Deep.

Deep. As in, “this photo has depth”:

One of my cars, outside the mechanic’s yesterday.

So how do you get depth? You know!

  1. Have a close-by object (we call this: “Close-Far”);
  2. Have diagonal lines in the image (the foreground needs lines or texture, preferably)
  3. Use a wide angle lens.

The wide angle lens facilitates 1 and 2, and also has two other advantages: it is easy to get everything sharp if you wish (here, I did not wish); and it is easy to shoot at show shutter speeds.

So pack your 16-35 lens if you have a full frame camera, or your 10-20 or similar if you have a crop body, and go shoot some depth pictures.


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Experiment with aspect ratios

Your camera produces an image in the aspect ratio 3:2 (or 4:3, if you use a four-thirds camera). But why not let go of that, and use your own ratios?

Like square.

Or like wide.

Or odd-shaped.

I am a firm believer in “make the picture whatever shape you think fits the picture best”. Not “whatever the frame-makers in China or the paper-makers in Switzerland have decided for you”. Make the picture the way you like, and then cut white edges off paper, and have custom frames made.

On that note: no, you cannot print a 4:3, say, on 3:2 paper without either cropping the picture or cutting off white edges. It’s the reality of life.

I have found that often, people do not understand this: “yes but I want my 4:3 picture to fit on this 8:10 paper and no, I won;t accept cropping or white edges”. Well, here’s news: you have to. To understand why, imagine you have a square picture. Try fitting that on an 8×10 piece of paper, and now you will see why it cannot be done. So you either crop to the paper aspect ratio prior to printing (Lightroom is very good at that), or you print with white edges, which you then cut off. It’s one of those “it is what it is” things.

 

Myth-busters!

(To the tune of “Ghostbusters”).

Often, my posts point out common myths and misconceptions. Of which there are many… many. On the Internet, no-one knows that you’re a dog, and no-one knows that you are wrong.

So, two oft-heard “truths”:

  1. You cannot shoot with TTL if you are a pro.
  2. You cannot use just one light for a serious portrait.

So. TTL was used in this portrait of students and friend Diana; remote TTL in fact (light flashes from on camera flash drives off camera flash); and the light was one flash through an umbrella. The on camera flash was disabled, except for those light flashes.

1/125 sec, f/8, ISO100.

The curtain was chosen as a classy background, but the umbrella was close to the subject so the curtain would get little light. TTL handles this fine; if the subject had been too light or too dark, a touch of flash compensation would have sorted that out.

The one light-with-umbrella gives us enough light for a portrait with Rembrandt lighting. Fairly dramatic chiaroscuro-type lighting, but not so dramatic that it becomes unflattering. On the contrary, this is nice light.

The blonde hair stands out nicely against the dark background; dark hair would have needed more light.

So there, a real portrait with “studio settings”, i.e. just one light, and using TTL. I could do that all night.

 

What’s with the long lens?

So when I shoot portraits, my favourite lens, if I can use it, is the 70-200.

Why “if I can use it”?

Because it is long. That means I need a large studio to stand back a lot. And not every studio is large. In all probability, your kitchen isn’t large, and I bet you do portraits there sometimes.

OK… but why would I want that long lens in the first place?

Because then I get very little distortion. Here’s a student, a few years ago on an Oakville Photo Walk, from far away, with the 70-200mm lens:

That’s what he looked like.

But now let’s get closer. And closer. So we zoom out. Closer still. Wide angle. Closer still. Now we have a very wide angle lens (16-35), and we are very close:

Can you see that’s a very different (and distorted) person?

Sometimes, in an environmental portrait, you may want to get close to the second picture—though never that close, distortion is out. But generally speaking, if it’s a headshot, you want accuracy, and the farther back you stand, the more accurate the representation of the person is.

There is a second advantage to being far away: you are not “in their face”. That means you are not perceived as threatening and something to fear. Which in turn means your subject will relax more. Basic psychology.

Practice: 50mm (on a full frame) is the minimum for half body shots; 85mm (ditto) is the minimum for headshots; longer is better for neutral, accurate portraits.

Lesson learned: If you go wide, stand back. Because of course it’s not the lens that does this magic: it’s how far away you stand. The lens just facilitates that.

 

KISS

Photos are good when they contain what’s needed, and no more. Often, that means they are simple.

This was outside my front door an hour ago:

Nice and simple. But I can make it simpler.

I could even remove some of those distracting things on the roof:

Since I do not think the stuff I removed was essential to the photo, the simpler ones are better for me. I say “for me”, because after all, it IS art, and you cannot argue over art. (Doesn’t stop people though.)

Now Google the most expensive photo ever sold. $4m. Look and tell me what you think.