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 really shallow depth-of-field of ƒ/1.4, but you and the subject must be really 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 then dial it 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 with 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 not just the action on the grid iron but the fans enjoying themselves.
While in the past fans were able to 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 has 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. Remarkable catches were made by both teams.
I couldn’t have covered the game by myself and all the activities. Greg Thompson, Michael Schwarz and Robin Rayne Nelson all helped to cover the days 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
Starting early in the morning and shooting until past the game ends as the players say thanks to their fans and then hit the road to go home.
Some of you may wonder why I put camera data in my captions here on the blog. Well the main reason for this blog is teaching. I have students all the time who are learning the skills of how to do what I am doing. When you are starting out 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. By the way 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 with a Nikon FM-2 with either a Nikkor 80-200mm ƒ/4 or the Nikon 500mm ƒ/8 mirror lens.
This photo of Georgia Tech playing Florida state I shot 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 is one of those images from 1983 when ECU played the University of Richmond. Now just compare those images to these 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, better dynamic range and less noise [grain].
Back with film I was never shooting above 1/500. This actually made my images less sharp. Shooting at 1/2000 or 1/4000 will make your images much sharper.
Here I got a series of image and these are just two of that series of the blocked punt that I have 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 difficult. The Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S is so quick that I almost never have an out of focus photo during the game.
One of the greatest inventions was to separate the focus tracking from the shutter release. I push the back button to focus and use the shutter to fire the camera. Here is how that is setup.
In the menu Pencil selections pick AF Activation under the Autofocus settings.
Then choose the AF-ON only. This will mean when you push the shutter release it will not focus, but just fire the shutter to take a photo.
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 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 difficult for me. I may crop later for a better composition, but I want the subject in 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 the moments I started pressing 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 biggest difference that the Nikon D5 and Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S make with my images is in 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 in focus, 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 then I recommend the Nikon D5. If this is more of a hobby or $6,500 is a little much, then get the Nikon D500.
I was contracted to cover a golf tournament at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the guys actually said to me that we needed to turn everyone around and have them face the sun to get the photo.
The executive director who was taking me by golf cart around the course stepped in to explain that I was the professional they hired.
You see the guy was thinking about what he has to do with his iPhone. You cannot get the photo I took above with your iPhone.
One of the main reasons people were hats is to create shadows on their faces. This is how they create the shade for their eyes. Well good for them and bad for photos.
Now using Adobe Lightroom I was able to 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 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 huge improvement over no flash at all, had I been shooting this for a company to use in their advertising I would get that flash off the camera.
The two photos below demonstrate how getting the flash off the camera gives even 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 exposures to compare.
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 athletes constant motion.
In this series of the tight end trying to catch the pass I was able to get a great series of images all sharp due to the 1/4000 shutter speed.
Every photo I took was razor sharp. There were some where the auto focus 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 sacrifice aperture is it was already wide open. This sacrifice did introduce a little more noise, but I felt like for the way the photos are used it was an acceptable amount of noise.
The photos that I liked technically the least were when the football player’s face was pointed toward the ground. This basically meant there face was like the shadow side of the moon. There is little or no detail in those faces. Now if it were a full moon where the light was hitting the face 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 was in the red zone I would take the 2x converter off and shoot the action at ƒ/2.8. The red zone is the area of the field between the 20-yard line and the goal line.
Now the only time I would take it off is if the play started in the red zone. If they had a break away play I didn’t have time to take it off.
I think this photo of the Georgia Tech player going for a catch that is shot at ISO 25,600 is great example of what my Nikon D5 is capable of producing. The advantage here is of course that the player is looking up towards the lights.
This photo here 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 the pick the ISO sensitivity settings.
I turn on the Auto ISO. Then as you see in the photo of the screen above I set the LOW ISO to 100 and the HIGH ISO to 102400. I then set 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 play it was a touchdown for Tennessee.
Just compare the photos above. They go from an ISO 5600 to ISO 40000. The way you see them here is pretty much the way most people will see photos from the game–on their computers or smartphones.
Here is one photo of the fans in the stands 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.
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
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, 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/or storytelling I often find myself reflecting over 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 you see how all the trees are bent 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 really mean all the trees are bent from a constant wind. The wind is so constant and good that they put windmills here 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 great it will affect the landscape. Well when I teach I am trying really hard to not make so much of an impression it looks like my students are too over powered.
Some of the things we discussed today was interviewing techniques. Now when I taught with my friends Jeff Raymond and James Dockery we compiled a list of tips that 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. Remind the subject to phrase their answer so that the question is understood in their answer, sometimes by repeating the question.
Write down at least 5 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 CAN’T be answered 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 exactly what happened moment by moment
Ask 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 their 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 quietly 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 to not just 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.
Get to know your subject before interviewing them. This will not just help them be more relaxed but help you know how to interview them and perhaps help them relax.
You can do the interview at the end of the coverage and not the beginning. I find it is easier to have someone sum up what we saw today than have them talk about a lot of stuff that by the end of the day I never caught on camera. 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 them 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 as to let one person tell me why something happened and the other to explain what they did to make it happen.
Help them revise their comments. Often i need about 30 to 45 seconds of comments and a person may talk for more than 5 minutes. If I were to edit it later their will 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 often record a longer comment and then follow up with them making it really short. Sometimes I use the longer comment. Get another direction just in case. After doing this for a few minutes often this gets their minds engaged and they find a new way to articulate themselves. Allow for this to happen.
Now just remember that you don’t need them to tell you everything in words. You will help communicate a good part of what they do also with visuals that you will capture and use as b-roll. You need get them to tell you the things that the visuals don’t convey. While you have a visual that shows something happening, it often doesn’t help the audience know why.
If you do a good job interviewing then the story will be unique the branches of the story can be like Angel Oak Park on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina. Angel Oak is estimated to be 500 years old. The character of the subject will shine through and be who they really are rather than all the wind forcing it’s power on the tree.