Challenges in a

I shot portraits yesterday. Some were headshots. These are sometimes challenging because you want to get great expressions out of people who are not professional models. Saying “smile” doesn’t do it.

But then, even more fun, the environmental portraits. And these should be storytelling pictures. With good group composition.  Three colleagues:

In these, as you see I like drama, so I expose for the outside. 100 ISO, 1/100 sec, f/8. Why not the usual 1/250 sec? Because that would have meant f/5, and in this case I wanted f/8 for DOF.

The story is to do with the airport, of course. And individual shots are easier: see my friend and assistant Maged yesterday as I was setting up for the shot.

Nice wrap-around light from an off-camera umbrella.

Here, another one:

The biggest challenge? The flash has a big umbrella. This is visible in almost every picture as a window reflection. And it lights up the ceiling: ditto. And I needed an angle that shows the radar tower. So in the event, I moved left and right, up and down, back and forth, and I made the light and the subject do the same, until I finally had one angle that had sufficient light in the subject and that had no umbrella showing, and only acceptable ceiling reflection. It’s always possible: I learned that long ago. But I also learned that it’s always a challenge. So: persevere.

Why not do without an umbrella?

That’s why!

 

The Prime Requirement…

…of a photo is that it should be simple. That is:

Anything that is in the photo is in the photo because it needs to be in the photo; else, it should not be in the photo.

Take, for example, this shot of Shiva:

Mmm. It has potential, but it’s not straight, another big no-no, and it could be cropped tighter. That way, we get more emphasis on Shiva and we simplify: we lose the doorpost on the right, the door panel elements on the left, and various other “stuff that doesn’t belong”. And every non-needed element that you take out of a photo makes it better! So we get:

Much better. But the first thing my eye is drawn to is that white piece of paper on the mat. Can you see it? It is almost all that I see. So… healing brush, remove! The same for the black piece of dirt in the foreground.

Then, it’s a little dark, so let’s brighten it. That has the additional effect of removing much of the garbage bag.

And now we have the final shot:

When you compare that to the original first shot you see that simple changes made this image a gazillion times better. And that is the official term for it.

Cropping is a major element of my changes here, and cropping/rotating is, as far as I am concerned, allowed.

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Learn all this and more in my e-book collection. In six e-books, you learn pretty much everything I know. See http://learning.photography for more information, tips and tricks. See you there!

x100: Can you see a theme?

Regular readers will see that the last few days, I have been shooting with, and talking about, the Fujicolor x100 camera that I carry:

Fuji X100 (Photo: Michael Willems)

The theme has been: given the right light (e.g. flash!) and the right techniques, you can take professional pictures with it that are as good as those taken with an SLR. This is almost straight out of camera (a crop and a few dust spots removed):

Now while I am not recommending product shoots with the x100, this goes to show it can be as good as an SLR.

But now let’s take it a step farther. It can be better.

Yes, better. And here’s how:

I just took that picture at 200 ISO, f/8, 1/1000 sec. That makes for that nice, dark sky.

Wait. Did he just say 1/1000 sec, one thousandth of a second? That is impossible since the flash sync speed of 1/250 second limits the shutter speed you can set the camera to when using a flash. Right??

Wrong. The x100 has a leaf shutter. And it allows flash up to 1/1000 second. And as said, that is why that sky is so wonderfully dark. It is in fact noon and it looks bright to my eyes. But 1/1000 sec makes it dark. Two stops darker than my other cameras could have done!

But he could have done that with aperture, with a higher f-number. Or with an ND filter.

Nope. If I had, I would have run out of flash power. The flash needs to get through that filter, or through  that small aperture, and it is not bright enough at higher apertures, especially when a modifier is being used.

So the x100 may be small, but it can do things my $8,000 1Dx cannot do. Just saying!

 

Dot by dot

Have you ever looked in front of a projector as it is projector? What do you see?

What you see is little white dots of dust floating through the air. Lots of them. Dust everywhere. Normally invisible, but visible under bright light.

And that is exactly what happens under bright light when you take close-up shots with a flash.

And as I pointed out yesterday, this needs a lot of work to remove. View this at full resolution (click through until you see it at maximum size) to see all the dust spots:

And this turns into this after a lot of manual work:

And I mean a lot of manual work. Here’s the healing brush tool and what I did with it to produce the image above:

The moral of this post: As I said yesterday, it is well worth cleaning objects before you shoot them: otherwise you have a lot of work, and work like the healing brush work above will cause Lightroom to run out of memory and other resources.

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Want to learn all the cool tricks of Adobe Lightroom? Or the use of flash, so you can use a little camera (or your big DSLR) to take shots like the above? Contact me (michael@michaelwillems.ca) and I will help you. In person, at your location or mine; or through Google Hangouts, wherever you are in the world. Worth every moment of your time, I promise. Photography is an amazingly fun and rewarding endeavour, whether as a hobby or professionally.

 

 

Crispness

I like crisp images, like this one I just took of one of my toys:

You see, here’s my floor, with that toy, using available light:

Nothing wrong with that, but I prefer more crisp sharpness, more contrast. Like the sharpness flash gives you:

I took that picture purely to illustrate how to take this picture, Namely, with a Fujifilm x100 camera (which has an APS-C sensor) with a Pocketwizard on the flash hotshoe and “external flash” enabled. The camera was set to 200 ISO, f/8, 1/125 second: standard studio settings. Two flashes, one on the right at 1/16 power; one on the left at 1/4 power, fitted with a 1/4″ Honlphoto grid:

When you click through to view these at full size, they are good.

View that full size and a few things may occur to you. Like “remove dust with brush and blower before taking any close-up flash shots”. And “a small camera, like the Fujifilm x100, can make excellent, sharp, crisp photos when you use it well”. But especially: “flash is one way to make photos crisp, both in reality and in perception”. Reality, since the flash lasts only 1/1000 sec at full power, and therefore 1/4000 sec at quarter power”; hence, there will be no motion blur. And perception, because exposing to the right (i.e. brightly) and with lots of contrast makes things crisp.

Look at this image full size:

There you have it: sharpness. just one more advantage of using flash.