Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP: Blog http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog en-us (C) Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP - 2018 (Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) Sat, 24 Mar 2018 23:44:00 GMT Sat, 24 Mar 2018 23:44:00 GMT http://www.bobwoodfin.com/img/s/v-5/u54149019-o866160996-50.jpg Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP: Blog http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog 90 120 Changing Colors http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/3/changing-colors Sometimes you take a shot and later see that the color harmony is just not there. Maybe there’s a dominance of deep browns and reds, but there is something distracting that is a bright green. Do you just chalk it up to another so so image, or do you try some Photoshop magic to make it an epic image? To me the answer lies with how confident you are with your Photoshop skills and whether you think it’s ethical. Personally, I don’t see a problem with the ethics unless it is major violation of copyright or trademark laws, such as changing the Coke logo from red to green.

So how do you change the color of something in Photoshop and make it look realistic? You know there is a way, but not quite sure of it. Well as it turns out, there are several ways. I’m going to show you a couple of ways that are very simple.

The first way is with a Hue and Saturation adjustment layer. See the image below where the girl has on a shirt that doesn’t blend well with the background. I want the shirt to be more of a blue-green color.

Bad Color Harmony

So add a Hue and Saturation adjustment layer. This technique usually gets you about 90% there and then you have to mask out the rest. Below is the Hue and Saturation adjustment layer dialog box. There are multiple ways to do this, but I am going to show you how I do it and I think it’s probably the easiest.

Hue And Saturation Dialog Box

The first thing you do is click on the color sampler (hand with finger pointing, see above). Then click in the area of the color you want to change. You will probably have different tones of that color, some dark and some light. Try to click in a mid tone. Clicking in the sample area will set your color bar for your current color (see image above) and the sliders will indicate a range of that color. Most of the time it will include colors you don’t really want. For example, our image has kind of a rust color in the shirt. When we select a sample with the color sampler it selects a color range that includes pinks, reds, oranges, and some yellows. This is too broad of a range for us, but we will get back to that in a moment.

Next, drag the Hue slider to the left or right until you see the shirt change to the color you want. You may also want to adjust the Saturation and Lightness sliders to refine the color tones. As you move these sliders you will see it change everything in the image that is within the color range of the current color. Since her skin and shorts are included in the color range they too are replaced with the new color. See below.

Replace Color

Now you need to refine the color range for the current color to remove the pinks, most of the reds, and yellows. To remove these colors go to the color range sliders and move all of them in toward the center. You may have to play with them a little to get the replacement where you want. See the image below where most of the replacement color has been removed from her skin and shorts.

After Adjusting The Color Range

Below is the Hue and Saturation dialog box showing the settings I used.

Final Adjustments

You should also notice that the Colors dropdown (next to the pointing hand) has changed to Reds. This is because the color range you selected for the sample was in the red family of colors. It’s important because if you need to make a change later you need to be sure to go to the Reds color. That is where all of the adjustments will be. When you initially open the dialog box it defaults to Master.

Now the final adjustment is to mask off the adjustment where you don’t want it. From the image above you can see that the adjustment is still on her face and fingers but not really anywhere else. Most of this is pretty easy to mask. The only challenge is her fingers that are on her side. Be careful not to remove the adjustment from here shirt around those fingers. See below for the final adjustment.

Final Image

If you look closely you will see that there are still some edges that need cleaning up, but the idea is to understand the technique. It’s not hard once you have done it a couple of times.

Next time we will explore another method of changing color and making it look realistic.

 

Bob Woodfin
bob@bobwoodfin.com

 

To see more of my work visit:
http://www.bobwoodfin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BobWoodfinPhotos/
https://www.instagram.com/bwoodfinphoto/

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) changing colors hue and saturation photography photoshop http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/3/changing-colors Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:10:51 GMT
What is Chromatic Aberration? http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/3/what-is-chromatic-aberration Have you ever shot an image only to have those pesky blue, green, or purple halos around the edges of some elements in the image?  This is called “Chromatic Aberration”.   This happens because the wavelengths of color do not all converge at the focal point in the image.  Your image is made up of a combination of colors and tones.  It’s this combination that gives us our pictorial view of the world around us.  The lens attempts to capture this light through the shape of the glass in the lens and movement of the glass element to converge the light together for a proper focal point.  Sometimes specific colors do not converge at the focal point.  Therefore, that color of light appears as a halo on edges.

Take a look at the diagram below.  Notice how the light is converging at a focal point.  The expectation is that all of the colors will converge at this point.

Courtesy of PhotographyLife.com

 

When this happens you won’t see the fringing, or halos, around the edges.  Below is another diagram showing what actually happens when the light rays converge at a different focal point.

Courtesy of PhotographyLife.com

 

See how the colors are converging at different points?  In this diagram the blue and red rays are converging at different focal points and will cause the fringing to occur.  This fringing will be off of the sharp edges and be somewhat out of focus.  This type of chromatic aberration is called “Longitudinal Aberration” because it occurs horizontally along the Optical Axis.

The second type of chromatic aberration is called “Lateral Aberration” because it moves along the focal point.  Take a look at the image below to see how the light rays move along the focal plane.  When this occurs you will only see the fringing along the corners, never in the middle of the image.  This typically occurs with fisheye, wide angle, or low quality lenses.

Courtesy of PhotographyLife.com

 

So now that we know what it is how do we prevent it?  Well the good news is that usually stopping down the lens will help with longitudinal aberration.  It’s much more common in fast aperture prime lenses than slower ones.  The bad news is that there is really no answer to controlling lateral aberration.  As indicated above, this type of aberration usually occurs with fisheye, wide angle, or low quality lenses.  The best thing you can do with this is to learn how to remove it in postproduction.

That being said, once you discover a particular lens that is prone to this problem there are a few of things you can do that may help.  First, avoid high contrast scenes with that lens.  These types of scenes are more subject to fringing and may include white backgrounds, bright sunrises, and backlight subjects.  If you see it occurring in a particular lens that you are using, you may want to recompose or change lenses.

The second thing you may do, as alluded to above, is to change your focal length.  If you are using a zoom lens, the fringing usually occurs at the shortest and longest focal lengths.  Therefore, if you have to shoot at a short or longer focal length you may want to change to a prime lens.

Finally, once you determine which lenses are prone to lateral chromatic aberration you may want to shoot with your subject more in the middle of the frame.  I know you were taught to compose in camera, but since lateral aberration does not occur in the middle of the frame you can avoid the problem and crop to a more pleasing composition in postproduction.  Not what I like to do, but it’s an option to avoid having to remove the fringing afterward.

Even high-end expensive lenses are prone to some chromatic aberration.  Many lens manufacturers have used certain techniques with special optics to reduce this somewhat, but still cannot totally eliminate it.  However, many of today’s cameras have included processing that can reduce or eliminate some of this issue.

I hope this has helped with the understanding of what this issue is and ways to reduce or eliminate it.  The reality is that I own high-end expensive lenses and still have to deal with this on occasion.  I would suggest understanding how to recognize which lenses may be prone to it and how to use either Lightroom or Photoshop to remove it.

 

Bob Woodfin
bob@bobwoodfin.com

 

To see more of my work visit:
http://www.bobwoodfin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BobWoodfinPhotos/
https://www.instagram.com/bwoodfinphoto/

 

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) chromatic aberration lens lenses photography http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/3/what-is-chromatic-aberration Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:26:49 GMT
Getting Started With The Photoshop Interface http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/3/getting-started-with-the-photoshop-interface If you’re new to Photoshop, or dabbled just enough to get really frustrated, welcome to the club. It’s very daunting at first because there is so much there. My experience is that the best way to approach it is to start very small and take a few things at a time. Once you get comfortable with the littler things you can begin to take on bigger more difficult tasks. It’s a building process.

I think the first thing you should get comfortable with is the interface itself. If you can’t get around and don’t know where to find things the frustration will only get worse. So let’s take a look at what you get when you first go into Photoshop. See image below. I use a Mac, but the Windows interface is almost identical.

Photoshop CC 2018 Screen Photoshop CC 2018 Screen

 

This opening screen is the default workspace. We’ll talk a bit more about workspaces in a moment, but for now just realize that you can customize the screen to look a way that works with your workflow.

There are 3 primary areas that you should become familiar with. The menus at the top follow the common practice of allowing you to get around and do most common functions such as opening a file, closing a file, editing a file, etc., including things unique to Photoshop such as working with selections, applying filters, applying adjustments, etc.. A deep dive into these will have to wait until another time. For now let’s just look at the workspace. You really can’t change the look and feel of the menu system and probably wouldn’t want to anyway.

Down the left side is the tool bar. This is where you can select tools to perform a particular task. These tasks could be making a selection, cloning an area, brushing, dodging and burning, erasing, adding text, etc..

Along the right side are the various palettes. These include windows into specific activities. For example, the History palette shows a history of all of the activities you have performed. The Layers palette includes all of the layers you have applied to the image. Other palettes include activities you can perform, such as the Adjustments palette. Here you can apply specific adjustments to the current layer.

These palettes can be grouped together and distinguished by tabs, such as the Libraries, Adjustments, and Styles. They can also be in a group of their own with no tabs. Finally, they can also be minimized and activated by clicking on their thumbnail, such as the History palette. See image below.

Palettes Can Be Made Available In Multiple Forms

So how can we customize the look and feel of these? You are not limited to the toolbar being on the left and the palettes being on the right. Let’s look at the Toolbar first. To move the Toolbar just click on the top of the Toolbar window and drag it. See below.

How To Move The Toolbar

You can also change the look of the Toolbar. Just click on the double arrow at the top of the Toolbar window. All this really does is change the tools to be in two columns instead of one giving it a shorter and more compact look. See below.

Change The Look Of The Toolbar

The Palettes can be customized even more than the Toolbar. At any time you can move a particular palette to a new location. As indicated above that palette can be grouped with other palettes, attached to other palettes but by itself (no tabs), reduced to a thumbnail, or out by itself. I’ll explain each of these next.

Let’s say I wanted to move the Swatches palette to be grouped with the Libraries, Adjustments, and Styles. All I have to do is click and drag the Swatches tab down to the other group. See below.

Move A Palette To A New Group

If you don’t like where it is you can always move it back.

At times you may want the palette to be in a group by itself. This may be if you use it often and do not want to have to click on the tab all of the time. However, the last tab used in a group is always the tab that is open when you open Photoshop, so not sure this is a valid argument. You also may want to create a new group that you will later add other palettes to or maybe it doesn’t really fit into any other group. To create the new group click and drag the tab to the separator line in between groups. When it turns BLUE, release the mouse and the tab will be in a group of its own. See below.

Click And Drag The Tab To The Separator Line Between Groups

New Swatches Tab Has Been Created

Now what if I know that I always use Swatches on every image so I want it to always be open and available. One way to do this is to add it to your workspace. To add it to the workspace just drag the tab out and on to the workspace area. See the result below.

Drag The Palette On To The Workspace

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this because it takes up valuable workspace, but it is an option. It may also be a temporary way to create a group that you want to move into the other linked groups later.

Finally, if I wanted to minimize or make the palette a thumbnail to save valuable workspace all I have to do is right click on the tab and select either Minimize or Collapse to Icons. See below.

Minimize Or Collapse The Palette Into Icons

Selecting these options will give you one of the results below.

Minimize A Palette

Collapse To Icons

Just like the groups, you can rearrange these items by dragging them to a new location. You can also create groups of icons by dragging one icon to another. When you see the BLUE bar and release it will snap them together. You can group them side by side or vertically.

Now that we know how we can add and create different ways to access the palettes let’s look at one more way to setup the palettes.

Let’s create a couple of groups of palettes to demonstrate. See below.

Two Groups Of Palettes

If I link these two groups together I get the following. Remember, you just need to drag one group below or beside the other until you see a BLUE line. Once you release the mouse they will be snapped together as one unit. Then you can drag them to anywhere on the workspace.

Link Two Groups

This is important because of the following. If you now collapse these into icons the icons for each group will be displayed, but the two groups will be segregated together as well. See below.

Groups As Icons

I bring this up because once you get the palettes the way you want and grouped the way you want they can be easily collapsed into icons to give you a tremendous amount of workspace. Take a look at the following. I have added only the palettes I want and grouped them the way I want. There are so many that they go off of the workspace without collapsing them.

Palettes Grouped And Linked Together

Now if you collapse the palettes into icons and move the toolbar under them look at all the room you will have to work with your image. I almost always have the Layers palette open, but I will only open the other palettes, as I need them.

All Palettes Collapsed Into Icons Except the Layers Palette

This is a pretty radical shift from what most people do, but it makes sense to me. One gripe I see all of the time is how difficult it is to see everything and work most effectively on the image. Hopefully this can help with that problem.

BTW, these are not the only palettes available. To see a complete list you should navigate to the Windows menu. Every palette that is open will have a check beside it. Since everything is now an icon you will not see a check beside any except the bottom three. Those three control some things we will discuss at another time. If you see a palette you would like to add just click on it and it will appear on the workspace. Then you can drag it to where ever you want.

If you have a palette that you want to remove from the workspace you can right click on the tab and select Close from the menu.

Using these tools you can customize the workspace to your liking. At first you probably will not know what you will use the most and what you will absolutely not use. To help you with this there are some pre-defined workspaces and I would start with one of them. There is one called “Photography” that Adobe provides. You may want to start there and then make some adjustments. As you make the adjustments you should save them to a new workspace of your own. To get to the workspaces select the Windows menu and select Workspaces. See below which includes my saved workspace.

Workspaces

You should notice that if you really mess things up all you have to do is select “Reset {Workspace name}” and it will revert back to it’s last saved settings.

There is so much to know about Photoshop. Not knowing how to setup your workspace, or adjust it as things change, can be daunting as anything else. I hope this has helped you get started, or if you have already started maybe it has given you some new ideas on how to improve your workflow.

 
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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) photoshop photoshop interface photoshop workspace workspace http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/3/getting-started-with-the-photoshop-interface Sun, 04 Mar 2018 18:21:17 GMT
A Basic Review of How Cameras and Lenses Work http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/1/a-basic-review-of-how-cameras-and-lenses-work Whether you are just beginning in your photography or a seasoned veteran it’s good to get a grip on how cameras and lenses work.  In this post I want to give you a fairly high level understanding of the mechanical operation of these.

DSLR’s (digital single lens reflex) cameras are designed to allow you to see, in real time, what the sensor will record.  When you press the shutter release the mirror moves out of the way to allow the light coming through the lens to expose the sensor.  The construction of the system that allows this process starts with the viewfinder.  When you peer through the viewfinder you see the object through the lens, but it is being reflected via several optics. 

First, your eye sees a Pentaprism that bounces a couple of times and directs your view to the mirror.  This mirror sits in front of the shutter and reflects through the lens to the subject (see image below).

Source:  farhek.com

Inside the lens you have several optics as well.  If the lens is a zoom there will be additional optics to allow you to adjust your focal length.  This occurs by allowing you to twist a ring around the barrel of the lens, thus moving one of the optics back and forth in the lens to zoom in and out on the subject.

A second ring around the barrel of the lens allows you to move another optic in the lens to control focus.  This optic also moves back and forth inside the lens and is available regardless if your lens is a zoom or a prime lens (see image below).

Source:  DrBob, SVG by User:Jxjl  via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, inside the lens is the aperture ring.  This controls the amount of light that passes through the lens to expose the sensor by changing the size of the lens opening.  For most current lenses this is controlled on the camera.  However, some lenses have an additional ring on the lens to let you set this on the lens itself.

 The aperture is one of the three pillars of exposure (others are shutter speed and ISO) and it’s important to understand how it works.  This understanding will give you a better idea of the aperture size you want for specific effects.  Whenever you open the aperture to allow for more light you are reducing the amount of focus area in the image.  This focus area is defined as the “depth of field”, or DOF.  Why does it work this way?  Because when you open the aperture you are reducing the amount of area in the “focus cone” (see image below). 

Source:  en.wikiedia.org

Notice in the first image how the dotted line (representing the size of the aperture) goes outside the focus cone (represented by the red line) rather quickly as you look through the lens.  This illustrates a shallow depth of field.  The second image represents a smaller aperture.  See how the area is much more within the focus cone as you look through the lens.

It’s important to note that the focal length of the lens also determines DOF.  Longer lenses will have a narrower focus cone.  Therefore, longer lenses are more susceptible shallower, or smaller, DOF.  So a large aperture on a long lens will be outside the focus cone much more quickly than with a wide lens.  This is why shooting at F2.8 on wide lenses has a larger DOF that F2.8 on longer lenses.

When light comes through the lens and you press the shutter a couple of important things occur.  First, the mirror raises up to expose the sensor.  However, before the sensor is exposed the shutter must be opened.  The shutter is another pillar of exposure.  The length of time it is open is determined by the setting in the camera.

The shutter is actually a two-part mechanism containing two “curtains”.  When the mirror raises up the front curtain begins to open.  When the sensor has been exposed for the proper amount of time (determined by the camera setting) the rear curtain will begin to close.  This timing is perfectly synchronized so that every part of the sensor is exposed the proper amount of time.  For example, for a very slow shutter speed the front curtain may expose the sensor completely before the rear curtain begins to close.  However, for a very fast shutter speed the front curtain may only be partially across the sensor before the rear curtain begins to close (see image below).

Source:  Illustration used with permission from B&H Photo

Notice how the front and rear curtains are moving across the image to expose the baseball to the sensor.  Again, how far apart the front and rear curtains are depends on the shutter speed.

Understanding how the shutter works is very important for shooting with flash.  Every camera has a specific “sync speed” that coordinates the shutter with the flash.  The sync speed is the fastest shutter speed you can shoot and allow the light from the flash to be exposed to the entire sensor.  If you try to use a faster shutter speed the rear curtain will begin to close before the flash has a chance to expose the light to the sensor and you will have a dark band across one side of your exposure.  When you shoot slower that your sync speed (called “dragging the shutter”) the flash will properly expose the flash to the subject and the slower shutter speed will increase exposure to the ambient light giving you a brighter background.  There are ways to shoot faster than your sync speed, but that’s a discussion for another day.

As the light goes through the shutter the photo cells inside the sensor record the light.  The sensor’s computer analyzes the light and stores the resulting image on the memory card.   How the sensor analyzes the light is, in part, determined by the ISO (International Standards Organization) setting in the camera.  This setting tells the sensor how sensitive it will be to the light coming through the shutter.  The higher the ISO setting the more sensitive the sensor is allowing you to shoot in less light.  Your ISO setting is the third pillar of exposure.  It is always available to help you get a proper balance of light.

It’s important to note that when you are setting the ISO to a higher value it means you’re compensating because there is less light in the image.  When there is less light coming through the shutter there are less photons for the sensor to process.  This means that the sensor must interpolate what the missing photons should be and add them to the image.  Doing this is not a perfect science and many times the added photons are brighter or dimmer than the other photons and appear as noise.  As technology moves forward this science is improving and many cameras can shoot at higher ISO’s without noticeable differences.

At the beginning of this post I indicated that I wanted to give you a high level understanding of how cameras and lenses work.  While the discussion may seem like a lot to digest, if you take each topic separately it’s really very simple.  Maybe you knew it but didn’t really understand it.  Hopefully the discussion helped clarified some things.  I hope that if you don’t quite understand it with the first read that you would use it for future reference.

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) aperture camera depth of field dof focus area focus cone front curtain iso lens photography portrait rear curtain shutter http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/1/a-basic-review-of-how-cameras-and-lenses-work Fri, 19 Jan 2018 07:15:00 GMT
Key Principles to a Good Portrait http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/1/key-principles-to-a-good-portrait There are so many things involved to creating a good portrait that it will be hard to include everything in a single post.  Probably many of you will think of additional important elements that have been missed, but I hope to include the basic things I think will be most helpful.

The first things that come to mind are those things that are important in any image.  This includes good exposure, focus, and good composition.  Without these elements it doesn’t matter if your image has the other elements of a good portrait because it’s not going to work anyway.  So for now let's assume you have those and just talk about what else is involved in making a good portrait. 

When shooting a portrait the first thing I think about is the look I want.  Do I want it to be dramatic, romantic, happy, festive, etc.?  This will make a difference in the lighting, the posing, colors, depth of field (DOF), and expression of the subject.  These all have to work together or your portrait will have mixed signals for the mood you are trying to show.  Think about this, it doesn’t make sense for the subject to be smiling or laughing when everything else in the image has a somber mood to it.   

Let’s talk about lighting first.  The idea of any image is to show depth.  As photographers we are trying to make a two dimensional media appear as three dimensional.  The way to do this is with highlights and shadows.  As the image goes from highlights to shadows our brains interpret this as depth.  Think about an individual’s face.  Having highlights on the right cheek that gradually turns to shadow on the left cheek shows that the light is partially blocked by the nose indicating depth. The light we use to show this depth can come from two places.  These are natural light from the sun and artificial light sources.

Natural Light

Natural light is the best light there is.  It shows skin tones in the most natural state and evens the light out across the entire scene.  When I’m on location I always look for natural light first.  The best natural light is when it bounces off of other elements in the scene.  This could be the wall of a building, or the concrete of the sidewalk, or even a reflector that you put on a stand.  Bouncing the light naturally diffuses it making it very soft and perfect for romantic or dreamy moods.  The key with natural light is to be able to see it as it falls on the subject and the scene and to position your subject so the light is directed on the subject in a way that is most pleasing for the mood.

So how do I see natural the light?  Seems like a silly question because when you go outside in the daytime there’s light.  Right?  Yes but photographically you must see the direction of the light.  This is what determines where the shadows and highlights will fall on the image.

There are two primary ways to find the natural light that works well with portraits.  One is to look for a location where the light is being diffused by being narrowed into a smaller area.  This could be a doorway, a window, an archway, an overhang, or just a large opening in a building.  Another place to find light is from reflections such as reflective glass, the side of a building, or even the ground.  Once you discover one of these places put your subject in the area of the light and look for the catch lights in the eyes.  When you see the catchlights you know you have light on the face.  Then just position the subject for a good composition and take the shot.  Always be sure to get light in the eyes.  The eyes are the most important part of a portrait and they must pop.  Even if the eyes are closed they should be well lit.

Bella Schmukal - Image SubmissionBella Schmukal - Image Submission

Shot in Natural Light.  Location a Parking Garage with diffused light on camera right.

Artificial Light

In absence of natural light you must provide your own artificial light.  I could write volumes about lighting your subject, but let’s talk about the basics.  There are three principles of light that you should consider for any scene, particularly portraits.  First is the direction of light.  As you probably know, the direction of light has a direct impact on the mood of the image.  We will expand on that here and talk about the effect of putting the light in different areas around the subject.

Putting the light behind the subject is called “Backlighting”.  The effect of this will tend to put a halo around the subject with the front of the subject being dark because no light is falling on it.  You may want this direction of light to get a silhouetted subject, or you may light the front of the subject as well and use the backlight for accent.


Backlighting added an accent or "glow" around the hair

Side lighting tends to show a more dramatic look and it also brings out texture.  Lighting the subject at 90 degrees can be very powerful, however most side lighting tends to be more of 70 to 80 degrees to add a little light in the front.  All subjective, but the idea is to light one side and let the other side go into shadows.  The degree of shadows depends on how far to the side you have the light.  Side lighting can also be used to add additional drama to another technique.  In the image below I added side light to give the image some more punch.  In this case it didn’t add a lot of drama, but gave it a different look.

Side lighting added punch to the image

Front lighting tends to have very little or no shadows.  This is called “flat lighting” and what you will get when the flash is on your camera.  Since there are minimal shadows you lose the ability to show depth, making your image appear to be two dimensional.  This is why most photographers want you to take your flash off of the camera.   However, there is a time where flat lighting is exactly what you want.  Makeup manufacturers spend a lot of time getting great makeup to look just right.  If you were shooting for an advertisement for makeup the agency would want you to show every bit of the face possible to promote the wonderful product.  To do this, their photographers shoot very flat images.  As a photographer yourself you may want to have your image emulate this look.  I do it all the time.  However, as a rule, flat lighting should probably be avoided for shooting portraits of individuals.

Front Flat Lighting Sometimes Works Well

The only other time you should shoot with flat lighting, as a rule, is when you shoot groups of 3 or more.  This is because any kind of side lighting will cast shadows from some members on other members of the group.  You have probably seen this when you have shot groups, or seen them shot, where the light is coming from the side.  Right?  This could be families, or friends, or sports teams.  You see it all the time in snap shots.  Flat lighting will avoid this problem.

One of the most used methods of lighting for portraiture is what is called “45/45”.  This puts the light at a 45-degree angle from the camera and high enough to point 45-degrees down at the subject.  With this you get a nice inverted triangle below the eye opposite of the light.  This is called “Rembrandt Lighting” after the famous artist that showcased it in all of his portrait paintings.  This lighting also gives you a nice catch light at 2:00 if the light is on the left side of the camera and at 10:00 if the light is on the right side.  If the catch light is not in the right place the inverted triangle will not be correct.   This lighting method is not a must, but is fairly easy and always gives you a very nicely lit portrait.  In the image below notice the Rembrandt triangle under the left eye and the catch lights at 2:00.   

45/45 Lighting

All of these lighting methods I have described have assumed a single light.  Adding more lights to these basic lighting techniques can refine the lighting even more and help you attain your vision.  We’ll talk about adding lights in a later post, but for now we will concentrate on single light setups and move on to other elements of the basics on good portraits.

The second principle of light is the quality of light.  This refers to the softness, or how gradual the light goes from highlights to shadows.  You usually want softer light for the romantic or creamy type image.  It goes especially well with females looking for the beautiful magazine fashion look.  Harder light is usually used to show more drama or texture in the image.  I typically don’t use hard light for my family and female senior portraits, although I do use it for some of my male seniors and athletic posters.

There are two things to think about when creating hard or soft light.  The first thing is the size of the light source in relation to the subject.  Bigger light sources in relation to the subject will be softer than smaller sources.  To test this take an ordinary flash light and shine it close a subject.  Notice how the light looks relative to the highlights and shadows.  Then slowly move it farther away and see how the gradation from highlight to shadow becomes much sharper.  Moving the light source away from the subject makes it a smaller source and creates the sharper light.  This tells us that if we want to soften the light we can move our light source closer to our subject.  Of course, when you do that you will also have to adjust the intensity of the light.

The second concept regarding light quality is that you can soften light by diffusing it.  There are multiple ways to diffuse light.  Bouncing light off of an object is one way.  This could be a wall, a floor, or a reflector (including an umbrella).  As the light hits these and bounces it spreads in all directions creating a nice soft effect.  The other way to diffuse light is to shoot through a diffusion material.  Soft boxes, shoot through umbrellas, Octa boxes, and other modifiers are examples of this.

Jenna Geyman - August 7, 2016Jenna Geyman - August 7, 2016

Soft Diffused Light

So to summarize, when you want to soften the light you can choose a bigger light source, or move the light closer to the subject, or bounce the light, or diffuse the light by shooting through a diffusion material.  You can also use a combination of these to make the light even softer.

Finally, the third concept of lighting that is important is the color of light.  Yes, we are talking about white balance.  This is more important in shooting portraits than with landscapes because of the color of skin.  Nothing looks worse than the portrait of a beautiful woman with green skin.  It’s extremely important to get the skin tones right.  My advice is not to shoot portraits with the camera set to Auto White Balance.  This is especially important if you want to display a series of photos in the same setting, like a photo array or collage.  The white balance in this case may not be the same in each image and the skin tones will show it.  Instead, shoot a gray card if you can.  Set your white balance on the camera to a preset like “Sunny” or “Cloudy” and keep it there.  In postproduction, use the gray card to correct your white balance on all of the images in the series.  If you don’t have a gray card image to use in postproduction, you can adjust the white balance in one image the way you like and then set the others to the same white balance so they are consistent.  This will be easier if they all have the same white balance to begin with and is the reason for using a preset instead of Auto White Balance. 

If you are not shooting an array of images and you don’t have a gray card you should still color correct your images, if you want the skin tones to reflect reality.  You can do this in post processing by selecting the White Balance Correction tool (in either Lightroom or Camera Raw, or whatever) and selecting a neutral color in the image.  Neutral colors are any black to white tones that are suppose to be void of any color.  If the white balance is incorrect these tones will have a little tint of color that needs to be removed.  Using the White Balance tool and clicking on these areas will remove that tint.  Color toning your images is always an option and you won’t have to worry as much about white balance, but even if you color tone them it’s always best to start with an image with corrected white balance.  Take the time to get the white balance right.  You’ll thank me for it later.

Posing

I could go on and on about lighting, but let’s move on to posing and expression.  Posing is probably the most difficult part of the process for me.  What I have learned over the past few years to make it easier for me is to learn two or three basic poses and then shoot from different perspectives.  This means shoot the same pose, but shoot full length, ¾ length, and tight head shots.  Then shoot low, shoot a little high and shoot a little left and a little right.  Just be careful that the light is correct for each perspective and that the background still works.  From each pose you should be able to get about 4 to 5 shots of the same pose but are different because of the different perspective.  Learn a pose or two for both a male and female that are standing, one or two sitting, and one or two leaning against something (like a tree or wall).  

Some of the things to look out for when posing are some of the basic rules of photography.  One of these rules states that, “whatever is closest to the camera appears bigger”.  This is especially important in portrait photography.  When I mentioned above that you should shoot high and low you must be aware of the result you will get.  When shooting low I am talking about getting the camera low and shooting up on the subject.  Doing this tends to elongate the body causing the subject to look taller.  This sometimes works well with females to give them longer legs that can look more elegant.  It also can give the subject a more dominant look if posed properly.  This works well with males.

You should also keep this rule in mind when posing the arms and legs.  For example, if you have an arm extended toward the lens be careful that it is not too far away from the main body of the subject.  Notice in the image below how the elbow on camera right is almost as big as his face.   It becomes a dominant force in the image.  The more appropriate pose would be to have him turned a little more toward camera and have him lean his head in a little.  This would put his face and elbow much closer to the same plane causing them to be in a more proper perspective.  It’s a very subtle change, but makes a big difference in the image.

Elbow closer to the camera appears nearly as big as his face

Probably most important for female subjects, is to make sure to slim the body as much as possible by posing them correctly.  You can always take off pounds with the Liquify tool in Photoshop, but over indulgence with that tool becomes obvious and you want them to look like themselves.  I have to admit that I use the Liquify tool on occasion, but I use it very subtly and it’s only to correct posing mistakes (unless I’m doing a composite where anything goes).

One of the best ways to slim the subject is to have them slightly turn toward the right or left of the camera.  This tends to slim the face and body. Ask them to shift their weight to the back foot and to pop that hip.  Then ask them to lean forward slightly.  Remember, the closest thing to the camera appears bigger and you usually want that to be the face.  Posing this way will slim the lower part of the body while emphasizing the face.  You may also ask them to bend the front knee in front of the back leg, or to bring the entire leg in front of the back leg.  This will cause them to turn the hips resulting in a slimmer look.  This is helpful whether you are shooting full length or head shots.  Separating the arms from the body also thins, so you probably want to see some space between the arms and the waist in most cases.  This sounds like a lot, but the key is to turn the body slightly, lean forward, and separate the arms from the body.

Slimming the body is mostly important for females.  With males you have more flexibility.  I definitely shoot slimming poses for males but squarely facing the camera will always give them the broadest look and also a very dominant look.  This is popular with athletes and some of my male seniors.  They like posing in front of their trucks looking “bad”.  Below is an example of this.

Brendan Cockroft - Senior 2017Brendan Cockroft - Senior 2017

Posed square to the camera to portray a dominant look

Another important thing to remember with posing is the rule of 2’s.  This rule indicates that any two things (pair of things) on the body should not be on the same plane.  This is referring to eyes, shoulders, hands, feet, etc..  So you should always think about tilting the head slightly, tilting the shoulders, not having the hands doing the same thing, feet separated and pointed differently, etc..  Remembering this helps you to to create interesting images as well as to light the subject to give you dimension.

Rule of 2’s and Space Between Arms and Body

One more thing on posing that isn’t really a rule, but a technique that I like to help slim the body and give it a more elegant look.  When you have the subject turn the face opposite of the body they will tend to look more elegant.  Not necessarily a technique for males, but works well with females.  See the image below for an example of this.

Head turned camera left and body turned camera right has a more elegant look

As with lighting I could go on talking about posing but let’s end this subject with a final word.  It’s extremely important that the subject be relaxed and having fun.  If they are not, the images will reflect it and everyone will know.  The expression and body language will show the tension.  Believe me I have shot my fair share of tense subjects and it’s very obvious.  Do everything you can to connect with the subject to get over this hurdle.  Your images will reflect that.  I usually ask about something in their life and then show some interest in what they say.  My subjects are usually seniors so I ask about the college they are applying to, or what they have planned after they graduate.  Then I ask a lot of questions about that and show some real interest.  This usually loosens them up and they become more relaxed.

It’s also good if you if you have a good wit.  That’s not my personality, but if you can make them laugh they will usually loosen up and even be relaxed on serious shots.  Just be sure if you tell a joke to keep it clean and remember who your audience is.

Color and Depth of Field

Finally let’s talk about color and DOF.  It’s very important to have the color of the background and the color of the clothes on the subject in harmony.  I tell all of my subjects to not wear anything busy or with bright “loud” colors.  These will draw the viewer’s attention away from the subject.  I am usually shooting in places with earthy tones (darker colors) so I usually ask that they wear something similar and have a few changes just in case something clashes.  I explain to them where we are going and what to expect.  They are usually pretty good about matching the environment.  If I am shooting in a studio environment I will let them know the background I plan to use and the best colors that will harmonize with it.

Shallow DOF to Hide Some of the Background

Whether I shoot with a shallow DOF or a broad DOF usually depends on the look I’m going for, but it can also be determined by other factors.  First, I look at the environment.  If there is something I want to include in the image, like a landmark, I’ll usually shoot with a broad DOF.  Imagine being in Paris and having the Eiffel Tower in the background.  Wouldn’t you want the viewer to see it?  On the other hand if there is something I didn’t want in the image, like a construction crane, I may want to shoot with a more shallow DOF to blur it out.

Another reason to shoot with a shallow DOF is to take advantage of the environment or be creative with what you are given.  For example, if you are shooting a street portrait and there are streetlights in the background.  You may want to shoot with a shallow DOF to see the beautiful “bokeh” of the lights.  This is usually better late in the evening and you may need a flash to light up the subject.  Just be sure that the bokeh is not over powering and becomes the subject of the image.

Summing it Up

So, we have talked about some very basic concepts.  We talked about how to find natural light and then how to use its direction to light your subject in various ways.  Then we talked about adding artificial light and the three principles (direction, quality, and color) that are important for good lighting of the subject.  Then finally, we discussed posing and some of the principles to think about to have your subject look most pleasing.  We also talked briefly about using depth of field to include or remove objects in the environment, or use it to add a creative look to the background while emphasizing the subject.

To bring these all together let’s discuss my approach to shooting a portrait.

  1. The first thing I do is to visualize the image by evaluating the environment and determining the mood of the portrait.  If I am doing a studio session this is done well ahead of the shoot, but if it’s on location it could happen at the time of the shoot.  I usually try to shoot at locations I know or scout the location in advance so this is more predetermined, but sometimes it a little ad hoc.
  2. Once the environment is analyzed and the mood determined I determine my camera settings.  I always try to shoot at ISO 100 and the aperture is determined by the DOF I want to use.  Remember DOF is determined by either creativity, or something in the environment that I either want to show or hide.  Once I know my ISO and Aperture, I can determine my Shutter Speed.  I envision the shot I want and set the shutter speed for that exposure.
    • It's important to note that DOF can also be affected by the focal length of the lens, but that's a discussion for another time.
    • Also of importance to note is that if the resulting shutter speed is too slow (I almost never shoot a portrait slower that 1/30) I may have to make concessions and increase the aperture or ISO.
  3. With the background exposed the way I want I can now focus on lighting the subject.  So I put the light(s) where I want it for the proper lighting technique and measure the light.  The light should be exposed for the same aperture as the aperture set in the camera.  For example, if I want to shoot at F-4.0 then I need to set the light to the proper power to expose the subject at F-4.0.
  4. Now with the flash and background exposed properly I will usually shoot a gray card to use in post processing to assure the white balance is correct.  I try to always have the camera’s white balance set to either sunny or flash.
  5. Now I am ready to shoot the image.  All of the lighting and camera settings should be very close to where I want them so I can focus on posing the subject.   However, I usually take a test shot to make sure.  Sometimes I will need to tweak the flash settings, but I NEVER change the settings on the camera unless I decide I want a different look or mood.  Then I go back to Step 1 above and the subject can relax.

These steps are roughly what I do for every shoot.  Some are more extensive, especially if I use multiple lights, or we are trying to do something unusual.  You should also notice that these steps did not include shooting in natural light.  The difference is that in analyzing the environment I find the direction of the light and determine how the subject must be placed in the scene so they are lit in the most pleasing way.  With this I can determine my DOF and set the camera for the proper aperture and shutter speed.  Then I can move on to Step 4 and 5.  Sometimes I shoot the scene without the subject to be sure I have the environmental look want. 

Closing

I truly hope this has helped you think about how to approach shooting portraits.  Please understand that these are only suggestions and there are many perspectives on this subject.  Take these for what they are.  It's perfectly OK to break the rules some of the time.  They are really just guidelines.  Hopefully, there are some nuggets that you can take to improve your images.

There are so many subjects I didn’t talk about, including composition, distracting objects (trees growing out of the head), avoid bright areas in the image, etc..  My goal here was to discuss the most important basics regarding good portraits that I thought would help the most.  Visualizing what you want is probably the most important part of shooting any image.  By visualizing the image you will better know the lighting, the colors, and the camera settings required to achieve it.  Ad hoc portraits are sometimes successful, but planned portraits have a much better chance of succeeding.

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) color color of light depth of field direction of light dof lighting photography portrait posing quality of light white balance http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/1/key-principles-to-a-good-portrait Fri, 12 Jan 2018 17:58:29 GMT
Principles of Shooting With Flash http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/1/principles-of-shooting-with-flash Before we begin to specifically talk about flash, we should have a short discussion about light in general.  There are three basic principles of light you should consider in any situation.

First, let’s talk about the color of light.   You probably know about white balance but we should include it in the discussion.  It can be particularly important with flash because of the possibility of mixed colors of light.  Your flash is probably daylight balanced.  Most are.  This means the color of light coming from the flash is probably around 5,500 Kelvin.  However, what color is the ambient light where you are shooting.  Chances are that it’s not the same as the flash.  However, this is probably OK as long as it’s not too much different.  A big color range in light could make your image look a little strange.  If this happens you may want to put a gel on the light to match the ambient and then adjust your camera to the correct white balance.

The second principle we should talk about is the direction of the light.  Where the light is coming from can make a huge impact on the mood of the image.  This is true whether it is coming from a natural source or from your flash.  The difference is that you can control the flash a little easier.  For example, backlight will put a glow on the subject and cause it to be somewhat of a silhouette.  This look has a totally different feel to it than if it were lit any other way.  Side lit images will give you more contrast and tend to be more dramatic.  For what I call traditional shots where you want to see all of the front of the subject you typically want some sort of front lighting.  Most of the time you want to avoid having the light in the same direction of the camera.  When you place the light in the same direction of the camera you basically remove the possibility of shadows.  Shadows show depth and without depth the image is flat.

Source:  Pixelogist

Finally, we should talk about the quality of light.  Quality of light is measured by how quickly the transition from highlight to shadow is.  When the transition is very short the light is very harsh, but when the transition is very gradual the light is considered very soft.  So if you’re looking to soften the light how can you do it?  There are basically two things that affect the intensity of the light.  First, is the size of the light source.  The bigger the light source in relation to the subject the softer the effect.  So if you move the light closer to the subject, it becomes much bigger and, therefore, softer.  Second, is diffusing the light.  This can be done by placing diffusers in front of the light, but can also be done by bouncing the light.  Bouncing the light is the primary method used by natural light photographers.  They often use buildings, or walls, or concrete sidewalks to bounce light from the sun.

Now that we have talked about light in general, let’s talk about some topics that are particularly important when shooting with flash.  First, I think it’s important to understand how camera settings affect the light for determining exposure.

One thing you should always keep in mind is that Shutter Speed controls the ambient light while Aperture controls the light of the flash.  It can be a difficult concept to get at first, but it really makes sense when you think about it.  Consider that the light from the flash only travels so far and when you have it correctly measured on the subject the background tends to be unaffected.  So changing the power of the flash to better light the background really doesn’t make sense.  The flash also only last for a specific duration, so changing the speed of the shutter doesn’t really play a part in how much it exposes the image.  Conversely, changing the shutter speed to change the light on the subject doesn’t make sense because while it will change the exposure on the subject it will also completely change the exposure of the background where the light from the flash can’t travel.  This is why you first expose for the background and then set the light to match that exposure on your subject.

Although shutter speed doesn’t really affect the light on the subject very much you need to pay attention to it when shooting with flash.  This is because your camera has a specific shutter speed that you should use when using a flash.  You should use this speed because the camera and flash must be in sync so that the flash fires when the shutter is open and exposing the sensor.  If the flash fires at a different time the sensor cannot see the light and will not be able to expose the image properly.  The term used to describe this is called “Sync Speed”.  In short, it is the fastest shutter speed you can set your camera and have the flash expose the sensor properly.

How does sync speed work?  To understand this you must understand how shutters work.  Shutters work on a system of curtains.  Think of a show on stage.  The curtain opens, the show occurs, and then the curtain closes.  Unique to the camera, however, is that we have two curtains and they both move in the same direction.  Using the show analogy again, assume the curtain opens from top to bottom.  When the front curtain opens completely, the show begins.  After the show, a second curtain closes from top to bottom and the exposure is complete.   When your camera shutter speed is very fast, these curtains are very close together.  The front curtain is not opened completely before the rear curtain begins to close.  This is the only way the camera can expose the sensor properly.  Imagine a shutter speed of 1/1000.  When the first part of the sensor has been exposed for 1/1000 the rear curtain must begin to close.  This is the only way the sensor can be exposed properly (see image below).

Source:  Illustration used with permission from B&H Photo

There are also two different ways that the camera can be set for syncing with the flash.  What we have talked about is what is considered “front curtain” sync.  This is where the flash fires when the front curtain is completely open.  Most cameras default with this setting, but have the ability for you to change it to “rear curtain sync”.  With this setting the flash fires just before the rear curtain begins to close.  So what’s the difference?  If you are shooting at the camera’s sync speed there is really no difference because the rear curtain will begin to close as soon as the front curtain has completed the opening process.  However, while you can’t shoot faster than the camera’s sync speed you can shoot slower (called “dragging the shutter”).  This is because the light from the flash will be exposed on the sensor as long as your shutter speed is at or slower than the sync speed.  If you drag the shutter with flash and use front curtain sync any motion in the image will have motion blur in front rather than behind the action.  Rear curtain sync will give you a more natural trail of motion when you drag the shutter.  This may be the only time you should consider changing the setting to rear curtain sync.

While shooting with flash may limit your shutter speed there are ways to over come this.  When shooting with flash the conditions may be that the background light is too bright, or you may want to record something that is in motion.  Your sync speed may be too slow to allow you to get the desired exposure.  One way to over come this is with the use of Neutral Density (ND) filters.  These filters are placed over the end of the lens to darken the scene.  These are kind of like sunglasses for your camera.  They come in different stop increments and are designed specifically to slow your shutter speed.   So if your sync speed is 1/250 and you want to shoot at 1/1000 your can effectively do this by putting a 2-stop ND filter on the end of the lens.  It darkens the scene by two stops allowing you to shoot at 1/250 and get the exposure you want. 

               

Source:  Wikipedia

This method is good for darkening the scene, but not for shooting action with a flash.  For that you need to use “High Speed Sync” (HSS).  This is a function of your camera and your flash.  Both must be capable.  Most high-end cameras these days allow you to shoot with HSS, but not all flashes do.  It’s usually an extra feature you have to pay for.  However, having this capability can be very useful.

When you set this on the camera, you don’t ever have to change it again.  Even if you are not shooting with HSS.  However, on the flash it’s usually one of the modes you will select each time you shoot.  This is good because HSS has a downside that you must consider.  It takes a lot of power.  This means two things.  First, you will drain your battery faster than usual.  Second, the output will not be as strong.  So if you are shooting through a modifier, you may not have enough power for a proper exposure.  Especially if you are using speed lights.

How does HSS work?  It’s pretty simple from a conceptual perspective, but very complicated from an engineering perspective.  The camera and flash must be synchronized so that the flash can fire multiple times as the small slit between the front and rear curtains move across the sensor assuring a complete exposure to the flash.  The faster the shutter speed, the smaller the slit, and the more times the flash must fire.  These multiple flashes are imperceptible to the naked eye, but are seen as a slightly longer flash than normal.   These many flashes are the reason HSS takes so much power.       

So now that we know these techniques what’s better, speed lights or studio strobes?  Well it depends.  Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.  The biggest advantage for speed lights is their mobility.  They are obviously smaller and lighter.  Not only are they more mobile, but they are getting so smart and powerful.  Even with more power their biggest downside is the lack of power when compared to studio strobes.  Battery life for speed lights is not near as great and the output is much less.  If you are in a situation where you need extra light you may have to use multiple speed lights to get the same exposure of a studio strobe.  There are brackets you can purchase for holding several speed lights on a single stand designed to give you a more powerful light source.  This may be especially necessary if you are using a modifier that reduces the light by 1, 2, or maybe 3 stops.  Using several speed lights to accomplish the task may actually be more expensive than using the studio strobes.

Studio strobes on the other hand are much more powerful and usually do not use as much battery as speed lights.  Many studio strobes also have HSS capability allowing you to shoot action images.  They also may or may not have built in battery packs and radio triggers that you would have to purchase separately and setup separately on location.  The major downside to studio strobes is the size and weight.  Carrying these around on location can be a huge burden.  Especially if you do not have an assistant.

Source:  Photography-on-the.net

Finally, let’s talk about how to set the power of your lights.  It doesn’t matter what kind of lights you have the amount of output is determined by the power setting on the flash.  This setting is incremented by stops.  As you probably know each stop of exposure either doubles or halves the amount of light for your exposure.  With that in mind the power setting on your flash goes from full power, to half power, to quarter power, to eighth power, etc..  Each increment is half or double the amount of light as the previous setting, depending on which direction you are changing the setting.

So if I take a shot and the flash is too much I can change the setting to cut the light in half.  Conversely, if there is not enough light I can double the light for a brighter exposure.  You can also move your light closer or farther from the subject, but that’s a discussion for another time.  Here we are assuming the light says stationary.

Is this the answer?  Just move the power up and down until I get something I like.  Well, you can do that, but there are a couple of ways to get it right the first time (or at least close to right the first time).  First, you can use a light meter.  Many photographers swear by them, while others never use them.  I always use them in a studio setting, but rarely use them on location.  Light meters are very accurate, but many photographers have used their lights so much they tend to know where to set the lights and the setting for the look they want.  Then they just tweak it a little or even bracket the shots.

The second way to get the light right the first time is to use the Guide Number for the flash (GN).  Using the GN makes it easy to get you very close to the proper exposure immediately.  Every flash has a guide number.  This number is an indication of the flash output under certain conditions.  These conditions include an ISO of 100, the flash set at full power, and if you are using a speed light (or a light that zooms) a specific zoom setting (35mm for my Nikons).  So if you are shooting under these conditions you can easily determine the distance the light needs to be from the subject and at what aperture to set your camera.  Here’s how it works.  Divide your GN by the distance from your subject and it gives you the proper aperture to set your camera with your flash set at full power.

Source:  Shortcourses.com

Now it’s pretty typical that you wouldn’t shoot at the exact conditions, but if you can keep the ISO on the camera and the zoom on the flash constant the rest is pretty easy.  For example, the GN on my Nikon SB-910 is 111.5.  So if I divide my GN by 10 feet I get 11.15 for an aperture of F-11.  So if I put my flash at 10 feet from the subject and at full power, zoomed at 35mm with my aperture at F-11 and ISO at 100, I should get a good exposure.  So what if I want to shoot at F-2.8.  I can do that a couple of ways, but one way is to leave everything the same except the flash power.  Changing my aperture from F-11 to F-2.8 is adding 4 stops of light.  If I change my flash power from full power to 1/16 power I am reducing the light from the flash by 4 stops.  Therefore, I should have exactly the same exposure with a much narrower depth of field.

Instead of changing the power on the flash to adjust the flash you could also move the light.  The Inverse Square Law (also a topic for another time) says that if you halve the distance of the light to the subject you pick up two stops of light.  Conversely, if you double the distance you lose two stops of light.  So in the example above I could have moved the light from 10 feet of the subject to 20 feet from the subject and lost two stops and then lowered the power by two stops to ¼ power and maintained the same exposure.

One thing to note about this method is that when you use modifiers (like soft boxes or umbrellas) you will lose 1 – 3 stops of light depending on the number of diffusers (soft boxes sometimes use both an inner baffle and an outer diffuser).   Also if your are bouncing light off of a wall or a reflector you should estimate the distance to the bounce object and then to the subject and then subtract about a stop of light for diffusion.

All these numbers!!!  I hate Math!!!  As you may have expected there is an alternative.  One of the most popular ways of shooting with flash, especially with speed lights is with using Through the Lens (TTL).  This is an automatic mode where the flash determines the amount of flash to expose on the subject.

To use TTL both your camera and flash must support and be set to this method.  Most flashes now support TTL, but the ones that do are usually a little more expensive.  You probably won’t find it on low dollar budget flashes.  You must also have a triggering system (ex. Pocketwizard or Radio Poppers) that can send and receive the proper information to and from the flash.  Once you set your camera to TTL you don’t have to change it regardless of whether you are using it or not.  Then when you are ready, set your flash to the TTL mode.

Source:  Cloud9Design

So, how does it work?  When all of the settings for TTL are in place you only need to worry about your exposure settings on the camera.  You still must set your shutter speed to the sync speed or slower, but your ISO, flash zoom, and aperture can be whatever you want.  When you press the shutter your flash transmitter sends a signal to the flash for a preflash on the subject.  The flash fires a preflash that basically bounces a signal on to the subject and back to the flash indicating the amount of light on the subject.  The flash then fires the proper amount of light to light the subject depending on the aperture your camera is set on. 

The major problem with TTL is that the light falling on the subject is reflective, just like the meter in the camera.  Therefore, it doesn’t always get it right.  However, there is the capability to use a flash compensation.  This setting is much like the exposure compensation you have available when shooting in one of the Auto exposure modes (ex. Shutter Priority).  With this you can approach it much like shooting with manual flash.  Just let TTL get you close and then tweak the setting with the flash compensation.   

Source:  SLR Lounge

To sum up, how should you approach shooting with flash?  First, determine the look you are going for.  Lighting direction, lighting quality, and DOF are the things to think about first.  You really can’t think about camera or flash settings until you have determined these things.  Once you decide these things you can then worry about the mechanical side.

After determining look you want the first thing you should do is expose for the background.  Take a couple of shots and make sure the background is exposed the way you want.  This exposure should include the aperture setting you want and need for the flash.  The idea is to get the ambient light exposed the way you want and then use the flash to expose the subject to match.

If you’re using TTL there are no worries for setting the power on your flash, otherwise, you can use the GN number mentioned above for that.  Take some shots with the flash.  You should be very close to where you want to be.  Make some tweaks if necessary either by changing the flash power, or by using flash compensation if you are using TTL.  You should not have to change your shutter speed or ISO.  If you do the background exposure will change and you have already set it the way you want.

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) light photography portrait shooting with flash http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2018/1/principles-of-shooting-with-flash Fri, 12 Jan 2018 02:58:30 GMT
How F-Stops work http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/9/how-f-stops-work So you're always hearing photographers talk about stops of light and making changes to exposure based on that to get certain affects, but you never really understand what they're talking about?  Well I thought I'd give you a little bit of a discussion on how this works so you can, at least, be in the conversation.

If you think of F-stops, or stops as they are usually referred to, as "measuring units" then you're already well on your way to getting it.  The problem with most is understanding how to use these measurements.  How much you make changes to exposure is measured in stops.  Any time you change exposure to double the amount of light you are exposing to the sensor it means you are adding one stop of light.  Conversely, if you change exposure where you are halving the amount of light it means you are removing one stop of light.  Anything in between are fractional stops.  Basically there are three ways to control exposure with your camera.  These are shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.  So let's talk about F-stops for each of these and then we'll bring them all together.

First we'll talk about shutter speed.  It's probably the one everyone can understand the easiest.  If you change your shutter speed from 1/500 to 1/250 then you are adding one stop of light.  This is because your shutter is open twice as long.  On the other hand if you change it from 1/500 to 1/1000 then you are removing one stop of light because you are leaving it open half as long.  Pretty simple.  Right?

Understanding stops with ISO is also fairly simple.  For example, if I want to change my ISO from 200 to 400 I am making my sensor one stop more sensitive to light allowing it to expose where the light is not as bright.  So, of course, this means that if I change it from 200 to 100 then the sensor will be one stop less sensitive to light.  Again, pretty simple.  Every time you double or halve the number you are changing the exposure by a stop.

The more difficult one to understand is aperture.  The measurement of these stops have a sliding scale that's a little difficult at first to understand.  Just like everything else, though, once you get it it's pretty simple.  As you probably know, the aperture is the opening of the hole in the lens that exposes light to the sensor. The sliding scale for measuring stops of light for aperture is the same for all lenses but where the scale starts and where it stops depends on your lens.  Theoretically scale goes from 1 to about 44 and beyond.  However, while some lenses exist on this scale they're not the norm, especially for 35mm cameras.  In reality, the scale goes from about 1.4 to 32.  With this in mind there are two aspects of aperture that are somewhat difficult to grasp at first.  One is that the lower the number the more open the aperture is to expose light to the sensor and the higher the number the less open it is.  It's a little counter intuitive but once you get it you're good.  The second difficulty is how to count stops of light for aperture.  Again, it's fairly simple once you understand how it works.  Think of a number line that starts at 1.4 and the second number is 2.0.  Starting with 1.4 and moving to the right, every other number on the number line is double the number you started with.  So 1.4 goes to 2.8 (the 3rd number on the number line), while 2.0 goes to 4.0, (the 4th number on the number line).  If you continued you would get a number line like this:  1.4, 2.0, 2.8. 4.0, 5.6, 8.0, 11.0, 16.0, 22.0.  So moving to the right every other number is double and moving to the left every other number is halved.  Notice it's not always exact.  For example, doubling 5.6 should yield 11.2, but the correct number is 11.0.  Just to clarify the concept of aperture F-stops, if we start at 2.0 and close down the aperture by 2 stops we would be at 4.0.  That's two slots (or stops) down the number line.

Here's a nice little image to help explain this
(courtesy of absolutelyfreeonlineclasses.com)

OK, so now that we know how to measure stops with each of these how do we use them together?  It's fairly simple.  If you change one of these by a stop you must change one or both of the other controls by a stop in order to maintain the same exposure.  For example, if I decide I want to narrow the hole in the lens (aperture) by a stop then I must compensate and add a combination of one stop from the shutter speed and ISO.  You may ask, "Won't my camera tell me when there's a good exposure?  Why do I need to know how much to change one of the other controls?  I'll just change it until the camera tells me there is a good exposure."  While this is true if you are shooting in one of the automatic modes, it's still a good idea to know what will happen when you make a change.  For example, if you're using shutter priority mode with an exposure of 1/500, F5.6, at ISO 400, and you increase your shutter by one stop (1/1000) then you must bring in more light.  Shutter priority will increase your aperture size to F2.8 in this case.  Increasing your aperture by one stop may not give you the desired result.  In this case it is narrowing your depth of field and you may not be able to maintain focus on your subject.  So you may want to increase your ISO instead.  Knowing how the changed aperture will affect your image and how much you must change the ISO is helpful to understanding how your exposure will be affected.  This increased knowledge will definitely help you in achieving your desired results.

When I think of this subject I usually think of Zach Arias.  This guy is an amazing photographer from Atlanta.  He did a workshop on Creative Live a few years ago that I purchased and watch from time to time.  It's called "The Working Photographer".  It covers many topics but one of them is the concept discussed above.  He calls it "The Reciprocals".  It's called this because when you change a component of exposure (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) you must change one or both of the other components in the opposite direction.  To do that you must understand F-stops so you know how much to change them to maintain a good exposure.

So if you're a casual shooter, this topic may not be important.  However, if you're aspiring to become a professional, or just want to shoot better images, then it is very critical that you understand this.  It's fairly simple and the more you shoot, the easier it will become.  By not understanding this concept you are taking chances and basically guessing at what to do for your desired result.

Hope this helps and happy shooting.  

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) F Stop F-Stop ISO aperture exposure f stop f-stop photography shutter speed http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/9/how-f-stops-work Tue, 08 Sep 2015 22:42:20 GMT
Should I Use The Light Meter in Camera or Do I Need an Incidence Meter? http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/8/should-i-use-the-light-meter-in-camera-or-do-i-need-an-incidence-meter Whether to use the meter provided by your camera or use another light meter is one more topic many photographers have different opinions on.  Some haven't used an incidence meter in years, or really ever, and are very happy with their results.  Still others swear by the incidence meter and have effective arguments as to why the camera meter is inferior.
 
Before we talk about why you should or shouldn't use either, we need to talk a little about each method.  First, let's look at what the camera uses to determine  the amount of light available for the exposure.   When you use the light meter provided by your camera you are using what is known as "reflective metering".  That means that the meter in your camera uses the light reflecting from the subject back to the camera for determining exposure.  The primary issue with this is that reflective meters use the light reflected back which can be very different because of the light intensity of the subject and background.  What do I mean by this?  What if your subject is wearing a white shirt, light pants, and is leaning on a white wall.  All of that is very light intensive and will reflect back to the camera with a reading that there is a large amount of light.  Conversely, in the same amount of light, if the subject was wearing dark colored shirt and pants, and leaning against a darker colored wall, the camera would reflect back there there is less light.  Obviously, this is not a true measurement of the actual light in the scene.  Sekonic is one of the premier makers of incidence light meters.  They have a very good explanation of incidence metering on their website.
 
Reflective metering in cameraReflective metering in camera
Reflective metering in camera (image courtesy of XDA Developers)
 
Incidence metering, on the other hand, measures the light falling on the subject for determining exposure and there is no account of the intensity of reflective elements.  The photographer stands by the subject and points the meter at the camera and presses the button to measure the light.  Most of these meters have a dome that you can expose or not.  Exposing the dome is when you want to measure the light in all directions.  When the dome is not exposed you must point the meter in the direction you want the light metered from (usually the camera).  The reason photographers like this meter is because it is an accurate reading of the light hitting the subject and not a reflection that is an estimate of the scene.  For the meters I have used I just set the meter for a particular ISO and shutter speed and get the Aperture reading.    Then I can toggle either the shutter speed or ISO up or down to see what measurement is required to get a particular Aperture.  If I am in a studio using strobes I can power the lights up or down to get the reading I want.
 
Sekonic L-358 Incidence MeterSekonic L-358 Incidence Meter
Sekonic L-358 Incidence Meter (image courtesy of Amazon.com)
 
So when should I use the reflective meter in the camera and when does it make more sense to use the incidence meter?  The following are my opinions, so take them for what they are and hopefully they will be helpful to you.  As I always say, it all depends on what you are shooting.  I rarely use an incidence meter except for in my studio.  But in my studio I always use the incidence meter.  I primarily shoot families and seniors.  Some of those are shot in the studio and some are shot in urban locations such as municipal parks or public access buildings.  In the studio I have complete control of the light and I usually want to shoot the main light at a particular aperture (usually F8) with background and hair lights at about a stop less.  With different configurations and multiple lights it's just easier for me to use the incidence meter to make sure I have the light I'm looking for.  However, when I shoot outdoors I have less control of the light and I like to shoot either in all natural light, or utilizing natural light with speed lights to compliment.  When I do this I have to be aware of the intensity of reflective elements in the scene.  If it is a highly light intensive shot I may take an exposure reading on something like the ground or something else that may reflect a more balanced exposure.  I will also shoot at multiple apertures depending on the depth of field I am looking for.  With these requirements I will always use the reflective metering in my camera.  It's just easier and the differences can be handled in post.
 
I also shoot high school sports and landscapes.  When I shoot high school sports it's typically in a setting where the light is not so good.  My aperture is usually wide open, with a high ISO, and semi fast shutter.  I don't really have a choice.  However, even if this were college or professional sports I probably wouldn't use an incidence meter.  For these events there is no control of the lights and the amount of light can change at any moment.   Landscapes are a little different, but again I don't use an incidence meter for these as well.  Most of the time when I am shooting these I just try to not clip any highlights or shadows. I'm also usually shooting long exposures or HDR (with bracketing) so I will have a lot of latitude for exposure when I get to Lightroom or Photoshop.
 
So, to sum it up, when you should use either of these depends on what you are shooting and what you are most comfortable with.  One of my favorite photographers is Joel Grimes.  He never uses an incidence meter.  He just looks at his exposure to see if it's what he's looking for.  But he's been shooting for 30+ years and knows what he's trying to achieve.  He's done it hundreds if not thousands of times.  Another well known portrait photographer is Tony Corbell.  He always uses an incidence meter and swears by it.  He also has been shooting for a long time, but knows what he's comfortable with.
 
To sum it up, it's all about you're comfort level.  There's no rule that says you must use one or the other.  For me, in the studio, I like to set the lighting in advance for what I'm trying to achieve.  I do that with an incidence meter.  That way when I press the shutter release I know what I'm gong to get.  Of course, if you have been shooting for a long time, like Joel Grimes, you may just need a couple of test shots and you're on your way.  If you're uncertain, and if you have the budget, get a cheap used incidence meter and give it a try.  But if you're comfortable with the reflective metering in your camera there's no reason to make a change.
 
Happy shooting.
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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) camera meter incidence meter light meter meter metering photographic meter photography reflective meter http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/8/should-i-use-the-light-meter-in-camera-or-do-i-need-an-incidence-meter Sat, 15 Aug 2015 17:15:00 GMT
Using Constant Lighting vs Strobes vs Speed Lights in the Studio http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/8/using-constant-lighting-vs-strobes-vs-speed-lights When determining your studio lighting there are a multitude of lighting options to choose from.  Usually the first consideration is your budget and the cost of these options can range anywhere from $100 to $2,000 (and I'm sure there are more expensive options) for a single light or light kit.  So, for me anyway, there are only three options:  Strobes, Continuous lights, or Speed Lights.  A lot of photographers, me included, struggle with which will work the best for them.  As usual, I'm going to tell you that in my opinion it depends on what you are shooting and what you are comfortable with.  This post will focus on what I see as the primary advantages and disadvantages I have experienced with each.
 
Strobes are what most photographers use in a studio setting.  I say this because it's what I have experienced.  The biggest advantage to strobes is the output of light.  Different manufacturers and different models of strobes have varying output, but as a type of studio light they have far better output than either continuous lights or speed lights.  What this allows you to do is shoot at varying apertures and ISO settings by changing the light settings to output an amount to match the required exposure.  With this in mind your creativity from low key to high key portraits has a much wider range than you can get with the other two types of lights.  The primary disadvantage of strobes is the sync speed of your camera.  If you're not familiar with your sync speed take a look at your camera manual to find out what the sync speed is for your particular model of camera body.  Sync speed is the fastest shutter speed your camera can shoot while using strobes.  In most cameras it is either 1/250 or 1/350.  If you try to shoot at a faster shutter speed it will result in a part, or all, of your image being filled with black.  That's because the shutter curtain has closed before the duration of the light has completed the exposure.  However, I don't really see this as much of a disadvantage for my studio shooting.  You are usually concerned with shutter speed because of motion of the subject and in a studio environment you are probably not worried about stopping motion.  The exception would be if you are shooting a subject like an athlete or cheerleader doing an activity that is too fast for the sync speed.  This isn't an issue for me but if it were that's where the use continuous lights or speed lights would help.
 
Shot with Strobes using clam shell lighting with a beauty dish
 
Continuous lights are great for "what you see is what you get".  The makes it easier to shape the light the way you want it because you can see subtle changes in positioning of the lights or the subject.  This is especially great for those less experienced with studio lights.  Most photographers have generally steered away from continuous lights in the past because they tended to get so hot.  In fact, that's where the term "hot lights" came from.  The heat would literally heat up the subject if they were close enough.  Particularly bad for food photography and models if you got too close.  However, in the past several years there have been big advances and these lights are fairly cool now.  In my last shoot using these types of lights I was able to handle the bulbs just minutes after they had been on for about an hour.  Another major advantage to using continuous lights is that you are not restricted by sync speed.  Therefore, you can shoot with whatever shutter speed you desire that will result in a good exposure.  The major disadvantage to continuous lights is the lack of output.  I have a TD6 by Westcott and while I love the soft light it gives I must put it very close to the subject or I will not have enough light for a good shutter speed and aperture setting.  In my case, the aperture can be no smaller than F5.6 with an ISO of no less than 600 to maintain a fast enough shutter for a portrait.  Even with my camera on a tripod.  Of course, if I had brighter studio lighting or additional continuous lights that probably would be less of an issue, but for a one light setup in my studio it's a problem.  Therefore, for me this light has become basically a fill light for my strobes.  
 
Colton Senior 2016Colton Senior 2016Colton Senior 2016
Shot with Continuous light using an eye lighter reflector
 
Finally, what about speed lights?  You usually don't think about speed lights for your studio because like continuous lights they don't have the power that you can get with strobes.  As a rule, I don't usually use speed lights in the studio but they certainly can provide a good solution as long as you know how to take advantage of their strengths.  The primary strength of speed lights is their portability.  If you shoot primarily on location they can be a great tool.  Especially since you can get brackets that allow you to use several of them together.  This setup  allows you to shoot as if they were a single light source.  Another advantage of using speed lights is the "Through The Lens", or TTL function you can use.  This basically lets the speed lights determine the amount of output required to light the subject appropriately.  The problem many photographers have with this is that it takes control away from them and gives it to the computer inside the lights.  Proponents will say however, that you can always use your flash compensation to add or take away light from what the computer determines.  Finally, one thing you should consider is how you will use modifiers with the speed lights.  Modifiers such as softboxes and umbrellas soften the light before it falls on your subject.  Using these with speed lights may be a challenge due to the amount of output required.  Softening the light also removes the amount of light that will reach the subject.  Due to this you may need multiple speed lights on a bracket, or move the lights close to the subject, or both.  Speed lights can cost you anywhere from $100 to about $1,000 each.  So if you need multiples you should consider the additional cost.
 
Jenna Geyman - Rockwall Shoot - 03-29-14Jenna Geyman - Rockwall Shoot - 03-29-14
Shot on location with speed lights
 
To sum it up you have to first consider how you are going to use the lights.  Strobes have great output but they're not really portable.  They also have the sync speed issue, and if you need to use them for shooting moving objects it could be a problem.  Continuous lights have relatively low output, but they're great for being able to shape the lighting for your shot because you can see it before you fire the shutter release.  And there is not a sync speed issue to worry about.  They can be a real asset if you have great lighting in your studio or don't mind moving the light very close to your subject.  Finally, speed lights are very portable and great if you shoot more on location than in your studio, or if you don't have a studio.  They're also great if you're OK with using the TTL function to allow them to determine the amount of light required for a good exposure.  The downside of speed lights is the output.  Like continuous lights they lack the amount of power that strobes have.  This means you may have to use multiples together or move them close to your subject.  Especially if you are using modifiers.
 
Hope this helps you determine what works best for you.  As you can see each has their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
 
Happy shooting.
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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) TD6 continuous lights photography speed lights speed lites speedlights strobe strobes studio studio lighting studio lights http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/8/using-constant-lighting-vs-strobes-vs-speed-lights Mon, 10 Aug 2015 19:13:20 GMT
How Do I Know If I Am A Professional Photographer http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/6/how-do-i-know-if-i-am-a-professional-photographer

A few months ago I joined the Professional Photographers Association (PPA).  One of the many benefits of this association is a forum called The Loop.  The purpose of this forum is to exchange ideas and opinions regarding photography.

There are many topics.  Some interest me and some don't.  There was one recently regarding what determines a Professional Photographer.  This quickly became a hot topic and some fairly heated exchanges (I stayed out of it, thank goodness).  The individual that began the topic suggested that there were some fairly determinable standards that can be used to measure this.  These standards may include ones ability to understand concepts such as light and how to control it, how Aperture, Exposure, and ISO work together, etc..  Most of them were, by default, qualities required to be a good photographer.

Many opinions began to come into the forum and most were opposed to using such pragmatic standards for determining a professional.  Most were trying to indicate the importance of an artistic ability that just can't be measured with a standard.  This really caused a passionate reaction from the individual that posted the topic.  He just couldn't understand why you could measure some professions, but not the photography profession.  He mentioned a certified electrician as an example.

Someone posted that trying to resolve this was like trying to determine which religion is best.  I totally agree.  Whether you are a professional is a matter of opinion and everybody has one.  So should there be specific standards to be reached for this determination?  Someone I respect once told me that a successful photographer needs to use both the left brain and the right brain.  The left brain is the more pragmatic side while the right brain is the more artistic side.  There should be a good balance.  Just because you know technically how to use your camera doesn't mean that you can create a good image.  Conversely, you may know what you want as an end result, but if you don't know how to create it you'll never get what you envisioned.

If I'm certified does that make me a professional?  The certification process and subsequent designation certainly shows you have the qualifications.  The written exam can reflect your understanding of the photographic process (technical side).  The required submission of images to be judged by other professionals also indicates you have attained important skills (artistic side).  This could be a good way for a young  photographer (young as far as photography experience) to advertise themselves as professional.

Like I said, everyone has an opinion and here is mine.  Professionalism can be reflected in many ways.  Just handling yourself in a professional manner can go along way to having others perceive you as a professional.  This means treating your customers or clients with the respect they deserve.  Make them feel comfortable that you are a professional and that you will provide them with what they need.  Second, provide a professional service.  This means, from start to finish, provide a professional work flow.  It starts with how they find you all the way through the follow up after you have delivered the product.  It should be both easy for the customer and profitable for you.  If you do this in a professional way you will have many return customers and networking will grow your business.  Finally, provide a professional result.  By default this requires a mix of the right and left brain as well as a good understanding of all of the standards suggested by the individual in the PPA forum.  This seems obvious to me and there doesn't need to be a defined list of what those standards are.  If you don't know how to control light you're not going to be a good photographer and your professional image will be diminished.

You don't have to make your living as a photographer in order to be a professional photographer although you probably do if you reflect professionalism the way I describe above.  Just because your livelihood comes from doing something different than than a photographer doesn't mean you can't be a professional as well.  You also don't have to be certified, although if you are you will possess the foundation to make it happen and it gives customers and clients a measure of your capabilities.  These are just tools that help you as a professional.  They don't make you a professional.

Finally just because you have a $5,000 camera (no brainer I know), a business license for photography, a website or Instagram page, and sell images on your website, it doesn't mean you are a professional photographer.  It's how you are perceived that makes you a professional.  These things may contribute, but it is all about perception.

Again, all of this is my opinion.  You may totally disagree and I can accept that.  Everyone is entitled to see things differently.

Happy shooting.

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) photographer professional professional photographer standards http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/6/how-do-i-know-if-i-am-a-professional-photographer Tue, 30 Jun 2015 17:30:00 GMT
Shoot in Auto Mode? Really? http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/6/shoot-in-auto-mode-really Last August I talked about using automatic modes and how many professionals use them to enhance their artistic results.  Recently the topic has resurfaced so I thought I'd discuss it again.

Most cameras now days give you several options for allowing it to determine exposure for you.  This is a pretty hot topic for many professionals and as you would expect there are about as many opinions as there are automatic modes.  As usual I'll give you my opinion.  Doesn't make it right but hopefully it will give you something to think about.

Professionals that shoot in manual mode usually take issue with the camera determining any of the aspects of exposure.  To them it removes their decision making and, therefore, control over how light is measured.  After all, the camera is just a computer with it's pragmatic rules for how to see the light and as a result set the components of exposure.  There are many  situations where the camera gets it wrong.  It can't always know what your intentions were.  A back lit portrait is a good example.  In full automatic mode the computer in the camera will look to determine the exposure of the entire image.  Therefore, all of the light spilling in from the background will tell the computer that the image is well lit and reduce the amount of light on to the sensor.  This will result in a dark subject in the foreground.  The computer did it's job but yielded an undesirable result.

This sounds like a testimonial to always shoot in manual mode, however, my opinion is that there are very valid times to use some of the automatic modes and many professionals agree with me.  When shooting in an automatic mode you must do so with a good understanding of what the camera is doing so you can make adjustments in particular circumstances.  I call this semi manual mode and I will explain in a moment.  First, let's discuss the automatic modes.

I cannot think of a situation where full automatic mode makes sense for my photography.  This is because it takes total control out of my hands.  This means it removes any creativity I may want for the image and I am at the mercy of the programmers that designed the camera computer.  I may get good exposure, but it's not my image, it's the computer's.  That being said, I can think of many situations where I can use some of the semi manual modes (ex. Shutter Priority, AV Mode, Auto White Balance, and Automatic ISO).  Let's talk about each one individually.

Shutter Priority mode is where you dial in the shutter speed you want and then let the camera determine the appropriate Aperture to get a good exposure.  When I shoot sports I usually shoot in Shutter Priority automatic mode.  I want to be sure that I stop the action but can't shoot in manual mode because the light is constantly changing.  The Aperture doesn't matter and is usually fairly wide by default.  In my case, I shoot high school football from evening into the night in a stadium with fairly poor lighting.  The end zone lighting is worse than at mid field so rather than constantly changing my Aperture I use this automatic mode.

Almost all of my sports images are shot in Shutter Priority mode

Portraits are a different story for me.  If I'm in studio I always shoot in manual mode.  Since I use strobes or constant lights I have complete control over the light.  This allows me to set my shutter speed (sync speed) and then I can be creative with my Aperture and ISO.  By the way I always us an incident light meter in the studio.  It's much more accurate than the camera meter.

I usually shoot differently if I'm not in the studio.  For these types of portraits I usually shoot in Aperture Priority or AV Mode.  This is where I dial in the Aperture I want to use and let the camera determine the shutter speed.  I use this mode because depth of field is the most important aspect of these shoots.  If the light isn't changing a lot I may switch to manual mode, but usually not.  I'm OK with the camera determining the shutter speed as long as I keep an eye on what the camera determines is appropriate.  If I allow the shutter speed to get too low there will be the probability that there will be camera shake resulting in a soft image.  I like this mode too because the camera computer will determine the exact exposure which may be in fractional stops.  For example the computer may decide an appropriate shutter speed of 1/425, where I can't actually dial that in manually.  I also use this mode for landscapes.  Again, I am most concerned with depth of field because I want foreground, middle ground, and background to all be in perfect focus so I want a very broad depth of field.  Since I shoot these primarily on a tripod I don't really care about shutter speed.  Unless, of course, it's a windy day and I don't want blurry trees or grass.

Shot in partial sun in Aperture Priority (AV) Mode

Almost every photographer you will talk to will take a stance against using Automatic White balance.  However, there are times when I use it effectively.  I use this only when I am forced to and it's when the light is constantly changing.  This may be with landscapes where cloud cover comes and goes or shooting concerts or indoor events where there are spot lights and ever changing color filters being used.  However, if the color of light is pretty constant I will try to either take a custom white balance with my Expo Disc or use one of the presets on the camera.  Presets are usually better than automatic but not always.  Also, if you shoot in Raw you can update the white balance after the fact.  It's just a pain and can really be time consuming.  The bottom line is don't use it unless you have to.

Using the automatic ISO mode is something I didn't get into until recently.  ISO is usually one of the last adjustments photographers think about, especially the amateur or enthusiast.  I think this is because it's not really thought of as a creative tool like the others.  One way to use Auto ISO creatively is to allow your camera to determine the ISO with limits while you manually set your shutter speed and Aperture.  What do I mean by this?  The Auto ISO mode allows you to limit the high end ISO amount that you will allow the camera to make when adjusting that value.   For example, if you're not comfortable with an ISO over 1600 you can set the limit for the Auto ISO at that value.  The computer in the camera will then automatically determine exposure and adjust your ISO not to exceed 1600. The setting also allows you to give it a starting point, such as ISO 400.  Therefore, in this example the computer will give you the lowest ISO possible between 400 and 1600.  Most high end cameras now days shoot acceptable images up to 1600, especially if you're only planning on using it online, or not expecting to print it bigger than 8 X 10.

My reference to using these in a semi manual way was meant to describe how you can make adjustments to what the camera determines is a perfect exposure.  High end as well as some mid level cameras will include what is called "Exposure Compensation".  While in an automatic mode this setting allows you to adjust what the camera has automatically set.  For example, while in Aperture Priority mode you can use the exposure compensation to change what the camera determines is the perfect setting for shutter speed.  However, you must be aware that the overall exposure will change.  So if the camera determines the shutter speed should be 1/500 and you set the exposure compensation to change it by -1 stop, then your shutter speed has now changed to 1/250 and thus the overall light is reduced by one stop.  I use this frequently when shooting outdoor portraits to darken the sky and make it a deeper blue.  Then I use speed lights to lighten the subject.  Again, I like this because it can determine fractional stops that I cannot directly dial in myself.

Shot in Aperture Priority (AV) mode with -.3 Exposure Compensation

to darken the back ground

The bottom line to me is that it really doesn't matter if you use manual mode or an automatic mode as long as you know what is going on and take measures to get what you want.  In my opinion, just because you shoot in manual mode doesn't make you a professional.  Conversely, if you shoot in an automatic mode doesn't mean you aren't a professional.  It's the final result that matters.  How you get there is up to you.

Happy shooting.

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) Automatic Camera Settings Automatic Mode Camera Settings Manual Mode Semi Automatic Mode Semi Manual Mode Shooting in Automatic Mode photography http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/6/shoot-in-auto-mode-really Mon, 15 Jun 2015 17:30:00 GMT
The Basic Components of Good Exposure http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/6/the-basic-components-of-good-exposure The basic tenant of photography is understanding light.  This means understanding what kind of light, where the light is coming from, and how to use the light for exposure.  To accomplish this you must first understand the three components of exposure:  Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO.   Not only must you understand what each of these do but, more importantly, how they work together.  Let's first talk about each of them and then we will talk about their effect on each other.

Picture of my granddaughter. One of my favorite first studio shots.

Shot in studio using an incident light meter to measure exposure

Just about everyone can relate to shutter speed.  You see amazing images of hummingbirds shot at 1/5000, or faster, that stops the motion of their little wings.  You see race cars speeding around the track at 200 miles an hour that are stopped using a fast shutter speed.  You also see amazing landscape images where the waterfall looks like silk or the lake looks very smooth and glassy.  This effect is due to slower shutter speeds allowing the motion to blur.  In short, shutter speed is how long the shutter remains open to allow light to expose on the sensor.  Think of shutter speed as how you will deal with motion in the image.  As indicated above, if you want to stop motion you need a faster shutter speed, but to blur motion you will need a slower speed.

The second aspect of exposure is Aperture.  This concept is a little harder to grasp but still fairly simple once you get it.  Aperture is basically how big the hole is in your lens that is letting the light into your camera.  The bigger the hole the more light is being exposed on the sensor.  So how should I use Aperture to create amazing images?  There is a concept called "Depth of Field" (DOF) that is important when thinking about Aperture.  DOF is the area, or plane along your image, that is in focus once you have focused on your subject.  For example, let's say you are shooting a portrait outdoors.  You decide to open up your Aperture as big as it will go to let in as much light as you can.  Now you focus on your subject.  As a result, you will have a very narrow DOF.  This means most of the area in front of your subject and most of the area behind your subject will be out of focus, leaving a very narrow area in focus around the subject. Conversely, if you close down your Aperture to reduce the light you will have a much broader DOF and much more of your image will be in focus.  This concept is how photographers capture those amazing portraits where the subject is in focus and the rest of the image is blurred.

Back lit image with speed light to light the subject

Finally, the third aspect of exposure is ISO (International Standards Organization).  If you were around in the film days you will probably understand this a little easier.  Basically, ISO is the sensor's sensitivity to light.  In the film days it was how sensitive the film was to light.  The more sensitive it is the less light will be required for exposure.  For example, an ISO set at 200 requires less light than an ISO set at 400.  So why should I care?  Shouldn't I just set it at the highest ISO allowed?  Well the answer is that the higher the ISO the more potential for noise, or grain.  In fact, the highest setting will most assuredly introduce grain into the image.  However, that may be OK.  It just depends on your use of the image. Usually it's best to have the ISO at the lowest setting that still allows you to have a good exposure.

Now that you understand what the three components of good exposure are let's talk about how they work together.  A perfect exposure is the combination of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO where the three are used in unison to create the image.  The length of time light is exposed to the sensor, the amount of light that is sent through the lens, and the sensitivity setting of the sensor can be measured to obtain a good exposure.  Typically this is accomplished with your camera's light meter.  Once a good combination of these three settings is obtained the camera alerts you that you will have a good exposure. It's up to you to be sure that the combination of these settings will reflect the desired result.

The following discussion regarding how the components work together assumes that you are shooting in manual mode with your camera, but you certainly do not have to.  It's just a little easier to explain how everything fits together.  There is and will always be differing opinions on whether a photographer should shoot in manual mode or one of the automatic modes.  That's a topic for another discussion.

The first thing you should ever think about before shooting an image is what you are trying to accomplish.  Then you should determine which of the three components is most important.  For example, if you're shooting a sporting event you may decide that the shutter speed is the most important.  On the other hand, if you are shooting a portrait you may determine that Aperture is more important.  ISO should only be considered as most important if you are shooting in low light or if you want to introduce noise in the image to give it a more retro look.  Otherwise, a low setting is always preferable.  Once you decide which of these three is most important for your situation you can set your camera to the desired setting for that component.  For example, you may want to set your shutter speed to 1/1000 for a sporting event.  Next, you have to set one or both of the other two components, Aperture and ISO in this case, to a setting where the camera alerts you that a good exposure will be obtained.  

Continuing with the example above, let's further say the sporting event is outdoors and at night where the lights may not be so good.  Since the shutter speed is fairly fast you may not be letting in enough light.  Therefore, you will need to compensate with your Aperture and/or ISO.  Opening up your Aperture all the way may not be desirable, or may not give you enough light.  As a result, you may need to increase your ISO to make the sensor more sensitive to the light you have.  Again, once you have a good combination of the three the camera's light meter will alert you that you have a good exposure. 

We rarely get snow in Texas. This image was taken about a mile from our house just outside of Dallas. Looks fairly rural, but it right in the middle of a very urban community.

Snowy landscape shot with a slow shutter speed on a tripod

This discussion could go on with multiple examples, but I think you get the point.  Determine what you want to accomplish, then adjust the component to drive that result, and finally adjust the other two components until you get a good exposure.  It seems really simple, but can get fairly complicated if the adjustments of the other two components yield undesirable results.  For example, if you want a very broad depth of field and close down your Aperture you are not letting in much light.  To compensate you may have to let more light in by slowing your shutter.  If you slow it too much you may not be able to hand hold the camera without having blurry results.  This is the type of thing you need to watch out for.  If slowing the shutter is not an option you must consider raising the ISO, or narrowing your depth of field.

Hope this helps those of you that have not been exposed (pun intended) to the three components of a good photographic exposure.  Let me know what you think.

Happy shooting.

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) Basic Photographic Concepts Basic Photography Basic Photography Concepts Basics of Good Exposure Exposure Photographic Concepts Photographic Exposure http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/6/the-basic-components-of-good-exposure Thu, 04 Jun 2015 17:10:55 GMT
Unusual Approach to High Key Black and White Portraits http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/3/unusual-approach-to-high-key-black-and-white-portraits A few years back I ran across a tutorial by Brian Killian regarding high key studio shots.  I decided to give it a try and then to expand it to black and white images.  What I found was what I think is a pretty unique way to create some pretty cool images.  It's a very simple and quick workflow.

High Key Black and WhiteHigh Key Black and WhiteHigh Key Black and White

High Key Black and White

To start with you need to observe three pretty critical but simple rules.  The first rule to this technique is to shoot into a white background and have the subject wear a white top (shirt or blouse).  Having them wear a white top helps them blend into the background better.  That's a little different than what you usually want, but for this look it is very important.  Since these shots are essentially anywhere from head shots to half body shots, the clothes for the lower half of the subject isn't important.

The second rule for my technique is to shoot about a half to 1 stop brighter than the light meter indicates.  This is the most important of the three steps and will result in a washed out look with a slight red cast.  You can still get the effect without this step, but this exposure makes it much easier. 

Original ImageOriginal ImageOriginal Image

Shot out of camera about 1 stop over exposed

Now take the image into your editing software and sharpen and/or remove any noise in the image.  Resist any editing to adjust the exposure.  It's this way for a reason.

The final rule is to convert the image to black and white.  I know there are many different ways to converting images to black and white (ex. Silver Efex Pro, MacPhun, Perfect Black and White, Topaz Black and White, etc.) and I use these.  However, for this technique I will utilize the Infrared filter in Color Efex Pro 4 by Google.  Other Infrared filters may work as well, but I use this one because I can use the sliders to zero in on the effect.   Moving the Brightness slider has the most effect for this technique.  By bringing down the brightness you can add back some of the features you may have lost during the conversion.

Finally, bring the image back into your editing software and make any final tweaks to get it the way you like it.  For the image below I used a layer mask to bring back just a hint of the color in the eyes and lips.

Final image

So there you have it.  In summary I followed my three rules, shoot with a white background and have the subject wear a white top, shoot about one half to one stop over exposed, and process using Google's Color Efex Pro 4's Infrared Filter.  It only took about 5 minutes to process.

Hope this was helpful.  Let me know if you have any ideas about this technique, or if you have an easy one of your own.  I'm always looking for new ways to get great images.

Happy shooting.

 

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) B&W BandW Black & White Black and White Black&White High Key HighKey black & white black and white highly portraits http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/3/unusual-approach-to-high-key-black-and-white-portraits Sun, 15 Mar 2015 16:25:27 GMT
Smart Objects and Smart Filters - Why Should I Care http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/1/smart-objects-and-smart-filters---why-should-i-care If you've been around Photoshop for a while you have probably been pounded with the idea of using Smart Objects and Smart Filters.  Kudos to you if you're using them, but if you're not you're probably getting pretty frustrated when you have to change an adjustment or effect you have made to the image.  Particularly if it was pretty intense and you can't remember exactly what you did.  That's what makes the Smart Objects and Smart Filters so useful.
 
Let's start by explaining what the Smart Objects and Smart Filters are.  The idea of these is to preserve the original data so any adjustments are non destructive.  Therefore, when you convert a layer into a Smart Object you are asking the system to remember the original layer information and the effect each ensuing adjustment has on that information.  If you use a filter to make these layer adjustments the resulting changes are created as Smart Filters.  So the variables used in the filter (ex. number of pixels in a Gaussian Blur) are saved in the filter adjustments and you can always go back and make changes to them.  Even if you have made other filter adjustments afterward.  The cool thing is that this change will be made to the Smart Object including the effects of the other filters.  So if you do a Gaussian Blur and then a Render Lighting filter you can go back and change the Gaussian Blur and the effect will be on the entire object, including the Render Light filter.  Without the layer being a Smart Object with the embedded Smart Filters, this would not be possible.
 
So the idea is to convert your layer to a Smart Object first.  Then apply your filter(s).  The filter will automatically become a Smart Filter and be layered within the Smart Object.  So if you apply multiple filters they will all become Smart Filters within the Smart Object and will each be non destructive and editable.  This also includes most filters from Photoshop Plug-ins (ex. Topaz, OnOne, Nik, etc.).
 
            

Short cut for converting a layer into a Smart Object

Smart Filters used within a Smart Object
While this is very cool, there are some things you need to know.  Smart Objects do not allow certain  adjustments.  Anything that alters pixel data cannot be done within the Smart Object.  For example, you cannot perform adjustments such as painting, dodging and burning, or cloning.  To do these operations you will first have to copy the Smart Object layer, convert the new layer into a regular layer (rasterize it), and then perform the operation.  Performing these operations on a layer mask may be a good option to maintain their non destructive nature.  Also, in the past some of the Photoshop filters could not become Smart Filters.  However, this has changed over time and most can now be converted.  The only one I am not aware of at this time is Vanishing Point, but there may be an additional one or two that I am just not aware of.  Should this situation occur, the filter will not be available (it will be grayed out on the menu) when you try to select it while on a Smart Object layer. To use these filters you will have to copy the Smart Object layer, convert the new layer into a regular layer (rasterize it), and then apply the filter.  Again, you may want to use a layer mask to  maintain the non destructive nature of the layer.
                  
This message box will appear if you try to use an editing tool that is not allow for a Smart Object
 
Even with these limitations your use of Smart Objects and Smart Filters will enhance your ability to non destructively make edits.  This approach will save you time and frustration by not requiring you to recreate an effect or adjustment.
 
Finally, new in Summer of 2014 is the ability to link Smart Objects to other instances where a different image uses the same Smart Object.  This means that if you are reusing the same Smart Objects in other images you can choose to have any updates to the Smart Object in one image automatically update the Smart Object in the other images where it is used.  This can be huge.  Especially if you are using a common object in many image files.  Imagine a client logo that is being used in all of their images.  Suddenly they want to add a small tweak, such as adding the Trademark emblem.  If you have the logo in a Smart Object and they are all linked all you have to do is update it in one image and all of the other images will be updated automatically.
 
It took me a while, but now I am converting and using Smart Objects and Smart Filters everywhere.  Try it a few times.  I think you be convinced as well.
 
Hope you found this helpful.  Happy shooting.

 

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) Photoshop filter object smart smart filter smart object http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/1/smart-objects-and-smart-filters---why-should-i-care Sat, 31 Jan 2015 06:00:00 GMT
Adding Shadows to Subjects in a Composite http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/1/adding-shadows-to-subjects-in-a-composite When building a composite you always have to pay attention to the direction of light.  It just doesn't work if the light on the background is coming from the right but on your subject it's coming from the left.  To me, it's like having the number backward on a composited athlete.  You know immediately it's a fake.  It's the same concept if you don't have shadows on your composited subjects with the appropriate attention paid to the amount and direction of the light. 
 
As you may expect there are several ways to add shadows in Photoshop.  The first way I learned to create these was to use the Burn tool on a new layer.  This works pretty well but it takes time and a lot of practice to get it right.  You're always trying to balance it with the original subject to make it look real both in shape and opacity.  So I quickly learned a quicker and more effective method of both creating the shadow and then making it look realistic.  Then most recently I learned yet another way to accomplish the same thing.  In this article I will introduce you to these latter methods and let you decide which makes the most sense for you and your workflow.
 
For years I have been using the following method for creating and applying shadows when creating composites.  Don't remember exactly where I discovered the method, but it was probably online somewhere.  Then once learned I didn't look further for other methods because it was such an improvement over the Burn method that I thought it was golden.  It's actually pretty easy and quick. First, make a selection of the subject you want to make a shadow for.  The assumption here is that you are doing a composite.  If that's not the case you need to create a selection of the subject with the Quick Selection tool, or whatever tool you are most comfortable with.  The easy way to do to make a selection for a composite is to CMD-Click on the layer with the subject cutout.  This automatically creates a selection of the subject.  Once the subject is selected do a CMD-J to copy the selection to a new layer.  Be sure to click on the thumbnail image.  Now fill the selection with Black.  This can be done several ways, but the shortcut is to first make sure your foreground color is Black.  and then press CMD-Backspace.  The selection is filled with black.  Now move the layer below the original layer so it is behind the subject and you have your shadow layer.  We will talk about how to manipulate it to look real after we discuss the second method of creating a shadow layer.  Both are manipulated in the same manner.
 
Recently I have discovered a new method that is very popular.  I'm always looking to improve my skills by viewing some You-Tube videos, and other media.  Recently I was reviewing some of these for another subject matter and I saw this method of creating shadows used pretty consistently.  It involves using Layer Styles.  First you click on the layer with the subject.  Again, I am assuming you are creating a composite or at the very least the subject is cutout on a separate layer.  While on the subject layer you need to create a Layer Style.  You can do this by clicking on the fx icon at the bottom of the Layer Pallet (or by using the menu and select Layer->Layer Style->Create Layer Style). Then select Drop Shadow.  In the Drop Shadow definition change the Opacity to 100% and optionally changed the Distance to 200 (this pushes the shadow away from the subject)  and the Size to 200 (this softens the shadow and the exact amount is optional).  Close the dialog box.  Now you need to move the shadow to it's own layer.  You can do this by clicking on the Layer menu and selecting Layer Style->Create Layer (or right clicking on the layer and selecting Create Layer).  Now you have a new layer with the drop shadow directly under the subject layer.  I usually group these two layers together so if I need to move the subject the shadow stays with it.
 
Change the Opacity to 100% and optionally change the Distance and the Size
 
The only disadvantage I can see of this last method is that you soften the shadow before creating the new layer.  So if you soften it too much you can't go back.  In the previous method the shadow is softened after the layer is created.  However, you can certainly do this with the Drop Shadow method as well.  Just skip the step for changing the Size to 200.  Assuming you used the first method, or skipped the step to change the Size while using the Drop Shadow method, you now need to soften the shadow.  How much depends on how strong the light is and what looks real.  However, first you need to move the shadow into position.  If the light is behind the subject you'll need to invert the shadow so it can fall in front.  To to this I use the Transform tool.  While on the shadow layer press CMD-T to open the Transform tool.  This will create a bounding box around the shadow.  Now right click inside the bounding box and select Flip Vertical.  Now that the shadow is upside down you are ready to move it into place.  Move the shadow to where the top of the now inverted shadow connects with the bottom of the subject (if the light is coming from the front you can skip flipping the shadow and moving it into place).  Now we want to change the perspective of the shadow.  The best way I know to do this is using the Transform tool again.  So once again, while on the shadow layer, press CMD-T to open the Transform tool.  Now right click inside the bounding box and you have several tools to help change the perspective of the shadow.  I primarily use the Distort and Skew tools initially then the Warp tool to make specific adjustments.  These tools allow you to move the shadow and change it's perspective.  Once you have the shadow in place and it looks natural in relation to where the light is coming from you have two more steps to complete the task.
 
Select "Flip Vertical" to have the shadow fall in front of the subject
 
If you haven't softened the shadow, or you need to change the softness, you should do that now.  While on the shadow layer select the Gaussian Blur filter.  Move the slider to something that looks natural.  Usually something like 16 pixels is about right.  This takes away a lot of the edginess that makes the shadow look fake.  Finally, we know that the shadow should lose some if it's definition as it falls away from the subject.  The Graduated filter does this very well.  While on the shadow layer you first need to add a layer mask.  Do this by clicking on the Layer Mask icon below the Layer pallet (the black box with a white circle in it), or on the menu select Layer->Layer Mask.  Now make sure your foreground color is set to Black.  The best way to do this is to press the D key.  Doing this sets your foreground and background to their Black and White defaults.  Now click on the Graduated filter in the Tool pallet and make sure Black to Transparency mask is selected in the Properties panel with 100% opacity.  The opacity setting is optional, but this is where I like it.  Now drag the from the point on the shadow that you want lightest to the point you want darkest to create a graduated mask.  This may take a few times to get it the way you want it, but eventually you should get something that looks good.  You may also want to play with the layer opacity to get it to look right.
 
Once all of this is finished you may still need to do some retouching to get it right.  For example, the shadow layer doesn't always fit right so you may need to use the Burn and/or Dodge tool(s) on a new layer to help augment what you've done.  Remember, you don't have to be perfect.  As Joel Grimes says, "It just has to be good enough to sell the fake."  You know it's a fake.  Everybody knows it's a fake.  You just need to make them wonder what is fake and what is real.
 
These are a couple of methods for creating shadows, but I'm sure they are not the only ones (aside from using the Burn tool).   Please let me know if you have something better.  I'm always looking for better ways to get it done.
 
Hope this was helpful.  Happy shooting.
Composite of a girls volleyball team.  Notice the shadows.  They were all added manually using the drop shadow technique.

 

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) adding shadows composite composite photography drop shadow photography shadows http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2015/1/adding-shadows-to-subjects-in-a-composite Thu, 15 Jan 2015 16:00:00 GMT
Correcting Color Casts Part 2 (Using the Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer) http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/12/correcting-color-casts-part-2-using-the-hue-and-saturation-adjustment-layer Last time (October 15, 2014) I posted Part 1 of this series (Correcting Color Casts Part 1 (Color Channels with a Levels Adjustment or the Adjustment Brush)) where I discussed ways to think about color casts and how to use the Levels Adjustment tool in Photoshop to correct color casts.  In this post I want to approach the same problem with a different solution.  The Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer is very powerful for changing the Color, Lightness, and Saturation in parts of an image, or the entire canvas if need be.  However, my approach will be limited to using the tool only for adjusting a color cast on images, particularly portraits.
 
Below is an image I took on a green screen.  One of the issues with using a green screen is the green cast that is thrown on the subject.  Notice the spill of green on her face, neck, left arm and especially her leg and shoe.  There are other software products that help reduce this, but if you don't have access to those you need to know how to accomplish it in Photoshop.  As with anything in Photoshop, there are many approaches to how to resolve this, even within the same tool.
 
 
My Photoshop approach is as follows.  Select the Hue and Saturation Adjustment.  You can do this in a couple of ways.  I have the Adjustment Layers panel available so I usually select it from there, but you can also select it by opening the Layers menu and selecting it from the Adjustment Layers option.  When the Hue and Saturation dialog box opens be sure to select the appropriate color channel.  In my case, the above image has a green cast so I select the Green channel.  Next, notice there are some Eye Droppers about 2/3 way down.  Select the dropper with the "+" next to it.  Now, go to your image and take a representative sample from your image.  In our case this is the Green color cast and represents a selection of the color you want to remove.  Once you have made this selection, return to the Eye Droppers and select the dropper with the "-" next to it.  Now, you want to go to your image and select a sample of the color you want to replace the color cast with.  This narrows the color being affected and the replacement color that will be used.  After selecting the samples you need to tell the adjustment tool how you want to make the adjustment.   Go to the Hue slider and slowly move it one way or the other.  You'll see the color begin to change.  If you move it the wrong way the wrong color (green in our case) will intensify.  Just move it the other way and notice it begin to improve.  Slowly adjust it until you have it the way you want it.  You may have to do this several times because you may have differing intensities of the cast (some may be darker as it goes into shadow).
 
Hue and Saturation Adjustment Panel
You're not done yet.  This adjustment has affected the entire image, but you only want the specific areas corrected.  Adjustment layers are layer masks by definition.  Therefore, you can paint the adjustment where you want it.  Fill the adjustment layer with Black to conceal the adjustment.  Do this by clicking on the mask in the adjustment layer and then selecting CMD-I to invert the fill selection.  Now your adjustment is hidden (the mask is filled with Black) and you see your original image.  Press B to select the Brush tool and change the opacity to about 20%.  Change your foreground color to White and be sure the Brush is the right size and fairly soft.  Slowly begin to paint your adjustment into the area you want to change until your get the effect you want.  Remember that you can also change the density and feather properties of the adjustment if you need to for a better effect.  Here is my image cut out and before and after using this technique.
 
The cut out image before and after the hue and saturation adjustment

     Before the Hue and Saturation Adjustment

After the Hue and Saturation Adjustment

 
In some cases this may not be the best tool for fixing this problem, but it's pretty easy to do and is another tool in the toolbox.  Let  me know what you think.
 
Hope this was helpful.  Happy shooting. 

 

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) cast color cast hue and saturation photoshop white balance http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/12/correcting-color-casts-part-2-using-the-hue-and-saturation-adjustment-layer Wed, 31 Dec 2014 16:00:00 GMT
Correcting Color Casts Part 1 (Color Channels with a Levels Adjustment or the Adjustment Brush) http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/12/correcting-color-casts-color-channels-with-a-levels-adjustment-or-adjustment-brush From my perspective there are a couple of ways to think about color casts.  First, many times your overall image may have a specific tint to it.  This may be a light blue or green hue.  When I see this my first thought goes to the white balance.  You have probably either used Auto White balance or forgot to change to the proper preset, or forgot to shoot a custom white balance.  On a previous post ("What's All This About White Balance", July 31, 2014) I discussed the specifics about how white balance works and how to correct it so I won't go into it here.  Just think about it this way.  If there is an overall tint, especially green or blue, then it's probably due to an incorrect white balance.  
 
The second way to think about color casts are times when the light picks up a hue before hitting the subject.  This can occur if the light bounces off of a strong color.  For example, if the subject is next to a bright red wall and the light bounces off of that wall it will have a red hue.  Therefore, the skin color for the subject may have a red tint to it, depending on where the light falls.
 
So what do you do when faced with this type of color casts?  The best way to handle this is to recognize it before taking the photo.  Once you recognize it you can either change the lighting setup or move the subject so the color of light being bounced is either much diminished or removed.  The problem is that many times we are caught up in the moment that we don't recognize this.  So how is the best way to approach this once you go into Lightroom or Photoshop?
 
There are so many ways to approach this that you would probably get a different answer from every photographer you asked the question.  In Photoshop, many photographers use adjustment layers and that's where I am going to focus.  My suggestion is fairly simple but takes a little practice.  In Lightroom there aren't any layers so I only know of one approach which I will describe later.
 
First, let's look at the approach in Photoshop.  Go to the layer containing the image, then add a Levels Adjustment layer (either within the Layer Menu, or within the Adjustment Layer flyout menu).  In the Levels Adjustment select the color channel you want to make the adjustment to.  The default channel is RGB which will adjust the level of all colors.  So if you have a red cast on the subject you would change the RGB channel to the Red channel.
 
Change the RGB channel to Red so you are only adjusting that color        
 
Once the Red channel is selected you can adjust the Red by using the three sliders on the histogram.  The left slider represents the dark reds, the middle slider represents the mid tone reds, and the right slider represents the light reds.  Which one to use depends on the image.  The way it works it that it actually adds the complementary color to offset the channel color selected.  Therefore, if you have the red channel selected and move the left slider to the right the adjustment will be to add Cyan (the complement to Red) to the dark red tones of the image.  You should be careful not to over compensate when you make the adjustments.
 
Here's a before and after example
Picture of my granddaughter. One of my favorite first studio shots.
  Notice the spill of the red color onto the hands and how it is removed in the after example on the right
 
Making the adjustment will affect the entire image so how do you target the adjustment?  Well one of the easiest ways is to use the layer mask.  Adjustment layers are automatically layer masks with the entire adjustment revealed.  So invert the mask by clicking on the mask and selecting Cmd-I (or Ctrl-I in Windows).  Now the adjustment is concealed (filled with Black) and you can just paint in the adjustment as necessary.  My recommendation is to lower the opacity of the brush to about 20% and paint the adjustment in slowly on the desired area with a soft brush.  This way you have complete control on where and how much of the adjustment is applied.
 
With a little practice this method becomes second nature.  Just be careful not to over do it where the effect becomes noticeable and unnatural looking.  You can also do similar approaches with Curves and Hue and Saturation adjustments if you're more comfortable with those.
 
Now let's look at Lightroom.  Lightroom doesn't have layers but it does have the Adjustment Brush.  With the Adjustment Brush you can paint in and paint out, much like a layer mask in Photoshop, until you are comfortable with the effect.  The primary difference between using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom and using Levels in Photoshop is that you don't have the RGB channels and the histogram sliders with the Adjustment Brush like you do with Levels in Photoshop.  Instead you have to use the White Balance sliders where you can adjust the Temperature (warmth and coolness) of the image, along with the Tint (reds and greens).  As you adjust for these colors you should see a change in the histogram to reflect how those colors have been affected in the overall image.  Also at the bottom of the Adjustment Brush panel you have sliders that control the Size, Feather, Flow, and Density of the brush.  So you are able to paint in or out the adjustment with some control.  Getting the effect you're looking for will take a little practice, but everything is non destructive so you can always change anything you have done.
Use the Adjustment Brush to paint in the removal of the color cast         
 
Here's the before and after when using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom
Picture of my granddaughter. One of my favorite first studio shots.
It's subtle but you can see it in the fingers
         
Whether you use Lightroom or Photoshop for color cast correction there is a solution for each.  Choose the one that works with your workflow and you are most comfortable with.  
 
Next time I'll discuss using the Hue and Saturation Adjustment in Photoshop to accomplish this.
 
Hope this was helpful.  Happy shooting.

 

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) Adjustment Brush Levels Adjustment color cast lightroom photoshop white balance http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/12/correcting-color-casts-color-channels-with-a-levels-adjustment-or-adjustment-brush Mon, 15 Dec 2014 18:00:00 GMT
Shooting Action Sports (considerations, indoor vs outdoor, daylight vs night) http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/11/shooting-action-sports-considerations-indoor-vs-outdoor-daylight-vs-night Shooting action sports is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding when you get the shot.  The idea of this kind of photography is to freeze the point in time where the subject is in the midst of doing something very exciting.  This could be a football player catching a pass, a basketball player dunking the ball, a motocross rider taking a jump, a hurdler clearing the bar, etc..  As you can see the list is endless, but the objective is the same.  I assume that most of you are not professional photographers and probably shoot family members or friends that belong to local teams.  You are probably the ones that will get the most out of this discussion.  Those of you that are professionals can probably contribute to the discussion as well as renew some important aspects that you may have forgotten.  So what are the considerations you must think about when preparing to catch this moment.  That's what will be the focus of this discussion.
 
Probably the most important consideration to getting the shot you're looking for is that you must understand the sport you are trying to photograph.  Most of the great shots taken by sports photographers are accomplished by being able to anticipate what is going to happen.  Without understanding the sport you will have a very difficult time knowing what is about to happen and as a result you will not be prepared to take the shot when it occurs.  It doesn't matter if you have the best equipment because you will not be able to utilize it without getting the action in the viewfinder.  
 
Equipment is also important, but first we need to talk about light.  Every photographer knows that light is the key to any good image. Different lighting will require different approaches.  What exactly do I mean?  Shooting outdoors at night will require a different approach than shooting outdoors at noon.  Shooting indoors will require a different approach than shooting outdoors.  
 
                        Outdoor soccer on a clear sunny day                         
Select soccer in Dallas, TXSelect soccer in Dallas, TX
 
Let's talk about shooting outdoors first.  One of the most important aspects of shooting anywhere is if there is the possibility of constantly changing light.  For example, if you're shooting at noon in the sun and with no clouds in the sky there's probably not going to be any significant changes in light.  You can set your exposure and go with it until something changes.  However, if the sky has moving clouds causing the light from the sun to be constantly changing you will have to account for it.  In this case, you may want to use one or more of the automatic modes to help.  I will typically use Auto White balance (one of the few times I do) and Shutter Priority which allows the Aperture to be set by the camera.  This way you don't have to be constantly adjusting the exposure.  I used to shoot manual in these situations and found myself either constantly having to update the settings, or getting varied exposures due to the constant changes in the lighting.  So what if you're shooting at night?  Again, the differences in light have to be considered.  As mentioned above the objective is to freeze the action as the subject is doing something very exciting.  If you don't use a fast enough shutter speed that's not possible.  My objective is to shoot at 1/1000, but many times that's not possible when shooting in low light.  When shooting this fast under these conditions you will have to adjust either Aperture or ISO, or both to compensate.  You may find that your camera or lens will constrain you from adjusting these enough to get a good exposure.  If that's the case you may try shooting slower and/or editing the exposure later.  Just be aware that adding light later is never a good option, especially if your original exposure is close to the limits anyway.
 
Another consideration when shooting at night is the type of lights you are shooting under.  My type of night action sports is shooting high school football.  I primarily shoot a small private school in Texas that cannot afford a stadium with very nice lighting.  It's great for the team, but not so much for the photographers.  What I have found is that these lights emit beams of light with the different primary colors.  You can't see it with the naked eye, but the camera will pick it up.  Therefore, when I shoot a burst I may get a great first frame, then a green color cast on the second frame, then a red color cast on the third frame, then a good frame again.  When I slow the shutter down to 1/250 or slower this doesn't occur.  However, shooting that slow will not give me the sharpness I need.  At first I thought there was a problem with my camera and I sent it to Nikon for repair.  Of course, there was nothing wrong and I still have to deal with this.  My solution has been to shoot at 1/640 (as slow as I can accept) at f-2.8, and 6400 ISO.  I'm shooting with a Nikon D800 so the ISO set that high is pretty acceptable.  I still get the color casts and I just deal with them in Lightroom by adjusting the white balance using the graduated density filter. The problem with this method is that it takes time to make the edits.  The other solution I use is just to throw out the frames with the color cast.  Since I'm shooting a burst there will be those that are exposed properly.  The issue is picking the best shot which may be a frame with the color cast.  These issues for shooting outdoors still must be considered when shooting indoors, but with a different twist.
 
Shooting indoors is usually a little easier than shooting outdoors with regard to the lighting conditions.  Most of the time the lighting is constant and even.  Again, this is not always the case when shooting in primary school gyms.  The gym I shoot in does not have a bank of lights on one side of the court.  Therefore, I have to consider this when shooting action shots.  My approach to compensate for this is to shoot in Shutter Priority mode (like with outdoor shooting on a partly cloudy day) and let the camera determine the Aperture.  It usually does pretty good to compensate for the low light conditions on one side of the court.  However, unlike the outdoor shooting I don't shoot with Auto White Balance.  Instead, I have found that a constant White Balance is the key to consistent color.  The lights in this gym seem to be balanced at 3440K and setting the White Balance to this temperature provides me with the best results.  Even on the low light side of the court.  I also shoot at 6400 ISO to help with the exposure.  As you can see, you have to adapt to the situation.
 
                           Shooting indoor basketball can be a challenge                      
 
Finally, let's talk about equipment.  As you may have gleaned from the discussion so far, the equipment entirely depends on the situation.  In a nutshell, my recommendation is that you shoot with as long a lens as you can unless you are very close to the action.  Football, soccer, NASCAR, Track and Field are just some of the sports where you cannot be close to the action.  However, with basketball or volleyball you may be within just a few feet from the subjects and a long lens isn't necessary.  There are two primary reasons for suggesting the longer lens.  First, is that it puts you right in the middle of the action.  By using a long lens you can be safely on the sideline but give the appearance of being in the middle of the action.  Second, while you can always crop the image to zoom in on the action, this greatly reduces the quality of the image.  A 12 mega pixel image can quickly become a 6 or 7 mega pixel image, thus reducing the sharpness and adding noise.  And remember to use a mono pod for the longer lenses.  I typically use one for the 300mm and above, but not for the 70-200mm.
 
Along with the focal length of the lens you should also consider the speed.  This is the ability to open the Aperture wide enough to allow more light to enter the camera.  This is especially  important when shooting in low light.  My suggestion is to have a lens that opens no smaller than f-5.6 and f-2.8 would be preferred.  Remember the smaller the number the bigger the opening.  Anything bigger than f2.8 would probably cause problems with depth of field (the blurriness in front of and behind the subject).  Again, this is not as important if you always shoot in good light.
 
It's amazing what cameras can do now days.  The camera is very important as well, but most DSLR's will accomplish what you need as long as the light is good.  If the light isn't good but you have a good lens to compensate it can still do a good job.  The only other essential aspect you need to consider when there isn't good light is the ISO.  Remember the components of a good exposure are Shutter Speed, Aperture (f-stop), and ISO.  Probably all DSLR's will be able to handle the required Shutter Speed and as long as you have a good lens, the only other consideration is the ISO.  The ability of the camera to produce quality images at a high ISO is always a good thing.  This allows you to shoot in most lighting conditions and still be able to use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action.  This may be one of the limitations you face if you don't have a higher end camera.  However, chances are that in the next few years this capability will be added to many of the mid level models as technology continues to grow.
 
Finally, one of the mantras of good photography is to tell a story with pictures.  To make this happen most effectively be sure to shoot what I call peripherals around the action.  For example, shoot the crowd, the cheerleaders, the half time, the bench, the coaches, close ups of the coaches talking to the players, the celebration of a great play or a victory, or the agony of defeat.  All of this plays a part in telling the story. 
 
So to summarize.  The approach for shooting action sports is much like anything else.  It depends on the situation.  However, my guideline is to shoot with as long of lens as you can (unless you are already close), shoot at about 1/1000 or as fast as you can to freeze action, don't be afraid to shoot at high ISO's, shoot in Shutter Priority, and shoot the peripherals to tell the story.  Keep these guidelines in mind and then adjust for the situation.
 
Hope this was helpful.  Happy shooting.

 

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) action action sports basketball football indoor sports outdoor sports sports http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/11/shooting-action-sports-considerations-indoor-vs-outdoor-daylight-vs-night Sun, 30 Nov 2014 13:45:00 GMT
JPEG vs Raw - A Hot Topic http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/11/jpeg-vs-raw---a-hot-topic
Everybody has an opinion and I'm no exception.  What I'd like to do is present the advantages and disadvantages of both shooting Raw and shooting JPEG and then let you form your own opinion.  There are times that each of these are valid depending on what you are trying to accomplish.  Hardliners would say it doesn't matter what you're trying to accomplish that only one approach is the required.  So suffice it to say that this is my opinion.
 
Early on, after the digital revolution when Raw files became available, many of the photographers preached that shooting Raw is the only approach that makes sense.  After all, the primary advantage of shooting Raw is that the file contains everything captured during the exposure.  A JPEG file on the other hand contains a compressed file that throws out information that is deemed irrelevant (much of this is Meta Data).  Therefore, the Raw file must be better.  Right?  Well maybe and maybe not.  The primary advantage for shooting JPEG is the file size.  Since the irrelevant information is removed the JPEG file is much smaller than the Raw file.
 
These are the two primary advantages for shooting either Raw or JPEG.  As mentioned above, the decision to shoot one over the other is primarily determined by what you're trying to accomplish.    My simple guideline is this.  If I need to shoot fast, and/or I do not have the flexibility to edit the image then I shoot JPEG.  Otherwise I will shoot in the Raw format.  When I have to shoot fast, such as with action sports, the file size of the Raw format will fill the camera buffer very quickly.  Especially with today's larger files sizes.  Once the buffer is full I have to wait for the camera to write to the card so I can continue.  If there's a lot of action, I can't afford for this to occur.  Another situation is if I have to deliver the files or prints immediately, or very quickly.  This means there will be very little or no editing.  When this is the case there is no reason to shoot Raw.
 
In my opinion, the only real reason to shoot Raw is if you believe there will be some editing required.  I normally do some finishing on my portraits and landscapes so these types of images are always shot in the Raw format.  Don't misunderstand, you can still do some great editing on JPEG images.  However, you're limited by the information you have.  In many many cases this is acceptable, but in some cases it's not and in those cases I want to be sure I can do what I need to do.  Thus the Raw format.
 
Hope this wasn't too wishy washy, or vague.  I'm sure there are other advantages and disadvantages to these formats, but these are the primary ones I have considered and what I use to determine the format to use.  As I have mentioned, some photographers are real hardliners on one format or the other.  And that's OK.  However, in my opinion I believe there is a  time and place for each format.  What do you think?
 
Hope this was helpful.  Happy shooting.
Solitary BoatSolitary Boat in the BayAll alone.

 

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) File Format Raw or JPEG Raw vs JPEG RawvsJPEG file format jpeg photography raw http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/11/jpeg-vs-raw---a-hot-topic Sat, 15 Nov 2014 07:30:00 GMT
What is the Cam Ranger and Why Should You Want One? http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/10/what-is-the-cam-ranger-and-why-should-you-want-one
From the Cam Ranger Website
 
If you haven't heard of the Cam Ranger you really should do a little research on it.  I learned about this little jewel at the Texas School of Photography in 2013.  What first interested me was its ability to wirelessly show the images immediately on an iPad or laptop.  Very cool.  Sure you could tether but that requires a cord to drag around as you shoot.
 
So how does this work?  There are two parts to this product.  First is the hardware.  The Cam Ranger itself is about the size of an iPhone.  It must be connected to your camera via the USB port.  When you turn it on it creates a WiFi signal that you connect to with your iPad or laptop.  The only problem I found with this is that the USB port on my Nikon is directly behind my L-Plate that I use for vertical shots.  That means I cannot use my tripod for vertical shots as long as the Cam Ranger is connected.  Another minor problem is that your camera is basically teathered to the Cam Ranger so you have to be sure you don't disconnect if you move around during the session.  I usually just put it in my pocket and it allows me to move freely.
 
The other part of this system is the software.  Very cool and very powerful.  First you install the app on your iPad or laptop.  Then you have to connect to the WiFi signal created by the Cam Ranger unit.  This signal is only to be used with the Cam Ranger.  You will not be able to connect to the internet or email or any other network functions while you are shooting with the Cam Ranger.
 
Once the software is connected to your iPad or laptop you can do so many things.  The most simple is the live view of your images to your device (iPad or laptop).  You can use this for view only or to optionally capture your file on your device as well.  However, the original file is still saved on the card in your camera.  A little different than when you shoot teathered where the file is not saved on the card.
 
The most powerful functions are all the things you can do remotely with your camera.  Imagine this.  Put your camera on a tripod and frame the image.  Now go to the app on the iPad or laptop.  You have the following options you can select based on your need.
  • Adjust Focus
  • Adjust ISO
  • Adjust Shutter Speed
  • Adjust Aperture
  • Adjust White Balance
  • Set to shoot bracketed
  • Set to shoot HDR
  • Set to shoot Focus Stacking
  • Set to shoot with the Intervalometer
  • Fire the shutter release
  • Shoot Video
  • Share Images to Multiple Devices
All of these are very simple to use.  For example, just tap on the part of your live view image where you want to set the focus and the refocus occurs.  Just like on your iPhone.  However, not like your iPhone you can't zoom in and out.  So if you're using a zoom lens you have to be at the focal point you want before using these options.
 
The current price for the Cam Ranger is $299.99 on their website, but you can often find it for less at affiliate stores like Amazon.  Do some research and I assure you it'll wet your appetite for it.  Here is a really good independent review by B&H Photo & Video.
 
BTW, I use primarily Mac devices so I have only mentioned the iPad.  However, this also works with Windows and Android devices.
 
Happy shooting.

 

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(Bob Woodfin Photography, CPP) Bracketing Cam Ranger Focus Stacking HDR Intervalometer camranger photography remote shooting shooting remote tethered wirless http://www.bobwoodfin.com/blog/2014/10/what-is-the-cam-ranger-and-why-should-you-want-one Fri, 31 Oct 2014 18:30:00 GMT