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I did some senior pictures of my daughter this weekend for graduation announcements. Here is one of the photos and here is the lighting setup.
I put a strobe behind the bushes and added a CTO +1 to warm up the background.
Now here is basically the same setup but without the CTO +1 gel on the background light.
For this photo I wanted to use the blue sky to compliment the blue dress. I got down really low on the ground and shot up. Here is the lighting setup.
Here is another setup I did with Chelle for a different look.
One last photo. I took this to show Chelle in her prom gown, a replica of Hermione’s Yule Ball gown, in the blue as described in the book by J. K. Rowling.
Now I am letting the sun be the hair light, which most of the time is opposite the main light. The main light here are two Alienbees B1600s with translucent white umbrellas. One is over the other to create a strip lighting affect.
The trend today with senior portraits is to bring into the shoot those hobbies and passions of the senior. Chelle loves Harry Potter and we used the book and the dress as ways to personalize the photos so that it conveys what is important to her.
Now we also just picked a fun outfit that also communicates her style to others.
I prefer the outside to the studio. However I like the background to be out of focus and just creating a mood for senior photos.
Pocketwizards are used to shoot with High Speed Sync on Alienbees B1600
My lens for the photos Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8.
My Camera the Nikon D5
Pocketwizard TT5 & TT1 kit
Westcott 2001 43-Inch Optical White Satin Collapsible Umbrella
When I teach lighting I always teach the 1:3 lighting ratio. After I show how you set up the main light and the fill I show them some ways to change the background quickly using gels.
Now before I add the gel I shoot this photo where the subject in on a white background. I will shoot with just the main light, the fill light and then put both of the lights on with no background light so that the students can see individually what each light is doing.
Now I will turn the main light off and then turn on just the fill light.
Now for the main light it was measured for ƒ/5.6. I didn’t change the exposure on the camera I just shot the fill light at ƒ/4 to show it is darker than the main and where the direction of the light is coming and how it affects the model’s face.
Then I combine the two lights.
Then we talk about how she is in front of the white background but it looks like a light gray.
I put two lights on the background and then measure the light so that it is about 1stop brighter than the main light. So the background here is ƒ/8.
This is the histogram without the background light. The furthest right on the histogram you can see that the value is good amount away from the far right.
This is the one where I have the background light set at 1-stop brighter than the fill. Notice here you can see most of the histogram is the same, but the far right is on the far right. This is showing how the white value is recorded. If you are not butting up on the right then there will be a little gray or often a tinge of blue when you print out the photo in the background.
Now when I add the gels like this red or the blue above we take a light reading of the background. We want the value to be 2–stops darker than the main light. So here the background is measuring ƒ/2.8.
One more thing you will notice is you need to move the person away from the background when using white for a background.
Now I demonstrate this also using a black background and to get the color to look like this you need to be sure the background is then 2–stops brighter than the main light. So if this red background was really black with the gel on it the reading would be then ƒ/11 which is 2–stops brighter than the ƒ/5.6 of the main light.
“When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!”, sings Curly in the musical Oklahoma!
This photo above is the only time on the stage during the entire production of the musical at Roswell High School where the surrey is on stage. This is the one scene that captures the build up of the whole show to where we see what Curly was singing from the beginning of the show promising Laurey how he would treat her on a date.
This is Ado Annie Cames singing, but because I am isolating her alone only the corn in the background helps to place this with the musical Oklahoma!.
This is what I call a point shot verses the top photo which has much more information and is getting closer to helping to tell more of the story. You still need words with either photo to make it storytelling, but hopefully you are seeing the difference between the scene establishing shot and the closeup.
Now the reason this photo of Curly and Laurey often works as well as the shot of the surrey is that this particular pose is used often in posters to promote the show. Just Google “Oklahoma! Musical” and look at all the photos and you will see this style shot pop up.
Here is how I shot a promo shot verses the photo above it is from the show. Now while this doesn’t tell the story say as well as having the surrey in the photo, Curly is gesturing about how the future he promises to Laurey is better than where she is now.
Google “Oklahoma Barn Scene” and you can see variations of other productions that show similar scene. Again this is more of a point photo, but because I included more of the set most theatre folks will know this is the Musical Oklahoma!.
People Need The Lord Photo
“I don’t need a lot of ‘People Need The Lord’ photos,” commented Jeff Raymond to a photographer shooting photos with him in the Dominican Republic. “What do you mean?,” commented the photographer.
Jeff went on to explain the photo style like the Afghan girl on the front of National Geographic by Steve McCurry. This photo has had such an impact that many people think this is the “BEST” way to shoot.
Give me more context is what Jeff coached the photographer to do in addition to a few portraits.
You see the photo of the boy here could have been shot anywhere in the world.
This is a frame from short movie clip. Notice how the kids in the foreground are close enough to give you a portrait, but including the background gives you more context. Here is the movie and you can see what conditions I was shooting.
Please understand this blog post is not saying Storytelling Photo is better than a Point Photo. What I am saying is you need both.
The problem I see with many new photographers is falling in love with the closeup shot at ƒ/1.4 and centered. Then they have only slight variations of this photo in their portfolio.
If you are going to be hired over and over you must be the photographer who gives the client more than they expected. This is why learning how to use a variety of lenses, different apertures and shutter speeds on an assignment will have clients raving about you.
Sure you can do OK shooting the “People Need The Lord” photo, but you are a one trick pony show.
In 1930 Willard Van Dyke as well as Ansel Adams & Edward Weston formed the Group ƒ/64.
Group f/64 was a group founded by seven 20th-century San Francisco photographers who shared a common photographic style characterized by sharp-focused and carefully framed images seen through a particularly Western (U.S.) viewpoint. In part, they formed in opposition to the pictorialist photographic style that had dominated much of the early 20th century, but moreover they wanted to promote a new modernist aesthetic that was based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects.
The term f/64 refers to a small aperture setting on a large format camera, which secures great depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. Such a small aperture sometimes implies a long exposure and therefore a selection of relatively slow moving or motionless subject matter, such as landscapes and still life, but in the typically bright California light this is less a factor in the subject matter chosen than the sheer size and clumsiness of the cameras, compared to the smaller cameras [35mm] increasingly used in action and reportage photography in the 1930s.
One of the magazines I have done work for through the years is Country Magazine. There requirements are to shoot at the highest depth-of-field for their photos. To do this on today’s DSLR cameras you are typically shooting at ƒ/22. This would be equivalent to the ƒ/64 on a 8′”x10″ that many in Group ƒ/64 used.
The strength of shooting with sharpness all through the photograph is it puts the audience into the scene. This is where you are using composition and lighting to draw the audience into the photograph.
While your eye may go first to where the photographer directs you using light values and composition your eye will wonder afterwards around the scene just as if you were standing there yourself.
This style was in opposition to the pictorialist of the time.
Pictorialism is the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term, but in general it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of “creating” an image rather than simply recording it. Typically, a pictorial photograph appears to lack a sharp focus (some more so than others), is printed in one or more colors other than black-and-white (ranging from warm brown to deep blue) and may have visible brush strokes or other manipulation of the surface. For the pictorialist, a photograph, like a painting, drawing or engraving, was a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.
Group ƒ/1.4 you may not have heard of, but I bet you have heard of BOKEH Photography.
In photography, BOKEH is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”. Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting—”good” and “bad” bokeh, respectively. Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions.
I would say that those who shoot primarily wide open aperture are more stylistically like the pictorialist of the last century and less like Group ƒ/64 which was about preserving everything in the scene.
I love that my camera lets me shoot from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/57. The ƒ/57 is when I shoot with my Nikon 60mm Micro lens. Here is a shot I did that was widely published.
“ƒ/8 and be there,” was Alfred Eisenstaedt’s response to the question on how to be a successful photographer.
However the earliest record of the quote “ƒ/8 and be there” is attributed to Weegee who was a famous street photographer during the 1930’s, 40’s and beyond. It represents a philosophy to keep technical decisions simple and be where your vision takes you. The quote has been the mantra of photojournalists, travel photographers and even nature photographers.
This says you just need to anticipate and be technically ready to capture “the decisive moment.”
I say to be careful not to treat your interviews as just got microphone and recorder levels set and just hit record and I am done.
Don’t Make Your Camera a Box Camera
Kodak made a box camera where you pushed the button and Kodak did the rest. You had no control over the Aperture, Shutter or even ISO.
Once you subscribe to shooting all your photos like the Group ƒ/64 or those doing BOKEH photography you have in essence taken that very expensive camera and turned it into a box camera.
Exercise for you to do
Take your camera and just one lens. Find a scene and then shoot the scene at every aperture you can on your camera. Now as you get to a wide open aperture you know that your depth-of-field becomes very shallow, so remember to change your focus so that the focal point is on something in the scene that creates interest. We call this technique selective focus.
Now just spend time doing this for several different situations. It might be able to do it with scenics rather than people at first, but then move on to people. What is really fun to do is to shoot where there are many people. A good example would be in a coffee shop.
Your challenge is not to make one good photo in each situation, but rather a great photo at each ƒ-stop.
When you master this technique you will discover you will be able to say something totally different about each situation. This will be the difference of you writing a very short sentence to creating a novel with just one frame.
Will you take up the challenge?
I believe the great photographers are the ones that know when to use what aperture to capture what they want to say about the subject.
Selective Focus is what makes people pop out of photos or the backgrounds recede in a blur. And you make the choice of what pops, what blurs, and what fuzzes over.
Where do you want the viewer to focus their attention – the hedge in the foreground, the man in the middle, or the trees in the distant background? Many professional photographers use the selective focus technique to control the viewer’s attention.
The apertures, called f-stops, are actually fractions. The f-stop ƒ/4, for example, is really ¼ (one fourth). What one fourth of, is a little beyond the scope of this article. Let’s just say that an f-stop is a fraction, ok? (ƒ/4 = 1/4th f8 = 1/8th). Typically these numbers are on the lens, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22 and so on.
Remember these are actually fractions: 1/2.8, 1/4, 1/5.6, 1/8, 1/11, 1/16 and 1/22. It provides a comparison of how much light each number lets through the lens. Therefore 1/5.6 allows more light through the lens than 1/22.
Here’s the creative part: the smaller the opening (f-stop) in the lens, the less light is allowed in. Therefore, a greater area is in focus from the foreground to the background. If you want to throw most of the background out of focus, use ƒ/5.6 rather than ƒ/22.
Today’s digital cameras allow the photographer to vary the aperture, preview the results, then make a decision about it’s effectiveness.
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/320
If you want the subject to “pop”, use the larger lens openings, i.e. ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6. Like a simple sentence, having one distinguishable subject is better.
A smaller aperture (ƒ/16 or ƒ/22) brings the foreground and background into sharper focus or a greater depth of field. It also allows for other compositional techniques to direct the viewer to the main subject of the photo.
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/4000
Setting your cameras ISO, shutter speed, and aperture provides more than a properly exposed photograph. These are tools you can use to compose and say what you want to say in your photographs.
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/320
Experiment using different ƒ-stops. Try setting the camera to the aperture preferred setting. Explore the creative tools available on the camera. If the camera is always set on automatic, it becomes into a very expensive box camera.
Since the flashes can be powered way down I was able to shoot at ƒ/1.8.
The Magsphere spreads the light around the sides which then catches on the Lasolite Triflector silver panels and lights under the chin and on both cheeks. The flash is the main light above the subject creating that wonderful butterfly light. The main light was powered at 1/64th power and the background was at 1/4 power.
The Magbounce is on the background light spreading the light evenly across the Westcott White Collapsible background.
The cool thing is the Neewer TT850 is rated to fire 600 times on full power with a full charge. I am no where near this power consumption, so I could do a lot of headshots before changing the battery.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 3600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
During my time teaching the students of the School of Photography at the University of the Nations campus in Kona, Hawaii I had them tell me WHY they made a photograph.
Asking this question made them quickly realize that the reason they were making a portrait for example was to capture a person’s personality and communicate it best that they could.
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200
Portrait photography is a great example to me, when done right, of how we as Christians should be living our lives.
Imitating Christ’s Humility
2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
In portrait photography you do everything you can to get to know the person. After getting to know the person you work out a way using posing, lighting, composition and through dialogue with the person pull out of them that brief moment that captures them in such a way that their closest friends feel like you captured the best of their friend.
You, the photographer, must diminish for the subject to be celebrated. When well done people see the person and not all the photography stuff that it took to make the photo.
C.S. Lewis writes, in Mere Christianity, that pride is the “anti-God” state, the position in which the ego and the self are directly opposed to God: “Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” In contrast, Lewis states that, in Christian moral teaching, the opposite of pride is humility and, in his famous phrase, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200
When you do a great job as a portrait photographer people seek you out not because of your photographic skill. They seek you out because of how good your subjects looked.
“True humility” is distinctly different from “false humility” which consists of deprecating one’s own sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments for the sake of receiving praise from others. In this context legitimate humility comprises the following behaviors and attitudes:
Submitting to God and legitimate authority
Recognizing virtues and talents that others possess, particularly those that surpass one’s own, and giving due honor and, when required, obedience
Recognizing the limits of one’s talents, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for what is beyond one’s grasp
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/1000
Moments like this of this little child in Togo remind me that there is something greater than me that allows for these moments to happen. I did not speak her language and did not get to know her as I normally would do for a portrait, however I believe God was working with us to allow for this to happen.
I have to acknowledge that most all my portraits happen for reason I cannot always explain. While I did everything technically to get the photo, it is the expression and moment itself that is always beyond my control. I believe that this is where God takes control.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. – 1 Peter 5:6
Humility isn’t about being a doormat; it’s about being a doorway–a doorway through which others enter into the presence and power of God. By focusing on building others up and helping others connect with God, we show them the love of God, who desires the best for them.
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/200, 4–Alienbees B1600, Pocketwizards to trigger flashes
I am teaching lighting class in Kona, Hawaii with the Youth With A Mission School of Photography class.
This is one of the lighting exercises I do each year. This is teaching the 3:1 Lighting Ratio. I started by showing the class the final photo and then walked them back through how to get this lighting. This is all done with a White Background. See below for the same example but a Black Background.
Here is the setup that I used from above. Now here you can see one of the students later with the setup we were using.
While we have all the lights in generally the places they will be at the end, I turn them all off except the main light. The main light is 45º to the left of the subject and right of the camera as well as closest to the subject. Then I took a light reading and also set the white balance. The aperture was set to ƒ/5.6. Then I took this photo.
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/200
Then we turned this light off and turned the fill light on. This is the one closest to the camera. Ideally it would be right behind the camera, but I put it a little off to the side so while operating the camera I am not blocking the light.
I set the light to be one stop less than the main light. The light is set to give me ƒ/4, but I kept the camera set to ƒ/5.6 which meant the photo will be under exposed by one stop.
Here is this photo with the same settings as the main light.
Next we turned both of those lights on and double checked the exposure with a light meter which still was ƒ/5.6. It might have been a 1/10th of a stop brighter, but we kept the camera set to ƒ/5.6.
Here is the combined light photo.
Lastly I turned two more lights on that are just hitting the background and trying to get an even light across it. I made this light just one stop brighter than the main light of ƒ/5.6, so this light was set to ƒ/8. Here is this photo.
Hope you enjoyed this step-by-step tutorial on how to shoot a 3:1 Lighting Ratio portrait.
This is basically the same exercise using a black background. Now just one thing you need to understand is that the 3:1 lighting ratio allows this photo to be used in so many places. The one thing is where it looks the best in a Newspaper as compared to other lighting which can make those shadows lose all detail and go pitch black. This allows for you to see some modeling of the light to highlight the cheek bones and contours of the face without over doing it and creating a photo with too much contrast.
Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/200
Here is the setup
Assignment Description: 3:1 lighting ratio. This photo is classic lighting.
Octobox closest to subject This light is your main light. Get a light reading with just this first. The light should be 45 degrees off the axis of the camera and 45 degrees above the subjects eyes.
Subject Your subject should have the main light lighting only part of the face and the shadows should be just a little to show the 3:1 ratio.
(D)SLR Choose the lowest ISO. Ideally on full-frame camera a lens close to 85mm and on cropped sensor a 50mm. Set your shutter speed to the sync speed for your camera [in your camera manual] or slower. My camera was 1/250 but I shot at a slower speed of 1/200.
Octobox behind the camera This is your fill light and get just a reading of this 2nd. Be sure it is 1/2 the power (1 f/stop less) than the main light. After this is done get a 3rd light reading of both lights which will be the setting for the camera. It can be level with the eyes, but you may have to move up with glasses to avoid glare.
First set the main light and here is what that will look like:
Due to using such a large soft box the shadows are not as severe as in our first assignment using the grid light. Some of the light is bouncing off a white wall a few feet to the left of the model or right of the camera position.
Turning the main light off after finding out your setting you need to take a reading and get the fill light to 1 stop less than the main light. The main light was ƒ/4 so the fill light should read ƒ/2.8.
This is what it looks like without the main light on. You can see a little darker but no real shaping of the face as the main light which is 45º to the side.
When you combine them you get the first photo of the model we started with.
The main light is twice as bright as the fill light. So to show this using math we would say the main light has value of 2 and the fill light has the value of 1.
Where both the main and fill light fall on the face is getting the combined value of the 2 + 1 = 3. However in the shadows only the fill light is hitting those and therefore the value is only 1.
So the bright areas get 3 and the shadows 1 giving you a 3:1 lighting ratio.
Now I showed the students how they can add a background light. I put a blue gel over it to show them they can also color the background.
Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 560, ƒ/4.5, 1/4000
Today I had a lot of fun shooting the Hawaii High School Rodeo at Parker Ranch Arena in Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The reason it was fun is I brought the camera and lens that let me get the action shots I wanted. I didn’t bring my long glass, but rather what I call my go to lens for capturing just about anything. That lens is the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. In this first photo I shot it at the focal length of 58mm. I wanted to capture the girl doing barrel racing, but also capture the Parker Ranch sign.
Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/4.8, 1/4000
I was introduced to Cowboy art by Don Rutledge. We went to the Cowboy museum in Oklahoma City where I saw for the first time the work of Remington and Russell. They not only painted, but did sculptures.
Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
What Don taught me with the help of Remington and Russell’s work was that the expression makes the photo. The expression of the animals and the people in the frame of the picture.
Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
What I love about Rodeos is that the cowgirls and cowboys must work as a team with an animal. The more they know about their animal and how it likes to get clues from the people on what to do the better the show.
Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
I setup the Nikon D5 the same way I do for all sports shoots. Here is the blog post that goes into a lot of detail for all the settings.
Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
Now to me the crazy sport is bull riding. These bulls weigh as much as a car and can crush you just as quickly as a car. That is why the sport is just about 8 seconds long. If you can just ride for 8 seconds you are in the competition.
Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
Most of the time I see the bull riders being kicked off the bull in less than 8 seconds.
Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 2200, ƒ/8, 1/4000
The cowgirls have an event where they are to lasso the cow. Two of the cowgirls did so in less than 4 seconds. WOW! I was really impressed at these high school girls being so good.
Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000
The cowboys have a similar event where they lasso the cow and then with a teammate they wrestle the cow to the ground and tie their feet. This is a skill they use in the fields to capture the cows to give the shots, brand them and other things to take care of their herd.
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/1600
It was just fun to see the high school kids having so much fun and learning a skill in the process of playing games.
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/8000
Asking the cowgirls if I can take a picture of them with their horse was always greeted with a big smile. They were proud of their horses and the bond they had built with them.
Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/1250
I cannot recommend enough finding a rodeo near you and spending the time to capture the action with your camera.