Useful Photography Tip #161: Flattening a Portrait Subject’s Mid-Section

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC extra sample images Jenn's portraits (2 of 4)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 3.5

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When it comes to photographing a person from the direct side, there are loads of portrait subjects who get self-conscious about how they look and may not necessarily want to. But you can fix that in-camera without Photoshop pretty easily just by doing a bit of stretching while creating a pose that looks natural.

How do you do this?

  • Have the subject face to the side: either have them shift their weight to the leg/side further from the camera or have them perfectly straight
  • Pull the clothing back to be a bit more form fitting
  • Have them straighten up their back without sucking in their gut.
  • Have them lean back just a bit while pulling their stomach in a bit
  • Then make the portrait subject turn their shoulder closer to you just a bit back and to the side

Again, while there’s nothing wrong with embracing who you are (and I encourage it) it could be more important for others when it comes to social media portraits, headshots, etc.

Useful Photography Tip #160: Making Cheeks Look Less Puffy in a Portrait

Paige Owen Headhots 2016 by Chris Gampat (21 of 32)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.5

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“That feels really weird.” said Paige to me this past weekend as I was doing headshots for her. She was referring to a tactic I told her to do in order to make her face look less puffy in a portrait. Besides using an 85mm lens to compress the scene, Peter Hurley will tell you that a good tactic is to stick the chin out a bit. For the most part, that works very well: but an even further step can be taken after that.

Try this:

  • Ask your portrait subject to open their mouth and drop their jaw. This will eliminate any immediate puffiness in the face and thin it out.
  • Then ask them to smile with the mouth open and the jaw still dropped.
  • Finally, have them close the mouth just enough so that if they wanted to, their tongue could still go in between the top and bottom front row of teeth. Their mouth can remain open or not.

Combine this with soft, flattering lighting and sticking the chin out and you’ll have a portrait that will look much better.

Useful Photography Tip #159: The Simple Secret to Using a Flash

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If you’re one of those people who is secretly afraid of using a flash and because of that calls yourself a “Natural Light Photographer” you’re going to realize that the simple concept behind using a flash is really, really, incredibly simple.

When lighting novices think about using a flash, they think about it based on the fact that you’re trying to make an image brighter. And so to that end, they raise the ISO, open the aperture and slow down the shutter speed. In reality, that isn’t really what a flash is designed to do or how it’s designed to be properly used in today’s digital photography realm.

Instead: a flash is designed to create light in a scene that isn’t there to begin with. Let that sink into your head. So in the image above, I had the option of backlighting Asta with the lights on the left or just raising the ISO and adjusting the settings to get a good enough exposure that would be pleasing. I could have also just moved her towards the light. However, what I did was had those lights blend into the scene and also add my own light source. The results? Well, they’re after the jump.

The point: that the lighting that you’ll see on Asta after the jump couldn’t have been created without adding in my own light source.

So start thinking about using a flash differently.

Continue reading…

Useful Photography Tip #158: Don’t Discount the Bounce Card on Your Flash

Model: Bec Fordyce

Model: Bec Fordyce

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Consider the fact that years ago, all photographers using a flash were encouraged to stop using the little bounce card and wide angle diffuser in favor of something like the Rogue FlashBender series of modifiers. If you’ve been using those or other modifiers, you probably haven’t really thought twice about two things that can really help your flash output control.

One of them is the wide angle diffuser: spreading light over a larger area can make it look softer in certain situations.

The second one is the little bounce card. If often can bounce just enough light into an area to give off a really nice effect. That’s how I created the image above with model Bec Fordyce. The direct flash head was way too powerful even when the power was really turned down. But when the flash output was bounced off of a little card, it created hard shadows that still worked with the overall image and effect.

So don’t ever discount all the tools that you have available to you: and also be sure to keep them in mind accordingly.

Useful Photography Tip #157: Natural Light Portraiture in the Shade

Model: Clay Von Carlowitz

Model: Clay Von Carlowitz

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When shooting portraits in natural light there are three different scenarios: in full blown sunlight, in the shade, or a combination of the two. Each lend themselves to different situations and effects, but by far the most reliable for a standard portrait is to shoot in the shade.

The biggest reason: consistent lighting. 

With two types of light, you’re getting a result that you need to meter twice for.

With sunlight, you’re often getting a result where you may create unflattering shadows or have a super crazy difference in metering (which could be okay).

But when shooting in the shade, you get completely even lighting to work with when it comes to the exposures. The lighting also usually comes from the side if you’re working with something like an awning. This can give off a natural softbox effect.

Keep this in mind when shooting portraits!

Useful Photography Tip #156: How to Make a Portrait Subject Really Pop

Model: Bec Fordyce

Model: Bec Fordyce

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Before you go on, I want you to note that I’m purposely using a black and white photo because it simplifies the way things are rendered.

I’ve talked before about to create a sharper portrait in the camera, and this short tutorial is kind of an addition to that. To make your subject truly pop out in an image you need a couple of key components:

  • Effective depth of field (shallow depth of field)
  • Light in the right places (two lights can be enough, and sometimes even one is good)
  • Contrast between colors and shades.

Take the image above: parts of Bec really pop out from the rest of the scene because of the depth of field and the color scheme. The right side shows a lot of separation due to the contrast but the left and the top ould surely use more.

So how could I have fixed the image? By adding a flash behind and to the left of Bec. These are sometimes called hairlights and they provide a nice rim lighting effect. In a situation like the one above, it would’ve been enough to make her pop out more because again, it would have created more contrast.

Part of this has to do with color theory: if your subject is wearing red and they’re against a red background, then they’re not going to contrast much. If they’re against black or white though, they’ll surely stand out a lot more.

Don’t think that this is enough information? Give it a once over and then apply it to your photography. It really is that simple.

Useful Photography Tip #155: Want to be a Pro Photographer? Pay Your Taxes Quarterly

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer MyMiggo camera strap large review images (7 of 9)ISO 4001-1000 sec at f - 2.8

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Here in the US, professional photographers are getting ready to pay their taxes. One of the biggest things that you learn as a business owner though has to do with paying what are called quarterly estimates. This means that you pay taxes each quarter of the year in smaller bits rather than one large bit once a year. At the end of each year, you submit your expenses and income and readjust what you pay each quarter.

It works much better than paying once a year and also means that you discipline yourself much better on top of managing your monthly budget on a different level. Of course, there are also sales taxes and other things involved. The added benefit is that since you’re budgeting yourself in a different way then you’re also not spending excess money that you possibly may not have if you just pay once a year.

Additionally, you also end up paying taxes in a different way than regular employees do. For example, you can write off a certain percentage of business meals, marketing promotions, travel, office expenses, bills, etc. because they’re all seen as costs for your business. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should splurge; but instead be honest about everything.

There are many benefits to photographers paying their taxes quarterly; and if you’re just getting started be sure to talk to your tax consultant about it.

 

Useful Photography Tip #154: Teaching Your Eyes to See Shadows and Light

Image-1

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The above photo is not an emboss or done with any sort of special filter in Photoshop. Instead, it was all done manually by hand and with Adobe Photoshop Sketch on the iPad Air 2. It’s an image from my Sony a7s Mk II review and was rendered into a black and white simply because I liked the look of it.

What a lot of people don’t realize about photography is that the best still you’ll ever have is your ability to see light and judge it to help you create a better exposure. Black and white photography can help with that but so can literally taking a stylus and sketching over a photo of yours. By doing this, you’re matching specific colors to certain areas and learning more about the way that shadows and lighting works. With this photo, I was able to better understand how the image came to work–because of the lighting coming from the windows hitting Evelyn from one side being blown out and the shadows working to help create a pleasing scene.

By doing this, I was able to clearly differentiate how lines worked in the scene, how shadows worked, and the simplicity behind the entire photo. It’s what many black and white photographers talk about often: colors can be complicated to work with unless done really well.

Though it isn’t specifically involving you shooting an image, it’s still an exercise that will help you to carefully judge lines, lighting, shadows, etc if you pay attention to the parts of the scene that you’re painting over.

Give it a shot.