Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Prevent Damage to Your Camera and Memory Cards

Here's something that lots of people do and don't even think twice about . . . they put memory cards into their pocket without first putting them into a case.

No big deal? Ahhhh, but it is . . . all of the crap in your pocket (lint, small stuff, sand, whatever) gets into the pin slots on the memory cards and makes life miserable. It can really ruin your day when the card becomes unreadable, or worse, bends one of the pins in your camera!

Before putting a naked memory card into your pocket, use one of those little plastic cases the come with or get a waterproof one that holds multiple cards. They are well worth the investment! 

You can find a case such as this at most photo retailers for under $20. I've also seen them on eBay; popular brands are Pelican and JJC.

- David Grupa 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ahh, The Art of the Camera Tilt.

There has been an evolution of sorts in the media and photography realm in the last decade or so. One change you’ll notice is tight cropping, which a lot of photographers have incorporated as well as the TV media. When done properly, it pulls the viewer's attention into the subject’s eyes. In the photography world, we have also found that tipping our cameras can lend an artistic flair to an otherwise simple composition. However, there are some simple rules to live by when using this advanced maneuver. Let’s go over some tips for tipping.
Let's start with a simple before and after of a senior guy. As you can see, tilting the composition and reframing the subject adds a lot more interest. Notice that the senior is in the exact same pose, but the photographer is capturing from a higher angle and has tightened up the shot to exclude shoes and legs.

The biggest rule to follow to make this work is having a vertical line somewhere in the image to anchor the subject. Notice where the true horizon of the images really are.

The above rule can be broken in some instances and still lead to a visually strong image such as in this example here.
While this image breaks the rule about tilting, it also follows a number of rules of composition. The subject's face is in the top right power point of the composition which follows the Rule of Thirds. There are also strong diagonal leading lines from her body and the lines of the flooring which pull you into her face.
When done properly, the camera tilt ends up being very subtle and directs your attention to the subject, not the tilt of the camera.

That's all for now!

- Kirsten Holscher

Monday, August 22, 2011

Use a Handheld Light Meter to Nail Exposure Every Time!

It's been talked about here in detail; when you're photographing your clients, you should be utilizing the proper tools to make sure you achieve the proper exposure and color (white balance) for every image you create. Today, I'll show you exactly how easy it is to use a handheld light meter and white balance target and why you should be using them with every session you photograph.

Let's begin with one basic premise; your camera - no matter what brand - is simply a computer with a lens. When we feed it proper information, we receive the results we want. Sure, there are some "AUTO" settings that allow you to concentrate on composition, but because your camera set on AUTO-anything is now "averaging" the results, you may find that you spend quite a bit more time in post-production tweaking files for exposure and color. This will help you get some of that time back!

Why do I not just use the AUTO setting? As stated above, the AUTO settings tend to provide averages in both areas of exposure and white balance. Any of these AUTO settings can be affected by color of clothing, backgrounds, or just the available light source; all of these will influence how your camera's internal system reacts.

Every time I change lighting or location in a session, I pull out the meter and the target. (I wear my meter on my belt and the target around my neck, so it's not like I'm digging through gear to find these items.) It takes just seconds to check exposure and adjust the settings on my camera for a perfect exposure. The same is true with the white balance target (which can also be used to check exposure via the histogram on the camera's display); for info on how to use the white balance target for color calibration later, CLICK HERE.)

The images below are SOOC (straight out of camera) and show the difference taking a few extra seconds on the front end makes.

Many people first beginning in photography feel as if lighting, posing and composition are the #1 things they need to master. In order to take your photography to the next level, you need to learn to properly expose your photographs so that they don't require extra tweaking in Photoshop. Every minute you save by NOT having to "Fix it in Photoshop" is a minute of your own life that you get back.

Grab that light meter and save yourself time and headaches later on!

- David Grupa

Monday, August 15, 2011

To Meter or Not to Meter . . .

Oh, how I love Facebook groups. They have become a great place to share, network and socialize with other people who have similar interests. They can certainly be a source of entertainment. On occasion, they also become the source of material for debates.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good back-and-forth as much as anyone. I don't enjoy, however, when these take place in an environment where someone is soliciting advice and the people giving said advice are leading in the wrong direction.

A recent example is a discussion surrounding the use of a light meter; a number of folks felt that it is a necessary piece of equipment, while others deemed it outdated and not relevant. One commenter even went as far as suggesting that "there are loads of awesome photographers . . . that don't use a light meter." Really? I suppose if you want to get out your calculators and determine your exposure based on a guide number and distance, that's up to you. If you're one of those who just "guess and go", so be it. To me, however, the light meter is an essential tool in my everyday work; one that I'd feel very uncomfortable without. I'm also guessing that even though many of the other "awesome photographers" know their setup and equipment well enough and could probably get by without one, most of them still use a meter to determine their initial exposures and settings.

Am I just old-fashioned? Maybe it's the fact that I date back to the Collodion Wet Plate Process (okay, back to film days, anyway) and I constantly had a Gossen Luna Pro around my neck for ambient light and another flash meter in the studio. I just never photographed without checking exposure.

I realize that today's cameras have a lot of this "built-in", but until I find a system that's 100% infallible, I'm gonna keep my trusty Sekonic L-358 strapped to my hip. It takes seconds for me to pull it out, check exposure and photograph a target for WB purposes, allowing me to concentrate on my subject rather than hope I'm not in a position where the in-camera metering gets fooled. (But that never happens, does it?)

Besides, I honestly believe it gives me a more professional appearance than someone who's just happy-snapping with their DSLR. (Don't believe me? A few weeks ago I had a client who was coming to me after an unsuccessful visit with a "faux-tographer" who gave them disappointing results from a senior portrait session. The mom and girl both commented that "the other photographer never used one of these." I explained that it's just a part of the set of tools I need to do the job well and create awesome images. During the viewing as they were oooohing and ahhhhing over the finished images, mom asked "Why don't all photographers own the right equipment to do the job?"

A necessary tool? I think so.
- David Grupa 

(Check out www.Sekonic.com for some great tutorial videos on creating better portraits and why a light meter is crucial to the process!)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Is Your Studio Website Helping or Hurting Your Business?

We all know that one of our key marketing components in the computer age is a website. It has become our portfolio that can be viewed from anywhere with internet access (this includes your phone!)

Navigation should be simple and information easy to access. Clients don't want to play hide-and-seek looking for your contact info; email address and phone number should be readily visible. (Pet peeve: websites with "contact us" forms that do not show an email address. If it's so secret that you can't share it with me, what makes me want to do business with you?)

Anyway, I was reviewing a website last week for a newer photographer who had applied for Certification. This was a follow-up call in which we were discussing why she didn't pass. I asked her why she didn't have the images she submitted on her website, as the ones on her site were weak at best and showed minimal evidence of her knowledge of the craft and use of lighting techniques. The ones she sent for judging were far better! Her reply? "I like to keep my old images on my website as well as my new ones so I can see how far I've come."

While it's always nice to have a visual reminder of "Before and After", your clients don't care about how bad you were at the beginning. All they want to know is that when they invest money in portraiture from you; the resulting images will ROCK. Keep your reminders on your personal computer.

Take the time to clean the old stuff off your website often and replace it with fresh images; we're all guilty of letting it slide. Think of it this way - how much business are you losing because even a few of your images are less-than-stunning? If this is the case, then less is more. Show a few great images instead of lots of average ones.

- David