Always use a tripod, even when you can’t

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.

http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2010/archives/14599

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... Read more

Polaroid Hotel

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.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1090625529/polaroid-hotel
http://portfolio.patrickhoelck.com

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... Read more

The Inverse Square Law

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

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... Read more
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The Sunny f/16 Rule

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.

http://www.diyphotography.net/we-dont-need-no-light-meter

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... Read more

What in the world is an arduino?

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.

http://www.diyphotography.net/high-speed-photography-let-arduino-turn-the-lights-off-for-you

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... Read more

Great Photography on Great Covers

I love great editorial photography. I find it inspiring. Every year, the American Society of Magazine Editors puts together their collection of the year’s best magazine covers. The connection between great covers and great photography is an obvious one—particularly when checking out a gallery of this year’s nominees. I think editorial photography is where many groundbreaking trends and techniques find their start, and I think this collection proves exactly why. Check out the nominees, along with commentary from each magazine’s staff about the making of the covers, and then remember to return next year to vote for your favorite and enter for a chance to win prizes. By the way, it’s Harper’s Bazaar that won this year. Those Twilight vampires have huge cover cache.

http://goo.gl/pVNBw

I love great editorial photography. I find it inspiring. Every year, the American Society of Magazine Editors puts together their collection of the year’s best magazine covers. The connection between great covers and great photography is an obvious one—particularly when checking out a gallery of this year’s nominees. I think editorial... Read more

Shooting in the Shower

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.

http://www.behance.net/dumont/frame/737574

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... Read more

Myths of being a pro photographer

You’re a talented photographer. You like earning extra income and meeting interesting people thanks to your camera. Why not pursue a career in the glamorous world of professional photography? After all, you’ll party with supermodels and soon be rolling in cash, right? Your biggest concern will be how to choose from among the countless assignments you’re offered on a regular basis. So you might as well just do it.

Yeah right.

Maybe these myths are a little extreme, but some folks think the world of professional photography is a lot more glamorous than it really is. There are many common misunderstandings about what it’s really like to be a commercial photographer. On his Lighting Essentials blog, Don Giannatti dispels these and other myths about what it’s like to earn your living as a pro. It’s not as exciting as you may think, but it isn’t all bad either. If you’re considering pursuing photography for more than fun, check out Don’s post and make sure you’re okay with the reality of being a working photographer as opposed to just the fantasy.

http://www.lighting-essentials.com/ten-myths-of-professional-commercial-photography/

You’re a talented photographer. You like earning extra income and meeting interesting people thanks to your camera. Why not pursue a career in the glamorous world of professional photography? After all, you’ll party with supermodels and soon be rolling in cash, right? Your biggest concern will be how to choose from among the countless... Read more

A Ban on D-SLR Bans

I’m instituting a ban on reporting about ridiculously improbably D-SLR bans. I hate to say "I told you so," especially because I didn’t. But when I first read about the ban of D-SLR cameras in Kuwait it seemed to crazy to be true. I suppose the best news usually is, but still—it just seemed like the kind of improbable story that spreads like wildfire before anyone’s ever considered whether or not its true. It was the talk of the town, er, the photo-blogosphere, all week. And now, finally, comes the truth: it ain’t real. Read all about it, especially the part where the Kuwait Times printed a retraction of the original story, at The Online Photographer.

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/11/kuwait-times-issues-retraction.html

I’m instituting a ban on reporting about ridiculously improbably D-SLR bans. I hate to say "I told you so," especially because I didn’t. But when I first read about the ban of D-SLR cameras in Kuwait it seemed to crazy to be true. I suppose the best news usually is, but still—it just seemed like the kind of improbable story that spreads... Read more

Enter The Nat Geo Photo Contest Asap

Hurry up! Tomorrow is the last day to enter the 2010 National Geographic Photo Contest. Submit your best people, places and nature shots for a chance to win $10,000 and a trip to Washington D.C. for the National Geographic Seminar in January. After you’ve entered, head over to the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog to check out a gallery of last year’s best photos courtesy of the magazine and the photographers who entered. It’s really an awesome assortment of images. I particularly like, well, just about all of them. Great portraits, great macro insect shots, grand vistas, touching moments… It’s an amazing collection that’s most definitely worth a look. 

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/11/national_geographics_photograp.html

Hurry up! Tomorrow is the last day to enter the 2010 National Geographic Photo Contest. Submit your best people, places and nature shots for a chance to win $10,000 and a trip to Washington D.C. for the National Geographic Seminar in January. After you’ve entered, head over to the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog to check out a gallery of last year’s... Read more

Coffee Cup White Balance

Did you know you can use a coffee cup for white balance? No, not by photographing the white cup and setting a custom white balance based off of it (though that might work too, actually). I’m talking about using the translucent white disposable coffee lid that’s ubiquitous at every coffee shop everywhere. Simply stuff the lid into your lens shade and it acts like one of those fancy Expodisc white balance tools. It may not be perfect, or quite as precise as the real thing, but it sure is cost effective.

http://www.diyphotography.net/the-real-story-behind-starbucks-getting-the-perfect-white-balance  

Did you know you can use a coffee cup for white balance? No, not by photographing the white cup and setting a custom white balance based off of it (though that might work too, actually). I’m talking about using the translucent white disposable coffee lid that’s ubiquitous at every coffee shop everywhere. Simply stuff the lid into your lens shade... Read more

Goofy Photo Gift Ideas

If any of you are thinking about getting me a gift this holiday season, might I suggest starting at Photojojo? Actually, PJJ is the perfect photo gift shopping stop for all sorts of photographer types because it’s always got something unique and interesting and affordable. Instead of $1000 pro lenses, they’ve got $30 coffee mugs that look just like $1000 pro lenses. Instead of fancy camera straps, they’ve got T-shirts with illustrations of cameras and straps printed right on them. And instead of complicated panoramic digital photo stitching software, they sell a downright affordable 360-degree spinning panoramic film camera. I want one, and I want it now. So do some shopping next cyber Monday at Photojojo. Send all my gifts to the magazine, please.

http://content.photojojo.com/buy-this/nikon-lens-mug-360-spinner-tees

If any of you are thinking about getting me a gift this holiday season, might I suggest starting at Photojojo? Actually, PJJ is the perfect photo gift shopping stop for all sorts of photographer types because it’s always got something unique and interesting and affordable. Instead of $1000 pro lenses, they’ve got $30 coffee mugs that look... Read more
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