Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cross Lighting

f/16 at 1/250s ISO 100

Recently I did a few portraits of Jenn using the cross lighting technique. I really enjoy this technique as it lights your subject from both sides and all it requires is one off camera flash and available sunlight (techincally, a two light setup).

To get the shot above, I set my camera to manual, then I set my shutter speed to 1/250s because that is my fastest flash sync speed, I think (I might be able to speed it up with the D300, but haven't figured that one out just yet). Then I adjusted the aperture to get the background exposed how I wanted it. I actually used a smaller aperture than I needed to properly expose the background because I wanted it a little darker, for a dramatic look. The sun was behind Jenn and to the left so I placed my flash on a lightstand to the right and in a direct line with the sun. The flash was about 5 feet away from her and used bare at full power. There's no point in trying to diffuse the flash at this time of day because you won't get enough light on your subject due to the strength of the sun. Then I simply fired away. My flash was triggered by my D300 using Nikon's CLS mode.

For some really awe inspiring, cross lighting photography, check out the work of Brent Williamson. He is a New Zealand based photographer who has excelled at this method and has some terrific work. His blog is State of the Nation.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Balancing Act

A lot of my friends have been asking questions about my lighting techniques for portraits. So I decided to post a shot and explain in detail how I took it.

A friend of mine asked me to do some portraits of her a few days ago and I was more than happy to oblige. One of my favorite things to shoot is landscapes so I really enjoy incorporating that into portraits when I can. I thought with the color of her hair and skin, she would really stand out against a nice sunset, and lo and behold we got one on the day I did her portraits.

So, for this shot the first thing I did, was figure out where I wanted to position her against the sunset. I positioned her in the general area of where I thought I wanted her then, looking through my viewfinder, I made a few more minor positions. Then, I set my camera to program mode "p" and took a meter reading of the sunset and snapped a shot. I really didn't like the first exposure of the sunset so I dialed the aperture and shutter in from that shot in manual mode, then dropped the shutter speed another stop or so, which gave me a little more contrast to the scene.

After getting my sunset exposed how I wanted it, I kept my camera in manual (because I didn't want my settings changing after I focused on her face) and then re-exposed my camera on her eyes, just to get the focus set correctly. Now, keep in mind, my sunset is looking great but my model is completely silhouetted in darkness. So, I had a friend holding my Nikon SB-600 Speedlight on a light stand with a shoot thru, white translucent umbrella. She was standing to my right and I had her hold the flash with the umbrella as close to the model as she could get without getting it in the frame. The flash itself was about one foot higher than the model's head. This creates a nice, soft wrapping light. Then I took a shot. The flash was just a little too bright, so I manually dialed it back to about 1/8 power and took the shot again. This seemed perfect, creating nice shadows on her but giving her just enough light to be exposed properly. My flash was fired wirelessly with Cactus Wireless Flash Triggers. You can get these from Gadget Infinity for about $35 bucks last time I looked.

Also, I had my white balance set to cloudy, which just gives the shot about a bit more contrast and warmer color. The final exposure was f/5.6 at 1/125s ISO 200. I took several shots of her that day, but this was my favorite. If anyone has any questions regarding how I shot this, then please leave me a comment and ask. I think I included all the important details, but I've done these shots so many times now that I may have forgotten something.

If you are interested at all in using flash with your photography, then I highly recommend reading David Hobby's website called Strobist. He and his website are the only reasons I use flash today and I have learned just about everything I know about flash from him. Also, if you would like a more in depth article about balancing flash with sunsets, read his article about it, its where I learned how to do it! You can get to that article by clicking HERE.

Hope everyone got something out of this, and if you do, leave me a comment!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Bride

f/6.3 at 1/60s ISO 200

I just recently did one of the biggest weddings I've done thus far and it was a blast! The bride and groom were very easy to work with and the bride was quite photogenic! Also, I learned one very important aspect to doing wedding photography, you have to be flexible!!!

I had quite a few planned images for the shoot and I got quite a few of them, but there were quite a few images I didn't get that I wanted to. Due to the lack of a wedding planner, this wedding was one of those shoot-from-the-hip style weddings. So, I pretty much had to get, what I could get, when I could get it. It didn't really bother me but I just found it funny that I had all these great shots in my head and couldn't get them executed quite like I wanted. So, I just went with the flow. I still got quite a few really nice shots, and a few unexpected ones that I was really pleased with. I took around 600 photos altogether which, in all honesty, seemed like a rather low amount for this event, but I was pleased with the shots I got, and hope the bride and groom will be too. I still have quite a bit of processing work left, but things are coming along nicely.

I had planned to use off camera flash for the bulk of the portraits, but due to the amount of people hanging around and the general party scene involved, I instead opted to use my Gary Fong Light Sphere Cloud diffuser with my Nikon SB-600 on camera. Surprisingly, most of the shots turned out to my liking, BONUS! That diffuser rules! If you don't have one, get one, I highly recommend it when you're stuck with using your flash on camera.

The shot above was taken with my D300 (in color) with my SB-600 flash on camera and diffused with my Light Sphere diffuser. The flash was manually dialed back to 1/16 power and I shot this one in Aperture Priority mode.

Then in Photoshop, I made an adjustment layer, opened the Channel Mixer to convert to black & white, then simply erased the adjustment on the eyes and only slightly erased it on the flowers for a softer look. This is one of my favorite shots of the day!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Digital Imaging and Print Making

David Ziser over at Digital Pro Talk posted this really cool article about Jonathon Penney. Penney is a Master Print Maker and can turn a so-so photograph into a complete work of art. Sometimes people forget about the power and effect of a good print but this guy has created an art out of it. Stop by his very interesting blog to see some of his work, and if anything, to be totally inspired! Click HERE to visit Penney's blog!

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Light Sphere

This is the Gary Fong Lightshere Cloud (Universal) Diffuser. I've been looking for a good flash diffuser when I'm using my flash on camera, and this one has fit the bill! I've heard a lot of people say this diffuser is overrated and over-priced but I just recently purchased one to use at weddings and I loved the results!

I prefer off-camera flash, but sometimes you don't have an assistant, or the ability to carry around a light stand with a flash and an umbrella attached. I've been recently doing a few weddings and this guy comes in handy. After one wedding, it paid for itself and it creates the best soft, diffused light of any diffuser I've used so far. Also, this particular model (the Universal) will fit a variety of flashes so if you have several, there's no need to buy a diffuser to fit everyone, this one will most likely fit them all nicely. I'm not saying this is the best, its simply the best one I've tried so far for on camera flash and I highly recommend it! =)

If you're interested in reading more about it, you can do so by clicking HERE

Note: Gary Fong did not pay me to say this stuff, but I sure wish he did! =)