Shoot Indoors Sans Flash
Friday, October 22, 2010
It used to be that shooting indoors required you to expend extra effort on lighting in order to get usable shots. The main issue, particularly when working with film, was the color balance. Mixed lighting from windows and fixtures, as well as the general awful look of any continuous light fixture when used with daylight-balanced film, meant that indoor shots without flash, without filtration, or without augmented lighting would look several different shades of awful. But like so many other things in this digital world, that’s just not the case any more. Now white balancing is so simple it’s practically an afterthought. Because RAW shooting makes custom white balancing (and precisely perfecting after capture) an absolute snap, it’s ridiculously easy to get great photos with great color indoors. That’s the gist of a recent post at DPS about photographing portraits at home without flash. The other great advice author Fred Verosky provides is how to find ideal lighting. That way not only will the color balance be great, but the lighting pattern will be too. It’s a great read for almost any kind of shooter—especially with winter right around the corner and the prospect of indoor shooting an increasingly possibility.
Back Button Focusing
Thursday, October 21, 2010
In a recent TOP story on Tiger Woods' errant golf shot that created a photographer's now iconic shot and a fun amount of internet fame for "cigar guy," one of the comments triggered a teachable moment for me. I learned about focusing with the thumb button on the back of my camera. It was a tongue-in-cheek question about focus tracking that prompted a particularly informative reply (at least it was informative for me) from experienced sports shooter Ken Bennett. "This is a common tactic among sports photogs," Mr. Bennett wrote. "Separating the focus from the shutter button means I can leave my camera in continuous AF all the time, and adjust focus as needed with my thumb." Holy cow. How had I never stumbled across this feature? Sure, I’ve used focus lock, but I’ve never considered the idea of separating focus from the shutter button. It makes such perfect sense! Thank you, Ken Bennett! Just goes to show you however much you know, there’s always plenty of room to learn. And to all of you who are mocking my naiveté for not knowing this, forgive me. But also trust me: if you think you know it all, you’re wrong. To learn more about thumb button focusing, check out this article at the Canon Digital Learning Center.
The Unseen Sea
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Sometimes I link to things simply because they’re gorgeous. Breathtakingly and heart-stoppingly gorgeous. That’s exactly the case with this new time lapse video from photographer Simon Christen. A stunning piece called The Unseen Sea looks at the fog around San Francisco in a manner quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s videos like this that inspire me to think beyond simply being a photographer and consider what more I can do with my camera. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
Calibration Webinars Tonight
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Care to learn about color calibrating your computer monitor? There are only two correct answers to that question: I already know how, and yes. If you already know how, I suggest you still keep an open ear as there’s always more to learn. (That pretty much goes for everything photo related, by the way.) But if the answer is yes, and you’re ready to learn about tackling color calibration, then I suggest you tune in tonight for a free X-rite web seminar. You’ve got two choices here too: 7pm Eastern or 7pm Pacific. So tune in online and learn everything you need to know about not just monitor calibration but print matching as well. If you can’t make it tonight, don’t worry: X-Rite will repeat the seminars next month, and they’ve also got a whole series of seminars scheduled on a variety of color calibration topics.
The HDR Debate
Monday, October 18, 2010
HDR, or high dynamic range photography, is incredibly popular these days. It's the highly detailed, illustrative effect that you've surely seen in some landscape and location photography, as well as in advertising work for brands that want to look hip and edgy. There's no doubt the technique is engaging and eye-catching: HDR usually looks like nothing you've ever seen in reality before. But it's that illustrative over-the-top wow-factor that gives some photographers pause. Some folks think HDR is just a gimmick, like literal eye candy, and an effect that's eventually going to look as dated as Harvest Gold refrigerators and rotary telephones. So where do you stand on the debate? Have you formed an opinion yet? Either way, it's good to see what others are thinking about the popular trend. In a recent post at Photoshelter's "A Picture's Worth" blog you can tune in to both sides of the debate for an interesting discussion. See which way it sways you. It’s worth a read if for no other reason than the wonderful comment from Mike Olbinski, who points out that art is art. "If someone likes making them, who cares?" Amen.
Confessions of a JPEG Shooter
Friday, October 15, 2010
You can’t shoot JPEGs—only shoot RAW! Folks like me tend to beat that message into you over an over: if you haven’t started working with RAW you’re really missing the boat. But in truth there are lots of reasons why many photographers—even serious professional photographers—prefer to shoot JPEGs. There are no hard and fast rules. A perfect example is the confession by a photographer who prefers to shoot JPEGs. Why would he do such a thing? Sports. I won’t spoil the suspense; I’ll let you read the original post on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider blog to find out exactly why. Suffice it to say it's got to do with the speed of sports and the speed of cameras. It serves as a reminder that every rule of thumb is untrue given the right set of circumstances. Though I still say RAW is great for a whole bunch of things. And I'm guessing that at some point in the future, cameras will process RAW fast enough that it will become the standard for sports shooters too.
Free Expression Media
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Are you a member of ASMP? If you are, take advantage of this great opportunity to get your hands on some great information and a great photo management program. (And if you’re not, here’s another excellent reason to join.) For the month of October, members who buy a copy of The DAM Book (a great information resource all about Digital Asset Management and best practices for digital image workflows) get a full copy of Expression Media 2 absolutely free. The photo management software (formerly known as iView and formerly from Microsoft) is now a Phase One product, and its loved by many photographers who rely on it for cataloging and tracking their digital media databases. If you’ve been waiting to get your hands on this $200 program, here’s your chance to get it free with the purchase of the $50 DAM book. Order by Halloween to be sure you get the great deal, and do so from The DAM Book’s asmp link at www.thedambook.com/asmp.
Learning about lighting… from politicians?
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but in my part of the country election season is really heating up. I was watching TV the other night when I noticed a commercial for a Senatorial candidate. As is often the case, the commercial heavily referenced the candidate’s opponent. And that’s when it hit me: we can learn a lot from political commercials and print ads. How? By examining how the candidates are lit and photographed. In the commercial I saw, the candidate who had funded the spot was photographed beautifully in warm, soft, inviting light. At the end of the commercial was her opponent, and of course they chose a photo in which he didn’t look very good. They used a news shot, made from an awkward angle, converted it to black and white, upped the contrast, and made sure there was a hard, raking light source that brings out every flaw. Basically, the campaign utilized lighting to help send a message. We can learn from this, because that’s exactly what we as photographers need to do with every picture we make. Want to make someone look warm and friendly? Use a warm, soft light. Want them to look beautiful, friendly and approachable, make sure it’s not too high contrast and that the source is nice and broad. Want to make someone look a bit more evil, maybe even sinister? Remove the color, go high contrast, and use a hard light source to show them in painful detail. Put this to good use and, next thing you know, politicians will be contacting you to photograph their campaigns.