Tuesday’s Tip: Adding Texture To Your Light

Princess_ChairHere’s a little trick I learned from David Hobby when it comes to adding texture to your light.  I played around with it a little this week and you can see what I came up with.  I had a plain white wall to work on and so I used an SB28 with a pink gel and fired it through a water glass from my kitchen.  I lit Abbi with my homemade 1/2″ grid spot.  (Another little trick I picked up from David.)   Click the image for a larger view.

You can use a lot of interesting things to fire your flash through to make your light look cool and interesting.  Could you imagine how boring it would have looked if I would have just fired the flash onto the plain wall?  It would have been more interesting than a white wall, but still… you get the idea. 

Try it out for yourself and see what you can create.  Post your comments with links to your shots!

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OS X vs. Windows Vista (Mac vs. PC) For Photoshop and Lightroom Continued…

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Back in December I blogged about this subject a couple of times. Today I’m here to tell you that I’m about to eat my very own words. I had expressed my frustration and disgust for Windows Vista and how much I was displeased with it. Well, I’ll soon be purchasing a new laptop for my digital photography and guess what? It’s going to be a PC.

Before you flame-spray me with your comments, let me explain why. I had previously mentioned that most of the hardware is the same today for Macs and PCs which is still true. Comparing both side by side with consideration to price, Macs are very overpriced. So do I really want to pay $1,000.00 more for a notebook with the same hardware and a different operating system that only costs $130.00? NO WAY! I’m not hating on Macs because I still think they are great. But as I have gotten older (and hopefully a little wiser) I have become a little bit of a cheapskate.

When it comes to using Photoshop and Lightroom, the very most important piece of hardware you can have in your computer is MEMORY (RAM)! More RAM will make a greater difference in Photoshop/Lightroom performance than a faster processor (CPU). How do I know this? I upgraded my RAM to 2GB in my desktop machine running Windows Vista Ultimate which still has an outdated Pentium 4 2.4GHz CPU in it. I also use a Dell Latitude D620 at work which has an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.83 GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM, and runs Vista Ultimate as well. My 5 year old desktop smokes it when it comes to running Photoshop. The Dell laptop has a faster system bus, much newer hardware, and less running on it and my desktop is still faster because of the fact it has more memory.

Couple all of this with the fact that I already own Adobe CS3 Web Premium for Windows, Lightroom for Windows, and I use Word and Excel heavily for work. Yeah, I can get all of ’em for a Mac too but that’s just more money I would have to shell out. I can take that extra $1,000.00 I’ll save on the notebook and buy a new lens or other camera gear. It’s just not worth it to me.

So there you have it. I just ate my own words with regards to the computer I’ll choose for digital photography. Post your comments and let me know which OS you prefer or work with. Have a great week!

Photography Tip Friday

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(Image courtesy of Photography Review.com)

Today’s tip is quick and simple.  If the camera you’re shooting with has a built in histogram and you aren’t using it, you are REALLY missing out.  As nice as today’s LCDs on our cameras are, they simply don’t do you the same amount of justice that a large (properly calibrated) computer monitor does.  One way to help you see if you nailed the exposure is to view the histogram for the image that you took.  It can really save you a lot of heartache later while working in Lightroom or Photoshop.  Not to mention that our goal is to get it right in the camera and not have to rely on Photoshop to fix our bad photos. 

The histogram is a graphical representation of an images exposure for shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.  The darker parts of the image are represented on the left of the histogram while the lighter are on the right side.  Make sense?  Good.

I don’t shoot Canon, but for you Nikon shooters here’s how to use yours on most of today’s DSLRs.  As always, you can consult your camera’s user manual for further instruction.  NIKON: While reviewing images in Playback mode, use the up and down arrows on the navigation button until you see an overlay on your image that appears the same as the overlay in the above image.  That’s all there is to it! 

Experiment a little and see how different light affects different areas of your histogram to help you understand exposure.  By becoming familiar with this little technique, you will end up with more good shots and less bad ones.  Let’s not forget the amount of time it will save you in Lightroom or Photoshop!

Have a great weekend, take some great shots, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Classic Sunset Portrait

danny_sunset Hey everyone, here’s a little lesson on the classic portrait taken at sunset.  This will help you achieve the same results without struggling to do so.  It’s really a lot easier than it seems if you have tried it before without success.

Typically what happens when someone attempts this type of shot is that they use flash with the camera in “Full Auto” (that’s what I call it) and the camera properly exposes for the subject with the use of flash, and the background goes completely dark.  Next they try turning off the flash to get a proper exposure for the sky and next thing you know they end up with a silhouette for a subject and a nicely exposed background.

The trick to nailing this shot is using your camera in Manual mode.  First set it to Program Auto and aim the focus point of your camera’s viewfinder just above the setting sun (or whatever you want to expose for) and press the shutter release halfway down.  This will cause the camera’s meter to read the exposure which will usually display in the viewfinder.  (It might say f 5.6 at 1/80th of a second.  Remember those settings and switch back to Manual mode and enter those values.  Next turn on your flash and dial in the power on it where you think you might get a good exposure on your subject and then take a test shot.  (This is where off-camera flash really comes in handy.)  After repeating this process a few times, you will know about where to set your flash based on how far it is from your subject, the lighting conditions, etc.  Before long you will be a pro at it.  And really, that’s all there is to it.  Depending on whom you are shooting and if you have a theme, you can use gels on your strobe or flash to help add to the photo.  Since sunsets generally have a warm feel to them, a CTO gel usually works well.  Even if it’s 1/4 or 1/2 cut of CTO. 

And there you have it, sunset portraits just like the pros shoot ’em.  The great thing about sunsets as a background is that it will always be different for every shoot.  You will never get the exact same background twice.  Have a great week and get out and take some pictures!

Location Portraits Made Easy

Location portraits can be both fun and challenging.  Whether or not one of those outweighs the other can depend on a many things, but attitude is key.  If you head to a location shoot focusing on how hard things are going to be, you will face seemingly insurmountable odds.  If you relax, let things flow, and concentrate on doing what you do best (making pictures) then your time will be much more enjoyable and a lot less stressful.

While in San Diego last week, I did a couple of location shoots.  I shared some of the pictures from my first shoot with you last week.  My second shoot was a little spur of the moment, but I made it work.  They wanted to do the shoot in the living room, but didn’t want the typical “family on the couch” look.  I took a quick look around and noticed that had long blue curtains covering their sliding glass door.  Perfect impromptu backdrop that’s at least a little bit interesting and isn’t just a plain white wall.  I set up one SB800 on a stand with my trusty Westscott umbrella and started firing away.  Here’s one of the shots:

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To shoot their daughter, I took off the umbrella and put on my homemade 8″ snoot that I made from one of my kids cereal boxes and I got this shot:

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So when you’re shooting on location, keep an open mind and be flexible and you’re sure to get great results.  😉

Visit to Calumet Photo in San Diego

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Yesterday I stopped in at Calumet Photographic here in San Diego. I’m sure you have seen their ads in many of your favorite photography magazines. They also make the Travelite monolights which are touted as being a great studio strobe. I went in to pick up some sensor cleaning materials and I ended up buying an Arctic Butterfly 724 based on the recommendation of Christy, who performs all in-house sensor cleanings. I also met Mahlon Miller who is the store’s manager and also a retired Navy Photographer’s Mate. The staff there are really friendly and helpful and their prices are very fair as well. Most of them are right in there with B&H Photo. So now I’ll have a local camera shop to hang out at when I get back here to San Diego. If you’re in need of some gear and you’re in San Diego, stop on by. Here’s the link to the details on their San Diego store.  Image courtesy of Calumet Photographic.

Scroll down to see some of the shots I got while out and about yesterday.