Smartphone Model Releases
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Here's another indicator that I'm completely behind the times. It's the model release via smartphone phenomenon, and I'm ready to jump on board. First, a bit about model releases: you need them. I recently spoke to a photographer who's able to turn his entire archive into a money-making stock image library specifically because he's been getting model releases for people shots since the 1980s. I, on the other hand, struggle to get model releases even when I know it's in my best interests. With the advent of a handful of smartphone model release apps, now I've got no excuse. In most cases, it seems that the subject is able to sign right on the smartphone screen just by using their finger in lieu of a pen. Pretty cool. The real question is which app to choose. There's iD-release, which is free and allows you to create and store releases on your iPhone. There's Easy Release, which seems to do the same sort of thing, sans freeness, for both iPhone and Android operating systems. Then there's mRelease, which offers a variety of releases (including talent, property and location releases) for the iPhone OS. Are there any others? Do you utilize one of them? I'd love to know which way you think I should go.
Reuters Pictures of the Year
Monday, December 13, 2010
It's that time of year once again where everyone starts talking about their year-end highlights. Every media outlet seems to put together some variation on a slideshow of its favorite pictures of 2010, and to get us started here's a good batch from Reuters, by way of Rob Galbraith's blog, that focuses on world news. It serves as a great reminder of the power of photojournalism to tell a story quite unlike any other medium can. These are powerful, and in some cases disturbing, photographs.
Always use a tripod, even when you can’t
Friday, December 10, 2010
I'm constantly touting that photographers shoot with a tripod, because it can make all sorts of shots much better. The tripod is practically a necessity for still lifes or when shooting in low light at dusk, and it’s most definitely necessary for shooting after dark. But what about when you're shooting in places where a tripod can't go? Even worse, what about where you're not allowed to take your tripod? That's when you have to get crafty. The point remains the same—and that is that steadying the camera makes sharper pictures. So here’s a workaround courtesy of Scott Kelby’s blog. It’s about how to achieve the same effect as a tripod even when you're unable to take a tripod with you.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Fashion photographer Patrick Hoelck recently emailed with information about a new book project he’s working on. It’s called Polaroid Hotel. Here’s what he had to say: "I decided to pay tribute to the dying art of Polaroid photography with a book of images and an exhibition that capture intimate moments of my career... I want to show that just because a certain technology has aged it doesn’t have to lose its appeal." Patrick’s project is a neat one, and it’s certainly new. Really new. So new, in fact, that the book itself is not yet made. That’s part of what makes this interesting. Patrick is using a web site called Kickstarter to help raise funds to turn the idea into a reality. Kickstarter is a unique web service built expressly to raise funding for creative projects. Visit Patrick’s Kickstarter page to see a slideshow of some of his Polaroid work, to learn more about Kickstarter itself, and maybe even to contribute money to help the project along. If you want to see more of Patrick and his work, take a look at his personal web site.
The Inverse Square Law
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I lost a one-dollar bet yesterday when I challenged a fellow-photographer’s understanding of the inverse square law. Turns out I was the one who had the math wrong. I don’t know where in my years of understanding this rule I got off track, but I sure was wrong yesterday. Hopefully it was just a momentary glitch. Anyway, I figured I’d review it one more time here in case anybody else has their math mixed up like me.
The inverse square law, as it applies to lighting, means that with every doubling or halving of the distance of a subject from the light source, the intensity of light doesn’t change strength equally. It’s not just half or double, it’s in fact four times stronger (when moving closer to the light) and a quarter the strength (when moving away from the light). In real world terms that means that when you have a light source four feet from a subject, a background (or secondary subject) eight feet from the light source will be one quarter as bright—or two full stops darker. A subject exposed at f/8 in that scenario would see the background register f/4 on a light meter.
In practice, this principle is used to make backgrounds lighter or darker, to cast even lighting over a wide area, and to frustrate photographers like me and win money in ridiculous bets about who knows more about photography.
Read more about the inverse square law and see great examples of it in practice on Zack Arias’ blog at www.zarias.com/white-seamless-tutorial-part-3-from-white-to-black
The Sunny f/16 Rule
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Did you know you can determine the correct exposure outdoors in almost any situation without a light meter and without using your camera’s TTL meter or LCD screen? It’s true. I learned to call this the sunny f/16 rule. I recently spent some time with a dyed-in-the-wool video shooter, a real videographers (if you will), and we were discussing the different truisms and things that are particular to our different industries. For instance, did you know that the standard pat answer for "hey, what are you guys doing?" when you're all set up on a big fancy video shoot is, "We're shooting a mayonnaise commercial." I didn't either. But I love it, and I'm going to use it whenever people ask what I’m shooting. I shared some information with my videographer friend too. Like zone exposure basics and the Sunny f/16 rule. That's where this post from DIY photography comes in, because it's also about the Sunny f/16 rule. It's in the version of a little graphic card you can carry with you in your pocket until you've got the whole thing perfectly memorized. The basics, by the way, are simple: On a normal sunny day, the correct exposure will be 1/ISO at f/16. So if you're shooting at ISO 100, the correct exposure will be 1/100th at f/16. It's translatable to cloudy days and bright snowy or sandy situations too. This card errs on the side of overexposure, but perhaps that’s simply an adjustment for overexposure while shooting RAW. Either way, the principles are sound. You don’t need a meter, or an LCD screen to know the correct exposure as long as you know the Sunny f/16 rule.
What in the world is an arduino?
Monday, December 6, 2010
Let me make one thing clear before we get rolling here: this post is not for the faint of heart. It's aimed at those of you who are Radio Shack junkies. If you know what an arduino is, or what to do with a piezo, or a how on earth a breadboard relates to photography, you may want to keep reading. Or if you desperately want to know what those things do and how you can put a few bucks worth of basic electronics to work for you in the form of a high-speed flash photography rig, you should also keep reading. At this point I suppose I've tipped my hand. What I'm talking about is building a multi-function trigger for high-speed photography—something I’m not sure that I have the patience and skill to do myself. But maybe I’m underestimating my hacker skills. Either way, if you want to do high-speed stop-action shots of balloon pops and water drops and all those great images that allow us to see what the naked eye can't, check out this post at DIYphotography.net. Not only can these devices be put to use for the actual high-speed stop-action shooting, in the right hands (which you might have after watching the embedded video) you can set the rig up to turn off the lights too. Like I said, this isn't for everybody. But if you're happy as a clam when you're up to your elbows in resistors and capacitors and wiring diagrams, definitely check it out and make some cool pictures.
Shooting in the Shower
Friday, December 3, 2010
I recently stumbled upon a gallery of photographs of people in the shower. Don’t worry, it’s totally safe for work. The photos were interesting and engaging enough that I sent an email to the photographer, Nicolas Dumont. He was kind enough to share some before and after images and tell me a little more about his great project.
"At the time of the shoot," Nicolas said, "I'd been a commercial photographer for 17 years and had never done any personal projects. The few times I did think about it, I couldn't come up with anything that made sense. That all changed in December 2007 as I was doing a shoot for a well known shaving company. One of the scenes featured a male model ‘enjoying’ a shower. The water was cold, but he was told to smile and act as if he was having a great time. Needless to say, most of the shots were absurd and comical; advertising at it's worst—or best, depending on how you see it. I suddenly realized that I could replicate that same farcical situation at home, with a few changes."
"I set up a small studio in my kitchen,î he continued, ìthat included a canvas background, three Profoto flash heads, a Manfrotto spring loaded pole fixed wall-to-wall across the kitchen with a shower head fixed to it. The water supply came from the laundry room a few feet away. The Mamiya 645 and Leaf Aptus 75 combo was ready on a heavy duty Manfrotto tripod. The lens was a Mamiya 645 120mm F/4 Macro, which I had to shoot wide open because I had purchased the wrong model on eBay. The dark background and semi-harsh backlights were there to intensify the water effect. My only worry was the electrical installation; I had to be very careful to get the Profoto generators away from the wet areas, as any electric shock could be fatal. As a test, I invited a couple of friends over. Jon and Yuri had already been told that they would have to sit under a shower in my kitchen with their clothes on, but I only told them that the water was cold seconds before the shoot started. The rest of the brief was simple: sit still, stare right into the camera, don't close your eyes and don't show any emotions."
"I ended up inviting quite a few friends to my place," Nicolas added. "I noticed that people were reluctant to show up as soon as they knew that they would have to suffer. My kitchen eventually became known as ‘the torture chamber.’"
The photographer’s RAW image files were processed with Leaf Capture into 16-bit TIFF files, which he then worked on in Photoshop using dodge, burn, curves and hue/saturation controls. No extra sharpening was added.
"I kept some of the test shots,î Nicolas said, ìthe ones done before I opened the water tap. Comparing them to the final shots, its amazing to see how the cold water manages to wash away the vanity, the narcissistic self-image that only leads to mediocre portraits."
Be sure to view the entire great gallery of Rain portraits at Nicolas’ Behance gallery.