5 Reasons to Consider Concert Photography with a Wide Open Aperture (and the Secret to Perfecting it)

Concert photography is arguably one of the most adrenaline-filled niches you can engage in as an image maker. Musicians, magazines, fans, and record labels alike turn to skilled concert photographers to tell a story for the momentous performance. For most music photographers (due to venue constraints) there is less than ten minutes to capture enough great images to populate a full gallery. Partner this with tumultuous circumstances such as sporadic lighting and an excitable audience and you have effectively created a photographic situation that is unlike any other.

As such, shooting with a very wide open aperture might appear to be too daunting of a task! There are common misunderstandings of how to use and work with a wide open aperture! If your inner aesthete drools over soft, dreamy photographs and creamy bokeh, then you better get ready to play with some low, low, low numbers. We are here to tell you how to photograph concerts at f/1.2, f/1.4, and f/1.8!

Wide aperture concert photography tips

Why Use an Ultra Wide Aperture?

Here are 5 reasons you may want to consider shooting concert photography with a wide open aperture.

1. Aesthetic and Style

To preface, a lot of the quality and final image look is based on the type of lens used. In the past several years, photography fans are gravitating towards the shallow depth of field aesthetic. If you’re in the business of producing commercial music photography (like myself), you’re going to want to keep following the trends and adapting to what is sought after in the industry.

Aesthetic and Style with Wide Aperture Concert Photography

An added bonus is being able to niche yourself a bit in an industry that has a lot of competition, many photographers are wary of shooting fast paced events with a wide aperture due to potential focusing issues. If you can master this art, you have something that will separate you from others.

 

2. Low Light Capability

Low light concert photography with wide aperture

Unless you’re shooting a big name at an amphitheater, a lot of smaller venues will have very poor lighting. You’ll need to use equipment that will illuminate the frame with whatever limited lighting is available. In these low light scenarios you need a lens with a wide enough aperture to let in more light. Using a lens that goes down to f/1.2, for example, is a great way to let enough light in and make the frame bright. Remember, the aperture is the hole the light passes through in your lens. The wider the aperture, the more light that enters the camera.

 

3. Shallow Depth of Field

Shoot concert photography with shallow depth of field

The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field. Shallow depth of field is great for live concerts because the stage can be rather cluttered compositionally. From instruments to cables, background props, and other band members, there can be a lot going on in the frame at once. Only having one subject in focus with the rest blending into a creamy bokeh makes for a much more visually pleasing and simplified image. With the depth-of-field being so shallow, whatever troubles you about the background can easily melt into a beautiful creamy bokeh.

 

4. Detail Shots

Capture detail in your concert photography with wide aperture

On the topic of shallow depth of field, if you are photographing for an instrument company, an aperture of f/1.8 will likely become your best friend. This is because photographs taken with a large aperture allow all of the focus to lie on the subject, and the background ceases to remain a distraction. Many instrument companies love to have their products captured in a natural usable setting, such as musicians at a live show.A shallow depth of field will keep the interest solely on your single subject.

 

5. Sharpness

How to achieve sharpness in your concert photography with wide aperture

Due to technological constraints, lenses that open their aperture below f/2.8 are fixed millimeter lenses (they do not zoom). As a general rule, fixed millimeter lenses tend to be sharper than lenses with a range.

 

Let’s Talk About the Elephant in the Room: Focusing with a Wide Open Aperture

Right where all of the benefits of an f-stop of 1.2 start to break down is the focusing. The wider the aperture and the shallower the depth of field, the more difficult it can be to focus on what you want. Pair that with a live show in which the lighting is a bit of a mess, and the subjects move spontaneously in various directions, and it sounds like the perfect recipe for a photographer migraine. However, focusing with a wider aperture doesn’t have to be so difficult- it’s just a different thought process.

The Concept of Sharpness

Sharp concert photography through composition

Really, the focus stems from a desire to have an image that is sharp. But what is sharpness? Sharpness is an interesting concept. How sharp a subject appears is a matter of two things: the focus the camera captures and the amount of contrast on your subject. The term “sharpness” is, in fact, an illusion. You see, for an image to be considered sharp, it needs to have contrast. If the there is little contrast in the image, the subject will not look three-dimensional regardless of whether the focus is perfect or not. Biologically, the way that our eyes work, our vision naturally detects edges to register sharpness, and shadows and highlights in order to record the depth in a subject. This is a very important concept to understand when answering the question of how to make images look sharp. When editing your concert photography images, be attentive to the shadows and highlights. And add contrast to define your subject.

 

Perfect Focus

Sharp concert photography through perfect focus and wide aperture

In terms of getting your image to actually be sharp (from being in perfect focus), here is the basic concept of how focus works in a camera. When you focus your camera on a subject, it establishes a focal plane. To get your subject in focus, it has to be on the focal plane. Focal planes happen on an x (horizontal) and y (vertical) axis. This means anything along either of those axes will be in focus, and anything not on them will be out of focus. The concern with a wide open aperture is that your focal plane is quite small. As you decrease your aperture number and make the opening wider, the invisible area in front and behind the plane of focus will get smaller and smaller, leaving you with much less wiggle-room. As such, distance from the subject plays a key role in your focus.

When shooting wide open, even the smallest diversion from either of the focal plane axes will cause your subject to be out-of-focus. You cannot take a step forward or back without the need to refocus when shooting at a wide aperture. But by keeping this in mind, you can adjust your photography technique to better accommodate the small focal plane.

Single Point Autofocus

Using single point focus and wide aperture in concert photography

A trick to help make sure that what you want in focus is indeed sharp, is to use single point autofocus. By default, your camera will probably select either the object that’s closest to the camera or what’s in the center of the frame. By using single point autofocus, you tell the camera exactly where to focus, which is extremely helpful with low aperture numbers. Refer to your camera model’s manual to find how to change the focus setting!

The Real Secret

The real secret to wide aperture concert photography

Keeping in mind how the focal plane works, this is the big trick to shooting wide open at a concert: The farther away you are from the subject, the easier it is to get the subject in focus. You can get the subject in focus and still maintain and extremely creamy depth of field.

Whether you’re in a photo pit or just in the main venue floor, your position to begin the concert shoot can significantly affect your success for the rest of the shoot. Keeping in mind that for most general photography passes your time is limited, you need to be ready to jump right into the shoot the very second the music hits your ears. My suggestion is to start on the outer edges of the pit or venue and work your way to the middle. Many concert photographers all flock to the center of the shooting zone, and begin shoving to claim their dead center spot. When you start from the edge, while the other photographers are all congregating and fighting for the center, you have much more room to move freely on the outer edge. This is where you will have an advantage to be able to move a bit further away from your subject in order to expand your plane and get that perfect focus.

Shooting concert photography in wide aperture

Now that you’ve been let in to the secret, go out there and capture some awesome concert shots!

The post 5 Reasons to Consider Concert Photography with a Wide Open Aperture (and the Secret to Perfecting it) appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review: Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack

Awesome highlights of this wild career: taking photographs, hanging out with cool clients, and producing stunning imagery.

The not-so-fun part: transporting all the cameras, lenses and bits and bobs we need from point A to point B.

If you’re like me, you know that being able to carry all of our must-haves comfortably can make or break the work day. I’m always looking for better ways to lug my gear. So when I came across the Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack I had to try it out.

The Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack

 

Before we get into my opinion of this strappy carrying device, let’s take a moment to discuss what this backpack is about. According to Evecase it “features a customizable interior which can hold camera bod and 2-5 lenses, a laptop compartment that holds a 14-inch laptop, Chromebook or tablet, plenty of pockets, pouches and spaces for jackets, books, a tripod and other accessories. Rain or shine, wet or dry, the removable rain cover will give your backpack the best protection. Fashionable canvas design with discreet look that won’t stand out as camera backpack.

According to Evecase, the highlights include an easy-to-access camera compartment, discreet instant laptop access, and extended top storage. There are a slew of accessory pockets, tripod holder straps, stowaway side pockets and ergonomic shoulder straps.

Appearance

I won’t lie. The appearance of this canvas backpack is what piqued my interest in the first place. I always gravitate towards cases that don’t scream “Expensive camera equipment stored in here”, and this backpack is certainly inconspicuous enough.

This product is 15 x 12.5 x 7 inches , with the camera compartment being 9.6 x 11 x 4 inches.

The canvas fabric material has a subtle texture to it and is a rather pretty grey. The material is waterproof and weatherproof. (Well, generally. But it also comes with a waterproof case.) It looks like something you’d take on a camping trip or backpacking across Europe. The details are all black, and the color scheme can easily match whatever your style is. Much of my carrying devices and storage units are grey. (I like having all of my products match one another.)

The front of the backpack features a multitude of pockets and flaps, with bottle or beverage pockets that can be stowed away discreetly when not in use. The inside is lined with a light, slate grey that has a bit of a blue tint to it.

The backpack has a bit of weight when empty, but not enough to concern me.

Build Quality

The build quality is where other people’s reviews on this product get a little shifty. I’ve read many claims of it ripping at the seams or being rather fragile. But having used this Evecase product rigorously for more than a month, I haven’t experienced it myself.

The photography I do involves a lot of wear and tear on whatever I have with me. I photograph canine sports, exotic animals and live concerts. My daily dose of damage can include anything from animals biting my bags to a rowdy crowd unintentionally tearing at my stuff. After being put through the wringer for more than 30 days, this bag has managed to survive with almost no visible damage.

Even when it’s fully packed, I haven’t experience any ripping, tearing, or deformity of the compartments due to the weight. I even took it for a spin at the beach (being from California and all), and neither sand nor salty water caused much of an issue. Based on my experiences alone, I’d consider the build quality on this backpack to be great.

That being said, as with any product you own a bit of TLC goes a very long way in ensuring its longevity. I have weekly cleaning where I perform cleaning and basic maintenance on of my work gear. And backpacks, cases and other carrying devices are no exception.

Comfort

The main criteria for whether or not a backpack, sling, or any carrying device stays is comfort. After dueling against several alternatives, the Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack is definitely staying.

I’ve worn this backpack fully stocked with supplies for around six hours, and suffered no significant discomfort or additional pain normally associated with carrying weight for such a long time. This being said, I feel the size of this backpack and where it suits my height (5’ 5”) brilliantly. Taller people may have an issue simply there’s no real way to adjust where this backpack sits. It would also be nice to have have more padding on the shoulder straps. I think I’ll  eventually mod the straps and add more padding, but if it came with some initially it would be even more rad. 

As for ease of access, I like the solid build of the camera compartment. I can easily balance the backpack on my knee as a table to help switch lenses or attach something to my rig. There’s a wonderful side pocket I can pull my laptop out of if I don’t feel like opening the top and reaching the computer from there. All of the small bits and bobs I might need are also easily accessible due to the various pockets on the front of the backpack, and the beverage pockets are also within a comfortable reach.

Storage

This backpack features plenty of storage for everything I could possibly need. Of my kit, at maximum, I can fit:

  • either:
    • three lenses (Canon 16-35mm F/2.8L USM II, Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM, and Canon 24-70mm F/2.8L USM II) and a camera body (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)
    • two camera bodies (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon EOS 5D Mark II) and two lenses (Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM and Canon 24-70mm F/2.8L USM II)
  • my 13.5” laptop with its case on and a laptop charger
  • two variable ND filters
  • camera batteries
  • chargers
  • cards
  • lens cleaning kit
  • roll of tape
  • scissors
  • notebook
  • pens
  • contract / liability waivers / model release forms / non-disclosure documents
  • card reader
  • metal case of business cards
  • tripod
  • cellophane gel kit
  • my personal belongings (cell phone, portable cell battery, wallet, car keys, jacket, deodorant, makeup)
  • two water bottles
  • snacks.

That being said, a couple of the pockets in the front are a bit odd in the sense that I would have gone for something different. The size of the two small pockets in front of the camera compartment are a bit strange. The dividers inside them are a bit too large for some of the smaller electronics I’d put there, but too small for anything larger. I’d prefer them to mimic the one long pocket at the top of the backpack, as I currently have to dig deep into the dividers to pull out the small components I need to use. A couple of the flaps could make excellent pockets for paperwork or business cards, but instead they sit there as decorative elements.

Padding

The backpack features an acceptable amount of padding in both the camera and laptop sections. The camera section had significantly more padding than the laptop slot, and so I often store my laptop in its compartment with a secondary case already on it. Fortunately a secondary case fits just fine. The camera compartment includes your run-of-the-mill customizable dividers, so you can arrange that area to suit your needs.

Pros

  • Aesthetic and style
  • Not bulky
  • Comfortable straps
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Easy camera and laptop access
  • Waterproof case is a nice touch

Cons

  • Lack of confident padding in the laptop compartment
  • Some of the outer pockets are odd
  • Needs a better way of hiding tripod straps when not in use
  • Needs more buttons to the main compartment to customize size better
  • Forget about putting in a DSLR with the grip attached
  • Needs more padding on shoulder straps if you pack heavy

In conclusion, for between $40 and $60 on Amazon.com this backpack gives you a decent bang for your buck. I quite like it, and still get tremendous use out of it.

The post Review: Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack appeared first on Digital Photography School.

11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Musicians, magazines, fans, and record labels alike turn to skilled photographers to tell a story of a momentous performance and return unique concert photos.

Concert photographers are often on assignment for a publication that has sent them out to capture meaningful pictures that could very well go down in music history. Otherwise, music photographers are individually hired by the performing artists. Whatever brings you to the photo pit, your goal is to capture something wonderful.

That being said, the music photography industry has become surprisingly saturated in recent years. In order to stand out amongst the crowd, you have to take live music photographs that differ from others in your photo pit. Here are 11 tips on how to take more unique concert photographs.

#1 – Don’t Forget About the Detail Shots

still life concert image - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Behemoth

Although you want to focus heavily on the musicians performing on the stage, the detail shots are just as important.

Many bands put in a significant amount of effort into their live show productions, from stage props to lighting schemes. A unique and effective statement to your live concert gallery are some close-ups of the epic stage props that the band uses.

At the very least, the artist who created the props or the instrument company will thank you!

#2 – Play with Art and Distortion Lenses

blue and pink concert lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: MGT. Shot with the Lensbaby Burnside 35.

Though concert photography is often an assignment from a journalistic outlet, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a couple of minutes to yourself to do something vastly different. You do not have to be afraid of using artistic or distortion lenses at a live show. If anything, they make the frame exceptionally cool!

The fish-eye lens became very famous by well-known concert photographers by being used at live shows. I, myself, love using the Lensbaby lenses at live concerts. The manual focus can oftentimes be much more effective than relying on autofocus.

Try using a copper tube to create very cool swirls around your subject.

art lenses - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: A Mirror Hollow. Shot with the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens.

You can submit the standard shots to the outlet, and the unique ones to the band. I am telling you, the musicians will love a new take on their live performances.

#3 – Tons of Flying Hair is Great

hair whipping - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Cradle of Filth

Naturally, try to capture the facial expressions of the performers. However, you are dealing with rockstars here, and part of the cool factor of these rock gods is their wild style.

Take advantage of the flying hair and fun headbanging, they can sometimes make cooler shots than your standard singing portraits.

#4 – Perspective is Everything

band between legs - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: HIM

Although concert photography can be very limited, between shooting time restrictions and limitations on your shooting location, you can still play with perspective.

The key to being different is viewing life through a lens that is more diverse than those around you, no pun intended. Get low, low, low to the ground and shoot up or move yourself to the very far side of the photo pit and shoot from there! Photograph in between the heads of fans or get up on the balcony.

Whatever you do, find new angles, views, and compositions to take advantage of to create more unique concert photos.

#5 – The Musician Doesn’t  Always Have to Look at You

musician on stage - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Nightwish

It is true that the viewer connects best when the subject is looking at or engaging with the camera.

However, you don’t always have to fight for that type of shot during a live concert setting. It’s okay for the musicians not to interact with you as a photographer. Shots of them looking away or down can be just as eye-catching.

#6 – Embrace the Light, Don’t Avoid it

stage lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: IAMX

Having a good grip on lighting will aid you in your concert photography journey. Stage lighting can differ tremendously between shows, venues, and even what lighting is available for that evening. The lighting can range from bright white strobes to deep reds.

Understanding how lighting is photographed by your camera, how it reflects on the instruments and equipment, and how the bulbs affect the performer’s skin tones will change how you take the photograph.

Most incredibly safe and tame images come from the photographer being wary of taking advantage of the lighting situation at concerts. Don’t be afraid to jump right in there and take advantage of whatever bizarre lighting scheme the performers have cooked up for you.

At the end of the day, the lighting is a part of the concert experience, and your job is to capture that.

#7 – Lens Flares are Rad

lens flare musician performing - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Epica

On the topic of lighting, lens flares can be very cool!

This is, of course, an aesthetic choice, but I personally find them to be quite fun. You can cause a flare in a similar fashion to photographing during sunset or golden hour. When the light hits the front glass element of your lens at a specific angle, a flare will appear.

#8 – Overexposing and Underexposing Can Work

moody concert lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: The Misfits

To help accurately capture the emotion and feel of the show, it is alright to overexpose or underexpose your frame. This can also create a rather unique and uncommon type of photograph.

Use your best judgment and common sense here to determine when such exposures are appropriate.

#9 – Don’t Be Afraid to Get Close

close up of a band member on stage - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Jyrki69

Guitarists don’t bite (not hard anyway)! Don’t be afraid to get close to the performers on the stage. Take a wide-angle lens, such as a 16-35mm lens, and get right up in there. The perspective distortion can make for a very cool shot.

However, that being said, be aware of your surroundings. I cannot reiterate this point enough. Absolutely be aware of your surroundings!

It is easy to get lost in the moment and fall into a creative bliss when shooting, but a live music event is not the place to lose yourself.

If you’re not growing eyes in the back of your head, you’ll most likely get clonked right in the temple by a crowd surfer, tangled in a microphone cord, or smacked by a flying guitar. This will help you avoid injury to yourself and others.

#10 – In-Between Moments Tell a Story

singer between songs - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: HIM

The band may have put their instruments down for a moment, but that doesn’t mean that the job of the photographer ends there.

Some in-between moments can become incredible iconic images through their powerful storytelling ability.

#11 – The Moment is More Important than Technical Accuracy

red concert lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: IAMX

Let’s face the facts, we all pixel peep. I believe that over time, passionate photographers get a bit anxious about technical perfection in their images (I know I sure do sometimes). However, some niches such as event photography are not as fussed over technical mistakes as long as the moment captured is important.

There is be a fine balance between taking a good photograph by technique and taking a good photograph by design (aka a great and powerful moment). However, if you have to choose between capturing a fantastic story and ensuring equipment perfection, pick the story.

Many wonderful images are overlooked because the focus is too set on ensuring that an image is tack sharp rather than what the subject portrays.

Of course, this isn’t meant to be interpreted as disregarding technical proficiency. You should aim to take exceptional photographs, but don’t get lost in your pursuit and forget your purpose for photographing the event.

Your turn

Now that you have these tips in your photography toolbelt, go out there and take some wicked shots!

Band: Epica

The post 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Portraits

We’ve all seen the usual studio set up –  beautifully crisp white light, maybe some strobes, diffusers, and other things of the sort. However, what can you do beyond that to make your portraits stand out? Add some color! In this article, learn how to use colored gels to add some spice to your images.

musician portrait with pink background - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Colored gels are filters that go on your light in order to change the output color. They are usually sold at photography stores and clamped onto your lights. They range in size, thickness, color cast, and most importantly, price. Be very mindful of how hot your lights are because we’ve had gels melt on the set before during long sessions (such as music videos). 

However, you can also make your own colored gels using cellophane and tape. Just take some really saturated cellophane from a local party or art store and wrap them around your softbox or LED light (so long as the LED runs cold and won’t melt the plastic paper) and fasten with tape.

This may not look like the most professional setup, but I suppose that matters little so long as the final outcome is fantastic!

spooky photo with double exposures - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

There are limitless possibilities with gels. In regard to color combinations, I suggest making sure all of your gels are saturated the same in order to match with one another (and not become a headache in the editing room later).

Here are some of my favorite gel lighting arrangements to create some new and unique imagery. As a personal preference, I use continuous light, but the same can be achieved with studio strobes or speedlights.

One Color Gel Setup

The simplest and most traditional gel lighting look. There isn’t any fancy setup for this look, you can photograph your model in any fashion and just replace the white light with a color. Make sure your colored gel is really vibrant or the image may fall flat. 

portrait of a girl with amber gel - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Play with distance, shutter speed, and some light post-processing to see how far you can get the light to spread. That can add a unique and unexpected twist to your one-light setup!

A good use of the one color set up is backlighting! Take your light and place it behind the subject.

backlighting with gels - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Double Colored Gel Setup

My personal favorite is the double colored gel setup. All this requires is two lights, each gelled with different colors. Set them to the side of your model and watch the magic happen!

The division can be very eye-catching and intriguing.

model with red and green lights - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

lighting diagram - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Be mindful of your model’s physical structure. You want to make sure that the color division hits the proper place. Aim for the lighting to (generally) divide right at the center of the nose (split lighting).

Tri-Color Gel Setup

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

You can go as intense with colors as you like, but when I do three color looks, I like one of those colors to be white. The white softens the whole look and doesn’t make it overly exaggerated.

However, if you prefer a color, I suggest placing a lighter color in the center of your arrangement and the darker colors on the sides.

portrait with 3 colors of light - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

For three color looks, my favorite arrangement is the traditional triangle light setup. This includes one light in front of the subject and two lights at the sides.

Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can set up the two side lights behind the model and just turn them towards the model. That keeps the light from being too harsh. For a more intense look, place the lights directly at the model’s sides.

lighting diagram - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Rim Light Colored Gel Setup

girl with rim lighting - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Always a very dramatic and edgy look, using gels for rim lights can bring a bit of flair to your portraits. It does depend on your model’s structure as to where you place the lights. What I do is set up a white light in front of the model and two colored gels on lights to the side pointed forward.

The best colors I’ve found for the rim light look are purples, blues, reds, and greens – oranges tend to get a bit lost with the white light.

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Background Light Gel Setup

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

The quickest way to liven up any location is to aim some lights with colored gels attached toward the background wall.

You can photograph your subject in any traditional studio light manner, and just shoot two gelled lights to the back wall. This allows your subject to be really well separated from the background (something we always strive for in studio photography).

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Now go out there and play with colors!

The post How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits

The portrait and headshot industry in photography is likely the craft’s most popular niche. As such, it isn’t a stretch to say that there is a multitude of headshot and portrait photographers in every state and country. So, you need to find a way to stand out from the herd. The Westcott Eyelighter is one such way to differentiate from the masses, a unique reflector unlike any other I’ve seen before.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter 2 - studio portrait of a model

What is the Westcott Eyelighter?

Much like the name implies, the Westcott Eyelighter is curved to mimic the shape of the human eye and illuminate the bottom part of the iris (something that many photographers tend to add in post-production). The eyes are the windows to the soul, and often the very first thing most viewers notice about an image. This highlight creates an eye-catching image (no pun intended).

As all working photographers understand, the more time you spend in front of a computer screen is less time out there shooting. So taking advantage of a tool that creates a commonly edited effect is grand. This product certainly diminishes the time spent at the computer.

portrait of a model in a black and white dress - Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits

What’s in the box?

The Westcott Eyelighter kit features the reflector itself and a carrying case, with additional accessories sold separately. The physical makeup of the Eyelighter includes a durable aluminum frame and a highly-reflective silver surface. Tension rods are utilized to pull this material taut, maximizing the light cast on the subject.

I was quite impressed by the durability and quality of the Eyelighter’s build, this is not an addition that will snap or break easily.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits - b/w of a model in the studio

Assembly

Assembling the Westcott Eyelighter is not much of a task on paper, but can be a bit of a handful in practice. Myself, as a 5’ 5” 98lb female, did struggle to put the Eyelighter together with no help, but it is most certainly possible.

Westcott released a very helpful YouTube instructional video (see below) on how to properly assemble this reflector for those that don’t find the instruction manual helpful. The real difficulty comes from the tension rods as I found it requires quite a bit of strength to put together.

Had there been a second pair of hands to help, the assembly would have been more of a breeze (so photographers that have studio assistants, there won’t be much concern there). On average, after practicing the assembly process several times, it finally took me 10-15 minutes to put together.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits

What’s included with the Westcott Eyelighter.

Transporting the Eyelighter and portability

The Eyelighter is a rather large piece of studio equipment and really is intended as a permanent addition to your studio. As I did not want to assemble and disassemble the kit every time, I wanted to test to see if I can transport the reflector in its fully assembled state.

From personal experience, I can attest that this product can fit into a car fully-assembled (minus the tripod). I drive an SUV, and I did not need to place the seats down to fit this reflector in horizontally across the backseat. Seats may need to be put down for smaller vehicles, but the height of the kit poses no issue fitting inside of a car.

The Eyelighter does come with a carry case and can be disassembled and assembled, but the assembly does take a bit of time. At least, for me it took a significant amount of time, so I would rather transport the reflector fully-assembled.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits - studio setup showing it in use

Using the Westcott Eyelighter

Using the Eyelighter is rather simple and doesn’t require any advanced studio knowledge. Like any reflector, the Eyelighter works by bouncing light off of its reflective panel.

The Eyelighter is already tilted upon attachment to a tripod (which must be purchased separately). As such, all you need to do is take a large softbox (I personally use an octagonal one for this but a square or rectangular softbox is just as valid), place it directly above the Eyelighter, and aim downwards.

It may take a bit of maneuvering and brief trial-and-error test to find the correct placement of the reflector underneath your subject, but the general consensus is that it belongs below the chest area of your model. This piece of equipment will not affect your additional lighting setup, which allows you the freedom to light the rest of the subject in any which way.

Unique catchlights

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits - dramatic b/w portrait

The Eyelighter reflects light toward your subject, leaving a catchlight that follows the natural curve of the eye. If the silver reflector is too bright or causes too stark of a reflection, Westcott has a white sheet available for purchase that will cover that whole panel and soften the effect.

My favorite aspect of this is how seamless the catch light is, there are no odd or unflattering gaps. As well as this, it really does soften the light on the neck and chin. Paired with your other studio lighting kits, this is a must-have for anyone looking to add something fantastic to their collection.

That being said, it is important to keep in mind that due to the necessary position to create the effect, this reflector really is for portrait and headshot use only – you won’t be able to catch a whole body image with this.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits - white panel

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Westcott Eyelighter is a fun, eye-catching, and simple to use reflector that can really help you stand out from the competition.

With a retail price of $299, this isn’t the absolute most expensive item in your photographic arsenal but can make a huge difference to your portraits and headshots.

The post Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter

In this review, I’d like to show you the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter and give you my thoughts on it.

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - filter on a table

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - minimum setting

The markings on the edge indicate the strength being applied. Here it is set to MIN (minimum) or the lowest setting.

What is an ND or neutral density filter?

A neutral density filter is a piece of glass that goes in front of your lens in order to reduce the amount of light that enters the camera. One of its biggest purposes is to allow you to shoot at your desired aperture and shutter speed combination without worrying about it being too bright outside and your photos being overexposed.

This also grants you the capability to create beautiful motion blurs (using a long exposure) without worrying too heavily about lighting conditions. All of this being said, the main drawback of neutral density filters is needing to carry so many different ones of varying shades and densities.

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - filter up to a bright window

Notice how the light from outside the window is overexposed, except for the part coming through the filter. The ND filter is blocking light and here you can clearly see the difference with the filter and without.

The Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter

The Tiffen Variable ND Filter aims to change that fact. By simply rotating the outer part of the filter, you can adjust it from an approximate range of two (ND 0.6) to eight (ND 2.4) stops. The profile of the ring is 9mm, so it’s rather thin and easy to maneuver.

The Tiffen Variable ND filter operates on the same principle as a circular polarizer, granting full manual capabilities to adjust your frame however you see fit. As such, the stops marked on the filter itself are intended to be used as reference points and do not actually signify official stops.

Like other Tiffen filters, the variable ND filter is made in the USA and sports high-quality optical glass using Tiffen’s ColorCore® technology. The kit includes a padded case and built-in lens-cloth to aid in the portability of this filter.

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - white dog in the sun

ISO: 100, shutter speed: 1/1600th, f/1.2 – the use of the filter here allowed me to shoot wide open even in bright sunlight.

How I use this filter with my photography

I will preface to say that although I should be using ND filters more in my work, I seldom do. I acquired this filter blind, having not used NDs often in my work. As someone who is consistently at the mercy of my client’s schedules, the Tiffen variable ND filter provided an apt solution to sessions booked around the infamous noon hour.

Motion blurs are not a common part of my photography – but I have now begun using the variable ND filter every single day to preserve my love of shallow-depths-of-field and wide apertures in unfavorable lighting conditions.

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - man in a field

ISO: 100, shutter speed: 1/8000th, f/1.2 – this exposure combination would result in overexposure in the bright sun without the use of the Tiffen Variable ND filter.

In real-life use of this filter, it was great to be able to visually see how the adjustments affected the image and maintain the integrity of the shot I wanted to take. Many of my clients enjoy my stylistic aesthetic of consistently using very low aperture numbers and a shallow depth of field in my work. This filter allows me to maintain this effect even on the brightest of days.

girl with a guitar portrait outdoors - Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter

ISO: 100, Shutter Speed: 1/8000, f/1.2

Using the filter

The test images here all featured my lively white dog, who previously was nearly impossible to properly expose with a wide aperture in the clear, bright noon sun. Each photograph features the same settings, with the ND ring being rotated to showcase how dark it can truly get.

These images were shot at high noon, in bright sun, with a 50mm f/1.2 lens wide open at 1.2. The ISO was set to 100, and the shutter speed to 1/1600th. The variable ND filter allowed me to darken the frame enough to ensure that the depth of field was kept intact.

It was very easy for me to figure out precisely what ND stop I needed due to being able to see the changes in real-time by rotating the cuff. The filter does have a slight blue cast and a severe blue tint when turned beyond the “maximum” markers on the filter.

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter

Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - dark image showing effects of an ND filter

ISO: 100, Shutter speed: 1/1600th, f/1.2

First impressions

Right off the bat, what I was really fond of about this filter is the ease at which I could adjust the stops; the rotation is very smooth and fluid. The filter itself is lightweight and features pristine Tiffen glass. The actual filter rim is intended to expand past the parameter of the lens glass to avoid an unintentional vignette, a welcome addition.

My only complaint would be there is a bit of a learning curve on actually attaching the filter to my lens, it took longer time than I would have initially liked due to the chunky rotating mount being in the way. It initially felt a bit loose on the lens, only to find that it was strictly my misuse/improper attachment causing the minor mishap.

Once this was remedied with a bit of practice, all was well. Unfortunately, the filter scale is hidden under the lens, so it also took some finagling to realign the filter stops. These are all minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things, however.

portrait with blurred background - Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter

ISO: 100, Shutter Speed: 1/8000, f/1.2

Bonus tip: I went and purchased a step-down and step-up ring to be able to attach the filter to several of my other lenses, and I found that the addition of the ring actually helped screw the variable ND filter to my lenses because there was an additional amount of space to grip while I spun.

Purchasing a filter: Buy the filter to fit your largest lens and add some step-down rings to attach it to smaller ones. Then you only need one filter, not one for each lens you own. 

 Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - dog with a blue ball

Notes on negative reviews

Many of the negative commentaries I have heard from this filter are due largely to misuse. Though it is possible to twist beyond the scopes or the maximum and minimum stop markers on the rotator mount, it isn’t useful nor practical from a photographic standpoint due to the distortion you can experience.

You should only range within the marked stops in order to use this filter effectively. I did experience chromatic aberration while using this filter but much of that is affected by the lens itself. This can easily be remedied in post-processing.

 Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - happy border collie

Tiffen Variable ND Filter and moving water

As I mentioned before, I don’t shoot a lot of moving things or added motion in my images. So our dPS editor, Darlene, has kindly provided some of her images of a waterfall shot with a variable ND filter to demonstrate its effects on that type of subject.

ISO 100, f/22, 1/10th with ND filter set to minimum.

ISO 100, f/22, o.3 seconds with ND filter.

ISO 100, f/22, 1.3 seconds with ND filter.

ISO 100, f/22, 4 seconds with ND filter.

ISO 100, f/22, 30 seconds with ND filter.

Notice how as the filter strength was increased, she was able to slow the shutter speed to change the effect of the flowing water. Attempting this in bright sun without a variable ND filter would result in extremely overexposed images.

For reference, her exposure without the filter was ISO 100, f/22, 1/20th, so the last shot above would have been  9 stops too bright. So having such a filter in your toolkit gives you a lot more options than shooting without it.

Summary

Retailing between $78.00 to $113.00 depending on the filter size, the price is very reasonable for the amount of use you can get out of this nifty piece of glass. The Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter is available in 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm – plenty of diameters for all of your lenses. This filter is well-worth adding to any photographic collection.

The post Review of the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

A Lensbaby lens is a dream come true for artistic, creative, and ground-breaking photographers. A company made famous by their innovative effect lenses and optics, Lensbaby has captivated the industry for nearly 14 years. This company’s newest pride and joy is the Lensbaby Burnside 35, an f/2.8 lens that is unlike any other in their arsenal.

Swirly Bokeh

The Burnside 35 features the iconic “swirly bokeh” that Lensbaby is famous for. This effect is seemingly influenced by the Petzval objective which causes a swirly bokeh and vignette, and it is created by pairing two doublet lenses with an aperture stop in between.

The first lens corrects spherical aberrations and the second lens corrects for astigmatism. However, the pairing creates the swirly distortion that we all love.

You can adjust the intensity of the swirly bokeh by changing the aperture: f/2.8 will be most intense, while something like an f/16 won’t have any swirl at all. The thing that I find most compelling about Lensbaby is the fact that all of the effects are in-camera/in-lens, hence saving you a lot of time on the editing front.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Built-in vignetting

I was very intrigued to stumble upon this lens, as it has a feature I have never before seen in any other – a built-in vignette slider. Instead of needing to darken the edges of your photograph in post-processing, you can do an in-camera effect and save yourself the editing trouble.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

It’s a manual lens

That being said, much like other lenses in the Lensbaby collection, this one is fully manual. The aperture is adjusted by rotating the aperture cuff at the very back of the lens rather than in the camera as is common for other lenses. The vignette slider is located near the cuff on the opposite side of the lens.

When rotating either the vignette slider or the aperture ring, you can feel each stop as there feels to be a minor indent that pops into place – a welcome feeling when wanting to make quick adjustments without looking up from the lens.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

The focus is also manual, which may cause a bit of a learning curve for photographers that rely heavily on autofocus. However, I found that it was rather easy to see when the focus was captured or not and I was able to become proficient in a matter of a half hour.

Keeping the fully manual aspect of the lens in mind, this may not be the right piece of equipment for fast-paced action shooting. That being said, the artistic look of Lensbaby Burnside 35 can even make out of focus images look intentionally fuzzy (although any stylistic choice should look intentional, not as a mistake).

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Build

The lens’s build feels incredibly sturdy (it’s made of metal) and it is visually striking. Though I’d consider the lens fairly light in comparison to other 35mm lenses, it is still a significant weight that adds to the impression of a very sturdy build.

The lens does not come with a case, and I’d highly recommend one. Despite a sturdy build, a good bump could crack something, and that’s not a risk worth taking.

The metal front lens cap is easy to slide on and off but holds very tight when it’s on; exactly how you’d want it to be. The rear mounting cap is equivalent to all the ones I’ve seen from other lenses. The box comes with a user guide with tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your lens, a welcome addition to any lens purchase.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

The vignette slider in action

The vignette slider makes a significant, visual difference in the image. It’s great to be able to see right-off-the-bat how the image will look at the various vignette stops. As well, from a purely aesthetic perspective, it can be rather fun to watch the vignette open and close on the glass itself – it’s a bit like a reptilian creature blinking.

Do keep in mind that the frame will darken significantly when the vignette slider is set at its most closed point. As such, I actually found myself using the vignette slider almost like a neutral density filter to bring out the colors of a very bright sky.

The versatility of this lens is also notable enough to bring up. You are certainly not obligated to photograph at a low aperture number and a shallow depth of field, when bumping the aperture up to f/16, architectural photographs are exceptional at the 35mm focal length. Add the vignette slider and you have a dramatic image worthy of any gallery.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

The vignette slider at the dark end of the scale.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

The vignette slider at the light end of the scale.

Overall

This 35mm lens is nice and wide and can focus up to 6 inches away from the glass itself, excellent for macro photography. There isn’t much distortion on the subject that is in focus in the center, which is much appreciated.

Compatible with both full-frame cameras and crop sensors, I tested the Burnside 35 on my Canon 5D Mark IV (full-frame) and Canon 7D Mark II (crop sensor) to see how well it performed. I was brilliantly satisfied with its abilities for both, though it was clear to see that the full-frame yielded even more fantastic results than the crop sensor.

It’s worth mentioning that I was exceptionally pleased with how fluid the manual focus was as well as the vignette slider, both moved with ease and can be adjusted with just one or two fingers! This lens is exceptionally sharp when the focus is right, making sure that whatever you want to be the subject is very clear.

The equipment is small and easy to carry, another welcome sight in lenses.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

At a retail price of $499.99 (available now), the Lensbaby Burnside 35 is worth every penny if I do say so myself. The Burnside 35 is available in the following mounts: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Sony Alpha A, Fuji X, Micro 4/3, Pentax K, and Samsung NX.

The post Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Upgrading Your Camera – New Camera Body or a New Lens?

A point of contention amongst photographers everywhere who are budgeting for their new gear is one question, “What should I invest most in when upgrading my photography equipment, the camera body or the lens?” This can be a rather complicated answer, as it does depend on the type of photography that you’re interested in doing.

However, for the sake of a thoughtful article, we will be speaking in generalizations. To break it down, the image quality and ease comes from the lens but the capability comes from the camera body. Here is why.

Upgrading Your Camera - New Camera Body or a New Lens? featured image

dogs 2 - Upgrading Your Camera - New Camera Body or a New Lens?

The Camera Body

The body of the camera contains all of the controls necessary to record digital pictures. The camera is basically a container to house the sensor and the lens along with the electronics and controls. Camera bodies come in all shapes, sizes, and weights. The sensor can be a full-frame or a crop which affects how your images are sized and cropped.

Upgrading Your Camera - New Camera Body or a New Lens? - photo of a dog

The camera body you use will affect the dynamic range of your images, amount of noise in low light, a significant part of the autofocus, the frames-per-second, and the megapixel count (among many other things, but the aforementioned are the most commonly referenced). The camera body is what influences the number of pixels in a photograph and how fast you can shoot. It is also an integral part of the autofocus system.

From a physical standpoint, the camera body is what you’ll hold most in your hands and its comfort is very important when shooting for long hours. Higher end cameras also have better weather sealing than lower end cameras. From a logistics perspective, different camera bodies allow you to control more or fewer aspects of the picture taking process.

people in dark clothes - Upgrading Your Camera - New Camera Body or a New Lens?

The Lens

In laymen’s terms, lenses gather and focus light. Light strikes the front surface of the lens and passes through the glass element. Keeping this in mind, the difference between a good lens and a bad lens is that the former does a much better job at producing properly illuminated and sharp images. Lenses vary in focal length, aperture, type of glass, and so much more.

Upgrading Your Camera - New Camera Body or a New Lens? - portrait of a guy

The lens will make the biggest impact on the final outcome of an image. In regards to the artistic look of a shot, the lens will be in far more control than the camera body. This is because aperture, focal length (the perspective achieved due to the focal length), and sharpness are all dictated by the lens.

Lenses with a wide aperture are considered “fast” lenses because they can achieve the same exposure with a faster shutter speed.

Bonus question: What influences the autofocus, the camera or the lens? The electronic autofocus system is basically a motor. The motor housed inside of the lens will generally provide the greatest performance and highest accuracy. However, the focus motor in the lens is only one part of the process.

The camera body is what drives the motor. In addition to the mechanical components, the firmware in the camera body is what operates the autofocus system. The reason the lens is still the go-to even for autofocus is that it controls the accuracy, and the accuracy tends to be more important!

dog running - Upgrading Your Camera - New Camera Body or a New Lens?

Which Will Last You Longer?

Everyone will outgrow their equipment eventually, whether it be due to an improvement in skill, a desire for something better, or equipment dating itself too much. Essentially, interest in upgrading equipment comes from someone’s image-quality criteria.

Keeping this in mind, on the grand scale most camera bodies won’t differ in overall image quality unless you are shooting in difficult situations such as low light (in which case higher-end cameras have lower noise levels than others, as an example). The lens will make a significant impact on the final image result.

A good example of this is pairing a high-end lens with a low-end body and a high-end body with a kit lens. You will find that the audience will gravitate towards the photograph produced with the high-end lens / low-end body combination versus the opposite because the lens will impact the shot that significantly.

You’ll likely never be able to figure out what body is used in a shot, but you can often pick out the quality of the lens.

Which is the Better Investment When Upgrading - a New Camera Body or a New Lens?

A good lens will withstand the test of time as you try many different camera bodies (so long as it is compatible). The lens will travel with you from camera to camera. The lens will also help you create your specific style of shooting, as the aperture and perspective will mold to your personal preference.

Are you someone that prefers a shallow depth of field? Wide-angle fisheye? What about epic action shots with a tight zoom? All of the aforementioned are thanks to the lens, not the body.

Which is the Better Investment When Upgrading - a New Camera Body or a New Lens?

The Lens is a Better Investment

In my opinion, in regard to financial investment, a good lens is the better choice because it’ll last you much longer than the body (as you’ll generally be changing camera bodies faster than lenses). The lens also opens the door for you to create the images you dream of making.

That being said, the camera does determine if you’re capable of photographing what you want to photograph – but you can work around many limitations with an excellent lens. Cheap, low-quality lenses will affect both your shooting experience and the final product far more than the camera body will. This is because cheaper lenses tend to be slow, which results in a harder time capturing low-light scenes or achieving a super shallow depth of field.

Which is the Better Investment When Upgrading - a New Camera Body or a New Lens?

The lens will also retain more of its value (both from a monetary and photography standpoint) than the camera body when talking about resale value. This is because camera bodies are upgrading and advancing at a far faster rate, thusly, older bodies become obsolete quickly.

The same lenses, on the other hand, will likely still be used five to 10 years from now (if not even longer).

The best investment is the lens that lets you capture all of the pictures you want. You’ll find ways to work around body limitations, I guarantee it! Though when you do upgrade that camera body, you’ll appreciate the ease even more as you’ll no longer have to work around previous limits.

Which is the Better Investment When Upgrading - a New Camera Body or a New Lens?

The post Upgrading Your Camera – New Camera Body or a New Lens? appeared first on Digital Photography School.

6 Tips for Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

Whenever I do an event that promotes my pet photography, there are always one or two potential clients that have reservations about booking due to their beloved furry family member’s “unruly” behavior. Whether it be a hyperactive puppy that does not yet know how to sit still or a feline that runs the roost, some owners believe their pets to be impossible to photograph!

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

But you see, this perspective comes from someone who lives with their critters. Those who specialize in pet photography know just how to work with all sorts of four-legged personalities that find themselves in front of the camera. Here are some tricks for working with the hyper, the untrained, the unruly, or the camera-shy to help you bring out their best sides.

Please note that the tips provided below are not intended as a pet training mechanism or a deep insight into animal behavior – they are only to be used for individual photography sessions.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

#1 – A Tired Dog is a Good Dog

Each old saying has a grain of truth to it, and in this case, significantly more than just a grain. An animal that is tired is less likely to have the energy to misbehave! A key tip in working with untrained pets is getting them too tired to exert their boisterous behavior or protest having to stay still. Playing, running, and stimulating the dog, cat, or even parrot before a session will keep them mellower when it comes time to take the photographs.

Depending on how you run your photo sessions, you will either suggest this for your client or proceed to take on the responsibility of doing it yourself. If your client is the one to do this, ensure that they time the play effectively so that their furry family member isn’t so stimulated that the presence of a photographer causes stress or anxiety. The key is to get the animal to the level of tired that they no longer care about what is happening around them. Combined with other techniques as I am about to discuss, this is a sure way to get a great photo session.

Do keep in mind that it certainly depends on the age of the animal you are working with in regards to how long they remain tired or how long one should play. Puppies and kittens tend to tire out very easily, while an adult dog and cat take a longer amount of time. Baby or young animals may also remain tired for less time than an adult counterpart, as their energy comes in bursts.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

#2 – Become Boring John or Jane Doe

Unruly animal behavior can often be linked to excitement, overstimulation, or anxiety about something new in the pet’s home or immediate location. Animals communicate with body language and conduct. Because pets cannot speak words to us, their method of expressing emotions is very physical.

Knowing this means that we, as photographers, must find a way to dull the reaction our own presence causes. Allowing pets to become familiar with us is a good way to do so, such as letting a dog sniff us and our equipment or having a cat circle around and check us out. Letting owners interact with the photographer as they would any familiar person can also help the animal become more familiar.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

For fearful pets, getting down to their level (sitting on the ground, for example) and letting them come to you is key. Try not to look at them or pay much mind until they become insistent on receiving attention from you. Depending on the personality and temperament of the pet, giving the animal their favorite treat can also aid. Try not to act overly excited or exceptionally grabby or touchy with the pet, as many animals take that as “play”.

#3 – Tap Into Your Inner Mind Reader

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

The following tip can be applied to all animal photography, whether it be wild animals or domestic. Ensuring that you are always ready to capture the perfect moment whenever it may occur is key. A good way of knowing when to raise the camera and click the shutter is to predict the animal’s behavior.

Much of this does come from experience and exposure to various kinds of pets, but you can often use common sense to figure out what your subject is going to do next. If a dog is about to run, practice your panning technique! If a cat is about to jump from the back of a couch, prepare yourself to capture that action.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

#4 – Become an Observer

Sometimes, the best pet photography shots are those in which you play no involvement and sit back as an observant photographer rather than one who dictates the session. It is often to your benefit to sit farther back with a telephoto or zoom lens and not interfere with what proceeds to occur.

This does depend on what your client wants from the photo shoot, what you expect, or what the animal you are working with is like – but certainly, give it a thought!

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

#5 – Toys and Treats Capture Hearts

Depending on the pet you’re photographing, toys and treats can become your best friend. Though you do not want to overstimulate the pet, keeping their attention can be equally important. Treats, toys, and noises can often do this for you.

You may even be able to teach a dog to sit during your photo session or keep a cat looking at you as you take pictures, depending on how you are with animals. The key with treats is to use high-value treats, a common term used among dog trainers. High-value treats are goodies that the pet finds irresistible, and that becomes a big motivator for them to do what you want.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

Certain types of toys can be the same. Toys and noises are also a great way to get alert ears and a happier facial expression.

#6 – Be Creative

This is the most important piece of advice anyone can give you – just be creative. A successful photographer is one who knows how to adapt to any situation thrown their way, and an animal that isn’t behaving is just another circumstance to overcome.

Take your creativity for a spin as you adapt to what you’ve been given, and find new and unique ways to capture the creature’s personality on camera. Whether it’s using a different lens or changing your perspective and composition, doing something new based on what’s happening is a great way to work with animals.

Of course, all animals are different. Your reaction should be based on the individual animal’s personality, reaction, and needs. Pet photographers must display a sensitivity and empathy towards their subject, and act accordingly!

Conclusion

Hopefully, these tips have given you some ideas or inspiration to work with all kinds of animals, mellow and not-so-mellow!

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

The post 6 Tips for Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography by Anabel DFlux appeared first on Digital Photography School.

6 Tips for Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

Whenever I do an event that promotes my pet photography, there are always one or two potential clients that have reservations about booking due to their beloved furry family member’s “unruly” behavior. Whether it be a hyperactive puppy that does not yet know how to sit still or a feline that runs the roost, some owners believe their pets to be impossible to photograph!

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

But you see, this perspective comes from someone who lives with their critters. Those who specialize in pet photography know just how to work with all sorts of four-legged personalities that find themselves in front of the camera. Here are some tricks for working with the hyper, the untrained, the unruly, or the camera-shy to help you bring out their best sides.

Please note that the tips provided below are not intended as a pet training mechanism or a deep insight into animal behavior – they are only to be used for individual photography sessions.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

#1 – A Tired Dog is a Good Dog

Each old saying has a grain of truth to it, and in this case, significantly more than just a grain. An animal that is tired is less likely to have the energy to misbehave! A key tip in working with untrained pets is getting them too tired to exert their boisterous behavior or protest having to stay still. Playing, running, and stimulating the dog, cat, or even parrot before a session will keep them mellower when it comes time to take the photographs.

Depending on how you run your photo sessions, you will either suggest this for your client or proceed to take on the responsibility of doing it yourself. If your client is the one to do this, ensure that they time the play effectively so that their furry family member isn’t so stimulated that the presence of a photographer causes stress or anxiety. The key is to get the animal to the level of tired that they no longer care about what is happening around them. Combined with other techniques as I am about to discuss, this is a sure way to get a great photo session.

Do keep in mind that it certainly depends on the age of the animal you are working with in regards to how long they remain tired or how long one should play. Puppies and kittens tend to tire out very easily, while an adult dog and cat take a longer amount of time. Baby or young animals may also remain tired for less time than an adult counterpart, as their energy comes in bursts.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

#2 – Become Boring John or Jane Doe

Unruly animal behavior can often be linked to excitement, overstimulation, or anxiety about something new in the pet’s home or immediate location. Animals communicate with body language and conduct. Because pets cannot speak words to us, their method of expressing emotions is very physical.

Knowing this means that we, as photographers, must find a way to dull the reaction our own presence causes. Allowing pets to become familiar with us is a good way to do so, such as letting a dog sniff us and our equipment or having a cat circle around and check us out. Letting owners interact with the photographer as they would any familiar person can also help the animal become more familiar.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

For fearful pets, getting down to their level (sitting on the ground, for example) and letting them come to you is key. Try not to look at them or pay much mind until they become insistent on receiving attention from you. Depending on the personality and temperament of the pet, giving the animal their favorite treat can also aid. Try not to act overly excited or exceptionally grabby or touchy with the pet, as many animals take that as “play”.

#3 – Tap Into Your Inner Mind Reader

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

The following tip can be applied to all animal photography, whether it be wild animals or domestic. Ensuring that you are always ready to capture the perfect moment whenever it may occur is key. A good way of knowing when to raise the camera and click the shutter is to predict the animal’s behavior.

Much of this does come from experience and exposure to various kinds of pets, but you can often use common sense to figure out what your subject is going to do next. If a dog is about to run, practice your panning technique! If a cat is about to jump from the back of a couch, prepare yourself to capture that action.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

#4 – Become an Observer

Sometimes, the best pet photography shots are those in which you play no involvement and sit back as an observant photographer rather than one who dictates the session. It is often to your benefit to sit farther back with a telephoto or zoom lens and not interfere with what proceeds to occur.

This does depend on what your client wants from the photo shoot, what you expect, or what the animal you are working with is like – but certainly, give it a thought!

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

#5 – Toys and Treats Capture Hearts

Depending on the pet you’re photographing, toys and treats can become your best friend. Though you do not want to overstimulate the pet, keeping their attention can be equally important. Treats, toys, and noises can often do this for you.

You may even be able to teach a dog to sit during your photo session or keep a cat looking at you as you take pictures, depending on how you are with animals. The key with treats is to use high-value treats, a common term used among dog trainers. High-value treats are goodies that the pet finds irresistible, and that becomes a big motivator for them to do what you want.

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

Certain types of toys can be the same. Toys and noises are also a great way to get alert ears and a happier facial expression.

#6 – Be Creative

This is the most important piece of advice anyone can give you – just be creative. A successful photographer is one who knows how to adapt to any situation thrown their way, and an animal that isn’t behaving is just another circumstance to overcome.

Take your creativity for a spin as you adapt to what you’ve been given, and find new and unique ways to capture the creature’s personality on camera. Whether it’s using a different lens or changing your perspective and composition, doing something new based on what’s happening is a great way to work with animals.

Of course, all animals are different. Your reaction should be based on the individual animal’s personality, reaction, and needs. Pet photographers must display a sensitivity and empathy towards their subject, and act accordingly!

Conclusion

Hopefully, these tips have given you some ideas or inspiration to work with all kinds of animals, mellow and not-so-mellow!

Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography

The post 6 Tips for Working with Unruly Animals in Pet Photography by Anabel DFlux appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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