Monthly Archives: August 2011
Neil van Niekerk: My top 20 list of flash photography tips:
1. don’t fear your flash
It is entirely possible to get amazing results from your flash. Look at the image above. It’s done with one on-camera speedlight .. bounced properly. It’s actually pretty easy once you get used to it. So hang in there ..
2. you need something better than your camera’s built-in flash
You really do need a speedlight that attaches to your camera’s hot-shoe for best results. You simply can’t get there with just that pop-up flash on your camera. You need something bigger. Something that can rotate and swivel. The manufacturers that try and sell you little add-ons and gizmos and promise you that you will get great results from your pop-up flash after spending a couple of dollars on their crap .. well, they are misleading you. Get a proper speedlight!
3. bigger is better
My advice will always be to get the most powerful speedlight you can afford. The more powerful your speedlight, and the more features it has, the more options you have.
4. bounce your flash for better results
The larger your light-source, the softer the light. For that reason we bounce flash. We’re creating a larger light source. This implies that when we’re working indoors, and we have walls and a ceiling around us, that shooting with direct flash straight-on is possibly the worst that we can do. We may as well have stayed with the pop-up flash, and saved ourselves some money. So, bounce your flash!
5. use that wall as your softbox!
Don’t be stuck in thinking you can only bounce your flash off the ceiling. Bounce your flash off the wall(s) behind you, and beside you. Even try bouncing your flash into the open room behind you.
6. try for directional light
By bouncing off areas to your side, you can get directional light on your subject, instead of flat lighting. Here’s another example.
7. flag your flash
When you bounce your flash to the side, make sure that there is no direct flash spilling on your subject. I use a piece of cheap black foam, held in place with hairbands, to make sure I only get soft indirect light on my subject.
8. allow TTL flash to make your life easier
TTL flash technology can allow you to get great results easily, but …
9. .. nudge your TTL exposure with flash exposure compensation
TTL flash exposure could vary, and it can also give you under or over-exposure. That’s the penalty for getting good results easily .. your exposure may vary, unless you adjust your flash exposure compensation. With practice (and a sneak peek at your camera’s preview), you can pre-judge this to a good degree.
10. TTL flash and manual flash are two very different beasts
You have to understand the difference between TTL flash and manual flash, and how their behaviour differ. They each have their own benefits. There are those photographers who disdain TTL flash, and only push one way of using flash – manual flash. You’ll be a stronger photographer in knowing the differences between manual flash and TTL flash .. and being able to use either with confidence.
11. understand maximum flash sync speed
It is imperative that you understand what maximum flash sync speed is .. and why it is often a sweet spot when you use flash.
12. high-speed flash sync
High Speed Flash Sync (HSS), also known as Auto FP on the Nikon cameras, allows us to go past the limit of maximum flash sync speed. A truly useful feature, but be aware that there is a penalty to be paid for going into the higher shutter speeds while using flash.
13. aperture controls flash exposure? … well, maybe
You will often see this short-cut thrown around. It is true to an extent. But you need to be aware that aperture affects manual flash exposure, but not TTL flash exposure. Similarly, you need to be aware that ISO also affects manual flash exposure.
14. shutter speed controls ambient exposure? .. well, maybe
This is another short-cut which can be misleading since other photographers may well omit in telling you the entire truth … that aperture and ISO also affects ambient light. Where that shortcut – shutter speed controls ambient light – actually kicks in, is for manual flash, where shutter speed becomes the only independent control for ambient exposure. A subtle but important distinction.
15. gel your flash for tungsten!
If you’re using flash in an environment that is predominantly incandescent lighting / tungsten lighting .. and you want your flash to appear more neutral, and not so blue (or your background so grunge-orange), then gel your flash to join the incandescent spectrum .
16. throw away the tupperware
When working indoors, you can most often get the best results by bouncing your flash. You don’t need that expensive piece of plastic that is advertised as being the solution to all your flash photography problems.
17. allow available light in
Sometimes flash is your dominant light source. Sometimes flash is your only realistic choice. But it usually looks better if you allow available light to give you some context and colour and mood.
18. start with the available light, and then add flash
At times it might need a slightly different approach between manual flash, and TTL flash .. but invariably, a good starting point when figuring out what you need to do with your flash, is to start with your ambient light metering and exposure.
19. matching, and even over-powering the sun with flash
We can easily use a speedlight to even out harsh sunlight. But we need to consider our settings. And be aware that going to high-speed flash sync isn’t necessarily our best option here.
20. the end will never be in sight
Learning more about flash photography and lighting is a never-ending journey.
There should always be the aspiration to become better.
That’s the challenge, and that’s also the good news.
By: Scott Bourne
This post was inspired by something I wrote in 2009. Photographers are always trying to improve their portfolio. Here are a dozen ways to make pictures that are guaranteed to improve your portfolio.
1. Photograph the same object over all four seasons or a certain period of time and document it’s change and the changes to its surroundings.
2. Photograph something unique; something you’ve never photographed before.
3. Take a road trip where photography is the only goal.
4. Photograph something inspirational; something that makes you want to do better, be better or hope for better.
5. Photograph something that makes you smile; it will probably make someone else smile too.
6. Photograph something controversial; if it’s controversial, it will cause people to react.
7. Spend a weekend shooting with and mentoring a new photographer. Nothing inspires learning and improvement in your photography like having to teach someone else.
8. Photograph something that gives a sense of belonging; people gravitate toward tribes.
9. Photograph something that tells a story; you’ve heard the phrase “A picture is worth 1000 words?”
10. Photograph something over and over and over; the more you get to know a subject, the better you’ll be at photographing it.
11. Spend time on a personal project. Don’t shoot anything but images for that project for a week. Then select the best image from that project for your book.
12. Photograph something through a child’s eyes. Think about how a five-year-old sees the world. Shoot like that.
Improving your portfolio is not about improving your gear. It’s about improving your eye, your mind, your patience, your perseverance, your dedication, your work ethic, your desire to achieve, your ability to relate and your hope for a better result. Go out and shoot like that.
This post sponsored by BorrowLenses.com – Renting Canon, Nikon, Olympus & Sony, bodies, lenses and more.
Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 – All Rights Reserved
Finding inspiration can sometime be tough, and nobody can tell you to get inspired but there are some places you can try to get that kick-start you need!
Yourself. Inspiration comes from within. It does not matter how you are feeling! Use the way you are feeling for inspiration – Whether you are happy, depressed, lazy or feel like an “Energizer” bunny. Try to take a photo that reflects your current state of mind. It might not be what you like, but by doing that you will soon find the way you feel are changing and then you can continue the way you like! You are Unique! – Get Inspired!
Blogs.There are many blogs on photography and inspiration. Surf the blogs for inspiration on the topic for your next assignment or any subject that will entertain you’re thought of mind. Check out Galleries and equipment posts , anything that you enjoy! – Get Inspired!
Magazines. Subscribe to magazines on Photography or Cameras. Even magazines on art will be able to get your creative juices flowing. It does not matter, whatever suits you’re fancy. You know what will rock your boat! Go out and get a magazine! – Get Inspired!
Social Networks. Get involved in social networks on the topics you like. Google+, Facebook, Twitter and the numerous photo sharing sites have an endless stream of connections. You are sure to find People to connect to and topics to join on these sites. Engage, Talk, and discuss! Besides that you can enjoy other peoples work and learn through enjoying and engaging – Get Inspired!
Camera Retailers. Get to a local camera shop and have a look at the old stuff, the new stuff and everything in between. Spend some time discovering the things you need in your trade. You don’t have to buy anything (Even better if you do, nothing like some new stuff to try out to get you inspired) after being in these surroundings for a while you will feel different and maybe, just maybe you will get going! – Get Inspired!
Surrounding. Change your surrounding. Get in your car and drive out of town with your gear in tow. If you can not do that, visit somewhere new. A change in scenery is a sure-fire way to make you feel different. – Get Inspired!
Portfolio. Have a look at your portfolio and see what you think can add or change to improve it. Even looking at the work you have done might be enough to spur you on to improve or at least to do something as spectacular as your previous work! – Get Inspired!
I Really hope you will find this helpful! Go get inspired and enjoy your photography!
Since I bought my first camera back in 1983 (Awesome Yashica FXD Quartz) I had an on/off relationship with photography. Mostly off I might add. After my initial interest and a short spell working as a freelance Photographer for a local newspaper, life happened and photography took a back seat to everyday existence.
Recently I sort of revived the interest and like so many things in life the whole landscape has changed. Cameras, Equipment, Hardware, Software, Photoshop, Internet and so much more! However I decided to take the bull by the horns and go for it. It might not go as quick or as smooth as I would like it to go due to circumstances, but no-one ever said it was going to be easy! Still, everything seemed a bit daunting and difficult!
My initial connection came about as a result of curiosity and my love for new technology and gadgets. Since then, (Remember, only a couple of weeks) it has quickly evolved into something much more substantial. Connecting to Photographers from all over the world and being able to see their photographs, read their advice, seeing what equipment they are using, the settings they used for a photo and even the stories behind some Photos are just mind-boggling. At first, an under the radar +1 confirmed that a photo was nice. Later that also evolved, and now a much more reserved +1 will confirm that the photo touched me in some way and is inspiring to me.
I would like to mention each and every photographer on Google+ here and pay some tribute to them for inspiring me and for truly having influenced me and helping me making my mind up to take photography more seriously and to the next level.
Here are two lists from which I am sure you will find some photographers on Google+ that will inspire you and maybe mean as much to you as some of them meant to me!
Thank you guys!
This Video really gives me goosebumps and I know that it is not blog specific but I am sure that you can draw some inspiration from it!
Last month I wrote about shooting/seeing like no one is watching. I should have knocked on wood. Literally overnight, the comments, votes and favoriting of my pictures on facebook, flickr and 500px dropped to zero. Nothing, zilch. Suddenly, like a self-help guru on the verge of calling his mother for help, I had to remind myself of my own words… and then… eat them. Not a tasty dinner, either.
A lot of you wrote comments thanking me for the encouragement my last bit of writ provided; and as of even last week comments were still coming in. I’m so glad you were all encouraged because now I’m having to walk the walk I talked, and it’s not easy. Simply just being a human being means that I crave interaction and acceptance in some form or fashion. For us who photograph, it means we crave others’ interaction and acceptance of our art, and in this age of social media, this need is deeply fueled by a thousand applications, a million users, and a hundred thousand searches; a book of faces, a chattery bird limited to 140 characters, the word flicker missing an “e” and hundreds of other locations on the “interwebz”. Our need to be seen, to interact, and to be accepted has been exponentially magnified. Gone is the day where one solitary black and white picture of a sailor kissing a nurse under a rainfall of confetti on the front of a newspaper page identified the mood of an entire nation. Now we have entire revolutions being picture-casted by the general populace.
Or is it? Might it be possible to define the mood of a country, a region, a culture, an event, a single life with one picture? It is possible. Shooting/seeing like no one is watching does not mean you are taking photographs without purpose or that you are not taking pictures for others to see. Far from that! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get back to basics and seek out those elusive, solitary defining images and moments and capture them. To be free from being trapped inside a certain technique or calling on Captain Photoshop to rescue every image. How do you do this, you ask?
As Thomas Leuthard writes in his wonderful eBook “Going Candid- an unorthodox approach to street photography”:
“You should not waste your time with processing and the technology. Get the basics about photography and your camera and that’s it. The rest you learn… by taking photos. It’s all about the eye, your eye. You have to see things before you can capture them. No matter what camera you are using, first you have to see what is going on, first you have to realize what is happening next and second you have to virtually compose the photo. Forget your camera. A lot of people care more about cameras, lenses, equipment, file formats and other technical things. Forget all about technology and camera settings. You have to train your eye first, before you can think about capturing a scene.”
Defining moments are waiting for you to be a part of them, not for you to observe them. My wife is expecting our second child at the beginning of next year. For me, thinking about seeing my new child, I realize I need to not be “the photographer” for my new child but “the father” for my new child. Sure, I’ll have my camera in hand, but I’m going to forget about what the aperture is or what settings I’m using and just take a few pictures when I see what I want to remember. It’s more about being in the right place at the right time than it is about having the right white balance setting at the white time. All of the photographs I admire and revisit are ones where the photographer was caught in the moment and simply triggered the shutter. I don’t sit there critiquing the blurriness or the under/overexposure of the images; I sit there and am moved by the moment they have frozen in time.
Be a part of the moment. Get back to basics. Forget about who likes you and who doesn’t. Capture the moment. Freeze time. Use an iPhone, a point and shoot, a box with a bit of film and a pinhole — whatever is at hand. Whatever it takes to define the moment you are in. Put your eye through boot camp. Just take the picture. If you let the picture speak for you, I believe that there is an audience waiting for its voice.
I’m reminded of a favorite movie of mine, The Matrix, where Neo is being trained on how to fight and keeps failing at getting to Morpheus, despite his best efforts. Morpheus looks at him and says “Stop trying to hit me, and hit me!” I think it’s time to stop trying to be a photographer, and be a photographer. That’s where the learning, the journey and the discovery are.
(The image above was shot over my shoulder without checking settings on a Canon Rebel XT using a 50mm f1.4 lens.)
Next month, The Lost Art of Shooting in Manual Mode.
I’m a Canon fan boy obsessed with DoF, 50mm lenses, low ISO and in-camera shooting. If you don’t know what any of that means, I’d love to tell you. If you do know what those mean and realize that I really am just obsessed with getting cool bokeh with low megapixel cameras, then we might just be on the same page. I’ve been shooting film since age 15, went digital over 5 years ago and shooting weddings and portraits semi-pro/part-time for the last 3 years.