Jane and hats

This is Jane Dayus-Hinch at today’s Bridal Show in Toronto:

As you see, Jane wears hats. Large hats. And these are extremely challenging, photographically. You will get very dark eyes.

What you can do:

  • If using flash, lower your lights a little, and perhaps move them a little farther away.
  • Tip the hat up a little.
  • Add a reflector underneath.
  • Use a white floor with a lot of ambient light mixed in (as I did here).
  • Do some post work.

Even with these, the conditions will still not be perfect, so you may have to live with slightly darker eyes. But at least the photos will be acceptable, as this one is. And as Jane’s photographer, I have to be able to handle hats!

 

 

The Camera Puts On Ten Pounds

…or so it is said, in the case of TV, where the camera does really put on ten pounds. Why? Because TV is made with wide angle lenses.

To illustrate this, let’s make a portrait using a 200mm lens:

An undistorted view of the subject. Now let’s zoom out to 35mm. But then, wait….  the subject will be small, very small. So we will have to get closer to keep the subject the same size. It is that closeness that causes the subsequent distortion:

All distorted, and again, this is not because of the wide angle; it is because of the closeness that the wide angle necessitates. That is why we say:

“Do not use a wide angle lens for portraits”.

What we really mean is:

“Do not use a wide angle lens for portraits where the subject is large, because then you’ll have to be too close and you’ll get distortion as a result of that closeness.”

That does not sound quite so punchy though, does it?

Sometimes we can use that distortion for a deliberate comical effect:

I suppose the one thing you may want ti take away from all this is: know your lenses and when to use which one. Pay attention in particular to:

  1. Depth of field.
  2. Perspective distortion.
  3. Susceptibility to (or resistance to) motion blur.

All three of these have something to do with focal length. When you are learning photography, it is your job to figure out in which way.

 

Always look on the bright side

When lighting skin, there’s one rule I go by: I light it brightly.

This student on my college course looks great and pretty:

But look what happens when I light her up 1.66 extra stops:

Her skin looks even better.

So when I use flash, I expose 1-2 stops over normal, by using flash exposure compensation when using TTL flash, or by increasing flash power, or by simply exposing more when using available light. You will see a lot of high-key images in my work:

Those are from a shoot I did today. One on camera flash, manual, 1/4 power, camera on 400 ISO, 1/125 sec, f/5. And one flash on my left, set at 1/32 power, aimed direct at the subject through a 1/4″ Honl photo grid.

Can you seen the effect of the individual flashes, and of exposing so brightly?

 

Less is more.

Sometimes, simple is all you need. Like in this headshot:

This shot is simple in many ways:

  • Shot with simple camera settings: f/5.6, 1/125 sec, 400 ISO.
  • I am using just one flash on camera, aimed 45 degrees up, behind me. The catch lights are the circle that my flash throws onto the ceiling.
  • The flash is using TTL (automatic flash metering, in other words). Of course since this is a high key scene, I set flash compensation to +2 stops.
  • I am filling the frame. Yes, cutting off the head is allowed.
  • The pose is a simple one, as is the composition.
  • The location is a simple white bathroom: smaller is great since it allows great bounce without the high ISO values you would otherwise need.
  • The dress is a simple white shirt, against a simple white background.

All this “simple”, combined with the right model and a razor-sharp (obscenely sharp, some might say; look at full size) 85mm f/1.2 lens, makes for a good shot. No studio complexity needed in this case; no pocketwizards, no complicated anything. Simple does it; less is more.

So if anyone tells you “you cannot do this, you need more equipment”: it ain’t necessarily so!

 

Things you can’t do

There are many things that conventional wisdom says you cannot do. Like shoot at slow shutter speeds when people are moving.

But I say you can, and damn the rules.

Like this, of baby Aubrey and her dad Dave at her 1st birthday party, which I photographed the other day:

(Shot at f/4, 800 ISO, 1/30 sec; focal length 35mm using the 16-35mm f/2.8 lens).

I used a flash, bounced as usual up, behind me. The challenge is white balance: I could have gelled my flash the same colour as the light, but that was difficult under the circumstances, so I ended up with blue and red light mixed. Not to worry, the compromise white balance, where I balanced mainly for the tungsten spotlight, since the baby is more important than the tables in the background, is just fine.

Back to the shutter speed. It was 1/30 second, and with the baby waving her hands and feet this of course causes unsharpness. In this case, the unsharpness is not a problem. It shows the fact that the baby is happily waving her arms and legs to show that she is delighted to be the centre of attention. Without that, the photo would have been boring. With it, it shows the joy of the occasion.

Success, even though you are not supposed to do this, 1/30 sec with rapid movement in the subject.

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