Faces: Telling a Story Through Portrait Lighting

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All images by Joel Locaylocay. Used with permission.

Photo Essays is a series on the Phoblographer where photographers get to candidly speak their mind about a specific subject or project of theirs. Want to submit? [email protected]

I am most proud of the lighting that I did for my Faces project. This series is inspired by the look and feel of the portraiture of Dan Winters. Well, at least it started out that way. I surely didn’t have the equipment he was using. I lit my subjects using hot shoe flashes triggered off camera. And over the months that I worked on the series, I found that I had developed a look that I could call my own.

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Creating the Photograph: Alexander Co Dela Cruz, Jr.’s “Blue Diamonds”

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Creating the Photograph is an original series where photographers teach you about how they concepted an image, shot it, and edited it. The series has a heavy emphasis on teaching readers how to light. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com.

Photographer Alexander C. Dela Cruz, Jr. is a Strobist Events Photographer based in Manila, Philippines. You name it: he’s probably done it even though he’s only been shooting since 2012. Alex has done what photographers really should do: make a minimal investment in gear and really focus on just creating awesome images with what you have.

“I got literally hooked with photography back when I had my hands on my first camera ever – a Chinese-manufactured MP4 player with a VGA camera.” he tells us. “I then upgraded to a GE Point-and-Shoot, and eventually wanted better images and total control over them. I’m a self taught photographer and a proud one, getting inspiration daily from your site.”

That inspiration has translated into a number of awesome portraits. And to that end, Alex is very much a true creative.

Here’s his story on how he created the photo “Blue Diamonds.” Be sure to also follow him on Facebook.

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How to Light a Basketball Court For the Big Game

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Editor’s note, we contacted Patrick to ask for permission to share an image or two. We will update if he responds.

If you know anything about lighting, you’re probably every aware that some of the photos you see in sports are very well lit–especially with basketball. Ever wonder how that’s done? Well photographer Patrick Murphy-Racey created a video on just how: and trust us, it isn’t simple. In fact, it’s quite a production and he shows off that it requires a photographer to get there very early ahead of the game to set up. In fact, Patrick says that you should go the day before if possible.

In the video after the jump, he shows you how to safely install a 4- head Dynalite Arena System into a large, NBA sized arena. The packs used in this video are the AP1600 and they’re used with AH4000 heads, AR0040 reflectors and Avenger clamps. The sync is setup and secured so that all the lights will fire at once.

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Three Steps to Create a Telling Portrait of Someone

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Phase One IQ250 more with Nat (1 of 2)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 2.8

Creating a portrait of someone can be pretty simple, but creating a portrait of someone that tells us a little bit about them is more complicated. It requires a connection–and that’s something you should have with your portrait subject right off the bat. This is tough to do, but with a mind focused on creating a portrait and moving things along, you’ll end up creating an image that someone will be very proud of and that tells something about who they are.

Editor’s Note: This post is targeted at those who want to get over their fear of taking portraits of someone and are trying to do so on the streets.

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Shooting Better Portraits With a Single Hot Shoe Flash

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While the guides to shooting portraits with a 50mm and a 35mm lens did very well, there is something that I think is a million times more important than your focal length: and that’s light. Photography is nothing without light and while natural light can be beautiful it won’t give your subject that extra pop in a scene that makes someone immediately pay attention to them.

The better part: you don’t need a majorly complicated flash to do this. In fact, I almost never use monolights anymore and I mostly work with a combination of natural light and a single flash. What’s possible with just one extra source of light is immense.

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

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Roundflash dish review images with Asta extras (5 of 5)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.8

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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.

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Creating the Photograph: Jose Torres ” A Splash of Flavor”

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Creating the Photograph is an original series where photographers teach you about how they concepted an image, shot it, and edited it. The series has a heavy emphasis on teaching readers how to light. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com.

Jose Torres is an artist & photographer based in Central Texas that started his journey three years ago. He was already and artist, and so he just needed to learn the technical side of photography: which is what he’s been working on. So he went about learning about the settings, lighting etc. He admits that learning how to light drastically improved his imagery.

Inspired by Jason Lanier’s Workshops, Miguel Quiles’ Sony alpha tips, and Joshua Cripps’ professional photography tips, he’s been steadily moving forward with his craft.

In a recent email to the Phoblographer, I found an image of his involving a grapefruit being dropped into the water. Splash photography is always fun, and so I was curious to know how he did this one.

Here’s his story; and be sure to check out his Facebook and Instagram for more.

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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.