Blur

I asked a photographer about studio the other day. She said we needed 1/200th sec, to freeze motion. After all, you cannot shoot moving things at, say, 1/40 second. Right?

Wrong. And right.

That is: if you use only flash (i.e. your settings make ambient light go away) then you effective shutter speed is the speed of the flash—which is 1/1000 sec or faster.

So this shot was taken at 1/40 sec while the subject waved her hand quickly:

What you see is:

  1. The hand is substantially sharp: that is the flash part of the exposure.
  2. There is some “ghosting”: that is the ambient part.

If we had gone to a smaller aperture, say f/11, that part (2), the ghosting, would have disappeared. Even if I had shot at 1/10 second.

This is ONE reason that flash gfives you sharp images: it “freezes” everything.

 

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.

 

Tip!

Tip for flash users.

When you use a flash off camera, like here, you often use Pocketwizards. Which means the flashes are on MANUAL mode. Like here, wedding organizer Jane Dayus-Hinch, whom I photographed at the Wedding Show today:

Off Camera Flash 1/8 power. Canon 1Dx, 1/80 sec at f/4.5, 1000 ISO

Those camera settings let in enough ambient to act as fill light.

So anyway… if you use an off camera flash, there is one problem. Every 60 seconds or so, the flash goes to sleep and turns off. Meaning you get a shot like this… fill light only:

The solution: You have to set a custom function on the flash to disable the timeout. C.Fn 01 on Canon (set to “1″); menu driven on the Nikon flashes.

Done!

 

 

 

 

 

How you think: an example

Often. it’s not the “what”, but “how”. How do you decide what settings to you in your cameras? What to shoot?

I shall use myself, and today’s shoot, as an example. I shot a house, for a real estate agent:

When shooting something like this, my camera is in manual model. So I need to make many decisions. And I need to be quick: cannot afford to hang around, for the home-owner’s sake, the realtor’s sake, and my own sake.

So before the shoot I decide :”outside, tilt-shift”. Arriving, I had my tilt-shift lens on the camera already. Using the sunny sixteen rule, before even starting I set my camera to 1/100 sec, ISO100, and started at f/11. I looked; that was a little dark, the meter told me, so I went to f/8. Perfect. Then came the fine tuning: I wanted a faster shutter for hand held, so I used 1/200 sec, which necessitated f/5.6. (shutter gave me one stop less light, which I fixed by aperture giving me one stop more light).

Then I focused manually, held the camera straight, and shifted the lens up. Click. Done. Time taken: Seconds.

Now inside. I already knew I would want the wide angle lens, so I put it on, the 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. Inside, I saw mainly simple white ceilings, so I decided simple flash bouncing with one flash, and combining that with ambient, would be fine. Then the sequence was:

  1. I set my camera to 400 ISO: that is my starting standard for bright indoors.
  2. I selected f/5.6: with a wide lens, that will give me sharpness from “near me” to “infinity”.
  3. Then I selected 1/50 second, which, I was sure, would give me visibility of inside light fixtures.
  4. I selected flash exposure compensation of +1 stop, and turned the flash upward behind me at roughly 45 degrees.

I got:

And that confirmed what I wanted: outside not too crazy bright; light fixture visible, room well lit. Done. Now for the rest of the shoot all I changed was the shutter speed:

  • I first tried 1/50 second.
  • Where “outside” was important, I went up to as much as 1/250 second. This gave a colder inside but better outside.
  • Where “inside” was important and outside could be a little blown out, I went down to as little as 1/20 second.

Once the basics were taken care of, now I started to think about what to shoot:

  • Diagonal into each room; straight-on in the kitchen.
  • I shot from slightly below eye-level (but not below cupboard level if that meant seeing the bottom of cupboards).
  • Of course I went wide, very wide… but I resisted going TOO wide: over-promising and under-delivering is not a very good strategy.
  • I ensured that all the lights were turned on in the rooms I shot.

And of course I avoided this error:

Can you see the error?

Yes, you need to be extremely cautious in a house with many mirrors.

I estimated an hour for this shoot. Time taken: Exactly 56 minutes. A good job, if I am allowed to say so myself, and it feels good to do a good job. This is a beautiful home, and I trust my photos (103 of them) will help secure a very quick sale for list price; perhaps even list price “plus”.

 

Fun

I shoot fun photos too. As you should. The other day, I went to a concert, and before the concert, I took a few photos at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. I used my little Fuji X100 camera, which has a fixed 24mm (35mm equivalent: 35mm) lens.

Jellyfish love?

I shot these at 1600 ISO, f/2. 1/125 second. close to glass. No flash, of course.

The biggest problem was focus. These darn fish move.

I would not want to be one of these little fish.

I suppose the moral of today’s post is: bring a camera everywhere. Try stuff you have not shot before. Use high ISO values if you need. Quality is paramount.

For a shark, food is paramount.