Master Photography Class

With a little imagination – anything is possible.

The Right Light

Within any given 24 hours the light around us is continually changing. Now for a photographer this can be either a fantastic thing or an annoyance. The sensational aspect of changing light is that it offers us a huge range of moods, colours, contrasts and shadows to choose from. While on the other side of the coin, once we have the “perfect light” for our chosen shot, it will only last a brief period of time.

Early morning and evening will often produce soft, warm light that is wonderful to photograph in. These times also create the longest shadows of the day and the luminance range in the foreground tends to be low because the sun is oblique to surfaces, the light is weak and shadows fill the textures. As the sun rises the shadows become shorter, the surfaces receiving light increase and become brighter. The affect of this is that the shadows don’t lighten at the same speed, resulting in an increase in the difference between bright areas and shadows, which increases the contrast.

Low warm light at sunset.

Low warm light at sunset.

Long shadows cast in late afternoon.

Long shadows cast in late afternoon light.

The colour of light is affected by the time of day, for example light around midday appears white because any colour looks white when it is bright enough. At this time of day the sky is blue because the molecules in the air scatter more blue light than red light. In contrast, when the sun is low in the sky it is less bright and is redder because blue light has been scattered out and away from the solar light rays, leaving red and yellow as predominant colours in the sky. Salt particles in the air enhance the orange of sunsets over the ocean.

Photographed just before noon, vibrant contrasty colours.

Photographed just before noon, vibrant contrasty colours.

Just after noon. Rich blues both above and below in the Kimberleys.

Just after noon. Rich blues both above and below in the Kimberleys.

Sunrise on the edge of the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia.

Sunrise on the edge of the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia.

Many cameras will offer you colour balance capabilities with various white balance settings. If you are taking pictures in a heavily shaded area the images will often appear “cold”, with a blue hue to them. To compensate try altering your white balance settings in camera to add more warmth into the picture. When often refer to colours as being cool or warm, as cool colours fall into the blue/green colour spectrum while warm colours include red/yellow/orange colour spectrums. Candlelight for example is a very warm light while shaded areas and flash light produce cold light. Experiment with your colour balance settings to improve your pictures.

September 10, 2009 Posted by | Landscapes | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using Fill In Flash and Reflectors

Using Reflectors and Fill In Flash.

I love using natural, available light. However there are situations where there is an imbalance in the luminance range that requires light to be reflected or bounced back into the shadow areas. There are two basic ways to achieve this; firstly by using a reflector such as a purchased silver or gold reflector or a home- made piece of white card. I use both in the Studio and the silver and gold reflectors out on location as they fold up into a very convenient size that fits easily into my camera bag. Secondly you can use fill in flash to put light into the shadow areas.

When using a reflector you can achieve a variety of qualities by varying the size of the reflector, varying the distance of the reflector to the subject and by using reflectors with different surfaces and colours.  Using coloured reflectors will add the colour to your subject so be careful that the colour cast is what you are wanting in the picture. You could try using mirrors or metal foil if you are wanting a strong, sharp bounce back. You can also use a black card to diminish the light reflected onto the subject and this is referred to as a “negative reflector”. We sometimes use this in the studio to absorb stray light and to add light contrast to the picture. I love using reflectors and bounce boards because the produce a very natural and soft feel to the pictures, and like you have just discovered they can be a very cheap and helpful piece of photographic equipment.

Flash Photography.
One of the biggest mistakes when using flash to light a picture is the “over powering” of the flash. If this happens yours photographs will have a very bright foreground and in some instances a pitch black background because the light from a flash falls off very quickly. Direct flash is hard light and can make your subject look flattened out and harsh shadows are thrown onto objects behind.

To achieve a more even and flattering result, lower the intensity or output of you flash (if your camera allows), some cameras with inbuilt flashes will let you set your flash to under-expose by one, two or more stops, so experiment with this to get a feel for the results. Another way of diminishing the power of the flash is to place a piece of translucent paper, very light gauze or plastic over the flash. You might even like to try putting coloured gels over the flash to create interesting colour effects. This may sound a little crazy but that is exactly what we used to do as press photographers before purpose built diffusers were made.

If you are able to move the direction of your flash you can then direct it to bounce the light off a wall or ceiling. The light then reaches your subject after reflecting off these surfaces which softens the light for a more natural look. Obviously lighter surfaces are more efficient at reflecting the light back so shoot a few variations in exposure and flash strength to get the best result.

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Direct flash - harsh cold unflattering light that leaves an ugly shadow

Flash head aimed at the ceiling - softer more flattering light - no ugly shadow

Flash head aimed at the ceiling - softer more flattering light - no ugly shadow

Single flash off camera at a 45 degree angle to subject-creates interesting shadows

Single flash off camera at a 45 degree angle to subject-creates interesting shadows

A flash either side at a 45 degree angle creates a very pleasant result. Then tweek it in photoshop.

A flash either side at a 45 degree angle creates a very pleasant result. Then tweek it in photoshop.

More advanced cameras will allow you to remove the flash from camera and link to slave units which allow for multiple flashes to be fired simultaneously, this is possible using ; a sync-cord tethered between camera and flash, or from radio wave or photo-sensitive flash units. The advantage of moving your flash off the camera is that it gives you greater control and creativity when it comes to the direction of the light. It will also eliminate red eye that often occurs with cameras that have a built in flash that is very close to the lens because the light reflects against the subject’s retinas and appears red.

Single flash off camera - about three steps to the left of camera- lights the subject and makes the background darker and stronger.

Single flash off camera - about three steps to the right of camera- lights the subject and makes the background darker and stronger.

Some people think that you only use flash inside when in fact, flash can be used very successfully outdoors as well as indoors. If the sun is coming from behind your subject you will need to bounce light back into the subject or fill flash. Sometimes it isn’t possible to have sunlight in the perfect spot because of the location so using fill in flash outdoors is a very good idea. Your pictures will have a better balance of light that will give your photographs better colour saturation.

See more examples of fill in flash and reflectors at http://www.lsp.com.au/

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Using Flash | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Photographing Family Portraits

FAMILY PORTRAITS

When shooting family portraits it is important to do some pre planning with your prospective model/client to decide on the style of the portrait, the location of the portrait, and therefore the time of day you will shoot the family portrait.

The style of family portrait also determines the clothes that are worn which will give the pictures a certain look and feel. There are so many variations on this theme from very formal attire, like suites and evening dresses, to the very casual family portrait with everyone in their bathers.

The great news is that there are no rules. You can successfully merge formal clothes with informal locations and visa-versa if you choose, or keep all the ingredients of the family portrait unified.

Family Portrait - Formal clothes in an informal location.

Family Portrait - Formal clothes in an informal location.

The portrait of the girls above was shot using a 70mm lens at 125th of a second with an f-stop of 8 and an ISO of 320.

When you are photographing people it is very important to help them feel at ease, because not too many people feel naturally comfortable in front of a camera. So don’t rush either yourself of your models, take your time and have a good look around your location to select the best spots to shoot the portrait. Have fun and enjoy the experience, chat, laugh and joke with your models and you will all feel better.

One way to help people to feel comfortable is to shoot their family portraits in locations they are familiar with like their home or their farm. The portrait below was shot on the family farm, I love this shot it is such a blokes pic.

Family portrait on the family farm.

Family portrait on the family farm.

Another way of creating a more interesting look to your portraits is to shoot them from different camera angles. A higher camera angle is fantastic and is also the most flattering angle to photograph people from. The portrait below was shot in the family’s front yard and the high angle was perfect for getting rid of distractions that were in the background, and the paving bricks added a great texture to the picture.

Family portrait from a high angle in black and white.

Family portrait from a high angle in black and white.

Using props that people love, like cars and motorbikes, can really add something special to their portrait. They also help to structure the portrait by giving people a place to sit or rest on, instead of standing straight up and down. Structure and set up is critical in every portrait and avoiding the old “line-up” type of picture will make your pictures look better instantly.

Use props like that are important to your models.

Use props that are important to your models.

See more examples of family portraits at http://www.lsp.com.au/ andhttp://lloydsmithstudios.wordpress.com/

July 23, 2009 Posted by | People Portraits | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Make sure you Back Up your Digital Photographs

Storage of digital photographs is easier and more affordable than ever, with great options available to suit everyone’s needs. Image storage is a very important topic, can you imagine losing all those family memories or those digital photographs that you have spent hours getting “perfect”?
Believe me you do not want to experience image loss. I will share a personal story and some pictures with you at the end of this post.
It is important to remember that if you have your images stored on the same device (no matter how many copies you have) you simply don’t have a back-up copy. This may sound obvious but it is often the simple things in life that can bring us unstuck. So what are your options?
Storing your digital photographs to CD offers a safe, convenient and cost efficient method. You can have your images on your computer hard drive and back them up regularly to CD, most computers have an internal CD burner (if it doesn’t you can purchase an external burner for as little as $100.00).
There are two types of recordable CD available: CD-R and CD-RW. The R stands for recordable and the RW stands for re-writable. With a CD-R disc you can record until the disc is full, but you cannot remove an image once it is full. This is my preference of CD because you cannot make a mistake and delete an image. With a CD-RW you can write data (digital photographs) and then if you choose you can remove and add images ongoing. The manufactures of CD-R claim they will last as long as 100 years, while CD-RW will start to degrade after around 30 years.
The upside is they are cheap, so be extra safe and make an extra copy of those important images. The major down side of CD storage is the capacity, which is fixed to around 700 megabites of data. So let’s have a look at using DVD as a storage device (DVD stands for digital video disc). A big difference between CD and DVD is storage capacity: CD = 700MB and DVD = 4.7 Gigabites. However the lifespan of DVDs is not as long as CDs, and you can experience some difficulties with both writing and reading DVDs with some computers.
In the Studio we use DVDs as one of three methods to back all of our images (along with hard drives and external hard drives).
As we discussed in our last post you can hold vast amounts of data on memory cards which is fantastic, but I think it’s a great (and safe) idea to download your digital photographs whenever you can. For example you can download your pics to your desk top computer, your lap top computer, or a portable storage unit. Remember memory cards can be damaged or lost, and those important photographs are gone forever!
There are a range of portable hard drives available that are brilliant when you are travelling and away from your computer. Some of these multimedia storage viewers have 10cm screens so you can view your photographs and even edit and connect to a printer for instant output. They have storage capacity up to 160 Gigabites, which works perfectly when you are back from your photographic safari as an external hard-drive.
I have owned an Epson multimedia storage device for number of years and it has been sensational. I use it to download and backup wedding images on the fly, and it has travelled to Saudi Arabia, America, China, Indonesia, Thailand and around Australia with me backing up images as I shoot them in the field.

Epson multi meadia player

Epson multi meadia player

Now back to that horrible experience I had while on assignment in Broome. I was photographing at the very beautiful Eco Beach Wilderness Retreat in Broome and had completed a full day of shooting and filled a number of compact flash cards. Unfortunately I decided to download the images to the Art Directors laptop before downloading to my Epson and his card reader had a bent pin which shorted the card and corrupted the images. This card had all of the days aerial photographs on which were shot from a helicopter that was costing the client $600.00 per hour and we were unable to reschedule the chopper. So you can imagine how fast my pulse was racing when we could not open one image.
Fortunately there is a happy ending. The technology boffins at Team Digital were able to rescue the images and here are a few of them. Thank goodness. Here are some of the images that were recovered from the damaged memory card. Images by Lloyd-Smith Photographics.

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Aerial photography in Roebuck Bay Broome

Beach walk at Eco Beach Resort shot from a chopper

Beach walk at Eco Beach Resort shot from a chopper

Fishing in Broome

Fishing in Broome

Admiring the view at Eco Beach Resort Broome

Admiring the view at Eco Beach Resort Broome

July 16, 2009 Posted by | Image Storage | , , , | 1 Comment

Capturing and Storing your Digital Files

Digital cameras use removable storage cards to capture and store images. There are quite a variety of memory cards available, but it isn’t too confusing deciding which one you need because most digital cameras only use one sort.

Some of the more popular memory cards include;

SD (Secure Digital) which are a very popular memory card type as they are small, reliable, and have a high capacity.

SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) which look identical to an SD card, however these memory cards employ a new technology, giving them a greater capacity than SD cards. You should be aware that while you are able to us SD cards n the majority of cameras that support SDHC the same is not true in reverse so make sure you check before purchasing one.

Compact Flash cards are in larger, high end digital cameras and they come in a very wide variety of storage capabilities scaling all the way up to 16 gigabites of picture data.

Some camera manufacturers have their own memory devices like the xD-Picture Card designed by Fuji and Olympus, and Sony’s Memory Stick.

It is always wise to read through your digital cameras manual (I know it can be boring and sometimes a little confusing but you may learn a few things and can save you some heartache and frustration) to see what maximum capacity memory card your camera will allow because some older cameras won’t accept new high capacity memory cards.

Speed is also worth looking at when purchasing a memory card. Speed refers to the time it takes for your images to be recorded onto the card and how long for the images to be downloaded onto your computer. You can view the speed which is marked on the card with a number and an x sign : 66x, 90x, 133x etc. The higher the number, the faster the memory card. Speed is important when you are shooting a lot of pictures quickly because if the card is too slow there will be a delay between pictures as the image takes time to buffer. So if you hate missing pictures (I know I do) then go for the fastest card speed possible.

As a professional photographer who shoots enormous numbers of images every week, it is important to employ efficient digital asset management systems. Now that is simply a fancy way of saying  I need to store and catalogue my images. Now you may not have as many images as me to worry about but as your photographic library increases you will need to think about where to store your pictures.  So that’s what we will discuss next and show you how not to bog your poor old computer down to a snails pace.

Compact Flash memory card

Compact Flash memory card

SD Secure Digital memory card

SD Secure Digital memory card

July 15, 2009 Posted by | Image Storage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Which Digital Camera is best for you?

Digital Cameras and which style suits you best.

One of the most asked questions I get is – which digital camera do you think I should buy? Today we have a huge array of digital cameras to choose from so let’s have a look at the options available to you regarding point and shoot or digital SLR (single lens reflex), so you can make an informed decision.

Point and shoot digital camera.

Point and shoot digital camera.

Point and shoot digital cameras are simple to use and are small and compact making them very convenient when you are out and about. They are usually less expensive than a digital SLRs but have great functions on them like auto-focus, auto-exposure, built in flash and many others depending on the brand and model. One feature I would look for in a point and shot digital camera is the having the ability to take it off automatic mode giving you more creative input. The down side to point and shoot cameras include; the pixel size which is limited due to the compact nature of the camera and having a fixed lens.

Digital SLRs are often referred to as dSLRs and with these cameras you have an enormous selection of lenses to choose from, giving you very powerful creative control. As examples of this you can use wide angle lenses which are great for travel photography and landscape photography, macro lenses which allow you to photograph small objects like flowers, and telephoto lenses which are ideal for portrait photography and sport photography. Point and shoot digital cameras don’t offer this flexibility.
It’s not just the ability to change lens that makes dSLRs more advanced, but also their options for giving you greater creative control over exposure, focus, color, and image pixel size. Many point and shoot cameras produce excellent images, however  dSLRs have larger image sensors and as we will discover shortly – not all pixels are created equal.

Digital SLR camera.

Digital SLR camera.

High end digital cameras have bigger sensors than point and shoot cameras, and if you were to put the same number of pixels on a large sensor and a small sensor, the camera with the larger sensor will produce better quality pictures. So even if a point and shoot camera has 10 megapixels it won’t produce as high a quality image as a 10 megapixle digital SLR.
Digitals SLRs also have facilities like the ability to use external flashes, either on the cameras hot shoe or with connecting cords or radio slaves. They can also be connected to lighting systems such as studio lights. Another feature is their ability to photograph at up to 14 frames per second which is ideal for fast moving subjects like sport or even the kids! They are also built tough to withstand more rugged use and conditions.
The down side of dSLRs is that they are more expensive than their point and shoot cousins and can be a little overwhelming with all of the bells and whistles, but if you are serious about your photography then eventually you will probably be using a digital SLR camera.
With digital cameras, resolution refers to the cameras pixel count. Pixels make up the cameras image sensor that absorb light and transforms that into a digital photograph. Today’s digital cameras have such high resolutions that their pixel counts are in the megapixels, that means one megapixel is equal to one million pixels.
Let me give you and example of how many pixels you need to produce a certain size photograph.
10cm x 15cm photograph = 1 megapixel
13cm x 18cm photograph = 1.5 megapixels
20cm x 25cm photograph = 3 megapixels
28cm x 36cm photograph = 6 megapixels

To create crisp, sharp images for print you need to be aware of these basic figures. So if you think you will be having your photographs enlarged or cropped on a regular basis then a high pixel count will be necessary. However if most of your images will either be printed as small post card sized prints or displayed mostly on computer screens then the pixel size can afford to be smaller. The fantastic news is that pretty much all digital cameras manufactured in the past five years have enough pixels to be used to share quality images over the internet or used for blogs and websites.

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Digital Cameras | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Great Portraits – Photographing People

I have spent my entire professional photographic career, now going on 27 years, employed to photograph people from all walks of life, and I love it. People portraits come in so many variations and that is because every portrait subject is different, which makes taking people pictures so much fun. My time in the media as a photojournalist allowed me to photograph some of the worlds’ most famous people including ; Pope John Paul II, Royalty figures like Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, musicians like Phil Collins and Bob Dylan, many political leaders, as well as fantastic sporting and news events .

Hopefully I can share some photography tips that you will find helpful when you have a camera in your hand and a person in front of you. My main concept regarding people photography is to Keep It Simple! You do not need the latest gadget or the most expensive equipment to take great people portraits, you simply need to use your imagination and really “look”.

Rule 1 – Enjoy Yourself Because Photography Is Great Fun.

Portrait photography like all styles of photography should be fun. This is particularly important though when photographing  other people because if you are relaxed and having fun your subjects will be more inclined to relax and enjoy the experience of being photographed by you. So be yourself and smile a lot and like they say the whole world will smile with you!

Rule 2 – Get In Closer.

If you want to create impact in your people portraits then get in close, you can use a longer lens or simply take a few steps towards your portrait subject to fill your frame with good subject matter and physically crop out the distractions. Faces can tell such a story, they reflect the life lived by the owner, from the pristine faces of babies to the deeply lined leather like skin of someone who has toiled in the elements all their life. So get in a little closer and capture some of those stories. You can see with the portraits below that filling the frame creates a strong photograph.

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Rule 3 – Even Light.

Our eyes are incredible things, they are able to discern minute changes in light and movement but they are also easily distracted. Dappled light like that that spills down from tree tops is a major distraction when photographing people as is light that overly darkens a portion of the face so avoid these situations if you can.

One of my favourite methods when shooting a portrait is to simply use the available light that comes through windows and doorways. Now I don’t mean with the sunlight belting through, but rather when the sunlight is diffused which creates a beautiful and natural looking ambient light source. You can achieve a range of moods using this method by varying the distance from the light source and by the angle at which you and the subject are to the light source. You can also add a fill of light to the darker side of the subject by using large white card or reflector to bounce light back into the subject.

When shooting structured portraits like this it is a great idea to use a tripod. This will mean you avoid camera shake and allows you to concentrate on your composition of the photograph. It also means you can take pictures in low light conditions and use lower ISO speeds to give you the best quality results (remembering that the lower the ISO speed the finer the noise, which in the old film days was called grain. So the finer the noise the better the detail in your image). Obviously this is possible with a subject that is static and not moving about, if you have to increase the ISO speed to freeze movement then do it. The portraits below was shot using window light and the camera on a tripod.

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OUTDOOR/LOCATION PORTRAITS

We live in an amazing world that offers portrait photographers such a variety of natural surroundings so take advantage of them. The rules stated above absolutely apply when you are photographing people outdoors. I will always spend time planning which location to use for a shoot prior to the photo session so I can achieve the feel and mood of the portrait that the client and I are looking for, and then a moment or two when we arrive at the location to check out the light and possible areas for the shoot. So take the time to source locations that could be used.

My best tip for outdoor portraits is to backlight. The two pictures below are examples of this. I also prefer to use a longer lens so I can compress and blur the background as well as avoiding sun flare in the lens.

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Backlight for even skin tone and beautiful hair light.

In tight and backlighting to eliminate distracting background and give good skintone.

In tight and backlighting to eliminate distracting background and give good skintone.

Bouncing light back into your subject and fill in flash can be used to great effect when shooting outdoor portraits to even up the disparity in light between your subject and background. When you are using a flash experiment with the strength of it because in some situations too strong a flash output will render the background too dark and in other situations it could create a very moody result, so don’t be shy to try a range of flash strengths. If you have the ability to get your flash off camera and use a lead from your flash to your camera then have a try at that. This is by far my preferred option when using flash outdoors as is gives a more natural and flattering result than direct flash. It will also eliminate red eye.

July 3, 2009 Posted by | People Portraits | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beautiful Landscape Photography

Landscape photography offers so many fantastic opportunities, and not just photographic. We live on an amazing planet and getting out into the environment can be relaxing and very enjoyable, and capturing great landscape photographs is obviously very rewarding. There are so many nuances in every location depending on the time of day and therefore the amount and quality of light available to you. Landscape photographs can be light and vibrant or they can be dark and moody as the two images below show.

Aerial view of river tributaries near Derby in the Kimberley Western Australia.

Aerial view of river tributaries near Derby in the Kimberley Western Australia.

Fishing at sunset in the pristine Leshenault Inlet SW Western Australia.

Fishing at sunset in the pristine Leshenault Inlet SW Western Australia.

Spend time familiarizing yourself with your location and if it is new to you take time to scout around searching for interesting landforms and perspectives. Look for leading lines that will draw and wind your eye into and through the picture as these two landscape photographs show.

The amazing tones of the Kimberley.

The amazing tones of the Kimberley.

The ocean has so many moods, moods that can change in the blink of an eye from calm, languid and serene, to frighteningly angry, boisterous and deadly. All of these moods create wonderful opportunities for a landscape photographer. As with all landscape photographs that include water you can create a range of “feels” by using a tripod and altering your shutter speed. Fast shutter speeds will freeze the movement while slow shutter speeds allow the water to move across the plane painting soft mystical lines.

Angry ocean - fast shutter speed.

Angry ocean - fast shutter speed.

Beautiful Bunker Bay in Dunsborough - slow shutter speed.

Beautiful Bunker Bay in Dunsborough - slow shutter speed.

See more Beautiful Landscapes at http://www.lsp.com.au/

July 3, 2009 Posted by | Landscapes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment