Simplified Studio Lighting

Our typical lighting scheme consists of three strobe lights with a forth strobe “hair light” used as needed. First, the key light is the main light source in the lighting scheme and is used to contour the face and add depth and interest to the subject. The key light is what enables the three dimensional subject to be rendered in a two dimensional plane, yet perceived as a three dimensional image. The key light in our studio’s light setup is mounted on a Studio Titan Side Kick stand. The beauty of this stand is that it is very stable, has lockable casters so it is easily repositioned, and the height of the key light is very easily adjustable with the “single touch” adjustable arm. The key light is usually the only strobe in our setup that is repositioned during the course of a photo shoot.

The key light is modified using a parabolic reflector, a shoot through umbrella or a reflecting umbrella, a soft box (several sizes may be used), or by other means, thereby achieving in each portrait the desired effect. A guideline to remember is: at a given distance between light source and subject, the smaller the light source, the harsher the incident light and the sharper (more contrast) the shadows. Choose the modifier accordingly to achieve the desired effect for your portrait (i.e. light modifiers in order of decreasing contrast: 6” parabolic reflector, 16” parabolic reflector, 40” reflecting umbrella, 40” shoot through umbrella, 3’x4’ softbox, 4’x6’ softbox). The key light is then metered (independently) to f11. This may be accomplished by adjusting the power to the strobe, and/or the distance between key light and subject.

During the photo shoot, the illumination of the subject will remain constant when you reposition the key light, as long as the distance between the key light and the subject remains constant. This simple fact is useful to keep in mind for one reason. It enables you to quickly relocate your key light for different desired effects without re-metering everything. Visualize your subject being at the hub of a wheel, the radius of the wheel being equal to the distance (between the key light and your subject) that gave you f11. The key light may be relocated to any position around the perimeter of the imaginary wheel, with the illumination on your subject remaining a constant f11.

Second, the fill light serves as contrast control by filling in the “sockets and pockets” of your subject. The fill light in our light set up is permanently positioned about 15 feet from the subject, directly out in front of the set. It is elevated to a height of about ten to eleven feet above the floor, so we are able to shoot from directly underneath the fill light if necessary. The fill light is diffused by a large soft box, and oriented (angled) to directly face the subject. It is typically metered (independently) to f5.6, by adjusting the power to the strobe. This gives a light ratio on your subject of about 1:4.

The third strobe in our studio light setup serves as the background light. The background light may be mounted on a short stand positioned directly behind the subject, and angled upward to illuminate the backdrop and eliminate any shadows behind the subject. Positioning the subject at least six feet from the background also helps to eliminate shadows on the background. For a vignette effect on a low key back ground use a small parabolic reflector and possibly a grid spot or barn doors to direct and focus the light where you want it. For a more evenly lit mid key backdrop substitute a soft box strip mounted on a boom stand, high and angled downward and toward the back drop. Typically for low key to mid key portraits we meter the background light to f5.6 or f8. This is a matter of preference depending on the desired effect. You can easily create elegant low to mid key portraits [] using this setup.

For super hi key shots, to get the snow white seamless background look, you must overexpose the background relative to the subject by two stops. For example [], if you meter your key to f8 you should meter the background to f16 to achieve the desired effect. The trick is to get your subject far enough out from the background so they don’t pick up too much reflected light and you are able to blow out the background while maintaining proper exposure on your subject. The fill is still metered one or two stops below the key to maintain a nice contrast ratio on your subject. Super hi key portraits may best be accomplished using two background lights, angled in on each side of the background. This gives a more evenly distributed background light.

The forth strobe often used in our studio light setup, is the hair light. It is used to separate the subject from the background and to accentuate the subject’s hair and shoulders. The hair light may be positioned low or high behind the subject depending on the desired effect, and modifiers such as a snoot or a grid spot may be used to direct and focus the light as desired. Whether or not the hair light is used depends on the subject’s hair color relative to the backdrop and on the desired effect for the portrait (e.g. dark hair disappears on a dark backdrop and requires the hair light as a separator)

Beyond posing your subject in a flattering way, lighting your subject is the single greatest skill you must master in order to create exceptional portraiture. Your lighting scheme does not have to be overly complex, and your equipment need not be the latest and greatest. However, you must develop a basic understanding of light contrast ratio and how to control the light, in order to masterfully create elegant and beautiful portraits. The lighting setup described above may be a good starting point. It is very simple to understand and easy to use, generally, only the key light is repositioned during the course of a photo shoot. From there, experiment and practice to achieve the results that you imagine. As always, good day and happy clicking.

Shooting Winter Landscapes

  • Wear the right clothes: It’s very important to wrap up warm when out shooting winter images. The winter season brings the toughest elements, so if you are planning to spend a few days out and about always be well prepared.
  • Watch the weather: It’s very important to know what the weather is going to be like. You don’t want to travel for a couple of hours and then hear a weather report that tells you that: the weather is wet for the next few days. During the winter months the weather can dramatically change in a matter of hours. It’s always advisable to let someone know where you are going and which route you’re planning to take. If you do get injured or ever caught in a storm someone may be able to help.
  • Carry only what you need: Carry only the essentials. You don’t need to upload your camera bag with every piece of equipment you own. If you are going to be out taking pictures all day you are much better off going as light as possible. Carrying a light load will also help preserve energy. You could be climbing icy rocks or crossing snow filled hills; a warm flask would serve you a lot better than a third camera.
  • Look for detail: Snow, ice and frost bring out texture and atmosphere in most subjects. The early frosty morning is an ideal time for close-up photography. The frosty morning also brings out patterns in our landscapes. Take care where you place your camera: if you are taking pictures early in the morning try placing it at oblique angles to the sun – this will give your images strong shadows. This will also add mood to your landscape images. Once you have found the perfect spot pay extra attention to foreground interest as this will add depth to your image.
  • Expose carefully: Snow and ice are extremely difficult to expose properly. Snow usually confuses your cameras metering system or your hand held light meter. When you take a light reading from snow you will automatically get an underexposed image. The meter will record the snow as grey.

Identify Landscape Photo Art

In my opinion, landscape photo art means creating a visual metaphor for a concept you have in mind, for a feeling within yourself. People often think that taking a landscape photo is a simple matter and that anyone can do it. But having a camera with you on a trip on the mountain and taking photos from time to time so that you’ll remember you’ve been there, has nothing to do with landscape photo art.

History indicates that it’s very difficult to become an “artist” in landscape photography. Besides the natural talent, you also need good equipment, much work and a lot of patience. Landscape photo art is not about taking photos, it’s about making them.

Good landscape photo equipment is quite expensive. If you can’t afford buying all the proper components from the beginning, you have to prioritize your budget into the lenses, as they are the essential equipment element in landscape photo art. You need prime lenses (with fixed focal length) and high quality zooms. The camera body must have internal meter and manual setting capability, for choosing the aperture and shutter speed. There is no need to mention that it is impossible to make a quality landscape photo without using a good tripod with a ball head. However, a good photographer can take excellent photos with any camera, the good equipment will only make photos even better, while a marginal photographer will not be able to take any good photos no matter how expensive the equipment might be.

Once you get the proper equipment, as a beginner in the landscape photo art, you can start thinking about what places you want to photograph, what kind of light suits your idea best, what kind of weather you want, and many other details.

For instance, if you want to photograph a mountain landscape, you must have in your mind the message you want to portray, the feeling that you want to share with those who will look at your photo. If you’re taking the photo on a bright summer day, people who the photo are much more likely to experience a pleasant feeling, or even strongly desire to go there. If you photograph the same landscape on a rainy or foggy day, the feelings you suggest are different but can sometimes lead to greater artistic license.

In order to transform “just taking photos” into landscape photo art, you also need to work a lot and to invest passion in what you’re doing. For instance, if you want to capture a sunrise in a specific location, you have to wake up before the sunrise and go there. Time becomes a consideration. Then you have to wait until the sky changes. It is at that moment when nature seems to wake up from its sleep and it this moment will last for less than a second perhaps. You have to capture that moment in your photograph to please and impress. Of course, it is possible not to get the result you hoped for from the first attempt, and then you have to check the weather forecast and get back the next day and try it again. And maybe the next day, instead of a sunrise, you will only see clouds and rain and you will have to return some other time. The idea is that you need a lot of patience and perseverance in landscape photo art.

A simple photograph may have the power of saving or destroying a place. Imagine you manage a great photo of the most beautiful and wild landscape you’ve ever seen. When people see your photograph, they may also want to go there to take pictures or just visit the location, this can eventually destroy wilderness and make it just a common landscape. Sometimes you should only share the image and keep the geographic details to yourself in landscape photo art – many professionals practice exactly that.

Glamour Photography

Glamour Photography is not that Much Different from Traditional

Have you ever been to a seminar about how lighting affects photography? You might imagine some exotic lighting solutions to get amazing improvements in glamour photography. When you take a closer look you will see the lighting can come from a very make-shift lighting source. There are guidelines but not rules. With only a few modifications to the traditional lighting techniques, you can create amazing results

Background to Use for Glamour Photography

You can set up a background or use nature for your glamour photography. The background can be attached to a pole that works as a stand. This makes the background mobile.

Start Today Creating Your Own Glamour Photography

By knowing the rules first, the experience gained will give you a more creative eye. If the rule is not getting the artistic result you want, veer slightly from the rule. This is what most artists in any medium do. They begin from the foundation of rules and veer from them until gradually they have created their own unique methods.

Macro Photography

A practical way for defining macro photography is by the strength of the lens, or how nearby it can focus. For true macro photography, you’ll want to have a lens that focuses down to a 1:1 range. For example,for 35mm film,your camera has to have the ability to focus on an area at least as small as 24×36mm ,because this is the size of the image on the film.After having the film developed,the picture of the subject on the negative or slide will be exactly the same size as the subject photographed.

What makes macro photography seductive is the level of detail that you see, sometimes for the first time – familiar objects become unusual and abstract and unusual objects become even more interesting.

There are many applications for macro photography: flowers,plants,butterflies, minerals,snowflakes… Your own backyard, a local garden,beach or forest can provide you with hours of fun with macro photography.

Of course macro photography isn’t always centred on the natural world. Collectors use macro photography to record coins,stamps and other collectibles that are very small.Some people use macro photography for documenting their possessions for insurance purposes or to illustrate their auction listings online.

Working with macro photography can be a whole new visual event for even the most advanced photographers.Every day can yield another subject and an endless supply of captivating images.The possibilities of macro photography are limited only by your imagination.

If you are interested in macro photography, then by all means consider purchasing a dedicated macro lens.SLR digital cameras with interchangeable lenses are ideal for macro photography.If you’re primarily interested in outdoor photography, consider a 180mm or 200mm macro lens.

Alternatively you can use extension tubes,reversing rings, or close-up diopter lens.

An extension tube is placed between the camera body and the lens. There is no glass in the tube – its purpose is to move the lens farther from the film (or digital sensor) so that magnification can be bigger.

Reversing ring is attached on the front of a lens and makes it possible to attach the lens in reverse.

Close-up diopter lens are placed in front of the camera’s main lens. These screw-in or slip-on attachments provide close focusing at very low cost.However,the quality of the pictures is variable.

Shooting Interiors

  • Use a wide angle lens. Shooting wide can make the room look great, especially when in Hong Kong, the size of the property is most likely less than 100 sq. meters. In a confined space, sitting tight into one corner while you try to get the other three corners in just looks wrong. You shouldn’t shoot all three walls into one picture. Showing the highlights of the interior design features is important. About the lens, anything in the 16-24mm range on full frame (or the APS-C equivalent which equates to 10-16mm approx. on some less expensive camera) is great. I often use 17mm full frame for my wide interior work.Tip 3: Sufficient indoor and natural lighting are both important. Light up the room. If there is good natural light coming through the windows, use that as well. Adjust the overall feeling of the lighting to a balanced and optimized level.
  • Find the best angle. Take time to explore different angles to shoot from. Decorate the room with small artistic items, plants or anything you like to add a bit of creativity. We can’t all afford a tilt-shift lens to keep perspective in check, so it’s a really good idea to shoot with the camera at or slightly above mid-room height. This means you can keep the camera aimed out straight to keep the walls vertical. While the perspective distortion you get can be corrected in post-production, it’s much easier to get it right in camera. This is another reason to use a tripod as well.
  • Use post-processing software, e.g. Photoshop or Lightroom. You should bring the Highlights down and open up the Shadows. Next bring the Blacks down to ensure that the contrast lost from opening up the Shadows doesn’t impact the image too much.

Guide to Hand Coloring

“This is beautiful”, she praised, “What color lab to you use?”
I avoided her question, answering, “That’s medium oil, not natural color”. Well, if she had a magnifying glass, she would have used it.

There are several problems inherent in trying to turn a black and white photograph into color. The color added to a normal image will look too dark and will also diminish the clarity of the highlights. White and cool colors are easy to produce on a black and white image, but warm colors appear subdued. The former problem is solved by printing the image two tones lighter than normal, but retaining the full spectrum of tones. If the latter problem is a concern, partial toning is recommended. In this process, the areas that will be cool colors is masked off with a waterproof removable medium, allowing only the to-be-warm areas to tone brown (sepia). The same effect can be done digitally.

A lightly textured surface is preferred like Ektalure G or Canvas, however, any luster surfaced paper will do. If an inkjet paper is used, use a heavy weight (90 lb.) matte surfaced paper. A protective coat of matte lacquer will be needed for color oil application. Apply Marshall’s Oils Flesh 2 to the lighter areas of the face and Flesh 3 to the shadow areas. Work from the center of the area using a ball of long fiber cotton. Blend and wipe until an even coat covers the skin. Lightly rub out the highlights with a fresh ball of cotton. Do not get any oil color on the other areas. If you do, go over the line, use extender to clean off the error. Clean out the eyes with extender on a cotton tipped stick and apply the eye color. Add a small dot of cheek to the corner of the eye and a little blue to the whites. A light coating of black suffices for the pupil. Clean out the highlights.

Apply cheek color using a patting motion. Delicately blend the color without removing the under layer of flesh. Apply lip color with a pint of cotton on a stick in a heavy layer. Wipe down with fresh cotton starting from the corner of the mouth toward the center. Use a pointed fresh cotton stick with extender to clean out the highlights. A soft ended stick without extender creates the nose highlights and a cotton ball the forehead, cheeks and chin.

Next, color the hair using blends of Verona Brown, Ochre, and Flesh2. The darker the hair, the more Verona Brow, the blonder the hair, use more ochre. Clean out the highlights only about 80%.

Add color to the background, blending carefully into the hair and overlapping into the clothing areas. Clean out and rub dry the areas of clothing that received some background color. Color the clothing last. If rich color is indicated, use the intense variety of Marshall’s Oils. Work quickly to achieve an even coat, wiping out the lighter areas with fresh cotton balls.

Taking Panoramic Landscapes

Panoramas have a reputation of being hard to take. There are dedicated panorama cameras available but unless you’ve got at least a thousand dollars to spare, you probably can’t afford one! But you can take panoramas with any kind of camera.

All a panorama is, is a sequence of images where you turn slightly for each different frame. In the old days, before PCs and the likes of Photoshop were around, you’d take your prints (there wasn’t much point in shooting panoramas on slide film, for obvious reasons), lay them out on a table and position them over each other where they overlapped. A bit of sticky tape held them together. [As a side note, this technique was used by NASA to build up mosaic pictures of the planets and satellites their spaceprobes visited, up till the late ’70s/early 80s when computers were introduced to make the process less laborious].

Now that PCs and image manipulation packages are easy to come by, high-quality panoramas can now be created by anyone. If you’re shooting slide or negative film, you will need to have your images scanned before you do anything else.

DIY Panoramas

The idea behind taking panoramas with SLR cameras is that the camera is rotated around its nodal point during each successive exposure. What’s the Nodal Point? It’s the point inside your camera where the light rays converge and flip over. It’s different for different focal lengths (on zoom lenses) and for different prime lenses (fixed focal length lenses like a standard 50mm lens). It’s important to rotate about this point to eliminate image mismatches due to changes in parallax. Parallax is the apparent shift of an object against a background due to a change in observer position.

Just to be clear, the Nodal Point is not the same as the film/sensor plane. Generally, for most SLR cameras and lenses, the Nodal Point is located somewhere towards the center of the lens barrel and lies in front of the image/sensor plane.

The Problem With Parallax

Parallax is easily demonstrated by a simple experiment. Hold up your finger about 1 foot in front of your face and alternately open and close your left and right eyes. You’ll notice that your finger shifts left and right with respect to the background depending on which eye is open. Try another experiment: With your finger still raised, close one eye and turn your head from side to side. Notice how your finger moves with respect to the background. This relative movement is due to the fact that you’re not rotating your head around your eye’s nodal point, which is somewhere in the center of your eyeball. Instead, you’re rotating about your spine which is several inches to the rear and off to one side. It is this relative side-to-side motion that we try to eliminate when setting up a camera for panoramas. [If you want to read up more about parallax, Wikipedia have a good explanatory article.]

Now, if you consider a camera held up to your face – it will suffer even greater parallax errors as it’s farther from your spine (the point of rotation of your head) than your eye. It’s surprisingly common for people to take panoramas in this fashion and then find the individual pictures don’t match up.

So use a tripod and rotate the camera on the tripod. The parallax errors will be significantly smaller but there will still be some error involved. However, the images will match up better than with the head rotation method.

Mechanical Contraptions

What perfectionists strive for is to have the camera rotate about the nodal point. There are brackets and contraptions available that will let you offset your camera from the tripod’s axis of rotation and with a little experimentation and trial and error, you can position your camera so that its nodal point is directly over the axis of rotation of the bracket. Getting this spot-on means your images should line up perfectly.

A few months ago I bought such a bracket – the Kaidan Kiwi. This comes in two halves which produce an L-shaped bracket. Its instruction manual explains how to set it up and find the nodal point for your camera and lens. However, you have to get your tripod perfectly level before using it, otherwise you end up with a curved panorama rather than a straight one.

I’ve had good success using this bracket, but it is large and heavy and certainly a bit too cumbersome to be carrying on long walks or while away on vacation.

AutoStitch To The Rescue

Then I recently came across a free bit of software called AutoStitch. Written by a couple of students at the University of Columbia, this takes all of the heartache out of creating panoramas. All you do is select the size of the final image and tell it what images you want it to stitch. It then goes off and produces your panorama.

It really is that simple. Unless successive images are radically different in exposure (i.e. one image to too light or dark compared to another), it seamlessly blends them. It performs all the warping of the images necessary to get them to align (other software I’ve used can cause ghosting in the overlap areas where it hasn’t quite aligned the images). It also aligns multiple rows of images rather than just a single strip.

Even better, it doesn’t require you to set up your camera to rotate about its nodal point. When I was in Crete last year, I tried shooting a few panoramas with my Canon EOS 300D held up to my eye (I didn’t have a tripod with me). When I got home, I tried stitching the pictures together using various bits of software (including software dedicated to stitching images together) and didn’t get satisfactory results. I knew, though, that it was because I’d swivelled the camera about my spine. But I tried these images with AutoStitch and they came out perfectly. See for yourself here.

I went walking up the Wicklow mountains in Ireland no too long ago and up to a high point called Djouce which offers a view over the rolling hills south of Dublin. As an experiment, I shot 8 frames while rotating my head about the scene (camera to eye as per normal). I wanted to see if the Crete photos were a fluke as the panoramas from there were composed of, at most, 3 frames each (sometimes 2).

Disposable Underwater Cameras

Many people often fear the risk of damaging their regular cameras. This is where disposable underwater cameras step in. It is fun and easy to take great pictures with them. The cameras can be used to capture the action underwater, in bright as well as dim light.

There are many types of disposable cameras. The purchase of disposable cameras is always affordable. An underwater disposable camera is also called an all-weather camera, since it is ready for a rough use. It is ideal for shooting outdoors in wet and even snowy conditions. It is waterproof, besides being weatherproof, enabling people to get great shots. It can be used in the rain, on slopes, in a boat or in the ocean. People like to use them while snorkeling, skiing, fishing, boarding and surfing.

The disposable underwater cameras are designed to be durable. They provide a good grip and enable people to take pictures, even with their gloves on. There are some cameras that fit into the pocket, beach bag and purse. Most of the cameras are pre-loaded with speed films. They include a shock resistant, heavy-duty housing that floats. Many retailers provide them at cheap rates when purchased in bulk.

Photo Editing Software

Manage and Edit Pictures

Our friends at Google have a handy free software program called Picasa(TM) that makes photo management a snap. It will quickly find, organize and label every picture on your computer. Basic edit tools clean up and enhance photos. Share photos, create movies and slideshows and more with this easy to use editing program.

Another popular photo editor is Preclick. It has many of the same features as Picasa with free and $20 upgrade versions. For photo file management and basic editing tools, these two software programs deserve a close look.

The Best Image Editing Software

The standard and industry leader in editing software is Adobe PhotoShop CS. It will do just about anything you could want or imagine. But for the average user there are two problems. The first is cost. At around $600 it ain’t cheap. The second is its complexity. Quite simply, learning how to use PhotoShop isn’t easy.

Many experts feel Jasc Paint Shop Pro has nearly the same functionality as PhotoShop and is easier to use. For about $130 they throw in Corel Photo Album to manage and share photos. For those who like the Windows look and feel, Microsoft Digital Image is a close runner up for under $100.

Free Photo Editing Software

GIMP is open-source software with features similar to PhotoShop. Free and shareware software programs that feature painting as well as photo edit functions include Ultimate Paint, VicMan and Pixia.

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