Through The Eye Of A Woman

OK, maybe that title is a little silly. But it IS through the eye of a woman that I shone my flash

And here, lit from the back:

Macro lens, 1/80 sec, f/16, 100 ISO, hand held.

The flash was shining from the back. This can give you pretty weird effects:

My eye here looks light green, while in fact it is light blue. Back lighting can do that.

But go back to the first shot. See that? Look carefully. A little white point, in the centre of the pupil,next to the actual catch light.

This is mysterious, because I was using an off-camera flash. The on-camera flash only sends “morse code”, as it were, to the other flashes, before the shot is made.

And yet, that pin light is from the on camera flash.

Simple, actually: it is its afterglow. The flash is off, but it takes a fraction of a second to completely go out, and it is during that fraction of a second that the shot is made. Here, the proof:

See, the main flash on our left, bounced against the wall; and me and the camera including its popup flash afterglow in the centre:

And that is why you get a little pin of extra catchlight in some wireless TTL photos, even though your on camera flash is turned off.

(Thanks to Becky for the loan of an eye!)

 

Event

Event shooting is difficult, because things are not under your control. In addition, there is never enough light; bouncing may be tough; there is not ebnough time.

But it can be done, and it can be done well. Especially if you remember you are a storyteller.

You start with an establishing shot. This sets the scene for “where”.

Then you proceed to the ”what”…

Then the “why”, “when”, and “how”.

 

As you see, plenty of detail, plenty of the event, plenty of “background” (the “B-roll” you hear me talking about so often).

In all of this, remember to be roughly chronological; and remember above all to make the viewer work it out. The ideal photo is a photo that makes the viewer take several seconds to tell the story in his or her mind.

The photojournalism story above is already quite good, in just 8 pictures, at working out what is happening. The full shoot consisted of 314 photos. You can imagine that this tells more of the nuance, more of the detail: but in essence, these 8 pictures tell it all (yes, I know, I chose a different person for the post-baptism shot here).

 

Blurry Backgrounds

Those blurred backgrounds we love? That’s why we have an SLR camera in the first place, right. A beginner’s note on this subject today.

As you know by now, a lower f-number (= a larger aperture) means a blurrier background. So a photo made at f/1.2, for instance, will have a blurrier background than one taken at f/32.

Photo made at f/1.2: blurry background.

Photo made at f/32: sharp background.

But the f-number is not the only thing that affects the depth of field (= how blurry the background is). The other two factors are:

  1. Proximity to subject. The closer you get to your sharp subject, the blurrier the background gets.
  2. Lens focal length. The longer the lens, the blurrier the background gets.

Take these two recent photos, both taken at f/5.6:

Photo taken at f/5.6: SHARP background

Photo taken at f/5.6: BLURRY background

Photo taken at f/5.6: BLURRY background

What is the difference?

The top picture was taken with a 16mm lens. The bottom pictures were taken with an 85mm lens. The 85mm lens is longer than the 16mm lens, so it gives us a narrower depth of field(= a blurrier background).

So you can only say: a lower f-number means a blurrier background, all other things remaining equal. In other words, you cannot necessarily say “f/4 will result in a blurry background”, or “f/16 will give you a sharp background”.

This is why using a prime lens is a good idea: you remove one variable, thus making it easier to get predictable results.

If this is not all clear to you, then do the following: with the camera in aperture mode or manual mode, go take pictures around the house, until you do get it. Try to alter only one variable at a time (i.e. do not alter zoom, distance and aperture all at the same time: you will have trouble seeing how it all works.

 

Point Of View

A portrait is simple, right? Look at the camera and smile.

Not so much. Apart from the “smile” thing, there’s also angle. And the same person can look very different if shot from different angles.

Like me, a couple of days ago:

Michael Willems (www.michaelwillems.ca)

Michael Willems (www.michaelwillems.ca)

Michael Willems (www.michaelwillems.ca)

Michael Willems (www.michaelwillems.ca)

Can you see how they are all different, and yet the same person? Some work better than others. So when you do portraits, try all sorts of angles, and then analyze which ones work. Model the face (avoid even lighting, for interest). Watch for shadows and ensure you get good catch lights.

And note that all of these work better in B&W than they would in colour.

So…. try some B&W portraits from various angles, lit by softboxes.

 

All the difference

Look at Mau the cat, who is pretending to not notice me:

I used my 85mm f/1.2 lens on the 1Dx body. The settings were 1/60 sec at f/2, 800 ISO.

Let’s think about that for a minute. 1/60 sec is about the slowest speed I can hand-hold: any slower and I would shake; and the cat would move visibly also. So that’s a given.

800 ISO is nice. Much more, and I start getting visible grain, certainly on cheaper cameras.

So unless I want to use a flash, f/2 in my kitchen is what I need.

Now… imagine I had a consumer lens,. like the 17-85 f/3.5–5.6. The latter designation means that when I zoom out I can get as low as f/3.5, but when I zoom in I cannot go any lower than f/5.6.

If I used this lens, I would have to go to a much higher ISO. To keep the same exposure, if I want to keep the same shutter speed, I would have to change ISO as follows:

  • At f/2 I need ISO800
  • At f/2.8 I needISO 1600
  • At f/4 I needISO 3200
  • At f/5.6 I needISO 6400

So with the cheaper “consumer” lens zoomed in, I need to go to 6400 ISO. Which would, especially on smaller cameras, give me a lot of grain; a bad quality picture, in other words.

So the more expensive, “faster”, lens gives me a huge benefit here. One not to be scoffed at, which is why we like prime lenses. Which are not all expensive: you can get a 50mm f/1.8 lens for just over $100.

Which I hope you have done!