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Useful Photography Tip

Chris Gampat Samantha Grossman's first shoot with me (13 of 15)ISO 32001-100 sec at f - 1.4

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When photographing women, working with the hair is always a big priority. That’s why many shoots often have a high price for hair and makeup artists. If the hair is in a specific style, then embrace what the makeup artist has done because they worked quite hard to get it to look that way. But when that hair is let down, it’s best to make it easier to work with. One method that we’ve found to work well and is fairly simple to do is parting the hair to one side based on how you’re composing the image, the lighting direction and the person’s facial features.

At the time of publishing this tip, this particular style is a trend. But parting the hair to one side makes it easier to control and work with so that you can focus on other things like the subject’s posture, how their nose will be seen in the image, and many other important details that you’ll need to pay attention to in order to deliver a better image.

Where (camera left or right) you put the hair is entirely a case by case basis but what we prefer to do is place it in the opposite direction of the key light in the image. For example, in the image above the light was camera right. Putting the hair to the left worked well because Samantha is leaning into the wall and it would have otherwise made the hair look puffy and maybe even cast shadows on her face. If that was my creative intention then it would have worked–but it clearly wasn’t.

Another big factor to consider is the person’s shoulder height. Everyone has a higher and lower shoulder because of the way that we wear our bags and sleep. Traditionally, the hair is placed on the lower shoulder–but again it also depends on the lighting direction.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Leica XE product images (1 of 10)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 2.5

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Yes, many of you photographers love to complain about vignetting. But you can actually embrace it and use it creatively. We’ve talked about proper techniques to making your images look sharper and making colors pop out more, but another way to emphasize a subject more in an image is to add a vignette to it. Chances are that based on your composition of a scene, the subject will be somewhere around the center or on one of the intersecting points of the rule of thirds. A vignette will make someone stare at your image and complete ignore the blacked out areas.

Of course, this doesn’t need to be a heavy vignette but we can’t tell you how many times we’ve used vignettes on product photos on this site and not a single person has sat there and complained.

If your creative vision calls for it, light vignetting can be a great thing and because of the way the human eye works, it will put higher emphasis on your subject in addition to making them pop out more on a screen or on print.

Beyond this, we recommend bumping up the contrast and tweaking the black levels. But those are all part of the process involving making your images look sharper that we linked to above.

Give it a try: and don’t be afraid to do something that the mainstream may say otherwise.



Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Impact Quikbox and LiteTrek photos (8 of 17)ISO 200

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One of the greatest things that you can accomplish technically as a photographer is shooting with a flash during bright daylight and nailing exposure perfectly. If you’re doing this, then chances are that you’ll use a TTL lighting functionality or high speed sync or even making sure that your flash duration is just at a fast setting. But even this can become tedious and frustrating for the best of photographers–especially when using light modifiers like softboxes.

The best approach to a situation like this is to use spot metering on your camera. When you switch to spot metering you can figure out what the exposure is for the ambient/natural light and the flash/strobe output. Spot metering literally meters off of the area that you’re choosing. It ignores things like tying to make the entire scene completely balanced in terms of exposures and works well because it helps you make a more informed decision about what to do with your artificial light.

So where do you begin?

– Set your camera to spot metering mode and meter your subject’s face (providing that you’re shooting a portrait)

– Meter your camera accordingly.

– Use a handheld light meter to judge what aperture you should be shooting at if you’re using a light without TTL. Otherwise, set your aperture to whatever you want and the flash will meter itself hopefully. If it doesn’t then switch to manual mode and do the same method as when using a handheld light meter.

As an extra tip, set your handheld light meter to the fastest shutter speed so that it doesn’t see the ambient light and doesn’t try to work along with it.

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When shooting portraits of someone and using a flash or studio strobe, there is a big secret to getting more details and extra beauty out of the shot. It first starts with specular highlights–which are extra details that are brought out by adding in extra light to a scene. But sometimes specular highlights render something even better: catchlights. Catchlights are usually associated with what you see in the eyes–and they have to do with a reflection of the light usually on the irises. What the catchlights look like vary depending on the light modifier. However, it is generally accepted that umbrellas, octabanks, and ring flashes often deliver the best catchlights in the eyes.

Getting them is fairly simple: simply place the light and light modifier in front of your subject and shoot. But in general, the rule also states that the bigger the light modifier and the closer it is to your subject, the better the catchlights will be. So to get better catchlights, we encourage you to first use a really large light modifier then place it close to your subject. Make sure that the light is in front of them and a little bit above them while facing downward. As an extra tip, we recommend also not moving the light modifier anywhere beyond a 45 degree angle of the subject while they’re facing the camera.

Then just shoot. For the absolute best results, set your flash’s power output to a setting that lets you shoot just slightly stopped down with the eyes in focus.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Conquering Mixed Lighting (2 of 3)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.0

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“I’m about to do something that I really hate to do for the sake of art.” I said to Amanda as we had our first shoot the other night. Of course, what I was talking about was how to conquer mixed lighting–and as an actress and theatre tech she totally understood. When working with flash lighting (daylight) and ambient street lighting in Brooklyn (more orangish in color) it can be a bit of a pain to create a beautiful image.

My initial idea was to light her with an Octabank and set my exposure so that the output from the flash is the key and ambient orange lights would provide a sort of interesting fill that would complement her skin tones. After fumbling with my Octabank (which was misbehaving) I decided on another approach: putting the flash almost right next to the orange light source (which is coming from a wall), setting the flash head zoom to the widest to make it cover the largest area, and having Amanda sit on the floor.

Then the exposure was set accordingly to drown out much of the ambient lighting and make the flash output the key light. In English, what this means is that I worked with a wide aperture and a fast shutter speed. In fact, this image was shot at 1/60th, f2 and ISO 400. At 7L45PM, 1/60th at ISO 400 isn’t going to do much for you.

The result was a light output that blended very well with the orange light and that later on just required me to push the white balance slider either to the blue or the orange to give the image dominance in one color or the other. Indeed, this is the most common mixed lighting situation that I’ve encountered, and it’s finally been conquered with minimal post-production.

So to recap: place the speedlight right by the other light source, make it larger, an overpower the ambient light using your exposures.

Give it a try for yourself, and check out two other photos after the jump.

[click to continue…]

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 images with phottix mitros flash (1 of 5)ISO 2001-200 sec at f - 5.6

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If we didn’t tell you so, most folks would think that the photo above was shot with ambient natural lighting. And most of those folks would be dead wrong. We did it by using a TTL flash with a large Rogue Flashbender. Considering the miniscule size of the flower, the light from the large panel provides some very soft lighting when the according shutter speed is used to mix in enough ambient lighting.

To refresh, when it comes to shooting with a flash, your shutter speed lets in the ambient lighting while your aperture controls the amount of light that hits the subject from the flash. And in a situation when you’re working with lots of ambient lighting and you just want to add some fill light, you should use TTL flash lighting to blend effectively with natural light.

TTL lighting is so effective because it works with the camera’s metering to provide an even exposure to the scene. If you were working with the light manually, then it would require some extra steps and may probably not even give you anything near the results you were looking for. But when blending TTL lighting with your camera’s metering, all you have to do is tell it to go brighter or darker accordingly. Of course, we also recommend using a large light modifier in relation to your subject.

If you want to do this with manual metering, it requires you to take an ambient light reading, then a flash light reading, and then somehow or another figure out a happy medium depending on what kind of look you’re going for. And again, that depends on your own creative vision.