There are lots of different types of photo shoots that you can do. Even in main categories there are sub groupings. In fashion photography there is commercial, catalog, couture, and editorial as examples. The differences between the styles are subtle but real. I have been working on trying to identify and know the differences. I think I now know what makes up editorial. If I am correct editorial is where you are shooting a theme or story. I had a chance to do a shoot recently with a model I had never worked with before and we did editorial style. We did several different themes through the afternoon. The first was leprechaun. Sadie is so sweet and it comes through in the photos. It was so fun to shoot and felt so artistic. Over the course of the afternoon we also did sexy leprechaun, 50's swimsuit pinup, Easter themed, and finally 80's glam rock.
One of the signs of a really awesome model is someone that can break out of what they normally do and stretch artistically. Sadie is so sweet. Her personality fit the pinup and the Easter themes so well. Then we got to glam rock. This was quite a stretch from her regular personality. But she was able to dig deep and find that attitude to get the shot. She went from sweet to intense with a fierceness that was incredible.
When I was setting up for the glam rock shots I wanted to try to get something in the setup that would be edgy. I wanted to have a set that would look like she was on stage. So I put three strobes at the back of the studio shining right into the camera. The goal was to get them to flare out in the lens to give that stage look. Normally it is a bad thing to have lens flare, but this is an example of where breaking the rules works for the shot. This first shot is basically right out of the camera. When I got it to the computer I realized that I really needed the fog machine that I wanted but had not gotten yet. The image is still a bit too clean for the edginess that I was going for.
Ultimately I went with an edit that changed and somewhat muted the image along with sharpening the edges a fair amount. I liked how it came out. But at the same time I learned from it. I regularly tell students that to learn your photography you need to shoot and shoot and then evaluate what you did and shoot some more.
So the first thing I saw was I wish I had more strobes along the back. I would have liked more of a row of strobes for more intensity to the stage lights. I might also color some of them too. I guess I need to shoot both and see which I like better.
Second, I wrote Sadie as I was editing and said how much better I thought it would look with a fog machine. Also, I think that although her outfit was awesome, it was missing one thing, fishnet stockings. It is that attention to the little details that will make the difference between good and great. I am so happy that Sadie said she would be up to redoing the glam rock shots again. So I am fog machine shopping, and also looking for some more good strobes for the back of the studio for the shoot.
Shooting in a studio is fun partly because you have total control over lighting and the environment. However, you also have the challenge of backgrounds in the studio. How can you get new backgrounds to shoot against constantly without spending an arm and a leg? That is the big challenge. You can purchase cloth of canvas or muslin backdrops. But those tend to cost quite a bit of money, and they are bulky and hard to store without serious issues of wrinkles. This is especially true of ones that are hand painted to look fancy. Some companies, like Lastolite, have some awesome choices. Lastolite has a collapsible reversible system that looks awesome
. But the panels are smallish at 5 x 7 feet and run $300 each. Ouch! So I started to think there had to be a better solution.
I had recently seen on CreativeLive photographers making solid color backdrops using foam core boards. Those are the boards that are foam in the center and foil on the two sides. Then one day I was walking through a home improvement store getting some stuff for the house and as I walked by the wallpaper the proverbial lightbulb went off for an idea. What about using that same foam core board and putting wallpaper on it. So I got one 1/2" 4 by 8 sheet ($8.99) and two different rolls of wallpaper that happened to be on sale for $14.99 each, and a can of spray glue. Now one side of the board is brick and the other is a fancy "Victorian looking" wall. The boards are stiff but they are also lightweight.
Katie and I went into the studio to try out the new backgrounds and, as you can see they worked really well. Not only do they look awesome for a smooth solid background, they also butt up against the side wall really nicely in the studio. And I get two different 4 by 8 backgrounds for only around $50 instead of $300. Oh I have wallpaper left too, so I am planning on getting another foam core and doing it up the same. That way I can put the two boards together side by side to get an 8 by 8 wall. Stick them together and clamp them with an A clamp and we are good to go. I am thinking I might need to put a really small L bracket top and bottom to clamp with, and will just have to maybe do a bit of clean up if they show in the photo.
One other thing that we came up with when shooting that day. I had some mirrors that had gotten left in the studio when we took the space over. In a moment of artistic inspiration we decided to start using them for background too. We were able to get some interesting added depth to shots, and more wonderful artistic expression. I also have used the mirrors recently for "reflectors" for light on the opposite side of a strobe. They work really well, although they are a little heavy and hard to maneuver. The lightweight reflectors tend to be better usually.
As you look at these photos take a close look at the lighting. Along with the simple and inexpensive backgrounds, we also used very simple lighting. All these shots were done with a single strobe. That is right, these are all one light photos. Beyond testing the new backgrounds, my other goal during this shoot was to work with just a single light and see what I could get out of it. This made the light setup very easy. I am thinking that in future shoots like this I want to use a reflector along with the light to soften the shadow side just a touch. But I love the intense textures of the shadows and light on Katie. She is really good at finding either a very intense or vulnerable look, and the single light really helps bring that out.
So give the background idea a try, and experiment with single light setups too.
I recently got a new studio strobe for the studio I am setting up here in my home town. The brand on Amazon is Neewer. After looking around a bit I have found some other brand names on units that look exactly the same. So I think it is sold out of China and different people stamp their name on it and resell it. That is OK though. It is still surprisingly good.
So here is the deal with the strobe. I have been looking for a while at Alien Bee strobes by Paul C. Buff. But, even though they are very inexpensive as strobes go, they are still like $275 for the least expensive lowest power units. They are really nice. But that is still a bit of change to put down per strobe. Well recently in shopping at Amazon I found the Neewer C-250 strobe. The reviews sounded fairly good. So I decided to take a shot at one. Actually I got both one of the C-250 and one of the 180 watt second strobes. The smaller one is $40.
So the video review up above is for the C-250. I found it to be quite well built. The housing is metal. The light works well and consistently. The front of the light is built in such a way to easily take the generic Cowboy Studio speed rings for different modifiers. There are other speed rings out there, but I recommend the Cowboy Studio rings. They are just built really nice. I got a softbox for it along with a set of barn doors, a honeycomb grid, and some colored gel filters.
The only real negatives I have found so far with the strobe are first, at full power it takes about 4 seconds to recycle. The same is not true of the Alien Bee (we actually have two in the studio now also). Second, you can only adjust the power from 1/8th power to full power, so three stops of light adjustment. And third, there is no way to turn off the beep when the strobe is done recycling if you don't like that.
On the positive, there is more than enough power in my small studio to light the subject. The strobe fires every single time. There is a great sync port and the cable to plug in from the sync port to my Yongnuo RF-603 radio trigger. The strobe can optically trigger. It has a modeling light. The modeling light power adjusts as you adjust strobe power. The unit has a very long AC power cord, so you can easily move it around without an extension cord.
So if you want fancy, get the Alien Bee. But if you are on a budget, don't feel shy getting this strobe. At $80 you can get three of these for the cost of a single Alien Bee strobe. Sure, you might eventually move up to Alien Bee. But if you are just starting out this is the strobe to cut your teeth on.
I am planning on a review of the smaller 180 watt second strobe and another cute little strobe that I got recently so you can see how to inexpensively set up a three
I did a portrait session recently for a couple for pregnancy photos. Along with the regular baby bump photos, we did some really creative shots. We had a number of different things we did during the shoot. One of the ideas the couple had was to put a moustache on the belly and on the dad (they are expecting a boy). While they were putting the moustaches on I shot a number of photos. When I was editing afterwards I loved the shots of them drawing on the moustaches and the process and the final photos. I decided to take it up a notch at that point and put together a slideshow of that series of photos. I felt it looked really nice.
I sent the video to the clients along with all the photos from the session. They absolutely loved the video. It was something different and exciting. Of course this is not like doing the full on cinematography thing. But it is about doing more than simple photos or a simple portrait session. For those that are trying to make a living with their photography it is an example of how you can have something new and different, something that will separate you from the competition. For others that shoot "just for fun" this shows how you can get something fun and new and different.
On a lot of discussions of camera equipment many people post that they don't do video and are not interested in it. Although video is not for everyone (nor slideshows and such), I think a lot of people are just stuck in a rut. It is easy to get comfortable in a routine and not stretch, not take one's art to the next level. But what happens is that your art becomes stale, both for you and for those around you that you share it with. When your work becomes stale it loses passion. When it loses passion it loses that edge. So maybe start by creating a very short photo slide show of some of your work. See what you can come up with. See how it can take the story telling to the next level.
Post comments below.
Tomorrow night (January 7th) I am hosting the club at our studio in Sparta, MI. I am going to be covering the basics of lighting. We will discuss the differences between strobes and continuous light. We will also talk about speedlights and natural light shooting. So if you are in the Sparta (Greater northern Grand Rapids) area stop by at 7 PM. We are in downtown Sparta right behind the new coffee shop in the same building with the dance studio.
I am thinking of videoing the entire presentation. I have no idea if it will work well yet, so we will see how it works out. If I can get a good video then I will make sure to post it on here. If we don't get that presentation posted then I will make sure to do the talk again in the near future specifically for a video for the site.
Well the holidays were fun. We had some challenges in our household too, which is why the posts have been a bit dry recently. But that is over now too. I hope I don't see a hospital for a while now. I did have fun at a few family gatherings getting some photos of kids and grandkids though. I also am loving looking at the photos on a 39" LCD television with an Apple TV hooked to it. It is pretty amazing seeing photos cycle through on a very large screen. It has given me an idea to put like a 32" TV on one wall that will cycle through current photos. Then get some smaller digital photo frames and dedicate one each for each of my kids and their families. I will put these around the larger screen. That way I can share a lot of my family photos with people that visit the house.
I also got a nice new tripod as a gift from my wife. I have used the same tripod for over 25 years and it has been about 12 inches too short for me (I am 6'6" tall). Now I can take photos without having to bend in half. It is a Sunpak Ultra 7000. Expect to see it in a video in the near future. And on the gift front I got one of my daughters a used Nikon D40 from eBay. I think it is so important to encourage our children to pursue their dreams. She was shooting really good on my D80 so I felt it was time she had her own camera. BTW she is 11 years old. You can find some awesome deals on a generation or two older models of DSLR cameras on eBay with plenty of life in them.
On the video front I have a lot of plans for this site for 2013. I am opening a studio in here in Sparta Michigan and so will have a place to easily shoot video. I am hoping to have the first video posted by mid January. It will be a review of a very inexpensive studio strobe I found. I have a whole list of other videos that will be coming shortly after that. I am not sure if this is a mid-life crisis or simply my artistic side finally bursting out, but this site and the studio will be getting major attention this year. Please let me know what you think as things get posted on the site by visiting the comments and suggestions section of the site.
So the last blog post was on the copper elf, the photos that created a story for my kids. While we were walking around more we decided to wander to Rosa Park Circle (remember... we were at ArtPrize in downtown Grand Rapids, MI). When we got there we found some kids skateboarding. I find skateboarding very fascinating, maybe in part because I have little chance of ever mastering the sport. It might also be because kids do things that we never would have thought of when I was a kid. For me and my friends a skateboard was something you rode down a hill at breakneck speed hoping not to face plant half way down the hill. Pete was the only one that would regularly get down the hill unscathed. But he had a tremendous sense of balance. He could even unicycle while juggling. We were all so envious.
I had my trusty 50mm f/1.8 lens on the camera. So I was loaded for bear, so to speak. It was late in the day. The sun was behind the tall buildings to the west of us. So I went with ISO 400 on aperture priority. I went with f/1.8 for my aperture. I did that for two reasons. First, I wanted a lot of light so I would get a good shutter speed. Second, I wanted a very short depth of field so that the background was less distracting. I was getting right around 1/1600th of a second shutter speed. A very nice shutter speed to stop action. I could have gone with shutter priority and set for a fast shutter and let the camera handle the aperture. But in a situation like this I want to control my depth of field more than anything else. It is the way to really make my subject stand out.
I am still shooting with my Nikon D80. I know, I keep saying I am getting the D7000, but the funds have not been there yet for it. Soon though, very soon. Either that or the D600. I am still in a quandry. I might have to rent both of them for a weekend to see if the full frame is worth it. At any rate, the D80 is an awesome camera. But for continuous frames per second it is pretty slow. The D80 clocks in at 3 frames per second. Well it is a lot better than the Pentax K1000 or Canon FTB QL that I shot with in high school. It was one frame per... well as fast as I could cock the lever. At any rate, when you cannot shoot off like a machine gun you need to take time to really judge when the action will be at it's peak.So the first thing I did was just sit for about 5 minutes watching them. I was looking for the tells (a great poker term eh?). Each person would do something just before they were going to do one of their leaps or stunts. So I just had to pick up on the cues to know when I would need to shoot. Get the timing right and you can get shots using single shot instead of continuous. All these shots were taken single shot.
The other thing you need to remember too is that the camera is going to have a bit of lag from the time you push the shutter until the camera takes the actual photo. On fast DSLRs it is roughly a half a second. This is one of the biggest advantages of a DSLR over a point and shoot. The P&S cameras seem to take a decade to take the photo after you depress the shutter. So along with figuring out the tell you also need to be able to judge your shutter delay. Over time you will get familiar enough with the camera that it will become second nature. You will naturally judge the shutter delay properly.
One other thing you will notice is that even though I was at f/1.8 the background is fairly definable. It is blurry enough that the subject stands out. But it is not as fuzzy as I would actually like. This is where the more expensive f/1.4 lens would be even nicer. I would have two thirds of a stop more light and also a shallower depth of field. So the background would have blurred out even more. I was about 20 feet from the skateboarders, maybe a little more. So the depth of field at f/1.8 was about three and a half feet. If I had been using the f/1.4 lens (which I don't currently have BTW... it is too expensive for me) then the depth of field would have been about two and three quarters feet. Doable, but it is getting a touch shallow at that point. So you would really need to get your focus point spot on. That is one of the reasons I prefer the f/1.8 lens.
As we were leaving Rosa Parks Circle that night I suddenly noticed a man sitting at the side watching the skateboarders too. I thought he had a very interesting face. It had a lot of character. It is all that whole story telling thing. And I felt it would be incredible as a black and white photo. So I walked up and asked him if I could take his picture. He was amused by the request but more than willing to pose for me. So I was able to get this shot that same night right along with the skateboarders. So I guess you really don't know what you will find when you are walking about. So make sure to have your camera with you and ready for the photo op. Sometimes my at the ready camera is my iPhone, sometimes it is my D80. I have thought about getting something like the Fuji x10 or a Nikon V1 as a walk around camera to have when I don't want to lug the D80 around. But you will regularly run into photo ops. And if you don't have a camera with you at least look the place over and imagine in your minds eye what the photo would look like. That way the next time you have a camera you will more easily spot the photo op.
I took my kids down to ArtPrize last weekend. ArtPrize is an event in Grand Rapids, MI that happens in the fall. This is the fourth year for ArtPrize. It is very.... unique. There are sooo many different types of art on display and trying to win the competition. It is the largest art competition in the world with a $250,000 grand prize. I am hoping next year to enter something of my own into the competition. But that is a totally different topic.
When we were down at ArtPrize we came across one entry that was art in action in the sense that they were making art during the week. This is not all that uncommon for ArtPrize. A small group of the works the artists will actually do or complete the works during the competition. Makes it even more interesting for the people down there. Now ArtPrize visitors can see the process of creating art along with seeing the final product of the efforts. This particular group of artists were creating things out of copper.
We got to this one lady that was working on something and as I was taking photos of her and talking with the kids about copper work we stumbled onto a story of our own making from it. As you can see in the photos she has brilliant coppery hair. Someone mentioned that she used her hair to make the copper for the art (I think it was her but don't quote me). Well it does not take much to get my creative mind working. I latched onto that little tidbit right away. I told the kids that she was a copper elf. They thought that was funny and very interesting. Our newly dubbed copper elf thought it was very interesting and intriguing also. So we continued on with the story telling as she worked away.
Eventually we "figured out" her secret. Copper elves hair grows very fast each night. So by the morning it is very very long. Many feet long actually. Then they can cut it shorter and spin it into copper the way that Rumplestiltskin could spin straw into gold. And the copper that a copper elf creates from their hair is a very special type of copper that works especially well for art work because it is imbued with special powers to attract and draw in a person to look at the objects of beauty. The beauty of the copper elf glows from the works of art that they create so the works of art become an extension of the copper elf's beauty. And if the copper elf works on something when the moon is red like their hair the item becomes extra special and is filled with magical powers.
So now the photos are more than just photos of a woman working on copper, they are the seeds of a story that the kids will hopefully remember every time they see them. And who knows, maybe I might just continue on with the story and the photos will become the basis of the illustrations for the book. Our copper elf might just become a famous childrens book character in the end.
Every fall now in Grand Rapids, MI there is an event called ArtPrize. It is an art competition that has the largest cash prize of any competition in the world. It is a pretty huge deal. It runs for several weeks. This year Mosaic Space
is going to be doing something special during one week of ArtPrize. It is called Art2Art Expo. They are doing a couple things. First, they are having vendor space for a number of artists to sell their wares. The offerings range from craft food items to art photography, paintings, custom jewelry, and more. Second, they are going to have live performing artists every day of the week.
The organizers asked the Sparta Camera Club to come and photograph the event. Today was the setup day before the expo actually started. So yours truly went down to capture setup of the expo. I am sure there are a number of ways to approach photojournalism. I decided I wanted to make sure my photos had the feel of the artsy nature of the event. I was very excited when I heard about it, because I firmly believe the most important thing to good photography is telling a story. So I sort of approach all of my photography as photojournalism in one sense of the term. I also think that it is exciting and wonderful that Mary and Calli are allowing us full access to the facilities and the event. I told the vendors during setup that we were the official paparazzi for the expo. They got a kick out of that. Several of us were there today. I am not going to make it every day of the week, but will make as much as possible. The performing art events sound incredible.
If you are into exotic culinary art one of the things they will be serving is chocolate-bacon fondue. They were practicing some of it today. It smelled incredible. When I took this shot I tried to get a feeling for the intensity and care of preparing food. I wish there was a way to include smells in photos, at least for food. I suppose that the measure of if you do good food photography is if you can get a person to think enough about food for their mouth to water. Did I accomplish that here?
The lighting was just natural light. I was using my Nikon D80 and the 50mm f/1.8 lens for these shots. Some shots I did use flash on, but most of them were just natural light shots. I like shooting natural light when I can. And a fast prime like the 50mm is excellent for that. I highly recommend either a 35mm or 50mm f/1.8 for everyone for birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holidays. They are wonderful lenses.
At one point in the day I got a chance to borrow my friend's Nikon SB-700 speedlight. Normally I shoot with Yongnuo YN-460 lights. They are cheap ($49) and not too shabby. But I have to shoot full manual when using them. I like them and like promoting inexpensive equipment because photography is already an expensive enough hobby for people. But I will admit that using the Nikon SB-700 is a very pleasing experience. I shoot aperture priority most of the time. I like to control my depth of field more than anything and aperture priority is great for that. I was able to use aperture priority with the SB-700 and shoot away. I would check out photos when I moved to different parts of the building. Sometimes I needed a bit more or less power out of the speedlight. But I was able to not worry about shutter or aperture at all. The camera and flash just handled it. And adjusting the power was very easy. I do want to find some time to get the flash off camera and use the Nikon CLS system to drive the flash and give it a run. Of course that might be dangerous for the pocketbook because it might just push me over the edge to get some Nikon speedlights.
I had a number of other photos from the setup day that I am including in a photo slide show below. And check back later in the week for more photos. And maybe if you head down there sometime this week you will find your trusty photography zen master being one
When I started taking photography somewhat seriously a few years ago I did not know at all what that meant. I was not even really aware that there were different types of photographers or photography. I figured photographers were just photographers and got hired to do work if they were professionals. Over time I started to learn some of the differences. I found out that wedding photography was a specialty. Then I realized that some people specialize in commercial photography, working with companies for photos for publications, brochures, and other things. Recently I found out that fashion and beauty are a separate specialty from the others. And even in that those are two different specialties. Fashion is different than beauty work, although often photographers will do both.
Recently I have gotten a chance to do a few fashion and beauty shoots for some clients. One of the shoots was for Emor Shoes
. I did some work for them for the spring shoe line shooting just the shoes. This time they wanted shots of models wearing the shoes. It was a very fun time. We had a number of models and a whole room of shoes.
The shoot was scheduled for 4 hours. We had 5 models. We lined up a make up artist and hair person. Some of the models had modeled before and some were brand new and this was their first shoot. Before the day of the shoot I met with the client several times. We talked about vision. We discussed what to look for in models. There was a lot of pre-shoot work before we got in the studio.
The day of the shoot went really smooth. All the planning worked out really well. What was interesting and fun about the shoot is that the hero in the shots was the shoes. Just before we did the shoot I had a chance to watch Matthew Jordan Smith and Yoanna House on CreativeLive
talking about modeling and fashion and beauty shooting. So I was able to apply things I had just learned on CreativeLive
in the shoot. Normally I would not put these photos on my blog until Emor Shoes
released them on their site for the fall line up, but the client was fine with that. So you are actually getting a little preview of what they will have.
One thing that Matthew said repeatedly stated was that with fashion and beauty you need to find the hero and highlight that. So in this case the hero was the shoes. So as I was posing the models I had to keep in mind to show off the shoes somehow. This sometimes became a bit of a challenge. We also did some jewelry during the shoot. So for some of the shots the hero was the jewelry and not the shoes. At the end of the day we got some very nice photos, and all in all I felt like we accomplished the goal well. Next spring we might try a different way to do the shoot for shoes if the client has me do the work again. But that is partly because as we shoot we grow in the art of being photographers.
This shoot was a bit different for me from the past. In the past I was shooting people and the person was the hero. The person was the story. In these photos the shoes were the story. I had to dig down deep to figure out how to tell the story of shoes. I have also found a new appreciation for shoes after doing the two shoots for Emor Shoes
. I now notice shoes a lot more, and enjoy shopping for them. More than that I have realized that I really like shooting fashion. I have another beauty shoot coming up soon for jewelry again. This time it will be all about the jewelry. Who knows, maybe I have found my main niche in photography. I will probably still shoot a lot of other things, but I will say I like telling the story of fashion and beauty. It is a lot of fun. And it is amazing working with the models and the makeup artists and the hair stylists.