Daily tip: Power

Flash TIP OF THE DAY:

Say that you are ready to take a TTL flash shot. Once you have set your camera to a certain ISO and aperture and flash exposure compensation, and you have decided how to point the flash, you can do your test shot.

Say it is too dark. Why? Is it “incorrect metering, subject too light, etc”, or is it just “not enough power at this ISO/Aperture” (the shutter makes no difference)?

To ascertain that, and to see how much reserve you have, set your flash to manual, full (1/1) power:

The example shows half power (1/2); you should select full power (1/1, or 100%).

If you now have an overexposed picture, you know you can do the shot. Go back to TTL (press “mode” until “M” changes to “TTL”) and try again, changing flash compensation until your picture is good.

But if instead, your picture is too dark still, then there is simply insufficient power available. So no amount of flash compensation or metering changes will help. Instead, you have to lower the F-number or increase the ISO until that is no longer the case. (Or you could move to a room with a lower ceiling, if you are bouncing the flash).

I.e. if I were to sum this up, I would say:

Never go to TTL unless in full power manual, your picture is overexposed.

Simple, no? But you would be surprised how many photographers struggle with this simple check.

 

Macro tip

A repeat post, from a year ago: because it still matters.

Whenever you take a close-up photo – and it does not have to be one taken with a special macro lens – try to ensure that your object is clean. That saves so much work!

Take this image (taken for my fourth e-book):

That may look fine, but if you click and look closely, you will see there is a lot of dust, as well as some scratches, hair, etc.

To make it usable, here’s the dust I had to “remove” in Lightroom: this work image shows one circular marker per bit of dust, etc, that I removed:

..which leads to this resulting final image:

Looks the same? Not when you zoom in. When you zoom in, you see that this one is really very much better.

I hope you take two things away from this. First, the obvious “clean things, especially black things, before you shoot them”. But second: what you see is not always what there was. A professional image often has a lot of work done on it before it is a professional image. There’s no such thing as “click and shoot”.

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Michael Willems writes blog posts. He also shoots, writes books, and teaches. Check him out on his web site www.michaelwillems.ca, and check out the services and products on the online store, http://learning.photography. If you want to learn to shoot like a pro, or if you are already a pro, if you wish to shoot like a better pro, then you have come to the right place.

 

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.

 

Trick-repeat

I shall now repeat a flash trick I have mentioned here before several times, in 2011 and 2013. Time for another refresher.

You all know how important it is to avoid, at least when the flash is on your camera, direct flash light reaching your subject. Both in order to avoid “flat” light, and especially to avoid those nasty drop shadows, like this (don’t do this at home, kids):

But you have also heard me talk (and those who come to my upcoming flash courses will learn hands-on) that you should “look for the virtual umbrella”. For most lighting, this means 45 degrees above, and in front of, the subject.

So when you are close to that subject, you aim your flash behind you to get to that point. Good.

But what when you are far, as when using a telephoto lens? Then the “virtual umbrella” may be in front of you. And aiming your flash forward is a no-no, since the subject will be lit in part by direct light.

A-ha. Unless you block the direct part of that light!

Like this:

As you see, I use a Honl Photo bounce card/gobo to block the direct light. Simple, affordable, and very effective. I use either the white bounce side, or the black flag side, depending on the ceiling and position.

Simple, effective – done!

And one more thing. Direct flash is not bad per sé. Not at all. As long as it is not coming from where your lens is, it can be very effective, like in this “funny face” shot of a recent student (you know who you are):

Lit by a direct, unmodified flash. And the hairlight, the shampooy goodness? Yeah. The sun. Just saying.

 

 

De gustibus..

…non est disputandum. You can’t argue over taste.

As regular readers know, I like to shoot “in camera”, and keep post editing to a minimum. For the most part, my photos are basically SOOC: “Straight Out Of Camera”. But sometimes. I make exceptions.

One is this style, a very bright, contrasty, cool, desaturated, sharp style that mostly loses everything into pure white, making eyes and other features stand out dramatically.

Here’s another example, before and after, so you can see what I did. Here’s the original, before the edit:

Shot at the following settings (press “i” in Lightroom repeatedly to cycle through the Information options):

After the enhancement:

Note: the “before” picture was not bad. I strongly believe that you should use techniques like this to enhance, not to fix.

I like this so much that I made it a User Preset. After making your adjustments, click on the “+” in the Develop mode’s preset panel on the left.

This preset consists of the following adjustments:

…in addition to which, I set “sharpening” (in the DETAIL panel) to +80 and “noise reduction” to +20.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of an image before and after:

I like that sharp look a lot.

Be careful not to overdo it and apply a particular “look” to all your work. Aim to do it in camera, and apply styles (via presets) only when needed, when they add something. As I believe this one certainly does.

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BUT MICHAEL, I hear some of you say. “you are giving away your secrets”. Yes, I am. Because adjustments can be found anywhere. What cannot be easily copied is my artistic insight, people skills, $30,000 in equipment, and experience.

Would you like more secrets? Be my guest: have a look at the Christmas Specials on learning.photography: see http://learning.photography/blogs/news right now.