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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 
Cathy J. Warren

member since: 6/20/2006
  51 .  What Type of Studio Back Drop?
I would like to buy some back drops for my pictures, but I don't know what kind. Canvas? Muslin? What colors work best? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks!

1/9/2008 4:12:34 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
Hi Cathy,

for a considered opinion we need a little more to go on:

1) what kind of photos do you plan on using them with? What kind of subjects will you be putting in front of them?

2) what kind of space, dimensions, will you be using it in?

3) what kind of lighting set up do you have?

4) what camera(s)?

Have fun!

1/9/2008 5:41:42 PM

  Hi Cathy,
For portraits, I usually use a mottled gray backdrop on muslin. Because the background is gray, I can use gels on lights to add color. I like muslin because it is soft enough to drape easily, which can change the look of the background. I use different things for products, and of course, I donít use the gray for all portraits. Check out this article on lighting and making backdrops here at BetterPhoto: www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=176.
Thanks!

1/10/2008 8:31:30 AM

David E. Bunkofske
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/2/2007
  Hi Cathy,
If you want a richer looking , Smoother Look. I would use canvas, Most of my clients Prefer the canvas over the muslin. Although the muslins are cheeper so you can get more for your money.

1/15/2008 7:10:20 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
 
 
 
Good day Cathy,
I will agree Canvas is beautiful, but you'd have to have a studio space and a really heavy duty roller system, they are very heavy to put up and require a system that can handle them(I use these every day)and the COST.
Where Muslin is much more versital,
you can use a lighter portable system,and come in just as many Traditioal colors,at a much lower cost as well.
I always suggest(and if you have any of my CDs there are color examples with a gel chart as well)
a Gray as John suggested( it is beautil with gels and gives you a wide range of colors)
a Traditional Brown and Blue,and of course white & Black.

Denny's Manufactuing Prices for Canvas:
9x10($523.00) 9x16($588.00) 9x18($654.00)
10x10($545.00) 10x16($628.00) 10x18($671.00)
10x20($726.00) 10x22($807.00) 10x24($901.00)
12x10($531.00)

Then Muslins start on ebay as low as .25. I have won 10x12 ect as low as 50.00
I hope all this helps,
Debby

1/15/2008 10:02:42 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
 
 
 
Good day Cathy,
I will agree Canvas is beautiful, but you'd have to have a studio space and a really heavy duty roller system, they are very heavy to put up and require a system that can handle them(I use these every day)and the COST.
Where Muslin is much more versital,
you can use a lighter portable system,and come in just as many Traditioal colors,at a much lower cost as well.
I always suggest(and if you have any of my CDs there are color examples with a gel chart as well)
a Gray as John suggested( it is beautil with gels and gives you a wide range of colors)
a Traditional Brown and Blue,and of course white & Black.

Denny's Manufactuing Prices for Canvas:
9x10($523.00) 9x16($588.00) 9x18($654.00)
10x10($545.00) 10x16($628.00) 10x18($671.00)
10x20($726.00) 10x22($807.00) 10x24($901.00)
12x10($531.00)

Then Muslins start on ebay as low as .25. I have won 10x12 ect as low as 50.00
I hope all this helps,
Debby

1/15/2008 10:03:31 AM

Cathy J. Warren

member since: 6/20/2006
  Thanks everyone for the advice I really did want canvas but not in my budget. I will try muslin. Is there different qualities of muslin? Thanks again for the help.
Cathy

1/15/2008 1:53:36 PM

Nancy 

member since: 10/24/2005
  Try buying from Adorama. I use a 12X24 and a 10X12 in a light blue modeled. It kinda looks like the sky thru clouds mostly. I also have a darker green, blue,brown modeled one. Usually when shooting seniors. The grey hair just stands out. Price in the $90 - $150 for the 12X24 size. I like the longer length for full length pics. These are washable muslins. Look for washable in cold water.

1/15/2008 10:59:27 PM

Respond | Ask Your Own Question
 
Photography Question 
Debbie Crowe

member since: 10/4/2007
  52 .  Lighting Equipment: What Wattage?
I am in the process of trying to set up an 8 x 12 room in my house to take portraits and just getting ready to order the backdrops and lighting. I see wattage for 1800 and up. How would I know what I needed for that size room? I am hoping to find a lighting kit that is not too terribly expensive to start off but am lost on the wattage size for this room. It seems that most kits come with 3 lights. There is one window but it will be covered. Thank you!

1/1/2008 3:48:58 AM

  Hi Debbie,
There are several different types of light used for portraiture, and though they often discuss wattage with these pieces of equipment, the meaning is not always interchangeable. That makes things more difficult. For instance, if you choose to get strobes, which is a very good idea, the lights are measured in watt-seconds. This is because the lights only have a duration of about 1/1000th of a second, so a regular wattage rating would be meaningless. These lights are good because they donít produce a lot of heat and because they stop action. I generally suggest that my students get a 600 watt-second light, and then when they need more lighting get a couple of 200 watt-seconds light. Alien Bee and Calumet are both good suppliers, in my experience. Others may differ because of their own experience.
These articles here at BetterPhoto may be helpful: www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?ID=149 and www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=195. I also have articles about working with one strobe, making light panels, and making and lighting backgrounds. (Note: See BetterPhoto's articles page.)
You can also work with continuous lights. Many people like these because it is easier to see the light you are photographing. The problem is that unless you use very large lights with limited diffusion or a high ISO you will have to work with a tripod, and heat may be a problem. I have some of these lights, in 600 watt power levels, they could be used for portraits, but I wouldnít do it. These lights are less expensive and they certainly have advantages for learning lighting. There are also fluorescent lights for photography. For several reasons, the biggest of which is color consistency, I donít like these. You need less watts to get the same light, but the spectrum of the light isnít continuous.
I should also mention that I teach a course here at BetterPhoto in beginning with lights. You can take the class with just clamp lights from Home Depot and learn what you might need for your purposes. I often help students select lights! The class is called Understanding the Tools of Lighting
.
Thanks, John Siskin

1/1/2008 12:17:40 PM

Debbie Crowe

member since: 10/4/2007
  John thanks for your very informative response. A fellow here at work has these lights (link below) and was going to let me borrow them - which is why I was askign about wattage. Thanks for taking the time to provide some much info and I will look at your tutorials as well.
http://www.smithvictor.com/products/detail.asp?prodid=435

1/3/2008 1:57:23 PM

  Hi Debbie,
Smith-Victor has made some fine continuous lights over many years, I own a few of them. This set is one of their bargain sets. That is not necessarily a problem, but the lights will be hot. Donít touch the reflectors after they have been on a while. Strobes will do a better job long term, but you can learn a lot from these.
Thanks, John Siskin

1/3/2008 3:53:19 PM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Hi Debbie,
You should know that wattage pertains to electrical consumption not light output. However, we can get a coarse idea and make maybe make a comparison or two. So the question is; how to compare 1800 watts continuous to a strobe i.e. what watt-seconds output must the strobe be?

Now for a strobe, shutter speed is negated as the flash is much quicker than the shutter. For continuous we must take the shutter speed into account so letís use a modest 1/125 second.

What follows I derived using published formulas of American Standards Association.

1 watt-second is about equal to 125 watts constant @ shutter speed of 1/125 sec.

10 watt-seconds is about equal to 1,250 watts constant @ shutter speed of 1/125

14.4 watt-seconds is about equal to 1,800 watts constant @ shutter speed of 1/125

25 watt-seconds is about equal to 3,125 watts constant @ shutter speed of 1/125

Letís go one further and try and calculate an approximate camera setting. Letís use the 14.4 watt-seconds as its comparable to 1,800 watts (maybe).

Now your work area is 8íx12í. Say your camera is 8 feet from the subject, your main is 6í and fill is 8í from subject. You desire a 3:1 typical portrait highlighting. Your camera is set to 100 ISO. Via these formulas with maybe 70% accuracy, (light meter usage is well advised) the guide number for this set-up is about 38. We can calculate the f/number to set on the camera. We divide main-to-subject distance into 38. Answer is 6 divided into 38 = about f/ 4.5.

Alan Marcus (boy Oí boy this time its trivial marginal technical gobbledygook)
ammarcus@eathlink.net

1/3/2008 4:12:47 PM

Debbie Crowe

member since: 10/4/2007
  John, thanks for your comments!
Alan, I was trying to absorb what you sent me in response. I think I have it in your final paragraph, but was surprised me was the fstop setting. I wanted to purcharse a 50 or 80 mm lens as I am looking for an f stop of 2 or lower. I have read about these lens from my other responses and am convinced this is what I wanted for portraits. are you saying I cannot achieve that type of setting?
yes, I associated wattage with output as you say. because to me, a 100 watt bulb puts out much more light than a 40 so would be a natural thought for me.
thank you for your time. debbie

1/5/2008 2:30:46 AM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Hi again Debbie,

Mr. Siskin has made wise recommendations. You should acquire electronic flash (strobe) with a power of 600 watt-seconds. I concur!

Years ago hot continuous (tungsten) lighting was essentially replaced in the studio by the strobe. Strobe is bright and does not heat up the subject or the studio and the color of the light simulates daylight. You can start out modestly and add equipment as you progress. These units are packed with features plus you can add accessories as you grow.

You can just go to the hardware store and buy simple pin-up lamps. For $50 or less you can buy what you need using ordinary non-photo lamps and fixtures. Whether you buy from the hardware store or expensive tungsten continuous kits, you need to know that they output 97% heat and only 3% light. This heat will make a small room unbearable in minutes. You will need to cool by fan or air conditioning. Additionally the electric consumption (wattage) is high and most private homes are not wired for high electrical loading. You place your home in jeopardy from fire should you overload. The color of the light output of continuous lamps drastically changes with tiny voltage variations. The voltage in your home naturally fluctuates (peek load times etc.) Continuous lamps go ruddier when voltage drops just 1 or 2 volts.

The jury is not yet in for fluorescent continuous. They too change color with voltage. Their color is a variable based on maker and lamp age. A modern digital and imaging editing software can manage. They pack more light per watt thus they run cooler. They are likely your best bet if you canít do strobes at this time.

I tried to point out that the 1800 watts you are taking about will only marginally work. For a portrait situation, your lens will be nearly wide open and your shutter slow. This is OK for an adult however; you need more flexibility for kids and groups. This is true because you need to close down the lens aperture and gain depth-of-field for kids and groups. In short you might get by with about three times that wattage.

For portraiture we often use near wide open apertures like f/2 or even f/1.4. These large diameter lens setting let in lots of light however they reduce dept-of-field to a very narrow span. Some view the classic portrait as eyes in focus Ė nose and ears out-of-focus. Well f/2 and f/1.4 are the ticket for this thinking.

Follow Mr. John Siskinís advice to the letter. He has never faltered when it comes to giving sound advice.

Alan Marcus
ammarcus@earthlink.net

1/5/2008 9:28:14 AM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Two additional bits of gobbledygook:

For lamp brilliance the unit we should use is the lumen. A 40 watt incandescent outputs 450 lumen so does at 7 watt fluorescent. A 100 watt incandescent outputs 1200 lumen so does 18 watt fluorescent.

Now for the portrait lens: While it is not commonly understood, we should choose a lens focal length based on how big the final print (display) will be. Likely this is impossible as we might just make a thumbnail or a gigantic over mantel. Nevertheless, the rule-of-thumb is a lens 2.5 times the diagonal measure of the film or chip utilized. Likely for your camera this works out to about 75mm. using such as lens solves a basic problem in portraiture. Letís explore: Things close to the camera are reproduced big and things far from the camera are reproduced small (prospective). The danger is; if a short lens is used for portraiture, the photographer has a natural tendency to get in close and compose to fill up the viewfinder (modest wasted space around subject). This act has a danger. Get in close and the nose often is rendered too big and the ears too small. Likely this prospective distortion is so tiny that it largely goes unnoticed. However the subject has self recollections based on his/her view as seen in the make-up mirror or shaving mirror. A short lens plus too close camera-to-subject will yield an image that violates the self recollection view. Thus the subject unaware of the particulars simply says I donít photograph well. Using a longer lens always forces the photographer to step back. Likely, this more distance prospective will render an image that is closer to the subjects idea of reality.

Alan Marcus
ammarcus@earthlink.net

1/5/2008 10:36:49 AM

  Hi Debbie & Alan
First Mr. Marcus thank you for backing up my statements. I really appreciate it.

One thing that is not apparent in any of the current comments: one does not use photographic lighting with out modifiers. Just as you would not light your living room by dangling a 100 watt bulb from a wire you would not use a strobe or continuous light with out diffusers, when shooting a portrait. The way I diffuse light most of the time is to bounce a strobe against an umbrella than have the light pass through a light panel. This gives me a light source that is about 4X6 feet. The light is soft and has a very gradual transition from light to shadow. The problem is that I have only 1/8th or less of the light I started with. So I need a fair amount of light to start.

Regarding portrait lenses, I too have a couple of comments. In theory what Mr. Marcus describes regarding lens size is true, however as different cultures have different conversational distances some prople will be more comfortable with a shorter lens, they are used to seeing the face closer. I donít know where you live or the people you want to do portraits of, but the 85mm lens does seem to work well in the dominant cultures of North America. I might use a shorter lens in South America.

If you plan to shoot an 85mm lens wide open be aware that that the nose and ear will not be in focus at the same time. While that might seem a very effective look currently you may want to also make images with the whole face in focus. Such images may have more lasting appeal.
Thanks!
John Siskin

1/5/2008 11:22:35 AM

Debbie Crowe

member since: 10/4/2007
  I have read and reread and finally just printed this all out. You kind folks have provided an ocean of infomation here and I can say I have taken a huge step back on my original thoughts about lighting. I do recall when using the lights I mentioned from my friend, they were unbearably hot and the room was very uncomfortable. Plus I was concerned about this heat because of the children. The bottom line is I have 7 grandchildren and really feel like I can achieve portrait quality prints if I obtain the correct tools. My 8 x 12 room does not appear to be workable given the lens and how far away I should be from the subject according to your responses. I have other rooms I can set up in. I had thought of the 50mm lens, or the 85 as mentioned, and was also told about one in this forum that was a zoom but perfect for portraits. I think it was a Tamaron with constant appeture (something like 85-200 but a much better F stop than I currently have). I only have experience with zoom lens and am comfortable with being able to zoom in and out for focus. I have never tried using just an "85" where I would have to move the tripod back and forth. But I am ready to try anything now and your comments on lighting have been wonderful informative. Thanks again, I am learning very much from you all.
Debbie

1/6/2008 7:03:11 AM

  Hi Debbie,
You are on the road. I do teach a portrait class here at BetterPhoto that might help. I also have an article on setting up a home studio on my website: www.siskinphoto.com/magazine4b.html. Practice is important, I think that both Eric Clapton and Luciano Pavarotti had to practice.
Thanks, John Siskin

1/6/2008 4:23:31 PM

Debbie Crowe

member since: 10/4/2007
  John, thanks and I am looking into the classes you all have mentioned here. One thing I have learned is photography takes a great deal of patience. Part of the learning process is being willing to take the time to learn from professionals like you all here. Thanks again for everything. These forums are a constant education.
Debbie

1/6/2008 5:52:39 PM

  Hi Debbie,
The learning curve is fun and the classes at Better Photo are designed to help specific aspects & levels of expertise. I have learned most of my photoshop knowledge from classes here and I had been playing with PS for 4 years before then. I have also taken some technique classes and lately a Corel Painter class. Then you have the BP community that range from experienced professionals to beginners all sharing & helping and even a couple of funny guys to keep things light. There's a lot to learn and I am enjoying the journey.

I too am wanting to learn more about strobes, so I think I will sign up for Johns class myself.

Also, keep in mind that when lighting a room you may pick up colors from the walls & ceiling that will possibly cast on your subject and you might want to keep that window available as it can provide some very nice lighting by itself.

1/6/2008 6:26:53 PM

  Hi Debbie,
There are two and a half important things about lighting. First is color. If you have mixed light or a difficult color balance it is tough to make the picture look right later. The second is the size of the light source. A bigger light source is soft and reduces shadows, consider the difference between a sunny day, small light source, and an overcast day, big light source. The overcast day has almost no shadows. The half thing is direction. Where the sun is can make a lot of difference on a sunny day shot, almost no difference on an overcast day, so only half important. There are a lot of details, but these 2.5 things can allow us to control a lot of lighting situations.

Carlton! Welcome to Understanding the Tools of Lighting!
Thanks, John

1/7/2008 5:37:39 PM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Hi Debbie,
Alan and John have lots of excellent advice here. There is a gamut of possibilities and as always, it depends on what you want to do. Portraits is a general category and mean different things to different folks. I have made a living for the past 28 years doing portraits of people and yet many of the "portraits" I have seen at BetterPhoto surpass much of what I do. The true portrait depicts the personality of the subject while much I what I do creates a likeness that is flattering. There often is a huge difference. electronic strobes in the long run are the way to go. Of course it can be done otherwise, as with everything in photography. Most of the professional strobes, Alien Bees are a good one (Paul Buff, formerly producing a unit called a White Lightning); Calumet is a good supplier but their price may be slightly higher. Tallyn's in Peoria, ILL is another good one. I have three different kinds of strobes in a four light set-up. Not because I need to, because that's what I have. What you get will depend not only on what how you intend to use it as well as what you can afford. Somewhere in the middle you should be able to find something that works for you. Like cameras, they all work and we each have our own favorites. the basic studio set up consists of four lights, all strobes. You will need a flash meter to measure the output of the strobes but you can get there using the histogram of a digital camera as well. The main or key light is usually one f-stop brighter than the "fill" light to create a pleasing 3:1 portrait lighting ratio. This can be accomplished using the same intensity lights set at "f-stops." Eight feet and 5.6 feet away from the subject, for example. Other accent lights include a background light and a "hair" light. These are commonly used for professional portraits. Can you get by with less and add more later? Of course. One of the top portrait pros, Frank Cricchio of Texas -- honored this month by the Professional Photographers of America for a lifetime of achievement-- has used up to 9 lights for portraits. That is way too complicated for me!! While you want an f-stop that perhaps will throw a background slightly out of focus, you also want a certain amount of things IN focus -- especially if folks are paying you.On the other hand, if you are doing the portrait for fun you have certain artistic license to do whatever you want. In my studio I work at f/8. You have to experiment and discover what works for you and your style. Another factor most folks don't consider in a small room -- and yours at 8x12 is fairly small -- is the color of the walls. Light bounces off and reflects back in a small room, adding what is called "unseen secondary," an extra fill light that can add a half stop more light that you weren't counting on. My first portrait lighting class worked for some 50 hours with just a main light for lighting patterns on the face. There is a much different amount of attention for groups as opposed to individuals. The important thing to remember is that even seasoned pros didn't learn this overnight and that is takes practice and experimenting. While I don't have a BetterPhoto web site, I do have my own at www.photosbydart.com with several hundred portraits there. Good luck.

1/8/2008 7:59:24 PM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Debbie,
A PS to my previous answer. The 600 watt-seconds is pretty standard for your main and fill lights, although in the studio you may be using them at a very low power. Mine at usually set at 1/16th or 1/32nd power in a small studio. However, sometimes on location I use them at full power. You can always set the power lower but it's nice to have the extra boost when you need it.

1/8/2008 8:12:04 PM

Debbie Crowe

member since: 10/4/2007
  Bruce, thank you for your detailed response. There are so many things I had not really considered as being that important and as you all noted here, the color of the room will play a big part. I can see by these responses there is just too much I do not know. I certainly want to learn more about the strobe lighting as well. you all have convinced me. I just signed up for the class Understanding the Tools of Lighting. Thanks to everyone!
Debbie

1/9/2008 5:13:03 AM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Debbie,
You are welcome. Sometimes going through the learning curve is an expensive lesson --if we buy equipment that doesn't suit our needs. Sharing with others helps to minimize that. As to the color of the room I remember a close up photo I did years ago of my daughter with a pink flower in the image. There was a color cast from the flower in the tone of her skin. Light reflecting off an object comes in many forms. The reverse is also true. One of the portrait photographers I studied with years ago painted his walls dark and only placed light where he wanted it for dramatic effect. All of a sudden I had much less light than I was used to and very deep shadows became a problem. Just remember that we all had to start somewhere and that this process is a long and continual journey. Not only do we never arrive, we generally don't get there overnight either. Just enjoy the ride!!

1/9/2008 5:40:22 AM

Debbie Crowe

member since: 10/4/2007
  Well I have decided that room is much too small. I have a nice size family room in my basement and the walls are bright white - at least I will have white walls to work around. I was quite intrigued to learn about all the lighting tecnhiques and possibilities. I was ready to buy my light set up but now I will wait until I take the class and then see if I can figure out what I am doing! My next visit will be back to the forum on lens. I really like the blurred backgrond of the subjects and I think I have some pretty cool shots but the best are always outside it seems. This should be interesting no doubt.

1/9/2008 6:29:43 AM

  Thanks Debbie! I am glad you are taking the class! I am just building a new studio. I will be painting the walls middle gray. My last studio had to close because the building was being sold. After twenty five years at the studio, I had hoped they would wait just a few more years to sell. Since this will be a home studio, and a little smaller, I will give up the white walls of my last studio for gray. This will give me more control over my light. I hope you enjoy the class!
Thanks, John Siskin

1/9/2008 10:56:35 AM

Debbie Crowe

member since: 10/4/2007
  John, I am curious - why gray? I have always thought that white gave the most control. I am most interested in finding out what gray walls, and you noted a little smaller studio, will do for light.
Debbie

1/11/2008 6:21:56 AM

  Hi Debbie,
Gray walls are compromise. The problem with white is that the light from your strobes passes the subject and bounces back into the shot. While this fill light is often helpful, and certainly makes you light go further it reduces contrast. In a studio with a 25 foot width, like my last one this isnít a problem because light disperses over distance. Now I will be in a thinner space and I anticipate problems with reflected light. You could go to black walls, and reduce reflection even more, but it is depressing to work in a black room. If you need more light from the side you can always light a gray wall directly.

I will be putting seamless holders up on the sides of the room to hold rolls of white and black seamless paper. This paper comes in 9 foot widths, so I can use it to put in a white or black wall as needed.
Thanks, John Siskin

1/11/2008 7:13:42 AM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Hi Debbie,
John is right of course. All of these are a bit like how much salt you use to season food and each photographer has their own taste. The important thing is that you have to work out what works for you. I have used white walls in my studio (with the exception of the "black wall phase") for more than 25 years. I don't do commercial work, which many times needs to be more exacting. White walls for portraits often gives about a half an f/stop more exposure. If you modify your lighting from the standard 3:1 to more like a 5:1 (two stops difference between main and fill) your unseen secondary will pick up about a half stop and you will be pretty close to the 3:1 Most of us also have things on our walls in addition (portrait samples, etc) and all that takes up some light. If your space is doing "double duty," as many of us also do, you will need to see that your displays look good as well. Paint is the cheapest part of all this. Try it and see what works. repaint if it doesn't. If I can help with any other questions, my e-mail is bdphoto@ptd.net Good luck.

1/11/2008 10:29:19 AM

Debbie Crowe

member since: 10/4/2007
  I was wondering: do professional photographers, like Picture People or Olan Mills for example, use strobe lighting when doing their portraits? That "snap" sound they make made me wonder about that, especially since I just signed up for this class.
Debbie

1/14/2008 6:41:30 AM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  HI Debbie,
Sometimes the professionals don't view the chain outfits as "professional," probably the same as an upscale restaurant looks at the fast food industry. LOL However, we all use strobes for portraits. The professional strobes have "modeling lights" on them -- a light that shows what you light is doing and where specifically it is going as opposed to an on camera strobe that only shows the results not a preview. The consistency of light and the fast recycle time between shots is a major factor, plus the comfort of subjects as compared to "hot lights." additionally, there are all kinds of "light modifiers" to create softer, more pleasing effect for portraits or special light enhancement. Working with multiple lights is fun but it also involves some physics here as well. Light ratios, light falloff, and the "angle of incidence" aspect of accent lights. Sounds complicated but once you start working with them it becomes more apparent, especially since you can see the results right away with digital.
Bruce

1/14/2008 8:17:29 AM

Respond | Ask Your Own Question
 
Photography Question 
Rachel Larson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/3/2005
  53 .  Wattage of Strobes
Hey everyone,
I'm looking to buy a couple of strobes with umbrellas but I have a few questions. I will be using them with 2-250 watt lights with softboxes:
What is the recommended wattage I should get? I'm looking at one with 40 watts per strobe. Is that enough?
Any other tips or insights on purchasing these would also be very helpful.
Thank you all for your time!

12/11/2007 4:06:33 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Here's the answer I posted to your question yesterday. 40 watts, btw, is a nite-lite and of virtually no value for portrait lighting.

Depends on what you're shooting Rachel. 250 w.s. are good for fill lights but not too swell for your main. For that, if you're using a modifier like an umbrella or softbox, I recommend at least 750 w.s.. I shot all the portraits on my website with a single bowens 1000 w.s. monolight and a chimera 3x4 foot softbox and a fill card. You don't necessarily need to buy a manufacturer's kit. Umbrellas in various sizes are pretty cheap and softboxes, while not cheap, are plentiful and reasonably priced. Stands are pretty affordable as well. I'd concentrate on the light source/head. For that, I'd highly recommend Bowens monolights or even Calumet travelers made by Bowens. They're quite good. I've used them constantly for years without even blowing a tube or a modeling light.
Chances are you'll get a fair number of opinions here. One thing to keep in mind is to buy as much lighting as you can afford. Better to have too much than too little and be able to switch it down. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to stretch extra light out of a head that just won't do it. Even a good used pack system, like a Norman or Speedotron is a great investment for shooting portraits or small products.

John Siskin is another photographer here and he teaches a lighting course on BP. His techniques are quite good and he may have some suggestions for you as well.
Take it light ;>)
Mark

12/10/2007 9:36:13 PM


12/11/2007 4:53:03 PM

 
 
  Soft Light-Hard light
Soft Light-Hard light
There is one big soft light source here and three hard lights. One of the hard lights makes the light along the left side of her face. Another lights the background and there is a bare bulb light in front of the subject to build contrast and create sparkle in the eyes.
 
 
Hi Rachel!
Look, hereís the deal: A 40-watt-second strobe(watts are for continuous lights) will work OK if you point it directly at the subject from a few feet away. By OK, I mean it will light the subject. The quality of the light will be really lousy, I mean really lousy. In order to make better light, you need a larger light source. I use about 4X6 feet for the most important light in a shot. Because the light is so large, it requires a great deal of power. I agree with Mark about 750 watt-second Bowens and Calumet Travelites. I have one of the 750 Travelites, and it is a great unit. Many of my students here at BetterPhoto use the Alien Bee strobes. I know from their experience that the B1600 will do a reasonably good job of making the light I like. It is very possible to use smaller lights - like a 200 watt-second strobe for additional light in a shot - so not everything has to be a big gun. I point out that I have an article in Photo Techniques this month about using hard and soft light sources, and this may help you to understand how to work with light. There is an article here at BetterPhoto on working with one light that might also help: www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=129. I have a couple of other articles about lighting here as well, and I teach the Understanding the Tools of Lighting course here at BP.
Thanks! John Siskin!

Hi Mark,
Thanks for the plug!

12/11/2007 5:39:28 PM

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Photography Question 
Holly K. Henkels

member since: 7/20/2004
  54 .  Oversize Backdrops
I have been shooting a lot of dance/school groups lately, and I need a larger backdrop. Currently, I'm running with a 10x10. I need to fit 22-30 people. Where are the best places to buy larger backdrops (like 20 ft wide)? Or would it be better to buy two identical smaller backdrops to get the length I need.

12/8/2007 9:25:27 PM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  You can make these out of painter's Muslin found in most hardware stores and paint stores. Or just buy a few and piece together.
I hope this helps,
Debby

12/9/2007 9:32:17 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  I've got the 20ft in black and white...they're expensive...they're at the studio and I'm home but I think they're from Calumet...if not I'll let you know for sure on Monday.

12/9/2007 5:25:10 PM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Holly,
Making a background is "iffy" at best. You generally don't have the correct dyes and you need a lot of space to work in. Buying backgrounds is a better option and unless you buy a "scenic" one they are relatively inexpensive. The cost of the fabric is most of the cost and the hassle you go through working with wet cloth that size is not worth the difference in price. Been there, done that. You can get a nice background 10x20 from my friend Dennis Cole and www.coleandcompany.com and he will ship it right to you. when I photograph dance schools and groups that I need the extra space, I use two 10x20 backgrounds and have picked them up on sale around $99 each. Hang one horizontally and put the other on the floor. Two similar backgrounds work or one that goes with the floor. This gives you a 20x20 working area but with large groups this can run off the background at times. Fortunately, you can digitally extend the background if needed but not on all shots. I have done many of these in 28 years of business. Get a generic background that is not for a specific use and you can use it for several events. God luck.

12/11/2007 6:24:59 AM

Sekou B. Jones

member since: 10/15/2005
  I have bought several backdrops from Amvona.com. They sell on e-Bay as well. I have not yet paid more than $60 (inc. shpping). They have a wide variety and the quality is good. I think they sell backdrops up to 20' or 24' wide.

Best wishes.

Sekou Jones
Jones Photography
www.TheJonesPhoto.com

12/11/2007 5:58:07 PM

Curtis L. Edwards
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/12/2003
  This may help. Find a reputable upholstery shop or canvas shop. They are set up to handle the large sizes of fabrics and would also have a better chance at keeping pictured background ( streetscape, forest, crowd,Ö) from looking out of sync along the seam. Also they have the ability to make these changes so that you can take them apart (Velcro, snaps). Generally the rates for just sewing are not that high.

12/11/2007 5:59:42 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Any special reason this/these photo(s) need to be taken in your studio? How about in their "natural habitat"? Like in THEIR studio. Or in a theater, on a stage? With theatrical lights to add to the atmosphere. I would think a theater/stage would have a choice of backdrops! BIIIIG ones!

12/12/2007 10:23:08 AM

  Hi Holly,
I havenít needed a background as large as you need, but I do have some information on using and lighting backgrounds here at BetterPhoto: www.betterphoto.com/article.asp?id=176. I hope the information is of some use.
Thanks, John Siskin

12/12/2007 12:19:17 PM

Holly K. Henkels

member since: 7/20/2004
  Thank you for all of your answers, I think I'm going to try bruce's idea. and thank you John for the article link, I found it very useful. Natural Setting wasn't an option, since winter is here.

12/12/2007 2:28:54 PM

Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Hi Holly,
Many backgrounds and many companies will work of course. If I can help further, feel free to contact me at bdphoto@ptd.net While I do not have a Better Photo gallery, I do have images at www.photosbydart.com Several of the large family groups in that gallery have been photographed on location with two backgrounds in the manner I mentioned. The real key is, that you cannot tell!! Good luck.

12/12/2007 3:00:39 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
Holly,

FYI: dancers "in their natural habitat" means: in their studio. In the place where they usually work out. Where they practice. Or, if you will, on stage, where they perform.
It doesn't mean upto their thighs in the snow...

Good luck!

12/12/2007 7:08:39 PM

Holly K. Henkels

member since: 7/20/2004
  Mr. Smith,

I'm sorry, you are right. I live in a small town so they don't actually have a studio(so studio never came to mind when I read your answer). Right now they are in the school gym....not a very scenic place for a dancer. Thank you for your advice.

12/12/2007 7:53:25 PM

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Photography Question 
Kim L. Jones
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2005
  55 .  'Competition' on an Assignment
I recently had a photo shoot of a baby girl. Then her father brought his own camera and started taking pictures everytime I posed her. I was so shocked that he would be that bold. I didn't really know how to handle the situation so I didn't say anything. Then, this week, it happened again with a mother this time. I nicely asked her to put her camera away, and she got really angry. Does anyone know of a tactful way to deal with a situation like this? I hope I am not being too touchy, but I really feel ripped off by this. Thanks in advance!

11/19/2007 5:54:46 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  When you use the phrase "brought his own camera", I assume you did this at your place rather than theirs. You should have asked him to leave or terminated the shoot. I would NEVER EVER put up with that kind of nonsense on a commercial assignment. Since this is the second time it's happened to you in a short time, it may be that word is getting around that you allow it to happen. You need to put your foot down or somewhere else if this happens again.
Take it light.

11/19/2007 6:52:10 PM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/25/2006
  Mark's right, Kim. Don't stand for it at all. One way you might avoid this is to have them sign a contract ahead of time - if you don't already - that states that you will be the only photographer at the shoot. And get at least half of your pay up front to RESERVE THE DATE so if you get this situation again, you can say: 'Please stop. You agreed to this in the contract'. Or, if they get mad and walk, at least you have gotten your pre-prints overhead and you can move on to the next job. Be assertive as Mark says. But be polite. Always keep your cool. Be shrewd in your dealings with clients. And cover your assets ahead of time so that you have a leg to stand on later.

11/19/2007 7:42:48 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Sure, you can put it in your shoot contract as Chris suggests, and then flash it on them if necessary during the shoot. But I think if it gets to that point, it may already be a tad late in terms of brewing bad feelings.
Maybe it would help at the time of signing the contract to good-naturedly remind them that you're the sole photographer on this assignment, you don't allow, work with or need back-up photographers so tell them to leave the cameras in the car (preferably in the glove-box storage container on a hot day).
And get 1/2 your fees up front with a non-refundable cancellation clause built in, as Chris mentioned as well.

11/20/2007 9:20:27 AM

Kim L. Jones
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2005
  Thank you, Mark and Chris. Your suggestions are really helpful. I will definitely put something in my contract, and be sure to point it out before the shoot. And if that fails, I like the glove box idea!

11/20/2007 3:14:11 PM

Charles Hooper

member since: 2/14/2007
  This is great for your own location you control, but what would you do if you were playing Santa in a mall taking photo"s with local Children. You expect everyone to buy a photo. You have a price list posted and a sign that said " no personal photo's, please." But out comes the camera phones
and most of the parents don't buy the photo you just took with that high dollar camera you have. Now what?

11/25/2007 7:05:40 PM

Kim L. Jones
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2005
  I have never had a set up like that before, Charles. I have however taken my son to see Santa in the mall. Everywhere I have ever been, they make you pay up front for the photos. Before the child ever gets to Santa's lap. Hope this helps a little.
Kim

11/25/2007 7:49:27 PM

Dan Ternes

member since: 8/4/2005
  I've got a slightly different view... stop being so precious! It's not a second photographer, or a back-up or anything. It's a father taking a photo of his daughter. It's a "happy snap". And parents should be entitled to do that anytime they please.

Have some confidence that, given your equipment, expertise and experience as a photographer, you'll do a much better job than he will, and it'll be your photos that they're framing and hanging on the wall.

11/27/2007 8:26:04 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Will she do a better job if the girl isn't trying to go back and forth looking at her fathers camera and her camera?

11/28/2007 2:34:29 AM

Chandragopal Shroti

member since: 8/26/2007
  kim,
under such circumstances, first I will politely ask the parent to 'let me finish my job, if u have a camera, it is ok, this u can try later in yr home'. if he is insistant, then u can stop the shoot and ask the gentleman/woman that if u r disturbed in this way the shoot will not be possible and close yr kit and say 'excuse me I shall not be able to do this if disturbed in between and if u take pix in yr home, it will be better, since it is here that I am engaged in my job to photograph yr daughter'. otherwise, for such over-enthusiastic person, a little bit of 'lie' would help u from further botheration. thanks and happy shoots.

11/28/2007 7:46:54 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  I've been watching this thread evolve. Interesting. I think Dan is wrong for a number of reasons. First, it is exactly a second photographer, nothing more or less.

I've seen this kind of sleaze happen often at weddings. The photographer hired to shoot sets up the shots and suddenly, like John Wilkes Booth, someone comes leaping in from off stage, whips out their P&S as the photographer gets the off the first shot, the bystander grabs the shot while blowing the exposure and distracting the whole scene. The bystander then graciously gives the prints to the b&g so they don't have to buy them from the photographer who set the scene in the first place.

When I see it starting to happen, I've been known to step directly in front of the offending party as they shoot. Bumping into them is a good technique too.

Second-hand shooting is a practice that I think is rude. It shows total lack of concern for the professional hired to do their job and for true pros, earn a livelihood from it. It also interferes with the hired person's ability to successfully complete their assignment and causes delays, particularly with large group shots. People can't even say that they mean well in doing this. It's just rude, disrespectful and cheap. No excuses.

Lying to them, as CS suggested is just going to make a difficult situation worse. When you start going down that road, there's usually no end to it. Taking control of the situation, something pros must do regularly, is the way to handle it. Usually, stopping it before it gets started is the best way. Like with: "No. Please put your camera away. It's interfering with my ability to do this properly." Or my favorite: "Alright, drop the camera, put your hands up and step away!"

As to the Santa mall scene, forget it. I don't think there's anyway to control that. It's pretty much chaos anyway. The trick I think to sell photos there is put a really high end, well-lit, giant print up on an easel as a selling tool with a sign underneath that says "Cell phone photos can't compete with our quality."

It's one thing when this happens at a press conference or newsworthy event. In fact, in my end of the biz, it's pretty much expected. But portrait sittings and weddings...no. It's not about competition, it's about interference, it's a distraction and just plain rude.

That's my rant and I'm sticking to it.
M.

11/28/2007 11:18:34 AM

Charles Hooper

member since: 2/14/2007
  You go Mark! Excellent, Excellent, Excellent. I have spent many an hour at fairs & Festivals across country taking Old Time Photos in my Photo Trailer. I look out the window to see everyone with cameras taking there own photos of my settings. They don't know that there cameras fire my strobes. It's quite a battle to stop it. They think they are being sneeky, but there not. Keep hitting the nail on the head, like you always do.

Charlie

12/11/2007 8:12:43 PM

Stephanie M. Stevens

member since: 4/20/2005
  I've been reading and thought I'd share my story. 2 years ago my cousin asked me to shoot her wedding. Thinking about it now it was a dumb thing for her to do because at the time I was a high school student, I didn't have a professional camera, had never shot a wedding, and none of my pictures that she liked so much were portraits. But she wanted to save a few dollars, you know how it goes. Anyway, while I was trying to get the group shots, EVERY ONE of the guests was behind me with their own camera telling them to "Look over here!" and in half the photos I took nobody is looking at my camera. Having never done anything even remotely like that before I didn't know how to handle it, but I learned looking back on that day that I am the photographer, and not to let people step on me like that. I also learned that I hate weddings. :)

12/12/2007 9:17:43 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Sorry folks,

This thread made me laugh soo hard.

I've done many portraits and still do.
Often some family member brings their own camera..One guy even brought along a decent pro-sumer DSLR!..and asked if he could shoot some pics while I did.

I said "Knock yourself out!" LOL

Funny thing is, No ONE who brings a camera to my studio has the ability to trigger my strobes! LOL I have a hunch the shots they took just MAYBE came out a little dark.


Have fun,

Pete

12/12/2007 7:53:10 PM

Scott McCord

member since: 10/16/2005
  I deal with this all the time. An approach I use is to bring my portable studio lighting which works off of the slave. This doesn't prevent others from taking photos, but when their flash pops my studio lights, none of their photos turn out!

2/1/2008 12:03:01 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Hey, try this studio tactic: Put a lamphead with a 12" reflector wired to a Norman P2000 pack. Add a loose swivel stud. Spin the lamp head around facing the offending individual squarely in the face and fire two test shots. The resulting temporary blindness from blasting these cretins at close range usually allows sufficient time to do your work and then go have coffee while the scofflaw victim recovers their sight. :>)) I'm told that 9 out of ten opthalmologist / professional photographers approve of this technique. For longer lasting results, use a narrow reflector.
M.

2/2/2008 10:14:40 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH....

THAT made my day Mark! I am laughing sooo hard!

2/2/2008 10:44:19 AM

Annette Leibovitz
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/31/2005
  I take photos of children and photograph large events of 150-250 people. In my contract it says that I am the only photographer (in better wording). At the large events I set up groups for pictures. If there are people around me with cameras I explain that they may not take any pictures. I have said that people will look at their camera instead of mine. The client's get really upset when some people are looking at my camera and some are looking at someone else's camera. I have been pretty firm on this in the last few years and people are pretty respectful. In the smaller shoots I would ask the parent to not take pictures. This can be uncomfortable for you but necessary to not have the child see too many cameras and flashes. Be professional but firm. I have also been know to tell the group to go and have fun (and get out of the posed positions) really quickly so that the happy camera people do not come in when I am done. The amount of small point and shoot cameras at events is increasing. It is something I deal with many times a month.

2/9/2008 11:44:28 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Kim,
This happens more offten then you'd think.
I just explain that there can be no other cameras during the shoot as they will through off the lighting, and possibly harm my lights.
Now this is not true ( a flash can trigger your lights) but most people don't mean any harm and don't know weather or not thier actions will harm your sync.
But they really don't want to effect your equiptment so they comply.

during weddings, Guests have to be respected as they are friends and famly.
I have found that if I explain that I will give them a moment to take thier shot as soon as I have mine, they;re happy.
However, I take my shot then usualy say ok go ahead and I pull one or two of those people for the next shot
If anything is said , I just explain "I'm sorry, I;m on a time sceduele.
I have only had one person I had to go to those that hired me to have his camera removed,and that was a member of the video teamwho was shooting my seys for what could end up his portfolio.
He was relieved of his camera.
I hope this helps,
Debby

2/11/2008 6:32:44 AM

Luca Diana
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/24/2007
  Actually, Dan, I think you are completely wrong.
Parents do dot have any right to do that more than a passing stranger with a camera. Work is work and the photographer was called to do the job, now the parents are taking their own shots, after the photographer has gone through the trouble of showing up and setting the pose and parents are trying to take advantage of that to cut their photo bill and the photographer has lost work.
You seem to see things as a regular person with a camera, rather than a professional photographers who puts bread on his/her table with this job.

Luca
www.lucadiana.net

2/12/2008 1:39:45 PM

Luca Diana
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/24/2007
  I keep telling people not to shoot at my landscapes my they don't listen! LOL
Seriously guys, I feel for you, I'm glad I don't really have to put up with those situations, one wedding was enough for me.
Best of Luck!

Luca
www.lucadiana.net

2/12/2008 1:58:10 PM

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Photography Question 
Mike Perez
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Mike
Mike's Gallery
mikeperezphotos.com

member since: 1/21/2007
  56 .  Macro Lens Vs. Zoom's Macro Setting
I notice a reference in the zoom lens specs for a "Macro setting" mode. Does anyone know what macro setting they are referring to? I am thinking of buying a Sigma 105mm macro lens but don't really know what it will buy me in terms of image quality on macro images vs. a Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8 IF-ED lens. Any suggestions? Thanks!

11/12/2007 9:19:10 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  In the case of zoom lenses like the Nikon 28-70 f/2.8, the "macro" feature allows closer focusing than a standard lens. But it still is not as close nor as great a magnification as a specialized macro lens like the Sigma 105 f/2.8 EX Macro. At 70mm and .5m focus distance, the 28-70 will give 1:5.6 magnification on the image sensor (1/5.6 of life size). The Sigma 105 Macro will focus as close as .31m to give 1:1 (life size) image on the sensor.

11/13/2007 6:18:20 AM

  Thank you very much, Jon. That makes sense.

Is the mentioned macro setting on the Nikkor something I have to enable somehow (I don't see a switch on the lens) or something that just happens automatically when it is zoomed to the max 700mm focal length?

11/13/2007 8:45:14 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  I haven't handled that particular lens, so I can't tell you for sure. On a Sigma zoom I once had, I could only turn the focus withn the extended close focus range when manually focusing at the longest zoom. I suspect the Nikon is similar.

11/13/2007 8:58:56 AM

  Thanks, Jon. I think you are right. I was playing with it last night and that is what I had to do. I was trying to see what magnification, clarity and detail I could get with the 2X f/5.6 tele but it is still not comparable to what you describe on the macro. Looks I am going to have go shopping!

11/13/2007 9:03:49 AM

Devon McCarroll
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2005
  I would highly (highly!!) recommend the Sigma. I own it and it takes gorgeous macro photos!

11/20/2007 10:50:09 AM

  Thank you very much DEvon. Mine should be arriving today. Looking forward to it.

11/20/2007 11:31:26 AM

Stanley C. Sims

member since: 1/28/2001
  A fixed focal length macro lens will always be better than the zoom.

11/20/2007 1:45:08 PM

  Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I got my Sigma 105mm a few days ago and I really like it. It will take a bit of getting used to the narrow DOF even at max aperture but it is so sharp I will end up using a lot. I've taken some macros (and even some portraits of the dog) around the garden and they are in the macro section of my Deluxe BP site. Any critique of them would be greatly appreciated as I get my feet wet with this category. Thanks.

11/23/2007 6:14:10 PM

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Photography Question 
Jessi 

member since: 11/12/2007
  57 .  Buy Lens & Flash? Or Better Lens But No Flash?
I am ready to buy an extra lens for my Canon Rebel xt and have decided on either the 50mm 1.8 or 1.4. I am on a budget, though, so should I go with the 1.8 and also get an external flash? Or should I go with the 1.4 and nix the flash? I typically shoot indoors and my subject is almost always my almost 1-year-old son. I have had lots of problems with shadows that have ruined photos for me, which is why I have been interested in an external flash. If you reccomend the 1.8 with a flash over the 1.4 without a flash, what flash would you suggest?

11/12/2007 12:12:24 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  I'd go with the 50/1.8 and an accessory flash. While it is very cheap, plastic, and has a buzzy AF motor, the EF 50 f/1.8 II is very sharp. Don't bother getting a "protective filter" for it. A good filter will cost as much as this lens, and is apt to cause more problems (reflections, glare, flare) than it solves. ;-)Recommended flash would be the Canon 430EX, which is fully auto in all exposure modes and enables all the advanced flash features of the XTi, and has a tilt-swivel head for bounce flash to avoid the harsh shadows that direct flash creates. Third party alternatives need to be E-TTL capable, like Sigma EF-500 DG Super or Sunpak PZ40X. If looking at used flashes, you should look for Canon's -EX models (380EX, 420EX, 550EX). The digital EOS cameras like the XTi will not work with the simple TTL or A-TTL system used with Canon's film EOS cameras, so avoid Canon's -E, and -EZ series speedlights (420EZ, 430EZ, 540EZ).

11/13/2007 6:33:53 AM

Jessi 

member since: 11/12/2007
  Thank you so much Jon! This info is increidbly helpful. Have a grat day!

11/13/2007 6:37:19 AM

Julie Wall
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/19/2004
 
 
  Tim
Tim
Just one of a bunch of practice shots I took with new flash & lens.
 
 
Hi, Jessi...

I agree with Jon. I was in the same boat a couple of months ago and got the 1.8 and a speedlite for my XTi. I was a little hesitant about buying the lower-end prime, based on some of the reviews I'd read, but I jumped anyway, because I couldn't beat the price, and that little plastic lens is one of my favorites! I'm really careful with my lenses, so dropping it while on a shoot didn't really apply, so the plastic housing didn't bother me. And it's super light!

Now that I've got the lens and the external flash, I'm finding that the portraits I take of my kids have come out fantastic...good enough that I've got friends asking me to do their kids, families, etc. Who knew? :)

Anyway, I hope that helps, as well.

Have a good one!

11/20/2007 3:35:24 AM

Nora Kernisant
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/29/2006
  I have the same 50mm lens and flash. You might want to get a diffuser to create softer portraits. Direct flash can be harsh and diffusers will soften shadows. I have a Garyfong for my 580EX and a cheaper Sto-fen for the 430EX. You do need to adjust your settings to allow more light in when using a diffuser. I am awful at explaining technical terms but I know how to do it on my camera. Have fun!

11/20/2007 6:10:43 AM

Cgopal Shroti

member since: 10/18/2007
  jessie,
u have got many opinions on having 1.8 with addl flash. if I suggest f1.4 with a diffuser for side fill in because I do not think the u don't have sufficienr light from the windows or verandah ur when it is clouded. since yr target is yr young son, any small flash canon itself would be suffice to giving u more chances for getting beautiful closeups with extra speed of 1.4, particularly php0tographing WITH CAMERA on a small tripod so u can save every golden moment of the dear one with good get on.. u can creatively use flash with the help of a long flash cord bouncing light from any angle. u can use some outside pix under the sun as a fill flashlight to fill in the shadows. best of luck.

11/23/2007 1:10:39 PM

Cgopal Shroti

member since: 10/18/2007
  jessie,
u have got many opinions on having 1.8 with addl flash. if I suggest f1.4 with a diffuser for side fill in because I do not think the u don't have sufficient light from the windows or verandah or when it is clouded. since yr target is yr young son, any small flash canon itself would be suffice to giving u more chances for getting beautiful closeups with extra speed of 1.4, particularly php0tographing WITH CAMERA on a small tripod so u can save every golden moment of the dear one with good get on.. u can creatively use flash with the help of a long flash cord bouncing light from any angle. u can use some outside pix under the sun as a fill flashlight to fill in the shadows. best of luck.

11/23/2007 1:16:10 PM

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Photography Question 
STEVE D. LANCASTER

member since: 9/16/2004
  58 .  Yellow Tint Indoors
How do I get rid of the yellow tint in my wedding or indoor pics? What settings do I need - i.e., White Balance or flash? I have a Canon XT and 580 EX flash. Thanks.

11/5/2007 7:50:43 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
The settings you need are:

1) release the Caps Lock key on your keyboard

2) set Auto White Balance on your camera

Have fun!

11/5/2007 8:12:38 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Using the flash indoors, you are going to have mixed lighting: incandescent or fluorescent ambient lighting on the background, and the flash on the near subjects. There is not a single white balance setting that can correct both. The ususal (simple) procedure is to set the white balance for your flash-lit subject (i.e. Flash or 6000įK), and let the background take on the yellowish cast of the ambient lighting.
The more involved alternative is to set the white balance for the ambient lighting, and then apply a color-correcting gel filter over the flash (not the camera lens) so that the flash output matches the color temperature of the ambient lighting. The color correcting filter will decrease the effective range of the flash somewhat. For example, with typical tungsten incandescent bulbs, set the XT's white balance for Tungsten (3200įK) and use a 85B color correcting filter over the 580EX's flash to lower its color temperature from 6000įK down to 3200įK.

11/5/2007 9:46:23 AM

Donna  P. Bollenbach

member since: 2/20/2006
  Steve, obviously you want to avoid the color cast altogether, so this is not the best answer. But, if you need to correct the color cast in Photoshop, try experimenting with the "OPTIONS" in levels. I had the same problem recently and I changed the options to "find dark and light" and/or "snap to neutral midtones." This helped without making the images appear too yellow or blue, as other corrections did.(changing white balance, photo filters).

Donna

11/6/2007 4:51:16 AM

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Photography Question 
Pamela A. Davis
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/3/2005
  59 .  Dark Hair/Dark Background
 
I have a image of a young man with very dark hair against a black backdrop. I like the way it looks, but the mother wants more detail in the hair against the backdrop. Does anyone know a way to increase or lighten the area around the hair on the left above the ear?

11/1/2007 6:23:10 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Pamela,
This is a strong case for why studio photographers use a "hair light." Simply put, it's a snooted strobe aimed at the subject's hair.
There is some magic you can do if you don't have a studio setup ... ahh, gotta love digital and image editing.

Shoot TWO photos in rapid succession (otherwise, your subject will move and this won't work). Shoot one for normal exposure and the next one overexposed about 2 stops. Sandwich the two images and erase part of the hair line with a soft brush. This is not the preferred method, but when lacking the proper light setup, it's better than nothing.
All the best,
Pete

11/3/2007 6:15:43 AM

Bob Friedman

member since: 6/10/2002
 
 
 
Since you already have this shot and can't go back to shoot rapid succession, create a layer from copy, then lighten the copy till the hair is where you want it, then use the erase tool to erase the rest and bring the correct exposure for the rest opf the photo foward.

you can also use the lightened copy to create a mask aroound the area you want to have lightened in the original then delete the layer, leaving the mask behind on the original. Feather, lighten, and clean up using the dodoge tool with a soft brush.

see attached.

Bob
Ritz Camera

11/6/2007 4:24:17 AM

  I would just add when using the dodge tool choose Highlights to bring out the light in his hair.

11/6/2007 10:26:48 AM

Pamela A. Davis
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/3/2005
  Thank you Bob your suggestion worked quite well and the comment about highlights was great not sure I would have realized to use the highlights to bring up the light. Now lets hope his mom likes it. Thanks again.

11/7/2007 6:24:20 PM

Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery

member since: 6/11/2005
  Photoshop's Shadows/Highlights option works well too.

11/7/2007 8:26:19 PM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/25/2006
  Or correct it on camera and throw in an extra flood upper left to gain some reflectance from the hair to lift and seperate it from the background. Fiddle with it on the PC later, but there will be less to do then if you correct it beforehand.

11/7/2007 8:58:16 PM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/25/2006
  Or correct it on camera and throw in an extra flood upper left to gain some reflectance from the hair to lift and seperate it from the background. Fiddle with it on the PC later, but there will be less to do then if you correct it beforehand.

11/7/2007 9:01:41 PM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/25/2006
  Or correct it on camera and throw in an extra flood upper left to gain some reflectance from the hair to lift and seperate it from the background. Fiddle with it on the PC later, but there will be less to do then if you correct it beforehand.

11/7/2007 9:01:41 PM

Pamela A. Davis
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/3/2005
  Yes, I am new to my studio setup and just did not realize until too late (mom was rushing me) that there was not enough light on the left side I have and will use a light for the hair when I use that black background. Thanks again for the comments they really do help.

11/8/2007 4:24:11 AM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/25/2006
  That was weird. I didn't know my posts had a stuttering problem.

11/9/2007 9:57:52 AM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/25/2006
  That was weird. I didn't know my posts had a stuttering problem.

11/9/2007 9:58:06 AM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/25/2006
  That was weird. I didn't know my posts had a stuttering problem.

11/9/2007 9:58:17 AM

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Photography Question 
Jessica  Wright

member since: 2/18/2007
  60 .  Pictures on Bright Sunny Days
Hi. I went to a car show on a beautiful sunny day. I took some pictures and I didn't like the way most of them came out. They were either too bright and washed out, or too dark with had lots of shadows. I adjusted and fine-tuned the ISO, White Balance, exposure mode. It helped a little. I didn't have a Circular Polarizer or a hood. Would either have helped me? Thanks!

10/21/2007 6:08:14 PM

Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/2/2005
  A polarizer would have helped a bit in reducing the glare and would saturate your colors. What I believed happened with your photos is that since it was so bright outside, your camera was trying to compensate for it for making the image darker so it wouldn't be washed out (sky would be exposed properly) but the cars would be dark, and vice versa, the cars would be exposed perfect and the sky blown out. I would look for a graduated ND filter, in order to expose for the cars (assuming they are in shadow), with the sky being knocked down a few stops. Hope that helps!

10/21/2007 6:49:30 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Jessica,
I don't want to rain on your parade, but photographing automobiles in bright sunlight presents a very real challenge ... specular reflections not being the least of the difficulties. Automobiles run the gambit in exposure latitude, from black tires to VERY bright chrome. Few cameras can handle such an extreme unless you want to do a LOT of work.
All the best,
Pete

10/21/2007 9:36:34 PM

Jessica  Wright

member since: 2/18/2007
  Thank you so much for your help.

10/22/2007 1:52:19 PM

Jerry Frazier

member since: 6/6/2005
  In situations such as this, I'll expose for the brightest area, or better known as highlights. Take that image and make a perfect redition for the highlights. Then, make a layer in photoshop, and make the underexposed image, exposed for the dark areas. Add that as a layer. Now what you have to do is subtract out the areas that are too bright by using the eraser tool. It's alot of work, but this is a good way to deal with it.

10/23/2007 3:42:32 AM

Jessica  Wright

member since: 2/18/2007
  Thank you, Ill try that.

10/23/2007 7:03:30 AM

Ken Henry

member since: 9/16/2003
  Not using manual exposure you have no control of the exposure. The very first basic rule of photography in sunlight is at ISO 100 your exposure should be f16 and 1/125 second, or f11 and 1/250 sec, orrr f8 and 1/500 sec, etc.

As a photographer you should be in control, not your camera.

All cameras cannot expose as correctly as your eyes. You would expose for what is important to you. Light f16 at ex: 1/500sec, midrange f16 at 1/125sec, or dark areas f16 at 1/30sec. Or shoot all three exposures and PS them. ORRR but a contrast reducer filter from Tiffen Filters.

10/23/2007 7:14:59 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
Tripod, RAW, bracketing, and blending.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDRI

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tone_mapping

http://www.hdrsoft.com/

10/24/2007 5:45:13 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Metering for the what the light is and shooting at that never went at of style.

10/24/2007 7:28:49 PM

Ken Henry

member since: 9/16/2003
  The palm of your hand is a better meter than the camera. It is with you all the time and it didn't $cost you anything.

Set your camera to manual. Then set Apeture to f16, Now hold out your palm in sunlight then zoom in on your palm. Adjust exposure dial to where the needle in your viewfinder goes to center. Your reading will be approximately 1/250sec, depends on how bright it is. Now reset your exposure to half at 1/125sec. And if you need 1/1000sec(for action etc)which equals f5.6, your hand will read f8. So whatever your hand reads you cut your exposure or apeture in half.

The palm of your hand is one stop brighter than a grey card.

Now you are in control of your camera and exposure.

There are 10 stops between white to black. White is 0,1,2,3,4, mid-grey is at 5,6,7,8,9, and black is at 10.

The metering from your hand will always set you at midway.

Your eyes can see detail in white as well as in black. Photography cannot see Detail in Black and White when the exposure is set at midway 5.

so if I want to see the white hair detail on dog or mountain I will set my exposure faster to 1/250sec, Black Dog decrease my exposure to 1/60sec.

10/24/2007 9:46:53 PM

Ken Henry

member since: 9/16/2003
  More on Contrast settings in your camera. Here's were you need to get your manual and do some custom settings.

It sounds like you are using the Auto Mode, Which is no different than using a Point & Shoot camera. A DSLR is not about changing lenses. Program Mode gives you some minor control but not exposure.

Digital cameras are more contrastier than film.

I reprogramed my camera the following modes. Changed sRGB to RGB. Jpeg to RAW.
decreased Contrast setting to zero. Decreased Saturation by -1 or -2. And I use Gamma 1.8 on my monitor and printer. Now my photos look like Post Cards instead of blown out consumer pictures from hell.

10/24/2007 10:05:27 PM

Dana Gambill

member since: 12/5/2004
  Hey Jessica,

I agree with what everyone else has said. A LENS SHADE may have helped. You can see what it would do if you have the sun shining at you from the side and hold your hand up to your face to block the sun from your eyes. Remove you hand, then put it back up to your face, paying attention to color saturation.

A POLARIZER would have further helped reduce the glare on the shiny surface of the cars and it would have darkened the sky. The range between light and dark would have been reduced by a stop or two which definitely helps when shooting digitally, since the tonal range is shorter when shooting digitally versus shooting negative film. Negative film is more forgiving. Just know that when shooting digitally, you need to keep to range between blacks and whites (darks & lights) to maybe 5 or 6 stops. Of course, you can tweak things in Photoshop too, as someone above mentioned. And... shooting RAW seems to provide a greater tonal range than if you were shooting JPEG.

If you want to shoot any kind of SHINY OBJECT, such as a car or soda, for example, the best kind of light is called "magic light"... it's the 15-30 minutes before the sun rises and after the sun sets. The sky acts as a giant softbox.

The best way to see what effect all of these have on your image would be to shoot like you did, then with a lens shade, then add a polarizer, remove polarizer and add gradated ND filter, add both polarizer & ND filter. You can "see" the effects of these at different times of day too.

10/24/2007 11:00:38 PM

Lynda Frappier

member since: 5/15/2007
  remember what singer Gino Vanelli said in the early 80's--or was it late 70s--
"black cars look better in the shade"
He wasn't joking!

10/25/2007 2:41:38 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Manually meter the brightest part that's important to the composition and set your aperture/shutter speed combination to over-expose that portion of the scene by 1 stop, then bracket over and under from there.(..or just meter something neutral in the same light.

10/25/2007 4:07:21 PM

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