Useful Photography Tip #94: Don’t Just Bounce a Flash Towards the Ceiling

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony hvlf60m flash uses (1 of 5)ISO 16001-40 sec at f - 9.0

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If you’re starting out as a photographer shooting events or portraits, one of the biggest rookie mistakes made (along with using a Gary Fong Lightsphere incorrectly) is simply pointing a flash directly up towards the ceiling and expecting the best and most perfect results. The problem with this method is that you tend to create unflattering shadows (and there is a difference between flattering and unflattering shadows) on a person’s face and therefore make them look not their best. While many flashes give you a small bounce card, it usually isn’t enough to fill in those shadows either.

In the situation where you don’t have something like a large Rogue FlashBender, we recommend this: point the flash up towards the ceiling and behind you just a tad–then crank up the flash output around 2/3-1 stop brighter. Based on the way that light and flashes work, the ceiling is used to become a main light source as it is illuminated by the flash output. But if you put the light source right above someone’s face, you’ll create shadows underneath. However, if you move it around to above and slightly in front of them, the light will seem a tad more natural.

Useful Photography Tip #93: The Importance of Tagging in Metadata

julius motal the phoblographer street photo tips 07

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The number of images available online is growing by the day, and if you’re looking for certain images, it can be a bit of a tall order to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you want your images to be seen, you need to do more than just upload them and share them on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. What they really need is to be properly tagged in the metadata along with the naming structure.

Tagging your images may seem like a bit of a chore, but it helps with broadening your reach. It certainly felt like a chore for me when I started putting my images online about five years ago, but I soon learned that tags are a great boon when you want your images to be found.

Consider the image above taken outside the Strand in New York City. Some of the obvious tags would include: books, literature, nyc, and strand. Perhaps less obvious is to put all the gear you used to make the image. In this case, the gear tags are: fujifilm, xe2, fujinon, and 35mm f1.4. Then consider environmental elements and aspects of image quality: winter, snow, street, portrait and bokeh.

If your images are properly tagged, someone looking for a very specific image could contact you about purchasing or publishing it.

Useful Photography Tip #92: What They Will Never Teach You in College

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Upon chatting with a couple of friends in the industry, a lot of us seem to have the same opinion about colleges and our college days. For what it’s worth, if you’re a college student, you should know that teachers don’t do enough to prepare you for the real world. You can only simulate so much of it in a classroom. A classroom and college will never teach you how to navigate office politics, networking like a pro, not being shy at an event where everyone is better dressed than you are and also chatting it up with no problems, and the art of the pitch–which in and of itself is a delicate balance between selling yourself and not making you sound desperate.

Sure, you’ll know how to press a shutter button and you may have a good portfolio of work, but how are you going to get people to notice you and hire you? How much do you know about social media marketing? What about price negotiations?

So what’s the solution? Go do internships. And we’re not just talking about any internship, do one in your field of choice. Then make mistakes, learn, and better yourself. For what it’s worth, you’ll learn a heck of a lot more from just doing internship after internship instead of just taking a ton of classes and doing a masters is worth. And if you’re aggressive and don’t slack off, you’ll have a better hold of your work life when you finally get diploma.

 

Useful Photography Tip #91: How to Work With Groups For Event Photography

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Not all event photography can be done alone. Some times the scope of an event can span days as well as different locations. I recently had to do a week long job like this and I learned a lot. Group work requires planing , and the ability to adapt. It’s not just about camera gear it about people and interpersonal skills as well.


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Useful Photography Tip #90: Create a Photography Journal

As a photographer it can be hard to track your progress. If you are starting out in photography, or branching into new styles, you take a lot of photos and do a lot of projects–and when you’re on a roll then you can easily lose track. When creating a journal like this, remember it is for you. There is no limit to its length. It can also be used to build a proper resume later.

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Useful Photography Tip #89: Use a Variable ND Filter To Fake The Look of a Faster Shutter Speed When Using Flash

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Stephs first edits (17 of 18)ISO 160

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Many of the world’s strobists tend to use manual flashes for affordability reasons and the fact that manual control is often better than full auto TTL. But one of the big problems with standard strobes is that you often can’t shoot at a higher shutter speed than what the light or the camera are rated for. In effect, this means that sometimes you can’t overpower the sun or ambient lighting.

The solution is a Variable ND filter. These filters mount onto the front end of your lens and when you give them a twist, they either cut out more light or let more of it in. To get rid of some of the ambient lighting, you’ll need to cut down the overall light. The thing that you’ll need to remember though is that doing this also cuts down the flash output. So you’ll need to conversely crank up the flash output or open your aperture up to let might strobe lighting in.

Useful Photography Tip #88: The Easiest Way to Get Catchlights in Eyes

Chris Gampat New York Comic Con Day 2 Edits (31 of 65)

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Three years ago in my photography career, I became obsessed with catchlights. These little lights are highlights in a subject’s eyes that make them pop just a bit more. They’re quite often really beautiful and add a bit of character and beauty to a portrait. And after shooting subject after subject and using light modifier after light modifier, it took some time but I learned the secret of getting better catchlights. Believe it or not, I took the concepts applied to using a ring flash and used them for other lights.

So what’s the secret?

The simple little trick is to tell your subject to look into the light source. Is your big umbrella camera left and above? Have their eyes right up there, get in nice and tight with an 85mm lens, and let the light do the rest of the work. Many portraitists don’t ever think about this, but it works wonders.

To take the most advantage of this, you’ll need to move your light source closer to your subject or have a really massive light source. This is one of the reasons why I’m smitten with really large umbrellas–because the light from them gets spread out and the arms of the umbrella create an interesting shape in a subject’s eyes.

Try it out this weekend–you’ll see a big difference in your images as they come to life.

Useful Photography Tip #87: Use Natural Frames

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When making an image, everything from light and lines to color and composition need to be considered. Is your subject one part of the overall image, or everything you see in the viewfinder? If your subject is one aspect of the image – and this is especially the case for portraits – consider using other elements in the image to frame your subject.

In this case, my friend Briana Duggan and I went into the radio studio at school for a quick portrait session. She’s worked in radio before, so it seemed like a good fit to make a portrait. We carried on a conversation, and I moved around the small studio to get different angles. When I was directly across from her, I saw that the microphone and its holder framed her nicely, and it gives a clear indication that she’s in radio. It does a better job than a wider shot with her and the microphone as separate entities.

When the opportunity arises, try using elements of the environment to frame your subject. Don’t force it, though. It’s far more rewarding when it occurs naturally.

Useful Photography Tip #86: Write with Light

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Writing with light is the literal definition of photography. It’s also something you can do with a small light, a long exposure and a fairly steady hand. I’ve been experimenting with long exposure recently, and most of initial efforts dealt with moving strands of Christmas lights in myriad directions to somewhat hypnotic ends. Then the idea of writing messages came along.

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Useful Photography Tip #84: Slow Down

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Sometimes an awesome photography moment can happen in an instant. If you are not ready, you will miss a shot. If you are ready and you do get the shot, the question is, “Do you share it or do you polish it up first?” As technology progresses, it’s becoming much easier to share your images quickly. Sometimes getting your photos out fast is a necessity of work. Other times, it’s just sharing on the web. The thing is, when sharing your images so quickly, are you showing your best work? It’s okay to put images out often, but you have to balance the quick images with the polished.

Here are a few tips how to slow down your workflow to produce better images.

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Useful Photography Tip #83: The Secrets Behind Making Your Images Look Sharper

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Impact Quikbox and LiteTrek photos (9 of 17)ISO 200

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We recently received an email asking us about how we get our images to look expertly sharpened–specifically mine. It’s quite an interesting question one that we’re positive that many are curious about. The answer is actually quite scientific and doesn’t require sharpening masks or anything at all that is super complicated.

For starters, it begins with a calibrated display and using Adobe Lightroom 5. I’ve been using Lightroom for five years now and know a lot of the ins-and-outs of the program. I use the Spyder4 Elite calibrator once a week on a MacBook Pro Retina Display 13 inch laptop.

Then there is the actual image creation. Something that I harp on in lens sharpness tests is the need for the use of a flash to create specular highlights–which are little extra details that come out when a strong light source is added. Right out of the camera, that gives us extra perceived sharpness and we haven’t even hit the post-production phase yet. Combined with accurate autofocusing, this is an absolute no brainer–and it is why I embrace strobism so much.

When I bring my images into Adobe Lightroom 5, I boost the clarity, and sharpening amount, radius and detail by 5-7 degrees. Sometimes I even go to 10, but that’s rare honestly as modern day lenses and cameras are resolving so much detail with good lighting that it’s a tad ridiculous.

Then there are the very unconventional things: to start, I make the black levels darker until we like the way they look. The deeper the blacks are in your image, the sharper the eye will perceive them because it focuses more on other areas by default. After this, I boost the contrast. Added contrast is nice because it makes a larger difference between the darks and the blacks–which means that your shadows get darker and your highlights get brighter. This is also why I love Sigma and Zeiss lenses; because their contrast is stronger than typical lenses.

Then it’s about the luminance and saturation of specific colors depending on the scene. I often saturate and nerf or boost the luminance of the dominant colors and desaturate other colors for emphasis. It all depends on how I want the final image to look.

Lastly is the export process. If the image is going to the web for my portfolio, it is exported at 2000 pixels on the long side at 72ppi though I’ve gone as high as 120ppi with no issues on a Retina display. If the image is for a review for a reader to see sharpness, we only make it 72ppi and make the file size at 2MB. The reason for this isn’t to save bandwidth, it’s because quite frankly American internet speeds suck. And so we want to provide a smoother viewing experience more than anything. And if you’re a photographer, the last thing you want is your client waiting for an image to pop up.

And just remember–not every image needs to be pixel peeped. Your clients aren’t zooming in on their pores.

Useful Photography Tip #82: The Best Skill You Will Learn As You Become More Advanced Is Metering

Chris Gampat Shooting Landscapes (9 of 10)

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As you become a more advanced photographer, you’ll learn quite a bit. For example, composition can always be changed in the post-production phase–as can tilt, saturation or nearly anything else. But what you’ll really begin to see is just how well your camera’s meter works. On average, I feel that my aging Canon 5D Mk II underexposes by around one stop; in fact, lots of other owners feel the same way. And even though the camera’s meter will say that it is balanced, I find myself brightening the image by a full stop all the time. Over time, this led me to just overexpose in the camera; but it would also mean that my highlights eventually were destroyed in some cases.

Choosing Spot metering over evaluative helped at times, but not all the time.

So what is the solution?

All reviewers on the Phoblographer staff are required to be proficient in the tried and true Sunny 16. It’s how we test the metering of cameras. According to this rule: in a bright sunny scene with nary a shadow around, your f-stop will be f16 while your shutter speed will be the reciprocal of your ISO. So with that said, we mean that it will be 1/100th, ISO 100 and f16 in a bright sunny scene with barely any shadows. You’ll need to pay very careful attention to the scene and also figure out how dark and light the shadows are too.

By using this method, you can tell how much detail your camera can pull from the highlights and shadows in the post-production phase. This is known as the dynamic range. The dynamic range then can help you determine the individual color levels to give you the best image you can possibly get.

And once you know how to meter with your camera in order to get the right idea, your entire workflow will be much faster. How much faster? I’ve perfected it to the point where I can get exactly what I need in a single shot–which translates into a lot less work in post and a much less full hard drive.

Useful Photography Tip #81: Keep Calm and Let Go

julius motal photography tip let go

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In 1995, Danish filmmakers Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg launched Dogme 95, an avant-garde filmmaking movement that soon attracted the attention of filmmakers across the world. Above all else, Dogme 95 stressed the importance of story, acting and theme. What set it apart, however, were the technological limitations outlined in the “Vow of Chastity”, written by von Trier and Vinterberg. The vow has ten rules, and six of those ten have applications for photographers.

1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).

3. The camera must be handheld. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).

4. The film must be in color. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too light light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).

5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.

6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)

9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.

Change the terms slightly, and they become applicable to photography.

If you like to be in control in your photography, then consider letting go. Turn off Instagram and put your phone away. Put your swanky new DSLR back on the shelf. Forget filters, plugins, strobes and softboxes. Close Lightroom, and don’t you dare touch iPhoto.

Grab the nearest film camera, slide in a roll of your favorite Kodak or Fujifilm, and go to where the photograph is happening. If you have an all-manual film camera, all the better. Limit yourself technologically, and you’ll open yourself creatively.

Dust off that Pentax K1000, and see what you find.

Useful Photography Tip #80: Lie Down

julius motal the phoblographer cats

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Photography commands use of the entire body. You’re walking along the street in your hometown, and something off to the side catches your eye. As you turn to see what the commotion’s about, you instinctively recognize that you want to make a photograph, so you raise your camera to your eye with your right hand and slide your left hand underneath. You quickly assess the settings, adjust your feet so that you’re stable – if only for a moment – hold your breath, and press the shutter. For the briefest fraction of a second, you’re completely still.

The physicality of photography isn’t always talked about, but it’s an essential part of the craft. There are moments we miss when we remain standing. That’s not to say we’re completely blind to what’s happening on the ground, but a photograph of a cat, from a cat’s level, could do more than a shot from above.

A fine way to spice up one’s photography is try it from new perspectives. In this case, lie down and see what you find. And don’t just limit your field of view to what’s at that level. Lay on your back, and get a ground’s eye view of your environment. You might come away with something worth sharing.

Useful Photography Tip #79: The Contrast of Your Lens Can Slightly Affect The Final Image’s Dynamic Range

Chris Gampat Digital Camera Review Nikon D7100 product photos (1 of 7)ISO 5001-200 sec at f - 5.0

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Ready for a tip that you probably never even thought about unless you’re in the video industry? In fact, they’ve had this down for years now. But first, a bit of hack history.

Earlier on in recent camera history, the Canon 5D Mk II never was hacked or had the ability to shoot RAW video. And so a company called Technicolor worked with Canon to develop what is known as a flat cinema profile. This profile allowed editors to have the greatest amount of color detail and dynamic range in the editing process. To do this, they nerfed the contrast and made the overall look of the image to be, well, flat. This is also one of the reasons why cinematographers use vintage lenses–because their contrast is much less than modern day lenses.

Modern day lenses employ a bunch of things to make their perceived sharpness even better. Besides having excellent elements, there is also typically more contrast and punchier colors. More contrast fools the eye into thinking that an image is sharper than it really is. But inherently, more contrast also makes us lose details in the highlights and the shadows. Despite the fact that modern sensors (we’re talking about five year old full frame sensors and younger) are incredibly capable, you’d be amazed at what else you can actually pull from a sky or a deep shadow.

If you’re an HDR or landscape shooter though, you might want to either adapt a very flat color profile to your camera or use glass that might be a tad vintage. For example, you can adapt old school medium format lenses to your cameras and those lenses can also usually be had for quite an affordable price. Also realize that this turns the image shooting process into one that will mostly become a post-production process.

Useful Photography Tip #78: Use Social Media To Enhance Your Photography

Use Social Media to Enhance Your Photography

We, as photographers, have been using social media for a while now. Some of us use it for work, and some of us use it to chat. Social media, however, is a great tool to enhance our photography. With it, we can get ideas, meet mentors and find answers to problems. Through it, we can see trends form it styles develop. For photographers, social media is important.It’s a level playing field and anybody can use it. Here are some ways social media can enhance your photography.

 

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Useful Photography Tip #77: How to Get a Background to Go to Pure White

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While many photographers sit there and boast about the one light technique (and don’t get us wrong, it’s beautiful) there are times where you’ll want to have a totally white background. And what you’ll need to know is that a one light method can’t do it. No matter how hard you try, no combination of ISO, shutter speed, or aperture will add light to a place where there wasn’t light before–and that’s the key.

When shooting a model on a seamless white background, keep this rule in mind: the back light needs to be one stop more powerful than your main light. Ideally, you need two lights: one aimed at the background illuminating it, and the other in front of your model and possibly with a very large light modifier. So in a real world example, what does that mean?

For Manual Light Shooter

When you use your light meter to check the output of the lights, your main light should be weaker while your back light should be stronger. For the image above, our main light (which was next to the camera and in front of our model) was metered to f8 at ISO 100. The back light (hitting the background and positioned off to the side) was metered to f11 at ISO 100. Therefore, the light in the back is brighter and therefore gives the effect of a seamless white.

It would have also worked if my main light was set to f5.6 and my back light was set to f8. Same with my main being set to f2.8 and my back being set to f4.

For TTL Light Shooters 

Your main light (on the model) should be set normally while your back light (the one hitting the background) will be set to +1 stop.

This is the more simplistic way of putting all of this without talking about ratios and all. But go ahead and give it a try.

Useful Photography Tip #76: Learn to Read the Contrast of a Scene Just by Looking at It

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Useful Contrast (1 of 1)ISO 1001-50 sec at f - 7.1

This is one image that was exposed for the highlights slightly (underexposed) and had the shadows boosted in post.

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While leading a photo walk the other day, I was trying to teach folks that photography is a lot more than just composition, looking at a scene, and being captivated by it. Instead, it’s also about absorbing the scene and trying to figure out how you can capture all the details of the scene in a single shot. This, over most other things, I think is an incredible skill that you can use day in and day out as a photographer. To boot, you don’t need to shoot in manual for this.

For starters, look at the scene through your viewfinder and figure out the contrast between the brightest of brights and the darkest of darks. Your camera will automatically figure out a middle ground in the evaluative scene metering mode but in order to get the most details in the image ask yourself: “Are the brights more dominant in this image or are the highlights?” Also ask yourself which one is more extreme.

Editor’s Correction: the following section has been rewritten to be more clear and also corrected

If you’re shooting a scene mostly dominated by the shadows, then first expose perfectly for the shadows and then try to overexpose by around 1/3rd to 1 and 1/3 stop. The reason for this is because modern camera sensors can pick up more detail from the shadows then from the highlights. If you’re shooting a scene mostly dominated by the highlights, then underexpose by 1/3rd to half a stop. The reason for this is because you’ll have an easier time pushing the shadows to get less grain and an overexposure of this much can easily be fixed in modern software.

By shooting this way, you’ll have a lot less images to go through in the post-production phase and your workflow will be much more seamless.

Useful Photography Tip #75: Bend Like a Reed In The Wind

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“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.”

― Confucius

I know you’re like, “WTF” but hear me out. As photographers we have to be flexible. There are those who say they only shoot with prime lenses. There are those who only shoot mirrorless. Hell, there are those like me who swear by full frame sensors. They stick to this. They do not change. However, it does not have to be this way. The equipment we use for photography are tools. To both succeed and get better at this craft we have to adapt and change.

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Useful Photography Tip #74: Don’t Forget About the Color Channel Tools in Lightroom

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Today’s Useful Photography Tip is super quick and will require more of an effort on your behalf for you to actually see the differences.

When many people are starting out in Adobe Lightroom’s Develop interface, they tend to focus on the minor things like the saturation slider, vibrance, contrast, etc. But what they don’t know is that if you play with the color channels individually, you can bring greater life to your image through saturation of specific colors, changing the overall hues, and even changing how bright some of the color channels appear.

The next time you’re not in a rush to edit, give this one a try. And if you think this one is too simple, then why do people complain in forums about color depth so much? The truth is that modern day cameras have a color depth that is more than capable of handling every day needs but can be a bit more problematic when it comes to working with concerts or abnormal lighting.

Oh yeah–and if that isn’t enough then try making the blacks in your image deeper. Deeper blacks tend to fool the human eye into thinking that something is sharper than it really is.