Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to take a quick minute to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is a holiday in the U.S. (and I believe Canada) where we celebrate all of the wonderful things in our lives that we are thankful for.

Hope everyone has a happy, safe Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My First Annual, Holiday Gift Guide 2010

Grinch Jr.
Have you been naughty or nice this year?

Its that time of year again!  Time to break out the credit cards to do a little shopping for those you love (and for some, those that you can moderately tolerate) :)

There are several photographers' blogs I follow who do a gift guide for photographers every year but the one thing I've noticed is that, most of the gifts they suggest are often a little pricey.  So, for those on a somewhat tighter budget, I thought it would be a neat idea to do a holiday gift guide for photographers with gift recommendations that are a little more inexpensive.  Many of these I own and use, and some of these are items I'd like to have, hint hint.

Hopefully this list will give you some ideas on what to get your photographer loved ones for the holidays this year!  In no particular order, here we go...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Speedlight Modifiers 101

Light Mods 101

Ever wondered how various light modifiers shape the light and how much light they use?  Knowing the quality of light a modifier produces and how much light it consumes can be a huge help in figuring out how to light any given scene.

Hopefully this post will give you an illustrated version of what various speedlight modifiers do, MUCH more after the jump...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

iPhone Apps for Photographers


I know what you're thinking, 'omg another iphone app review!' *eyes rolling*

Well, I have to say, I was in the same boat not so long ago.  I couldn't have cared less about all of the praises and blog posts about the amazing iPhone and all its wonderful apps... that is, until I got one!

For the record, I have never been a "phone" person.  I don't like talking on phones, I have no interest in playing games on phones, don't listen to music on a phone and I certainly was not keen about text messaging.  However I like to think that I'm not one of those dinosaurs that can't adapt to modern technology.  Although I'm usually the last on the boat.

Well, thanks to a little persuasion by my fiance' and a few friends, I finally got to the point where I could text ...a little.  It took a qwerty keyboard style phone though to get me to that point, but once I figured it out, it honestly wasn't so bad.  In fact, I could even justify actually using texting as opposed to voice calls when in business type scenarios, i.e.... not wanting everyone in the room to know that you need to pick up a loaf of bread and some cokes on the way home from work. :)

So I got that far along and it was finally time for me to upgrade my phone (actually, waaaay past time).  Since I'm not a phone person, I never could justify the expense of a $200+ phone to do what the computer at my desk at work and my computer on my desk at home would do.  Then AT&T (or Apple-not sure which) dropped the prices on their iPhones to something that was much more reasonable so I bit the bullet and picked up an iPhone 3GS.  I figured if I'm going to upgrade, I'm going to go ahead and do one that will last me for a while and the iPhone 3GS was at an amazingly low $99 U.S. which fit in to my budget.

Now guess what?  I can honestly say, for the first time in my life, that I love my phone.  It is way cooler than I could have ever imagined and I find myself using all those apps that I previously turned my nose up and thought "I'll never use that stuff".

Being a photographer, the iPhone offers a ton of really cool apps to play with to make your photographic experience with your phone, much more enjoyable.  I'm not terribly familiar with other types of phones, but I can say that I can't imagine a better phone for photographers who want to actually take photos with their phones.

So, long story short, here is my list of favorite photography apps for the iPhone:

1.  My first pick is Lo-Mob.  This app gives your photos a retro look with several awesome film and border styles to imitate old school cameras.  Very cool features and easy to use.

2.  My second pick is Hipstamatic.  This app gives your photos the look and feel of the plastic toy cameras of the 80's.  If you like this look, there isn't a better app out there for this.

3.  The Best Camera app is my next favorite.  This app is the brainchild of awesome-cool photographer Chase Jarvis.  It allows you apply several different features to your photos then allows you to share them with a myriad of online photo applications including one designed just for this app.

4.  Now if you're a photographer, then you obviously have to have Photoshop.  So, you might as well get the official Adobe Photoshop Express app.  It allows all the essential editing techniques for your iPhone photography.

5.  Another favorite of mine is Instagram.  Its similar to the other apps above in that it allows you to add various filters and upload them to the internet.  While its similar to those other apps, its cool enough in its own right to have as an additional app on your phone.

6.  My last pick was as app I was turned on to by my fiance'.  Mostly because she keeps taking these awesome photos with her iPhone and I keep asking her how she's doing it.  She's using an app called Pro HDR for the iPhone and iPad.  If you're in to HDR style photography, this is a cool app that does a pretty reasonable job at giving you that high dynamic range look.  Although I would like to see an option in the future with it to be able to shoot more than two frames to create the final image.

So what are your favorite photography related iPhone apps?

Please sound off in the comments.  I'm still rather new to all this and I know there are still more cool apps out there that I am yet to discover.

EDIT:  oops, I forgot all about the Flickr app.  If you use and like Flickr, this app is essential for your iPhone!

Thanks Christina for the reminder and tips!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Camera Flash!

Yep, occasionally I do use on camera flash, although mostly as a trigger for other lights. However the photo above (as well as quite a few others from this session) was lit entirely with on camera flash.

Long pause for those that know me have time to catch their breath...

Its what you do with that on camera flash that's important.  Part of my work as a photographer consists of quite a few weddings each year.  I've discovered through a LOT of trial-and-error that sometimes there just isn't enough time to take that flash off the camera, mount it on a lightstand, set up an umbrella and compose your shot (especially if working alone).

As a general rule, weddings go fast.  It might seem that in 4-8 hours of shooting that there would be plenty of time to set up lights and what not, but because of the number of photos taken during weddings, that's not always the case.  Every wedding photographer is different, but for the entire time I am at a wedding, my finger is on the shutter, regardless if its a few hours to a full 10 hour day.  That's why its very useful to use some on camera flash techniques to save yourself a little time.

The portrait above was one of my favorites from the day.  While I was busy shooting inside, my very talented assistant (and fiance') :) signaled me to let me know there was a really nice sunset outside and it could be easily reached from a very large outdoor balcony.  I quickly grabbed the bride and groom (they were just getting ready to hit the buffet and weren't exactly thrilled) and guided them out to the balcony.

When we got out there, the sun had just set and was giving off a gorgeous blue tone with just a little red at the horizon line.  So the first thing I did was to nail the ambient only exposure of the scene.  It was pretty low light outside so I had to step my ISO up to 800 to give me f/4 at 1/10 of a second shutter speed.  I normally would never shoot a portrait at such a slow shutter speed but I was banking on the fact that I could hold the camera just still enough, that the flash would be able to "freeze" my couple enough to keep a reasonably sharp image.  The photo below is my ambient exposure only, straight out of the camera.

Now that I have my exposure locked in, I can bring in my couple quickly, and light them.  When the sun is down like this, you don't have much time before you lose all of those beautiful colors, so rather than go try to find my light stand and shoot thru umbrella, I simply turned the head on my flash around 180 degrees pointing straight behind me and angled upward at around 45 degrees.

Fortunately, the wall behind me and the ceiling above on the balcony were flat white, so when I bounced my speedlight off of it, it created a huge wash of soft, white light to light my couple.  I also have to admit that I "cheated" on this and had the flash set to TTL instead of manual.  When working fast like this, I will often shoot with the flash in TTL and just adjust compensation to increase or decrease the flash's power.

A couple that was in the wedding was outside enjoying a little fresh air, and saw me shooting this.  They liked it so well that they asked me to take a portrait of them the same way.  This was a quick and easy shot, taken completely with on camera flash.  I wasn't exactly thrilled about shooting with the really slow shutter speed, but the images turned out reasonably sharp and both couples seemed to really like the images (at least on the camera's LCD). :P

So on camera flash isn't always a bad thing if its just used in the right manner.  Always keep an eye out for light colored walls where you can turn that flash head and bounce the light.  Bouncing off of ceilings can also work, but is my last choice in bouncing flash because if you aren't careful, you can leave your subjects with "raccoon eyes" -deep shadows on the eye sockets, and the light from the ceiling isn't quite as directional.  Another tip is to carry a large, white collapsible reflector with you, have someone hold it for you, and bounce the light off of it.

David Ziser of the blog Digital Pro Talk is a master at this technique!  Check it out!

Also, don't get me wrong, if you enjoy using on camera flash straight at your subjects and are happy with the results, then don't let my babbling dissuade you.  However if you want to take that on camera flash and create softer, directional light, just look for something to bounce that light off of.

Keep your eyes on the blog because very soon I will be posting an article that I think will be very helpful to a lot of speed-lighters.  I did a review of every single speedlight modifier I own, including the quality of the modifier, how much light they use and more!