The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
 
Monday, February 15, 2010
IN THIS ISSUE
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Portrait Photog...
Q&A 2: Making a Portra...
Q&A 3: Lighting on Loc...


TESTIMONIAL OF THE WEEK
"Your class has been excellent! ... Your material was thorough and interesting. ... Also, your encouragement has been extremely important. You are instructive without being overly criticial. ... Your class has really helped me improve my pictures with better lighting. Thank you for your patience!" -David Gray, student in Creative Flash Photography with Rob Sheppard



FEATURED BLOG: TWILIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY!
Twilight is the magical time between day and night, says top pro Deborah Sandidge. "It's a wonderful transition for natural light photography that lasts only moments." In her BetterPhoto Instructor Insights blog, Deb shares some great tips and thoughts on twilight photography. Read all about it here...


B&H NOW A CONTEST SPONSOR!
BetterPhoto's monthly photography contest is one of the many joys of membership!
ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS IN SNAPSHOT
Get word of your product or service out to a rapidly growing list of over 74599 serious photographers.
Learn More...

THIS WEEK'S TIP
Best White Balance Method... by Jim Zuckerman
Top pro Jim Zuckerman shoots all of his outdoor photos with a daylight white balance. Because I shoot in Raw, the color balance of the photos can be tweaked later in the digital darkroom. However, says Jim, "I find that most of the time, I like the color"! Read more of his WB thoughts, and see some great photos, in his BetterPhoto Instructor Insights photography blog...


   
Featured Gallery
 Moon pond
© - Graeme  Chow

Welcome to the 460th issue of SnapShot!
Hello,

Lots of excitement around BetterPhoto these days! Our March school listings have been posted with a great lineup of 8-week online classes and 4-week courses. Plus, the schedule has never been better, as we have added some awesome new classes (see the update items below). ... Not sure how our online courses work? We are very proud of our virtual classroom, which is very interactive and very convenient. Take a quick tour... ... In this issue of SnapShot, check out instructor Deborah Sandidge's Featured Blog on twilight photography, and instructor Jim Zuckerman's Photo Tip on the best White Balance setting. ... That's it for this week. Enjoy your photography!    Kerry Drager   Newsletter Editor    Where is Jim Miotke? Follow BetterPhoto's founder and president on Twitter: BetterPhotoJim

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

New Course!! Learn how to use one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop. Check out Doug Steakley's excellent new 4-week online class... New Course!! One of BetterPhoto's top pros - Jim Zuckerman - has an outstanding new 8-week online course on creative Photoshop techniques. It begins March 10th. Check it out here... What an exciting goal that Ansel Adams had: Create a masterpiece every month! Now BetterPhoto is paying homage to this legendary photographer with our Masterpiece of the Month Membership. As a Masterpiece member, you'll receive monthly assignments, private newsletters, and be eligible for rewards not offered with a basic membership. Learn more...

Photo Q&A

1: Portrait Photography

I was brainstorming about an idea I had for a portrait mini-session and came up with a package and price. When I ran my idea by a friend, they said the price wasn't bad, but they could "get the same thing at JC Penney for $3.99". A similar thing happened a while back when a client showed a wedding book that I had done for them to a friend of theirs. The friend made the comment that "you could get books made at Walmart for $25".
How do you respond to comments like that? What reason would you give to someone for why they should go to a "pro" studio rather than just go to a department store that's cheaper?
Thanks!
- Bobby R. Strange

ANSWER 1:
"You get what you pay for." ;-)
The specials at the department stores are to get customers into the posing seat, then up-sell more expensive print packages. And "get books made at xxx for $25" ignores the work and skill involved in creating a set of photos, creative and technical. You have to sell your expertise in creating better images than someone can do themselves with their compact P&S.
IMHO.

- Jon Close

ANSWER 2:
If the quality of your work is better, you should be able to use that as a selling point.


- Dennis Flanagan

ANSWER 3:
I shoot outdoor, on-location portraits (at the client's home or at the park). I have found that while JC Penney's is cheaper, after fighting with their children one good time at the "store", people are willing to pay a little extra not to have to deal with the hassle, And the dads are usually grateful not to have to go to a "boring" studio. You have to sell not only your gift and art but also your portrait experience.

- Allison W. Laster

ANSWER 4:
I echo what Jon said about getting what you pay for. Speaking as a consumer: Many years ago, I took my son to J.C. Penney for his Confirmation photos. The photos didn't even end up looking like him. So the quality isn't only in the presentation afterwards but also in the time taken by the photographer to "get it right" in the capture stage. The 25-year-olds behind the cameras in the department-store factories just aren't going to bother with that. Another thing to point out to the "cheaper elsewhere" crowd.

- Nancy de Flon
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

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2: Making a Portrait Studio

I am remodeling the basement of an old church to be my portait photography studio. I have about 5000 sguare feet to work with, and will need to be choosing lighting soon. The ceiling is completely ripped out so I can put in anything I want. I want something that will not interfere with my pictures, or make colors funny. Should I get a dimmer? Does fluorscent seem to be the best and most budget friendly option? Or is there some type of LED lighting or something better? Any help would be much appreciated.
- Jessica K. Cunningham

ANSWER 1:
Hi Jessica,
I am assuming you are discussing viewing and work lights rather than shooting light. Your shooting lighting should be strobe, and then the color of the ambient light in your space wouldn’t matter. There are several things you might do in a larger space, but I would be concerned to maintain flexibility. Track lights can be very useful, especially as you can set them differently for day to day use and for shows of your work. In my previous studio, I had track light and fluorescent tubes. The tubes were good working lights, and they are cheap to use. Another possibility is to place power outlets all around the ceiling. This would let you string up any sort of light that seemed appropriate.

- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Basic BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=158091

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Business to Business: Commercial Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio

ANSWER 2:
Thanks for your response. I have only so far been working with modeling lights in my tiny space, so I wasn't sure if my new strobes I am buying would over power the ambient light or not. That really helps me not to worry so much about the type of lighting, thanks!

- Jessica K. Cunningham

ANSWER 3:
One thing I would suggest is to have controls so you don't have to have all the lights on or off at the same time. I don't like any lights over my subject, or necessarily close to them. I do like to have lights behind me on. I prefer lights in the room behind me so that the models pupils are not overly dialated. The modeling lights on my strobes are not quite bright to offset this.

- Dennis Flanagan
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

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3: Lighting on Location

I have two powerlight 1250's and two 350's I use for lighting backgrounds in my studio. I am being asked for more indoor on-location photography (homes, school theater, dance studio), and I am nervous about taking my lights on location. For one, I don't have a light meter; I know what works best in my studio; and 2, is this good equipment for most situations (I also have umbrellas and a XL softbox)? Most of the time when I see people talking about location flash, they talk about extra speedlights. I don't have this. So, will these work, and do I need to buy a flash meter to know how to set them on location?
- Tara R. Swartzendruber

ANSWER 1:
Hi Tara,
Your lights would be fine on location. I have dragged a batch of 900 series Norman gear around for years. I use surplus military ammunition cases to move the gear around. An alternative place to look for cases is Home Depot.

Regarding exposure, I should also mention that tethering your camera to a laptop will give you more and better exposure information than anything you can get from a meter. If you have a Canon camera, the software was included with your software bundle. Nikon sells additional software for this. Regardless of which camera you have the ability to tether your camera to a laptop will improve your ability to control light.

Here's info from one of my classes on setting exposure:

I keep trying to find ways to say that you have moved into the land BEYOND metering. When you use a strobe meter, you get a response that tells you how to make a middle density, but it doesn’t tell you how to make it look right. There is no automatic way to make it look right, only the application of brains can do that. When I make a shot with strobes and a digital camera, the first thing I do is to put the camera on manual. The camera meter can’t read strobes, except for the proprietary strobe. So the camera meter is useless. I do not use a hand held strobe meter, it doesn’t give me enough information. The only things I pay attention to are the histogram and the proof image on the camera back, or, even better, an image on a computer tethered to the camera. More than metering these two tools tell you about your image.

Let me suggest a plan for seeking the right exposure:
1) Set the shutter speed to the sync speed.
2) Set the aperture to your middle aperture, whatever that is on the lens you are using.
3) Take a picture, it will likely be wrong.
4) Move the aperture dial to let in more or less light based on test exposure 1, you can look at the histogram to help determine how much to change the aperture, but the proof image should tell you if you need to change a lot or a little. If you are using more than one light consider the balance of the lights.
5) More test exposures and changes of light placement and light power until the strobes are right.
6) Make the shutter speed longer if you need more ambient light.

This same technique will work if you are mixing strobes and daylight. If you practice this you will actually end up being able to find the right exposure quite quickly.

This is the essential trick with strobes, to evaluate and change our images in search of the right levels for our lights and our exposures. With the histogram and the proof image on camera or in the computer we have better tools for creating the right exposure than any meter could give us, but it does take repeated testing. If you use a hand-held meter, you will get an answer, but very often it will be profoundly wrong.

- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Basic BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=158091

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Business to Business: Commercial Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio

ANSWER 2:
Thank you. This is the most detailed info I have found on the trial and error of strobes on location. I really didn't know where to start and how best to evaluate. To follow, I have a couple questions for clarification.

1. I assume it's best if the laptop has been calibrated.

2. I generally have my shutter on 1/125 in studio and work with aperature from that point. I change my ISO based on my background also (white = 100; black = 200). This seems to work the best for me. Do you think these would also be good starting points on location?

3. say I'm shooting school play scenes. Will my lights be enough...will I need all four...would I turn off all stage lights?

Thank you!

- Tara R. Swartzendruber

ANSWER 3:
May I ask exactly what you mean by "I base my exposure on the subject"?

- Tara R. Swartzendruber

ANSWER 4:
Hi Tara,
Each time I do a portrait, it is a custom experience. So each time I work with someone, I look at how the light defines the person’s face. I ask myself about the quality of the light, as well as the quantity. I will usually adjust the position and size of the lights. I may also adjust the color. I may use one light, and I may use many more. I do the adjustments while the camera is tethered to a laptop. When everything looks right, I will remove the tether from the camera and start to shoot. I have to say that I am pretty quick at doing adjustments at this point. I think portrait photography should be like jazz music - different each time it is performed. Other people have other ideas.

- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Basic BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=158091

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Business to Business: Commercial Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

Answer this question:


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