Sunday, January 30, 2005

I posted two copies of this image to demonstrate a couple of rules of composition. I don't abide by these rules that strictly, but I believe that they both have legitimate value.

The first rule explains the black lines across the image on the left. This rule is called "the golden rectangle" or, more simply, "the rule of thirds". I'm not sure of the origin of this rule, but psychological studies have validated the concept. The idea is that your eye is naturally drawn immediately to certain regions of a photograph, and these regions are illustrated by the intersection points between two sets of lines, each line being placed 1/3 of the distance from the nearest edge. Obviously, your eyes will move toward the parts of a photograph that you find most interesting, but it will feel most natural if these areas correspond to the points where these intersections would occur. This may be a subtle effect, but it is a principle that can be found in paintings as far back as the Renaissance. In most portaits, the face, and more exactly, the eyes, would be considered the most important part of the image, so I positioned the camera so that the models face would be near this area. After making enough photographs, it becomes natural to see things this way through the camera.

If you are doing a closer portrait, such as a head-and-shoulders shot, the eyes, according to this rule, should be around 1/3 of the way from the top of the image, with less regard for their distance from the sides.

The second principle is demonstrated by the postion of the model's arms and legs. Even though she is positioned far to the left side of the image, her arms and legs create lines that carry your eye across the picture, creating balance.

Some excellent photography on another blog

I was surfing and found this blog; the work is totally different from anything that I have posted here, but it shows a lot of talent.

Visual Field

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

White Balance

If you shoot in a lot of different types of lighting (flourescent & tungsten, for example) with a film camera, you will notice that any part of the picture not completely illuminated by the flash will have a strong green or red cast to it. This is due to the color temperature of different types of light. Most film is balanced for daylight, and when it is exposed to a type of light with a different color temperature, the light will be recorded at a different part of the spectrum. Filters can be used to neutralize the difference in color temp., but it can be a pain to have to change filters each time you work in a different type of light. Digital cameras have a feature called "auto white balance" which is able to adjust itself for each type of lighting. Alternatively, you can choose from several different white balance settings to match the current light. Some cameras have different variations of each white balance setting to allow for a great degree of fine tuning. Another option, usually on found on more expensive digital cameras, is the ability to do a custom white balance. To do this you aim the camera at a white piece of paper (or something else white), and record a picture. The camera then determines the proper setting to compensate for what it sees an excess of one color of light or another. It balances the color so that the image is pure white, and it records the settings. You can then shoot with the custom white balance setting, and everything shot under the same type of lighting will be natural in color. This is the most accurate way to assure that you have the right color balance, but it is not always convenient. In these cases, you can either choose what seems to be the proper setting or you can leave the auto white balance on. The main advantage to using "auto" is that it prevents the chance of having your camera on the "tungsten" or "indoor" setting while you are shooting outside. In this case, the camera would be set to compensate for the reddish color temperature of household lightbulb by biasing the color toward blue. Since sunlight is much more neutral, your pictures would have a strong blue cast to them. Auto white balance is not always totally accurate, and sometimes the color of your pictures may lean a little toward one color cast or another, but unless it's severe, it can usually be easily adjusted in the computer.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Too often photographers think that they need to fit props into their pictures just to add something to make them interesting. I agree that the right props can add an artistic effect or make the person seem to be in their natural surroundings, but sometimes the attention needs to be totally on the subject. The wrong props (or too many) can make the image look forced and take the attention away from the person. I do a lot of photography that has a theatrical look, going for a particular theme. With some subjects, though, the subject is all you need. Of all of the photographs that I've made, this one may be the most popular with everyone. It's so simple, but a face like this can be all you need for a good photograph.  Posted by Hello

3.2 Megapixel Canon Camera for $200

It's no secret that competition in the world of electronics is good for consumers. Companies are constantly trying create something better than their competitors, and prices continue to fall on a regular basis. Prices are often the deciding factor for consumers, so, as it becomes financially feasible for companies to drop their prices and still make profit they, use price as a major marketing point. (Apparently, the one exception to this is Apple/Macintosh computers.) Canon is going to be selling the A510 by the end of the month. Canon always produces high-quality equipment, and the A510 gives a large number of features for a very reasonable price. It will have a 3.2 megapixel sensor, a 4x optical zoom, and several scene modes to help you get great photos in a variety of situations. The A510 is also small enough to be easily carried in a purse or jacket pocket. It will be a great camera for anyone wanting to get into digital photography without spending much money. I can't speak from experience with this camera, but I have significant experience with Canon cameras, and I feel very confident in recommending any of their cameras.

I should point out that there are several other 3-4 megapixel cameras in this price range, but few that I've seen have as many features packed into such a small, convenient package.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Some of the Best Photographers

In every field, there are people who are able to achieve levels of greatness that most others will never reach. Sometimes it's an incredible work ethic that allows them to excel to such greatness, but often it's simply a "gift" with which they are born. They have to work to make use of that inborn talent, but they simply have a huge advantage over the average person in their areas of expertise. I have no delusions of every being a great, famous photographer, but it is the work of the greats that I study, trying to get some small amount of inspiration and knowledge that will help me take my photography to another level. Some are living, some are not, but all have created images that will always stand as examples of genius in the world of photography. I am primarily a portrait photographer, and my style is heavily influenced by fashion magazines, so most of my favorite photographers are from the fashion world. You can find examples of work by all of these photographers on the internet. Some of my favorites (in random order) are: Herb Ritts, Patrick Demarchelier, Annie Leibowitz, Timothy Greenfield Sanders and George Hurrell.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Photographic Reflectors

There are a few accessories that you can use that can make a huge difference in your portraits. One of the most basic (and most effective) is a reflector. This shot was done in a tunnel, and if I had not used a reflector, it would have been very difficult to get this shot because almost all of the light was coming from behind the girl I could have used a flash, but that would have produced much flatter, less natural-looking lighting. Instead, I used a gold reflector to reflect the light that was coming in the entrance to the tunnel. Using a reflector makes it much easier to direct the light exactly where you want it. A reflector is a piece of fabric that is stretched across a flexible ring or rectangle. It can be folded like a shade that you put in your windshield. This makes it easy to transport and store. Reflectors come in white, silver, gold, and combinations of these colors. The combo reflectors have different colors interwoven; this allows you to, for example, have the softness of white while adding some of the warmth of gold. Silver is very reflective, but it often is too harsh to use to reflect direct sunlight. Silver should be used more for situations such as overcast days when you want to reflect a little light into the shadows on the face. A gold reflector also may be too harsh for some lighting situations. Under the right conditions, though, a gold reflector adds a nice warmth to the skin tone. You can either buy a light stand and an arm that hold the reflector or you can have someone hold the reflector for you. The type of reflector that you use depends on what type of look you want, but whatever type you choose, it can be an invaluable tool. The best part is that they are relatively inexpensive (average of about 40 dollars, depending on size and type). Posted by Hello

Too many photographers of all skill levels know all of the technical aspects of photography but know very little about their subjects. If you know about basketball, you will know the right time to make a photo to get something interesting, something that tells a little about the game . In fact, timing is one of the most important aspects of sports photography. Things happen very quickly, and great photographers know the sport(s) well enough to know that moment when something is about to happen that would make a great photo.

The same idea applies to photographing people. It takes some work to get most people to relax for a photo. Sometimes they will relax for very brief moments, and a great portrait can often be captured in one of those moments if you recognize it. The eyes tell so much about what a person is feeling. Take the time to talk to your subjects and get them to smile a few times without taking a photo. I don't mean that you should tell them to smile; you should just find a way to bring it out. Pay attention to how they look when they really smile, then you will know when they are giving you fake smiles for the photos.

This may go against everything you believe, but it's actually very possible to do great portraits of a person without that person smiling. Some people just don't show that much outward emotion. Don't try to force them to be fake.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Weird photographer rambling

A lot of people in a lot of different fields, from sports to art to music, talk about how they have that one person who brings out the best in them. Sometimes in sports, it's an opponent that pushes them to play at their highest level. In art or photography, it can be that one subject with whom you have some connection, who brings out the best in what you do. I believe that the best thing that can happen for a photographer who is trying to learn is finding that person with whom it just seems to work. It may not be someone that you would expect; sometimes you just click, and it seems like whatever you do together just somehow works. That takes so much of the pressure off of you, and it allows you the freedom to try so many new things. A person who had this type of effect on an artist was once known as a "muse". No one really uses that term anymore, but the idea remains. I was lucky enough to have someone like that for a while, and she is one of the main reasons that I'm still a photographer. I haven't seen her in a while, but her photos are a reminder to me that, with a lot of work, I might be able to do something great someday. I've got a long way to go, but there's hope.

There are rules to photography about lighting, composition, etc., but the most important rule is that there are no rules. That made no sense, I know, but the point is that you should never get so caught up in following a set of rules that were probably made up by mediocre photographers that you lose your sense of creativity. Sometimes you need to ignore all that you know and let your imagination run free. This applies to a lot of things in life, but in this case, I'm talking about finding ways to break all of the rules of photography and still make great photos. People generally avoid cutting off part of someone's head or face or whatever in a photograph, but a close-up like this can grab your attention in a way that traditional shots might not be able to do. I had my model here leaning on a shiny, silver piece of cardboard, which bounced a lot of light back up into her eyes. I believe that this made them even more dramatic. Not everyone is comfortable being photographed this close-up, and even fewer people have the kind of face that needs to be photographed this close, but this kind of shot can definitely be dramatic, especially if you enlarge it to greater-than-life-size.  Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 20, 2005

I love getting in the studio and playing around with the lighting, trying to come up with cool, new dramatic ways to use light in my portraits. Once you learn to see the way that studio lighting affects your pictures, you can begin to experiment and use light as a tool to create the mood and to tell a story with your photographs. Sometimes,though, I find that simplicity can be the most effective way to capture a subject and create a classic-looking image. This is one of my favorite shots, and it was done by window light. There is a quality to natural light that is very difficult to mimic with studio lighting. Another great advantage to using natural light is the comfort of your subject. Few people are very comfortable in front of the camera, and even those who are "naturals" often are able to relax more when they are not surrounded by lights. They are not having to deal with blinding bursts of light on every shot, and they often look much more at ease in the photos. I can't give enough emphasis to the importance of doing as much as you can to help your subject relax when you're doing portraits. I have rearranged everything in the middle of a portrait session because I knew that the person whom I was photographing would be more comfortable in a more natural setting. As I have said in previous posts, I have been fortunate enough to work with some great models and to be able to experiment a lot with different lighting and styles of photographs. What works well for one subject may not work well for another. Always be ready to adapt, and, while you should never quit trying to improve, sometimes going back to the basics is a good thing.  Posted by Hello

Lighting to Enhance Features

"Photography" means, literally, "drawing with light". You can use lighting in photography to create a mood or to enhance or minimize certain aspects of a subject, no matter what it may be. Ansel Adams would wait for hours for the perfect lighting on a mountain or some other landscape. The Hollywood photographers of the 30's and 40's had a style of lighting that many photographers are trying to re-create today.
Lighting is on of the least considered aspects of amateur photographers, but it can have a huge effect on how a person looks. You can use light to reshape a person's face; or to minimize certain features. By having the light coming more from one side than the other, you create the illusion of a slimmer face, or by reducing shadows around the nose (and using the right camera angle) , you can reduce the apparent size of the nose. On the other hand, lighting that goes across the face, if not used properly, can create a long shadow from the nose, making it look much bigger. The point is that you should really pay attention to light and shadows to see what shapes they are creating. Shadows tend to carry your eye away from the features that create them while also increasing the apparent size of those features. Another example is a shadow that extends from the nose down over the upper lip; this will often make the nose look very long. I lit this model this way simply for the overall feel of the photo. It's easy when you have a subject with a face like hers because you really don't have to try to use special lighting to change any features. Unless you photograph models, though, you are rarely going to have that luxury.
The last aspect of lighting that is very apparent in this photograph is the effect that it has on the eyes. When you are outside or in very bright light, the pupil closes down, making more of the iris visible. This photo was done in the studio, where a person's eyes will dialate because of the relative darkness inside. This girl has such beautiful eyes, and to make the color of them more visible, I used a very bright, direct light to close down her pupils and make the color really show. Posted by Hello