Simple Tips to Improve Your Portrait Photography Immediately

The post Simple Tips to Improve Your Portrait Photography Immediately appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

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Getting started with portrait photography can seem like a daunting task. Once you start researching all the techniques, equipment and (so-called) rules, and everything else you have to memorize and acquire, it can all feel a bit overwhelming. Even so, the journey is worth it, and portraiture is a rewarding pursuit. Throughout your time taking portraits, you will meet, talk to and get to know a lot of people, and hopefully take some great photos of them as well. Instead of focusing on what you need to take great portraits (that’s a camera by the way, nothing more), this article outlines eight tips that you can take and start using immediately to help you improve your portrait photography immediately, without spending another penny.

1. Use softer light

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Soft light is an incredible tool to get the very most out of your portraits. Using it is not the only way to do things, but it’s a great place to start.

If you’ve read anything about portrait lighting before, this is a tip you’ve already heard, but it needs to be repeated over and over again. Hard light, such as that from the midday sun, is usually the quickest way to attain contrasty and harsh portraits with unflattering shadows and highlights. Taking the time to seek out pockets of softer light (or creating it in the studio) is by far the quickest and most effective way to improve your portrait photography without doing anything else.

Outdoors, look for areas of open shade or take advantage of overcast days where the light is diffused by the cloud cover. Of course, golden hour will provide you with amazing light most of the time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and search for pockets of diffused, flattering light at any other time of the day.

Image: For soft light in the studio, big modifiers in close will do the job just great.

For soft light in the studio, big modifiers in close will do the job just great.

In the studio, make sure that you are using as big of a modifier as you have. If the light is still too hard, you can diffuse your light with a diffuser (yes, I know that might require another purchase, and I apologize for that), or you can move the light closer to your subject.

Just remember that the bigger the apparent light source is to your subject, the softer the light is.

Is all this to say that you shouldn’t use hard light for portraits? Absolutely not. Hard light can make for wonderful portraits, but in a lot of cases, and especially as you are starting out, you will find it beneficial to learn how to use and understand soft light first.

2. Light for the eyes

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Making your subject’s eyes a priority when you are lighting your images will ensure that the eyes are bright and remain the focal point of your images.

Eyes may be the most important part of a portrait. When your viewers look at photos of people, most of the time they engaging with the person’s eyes first. This is because that is how we humans engage with people in face-to-face scenarios. To make sure you get the very best from your subject’s eyes, start making sure that you light for the eyes at the beginning of every portrait session before you even take your first frame.

To do this, watch your subject’s eyes carefully as you arrange the light, whether that be outdoors or in the studio. Direct your subject (or move your light source if you can) so that the catchlight in their eye is near the top of their eye. It also helps if the light is going directly into their eyes. This will help you to get the most detail in your subject’s eyes.

You will also find that making the eyes a priority at the capture stage means that you will rarely have to do anything to them in post-processing.

In short, light from above whenever possible and direct your subject’s pose so that the light is going into their eyes.

Image: If you use a really big light source (i.e. to get softer light), the less bright the eyes wil...

If you use a really big light source (i.e. to get softer light), the less bright the eyes will be. This is a good thing to keep in mind as you start looking towards big octaboxes and parabolic umbrellas.

As an aside, the softer the light source, the less detail will record in your subject’s eyes and the darker they will appear in your images. The harder the light source, the more detail.

This will only become an issue if you are using really, really big modifiers in the studio, or if there’s particularly heavy cloud cover. You should be fine if you’re using medium (normal) sized modifiers.

If your goal is simply to get the most detail possible out of your subject’s eyes, you might need to go for a harder light source. You could also mix light sources so that your subject’s eyes are lit by a hard light source, but there is still a softer light source evening-out the contrast in your images.

3. Rapport

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Having a good rapport and good communication with your subjects is the best way to get the best expressions out of them.

It should probably go without saying that if you are serious about undertaking portrait photography, then your people skills are going to be paramount to your success. In order to get the best reactions and poses, and to keep your subjects comfortable and engaged, you should build a rapport with each and every subject. Every person is different and no two techniques or methods will work the same with everyone, so you will need to build a catalog of techniques to help you encourage the best from people.

You can start by always, always being polite. Stay positive and complimentary even if things are going completely wrong. Instead of saying: “this isn’t right,” try something along the lines of “This is cool, let’s move on to something else.”

Also remember that as the focus of your portrait is the person you are photographing, so should your attention be. Talk about your subject, and let them talk about themselves.

Try to avoid talking about your photography and definitely avoid technical jargon. Unless you are photographing a photographer, nobody cares. I know that’s tough to hear as you as a photographer care deeply about that stuff, but nobody else does. The confusion and disinterest that those topics inspire in other people will clearly show in the final photos.

If you remember that it’s not about you or your photography, but the person in the photo, you mostly can’t go wrong.

4. Background

Image: On location, making sure your backgrounds are clean and distraction-free is a vital skill to...

On location, making sure your backgrounds are clean and distraction-free is a vital skill to develop.

This is one of those skills that once you learn, you will start to do it automatically and never have to think about it again. In the beginning, however, it is vital to pay close attention to the backgrounds in your images. Ensure there are no extraneous elements creeping into the frame. Make sure there’s nothing like poles, trees, or cars intersecting your subject. If your background is blurred with a shallow depth of field, make sure there are no blobs of contrasting color or value that take away attention from your subject.

In short, pay as much attention to your backgrounds as you do your subjects and ensure that they are clean and distraction-free.

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Background clutter is just as much of a pain in the studio. Lights, cables, reflectors, edges of the background all seem to find a way to creep into the frame.

This is easier to do in the studio environment, but there are still things that you can look out for. Avoid using wrinkled backdrops (they never, ever look good). With plain walls, look out for marks and cracks from subsidence or similar. Just taking a moment to pay attention to these small details can help to improve your photos immensely. It’s also a lot easier to spot these things and deal with them in the moment than it is to retouch them out of your photos later.

5. Get close

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Filling the frame with your subject will help to emphasize the focal point of your image.

It was Robert Capa who said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”

Out of all the photography quotes ever quoted, this is the one I find the most useful by far. It applies to all genres of photography in general, but in portraiture, it’s a particularly important concept. Whatever the focus of your photos (people in this case), ensuring that that your subject is the focal point, and the only focal point in the image, is important. Get close and fill the frame. In most cases, you don’t need much background, and in a lot of cases, you don’t need any background at all.

Doing this helps you to make sure there are no distracting elements in your images. It also helps to emphasize that your portrait is a portrait of a person and nothing else. Sure, there are plenty of instances when you want more background in your images.

Environmental portraiture is a fantastic genre that I love to look at, but if you look at some of the best examples of these, you will probably find that the subject still dominates the frame. The background is just ancillary information that is used to complement the focus on the subject rather than detract from it.

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All that said, the use of dead space is a valuable and wonderful compositional element.

Another instance you might opt not to get too close is when you want to use dead space as a design element or perhaps for editorial photography. That’s also fine. The key in these situations is to know when to be close and get a tight-framed portrait, and when to step back and let more into the frame. Most of the time with portraits, however, you will be well-served by getting in close and filling the frame.

The beginning

There you have it, that’s a few tips that will help you to improve your portrait photography without spending another penny. Perhaps not all of these tips will suit you and your photography, but I encourage you to try to implement them for the sake of seeing what you can learn from them anyway.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and if you have any tips you feel should be shared with beginners to help improve their portrait photography, please do leave them in the comments.

The post Simple Tips to Improve Your Portrait Photography Immediately appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

How to Choose Urban Landscapes for Portrait Photography

The post How to Choose Urban Landscapes for Portrait Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

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Are you bored of doing portrait shoots in the studio or the local park? Try mixing things up with an urban portrait shoot. The city streets, the buildings, the laneways – this is your cinematic backdrop. All you need is a little bit of planning and a lot of imagination. If you’ve never done a shoot like this before, you might be wondering how to choose locations. In this article, I will run you through my process of choosing urban landscapes for portrait photography

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Bailey in a window, Brisbane. I took this shot with some off-camera flash outside my local library. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 23mm f1.4 lens.

An urban portrait shoot in my city? No way!

You may think that your city or your town has nothing of interest, but it does. You just have to look with a fresh perspective. Sometimes I’ll be on a photo walk with another photographer, and they don’t seem to see the potential that their town has to offer. “Wow, look at that doorway!” I’ll say. With a puzzled face, they reply, “It’s just a doorway!” 

No, it’s not just a doorway – it’s a potential scene in your next urban portrait shoot. 

Image: Sasha, Brisbane. I used these old street lamps as an element in the shoot. Fujifilm X-T3 with...

Sasha, Brisbane. I used these old street lamps as an element in the shoot. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 56mm f1.2 lens.

Every town or city I’ve ever been to has its charms and a unique look: from modern glass and steel skyscrapers to historic buildings to run-down industrial areas. There are so many aspects of urban locations that you could include in your shoots: laneways, street art, doorways, neon signs, steel shutters, and traffic trails, just to name a few. 

There’s also the unique way that light falls in urban environments: harsh beams of light that fall between buildings, beautiful soft light that you find in doorways and under bridges, and in Brisbane, dazzling light reflecting off skyscrapers. The possibilities are endless.

The best time for an urban portrait shoot

The best time for an urban portrait shoot is whenever you and your client or model are both available. Regardless of the light, the weather, or the locations. The success of the photoshoot is ultimately in your hands. 

My favorite time for doing urban portrait shoots is just before dusk. This allows you to get a good mix of golden hour photos with sunlight, blue hour photos as the city lights come into play and nighttime shots with artificial light. 

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Alyssa in an industrial alleyway, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 60mm f2.4 lens.

Location scouting

I usually run portrait shoots for around 90-minutes, allowing me to shoot in 6-8 locations. 

It’s best to do your location scouting at the same time of day that your shoot will take place. This is so you can look at the light, see how it falls, and plan accordingly. In practice, though, I usually end up doing my scouting during the day. 

Before I arrange the shoot, I take some time to wander about the city to find 8-10 locations close together. The reason I look for more places than I’ll need is to be flexible on the shoot. Cars or trucks can block alleyways, big crowds could move through the area at the time of the shoot, or the lighting could be all wrong. There’s a whole lot of things that could make the location unsuitable when you arrive at the scene.

Although it’s tempting to plan to shoot in two locations at opposite ends of town, unless you have easy access to transport on the day of the shoot, it will be impractical. Photoshoots can be tiring for everyone, so asking your client or model to walk several city blocks and back again to shoot in one location may not be the best idea. 

What to take during location scouting

When you’re scouting for locations, have a notepad and pen ready along with your smartphone. When you see somewhere that you like, take a photo on your phone for reference and jot down some notes. I always draw a map of the city streets in my notebook. Then I plot the locations on it and plan a direction for the shoot.

What I’m looking for during my walk is a cool urban location in which to place the client or model. Some locations will leap out at you, and you will know that you should take some photos there. Others may not reveal their charm until later when the lights are low. 

Image: Natasha, Brisbane. I like the very subtle reflection in the polished stone wall behind her. F...

Natasha, Brisbane. I like the very subtle reflection in the polished stone wall behind her. Fujifilm X-T3 with 56mm f1.2 lens

As you’re wandering around, there’s a couple of things you need to keep in mind:

Imagination

What is this place going to look like at dusk or nighttime? Remember that for many shots, you will be shooting with a wide-open aperture, or close to wide open, so many of the details in the background will be blurred. 

Potential risks

It may look cool, but is this place dangerous in any way? Think of how you will place the model or client in this scene – are there any risks that you need to be mindful of? Is there a lot of traffic? Is it a dangerous neighborhood? You should consider all of this when you’re planning, as safety should be your top priority for these shoots.

Below are some of my go-to shots when I plan an urban photoshoot. I took all of these within a few blocks of each other in central Brisbane, Australia. 

Neon lights

Neon shots are a favorite with the Instagram crowd, and it’s easy to see why. They are so much fun and a great image idea to have up your sleeve.

Neon signs are something that, quite honestly, I never usually notice. However, as soon as you start looking for them, you’ll be amazed at how many your town has.

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Alyssa, Brisbane. This neon light is outside a takeaway shop in central Brisbane. I was attracted to the three different colors the sign had.

Beer kegs outside a pub

As soon as I saw these beer kegs in a laneway outside a pub, I knew I wanted to incorporate them in a shoot. I’ve used them as both a background element and also as a prop for models to sit on.

In this shot of Anne, I struck gold. By chance, it was one of the busiest days for pubs in the year – Melbourne Cup Day. There were a few dozen kegs in a laneway all stacked on one another. I lit this shot with an LED video light.

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Anne in front of beer kegs, Brisbane. I love the shape, color, and reflection of the kegs in the background. Fujifilm X-T3 with an 8-16mm f2.8 lens lit with an LED video light.

Laneways

Many Australian cities are blessed with alleyways. In many ways, they are the perfect place for photoshoots. Expect atmospheric lighting, an industrial look, street art – and best of all – little traffic. While Melbourne may be the laneways capital of Australia, Brisbane has many too.

Image: Natasha in a laneway, Brisbane. I like the color and bokeh that some tiny blue fairy lights p...

Natasha in a laneway, Brisbane. I like the color and bokeh that some tiny blue fairy lights provided in this shot. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 56mm f1.2 lens.

Telephone booth

This is a really fun place to use for some shots – if you can still find one these days. You may also have to take some time to explain to younger clients or models on how to use a public payphone!

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Alyssa in a phone booth in Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 35mm f1.4 lens.

Reflections

Reflections are a go-to image idea for urban portrait shoots. Many buildings provide you with glass or reflective surfaces.

Image: Anne looking into a mirrored surface, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T2 with a 56mm f1.2 lens.

Anne looking into a mirrored surface, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T2 with a 56mm f1.2 lens.

Old signage

I love history and nostalgia, but sadly there isn’t much left in my city. One day I noticed this sign and thought I’d love to do some shots here.

Image: Sasha in front of a sign, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 16mm f1.4 lens.

Sasha in front of a sign, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 16mm f1.4 lens.

Take your next portrait shoot to the streets

Urban portrait shoots can be a lot of fun. If you’ve never done one before, I hope that this guide has inspired you to look around your city for urban landscapes for portrait photography.

For your first time, you can always ask a friend to be your model if you want to try things out and see how the images look. Practice makes perfect.

Remember, safety is a very important factor in a shoot like this – both for your client or model and for yourself.

Urban shoots have helped me grow as a photographer. I feel more creative, I see possibilities for images in the mundane, and they’ve also helped me to think on my feet and improvise. ­­­­

So what are you waiting for? An endless array of scenes is right on your doorstep. Take your next portrait shoot to the streets.

Do you have any other tips for scouting urban landscapes for portrait photography? Share with us in the comments!

The post How to Choose Urban Landscapes for Portrait Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

Which Way? When to Photograph in Portrait or Landscape Orientation

The post Which Way? When to Photograph in Portrait or Landscape Orientation appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

The standard camera sensor is rectangular in shape – a configuration that allows for both portrait and landscape orientations.

But is landscape orientation crucial to the execution of a landscape photograph? Must portraiture always be photographed in portrait orientation?

Plus, what if you’re photographing a subject that’s neither a portrait nor a landscape? What orientation works best?

In this article, we’ll have a look at how to choose between a portrait or landscape orientation in photography.

portrait and landscape orientation examples

A bit of history

Landscape orientation

Portrait and landscape designations likely stem from the orientations of canvasses used in art.

The dimensions of a horizontal rectangle best accommodate the wide vistas depicted by landscape artists. This earned the format its landscape title.

However, the landscape orientation is not restricted to landscape photos. Yes, landscape masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh, Hokusai, and Monet have been in a landscape format. But artists like Sandro Botticelli and Wassily Kandinsky have created non-landscape art using landscape orientation. Frans Lanting, Andreas Gursky, and Gregory Crewdson all depict photographic subjects with the landscape orientation.

It’s the same for portrait photography. Photographers such as Robert Frank and Annie Lebovitz have approached portraiture in a landscape format.

horizontal orientation leaf

The landscape orientation of this image of a leaf conveys a more relaxed viewing approach

Portrait orientation

A canvas taller than it is wide has become known as portrait orientation.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring are famous examples of portraits depicted in the traditional format. And Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother and Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl are well-known examples of portrait photography executed in a portrait format.

But portrait orientation isn’t limited to depicting people. Painters like Rachel Ruysch and Claude Monet worked in a portrait format to accommodate non-human subject matter.

And Edward Henry Weston used a portrait format to lend a formal quality to his investigations of organic materials, while the Bechers made hundreds of portrait-oriented images of urban landmarks.

vertical leaf abstract

The portrait orientation of this leaf abstract lends a more formal quality to the image.

Should you use portrait or landscape orientation?

Fitting the subject

One of the deciding factors in choosing between a portrait or landscape orientation is the dimensions of the subject itself.

In terms of framing the face and body of a human, a portrait format can be ideal. The vertical nature of the human body works well with a portrait orientation.

Vertical subjects like tall buildings, trees, and waterfalls may also require a portrait orientation to be captured in their entirety.

vertical orientation flower

Subjects made up of horizontal elements (like aircraft and landscapes) can fit better in landscape orientation.

Landscape orientation can also provide more room for incorporating additional elements into a photograph.

This is particularly useful in genres of photography like environmental portraiture, where the setting of the photograph is as important as the subject.

horizontal or vertical horizontal airplane

Because of the dimensions of aircraft, aviation photography is often carried out in a landscape orientation

Emphasis

The orientation of an image contributes significantly to visual emphasis.

A portrait orientation exaggerates the upright extension of subjects in a photograph. But a portrait orientation also speaks to our associations with tall subjects, emphasizing a sense of independence, wonder, modernity, and even superiority or unease.

In contrast, a landscape orientation places extra emphasis on space, illustrating ease and immersion.

In the simple example below you can see the different emphasis being placed on the floral silhouettes.

The portrait example emphasizes the energetic, upright quality of the flower. The landscape orientation creates a more relaxed perspective.

flower silhouette example

Cropping

Every photographic situation is different and sometimes an element in a potential image is less than ideal.

If there are elements present within a photo that you would rather omit, switching camera orientations might help achieve a more polished image, either in-camera or in post-processing.

Cropping out excess information with a portrait orientation will simplify an image and minimize distractions.

Switching from a portrait to landscape orientation will decrease image height, prioritizing the horizontal flow in a photograph instead.

abstract horizontal of water

Formality vs relaxation

Over time, our historic use of image orientation has associated specific visual qualities with both portrait and landscape formats.

Portrait orientation is associated with the formality of historic portraiture. It is also associated with being upright, which is attached to wakefulness, sociability, and energy.

A landscape format, on the other hand, can lend a more relaxed, organic impression to a photograph. So a horizontal orientation is associated with laying down, lending a more tranquil quality to an image.

woven mat

Conclusion

Choosing between a portrait or landscape orientation isn’t easy. There are many aspects to consider, and the orientation of an image depends heavily on the situation.

But if you understand the benefits and drawbacks of different orientations, you’ll be in a good position to decide which orientation to use!

Do you lean towards portrait or landscape orientation? Share with us in the comments!

 

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The post Which Way? When to Photograph in Portrait or Landscape Orientation appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Anytime of the Day

The post How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Anytime of the Day appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Golden hour is famous for being the most ideal lighting for portraits, especially at a beach location. Unfortunately, sometimes, the golden hour isn’t an option. Therefore, it’s essential to know how to photograph portraits at any time of the day. That way, you can always create beautiful photos for clients.

Know where the sun is at all times

First, you’ll need to know where the sun is at all times. The easiest way to do this is to use an ephemeris (I personally use this one). This is a tool that can help you see where the sun will be at any time during the day.

Here you can see where the sun will rise from, set, and the times when these will be happening during the day.

Before, or even while you’re scheduling your session, you can quickly check this tool to see the sunrise, midday, and sunset times.

An ephemeris can give you the details on the direction the light is coming from at a particular point in the world. Simply plug in the location of your session, and you can see all of the important details.

Here we can see where the sun will be on this particular day at the same time on the opposite coast in Mexico from the previous photos.

This is really helpful since no beach is alike and the direction of light differs from one side of the world to another. For example, in California, the sun sets behind the beach. Whereas on the east coast, the sun sets in the opposite direction.

Here we can see where the sun will be on this particular day at the same time on the opposite coast in Mexico from the previous photos.

Also, different beaches may face differently and therefore it’s good to know where the sun will be during your session.

Morning light

Morning light on a beach is magical. It has a whole different color temperature than that of the golden hour and can provide a nice soft glow if you have your session early enough.

The light is a little bluer, and depending on the beach where your session is taking place, the sun can rise overlooking the ocean or peaking through the trees. For example, a beach on the east coast like Cancun can mean during your session in the morning you’ll catch the sunrise behind the beach.

Alternatively, on a beach in California, you’ll catch the sun hitting the water from the land side. This will give you that beautiful yellowish-blue glow if your session is before 9 o’clock in the morning.

On the left we see the sun rising behind the bay and at right is after the sun is nearing midday.

Use a simple reflector to bounce light back onto your subject if you feel the sunrise light causes shadows. This is especially useful if sunrise is behind the water at the beach.

Midday light

Midday light at a beach is pretty harsh and therefore it’s good to have some kind of additional lighting equipment to help with shadows. You can use an external flash, popup flash, or a reflector.

Seeing the shadows in front of your clients means the sun is behind them. This family is lit with an external flash mounted on-camera pointed directly at them.

You can also go without an additional light source. However, it’s good to underexpose your photos a bit so you can bring up the shadows in your editing software. Otherwise, you’ll end up with really blown out skies. Of course, this all depends on your style of photography.

Using the sand as a natural reflector helps to bounce light back onto your clients as we can see in both of these photos.

When the sun is at it’s highest point during the day, it might be a good time to take your clients under the shade of some trees nearby or opt to have more playful photos of the family. Have your client’s walk, run, splash in the water, build sandcastles, or just have a bit of fun together.

The sun is at it’s highest at different times around the world, so make sure to check the ephemeris for your exact location to know the time.

Same session, same beach, one photo with flash and one photo without.

Once the sun passes the highest point, it will be at a bit of an angle as it starts to go down for sunset. This is the sweet spot of photographing during midday sun at the beach!

Flash was used to correctly expose the photo and fill in shadows caused by the sun.

When the sun is at a bit of an angle, you can pose your clients with the sun behind them to alleviate having the sun in their eyes. This means you’ll be in the sun, but it’s better than having your clients facing the sun. This avoids causing shadows, uneven lighting, and squinting. The sand can also work as a natural reflector, bouncing light back into their faces.

After midday light

After midday light can be different in the winter than in the summer given that daylight savings can change the amount of light you have left. Either way, the sun sits lower to be at an angle behind your clients. All while still hitting the sand to reflect some light into your client’s faces.

During this time, depending on the angle of light, you can get some really interesting light. It gets more golden by the hour as you approach sunset.

Still, if you find yourself at a beach where the light is still harsh during this time, try and angle your clients away from the sun. You can also try and use your external lighting to help fill in some light.

Golden Hour (Sunset)

Actual sunset only lasts about 5-10 minutes. However, golden hour is just that – about an hour before the sun dips behind the horizon, which means the angle of the light is pretty low and directional. It can mean flooding your photos with lots of that pretty golden light. However, it also makes it difficult to capture your clients evenly lit against the background.

This is especially troublesome if the sun sets behind the water. It can be difficult capturing the beautiful colors of the sunset while also lighting your clients.

Using a flash or external light source pointed directly at your clients can help light them while capturing the sunset behind. You can also underexpose your photo a bit to bring up the shadows later without compromising the sunset.

Try silhouetting your clients behind with the sunset light to offer a different look to the final images.

Golden hour is also a perfect time to turn your clients toward the setting sun to get that beautiful golden color cast on their skin tones and in the overall look of the photo.

Blue hour (After sunset)

Blue hour is the 20-30 minutes (sometimes less time) after the sun has completely gone from view. Blue hour is nice to photograph in because of the beautiful sunset colors like blue, orange, pink, and purples that come out after sunset. The lighting is a bit darker, so you might need a tripod.

During the blue hour, you can get some additional light on your clients by facing them where the sun has set.

During this time you can attempt some slow shutter speed photos while your clients hold still. Getting the movement in water can create a more fine art approach to beach photos!

During any time of day try these ideas:

Cloudy days are perfect for photographing at any time during the day. However, you might not get the sunset as bright as on a clear day.

It doesn’t matter the time of day, it’s good to get variety in your portraits during beach sessions. For that try some of these ideas:

  • Rock formations/caves as backgrounds and also shelter from harsh light.
  • Trees can provide shade as well if the light is harsh and the day is particularly hot.
  • Around town can also serve as a nice background for photos while you’re waiting for the midday sun to angle a bit.
  • Up high can also serve as a nice way to keep clients out of harsh sunlight. For example, a balcony in their hotel room, a higher terrace with some shade that overlooks the ocean, etc.
  • Photographing more lifestyle-type photos with the family playing, getting in the water, and just having a “beach day”.

If you are waiting for the sun to go down a bit, you can take some portraits near trees that aren’t directly on the beach. This also adds variety to the final images.

Conclusion

Photographing at the beach during golden hour isn’t the only time that you can create one-of-a-kind and amazingly beautiful images for your clients.

Taking cover in caves or using rock formations as backgrounds can also help keep your client out of direct sunlight.

It is incredibly beneficial to learn to photograph at the beach at any time of the day. Moreover, it can mean the difference between a client choosing you and another photographer.

 

better-beach-portraits

The post How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Anytime of the Day appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

4 Tips for Achieving Flattering Portraits

The post 4 Tips for Achieving Flattering Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Flattering portraits rarely happen as a default. Some people are photogenic, yes, and look good at every angle. But often, we work hard to get flattering photos that the sitter loves. There is no one-trick as every person’s face, form, and shape are different. We have to tailor our angles to each portrait sitter. However, there are basic fundamental tools we can use that help us achieve flattering portraits.

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1. Use the right lens

Having photographed people for a decade now, I have learned that there is no great all-around lens that can do the best job for everything. Sure there are good lenses that achieve good results, but I’d favor specialist lenses for specific purposes.

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Let’s take portraits, for example. A basic kit lens that comes with a camera purchase is usually an 18mm – 55mm zoom. It is expected to be good for wide angles and normal-range views. Yes, it’s good for day-to-day standard snaps. But for portraits? A longer zoom, such as the 85mm, 105mm, and 200mm, are a much better choice for stunning portraits. These give a shallow depth of field, great compression to the background and produce flattering portraits. There is no distortion similar to what you would get when using wider lenses for portraits.

You can read more about choosing the best portrait lens on here.

2. Use the right angle for the person

Many women I have photographed do not like having their portrait taken. They are aware of various imperfections on their faces, angles they do not like, and features they are self-conscious about. This is normal and certainly rings true for me. I’m the worst portrait sitter.

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In order to achieve portraits that women like, I usually shoot both sides and show them the first few photos I take on the LCD screen of the camera. They choose a preferred side, and we take a few more from that angle. The worst thoughts are usually just in their minds. When they see their photos, even on the back of the camera, they realize it’s not as bad as they thought and there is a better side. They usually relax more from then on.

Generally, I photograph at slightly higher than eye level for most women. This angle hides any unwanted necklines, slims down cheeks and tapers the face down a little for a more flattering portrait.

If I’m photographing from an even higher level than usual, I ask them to look up at me just ever so slightly, and that gives me a confident posture and stance too.

With men, it is usually quite the opposite. Most male portraits get taken within seconds. I find them less self-conscious with a “let’s get on with it, over and done with attitude” in a nice way. I ask them to stand as they usually do. If they slouch, I ask them to straighten their spines a bit, square their shoulders and look straight into the camera. Sometimes I get them to lean slightly against a wall. I generally photograph men at eye-level.

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Children, on the other hand, I look best when photographed from waist high. That means I’m always a little lower than them – often sitting on the floor and looking up to them a bit. This means they don’t look too small, and they get a boost of confidence that they are being looked up at and not down to. Children often look down towards whatever they are holding or playing with. By shooting from a lower angle, I get to see their faces clearly too.

3. Use the right type of lighting

Simply put, short lighting is when the shadowed side of the face is closer to the camera. Being in the shadow, this side of the face is darker and therefore usually ‘shorter’ in terms of the span of the light hitting this side of the face. Broad lighting is the opposite when lit and the brighter side of the face is closer to the camera. Because it’s brighter, it appears much broader with more light reaching much of the area of the face.

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Short lighting makes the face appear slimmer due to the shadows created on the face. This can also produce strong contrasts although you can soften the dark areas by using a reflector.

Broad lighting helps in making the face appear wider. Because this area is usually brightly lit compared to other areas, stronger contrast between dark and light is usually created.

Use these two lighting types to the advantage of the sitter for more flattering outcomes. You can read a more in-depth explanation of these two types of lighting on here.

4. Crop correctly

Because I always edit my photographs, I feel I can afford to change my composition in post-processing rather than always trying to get everything right in-camera. Don’t get me wrong, I strive to get my compositions right, but I have found I can always tweak it in post to improve it. I shoot fast and can’t always get the horizontals completely straight, so I correct this in post. This means I have to shoot a little wider than the final outcome.

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I have no problems with cropping as long as it’s not too aggressive and there are ample pixels left in the image to produce great prints.

There are a few caveats in cropping though. For flattering portraits, never crop or compose your photos so that the edges and tangents are on body joints like elbows, knees, neck, wrist, shoulders and across the belly. These look odd and somewhat disturbing. Always crop in between or partway through the joints, so chest, arms, hips, leg, calves, forehead are acceptable. You can read more about tips on cropping to improve your image on here.

I have photographed many a woman who was very conscious of her body. For example, she was self-conscious of her arms, and yet she turns up in a sleeveless top. In those cases, I zoom in and crop the arms lengthways down so the photo only shows a third of the bare arm.

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You can also crop to reposition your image and strengthen your composition as a result. I find using the rule of thirds as a very strong compositional tool and tend to lean towards it a lot. A symmetrical composition is also strong and effective. This is a good article on factors to consider when composing portraits.

I hope you found these four tips for flattering portraits helpful. If you have more tips to contribute, share them on here in the comments below.

 

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The post 4 Tips for Achieving Flattering Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

What Size Beauty Dish is Right For Your Portrait Photography?

The post What Size Beauty Dish is Right For Your Portrait Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

What Size Beauty Dish is Right For Your Portrait Photography?

Beauty dishes are common and well-loved lighting modifiers. They are particularly useful for portraits (beauty is in the name after all). They also tend to be a lot cheaper than decent sized softboxes. Years ago, your choice of beauty dish was quite limited. Nowadays, if you try searching for beauty dishes, you will be presented with a multitude of options that greatly vary in size and even how they set up.

2- What Size Beauty Dish is Right For Your Portrait Photography?

Although the numbers don’t seem to be that different, the actual sizes of these beauty dishes vary greatly, and they all have a distinct effect on the light in your images.

What do you do when faced with this kind of choice and how do you know what size beauty dish you should buy? This article discusses three common sizes of beauty dishes and shows you what effect they have on your images. All of the beauty dishes discussed here are silver, and none of them are collapsible. As long as they are of decent quality, the fact that a beauty dish is collapsible should have no impact on your images.

What is a beauty dish?

Three different size beauty dishes. Left: 16″ Middle: 20″ Right: 27″

Beauty dishes are bowl-shaped modifiers that are known for the contrasty light they provide. The quality of light is usually somewhere between hard and soft (when brought in close to your subject). This sets them apart from other modifiers, like umbrellas and softboxes, where the goal is to achieve the softest light possible. This allows you to achieve well-defined edges and shadows, but still retain a flattering light on your subject.

This image shows an unmodified beauty dish on the left. A gridded beauty dish in the middle, and a beauty dish fitted with a diffusion sock on the right.

Often, you will find that beauty dishes come with grids and diffusion socks to help modify them further. Grids alter and increase the directionality of the light, while diffusion socks diffuse the light further, softening it a bit and altering the shape.

What sizes are there?

Any search for a beauty dish should reveal a huge amount of results these days. You can find tiny beauty dishes that are only a few inches across that are designed for flashguns and you can find massive beauty dishes that would be ideal for lighting groups of people. This article compares three sizes that fall more into the normal sized category. These are a 27″, 20″ and 16″.

All three beauty dishes were positioned the same distance from the subject to clearly demonstrate the differences in the effect they provide.

1. 27″

At 27-inch in diameter, this beauty dish is at the upper reaches of what you can expect to find in terms of size. When it’s in close, the light it provides is really soft and is comparable to a medium-sized softbox, but with a bit more contrast to it. It also provides large catchlights in your subject’s eyes.

Because of its size, it’s easy to bring the light further away from your subject to achieve a similar effect to that of smaller beauty dishes, while giving you more room to work. This beauty dish would also be great for lighting multiple people, whereas smaller dishes might struggle.

The 27″ beauty dish provides really soft light when placed in close. Pay attention to the shadow and highlight transitions as well as to how the light wraps around the subject.

There are a couple of disadvantages to a beauty dish this big. The bigger the light source is in relation to your subject, the less bright your subject’s eyes are going to be. If you want bright, clear eyes, a smaller beauty dish may be the way to go. It is also harder to control the light fall off (without a grid) as the bigger source will cast more light behind your subject.

2. 20″

The second beauty dish we’re going to discuss comes in at 20 inches. This is pretty close to what may be considered a standard size for a beauty dish (if there is such a thing). Placed a few feet (1-4) away from your subject, the qualities of light it produces are great for all sorts of portraiture and for a wide variety of subjects.

It is great for male and female subjects, though for flattering portraits of older people you may want to consider not using a beauty dish. Instead, opt for large softboxes and umbrellas. As the beauty dish isn’t a great deal bigger than your average subject’s head (from an appropriate distance), you also have good control over the light fall off, and you have even more control when you introduce a grid.

The 20″ beauty dish also provides good, soft light but the edges of the transitions from shadow to highlight are more defined. You’ll also note the light wraps around the subject less and results in darker shadows toward the back of the subject’s head.

3. 16″

This last beauty dish is 16-inches in diameter. This is the size that I have used the most ever since I bought it well over a decade ago. You can see in the images just how battered and well-used it is.

Because it is quite small, it is easy to control and great to bring in really close to your subject. This beauty dish clearly lights and defines your subject’s eyes. The harder light source also provides clearly defined edges between shadows and highlights but in a flattering manner.

If you want to reduce light fall off as much as possible, this size is definitely the way to go. However, if you want to increase it, you are better off with a larger modifier. This is because moving this beauty dish any distance from your subject will result in really hard light that you might find unflattering to most subjects.

The 16″ beauty dish also provides excellent light. Here you can see the transitions from shadow to highlight are clearly defined. Also, the rapid light fall off means the areas towards the back of the subject’s head are more in shadow.

In terms of portability, this size beauty dish is great. It doesn’t weigh very much at all and just carrying it in your hand takes minimum effort.

When used as something other than a key light, this size beauty dish is really effective. Its small size makes it unobtrusive and easy to position anywhere you need, whether that’s for use as a hair light or fill.

What size should you get?

Left: 16″ Middle: 20″ Right: 27″

Some of the differences between these three modifiers can be subtle and hard to spot if you’re new to lighting. If you’re still wondering which you should opt for, my best advice (which is by no means gospel) would be to evaluate what you need it for.

Do you need portability? Get a small one or consider a collapsible one.

Will you be shooting groups of people often? Go for the largest one you can.

Are you shooting in a small space? Go for the small one again.

Are you shooting in a large space where you can’t get the lights very close to your subject? Again, go for the biggest one possible.

Whichever you choose, make sure that it comes with both a grid and a diffusion sock for the most control possible.

No matter which way you choose to go, you are going to find yourself with a versatile and useful modifier that will last you for years.

Have you used these modifiers? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

 

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The post What Size Beauty Dish is Right For Your Portrait Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Your Guide to Studio Lighting Equipment

The post Your Guide to Studio Lighting Equipment appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

There’s a lot of studio equipment to get familiar with and with it, a lot of terms to learn.

If you’re new to studio lighting, it is easy to get intimidated by the amount of stuff you have to learn. The jargon alone is enough to make your head spin. Fortunately, none of the things you need to be successful in the studio are particularly complicated, there is just a lot of it. The purpose of this article is to serve as a primer to introduce you to some of the most basic studio lighting equipment, and terms you will need to navigate a photography studio.

This is not a comprehensive list, and with new tools and techniques being invented all the time, it could never be.

A little warning: Some of these terms are used differently by different photographers. Others get interchanged with one another. While it can be confusing at times, it’s not necessarily wrong. However, it is useful to know about when you hear someone refer to a flag as a gobo or refer to ambient light as continuous light.

Types of light

Strobe – A studio strobe is a dedicated flash unit. They can sometimes be referred to as a monobloc or monolight. Usually mains powered, more battery-powered offerings are being brought onto the market all the time. Power output between models can vary greatly, with cheaper strobes offering as much power as a cheap third-party flashgun.

Strobes are powerful flash units that pretty much dominate studio photography.

Continuous light/HotlightContinuous lights serve the same lighting functions as strobes, but they don’t flash. Instead, they are high-powered lamps that can usually be fitted with modifiers in the same way as strobes. While mostly associated with video, continuous lights still have their place in stills photography. There are a lot of LED lights coming onto the market at the moment, and many of them are viable options.

The hotlight moniker comes from the fact that they tend to get very hot. Be careful with modifiers that sit close to the bulb as they present a fire hazard. This does not apply to LED lights.

Flashgun/speedlightFlashguns are any small light with a hot shoe mount for placing on top of your camera. They are highly portable, and some come with reasonably high power outputs. Although their versatility is ultimately limited to their size and power output, they are still an extremely useful tool for any photographer interested in off-camera lighting.

Flashguns are small but competent light sources that are invaluable for portable studios.

Light functions

Key light – Your key light is the main light with which you are shaping your subject. This will usually be the brightest and most prominent light in your scene.

Fill Light – A fill light reduces the intensity of shadows created by your key light, thereby decreasing the overall contrast in your scene.

Rim light/backlightRim lights light your subject from behind to help separate them from the background. Often, rim lights are positioned so that only a sliver of light is visible on the sides of your subject.

Background light – As it says on the tin: background lights light the background.

Hair light – Hair lights are used to add emphasis to your subject’s hair. They can also be used to help bring up the exposure of your subject’s head if it is blending into the background.

Ambient light – This is any light that is present before the addition of any other lighting sources. This could be from lights in the room or daylight from a window or outside.

Modifiers

UmbrellasUmbrellas usually come in silver or white and can be attached to your strobe via a mount. By firing the strobe into the umbrella (which reflects the light back to your subject), you are creating a much larger light source which creates a softer light. Although mostly directional, umbrellas can have a lot of spill, and they aren’t the easiest modifier to control.

Umbrellas are your most basic modifier. They are good for soft, diffused light, but they are hard to control.

Translucent Umbrellas/Shoot-thru UmbrellasTranslucent umbrellas don’t reflect light, but are instead made of diffusion material which you aim the light through. This softens the light, much in the way of other modifiers, but without the benefit of directionality.

Translucent umbrellas also provide soft light, but they aren’t as directional as softboxes.

SoftboxesSoftboxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Once attached to your light, a softbox acts to shape and soften the light so that it is more flattering. Softboxes also tend to be quite directional, and they are easy to control and further modify.

Softboxes are the workhorse of the photographic studio, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

Strip boxesStrip boxes are softboxes, but they are long narrow rectangles that produce a much narrower beam of light. These are great for lighting a subject from behind for a rim lighting effect.

Striplights are a useful type of softbox that offer very directional light.

Octaboxes – Also a type of softbox, an octabox is octagonal in shape. The rounder light source is useful for shaping the light for portraits. Octaboxes also tend to be quite large, making them an ideal modifier for portraits.

Reflectors (the modifier kind) – The reflector is a modifier that goes directly on your strobe. They channel the light in a specific angle for very directional light. They are also a very hard light source. Most are designed to take a variety of grids.

Reflectors, like this 110-degree reflector, provide a very directional and very hard light source.

Snoots – Snoots are modifiers that are designed to focus your light in a very narrow beam. They are great for both hair lights and background lights.

Snoots direct your light into a very tight and controlled beam.

Barn doors – Barn doors are fitted with two to four flaps for you to manually adjust the aperture the light is let through. These flaps can help you narrow the focus of your light on a specific aspect of your subject (such as their hair), or they can be used to flag the light from hitting a spot that you don’t want it to.

Beauty dishBeauty dishes are directional modifiers that are somewhere in between soft and hard light. They are great for beauty photography (hence the name) as well as fashion and portraiture altogether. They often come with grids and diffusion socks to give you even more options in how to use them.

Beauty dishes offer a contrasty light somewhere between hard and soft.

Grids/HoneycombsGrids are modifiers for your modifiers. Placed on a reflector, or softbox, or beauty dish, they narrow the beam of light further and help to ensure that the light is only falling on your subject (or where you want it to).

Grids help you to further modify the directionality of your light.

Gobo – A gobo is placed in front of a light source to change the shape of the light. This can be as simple as narrowing the beam and be as complicated as creating complex patterns. The easiest way to explain this is to imagine a Venetian blind with light streaming through. Now imagine the pattern on the wall. The blind is acting as an effective gobo and shaping the light.

CTO Gels – Color correction gels are used when you need to correct the color temperature of a given light. For example, if you have a gridded beauty dish that is particularly warm (like mine), and you want to use another light as a hair light, that second light might be very cool compared to your key light. By placing an orange CTO gel on your hair light, you can match and balance the color output of both lights.

Color Gels – You can also use gels towards a creative end. You can gel your lights to produce just about any color that you want to.

Reflectors (the reflective kind) – Reflectors are an important part of any studio kit. These allow you to reflect light from your key light back onto your subject. They are a means of creating a fill light without using a second dedicated light source. Reflectors come in many shapes and sizes, from the ubiquitous 5-in-1 reflectors to fancy tri-flectors sometimes used in beauty portraits.

Reflectors and diffusers are two vital tools when it comes to shaping and controlling your light in the studio. Also shown here is a reflector stand.

Diffuser/Scrim – A diffuser is a piece of translucent material that you place in front of a light source to alter the shape of the light or to reduce the intensity of the light. Some diffusers do both.

FlagsFlags are used to block (or flag) light from falling in your scene where you don’t want it to. You can use them to stop excess light falling on your background, or you can use them to reduce the exposure on the parts of your subject that aren’t the focal point. For example, sometimes, I like to use flags to help underexpose everything from the neck down in close portraits. This helps to ensure that the face is the main focus of the image.

Studio accessories

Light stands – Simply a stand to hold your light source. Ensure you have one that can hold the weight of your light. A high-powered, dedicated strobe requires a lot more support than a speedlight.

This image shows a boom arm attached to a lighting stand on a dolly. It’s a fantastic and versatile bit of kit.

Dolly – A light stand with wheels. Most useful.

Boom arm – A boom arm is a light stand that you can position at any angle between completely vertical and completely horizontal. These are useful to get your lights high up and also to place your light at angles a traditional light stand wouldn’t be able to manage. You can mount different varieties of boom arms to other light stands as well as permanent fixtures like walls.

Reflector Stand – A dedicated stand designed to hold a reflector in place.

Background/backdrop – A backdrop is any surface that you place your subject in front of. These range from paper and vinyl rolls to bare or decorated walls to pieces of painted canvas.

This image shows a painted canvas background. At the top of the frame, you can just see grey and white vinyl rolls on a motorized support system.

Background stand/support – Any support system designed to hold a backdrop in place. These can be free standing or wall mounted.

Clamps – Clamps and other fastening devices come in all shapes. You can (and should) use these to hold all manner of things in place. Backgrounds, flags, reflectors, gels, and many, many other things need to be held in place. For example, bulldog clips are indispensable for holding canvas backdrops up, whilst double-headed clamps can affix to a table and hold a flag or reflector.

This image shows a selection of clamps and clips that will you always find a use for in the studio. The double-headed clamp is holding up a piece of black foam core for use as a flag.

Rails – In bigger studios, you might see lights fixed to fittings on the walls and ceiling. These rails allow you to move your light relatively freely around a space without the hassle of a light stand.

They also help to keep cords out of the way of you and your subjects.

Other

Quality of Light – Quality in this instance refers to the physical characteristics of light. These include shape, intensity, and color.

Lighting pattern – A lighting pattern is a specific technique in which a light is placed in a prescribed manner for predictable and established results. Examples of these include butterfly lighting, Rembrandt lighting, and split lighting.

PC Sync Socket/Cable – The PC sync is a means to connect your camera to a flash with a cable. You can use this option in lieu of triggers.

Triggers – Triggers are devices that allow a camera to communicate with your lights and ensure that your flashes fire while the shutter is open. These range from very basic models with just one function, to complex devices that allow for full control over the settings of multiple lights.

Triggers allow your camera to communicate with your flash so that they work in sync with one another.

Slave mode – In slave mode, a flash will detect the light from another flash via a sensor and fire. This is great in situations where you have multiple lights, but only one basic trigger.

Mount – A mount is the means in which a modifier is attached to a strobe. A lot of lighting manufacturers have their own proprietary mounts associated with their systems (Bowens, Profoto, Elinchrom, etc.) So you will need to ensure that any modifier that you buy will fit the system that you own.

This is the shape of the commonplace Bowens S-mount.

Modeling light – Many strobes come fitted with two bulbs. One is a flashbulb, where your strobe light comes from, and the other is a modeling bulb that is on whenever the strobe is not flashing. This makes it easy for you to see what the light is doing to your subject. As a bonus, if you’ve cut out all ambient light (like you should in a studio environment), modeling lights give you the ability to see.

That’s a start

While this list is not, and can never be, a complete list of studio lighting equipment, it should serve as a decent primer to get you started in the world of studio photography. If you feel that I’ve missed something important, please add it in the comments below.

 

The post Your Guide to Studio Lighting Equipment appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways

The post How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

With a ton of options on the market, adding a ring light to your kit has never been cheaper.

Continuous photography ring lights seem to be everywhere nowadays. There are dozens of offerings from dozens of companies that you can choose from, and they are popular with photographers, make-up artists, and videographers. The main use of a ring light is on-axis lighting for an even, somewhat flat exposure.

However, what do you do if you don’t like that effect or the distinctive ring-shaped catchlight for that matter? Because these lights are continuous, and because of their size, they have more uses than ring flashes of the past. If you don’t like the straight-on effect, you don’t have to use a ring light in that way.

In normal use, you would place the light directly in front of your subject and shoot through the aperture of the light.

This article demonstrates six uses of a continuous ring light that isn’t their intended use. It will also (hopefully) show you that these relatively cheap and effective lights are useful to have for any photographer in the studio.

Normal use

While not to the taste of many photographers, ring lights can be used to create bold and vibrant images.

If you’re unfamiliar, a ring light is a circular, ring-shaped light with a large aperture designed to be placed directly in front of a subject. You then take your images by positioning your camera through the aperture of the ring.

Traditional ring flashes had the light attached to the camera. This front (on-axis) lighting provides an evenly lit image. This is one of those things that you either love or hate, but photographers who love it tend to really love it.

Versatility

With the continuous versions of these lights, you have a wealth of options with how to use a ring light. Because the light is always on, you can position it anywhere you want. With a lot of the options on the market, this gives you a high-powered, lightweight and versatile continuous light for around $100.

Because of the brightness of a continuous ring light, your subject’s pupils will be constricted, allowing you to see more of the color in their eyes.

Here’s a bonus if you’ve never used continuous lights before. Because the output is constant, your portrait subject’s pupils get constricted. This means you will see more of the color of their eyes in your photos.

Options

Below are five examples of ways you can use a continuous ring light to great effect without ever using it as a ring light.

1. As a normal light

Placed at a 45-degree angle and angled downwards, these ring lights work well as normal light source.

Despite its circular shape, ring lights are great when used as a normal light. Raise the light and angle it towards your subject to distort the effect the shape of the light has, and you can use it as a small softbox. You’re not limited to how you can light your subject this way, but I’ve found that all of the basic lighting patterns work well.

You are not limited to the shape of the ring. Use flags to block off portions of the light to shape it however you want.

If you have more than one ring light, you can use them together to create just about any two-light setup that you can imagine. If the ones you have have an adjustable output, managing your key to fill ratios should be pretty easy.

2. As a prop

Having your subject pose with the light itself can create some interesting and fun portraits. It can also help to lighten the mood during a session.

If you have an LED ring light, they don’t get very hot. Feel free to have your subject pose with the light itself for some very different images. The results will vary with ring lights of different sizes, and you have to worry about the plug and the cables, but it’s still a fun technique. Though you probably won’t use it very often thanks to its tendency towards uplighting.

3. As ambient fill

Modern ring lights are getting quite powerful and it is more than possible to use them as fill lighting in conjunction with studio flash.

You can mix any continuous light with studio flashes for some interesting effects. By using a strobe as your key light, you can then bring a ring light in for some gentle fill.

A couple of things that you will want to keep in mind is that your strobes are probably way more powerful than your ring light, so set the power accordingly. Also, you will probably want to have a ring light with an adjustable color temperature if you are going to be mixing light sources.

You could also reverse this and use the ring light as key and flash as fill. As before, make sure the power on your strobes goes down that far before committing to this.

4. As a compositional device

Putting the light behind your subject creates an interesting tool for composition. Also, it may just be me, but I love that rim light that it is producing.

In its normal use, I am a fan of creating a composition with the actual ring light framing the subject. I just like it for whatever reason. However, you are not limited to that. You can place the ring light anywhere in your frame for some cool effects. Try placing one behind your subject for a halo effect, or placing one at an angle just inside your frame for a curved band of light running through the composition.

5. Dragging the shutter

When you’re mixing a ring light with studio flash, it opens the door to some interesting techniques like dragging the shutter. Here, flash is acting as fill and the shutter speed is set to 1/15th of a second.

This is similar to using the ring light as ambient fill, but if you use your strobe normally, you can expose for the high-powered strobe and the low-powered ring light by dragging the shutter.

This technique is not for everyone, but it can produce some interesting results.

A little warning: if you’re a technically-minded photographer, you’re probably going to hate this technique, as the results tend to be a little soft. However, it can be used for some striking results. If you do like it, you still have to be careful with controlling the movement of your camera.

You do have to manage any movement in your camera while using this technique. If in doubt, use a tripod.

Because the power output on your flash is not in any way controlled by shutter speed, you can set your shutter speed as slow as you need to make this work. However, you may want to use a tripod for really slow shutter speeds. This technique can provide some cool effects in its own right, but no two attempts are going to be the same.

That’s it

There you have it. That’s six ways that you can use a continuous ring light without ever having to use it as a ring light. Considering how cheap these things are, they are a very useful tool for any photographer who wants to get into off-camera lighting but for some reason is put off by flash.

Do you have other ways that you use a ring light? Please share with us in the comments below.

 

The post How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Tips to Take Better Photos in Direct Sunlight [video]

The post Tips to Take Better Photos in Direct Sunlight [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Sometimes, as photographers, we don’t always have the luxury of shooting in the lovely early morning/late afternoon light. We just have to shoot in the middle of the day where the harshest light of the direct sun exists.

In this video by Peter McKinnon, he shares his tricks on how to take better photos in direct sunlight so you don’t end up with a bunch of photos that are super-contrasty and leave your model with harsh shadows around their eyes etc.

Tips to Take Better Photos in Direct Sunlight

1. Bounce the light

You could use a reflector or bounce card. Consider using natural reflectors such as light-colored concrete. Concrete acts as a natural reflector for the sun.

2. Diffuse the light

Have someone hold a diffuser in the line of the light source coming from the sun. This will defuse the harshness of the direct sun and soften it on your subject’s face.

Find areas of shade and if

3. Use the shadows to your advantage

If you don’t have a diffuser or a friend to hold one for you and you just have to shoot in the direct sunlight, take advantage of the shadows.

Find great spots (like a staircase) that have interesting patterned shadows to create interesting effects on your subject.

4. Move your model around

Keep in mind the direction your model is facing. Have them move around, and watch how the sunlight hits their face. Have them move until you get the most flattering/even light.

 

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The post Tips to Take Better Photos in Direct Sunlight [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Mix Lifestyle and Posed Photography Styles to Add Variety

The post How to Mix Lifestyle and Posed Photography Styles to Add Variety appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

As photographers, we take time to hone in our craft and practice many hours getting it right. When it comes to photographing people, there are two main approaches in directing clients to get the photos you want. I’ll explain the difference between both, and how to apply the two during the same session to get the most variety in the final gallery that your clients will absolutely love!

Mixing posed and lifestyle can add variety to your photos.

What is lifestyle photography?

Lifestyle photography is when you capture your clients a little more naturally than you would if you were posing them. It’s all about letting the session unfold naturally all while you photograph your couple, family, or individual being themselves.

Lifestyle can mean going for a walk through a botanical garden with your clients.

It’s also about showcasing the person in their daily life or routines too. For example, joining a family as they casually hang out at their home and bake together. Or joining a couple for coffee and a stroll through the park.

Going for coffee while you photograph your clients can also be considered lifestyle.

Lifestyle photography can be both natural or styled. Styled simply means curating the look so that even though the person is hanging out drinking coffee on their sofa, they are dressed and using items that make the photos have a cohesiveness.

Using a styled home can also offer a great location for lifestyle photos of a couple hanging out in the living room.

Much of what you see on Instagram can be considered lifestyle photography.

What is posed photography?

Posed photography is when you are directing your clients to sit, stand, and well, pose exactly how you would like them to. This gives you a more controlled and directive role in addition to being the photographer.

Directing people to pose a certain way is posed photography.

Posed photography can be really beautiful and usually lies in the editorial, fashion, or fine art styles of photography. However, posed photography can be used in every session where you want to control the final pose in your photo.

How to mix both styles to get variety

In a portrait session, it doesn’t matter if it’s family or just one person, mixing the two styles can really help add variety in the final images that you deliver to your client.

Mixing styles

When you’re starting the session, begin with posed photography because most clients are nervous at the beginning of a session. Getting them comfortable posing, and being more direct in how you want them to stand can help them to feel more comfortable in front of the camera.

The photo on the left was lifestyle, and the right is posed. Same family, same session, two different styles that add variety to the final images.

While you’re posing, show your client exactly how you want them to pose rather than merely instructing, which can get confusing.

For example, instead of saying “put your left hand on your right elbow,” you would instead go over to where they are standing and show them how you want them to put the left hand on their right elbow.

This is a quicker way to help your client visually see what you want them to do.

After you’ve posed your client enough, and they seem a little more comfortable in front of the camera, go for the lifestyle approach.

Tell your client to relax and walk around the area. If it’s a family, for example, ask them to walk and talk to each other while telling a funny joke. Make sure to keep your camera at the ready during these times. That way you can achieve photojournalistic style photos that make lifestyle so meaningful.

With children, you can capture them playing with their toys and also get posed photos during the same session.

As you go through the session, keep alternating between posed and lifestyle. You can also pose your clients, a couple, for example, so that they’re facing each other, take a few photos and then ask the couple to say one nice thing about the other.

This is a great way to transition from posed to lifestyle. You will get authentic expressions from the couple because you are putting them in a particular pose then giving them something to do that will seem natural. It’s a perfect mix of the two styles at the same time.

If you’re more comfortable with lifestyle and candid photography styles, don’t be afraid to stop your clients in mid-walk, hug, or whatever they are doing naturally to hold the pose. This is a transition from lifestyle to posed.

Mixing the two styles offers your clients more variety as well as an overall great experience. They will feel more comfortable being in front of the camera because they were allowed to be themselves while you also stopped to make sure to get posed photos as well.

Using both styles will give the session a more fluid flow and also allows your clients to have a good time during the session. This is especially important when photographing children. Letting them play and have a good time while mixing in posed photos will give them a fun experience.

In conclusion

lifestyle-and-posed-photography

Mixing the two styles, lifestyle and posed photography, will add variety to your client’s photos and will also ensure that they have a great experience without feeling stiff or uncomfortable in front of the camera.

 

The post How to Mix Lifestyle and Posed Photography Styles to Add Variety appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

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