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Useful Photography Tip

Chris Gampat Film scans from pinhole and personal 2014 (2 of 17)

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When it comes to shooting portraits, your aim for the final image should be to distinguish the person more so from the rest of the scene. This can be done in a number of ways and one of the primary ways is to use the bokeh effect. By blurring out the rest of the scene organically, the viewer is forced to focus on the subject that you photographed. While this is true, there are elements of the image that can make the subject blend in more with the rest of the scene. For example, their clothing type is extremely important. If you’re photographing a person dressed in camouflage against a background of similar colors, it may be tough to spot them and make them stand out. So for starters, try coordinating the wardrobe with the portrait subject.

But beyond that, adding lighting to the scene is a great way to make your subject stand out even more. The image above is from some of my personal work featuring my friend Dane in a suit. To make him stand out from the rest of the background, I added artificial lighting in just the right spot. The light made him and his clothing stand out from the otherwise dark background. The light also hit the wall that he was leaning on and separated that from his body.

Add into the scene the fact that the light also illuminated his skin and you’ve got yourself a portrait subject that stands out from the scene and forces you to focus on them. But you don’t necessarily need artificial light to do this–you just need to provide lots of contrast. If you’re outdoors, you can backlight a subject and expose for the shadows to make them stand out from what will otherwise be a very bright and washed out background. Sure, you’ll lose the highlight details, but all that matters is that you make your portrait subject stand out.


Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm X Pro 1 review images mxpx (14 of 22)ISO 6400

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When you’re shooting concerts in large venues or even bars, chances are that the lighting on the musicians will be bright–way too bright for aperture priority. If you pay attention to your camera’s metering system, it will often look at the contrast in the scene and blow out much of the highlights.

Due to changes in modern sensor technology, we all know that it is much easier to lift details from the shadows than it is to pull them from the highlights. So in order to get a better exposed image, we strongly recommend underexposing the scene by at least a stop. This way, you’ll get the details on the musician and anything in the shadows can be pushed in post-production.

To get started, choose an ISO setting that you’re comfortable with and make sure that your shutter speed is at least the equivalent of your field of view to keep in line with the reciprocal rule of shutter speeds. Then select an aperture that you’re comfortable working with and keep in mind that your musician may be moving around. Then try to underexpose the scene by a stop. By doing this, you may either be able to capture faster motion, get more of a scene in focus, and also have better files to edit in the post-production phase. And all you need to do is just underexpose musicians.

Just remember that not everything needs to be an HDR–so as long as your primary subject is exposed correctly you shouldn’t have too much of an issue.

Keep this in mind the next time you do concert photography.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus EM5 Link Cosplay shoot (7 of 23)ISO 200

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A couple of years ago, I faced a pretty big logistical problem on a shoot. I had a reflector, my monolight, the umbrella reflector for the light, my camera, and that was about it. While in a very dark spot of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, I had to find a way to make the output of my monolight look much larger and in turn better diffused while also making all of my images from that day not look the same due to the lighting effect.

With very little ambient light in the area, the best way to actually light Katie in the above image was to reflect some sort of light onto her. The idea of using a large five in one reflector and bouncing the light from my monolight off of it came to me. But instead of bouncing the light off of the reflective side, I configured it to be translucent. And by placing the reflector in the right spot, we were able to create this image–which was almost totally illuminated by the monolight output being diffused by the reflector. That’s when it hit me that a viable option is to always diffuse a flash with a reflector.

So despite the fact that reflectors are usually designed to reflect existing light, you should also try to use them as a normal bounce surface for a flash. The most common way for many people to use a hot shoe flash is to bounce it off of a ceiling or surface. But when that surface isn’t available, create one with a reflector.

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.