About Michael Willems

Michael is a professional photographer and photography teacher and private coach. Based in Ontario, he teaches and shoots worldwide. See more at www.michaelwillems.ca and www.speedlighter.ca

More lifestyle

A lifestyle shoot like the one the other day involves many aspects of photography. Firstly, the images need to be good technically. But they also need to tell stories, and more particularly: they need to force the viewer to complete the story in his or her mind.

Here, I used side lighting to add interest:

And this is a typical storytelling image:

If you analyze carefully where your eyes go, you will see it is to the man’s face, then to the woman he is talking to, and you then realize they are all smiling; then you take in the rest of the detail, including the drinks.

Drinks are the focus here:

But again, the story is about the relationship between the people and whoever they are looking at. The models, who included professional actors, were excellent.

 

Happy Happier.

So yesterday was a lifestyle shoot. That means…

Happy:

Colourful:

Musical:

…Hawaii-themed:

It also needs careful lighting: yesterday for me was about composition and light. Two speedlights, one in an umbrella, that’s all I used. Everything in manual; flashes operated by pocketwizards. And careful balancing of foreground and background light. And saturated colours as a result.

A shoot like that also needs design, storyboarding, props, models, and timing. Everything is designed. And a photographer who knows what is required. I can shoot in any style required, and for this style, colour is the big requirement: colour and happiness and interaction, communication, “party”. It’s great when everything comes together, and yesterday’s shoot, for a mobile spa, was one of those.

 

 

Mood. Moody. Moodier.

Feelings. Mood. That’s what we are all about, and that’s what series of photographs can also be all about. Like these, from a theme shoot on Saturday: can you tell what mood they portray?

That’s right: Sadness. Depression. Desperation. Suicide.

And the trick is to portray that without totally spelling it out. You do that by such things as:

  • Using appropriate facial expressions.
  • Using appropriate body language.
  • Lighting carefully.
  • Using harder rather than softer light.
  • Desaturating the colours.
  • Sharpening.
  • Using black and white.
  • Using shadows.
  • Vignetting slightly, perhaps.
  • Increasing contrast.
  • Increasing Clarity.

And that’s when you can show moodiness.

The above (best seen at full size) were taken during a charity shoot Saturday. A shoot for a mental health charity that concerns itself with depression, suicide, addiction. Hence the long faces on the part of the models, who all volunteered their time, as did the hair stylist and make-up artist.

 

Where.

Travel photography is a popular reason for people to buy a camera, and to actually use it. Before you go, buy my book on travel photography and have me put on my Impactful Travel Photography seminar for you and a few friends (see http://learning.photography).  And let me give you just a couple of starting notes in this post.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

First: research where exactly you are going to go. I use Flickr and to a lesser extent Google image search to look for great images in the location I am going to. Then I look up where exactly they were taken, and at what time of day (Flickr usually retains the EXIF data). I look for best viewpoints and then research where they are: “where was that great photo taken from, and at what time”. I even look at what lenses were used. Not that you should copy, but you can draw conclusions from that kind of data.

View from the Hotel Chelsea, NY, NY

I also look up attractions’ GPS coordinates, since attractions do not always have a street address. You can google that: Searching for “latitude and longitude of Zabriskie Point” gives you “36.4200° N, 116.8111° W”.

I also look for shooting locations of Hollywood movies: why not let Hollywood do the heavy lifting of finding great locations?

On location, I always ask the hotel reception, the concierge; I buy postcards of locations, and I look for events, since people often do not mind being photographed at them; they expect, rather than resist, cameras.

Bring an app like Daylight to check exact sunrise and sunset times; an hour each way around sunrise and sunset , you get wonderful light.

Then check you have what you need. Camera(s); batteries; chargers; memory cards; lenses; flash(es); perhaps an ND and Polarizing filter or two; some cloths for cleaning (anything that is small, light and cheap is good!); whatever you need, think about it now, not just before traveling.

In other words: preparation does wonders when traveling.

An old light trick

This came up in class tonight, so, a repeat:


Okay, here’s a simple trick shot for you.

How did I get the bulb to light up without it being connected?

Simple. Like this:

I used an LED flashlight behind the (frosted) bulb. That makes it look like the bulb itself is lit. 6 second exposure, 200 ISO, f/5.6.

Sometimes “simple” is all it takes.