Useful Photography Tip #187: How to Remember What 120 Film You Were Shooting With

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Most Medium Format cameras don’t have some sort of window on the back of the camera that you can peer into; one of the many way that they differ from 35mm cameras. So then the question becomes how to remember what film you’ve got in that camera? Well, the answer varies but the most consistent one that you’ll find is that you should be using the little note holder on either the back of the camera or the film back depending on what you’re using.

Let’s say that I was shooting some Ilford Delta 400 in my Mamiya 6. What I’d do is take a little tab from the box that clearly notes what film it is and slip it into the little holder. This way, it will stay in place and when I go back to pick the camera up to shoot, I’ll remember that Ilford Delta 400 is in there.

Why not just finish the roll, you ask? Well, 120 film usually has less shots per roll vs 35mm film. Depending on the format, you could have something like 16 shots when shooting at the 645 forma or even 9 at the larger variants like 6×9 format. Because of this, you also tend to be much more heavily selective of your shots. You’ll switch camera backs between color and black and white as well if you’re using an SLR style of camera that allows you to do so. Just to note, a camera like the Pentax 67 won’t let you switch backs but the Mamiya RB67 Pros S will. Otherwise, there’s a possibility that you can go for some time without shooting images with that camera and back, and you’ll just forget that there’s film in there. You may also forget what film you put inside unless you’re the type to really stick to a few emulsions.

Useful Photography Tip #186: Make a Portrait Subject Smile; Don’t Ask Them To

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“Smile” is what your parents and those old school portrait photographers used to say to us. “Show a bit more teeth.” It’s just as awkward now as an adult as it was as a child. Indeed, with being both in front of the camera and behind it, I’ve known that asking someone to smile is the worst thing to do unless there’s a very good rapport with the person. Even then, it’s just odd. The best thing to do instead as a photographer is to find a way to make them smile. It can be via conversation, and the idea of tricking someone’s mind into doing this is perhaps the best way to get a genuine expression from the person. Who’d have thunk?! Someone being genuine can translate into genuine photos?! That’s insane!!!

There’s obvious sarcasm in that previous sentence. So how do you make someone smile? I like going to Reddit’s R/Jokes section and telling them something that gets a chuckle. Otherwise, I have them talk about a super happy time in their life.

Also remember that, for some subjects, the more you ask them to smile the more likely they are going to fake it. I’ve done this. Just relate to them as a human being.

Useful Photography Tip #185: Why You Should Generally Underexpose Your Images

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One of the biggest and best tips I can possibly give any photographer about modern digital photography has to do with metering a scene. First off, if you’re using a form of evaluative metering then you should often use the light meter as a gauge and not try to always get the little blinker in the middle of the exposure indicator. You personally may want an image to be brighter, so learn how your camera handles more overexposed photos.

If you’re shooting for the edit though, you should underexpose your photos. Modern CMOS sensors (in general, those specifically made by Sony which are more or less in most cameras) have a tendency to handle the shadows a whole lot better than the highlights. That’s not to say that they can’t get details from the highlights, but if you have to gauge whether you can get more details from the highlights or the shadows, it would surely be the shadows. To that end, by underexposing your images in camera you can simply push the shadows in post.

If you overexpose, getting those details in the highlights aren’t always guaranteed without working in lots of layers. But if you’re perfectly okay with the image the way that it was exposed in camera, you can totally not worry about shooting for the edit.

Useful Photography Tip #184: How to Find the ISO Button of Most Cameras in the Dark

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You’re in a bind; you’re in a dark place and you’re trying to find the ISO button on your camera. What do you do? Some folks end up pressing buttons until they get to exactly what they want. But if you’ve got a camera with a dedicated ISO button, then you’re a bit more in luck. For some time now, camera companies have made their buttons have a little bulging dot on top of their ISO buttons. So when you’re in the dark, you’ll be able to feel for exactly what you need. Canon and Nikon have both done this for years and on the newer Panasonic GH5s, the ISO button has perforations on it while the white balance button is more rounded out. Once the photographer knows what button does what, they’ll be all set to shoot.

If you have a camera with buttons that are programmable, you’re not in as much luck. Or if you’ve got a camera with a dedicated ISO dial, you’ll need to look at the screen or the dial itself. But in these cases, the function buttons can help if you set them up in a specific way that you’ll understand.

Useful Photography Tip #183: The Trick Your Sony Camera Has That You’re Probably Not Using

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Photographers who want better metering of their scene should know that Sony has a bit more science to their camera metering system than you’d think. Besides the more traditional center-weighted, spot metering (which can be linked to the focusing point) and evaluative metering modes, there is another another option called “Entire Screen Average.” To figure out how that works, we asked Sony’s Mark Weir about just how exactly the algorithms do their magic. “Entire Screen Averaging meters the entire frame, but differs from Multi-pattern metering by eliminating the weighting on any individual segment.” says Mark. “The idea is to avoid any shifts in exposure that might be influenced by slight changes in composition.”

What that basically means is that it finds a way to look at all the different segments and averages them out, so it truly is an average of all the segments on the screen. This can be really useful in most situations. In other situations, spot metering is still my go to method when using Sony cameras.

Useful Photography Tip #183: Vinegar Can Kill Some Forms of Lens Fungus

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While this tip may not be the most important for photographers who own newer lenses, it’s very important for photographers who may acquire vintage or used glass. Something that can be quite annoying is fungus. In most cases, lens fungus doesn’t affect the image quality of a photo unless the fungus severe. It also depends on the type of fungus and how much there is. The severity will also determine how you go about dealing with it.

In many cases, lens fungus can be dealt with using vinegar–specifically white vinegar. White vinegar is a gentle cleanser that can take care of this issue if you catch it early. If the lens you’re working with is a bit more infested with fungus, then it’s going to be a much different story. You’ll probably need to bring that in to an expert who will deal with it themselves.

Useful Photography Tip #182: When Shooting a Photo Using the LCD Screen, Bring Your Elbows Into Your Body

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The lead photo of this blog post is surely not the way to take a photo when using the LCD screen of your camera. Instead, it’s actually the worst way; but lots of people do it when they shoot with their phone or even with a camera that has an LCD screen. Instead, what you should do is find a way to stabilize it by also stabilizing your body.

If you take karate or any other form of martial arts, depending on the art form, they may tell you to never fully extend your arms because they’re an easy point for you to be taken down. Instead, get very close and extend only to your elbow. This way you’re more stable. The same idea applies to photography. The closer the camera is to your body, the more stable it will be, so that you don’t produce photos that have camera shake in them.

I normally try to keep Useful Photography tips very short but check out the image after the jump.

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Useful Photography Tip #181: How to Look for Abstracts in Landscape Photography

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One of the reasons why you use telephoto lenses in landscape photography not only has to do with capturing an entire scene, but also being more artistic about the format in one way or another. What some of the more advanced landscape photographers do beyond looking for layers of sky and land is look for shapes in a scene to focus in on and play with. So how do you do this?

  • Crops: Experiment with various crops of your images and try different sizes. Modern cameras have enough megapixels where you can crop for quite a bit.
  • Looking at things on a micro scale: You know how folks like pixel peeping? Don’t pixel peep but instead look at the image closer and make your psyche vulnerable to shapes, tones, etc.
  • Rendering in black and white: One of the easiest ways to do this is to go black and white. Looking for shapes, tones and everything else becomes simpler. You can find so much in a black and white image.
  • Shapes: Circles, lines, leading lines, squiggles, etc. Look for them and keep them in mind. Sometimes even rotating your photo can help.
  • Contrasting colors: Go for at least two colors; no more than three.
  • Think about paintings: Imagine the scene without any sort of details. In fact, try to strip them away in post with stuff like Gaussian blur. I personally really like to think about and bring up Bob Ross. He created paintings of scenes but nothing was incredibly detailed obviously because they were paintings. From this you can recognize in your mind what he was painting. The same goes for Van Gogh and so many others.

Our friends over at Outdoor Photographer have even more tips on how to do this. Head on over and take a look.

Useful Photography Tip #180: Spot Meter A Portrait For the Skin, Focus on the Eyes

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Here’s yet another quick portrait photography tip for lots of photographers who have been reading the meters of their cameras but getting the readings wrong. You see, light meters in cameras tend to read a scene and meter for what you tell it to meter for. So with that said, if you’re metering a portrait, the scene will be metered for the entire scene in the evaluative setting. Photographers have otherwise tried spot metering. Spot metering up until recently took a meter reading of the center of the image and then you recomposed based on that. But these days, you have the option to set the spot metering up with the actual focus point itself.

Now, if you’re spot metering, you probably won’t be metering for a person’s eyes necessarily because that can throw off an exposure. Instead, you’re going to focus on the eyes but you’re going to meter for what’s more important–their skin and clothing. To do this to your absolute best ability, I strongly recommend simply metering manually vs using something like aperture priority and overexposing by a stop. If I had exposed for the eyes of the subject in this post, the skin would have been much brighter.

For most camera systems this first requires you to check the metering of the spot that you’re working with–which should be the subject’s skin. Then set the metering manually. After this, simply move the focusing point to the eye, focus, and shoot. But with Sony systems you can focus on the face, take a reading, meter manually, and then activate the eye focus option to focus automatically on the subject’s eyes.

Pretty nifty, huh? Typically, if the light isn’t changing you’ll have the same reading over and over again.

Useful Photography Tip #179: The Golden Rules of Working with Film

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When it comes to working with film, there are a number of photographers who have obviously done it for years already. But interestingly enough, you don’t apply the same techniques necessarily that you would with digital photography. So here’s what you can do and the Golden Rules of Working with Film Photography:

  • Slide film: Expose for the highlights, but personally I like to overexpose just a tad due to the way that I light.
  • Color Negative film: Overexpose the film by around a stop. I’ve found great success in then developing normally.
  • Black and White: Lots of photographers like exposing for the shadows and developing for the highlights. Personally, I tend to shoot a lot of black and white film the box speed or giving it a bit more light or less light depending on my personal tastes. But with some films, you may not want to underexpose them–like Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400 which is a near infrared film that needs a lot of light.

That’s it! Good luck!

Useful Photography Tip #178: How to Get the Blade Runner Look In Your Photos

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Lots of photographers everywhere tend to want what’s called the “Blade Runner” look in their images, and what they don’t realize is just how incredibly simple it is to do within the camera and not even worry about post-production at all. And guess what: it has everything to just do with white balance and the lights around you. The scenes that we’re specifically talking about happen in the cities–which are bathed in Daylight colored lighting. If you’re unaware, a flash is balanced to daylight. When you look at the lights around you too, they’ll tend to be whiter in color and output. To clarify just a bit more, think about your phone’s white light color display and how it becomes warmer at night.

Back to daylight lighting: you’ll need to find a whole lot of that. Now there are two ways that you can proceed here. With your digital camera, manually set the kelvin temperature of your camera to 3200K. That’s the color of tungsten film properly and will give off the blueish look when you’re in the presence of daylight. Alternatively, load your camera up with CineStill 800T and go shooting. For the best results, shoot at ISO 800 when you’re around really bright lights. Otherwise, feed the film more light by overexposing by around a stop or so.

Useful Photography Tip #179: Why Shooting Landscapes With a Rangefinder Can Really Suck

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Medium Format and film rangefinders in particular seem like such a perfect package for going about and shooting landscape photos, right? Or if not, maybe you’ll want to tote along your Leica! But before you do that, you should note that that’s probably a really bad idea if you want to do things right. With digital, this can be easier because getting details in the highlights or shadows is as simple as moving a slider. If you’ve got burning and dodging skills that can be used in the darkroom, then you’ll also not really have a problem when it comes to printmaking. However, if you’re trying your hardest to get it right in camera, then you’re going to be working with a tripod, ND filters, and Graduated NDs.

And that’s where this all becomes a bad idea.

With a mirrorless camera that has an EVF or with a DSLR, you’ll be able to see exactly where the ND filter is covering in the scene. In most situations, photographers position graduated ND filters over the sky and expose for the shadows. But if you’re doing that with a rangefinder, you’re not going to be able to see what’s happening through the lens unless you’re using one of the newer Leica cameras with an EVF. So instead what’s going to happen is you’re going to put the graduated ND filter on in front of the lens and you’re not going to be 100% totally sure how much coverage you’re getting. You can make a guesstimate but that is as great as you’re going to do.

Instead, I tend to want to reach for SLR cameras and mirrorless cameras that have an EVF. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t shoot a great landscape photo with a rangefinder. It’s just much tougher.

Useful Photography #177: Have a Portrait Subject Lean Forward from the Hips to Make a Chin Look Better

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Photographer Peter Hurley and many others tell portrait photographers to instruct their subjects to stick their chin out. When someone sticks their chin out, they elongate the area under their chin and therefore make their jaw line look better when it comes to taking a portrait. So in order to take it one step further without making your subject visually uncomfortable, you can also tell them to bring their chin down just a tad. But then what do you after that?

Here’s a tip: when the chin can’t be moved any more and you’re shooting a relatively tight portrait, have your subject lean forward from the hips. It’s important to not do this from the back–have them keep their back straight because otherwise this can throw off stuff like shoulder and the chest. So instead, make it also like the equivalent of bending down a bit from the hips; but instead just bringing the body forward a tad.

What this effectively does is brings the chin and neck down even more. These photos of Byron from Sony Mirrorless Pro show this off perfectly. You can check them out after the jump.

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Useful Photography Tip #176: The Simple Trick to Make Hair Easier to Work With in a Portrait

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Here’s the situation: you’re outside and about to shoot a portrait. But the wind kicks up and makes the hair from your portrait subject get in their faces. It goes everywhere and it’s pretty uncontrollable. So how do you deal with this aside from just waiting for the wind?

The answer is incredibly simple yet so incredibly underdone in the portrait photography world: pull all the hair to one side. When the hair gets pulled to one side, it’s out of the way and perhaps will make for something easier to work with. Most people have a natural part in their hair and so it can naturally look good going in one direction or the other. If you simply work with this you can make your life a whole lot easier when it comes to creating a portrait.

Like most of our other useful photography tips, that’s really all that there is to it. Just part a person’s hair and you’ll make it much easier to manage for a portrait.

Useful Photography Tip #175: Photographing Someone With Deep Set Eyes

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Not every person is created and shaped in the same way, but everyone is indeed beautiful in their own ways. So when it comes to portraiture, one of the toughest subjects to photograph at least when it comes to facial features can be people with deep set eyes. I first realized this years ago when shooting at weddings and bouncing my flash off a ceiling and behind me to illuminate the person’s face. What I realized is that I just wasn’t getting the coverage because their forehead was out a bit extra.

So to counter this problem I really started to experiment and shoot with people that had the deep set eyes facial feature.

The solution: Well, there are a few

  • Have the subject raise their chins just a bit
  • Have your subject look into the light source
  • Move the light source to more directly on with the subject’s face but still diffused/indirect enough to deliver soft light.

What you’ll find is that the portrait subject’s eyes will finally be fully illuminated–and it’s one of the reasons why something like a Rogue Flashbender is used so often at weddings and events.

Useful Photography Tip #174: How to Make a Scene Shot During the Day Look Like Night

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I’m going to let you in on some knowledge that cinematographers have known for years, but that photographers have greatly underutilized for a while–and it has to do with a simple white balance trick. The situation: let’s say you’re shooting a scene during the day or maybe sometime at dusk but you’re trying to make it look like a scene shot at night. Sometimes that’s very tough to do and at other times you simply just don’t have the time to go shooting at night.

This is a longer Useful Photography Tip, so I implore you to hit the jump for more.

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Useful Photography Tip #173: A Common Misconception Involved with Scanning Film Negatives

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If you’re a photographer that started out in digital and then went to film, you’re going to be very surprised by what I’m about to tell you. Okay, ready? It’s almost impossible to get the most out of a film negative through scanning it. The best way to do it is to print directly from the negative in the darkroom by burning and dodging the image.

Why is this? Well, when most scanners scan film, they basically just take a picture of it. But the more advanced scanners do more than that. To understand what they do, consider what happens when a photographer shoots an HDR. They start with a perfectly exposed photo, then +1, -1, +2, -2 and so on. Then the image gets combined and put all together into a single massive TIFF file. That’s why some of them are gigabytes large. But even then, the sensors are limited and they’re still an approximation of what the film is capable of doing. With that said, when you edit a digital scan of your film photo, what you’re essentially editing still is a digital photo.

The same thing will need to be done with the image when trying to Macro DSLR scanning method.

Still, to get the best quality from a film photo, you’ll need to print in the darkroom to paper then dodge and burn or clone scenes accordingly. Time to dust off those enlargers!

Useful Photography Tip #172: Don’t Forget About Graduated Filters in The Editing Process

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Ask any landscape photographer and they’ll tell you that one of their most valuable tools is a graduated ND filter. But sometimes they’re just not available on you when you’re shooting. Luckily though, you’ve got them built into Lightroom and Capture One Pro 10. And you can use them to get a whole lot more detail from the skies when you go shooting, and later on when you’re editing.

The best thing to typically do in post-production is first ensure that your exposure was taken as low contrast as possible or by underexposing to get more details from the highlights in your sky. Then pull the graduated ND filter down, nerf the exposure, and adjust the contrast and highlights as you see fit.

When you’re done, just go back to editing the entire photo and have fun.

The key here: have fun just like I said. I don’t usually shoot landscapes but the photos after the jump will show you what I was able to do in the editing process.

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Useful Photography Tip #171: Placing Off-Camera Flash to Make it Look Natural

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Think about this really quick: when you go into a room, where does light typically come from. Most people really prefer the look of lamp lighting. But the truth is that most light that we see actually comes from above us in some way or another. Think about the sun, or street lamps, or the ceiling in an office. All of these lights are from above.

So one of the ways that you can make flash output or off-camera lighting look more natural is to place the light source above your subject in some way or another. It could be in front and above, to the side and above, etc. This is just how we naturally see light. So when you place a flash in a scene, you typically shouldn’t light a subject from below. Think about placing your light source kind of like adding light to a room or a scene overall. Think about and consider the shape of it too.

This isn’t just how you’ll make the light look more appealing and flattering, but how you’ll also make it just look and seem more natural–by placing the center of the source above a person you’re photographing.

Useful Photography Tip #170: When Shooting Portraits, Raise the Chin

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One of the biggest problems that everyone faces in portraiture is making chins look good. Peter Hurley and other photographers tell you to direct portrait subjects to push their neck out just a bit. That works all the time, but another trick that also works well is making sure that the positioning of the chin is at the right elevation to begin with. This trick is a bit more complicated and requires you to “see light” so to speak.

Bringing the chin down more towards the chest squishes the area below it and therefore also makes a person look less flattering. Always have the subject bring their chins up just a bit. But to avoid having the scene look like they’ve got their nose in the air, have them stick their neck out a tad and place their face slightly off to the left or right.

Generally, I suggest that everyone faces the main light source in your scene if you’re working with off-camera lighting.

 

Useful Photography Tip #169: Creating the Out of Focus Effect in Lightroom

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In situations where you want to get a bokeh like effect to a significantly weaker degree than what an actual lens will give you, you can rely on the adjustment brush in Lightroom. To do this, all you need to do is create a custom brush setting with the sharpness and clarity all the way down. Then you brush it onto the areas that you want out of focus.

To make it even stronger, click on done and then add another layer.

Big warning though: this doesn’t work with every photo, but it can work a lot of the time.

More image samples are after the jump.

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