through, savoring the grace and delicacy of the garden. However, I would not deceive you, there are some very specific differences between our Eye, Optic Nerves and Brains as compared to camera lenses, censors and processors.

Let me start this post set with a discussion on the make-up and structure of our vision.

Our Eye takes in a lot of information, filtering it through a complex network of cones, rods, blood vessel and finally to an Optic Nerve situated at the back of the Eyeball. This only begins the wondrous process we call “sight”.

As the Optic Nerve receives the information from the Eye, it begins informing the Brain through neurological pulses. The brain then both processes and stores the information.

So, to simplify that chain process down to a basic form is this: Eye to Optical nerve to Brain.

Now, please stay with me, we will be looking at some details within the eye that will later be applicable to cameras.

The Eye is very complex and since I am not an Optometrist I will not pretend to know every detail. The basics we will benefit in knowing are these:

  • The Eye Lid, protects from injury, cleans the Eye of debris and is a front line defense to direct sunlight.
  • The lens of the Eye is called the “Cornea”. It slightly changes shape, with the aid of muscles behind the Eye Lid, to form the properly curved angle for the purpose of focusing on objects near or far.
  • Underneath the Cornea are the Pupil and Iris. It is very easy to start talking about both the human Eye and cameras right now, but I choose to remain on optic…I mean, topic. The Iris is the colored “ring” and the part of the Eye from which we discern the “Eye color”. It contains at-least one muscle which constricts the inner opening of the Eye (the Pupil) when you step out-of-doors and into the sun. The muscle or muscles will also relax and the Iris opens allowing the Eye to receive more light.
  • I just made a statement about the Eye receiving more light, which in a manner of speaking is true. However, there is a part of the Eye called the “Retina” which is the specific receptacle of light. The Retina is very sensitive to light and will easily burn if not protected by the Eye Lid and Iris.
  • The Optic Nerve is next in process from the Retina, sending the neurological pulses received from the Retina to the Brain.
  • The Brain receives the neurological pulses from the Optic Nerve and catalogs those pulses in its own magnificent way.

This article is already pretty long, so I will bring it to a close and bring you “Part 2” on Friday. Before we close though I would like to bring out one last thought.

When you step into a dark area from a well-lit place, it takes your eyes a measure of time to adjust. For some people their eyes adjust faster than others while others employ methods which seem to speed the process along. One way I have heard effective is closing the Eye Lid during the transition.

Have you noticed in a low light situation, quick or faster motions do not seem as smooth or  connected? At the very least in low light situations quick or faster motions are more easily concealed.

I hope this Friday to make the mystery of the “pesky camera” plain.

Stay focused.