This past weekend I spent both Saturday and Sunday doing headshots for Columbus State University Theatre students.
Here you can see the basic setup for the photos.
I had two lights on the white background and would turn them off for the grey background look.
I kept them on for the white background. I also had a hair light up straight behind the subject.
My main light was a beauty dish, and I kept the aperture at ƒ/5.6 with the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8 lens. Not too shallow of a depth-of-field and not too deep either.
I prefer ƒ/4 to ƒ/5.6 when shooting individual headshots. Occasionally I will use a shallow depth-of-field of ƒ/1.4, but you and the subject must be still to make that work.
The fun thing with Theatre students is they enjoy trying all kinds of expressions.
So we had some fun looking surprised.
We tried a lot of expressions.
The one thing that happened after trying some goofy photos, surprise photos, and even being sad was that the expressions that followed were more genuine and authentic. Actors are up for the fun and challenge, but even they need to loosen up, and the best way to do that is to push the limits and dial them back.
Fans love to show their support for their teams using face paint.
Another Chick-fil-A Kickoff is in the books, and Auburn broke their losing streak at Mercedes Benz Stadium with a win over the Washington Huskies by 21-16 victory.
The day begins long before the 3:30 pm kickoff, where fans get to dream a little about their end zone catch that they would make for their team during the FanZone experience.
I am there to capture the action on the gridiron and the fans enjoying themselves.
While in the past, fans could get their photos made with the Chick-fil-A cows, this year, two of the most liked menu items, Waffle Fries & Milk Shakes, were being given away in the VIP Experience before the game.
Every fan that had a ticket to the game also got more free food with a “Be Our Guest” digital card they could redeem later at their favorite Chick-fil-A Restaurant.
The Chick-fil-A Kickoff game is one of the few college football games that have an invocation before the game.
Just before Kickoff, Chick-fil-A Cows parachute in the stadium for the fans.
The action didn’t disappoint either team during the game. Both teams made remarkable catches.
I couldn’t have covered the game by myself and all the activities. Greg Thompson, Michael Schwarz, and Robin Rayne Nelson helped cover the events.
If you were to see all 3,000+ images I shot for the day; you would notice a few things I am doing.
Always looking to capture faces and expressions Watching my background Watching how the light is hitting the subject Looking for Chick-fil-A branding – They are the client Something happening – Working for action and peak moments
They start early in the morning and shoot until the game ends as the players say thanks to their fans and then hit the road to go home.
Some may wonder why I put camera data in my captions here on the blog. Well, the main reason for this blog is teaching. I always have students who are learning how to do what I am doing. When you start seeing some of this camera data helps you understand what camera setting. Let me get a sharp, well-exposed, and proper white balance for my photos. Correct white balance is done by doing a custom white balance.
Between the photographer and the subject, the camera and lens combination will give the photographer the ability to capture what they desire or fail.
When I started shooting football in 1983 at East Carolina University as part of the student newspaper and yearbook staff, I could not have gotten most of these photos due to the camera gear. I was shooting a Nikon FM-2 with either a Nikkor 80-200mm ƒ/4 or the Nikon 500mm ƒ/8 mirror lens.
I shot this photo of Georgia Tech playing Florida state with that Nikkor 500mm ƒ/8 mirror lens. If you look in the highlights, you can see those signature round halos. This was probably the best shot ever with that lens. But this was bright sunlight. I was shooting inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
This was one of those images from 1983 when ECU played the University of Richmond. Compare those images to those from the Mercedes-Benz Dome of Alabama vs. Florida State and Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee.
First of all, these images are far superior in so many ways. They are sharper, have better dynamic range, and have less noise [grain].
Back with film, I was never shooting above 1/500. This made my images less sharp. Shooting at 1/2000 or 1/4000 will make your images much sharper.
Here I got a series of images, and these are just two of that series of blocked punts I pulled for you here.
While I always say it is the photographer that makes the photo and not the camera, there are times that the camera will limit your abilities. For one, just getting the fast action in focus is quite tricky. The Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S is so quick that I rarely have an out-of-focus photo during the game.
One of the greatest inventions was to separate the focus track from the shutter release. I push the back button to focus and use the shutter to fire the camera. Here is how that is set up.
In the menu Pencil selections pick AF Activation under the Autofocus settings.
In the menu Pencil selections, pick AF Activation under the Autofocus settings.
By changing these settings, you will notice the camera will stay in focus and shoot faster frame rate. Great for following a baseball player sliding into a plate and another player trying to tag them, or maybe a football player is running towards you to score. You will find more photos tack sharp in a series.
I generally put my focus point dead center and lock it, so I don’t bump it. I am trying to get photos of moving subjects, and off-center is too tricky. I may crop later for a better composition, but I want the subject to focus first.
This action is happening quite a distance from me. I started tracking the quarterback and followed him in the play. Then when I thought I had three moments, I pressed the shutter release.
Here is the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 lens:
Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport
I also use teleconverters for the lens. I have the 1.4X and 2X converters.
The most significant difference that the Nikon D5 and Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S make with my images is the quality. Usually, the Nikon FM-2 with the Nikkor 80-200mm or the 500mm I was able to fire and get the first shot. I wasn’t able to get now 12 fps action after that. But the photos are now more focused, have better dynamic range, more accurate color, and lower noise at even ISO 102,400 than I was getting with ISO 1600 on film.
If you shoot sports for a living, I recommend the Nikon D5. If this is a hobby or $6,500 is a little much, get the Nikon D500.
I was contracted to cover a golf tournament at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the guys told me we needed to turn everyone around and have them face the sun to get the photo.
The executive director, taking me by golf cart around the course, stepped in to explain that I was the professional they hired.
The guy was thinking about what he had to do with his iPhone. You cannot get the photo I took above with your iPhone.
One of the main reasons people wear hats is to create shadows on their faces. This is how they make the shade for their eyes. Well, good for them and bad for photos.
Now using Adobe Lightroom, I could open up the shadows a little more on the photo, with the guy with a baseball cap, than you can typically do with your iPhone.
By having the group face opposite the sun, they are all backlit. I then used my flash on the camera to fill in the shadows. This is one of the rare moments I will use a flash on camera.
I didn’t have an assistant, and I had to move quickly.
Using the Godox V860IIN flash on i-TTL I could shoot at any ƒ-stop because the flash works with High Speed Sync. So the picture above I was shooting at 1/640 shutter speed.
While the golfers were warming up on the practice putting green, I used the same flash setup to fill in under those hats. With the golfer looking to the ground towards the ball, their faces are more often in the shadow.
While this is a vast improvement over no flash, had I been shooting this for a company to use in their advertising, I would have gotten that flash off the camera.
The two photos below demonstrate how getting the flash off the camera gives a better-looking light.
Just know that if you need professional quality photos of golfers, you will have them squinting with your iPhone, or you can use flash and have them face away from the sun.
What did I learn from my first game in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium?
If I had taken the time before the game and pulled up the last game in the Georgia Dome in Adobe Lightroom, I would have had the exposure to compare.
In my last game in the Georgia Dome, I shot the Nikon D5 at 1/4000 shutter speed. I thought the lighting was darker in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and shot at 1/2000 in the first game.
So this second game, I shot all the action at 1/4000. This would give me sharper images due to the athlete’s constant motion.
In this series of the tight end trying to catch the pass, I got a great series of sharp images due to the 1/4000 shutter speed.
Every photo I took was razor sharp. There were somewhere the autofocus was not where I wanted it due to a player coming between me and the play, but those were sharp, just not the right spot.
When you increase the shutter speed, you sacrifice the ISO. The reason I didn’t offer aperture is it was already wide open. This sacrifice did introduce a little more noise, but I felt like it was an acceptable amount of noise for the way the photos are used.
The photos I liked technically the least were when the football player’s face was pointed toward the ground. This meant their face was like the shadow side of the moon. There is little or no detail on those faces. Now, if it were a full moon where the light was hitting the beginning, then it was just perfect.
Occasionally there was enough light bouncing off the field or another player to help brighten up those faces.
If the team were in the red zone, I would take the 2x converter off and shoot the action at ƒ/2.8. The red site is the area of the field between the 20-yard line and the goal line.
Now, I would only take it off if the play started in the red zone. If they had a break-away space, I didn’t have time to take it off.
This photo of the Georgia Tech player going for a catch shot at ISO 25,600 is an excellent example of what my Nikon D5 can produce. The advantage here is that the player looks up towards the lights.
This photo is shot at ISO 32000 of the Tennessee players celebrating after a touchdown.
This was the highest ISO I shot of the action during the game. ISO 40,000 was more than usable for me.
Why different ISO settings? Well I am shooting in AUTO ISO.
I go to the Nikon D5 Shooting Menu and pick the ISO sensitivity settings.
I turn on the Auto ISO. Then as you see in the screen photo above, I set the LOW ISO to 100 and the HIGH ISO to 102400. I then put the minimum shutter speed to 1/4000. At no time during the game did I shoot above ISO 40000 for action shots on the field.
While on this play, there was interference on another space; it was a touchdown for Tennessee.
Just compare the photos above. They go from ISO 5600 to ISO 40000. How you see them here is how most people will see pictures from the game–on their computers or smartphones.
One photo of the fans in the stands was shot at ISO 51200.
I loved the Nikon D5 for the performance it gave me to capture these images from the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game.
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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.
Here is the same setup but without the CTO +1 gel on the background light.
I wanted to use the blue sky to compliment the blue dress for this photo. 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 leading light. The main light here are two Alienbees B1600s with translucent white umbrellas. One is over the other to create a strip lighting effect.
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 just picked a fun outfit that communicates her style to others.
I prefer the outside to the studio. However, I like the background to be out of focus and create 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
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, catching on the Lasolite Triflector silver panels and lights under the chin and both cheeks. The flash is the leading light above the subject, creating that wonderful butterfly light. The top 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 nowhere 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
While 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 they were making a portrait, for example, to capture a person’s personality and communicate it best they could.
Portrait photography is an excellent 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 possible 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, not all the photography stuff 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.”
People seek you out not because of your photographic skill when you do a great job as a portrait photographer. They seek you out because of how good your subjects look.
“True humility” is distinctly different from “false humility,” which consists of deprecating one’s sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments to receive 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 skills, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for what is beyond one’s grasp
Moments like this of this little child in Togo remind me that something greater than me allows these moments to happen. I did not speak her language and did not get to know her as I usually would do for a portrait. However, I believe God worked with us to allow this to happen.
I must acknowledge that most of my portraits happen for reasons I cannot always explain. While I did everything technically to get the photo, the expression and moment itself are always beyond my control. I believe that this is where God takes control.
Humility isn’t about being a doormat; it’s about being a doorway–a doorway through which others enter God’s presence and power. 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, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, ƒ/8, 1/100
When I teach students photography, multimedia, and storytelling, I often reflect on the content.
Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250
When I was down at South Point on The Big Island of Hawaii, I saw how all the trees were leaning in one direction.
Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/200
When I say all the trees, I mean all the trees are leaning from a constant wind. The wind is so consistent and promising that they use windmills for wind power.
Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/800
While this strong wind is excellent, it will affect the landscape. Well, when I teach, I am trying hard not to make so much of an impression it looks like my students are too overpowered.
Some of the things we discussed today was interviewing techniques. Now when I teach with my friends Jeff Raymond and James Dockery, we compile a list of tips we give to the students. Here is that list, plus some that I have added this week:
Remember, the audience doesn’t know the question from the interviewer if they are not recorded or on camera. Therefore, remind the subject to restate the question in their answer.
Write down at least five good questions beforehand.
Listen to their responses and be ready to deviate from your list
Listen as if you only hear their words, not the question you asked
Ask open-ended questions
Ask questions that the subject CAN’T answer with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
Ask “how” and “why” questions.
If the person speaks in the abstract, ask, “Can you give me an example of that?”
Dig for anecdotes and details
Ask the person to tell you precisely what happened moment by moment
Ask for specific details along the way.
Understand them and their story
Try to see the world through their eyes.
Remember, it’s not your story. Get the subject’s story right.
Ask your questions, then be quiet. Use silence, and don’t be afraid of it. No noises to affirm them. Affirm with gestures. Your noises will distract from the sound quality.
Don’t finish their sentences.
Be a good listener. Sit still as they wrestle with what they are trying to say.
Coach the person to speak with the passion they feel about the subject.
Can you say that again, but with more feeling?
Remember, they may be pretty up tight in front of the camera and need not just to relax but bring the emotion through their voice.
Get the basic details right
Get the spelling of their name (business card, or have them write it down).
If something they said didn’t make sense, ask for clarification.
Review your footage while you’re still overseas, where follow-up is much easier than after you go home.
Please get to know your subject before interviewing them. Learning more about the subject will not just help the subject be more relaxed but help you understand how to interview the subject and perhaps help the subject relax.
You can interview at the end of the coverage and not at the beginning. I find it is easier to have someone sum up what we saw today than have the subject talk about a lot of stuff that I never caught on camera by the end of that, again. But, again, this helps you from lacking in b-roll or images.
Ask the subject to summarize what you have seen that day. While you may not use all of this, it will help you with a starting place for the narrative.
Mirror them. Keep the subject going by nodding and smiling.
Keep them on topic. If you have two or more interviews in your package planned, then each person needs to know what they are covering. Sometimes I break it down to let one person tell me why something happened, and the other explains what they did to make it happen.
Help them revise their comments. Often I need about 30 to 45 seconds of words, and a person may talk for more than 5 minutes. If I were to edit it later, there would not be a good flow. I try and help them summarize what they just said or even edit. When I say edit–I mean cutting content.
Get variety. I like to record longer comments often and then follow up with them, making them short. Sometimes I use the longer word. Get another direction, just in case. Doing this for a few minutes often engages their minds, and they find a new way to articulate themselves. Allow for this to happen.
Remember that you don’t need them to tell you everything in words. You will also help communicate a good part of what they do with visuals you will capture and use as a b-roll. It would help if you told you the things the visuals don’t convey. While you have a visual that shows something happening, it often doesn’t help the audience know why.
The story will be unique if you do a good job interviewing. The branches of the report can be like Angel Oak Park on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina. Angel Oak is estimated to be 500 years old. The subject’s character will shine through and be who they are rather than all the wind forcing its power on the tree.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, Neewer TT850, Neewer Wireless 16 Channel Remote, ISO 51200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
This week I was shooting for the first time at high ISO numbers that I would have never used before for an event.
The event was in a restaurant/bar where the lighting was quite dark. The lights were spotlights from above, meaning natural light often inadequately lighted the subjects’ faces. Once I used a flash to correct the background went highly dark.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, Neewer TT850, Neewer Wireless 16 Channel Remote, ISO 66535, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
There were windows, but that meant an even more significant problem that only a flash could solve. So my assistant is holding a moment off to the side, and I am triggering it wirelessly.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, Neewer TT850, Neewer Wireless 16 Channel Remote, ISO 28800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
Here are the camera settings for the Nikon D5
Aperture priority [ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6]
100 – 102400
When I was using the Neewer TT850 flash, it was too bright even at 1/128th power. To fix this, I was using the MagMod light modifier system. I put two Neutral Density Gels over the flash to wink a light while shooting at those highly high ISOs.
While it took me a couple of minutes to figure out this system, having done something similar in the past with lower ISO settings was helpful.
As you turn the ISO up, your flash needs very little power to do the job. Just remember this if you try something similar.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, Neewer TT850, Neewer Wireless 16 Channel Remote, ISO 66535, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
The Nikon D5 is more than just a sports camera. It is a camera for every situation.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, Neewer TT850, Neewer Wireless 16 Channel Remote, ISO 66535, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
I am thrilled with the quality of the high ISO of the Nikon D5. I now can do things not possible before with my Nikon D4.