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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Useful Photography Tip #168: Pitching Various Publications to Feature Your Portfolio

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So how does a photographer become more famous? As I state many times in my workshop, you often need to put your work out there and pitch yourself to various outlets. When photographers try to pitch themselves they often just do a massive, widespread pitch. Many times, it’s the same pitch over and over again instead of being tailored to specific people. This honestly makes no sense.

Let’s put it this way: would you talk to your boss in the same way that you would talk to the CEO of your company? Or would you talk to your local senator in the same way that you would talk to your President? To get even more in depth, would you talk to a plumber the same way you would a doctor?

Though it isn’t the exact same thing, it shows you that very different people and outlets need to be spoken to in different ways because of rankings and the way that they cover a specific beat. To that end though, I always recommend being respectful and pitching to smaller publications, influencers, and editors first. As you move up the line, you’ll have a number of publications and places under your belt to show off to the larger sites.

Working from the other way down can work, but sometimes doesn’t because it can be tougher for the smaller outlets to compete.

Just a bit of psychology about how to pitch yourself as a photographer.

Useful Photography Tip #167: Have Your Subject Face Your Key Artificial Light Source

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Hey strobist photographers: if you’re shooting a portrait of someone, the best thing that I’ve learned over the years is to actually make them face your artificial key light source. Of course, you wouldn’t do this with a natural one light the sun–but you can surely create more flattering portraits with a strobe or flash in a light modifier like a softbox, umbrella, etc.

Having your subject face the light source:

  • Makes the light look softer
  • Makes the light more flattering
  • Eliminates shadows on their face and sometimes body that may otherwise be unflattering
  • Gives them what I like to call the flattering spotlight effect.

When they’re facing the light source and the light source is shining directly down onto them, they’re illuminated to a certain point where they’re clearly made to be the main point of the photo. However, the light source isn’t as harsh as a spotlight, so it’s naturally more flattering.

As an extra tip: place the modifier so that the actual source of light is slightly above eye-level of the subject.

Also note: It doesn’t need to be direct; the light source can be slightly off to the left or right too.

Useful Photography Tip #166: Keep Colors in a Portrait Very Simple

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One of the best things that you can do to make your portrait subject stand out more in a scene is to use color coordination. Backgrounds can always be some sort of stagnant-ish color, but then focus on the wardrobe and make it work accordingly with the person’s skin tones. But more or less, try to keep the scene to three primary colors.

To do this, what I generally say is look at the color scale: ROYGBIV. In the photo above:

  • Fernando’s skin is correlated with orange/red undertones
  • Green background with some white
  • Blue tones in his clothing.

See how each of those tones are different? An image that sticks to the BIV or the ROY can sometimes be tough to make a subject really stand out unless you’ve got very effective lighting. Now, to be fair, we see all this just fine, but cameras don’t necessarily do. Adjusting the HSL of the color tones individually can also help. Saturation can really help in the same ways that it did during the film days.

Useful Photography Tip #165: How to Make a Thick Chin Look More Flattering

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I’ve got a major problem that I’m very self-conscious about: my chin. Sure, body positivity is a thing–except if you’re a business owner that has to look fleek most of the time is super young and is often known for being stylish *cough* *me*.

The beard often helps with the look of what I’m calling a thick chin/neck. It’s something lots of folks are conscious about and sometimes don’t want to be portrayed in a not flattering way. Peter Hurley tells us to stick the chin out a bit. Indeed it works–to a certain point.

The way that you can take this further is to also position yourself at either eye level or a bit above your portrait subject’s eye level. On top of that (no pun intended) tell them that after sticking their chin out a bit, to also bring the chin down just a bit by bringing down the entire head. Don’t just tilt the head–quite literally shift it down a tad. Imagine a turtle sticking its head out of its shell and then bringing its head down a bit.

Additionally, also try not to lower your jaw any bit because it can create more of a look that blends your jaw right into your neck.

Give it a try! You’ll end up with more flattering photos.

Useful Photography Tip #164: 5 Tips for Better Photos of FireWorks Using Your Phone

Want more Useful Photography Tips? Click here. Image by Andy Karmy.

For everyone here in America, Happy July 4th! But if you’re not reading this on the 4th, then consider these quick tips on taking better photos of fireworks with your mobile phone.

  • Use a manual settings app: Use an app that lets you set at least the focus manually. This way your phone isn’t searching in the darkness for the fireworks to appear. You can also use said app to adjust settings like shutter speed, locking ISO, etc. Go for long shutter speeds and a lower ISO setting. In general, underexpose just a bit.
  • Stabilize your phone: I’m not expecting everyone to use a tripod with their phone so instead just remember to tuck your elbows in when you shoot. This will keep the cameraphone much more stable. Also be sure to hold it with both hands.
  • Use the burst shot ability: Using burst helps a whole ton when it comes to getting the exact photo you care about a lot.
  • Scope Out and Claim a Spot: By ensuring that you get a good spot to watch the fireworks, you don’t have to worry about issues like people getting in the way of your images. Of course, that is if you’re super serious. This tip especially goes out to those of us (like me) who are vertically challenged.
  • Turn Your Flash Off: It’s honestly rather useless at that far of a range. That little LED bulb isn’t going to light up the night sky.

Useful Photography Tip #163: Creating the Window Light Look Anywhere You Go

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One of the ideas that we teach here often on the site is about how you can augment the look of natural light by putting a flash up against a window. But now it’s time to take that step just a bit further–and all you need is an off-camera flash and a large white/translucent reflector. How large? Figure around 42 inches.

Now it can be used in one of two ways:

  • Bouncing the light from the flash off the large surface to deliver more potent light

or

  • Configuring the reflector to be translucent (shoot-through) and putting the flash on one side of the reflector and your subject on the other side.

Either way, make sure that you set your hot shoe flash head to the widest setting using the wide angle diffuser. When you do this, it’s going to cover the most surface area and when bounced off (or shot through) the reflector, it’s going to give off coverage that’s going to look similar to what a window can do.

Shooting a portrait? Have the reflector to the side of your subject and a little bit above. Shooting food? Well have the reflector to the side and way above.

Go give it a shot and as always, have fun shooting!

 

 

Useful Photography Tip #162: The x2 And Difference Rule of Charging for Photos

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Lots of photographers have absolutely no idea what to charge a client when they’re first starting out. So to help you out in some ways when considering pricing, keep these tips in mind. First off consider your expenses, time shooting, transportation, commute time, knowledge needed to actually create the images, post production time and effort on top of knowledge, etc. as a base. Then look at that and compare it to photographers that do similar work in your area and are of a similar skill level as you are. If you’re not as good as them or haven’t been shooting as long, then start bringing the price down.

Now whatever figure you had in mind, double it. Why? Taxes are a big reason for this, especially if you’re getting paid in checks.

Then consider a couple of differences: whether you can reasonably charge that much money, whether you can convince the client to pay you that, etc. Then also keep things in mind like if you’re working with a company, a person, and various things about them and who they are. The rest of it is way too much to honestly type out but getting these three videos and the worksheets that I created will help you immensely with this.

Just remember: it all starts with your identity as a photographer.

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.

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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.

Useful Photography Tip #153: Creating Pure Black and White Images in Adobe Lightroom

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 8.37.48 PM

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If you’ve ever tried creating a black and white image in Adobe Lightroom, most of the advanced photographers know that you should start by converting the image using the Black and White Treatment option. But the problem here is that sometimes you don’t really get just pure black and white photos. Instead, what you’ll get is a mix of some sepias or other tones that oddly look something like Kodak Tri-X or Kodak BW400 CN.

To create images in pure black and white that instead look something like Ilford Delta 400 or Delta 100, the process is fairly simple.

  • In the basic adjustment panel, move the black levels to the left a specific number. Then adjust the exposure of the image to be basically what you want.
  • Move the white levels to the right the inverse number. So if your blacks are -38, move the white to +38.
  • Scroll down to the color channels and you’ll see options called Black and White mix with specific color regions and channels.
  • Click the color selection tool and move the mouse pointer over areas of the image that aren’t quite either black or white. Then click and raise or lower their exposure levels.
  • After this, come back to the basic adjustment panel, lower your contrast and adjust your exposure.

That’s it! That’s how you create more pure black and white photos using Adobe Lightroom and all in less than a couple of minutes.

Useful Photography Tip #152: Print the Photos That Tug at Your Heart

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Leica M9 at Bryant Park (10 of 27)

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For many readers of the Phoblographer, you’re probably celebrating the Christmas holiday today. And today should be not only a day that you spend with those you love and care about the most, but also one that makes you remember to not only take photographs, but make them. Beyond just making the photographs, make them special.

In today’s mostly digital-centric photography world, we take photos, post them online and forget about them. But truth be told, that wasn’t photography was designed for. Photography was designed to capture a moment that will last forever. To that end, the way that we have to remember the images that we take these days is to physically surround ourselves with them. Shoot a photo and then print it. But don’t just print any and every photo, print the ones that mean something to you and that tug at your heart.

Though it may not physically last forever, it’s bound to always make you remember that very precious moment in your life.

Happy holidays to everyone.