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Photography QnA: Photographic Field Techniques

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Category: All About Photography : Photographic Field Techniques

Ready to learn about field technique for large object photography? How about for small object photography? This Q & A covers it all. Or if you are interested in private instruction, check out Kerry Drager's Field Techniques: Light and Composition online photography course.

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Photography Question 
KB B

member since: 11/21/2008
  11 .  Shooting Subjects Next to Fireplace
I am trying to take a Christmas picture of my children next to the fireplace. I have a Canon Rebel. I am wondering what I should do to get a clear shot of the kids but not use a flash so that I can get that nice "fire glow" effect.

11/21/2008 4:39:53 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Have the kids stand still long enough to allow you to use a slow shutter speed. Set ISO 200, and Shutter Speed priority. Do a series of exposures at progressively slower shutter speeds. Starting at 1/30th sec. Add a couple of lit candles to the scene. This all presumes you shoot from a tripod! Have fun!

11/21/2008 7:25:18 PM

KB B

member since: 11/21/2008
  Thanks!

11/21/2008 7:28:56 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  You can still use a flash if you up the ISO a little (400) - low power flash - and keep the slow shutter speed. Getting a flame to show is much different than getting something to show from the light from the flames. The light falls off very quickly.

11/21/2008 8:55:11 PM

Bernard 

member since: 3/25/2005
  Experiment with the white balance set to 'shade'. The warm hue may add to the mood of the light of the fireplace.

11/22/2008 4:21:34 AM

Devon McCarroll
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2005
  Have you tried using the rear-curtain sync on your flash? This works for me when trying to capture tree lights. The flash fires right before the shutter closes, so first your sensor picks up the ambient light--in this case the fire--and then the flash illuminates your subjects.

11/25/2008 8:26:37 AM

Bob Friedman

member since: 6/10/2002
 
 
 
I just shot a model by the fireplace so here's what I did. I zoomed in close on the fire with the camera set on manual. I then set the camera to that setting. I put the camera on a tripod, moved the model away form the fire and shot with flash with the wide angle diffuser in place to make the light fall off quicker and not expose the background as much. The meter was set to spot so it only measured the flash on the subject not including the background. The white balence was set to flash so the fire would really show reddish orange. This is sometimes called dragging the shutter. The exposure at ISO 400 was 1/15 second at F/9 and I bracketed the shutter speed to get the desired effect for the fire. Admittedly I did some photoshop to darken the right side and add some highlights but should work fine without that fot the kids.

11/25/2008 10:30:14 AM

Bob Friedman

member since: 6/10/2002
 
 
 
I just shot a model by the fireplace so here's what I did. I zoomed in close on the fire with the camera set on manual. I then set the camera to that setting. I put the camera on a tripod, moved the model away form the fire and shot with flash with the wide angle diffuser in place to make the light fall off quicker and not expose the background as much. The meter was set to spot so it only measured the flash on the subject not including the background. The white balence was set to flash so the fire would really show reddish orange. This is sometimes called dragging the shutter. The exposure at ISO 400 was 1/15 second at F/9 and I bracketed the shutter speed to get the desired effect for the fire. Admittedly I did some photoshop to darken the right side and add some highlights but should work fine without that fot the kids.

11/25/2008 11:19:23 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
And are you now going to post the result of your efforts, Bob?

11/25/2008 11:50:28 AM

Maria Patrice

member since: 11/25/2008
  Bob
please explain, you mentioned at first that you used manual mode, later you stated you uses spot meter on the subject, wouuldn't manual mode make spot metering useless. excuse my inexperience.
Maria

11/25/2008 12:18:54 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  He didn't explain it well, but what he did was first use the camera meter to see what it read for the fire. That got a starting point for what to set the shutter speed for getting the flames to show in the picture.
But you wouldn't want to use that because the flames would look weak in the picture. It just like metering off something white like snow, the results come out too dark or dull. That's why he bracketed.
He used spot, probably TTL flash metering, so that the flash power would adjust for only his subject and the subject distance.
He spots for the subject, the flash exposes for the subject. The shutter speed that is slower allows the light of the flame to have a good brightness to it, also maybe adding some orange light cast to the subject. Like around the edges.
Reducing the shutter speed also adds blur to the flames.
If you've ever shot a sunset just based on aperture priority or shutter priority, you'll find that it will come out too dark, the colors won't be as vibrant as you'd expect. The same principle here.

11/25/2008 2:11:10 PM

Bob Friedman

member since: 6/10/2002
 
 
 
Better explanation. Yes, that's what I did. Trying to post photo now

11/25/2008 2:26:44 PM

Bob Friedman

member since: 6/10/2002
 
 
 
Another example from same shoot

11/25/2008 2:32:15 PM

David E. Chinn

member since: 7/19/2007
 
 
 
Devon M. had the better choice in my opinion. Rear-curtain sync has worked fine for me. Not much adjustment needed in photoshop if any at all. Try all of the recommendations and see for yourself. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Everyone has they're own way of doing things. Just figure out which one works best for you.

11/26/2008 12:42:06 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
Wow, Bob!
Where can I get the DVD?

11/26/2008 12:53:44 AM

David E. Chinn

member since: 7/19/2007
 
 
  wedding
wedding
 
 
Example of rear-curtain syc
f8 1 second spot meter 32mm focal length in manual mode.

11/26/2008 1:16:25 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Rear curtain sync doesn't matter for something that's not moving and leaves no light trails.

11/26/2008 9:12:51 AM

Bob Friedman

member since: 6/10/2002
 
 
  regular flash
regular flash
 
  night portrait mode
night portrait mode
 
 
If your camera has a night portrait mode try that. It should meter the brightes part of the scene and have flash fill in to match. Use tripod.

11/26/2008 3:03:36 PM

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Photography Question 
Bianca S. Newby

member since: 11/20/2008
  12 .  Shadow Problem: How to Position Lights?
I have two vuPro 100 w lights, and a miniboom/hairlight 250. I'm having problems with shadows and either not enough light or too much. How do I figure out how to position my lights, so that I get better photos with no shadows?

11/20/2008 12:43:06 PM

  Hi Bianca,
You might think about it this way: If you are outside on a right sunny day, the sun takes up a small part of the sky. You have hard detailed shadows and you see texture very well. The sun is a small light source. While I know that it is very large, the business of being 93,000,000 miles away makes it effectively a small light source. If you are out on an overcast day, the light comes from the clouds. The light comes from all directions. The light effectively creates no shadows at all. This is a big light source. The only reason for using things like umbrellas, soft boxes and light panels is to make a small light source act like a large light source. It is important to remember that you do need more power to make a large light source, as any of the tools for changing the size of light also absorb light. Bouncing light off a surface also increases the size of the light source.

11/20/2008 5:01:49 PM

Harry H. Marsh

member since: 4/14/2004
  Bianca,
Softening the light will help eliminate harsh shadows. Another two setups that will help remove background shadows entirely is to position the lights high above the camera (left and up 45 degrees, and several feet above the lens) and to move the background 3-6 feet behind the subjects. The subject's shadows will then be well below the area the camera views!
One more thing is to light the background, but this only works if you have the background light level 2 stops over the subjects (i.e., a bright background), which is not recommended for portraits.

11/25/2008 8:58:14 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Hey Bianca. Let me add this to what's been said.
First, learning lighting, whether it's incandescent or using strobes, requires practice over time. Start with one light and one subject, either someone with a lot of patience or a styrofoam wig holder on a stool or even a manequin.
Position your camera and your light at 45 degrees to the camera and your subject. BUT make sure your subject is far enough in front of the background, whatever it is, so that shadow just falls off and doesn't fall on the background. Everything produces a shadow. Your job is to use it creatively, modify it or eliminate it.
To do those things, you may need to move your camera and light back from the subject. After you position one light, pay attention to the facial features of your subject, especially the eye sockets, nose and below the nose. You may need to raise or lower the light to eliminate or change those shadows. Move the light around a bit to see how that effects the shadows as well. Modifiers like softboxes or umbrellas are nice but may create their own problems as well. So this is an experimentation issue too. All the portraits on my website were done with a single light and one fill card to the side. My lamphead was a 1000 watt second Bowens monolight in a Chimera 3x4 foot softbox.
Once you get that first lamp set, with or without a modifier, then add either a fill card or reflector OR another lamphead of less intensity, say 1/2 power than your main, first light. Set a background light if you feel it's really necessary and that should be about 1/4 of the power of the main light. Those general settings can be modified of course, depending on what you're trying to do and how much light you really need. Lighting is really a matter of personal preference as are backgrounds, I think. But again, practice practice, experiment and practice some more. You'll get it in time.
Enjoy the learning process, and perhaps even consider one of John's lighting courses.
Take it light. ;>)

11/26/2008 5:15:03 PM

  Thanks Mark! As you say, practice is important!

11/26/2008 10:04:01 PM

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Photography Question 
Rachel Larson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/3/2005
  13 .  Combining Color Temperatures
I am going to be purchasing additional lighting. I currently have two soft boxes that are continuous, tungsten, 2800K. Would it be a problem if the new lighting is either 3200K, or 5600K? And what is the suggested white balance to shoot on?
Thanks for your time!

11/11/2008 5:59:03 PM

  Hi Rachel,
A 3200 light source would be visibly cooler than your soft boxes, but I can't tell you that the difference would bother you. If you were doing critical color work - such as photographing artwork - this difference would be unacceptable. A 5600 light source, like a strobe, would be a real problem for any usage that combined your soft boxes and the bluer light source. I would use a tungsten preset balance with your soft boxes, or do a custom white balance.
Thanks, John Siskin

11/11/2008 9:39:19 PM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Hi Rachel,

The color of the output of lamps, especially photo lamps, is customarily measured using a temperature scale proposed by the British scientist Lord Kelvin. This scale has appeal as it starts at absolute zero, the coldest possible. Thus the Kelvin scale never used negative numbers. This avoids the possibility of confusing ten below with ten above. The Kelvin scale starts at 273 Celsius and calls this low temperature zero. For this reason the Kelvin scale is also called the Absolute scale.

Now the metallurgy industry took to this scale. Steel making was centered in Sheffield and they had great respect for Lord Kelvin. Anyway, heated iron glows red-hot. Continue to heat and its color changes eventually reaching blue-white hot. The temperature of the metal corresponds to the color of its light output. Ordinary electric lamps used metal filaments. The metal, usually tungsten, is heated as electric power surges through it. The filament temperature is what we are talking about.

Ordinary electric bulbs = 2800K
These are designed to operate at a specific voltage. In the U.S. this is 120V in Europe 220V. If you apply more than the design voltage the lamp gets much hotter, brighter, and more bluish however, the life of the lamp is severely shortened.

Photographers, in their studios and the movie industry, routinely over-volted to get more light. Two arrangements evolved one delivered 3200K the other 3400K. As higher voltage is applied the temperature goes up, the lamp gets brighter, its life shortens, the light shifts towards the blue. Soon lamps were made for both applications. Film was also marketed, labeled Tungsten Type B for 3200K and Tungsten Type A for 3400K. We carried a gadget bag of conversion filters so we could be ready for anything.

Electronic flash replicates daylight 5500K. Daylight is not constant; at dawn and sunset it is quite ruddy, close to ordinary electric bulbs. North skylight is 6000K. Modern digitals have automatic white balance, chip logic that measures and adjusts for shifting hues of light. Additionally you can manually set your digital for a specific type of light. Color temperature measurements fail for florescent lamps and most gaseous discharge lamps. However, temperatures are routinely assigned these lamps, often the value is invalid because these sources produce light that has an interpreted spectrum.

How about mixing and matching?
Photography is both an art and a science. You are free to mix for imaginative reasons. The logic in the digital camera cant handle and correct for mismatches. You should strive to keep your lighting uniform. Electronic flash is preferred for a variety of reasons; this is just one of them.

If you are forced to mix and match, you can buy colored filters for your lights. Filters are installed over the lamps to alter their color. This method has merit but is costly and requires some exterminating.

The bottom line is: Better to buy lamps that are uniform in color output.

Alan Marcus (marginal technical gobbledygook)
alanmaxiemarcus@att.net

11/12/2008 8:38:21 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Rachel,

Mixing light sources is generally a no-no.

Manually balancing a camera will give you an average of ALL the tempertures.

The real problem that arises is positional. You may have your mains at 2,800K and the fill at 3,200. You will almost certainly see a color discrepency from shadow to light.

A 2,800K main and 5,600K fill would be very noticable.

Other than special effects, I know of no one who mixes color temp with their lights.

Pete

11/12/2008 3:07:40 PM

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Photography Question 
Mandy Kopitzke
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/12/2008
  14 .  Group Pictures
I have been asked to photograph a group of about 25 people at our church for an 80th birthday party. I am wondering if the camera and flash that I have will work. I have a Canon Rebel XT, Canon Speedlite 430ex, Canon EFS 18-55mm lens, and a Canon Zoom Lens EFS 55-250mm 1:4-5.6 IS. They were thinking about having me stand in the balcony with them in the pews looking up or something like that. Do you think I need a different lens or flash? Keep in mind, I'm just beginning with photography and don't have a lot of experience. Thank you.

10/7/2008 7:01:02 AM

  Hi Mandy,
The camera can do the job, the on-camera flash cant. Unless the church is extremely well lit, you would need at least two strobes with over 300 watt-seconds each from above and to the sides. There are a lot of things you can do if you have real strobe power, but not much you can do with the 430. Sorry.

10/7/2008 10:25:32 AM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Hi Mandy,
While your camera and lens will work for the indoor group picture, your flash will prove to be a little weak for this task. The strength of a flash falls rapidly with distance. Shooting from the balcony will help even out the light from the flash. Consider fiddling with groups location. The idea is to place them as close as possible to you; this might place them on the floor in front of the stage. Try both locations (on and off stage).
If closeness is not possible, use a slow shutter speed. A flash in combination with a slow shutter speed (1/30 - 1/60) gives better penetration in a large open room, especially if room lights are on. From a technical standpoint, you dont want to mix artificial light and electronic flash. However, sometimes you have no choice; so you take the shot and live with the color balance mismatch. If the shot is taken during daylight hours, the flash and the daylight likely commingle, thats good.
Try to place the subjects using three or even four rows to keep the row length short. Short rows allow you to work in close. Focus not on the center row, but on the next row closer to you. Depth-of-field extents further to the rear this technique results in all rows in focus. Again, flash does not carry for great distances so set the rows in a semicircular pattern. This causes the flash to be more even center-to- periphery.
Alan Marcus (marginal technical gobbledygook)

10/7/2008 10:58:14 AM

Bernard 

member since: 3/25/2005
  Hello Mandy,
Also a tripod will make a huge difference, especially when there's not much light.

10/7/2008 1:40:45 PM

Mandy Kopitzke
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/12/2008
  Thank you for all your input, I appreciate it!

10/7/2008 3:46:46 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  If you can find a location OUTdoors, during daylight hours, to shoot down onto the group, then you won't need flash for the main lighting. The 430EX could still be useful as fill, though. Especially if the group have their backs to the sun.
Have fun!

10/8/2008 5:20:52 AM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  Why not go to the Church before the event (on your own) and do some "test shots" of vantage points - with and without tripod. Make good notes at the time, then check your pics afterwards. Once you know what will work you can relax on the day and "just do it".

10/14/2008 7:08:02 AM

Mandy Kopitzke
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/12/2008
  That's a good point, I'll probably do that. Thank you!

10/14/2008 7:34:45 AM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Hi Mandy,
The additional discussion came up with some very good advice. All of the answers are correct...depending! There are many ways to do things and each photographer has a way that works for them. You can light up the whole area (as John suggested) or you can essentially take an available light image and balance the color and exposure with a little fill flash. The tripod is a must. Using a light meter or the camera to determine exposure, set the camera on manual and an f stop sufficient to get adequate depth of field if you have to pose them in rows. By having a smaller aperture and the shutter open longer, you will pick up ambient light in the church. Doing some test shots is also a great idea. Then you know what works. I have done this successfully with much larger groups. Going outside could be easier but in bright sun it could create harsh light and shadows that would be a disaster. Unless the lighting in the church is terrible -- and I suspect it is fairly even -- I would feel more comfortable doing the job indoors. The mismatch of light used to be more of a problem than it is now with digital. Go for it.
Bruce

10/14/2008 4:59:02 PM

Greg McCroskery
BetterPhoto Member
imagismphotos.com

member since: 2/27/2003
  Mandy,
This doesn't seem that difficult an issue. Bruce is right on target. You definitely should use a tripod to minimize camera movement. Shoot in Manual Exposure Mode with your ISO set to 400 and your aperture set to f8 for adequate depth of field. Then simply select a shutter speed that will allow you to record the ambient, or existing light in the church. Remember that your shutter speed will not effect your flash exposure. ISO 400 will give you a substantial flash range.
God Bless,
Greg

10/14/2008 6:10:19 PM

Mandy Kopitzke
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/12/2008
  I've been researching and reasearching this, I get nervous that my pictures will turn out dark or have shadows. How does a light sphere work, would one be helpful in this situation?

10/23/2008 7:02:30 PM

  Hi Mandy,
A light sphere would not help you in this situation. It eats up some of the light from your strobe, and you do not have enough light as it is. Anything you put in front of or on top of your strobe will result in less light hitting the subject. What would help is a couple of 500 watt-second strobes. Check out www.alienbees.com. Good luck, John Siskin

10/23/2008 10:02:24 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
"I've been researching and reasearching this, I get nervous that my pictures will turn out dark or have shadows."

Take the gueswork out of the equation, Mandy. Do as Roy suggested: do a hands-on trial run! On location! Then you will KNOW if it'll work. Ahead of time.

Have fun!

10/24/2008 4:41:08 AM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Hi Mandy,
If you were to actually "light" the whole area you would need the kind of "firepower" that John suggested -- and that is certainly one approach. However, IF there is reasonable light in the church (and unless it is very large with very poor lighting that most churches do not have -- most are fairly well lit) then you can easily do an available light shot -- a tripod is A MUST -- using your small flash to soften shadows and balance some of the color. Unless you are going to invest in the equipment anyway, as well as spending time learning how to use it, you would be better off not going that route. The KEY here is to do an actual test ahead of time. Since you imply that this is your church, that should not be hard. If what you try does not work, then you absolutely know what you need from there to get the shot. Even if you adequately light the group, such as a fair sized wedding party in a big church, the background can go dark. You need a tripod and a slow shutter to pick up the ambient light. A rule of thumb in this case is to have the background one stop darker than the subjects. Having the background as light or brighter puts more attention on the background than the subjects. Darker than that is too dark. Earlier this week I just photographed a 20-member jazz band for our local university, both indoors on stage and outdoors. The indoor shots need a slight tweaking in photoshop but they are better than the outdoor ones where the shadows are too much. If you expect a little flash to light up a group this size on its own, it will NOT work. If you use the ambient light the job is easy.
Bruce

10/24/2008 5:36:53 PM

Greg McCroskery
BetterPhoto Member
imagismphotos.com

member since: 2/27/2003
  Mandy,
I've shot many, many large groupings at weddings over the years and I assure you that the suggestions Bruce has made are right on the money, including his 'rule of thumb' about exposing the background one stop darker than the group. Just make sure you are shooting in Manual Exposure Mode so that your flash doesn't affect your ambient exposure settings. You will always get better quality of light from powerful studio strobes, but they are not essential. People understand that light produces shadows and as long as those shadows are not extremely harsh or obtrusive, they will not mind. People are much more concerned with good expression, posing, and backgrounds. Go do some test shots as suggested, using a tripod and see what works -- you don't need to do a test shot of a whole group, just one person will tell you whether you are getting a good exposure. Since you will be shooting in landscape orientation, your flash will be mounted directly above your lens which will greatly minimize shadows.

God Bless,
Greg

10/25/2008 7:19:40 AM

Mandy Kopitzke
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/12/2008
  Thank you, I'm going to try it out after church tomorrow, I'll let you know how it goes!

10/25/2008 7:58:54 AM

Mandy Kopitzke
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/12/2008
  I just wanted to let you know that I got the job done. They turned out OK, I haven't heard any complaints, so they must be ok with them. I would upload one, but my computer's hard drive went bad and is trying to get rivived right now. I hope they can fix it YIKES!

11/25/2008 12:34:24 PM

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Photography Question 
Shawn A. Meissner

member since: 5/6/2008
  15 .  Lighting Kits
I wanting to buy some lighting equipment and I am not sure what to get. I have been reading up and I am stuck between continuous lighting or strobe. I am looking to get into portrait photography and I need help. Here is the kit I was looking at but have second thoughts.
http://cart.owens-originals.com/VU-PRO-V-100-1200-WATT-MINI-BOOM-KIT-p/v100m.htm
Thanks,
Shawn

10/5/2008 7:03:47 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings, Shawn. I'd recommend that you do a search for lighting and read the threads on the subject you're asking about. It's been discussed here about a million times. Then get back to us with some specific questions once you decide to go with one or the other. Posting some of your work would be nice as well.
M.

10/5/2008 7:22:14 PM

  Hi Shawn,
I highly recommend John Siskin's An Introduction to Photographic Lighting 4- week online course. I, like many others, bought light kits (before taking this course) that were unable to fulfill my lighting needs and now sit unused and taking up space. John's course will teach you what you will need to know to make informed decisions about your lighting requirements and provide you with lots of cheap ways of going about it and other tricks/experiences he will share with you. He provides a lot of information that go above and beyond the requirements for this course but are very much appreciated.
Carlton

10/5/2008 9:59:51 PM

Shawn A. Meissner

member since: 5/6/2008
  Carlton,

Thanks for the advice. I will be taking that course next. I am going to hold off buying any lighting until then.

Shawn

10/6/2008 8:32:15 PM

  Hi Shawn, and thanks Carlton!
Shawn continuous lights are easier to see, but they give you far fewer options than strobes. The kit you mentioned would teach you something, but you would want strobes pretty soon. Also it is important to note that these units run pretty hot. I hope to see you in my class! You can still sign up for the current class!
Thanks, John Siskin

10/7/2008 10:47:07 AM

Beth Verser
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/14/2007
  I have both and prefer strobe unless working with very small children often my strobes do not allow me to the speed I need to catch the one moment they are doing as you ask. Check out Owens Originals for ordering lights and other supplies their prices are wounderful.

10/10/2008 12:20:39 PM

Ahmadreza Panahi

member since: 4/27/2006
  Hi Shown
if you are going to shoot portraits, I highly recommend to use strobe lights because continuous lights make less amount of light and therefore slow shutter speed and subject movement or camera shaking or both. and if you use more lights, it makes a hot atmosphere that you and your subject could not bare.
yours: Ahmadreza Panahi

1/8/2009 11:25:23 PM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Good Day Shawn,

Again,
I will recommend a strool through the old "Studio Photography " Threads,
as you will see others trying out different Lights and overcoming thier challanges.
There is also alot there on Posing, getting expression and doing business.

Heres the link:

http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/QnAdetail.asp?threadID=17534

I do hope this helps,
Debby

1/14/2009 6:38:56 AM

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Photography Question 
Margot Petrowski
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/14/2004
  16 .  Litepanel Micro?
Has anyone out there used a Litepanel Micro attached to their camera for added light? I know that they are traditionally used on video cameras, but I thought that they might be good for portrait photographers.

9/30/2008 6:44:20 AM

Raymond H. Kemp
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/2/2004
  I was in Baltimore a few months ago on assignment for one of my publishers and ran into a photojournalist from Dallas also on the same assignment. He was using the Litepanel and when asked about the results, he was less than enthusiastic. According to him, it works well if you're shooting close and have plenty of ambient light, but the Litepro is better suited for video and not stills.
Ray

9/30/2008 6:57:07 AM

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Photography Question 
Rachel Larson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/3/2005
  17 .  Light for Backgrounds
I am looking to buy additional lighting. I currently own two (250 watt each) softboxes. I have upcoming portrait sessions, and I think I need more lights. What can I use to light the background? With beauty dishes, does a light come with them? Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks,
Rachel

9/15/2008 10:20:53 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Actually, it appears you need a more powerful light as opposed to more lights. 750 Watt Seconds should do you for shooting portraits, then assign the 250 light you have (assuming they're strobes) to lighting the background (with one light) if you still need a background light. You can do a lot with a single light in a softbox.
Beauty dishes? I have no idea what that is other than perhaps a phrase for a soft/brushed aluminum wide reflector for portraits, and no, the ones that may be of real value to you aren't supplied with a light and power source. Monolights, like Bowen, PhotoFlex, Calumet Travelers, are quite good lights and my preference is Bowens. There are tons of manufacturers, but remember, you get what you pay for.
You can read a lot in the
BetterPhoto Forum. Photoflex and Bowens have very useful shooting info on their Web sites, and of course, John Siskin offers lighting courses here: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting and Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio.
Take it light.
Mark

9/15/2008 2:44:08 PM

  Hi Mark,
A beauty dish is a large reflector, about 24 inches across with a device that covers the strobe tube in the center, bouncing the light off the rest of the reflector. Basically it acts like a 24 inch round soft box or umbrella. I have one, got it in a weird trade deal. It is ok, but not going to make me rethink lighting. They are generally expensive. They fit on specific strobe heads, so they do not come with internal lights. Thanks for the plug!!

Rachel,
I am worried that the lights you refer to are continuous lights rather than strobes. Generally this sort of lighting is inferior for still photography. There are several reasons, including heat and subject movement. You might want to check out this article on shooting with a single light source: www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=129. As mark mentioned power and control are more important than the quantity of lights you own. Having said that I own a lot of strobes, but I do a variety of work.
Thanks, John

9/20/2008 6:20:06 PM

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Photography Question 
Rachel Larson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/3/2005
  18 .  Light Temperature: Buying Lights
I need purchase additional lighting. I currently have two soft boxes that are rather weak (250 watts each). My question is does color temperature play a big part in selecting lighting? I have seen several options with fluorescent lights ... that sounds kind of scary to me. Are these any good?

9/4/2008 11:19:35 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Yes it does. You need to have your lights match to have consistent color, although you can use different light temperatures together for creative and aesthetic reasons.
And by match, I mean the color temp match. You can use different types of light that have the same color temperature

9/4/2008 5:13:23 PM

  Hi Rachel,
Fluorescent light sources have an irregular spectrum that only approximates the continuous spectrum of daylight, tungsten or strobes. Since the color output varies with 60 cycle electricity (or 50 cycle electricity if thats what you have), a shutter speed of 1/30 or 1/15 is best. This will ensure you get a full cycle. There may be issues with specific lights and specific colors, but this is not a frequent problem.
Strobes are the best light source for still photography. They are consistent and powerful, and the color matches daylight. In addition, they do not make your studio into an oven.

9/6/2008 8:34:14 AM

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Photography Question 
Karen Johnson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/23/2008
  19 .  Posing Mom and Teen Son
Does anyone have ideas on poses for a mother and teenage son? I've seen lots of couple poses, but they don't seem quite appropriate.

8/29/2008 1:01:07 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  The best shot I've ever taken of this nature, I had the mother sit in a chair, and had the son stand behind her with his hands on her shoulders. I hope this helps.
Have fun and keep shooting!

8/30/2008 3:52:27 PM

Karen Johnson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/23/2008
  Thanks Mark, I'll try it.

8/30/2008 7:31:42 PM

Tanya Riggins
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/20/2007
  For a less formal shot my son enjoys us sitting on the floor with him possibly laying on or across my lap some way... or we are both on our stomachs with faces toward each other. For more formal shots we have stood behind a stool with each of us having one hand on the stool leaning forward. The head and shoulders are the only parts in the picture.. my shoulder is slightly behind him. I will try to find the pic and email it to you.

9/2/2008 5:03:50 AM

  Along with Mark's suggestion, I would try to capture an environmental portrait and have the subjects doing something together. I googled mother, teenage son, portrait and came up with this example.

http://tinyurl.com/6rrbvo

Since I receive my inspiration from others, thought something like this may help you as well. It's just a starter idea.


9/5/2008 5:05:19 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  If you google ugly candle holder, would it come up again?

9/5/2008 10:04:59 PM

  Smart Arse!
I'm certain will come up. But, is in the eyes of the beholder.

9/5/2008 11:33:32 PM

  What I meant to write is that I'm certain that //candle holder// will come up, but //ugly// is in the eyes of the //beholder//.

I tried searching for //mother and teenage son// at BetterPhoto.com and nothing came up, so I went to Google, knowing that portrait photographers advertise on the worldwide web.

Personally, whether one is capturing a candle holder, or a mother and teenager, is always better to have the subject holding or doing something together. This makes the image an environmental portrait.

9/5/2008 11:38:51 PM

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Photography Question 
Vickie Lyon

member since: 12/31/2007
  20 .  Backlighting: Getting the Right Exposure
I took a picture of a cat in tree looking upward and the cat and the tree was too dark, though the light through the tree branches was quite bright. I was told that I had a backlight problem but cannot find an answer in my manual for correcting this. I have a Canon 30D and really need some help. Thanks!

8/25/2008 6:40:05 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Read about exposure compensation. You must change the exposure from what the camera would normally determine by increasing it because of the light direction and the very bright background of the sky.

8/25/2008 7:17:26 AM

Vickie Lyon

member since: 12/31/2007
  Thank you Gregory. I was told to leave the meteoring set mostly on "spot". Do you recommend that also in this kind of situation? I hate to admit this, but I am very new with cameras and though I read this section, Im still not clear if I try to match the bright light coming through the tree on set the exposure to match the cat? My apologies for I know what must sound like a lame question.

8/25/2008 7:37:04 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Spot will work, but you have to put it on the right spot. I don't have your picture to look at, but shooting up into a tree is like shooting into the sun at evening/morning. Very bright sky or sun, but the surfaces that are facing you with the camera, the light in the direction that they are receiving is very low in comparison (although you may be able to see it with your eyes, film or digital can't record things the same as your eyes can see)
So your camera sees and determines the range of bright and dark areas. Think in terms of every time you aim your camera, it's thinking, take this scene and divide it into 8 squares. I've got 6 areas that are really bright and 2 that are dark.
What you actually want may be in the dark area, but the camera thinks there are so many bright areas, I need an exposure for those 6. So what you actually want in the dark areas, it comes out too dark.
That's how you would use exposure compensation. And a spot meter. Exposure compensation will shift that reading over or under as needed for the situation. That really bright scene, normally a fast shutter speed but exp comp will shift to a slower one. Like a catapult that has no way to adjust it's range, you move the starting point back so that in the end, you're on target.
Spot meter, you take a reading from one of the 8 areas like I said above, and that will give you the correct reading for what you want to see. But if you spot meter and it's still reading one of those 6 bright areas, you'll still be having the same problem.

8/25/2008 8:24:53 AM

Vickie Lyon

member since: 12/31/2007
  Thank you!!

8/25/2008 10:07:49 AM

  As an old film user I have used this method alot. put your camera on manual and select an area near that the lighting is the same meter the area and balance the camera. then focus on the area you wish to capture and take the photo. Do not change the camera balance.

9/2/2008 7:15:11 AM

Vickie Lyon

member since: 12/31/2007
  Thank you Ron.
Since this is all very new, let me play this back to you.
The cat was a leopard in Kenya, so I should have set the camera on manual, found something as dark as the leopard elsewhere in the tree and then what...half press the shutter? then return to the leopard and take the picture??

9/2/2008 7:38:55 AM

Lois Latraverse
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/5/2006
  Gregory, that was the best answer to exposure compensation questions that I've read. It clarified a lot for me. Thanks!

9/2/2008 9:33:04 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  You're welcome, and vickie, Ron just described spot metering for all intensive purposes.
Read on spot metering in your manual. Pressing the shutter button half way activates the meter, but spot metering as long as you have spot metering activated locks in the reading.

9/2/2008 4:58:06 PM

  Vickie, once you have found that dark area balance your camera, what I mean by balance is adjust the f stop and shutter speed so your camera is adjusted to that area. then return to leopard and take the picutre. I don't know if your manual will address the process for balancing your camera in manual. I am sorry about my inabiilty to explain more clearly.

9/2/2008 7:25:47 PM

Vickie Lyon

member since: 12/31/2007
  Thanks to you both Ron and Gregory, this is truly a big help.

9/3/2008 8:53:19 AM

Jerry Frazier

member since: 6/6/2005
  Couple things:

It's a little more simple than what I am reading here. Meter the scene as if spot metering. Or, if that doesn't work, hold your hand up to the light, and then meter your hand (it will be facing you so you'll be metering the dark part. Now, make sure the f stop and aperture are correct (in the middle). Then still in manual mode, point it at the subject and shoot. This will work most times. If you look at where your meter is, at that point, it's usually 1.5 to 2 stops above the middle. That's about right. So, having said all this, next time it's brightly backlit, just move your needle up 2 stops and shoot. Chimp it, adjust and shoot again. A little more sloppy of a method, but it works.

I'm surprised no one mentioned flash yet. But, in the above example you will get a nicely lit subject, and the background will be completely blown out. If you want a nice balanced image. Do the same thing, meter for the subject, have the camera on manual, and the flash on ETTL, or ATTL, or whatever yours is. Then shoot. What you should them see is the subject, and the backgorund nicely balanced. You may have to adjust the flash up or down a little to get it right, but this will get you headed in the right direction.

9/5/2008 2:52:52 PM

Vickie Lyon

member since: 12/31/2007
  Thanks Jerry!

9/5/2008 4:14:40 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  A little more simpler?
You described the same thing.

9/5/2008 10:02:02 PM

  How far were you from the cat? Could you use the Canon 580EX flash as a fill light, but with the Flash Exposure Compensation?

9/6/2008 9:49:08 AM

Vickie Lyon

member since: 12/31/2007
  I was about 50 feet away inside a jeep under a tree shooting up. I only have the flash built into the Canon 30D I was using. The jeep was full of people and don't think I could have gotten to my gear bag before the shot was gone anyway.

9/6/2008 10:32:52 AM

  The flash in your camera will only go about 20 feet, so that is out.

There is what may be a perfect course for you at: http://tinyurl.com/5nt5xx

It is called Better Exposure: How to Meter Light with Sean Arbabi.

While I haven't taken this course, I've taking others to refresh my memory of what to do and when. BP has some wonderful photographers, and some truly great instructors. I strongly recommend taking courses to reduce your learning curve with your camera.

9/6/2008 5:53:14 PM

Vickie Lyon

member since: 12/31/2007
  Thanks Susan,
I did take a course through BP and enjoyed it and just book a self study BP book with field exercises in it that Im really looking forward to practicing.
I would love to some day follow a pro around in the field so I could get some dedicated 'in the moment' help. Have you done this before or would you recommend anyone?

9/7/2008 8:08:47 AM

  Susan, I never got to thank you for recommending my BP course "Better Exposure- How to Meter Light" - much appreciated - that was very kind of you.

Here's the link for anyone interested- I recently re-wrote the course and it's better than ever.

My book "The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure" will also be out in October.

I always make the analogy in my live Photoshop and Exposure lectures, of the camera exposure being the recipe or items you carefully select and mix together, and Photoshop being the oven you cook it all in. You need both to make a high-quality final creation.

And getting more in camera saves you from computer time post capture.

thanks!

9/7/2008 9:37:28 AM

  After you become thoroughly familiar with and understand your camera, there are relatively expensive courses that are available some through BP others through individual photographers.

For example, while it's too late for this tour, (BP instructor) Jim Zuckerman, will be leading photo tour to Kenya from Sept. 21 to Oct. 7.

I've never been on such a tour. My daughter wanted to gift me an $800 workshop with 8 other photographers under the tutoring of a different professional. Unfortunately for me, I am unable to walk well due to continuous recovery after two bad falls and a new hip and knee.

Back 45 years ago, as a photography major in college, I participated in an internship program for a month with a professional portrait/commercial photographer. In that case, I learned a little bit of everything --lighting, darkroom techniques (film to printing), finishing and selling. After graduation from college, I freelanced.

In order to light something more stationary in the field if I were on my own, I might use my Canon 580EX flash and set it up as a master with one or two slaves on light stands or the equipment directed by knowledgeable and trustworthy people so that the master and slaves work together to light the target. But, this is way too advanced for you right now.

Even the 580EX (external) flash alone will not light something 50 feet away. For that, you would need 3 slave units (like other equally powerful external flash units) and/or something white to bounce the light to the subject. That would be tough in the case of the big cat in Kenya from a jeep full of people.

Email me at snowsk@cox.net and perhaps I can help more.

9/7/2008 10:09:54 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  I'm also running an Exposure 4-day course next month, in the high sierra, in Mammoth California:

Here's a link to the event:
http://www.seanarbabi.com/workshops.html

The nice about this course too is, most likely, our walking will be limited to flat trails and short distances- some can go further and others can stay close to vehicles.

thx!

9/7/2008 11:57:40 AM

Jerry Frazier

member since: 6/6/2005
  Oh.

9/8/2008 12:24:25 PM

Nancy Donnell
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/23/2004
  Thank you for your comment, Jerry.

9/17/2008 12:13:31 PM

  Vickie,

If I read the manual correctly for the 580EX flash, which fits in the camera hotshoe or is used as a master unit with slave units all outside the camera, the when used outside flash will not travel far enough to reach your subject, even with two slave units.

There is an illustration of page 38 of the 580EX Speedlite manual that explains this.
[To download the Canon 580EX flash, go to:
http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=DownloadIndexAc

However, apparently the flash of the slave units travels further indoors than outside.

Of course, all this is moot with you because you said you only had the in-camera flash unit, which if I recall correctly, only goes out to 20 feet --30 feet too short for your subject.

Any of the flashes would startle the cat and you may lose your subject. It would be one thing if the flash went far enough to fill part of the shadow, but it does not from what I've read.

Jon Close, Paul Gero: If you guys are out there, could you weigh in on this.

9/17/2008 6:35:23 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  I don't have the manual, but it's sounding like a misinterpretation to say that the flash will travel further indoors than outside.
Maybe it has something to do with sync speed and the matching aperture for ambient outdoor light for outside the shadows.
Flash startling the cat, that's a false assumption to me. Like flash and sports. Besides, this was tourist game reserve.

9/18/2008 3:26:20 AM

  Gregory,

I sent you a message at your web site regarding your comment to my post here.

For my clarification and so we can assist Vickie better, could you respond to me personally.

Thanks.

Bunny

9/18/2008 7:05:54 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  All of a sudden things get clandestine?

9/18/2008 1:32:23 PM

  What I wanted to send to you, Gregory, I cannot post here. I need clarification myself and if you can help, I thought it would not hurt to ask.

9/18/2008 3:19:45 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Relax, have an omelet. I was kidding.

9/19/2008 7:19:40 AM

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