Tomorrow I’m excite to have Nicola from Nicola Herring Photography over to talk about lighting. If you aren’t familiar with Nicola’s work you have to check her out at http://nicolaherring.com/. Her newborn work is incredible as well as her wedding photography!
Mixing ambient light and flash, can be a tricky thing. The biggest hurdle that most people can get frustrated with is White Balance. The biggest white balance delima for most photographers is dealing with tungsten or incadescent lighting and trying to mix that with flash. Now I realize these aren’t amazing pictures, but I was just trying to demo a concept.
In the below image, the far left picture is shot available light only with white balance set to tungsten/incandescent(2850K). The middle image is the same camera settings, except just adding flash. The flash was a speedlight with a Rogue Flash Bender as the modifier. Notice how the flash creates a blue hue across the image. Speedlights/strobes are supposed to be white balanced for daylight approx (5500K). That’s a lot cooler than the 2850K tungsten color temperature. This can be very tricky to think about. Usually when we think of something having a higher temperature as being warmer, and something with a lower temperature as being cooler. However when it comes to light temperature the opposite of what we naturally think is true, color temperatures over 5000K are considered cool and temperatures under 3500K are warmer colors. If you really think about this you can figure it out. For example, when you light a match the flame is yellow, however when you light your gas stove the flame is blue. This is because gas burns hotter (blue) than wood (warm). Make sense?
In general it is a good practice to have all of your light sources to have the same color temperature if you want them to blend well. So in order to take a color temperature strobe from 5500K to 2850K we need to warm up the temperature of the strobe. This is where gels come in handy. CTO (Color Temperature Orange) is a standard gel that takes a daylight temperature strobe and balances it with 2850K tungsten light. The result is a constant light temperature across the image at 2850K. I know this wasn’t an exhaustive study on light, but I hope it spurs some thought and creativity.
I just threw this pic in for fun. I only took one shot, so I realize I could have made several changes. First the vase is backwards, the sticks should have been towards the back of the flowers not in front. Second, I would have picked a different gel color, but hey I was rushing around. Anyway what I wanted to demonostrate was two concepts. First concept is shooting on a gray seamless allows the addition of color into your image by putting colored gels over your stobes. This was lit with 2 strobes. The key/fill light was just a shoot through umbrella camera left at 45°. The background light was above and slightly behind the flowers without any modifier on it. The second thing I wanted you to notice is the fall off on the background light. I felt by gelling this light, it accented the fall off of a bare bulb strobe. (yeah yeah, I hear the critics saying that by gelling the strobe I’m diffusing the light, so it’s not really a bare bulb, but come on it’s close enough and get’s the point across.)
Yesterday after my little girl woke up from her nap, she wanted to play in the basement. I thought that was fine, because I had some work to do as well. She grabbed her rocking chair and ran over to my studio setup, and said, “Daddy, take picture!”. I couldn’t say no, if someone in my house is begging for me to take their picture I jump. So I flew upstairs, grabbed my camera and whipped together a quick setup. Hair a mess, a white onesie, dirty jeans and silly socks (I bet nobody has had quite this put together of a model!)
Here’s the setup: Gray Seamless backdrop : 1 strobe (no modifier) mounted above the model aimed at the backdrop : 1 strobe w/ beauty dish and diffuser in front and above the model angled at approx. 45°. That’s it, really simple.
Recently, I've had a few inquiries about concert photography. When I first got started out in photography I was shooting a lot of sports and concerts. I really love concerts, and to this day it is still probably my most favorite thing to shoot, even though I don’t shoot a lot of it any more. I've had the opportunity to photograph main stream artists like Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and the Jonas Brothers to name a few, as well as smaller market artists at local shows and conferences. My motto when photographing concerts is "Shoot tight and use the light". Stick with this plan and you'll come away with some amazing pics. Let's look into this.
- Shoot Tight – I'm a fan of tight cropping when shooting photography. Why? Because I can and the general public can't! As a photographer at a concert you have a 'Press Pass', and this will gain you most of the time better angles and options for covering the concert. Plus hopefully you have the gear, and John Q Public is shooting with his cell phone. Speaking of gear, my favorite photography lens of the past was the f/2.8 400mm. However, since I only had access to that lens when I was shooting with the local media, my current lens of choice is the f/2.8 70-200mm. As a photographer you want to create images that showcase the subject in a way they aren't seen normally. So in concert photography, most people are going to walk away with pictures where the artist is a little spec in the frame, so when you take an image you want to give the viewer a sense like they are right on stage with the artist.
** Side Note ** When shooting a concert with a media pass, you are often limited to what songs and how long you can shoot. Usually main stream artist restrict shooting to the first two songs. One time I was photographying Carrie Underwood and I was only allowed to shoot songs 2-4. When I arrived at the venue I was assigned a security guard and given my position on the floor. I was about 3/4 of the way down a stage that extended out into the crowd. In the first song Carrie came right over to where I was and she sang half of her first song right in from of me. So close in front of me I would could have grabbed her ankle without hardly extending my arm. However, due to her rules, I had to keep my camera on the floor and couldn’t shoot anything. I had to wait for song 2, which of course as planned, she proceeded back to the main stage, which forced me to use the f/2.8 400mm to crop in tight.
Take a good look at the picture below… Anybody know who is pictured below?
- Use the light – When shooting a main stream artist, they have professional lighting crews, don't fight it use it. Lighting in concert photography is always changing, so you are best to shoot in one of two modes: Manual or Aperture Priority. I really recommend Manual mode. The reason I prefer manual mode is because when using Aperture Priority in a drastic light changing environment such as a concert is that your meter can have a tendency to slow your shutter speed down thinking you need more light due to the often large areas of 'black'. This leaves your subject, in this case the artist, way over exposed. Typically at a main stream concert the lighting on the main artist will remain pretty steady, it's everything around them that's changing. It doesn't take more than about 15 seconds into the first song for me to figure out my exposure. When I shoot concerts my aperture is always f/2.8 or as wide as it will go. This means I only have to think about my shutter speed, and I can vary this by 1/3 stops as I'm shooting.
Another rule of mine when shooting concert photography is 'NO FLASH'. Sometimes artists will restrict the use of flash any way, but I don't like to use flash as it can create a different mood than what is at the concert. The image of Keith Urban below, I think is really cool with all variation of lights.
- When To Go Wide – There is a time and place for wide-angle shots in concert photography. Two times I use my wide angle lens (17-55mm) are
- Capture the crowd.
- Create environment
This coming weekend is Vision Conference, a Christian teen leadership conference with Bible teaching and worship bands here in Lancaster. In the years past I have donated my photograph services to help out, and have loved every minute of it. This year I’ll be out of town on business, so it won’t work out. However here are some compilation from a few years back that demonostrate the use of tight cropping and wide angles and how they came together.
Have a local band, know a main stream band that needs photographing? Let me know, we’d love to talk about covering your event!
- Happy Shooting!
This past weekend we spent time up at my in-law's farm. It was a cold windy day outside, but inside was wonderful!
The lighting in these shots was amazing. There was lots of pure natural light just pouring in through the sliding doors. Let's look at the setup:
- Lighting: Behind me was a large sliding door about 12 feet back.
- ISO: 800 – So I could get my shutter speed higher to remove any sudden moments.
- Shutter Speed: 1/250 – 1/320
- Aperture: f/2.8
- Focal Length: 17-55mm
The best way to photograph children is to get down on their level. So many people just shoot a child from a standing adult perspective. Get down on the floor and engage with the child on their level. Normally I would shoot with a telephoto lens, but often with children that it can be difficult to engage with them from a distance. So I find myself being creative with my 17-55mm f/2.8 when shooting children. In the first image below you can see Carter is reaching for his toy which was right at the end of my lens. Don't forget to get down and get involved when it comes to shooting kids!
Today my little 4 1/2 month old guy, went to the doctors for a wellness visit. I was so much better at getting pictures of my daughter (our first born), but with Carter there’s so much happening at home, that he I just don’t pull out my camera and start shooting. Saturday I had some time with Carter while my wife was helping Kate with a bath.
Our living room has a really large set of windows from floor to ceiling on a 10′ peak that faces North. This allows for amazing soft natural light to flow into our living room.
Notice the shallow depth of field (you can see it on the carpet below). The focus was on Carter’s right eye at f/2 on a f/1.4 50mm lens. The reason I chose f/2, is for two reasons really. The first reason is I need a large aperture for the fastest shutter speed in available light since Carter doesn’t sit still. The second reason is like the first, in that I need a larger depth of field than f/1.4 in order to give my focus a chance on a moving target. I found f/2 to be a nice balance in this instance.
Shooting Toddler’s Tip: When shooting toddlers or babies, it’s best to shoot in soft available light. This allows the child to move a bit as well as be comfortable in their environment. Flash or studio strobes can produce a lot of blinking in a child and can be startling and cause your infant to cry. When looking for soft available light in your house, find a North facing window as this will produce the softest light. Be creative in positioning your child in relation to this window as you can produce different lighting affects based on your child’s position to the window. For example, all of the images above have Carter between me and the window creating a back light.