Terms – white balance

White balance is an interesting setting for digital cameras. When shooting portraits the photographer is sure to want the colors true. This is a setting of “custom” white balance.

Gary Fong has posted a video to YouTube giving visual instruction of how to set you Canon 5D custom white balance. Custom white balance Canon SLR settings are not complicated to adjust.

If you do not have the tools for setting your white balance that Gary does, a white card with true black and 30% gray sections are perfect for the same use.

There is only one difference to remember as you set the white balance…instead of letting the light come through the dome as Gary demonstrated, simply hold the card next to your subject and take a picture of the white section (making sure to have your memory storage in your camera whether internal or CF or SD).

I mention the memory card because some photographers will automatically transfer the images to a computer or hard disk and not in their camera. When this is done the camera cannot reference the photo for color imbalances.

Enjoy, and keep the colors true!

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 – Multi-purpose

In our recent article of property or photo “props”, I suggested using an umbrella as a diffuser. I would like to explain that thought a little more in-depth for the sake of creativity and fun.

To use an umbrella as a diffuser it is necessary to keep it between your subject and the sun, but that does not mean it is not for you to use without being seen at the same time!

‘ “Woe!” you say?’ Allow me to elaborate.

Pose your subject as if they are walking along a sidewalk and turn back slightly to see what they heard behind them, to find you and your camera trained on them. Catch the edge of the umbrella and framing their face is the part which incorporates the tool to diffuse the light as a prop too. Great idea? I like it!

What about having some fun pretending that it is raining and your subject is dancing in the rain? Have them hold their umbrella up in the air as they look simultaneously into it and the falling rain.

Even still, another possibility is to use the umbrella as a background, letting the sun back-light the umbrella. This can light the edges of the face and hair for a wonderful time exposure. [NOTE: Since your subject is back-lit with the sun diffused by an umbrella, use a longer shutter speed to develop their face and not only the umbrella.]

These are a few ideas with which to start and some I hope will adapt in your own style.

There are many good ways of using your lighting tools as portrait props. Try new things, have fun and tell me about them! I love to hear what you are doing! We all can use a help now and again, even me. I am no one special just because I write a blog.

Enjoy!

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!

Light Has Color?

I can go into a lot of technical terminology and “geek speak” about light refraction contrasted to camera White Balance. However, I want to take this post and use it to discuss the magnificence of the creation around us and another role that light plays in it. Light is an incredible source of science, energy and to me is one of the most interesting subjects of study.

This post was started with the connection between light and color, so let us turn to the topic of the post.

Refracted light is a very specific process of splitting the light ray into exact color bands. While this process is highly scientific in how it is accomplished; it does not require expensive equipment or a high degree of education to verify and study as a curious lay person. Refracting light rays can be tested and demonstrated quite easily with a water hose, water supply and bright sunny day.

With the water hose connected to the water supply open the valve to pressurize the hose with water keeping it to a manageable level for an individual holding it and placing their thumb over the hose connector creating a fan of spraying water. (Appropriate attire for playing in the water maybe preferred as the child in all of us enjoys this simple pleasure.) As the individual with the water hose in-hand maintains the spraying water, turning slowly right or left; the sun will reflect off of the spraying mist and cast a rainbow in the spray.

The water droplets act as prisms, receiving the light and splitting it into the color bands I mentioned above. The light rays are split into 7 bands; Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. It may help keeping the colors straight if you put it in this for “ROY G. BIV”.

So, are there colors in light? Most definitely! Before I sign off, updating the blog with this post, I would like to add the definition of “refraction”: “the change of direction of a ray of light, sound, heat, or the like, in passing obliquely from one medium into another in which its wave velocity is different.”

Happy studies!

Cloudy skies, with a chance…

“The weather forecast for today is cloudy skies, with a 97% chance of distracted photographers…” Have you ever had that feeling of someone watching as you set-up a shot with the thought in the back of your mind, “I am so distracted with everything else but my shot that I will miss it!”

Shooting under cloudy skies can pose quite a challenge, but do not let the challenges get you down! This is only an opportunity to learn more about the equipment you have and how to use it with the utmost efficiency.

Most camera manufacturers have come to realize the difficulty of the outdoor photographer. With such an understanding they have built-in some wonderful features in the White Balance settings that allow for these difficulties.

Thin clouds present the most different obstacle because prevailing winds in the higher atmosphere is either your best friend or worst enemy. By that I mean, if the wind is strong enough to keep the cloud layer moving you will have an even lighting providing that the cloud layer is constant in thickness. However, if the wind gusts or is too slow, the thin cloud layer will be easily burnt through (typical of southern climates) and thus give times of harsh and direct sunlight.

Spotty clouds are always changing amounts of light and seem to be playing the “peek-a-boo” game for that perfect shot. Frustrating? That would be a kind way of speaking about this problem!

Thick clouds project a cold or harsh look on and around the subject, whereas with every subject I have photographed warmer colors are always more inviting. Yes the cloudy setting will eliminate most if not all of the gloom emitted by the clouds, but in all of these scenarios there is the problem of constant change in amounts of light and then the unexpected objects that reflect the sunlight when the sun is unveiled.

What is the answer? In my experience when shooting with ever-changing lighting, I will use the “Shade” White Balance setting. This will lighten the shadows so as to compensate for the sharp contrast in lighting and still avoid most of the over exposure on the surfaces that are given direct lighting!

When I began shooting in these conditions, I came to my senses about halfway through the photo-op. It was easy to have a moment which I call a “professional hissy-fit”, but when you are with a client, it is best to remain cool, calm and collected. As I reviewed the shots, I realized that we had last shot in shade and all of the photos after still turned out very well, with detail I did not expect in the shadows.

Times like this one are great opportunities to learn how your camera functions and understanding precisely how each setting will help or hinder you in achieving your goal.

So the next time you are out and about with a camera in your hand, take the opportunity to master an obstacle and become that better photographer!

*NOTE: These mentioned White Balance settings are not “industry standard”, so their names and usage may vary according to manufacturer specifications.