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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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

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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.