Digital Photography School is a website with simple tips to help digital camera owners get the most out of their cameras. On our blog we publish free daily photography and post production tutorials as well as camera reviews.
The beauty of photography is that there really is no right or wrong way to take pictures (excluding any technical camera issues). It is such a subjective medium – what someone may consider a bad photograph, others might consider artistic. There are many different styles of photography. Dark and moody versus light and bright, or HDR and oversaturated versus desaturated and selective coloring. And there’s many more. But no matter your imaging preference, there is bound to be a market for that particular style of photography.
Having said that, I gravitate toward images that have a clean, natural look. My aesthetic style lends itself toward light, soft pastels, and bright images that have a sense of freshness. I find that I am my most creative self when I put myself in situations that give me the ability to photograph in this way.
Give me a dark room, or a scene with lots of bold, warm colors and tons of contrast, and I feel mentally bogged down. I almost start to feel claustrophobic with all that color and contrast. Now perhaps this might seem a little silly, but that is my personal preference. It also goes back to my earlier comment about photography being a very subjective art form.
I get asked quite frequently about how I achieve this “light, pastel, and airy” look in my photographs. It’s not that hard. It boils down to a few simple tips. These tips will help you to better visualize your intended photograph, and thus help you to achieve the light, pastel look.
I can’t stress enough how important the lighting is when using it to achieve a particular look for your photography. Not all lighting is equal. And I have to say that there is no such thing as bad light. Light is just different at different times of the day. Sometimes the light is perfect – that warm, soft glow that translates beautifully in pictures. Other times, the lighting is harsh and strong. I wouldn’t say that type of lighting is always bad; it is just not the same every time.
Once you train your eye to read the different types of light, and what the light can do to your images, you will be able to analyze your imagery better. You’ll also get photos closer to the style you like without wasting too much time in post-processing. No amount of editing can really fix an image taken in poor lighting.
a. Golden Hour light
For outdoor photography, if you want those warm, creamy tones, then schedule your photo sessions as close to sunset as possible. That last hour, the Golden Hour, is when you will get some of the best light. This is because as the sun sets closer to the horizon, the range of light is broad and spreads more evenly.
This type of light also lends itself well to the light, bright, and airy look that so many of us love in photographs. One thing to be aware of when you are using the Golden Hour lighting (a.k.a. shooting around sunset), make sure that you don’t photograph directly into the setting sun. This leads to a lot of sun flare entering your frame. It can also make the shot appear muddy and blown out to the point of not being able to see the subjects clearly, as shown in this image.
When all else fails, a little bit of editing in post-production can fix it.
b. Soft morning light
Soft morning light is another favorite lighting scheme of mine because the light is subtle and soft. It tends to be more even-toned than when the sun is high up in the sky.
c. Harsh midday sunlight
High noon lighting can be thought of as a spotlight directly over your head. This overhead lighting tends to create unflattering shadows. These shadows result from the angles and protrusions on your face, like your nose and eyebrows. If you wait until the sun hits the horizon, you will be pleasantly surprised to see how soft the tones are and how beautiful and even the lighting is. At this time of day, you can open up your aperture to smooth out the background.
Sometimes when you are traveling or taking landscape shots, you cannot always control the time of travel. Here, you must make the best of the lighting situation and photograph scenes that will lend themselves to the light and airy look when tweaked in post-processing.
I added a bit of contrast and brought down the blues in post-production just to keep with my style. I have nothing against blue skies but maybe not so much blue in my photos!
d. Overcast light/diffused light
This type of light is also great for images where you want an even tone. The clouds act as a natural diffuser and help to balance out the light falling from the sun. However, this light does tend to be a little flat. But the good news here is, when there is cloud cover or an overcast sky, you can shoot at any time during the day without worrying about harsh, strong shadows.
This day in the marina was overcast with a lot of clouds. Considering most of the boats were also white, I had to blow out the sky a bit and use the accessories (like the yellow kayak) to add a pop of color.
e. Backlighting/open shade lighting
The bright, even lighting of open shade plays well into the light and airy style of photography. However, playing with backlit sunlight is another way to get that bright, fresh look. Light and airy photographers shoot backlight about 80% of the time.
This means the sun is somewhere behind the subject. This is the tricky part. It’s more than just having the sun behind your subject. If you only do this, you’ll find that your images have a lot of sun flare – to the point of haze – and your camera autofocus may have trouble grabbing focus, resulting in out-of-focus shots.
The trick here is to block the sun from actually hitting your lens. My favorite way to do this is the use of trees. The branches and leaves act as a type of diffuser that filters the sun’s light rays from hitting your lens.
What you will get is called rim light from the rear of your subject. In front of your subject, you will achieve an even unshadowed lighting scheme. You might have to look for a natural reflector to bounce light back onto your subject’s face. Sometimes it is as simple as wearing something white so you can act as a natural reflector.
Yup, being a photographer also means being aware of fashion and color trends!
Another trick is to overexpose the skin tones by at least half a stop. Your highlights may blow out a little, but your subjects’ skin tones will look great. Of course, if you have a very interesting sky that you want to retain, you may not be able to overexpose your image. Most light and airy style photographers are okay with blowing out the details in the sky because this slight overexposure lends itself to a brighter image that is part of the light and airy look. If the background is important, you must consider that in your exposure calculations.
90% of my shots have the sky blown out and I am okay with that. My style is consistent with what my personal preference is with my images. To each their own.
2. Scenery or background
Personally, I feel like scenery or background is as important as the lighting for a great image – no matter what the style. Gorgeous mountainous backdrops with tall pine trees will look more majestic than a messy backyard with overgrown grass and a swing set in the shot.
But don’t let a simple background deter you from taking a shot.
Every place has hidden treasures, and it is up to you as the photographer to seek them out. I have been known to clear out a client’s home if I feel some furniture or clutter is getting in the way of the shot.
For outdoors and travel photos, I wait patiently for crowds to clear if I feel all the other elements are there to make a great shot. After you’ve established where the good lighting falls, you can then search for the pretty scenery.
For light and airy photos, look for backgrounds that are white or have pastel colors. White or light colored backgrounds add even more “airiness” to the image. It is hard to achieve a light, bright look if you have a dark or black wall in the background.
Remember that both the lighting and scenery combined make for a natural recipe to that “light and airy look” that you want to achieve in your image.
When in doubt, choose a clean neutral-colored background that can make the subject pop even more by eliminating any distractions.
Often, as photographers, we tend to only focus on the lighting, location, and subject. We feel that once we have these three elements, all else will magically fall into place.
However, remember this; every single detail that is a part of the frame helps to make or break the image.
If you have the perfect soft light, perfect background, and perfect subject, but they happened to show up wearing a graphic t-shirt with neon shoes, then that is not going to get you that light and airy image! In fact, details like the clothing, accessories, and props play a huge part in the overall look and feel of an image.
For my portrait and editorial work, I am not afraid to send clothing and prop choices to my clients. It is there for them to use if they need it. This gives them an idea of “the look” that I am going for, and it helps me to get the images that I want for my portfolio based upon my style and my brand aesthetics. Props don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Sometimes it is the little things like a simple off-white napkin that can do the trick.
Clothing choices and color preference is given but my clients have the freedom to choose what they want to wear at the end of the day!
4. Camera settings
If you are shooting digital and have a camera that allows you to photograph in RAW format, then definitely do so. Images created in RAW format retain more of the original details than a JPEG file format. The RAW file format also provides the most leeway for making edits to the image in post- processing when looking to achieve a specific “look.”
Avoid extreme bright spots in your photograph by using the histogram feature on your camera. Digital images don’t handle the result of huge overexposure very well, so you’ll want to watch for that.
Having said that, I tend to overexpose my images by about 1/2 a stop about 95% of the time. I find that editing an underexposed image to the “light and airy look” is more difficult than adjusting a slightly overexposed image. I am less concerned about blown-out highlights than I am about dense shadows.
5. Consistency in photography and editing styles
Consistency in photography and editing styles is huge, and not something that too many photographers pay attention to. Photographic style develops over time. It takes a lot of practice, continuous shooting, and consistent editing procedure to make our pictures look a certain way and convey certain emotions. This is my 9th year in business, and my style has taken time to develop. After a lot of trial and error, I know what I like and how I want my images to look and feel – even if it is just for me!
Some people jump on the latest editing bandwagon and are all over..
Go out and photograph your pets doing something funny, kids laughing or doing something funny, laughter in general, or anything that is funny or quirky at all (as long as it isn’t distasteful). As usual, they can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge.
Share in the dPS Facebook Group
You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.
If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites – tag them as #DPSfunny to help others find them. Linking back to this page might also help others know what you’re doing so that they can share in the fun.
Said Hiroki Sugahara, General Manager of the Marketing Communication Department:
Currently, mirrorless is a newcomer, so of course many users are very interested in the new systems, they want to use [them]. But after one or two years, some users who changed their system from DSLR to mirrorless [will] come back to the DSLR again.
When questioned by the interviewer, Sugahara further explained:
The mirrorless camera is very convenient to shoot, because users can [preview the final] image before shooting. But I believe the DSLR has its own appealing point, because users can create their own image from the optical viewfinder. People can see the beautiful image through the optical viewfinder, and then think how they can create their pictures–for example, exposure level setting or white balance or ISO [sensitivity]–and then imagine how they can get [the result they’re seeking].
So the DSLR market is currently decreasing a little bit, but one year or two years or three years later, it will [begin] getting higher.
Could Sugahara be right? Might DSLRs soon be making a comeback?
Personally, I don’t think so. While some people do follow the latest trends, mirrorless cameras have the specs to back up their popularity: they’re lightweight, they’re compact, and they produce top-notch images. And mirrorless systems will just keep getting more and more appealing, as electronic viewfinders improve and mirrorless lens-lineups expand.
Of course, there are reasons to stick with a DSLR. For one, DSLRs tend to be more rugged than mirrorless cameras. And electronic viewfinders can have lag issues. But mirrorless technology is improving, and how many photographers will switch back to DSLRs for a more rugged body?
Not to mention the questionable reasoning employed by Sugahara. Sure, the occasional photographer may not be happy with an electronic viewfinder. But will photographers really prefer the greater challenge provided by a DSLR optical viewfinder, as Sugahara seems to be implying? In my experience, capturing stunning photos is hard enough. Photographers won’t want to make it harder on themselves.
What do you think? Will DSLRs rebound? Or is mirrorless the system of the future?
Just as cleaning the lenses of your eyeglasses clarifies what you see, cleansing your pictures of dull lighting will put the sparkle in your photos.
Have you noticed how many individual tools are available in your favorite editing software for changing the values of pixels? The array is dazzling, and most of this editing involves “localized” procedures (dodging, burning, painting, cloning, masking, etc.) affecting specific areas.
But here’s something to consider.
Unless the image you are working on is either damaged (either completely blown-out highlights, plugged-up shadows) or just contains too much unwanted clutter, you rarely need to create specific detail with these tools. The detail is usually right there just below the surface waiting for discovery. You need only make global adjustments to the tones within the darker and lighter ends of the range to achieve pretty amazing results.
When I took this shot of my wife Barbara fifteen years ago, I put it in the reject file because it was so dark. But carefully adjusting and lightening the shadow and middle tones in the picture separated the deep shadow tones from the middle tones. Now both she and the picture are definite keepers. No local editing was necessary, and there is no tell-tale evidence of a touchup. The image contained all the necessary lighter tones – they simply had to be uncovered.
Push tones instead of pixels
Post-processing digital images is usually a process of subtraction; removing the visual obstacles that are covering the underlying detail in a photographic image. This detail will reveal itself if you merely nudge the tonal ranges instead of the pixels.
The fact is…all the detail in every subject has been duly captured and is hiding in either the shadows or the highlights, waiting to be discovered.
The digital camera’s image sensor sees and records the entire range of tones from black to white within every image it captures. What is hiding within this massive range of tones is the detail. Unfortunately, the camera sensor has no way of knowing the detail that may be under (or over) exposed within that range. It simply captures everything it sees inside the bookends of dark and light.
Camera image sensors can capture a range of tones up to 16,000 levels between solid color and no color. This doesn’t mean that all 16,000-pixel values are actually present in the picture; it just means that the darkest to the lightest tones are stretched out over the significant detail that is hiding in the middle.
Adjustments made to the image in Alien Skin’s Exposure X4.5 revealed detail in the sunlit walkway and darkened archway that appeared lost in the original capture. No painting or cloning tools were necessary.
The purpose of this article is not to get geeky about the science, but to assure you that there is an amazing amount of detail that you can recover from seemingly poor images.
A basic JPEG image can display more than 250 tones in each color. While that doesn’t sound like much, you should know that the human eye can only perceive a little over 100 distinct levels of each color. No kidding! Technically, 256 tones are too many.
The balancing act
Here’s a sobering truth. Your camera can capture more detail than your eye can detect and more tones than your monitor can display. As a matter of fact, it can capture up to 16,000 levels of tones and colors. That’s more than any publishing resource (computer monitor, inkjet printer, Internet, or even any printed publication) can reveal. Each of these other outlets is limited to reproducing just 8-bits (256 levels) of each color. The camera’s light-capture range is even beyond the scope of human vision. The range (light to dark) of your camera is immense compared to any reproduction process. What this means is that the editing part of the photography process needs MUCH more attention than the image capture process.
This introduces a complex but interesting phenomenon. Your post-production challenge is to emphasize the most important details recorded inside the tones captured by your camera and then distinguish them sufficiently for the printer, your monitor, or the Internet to reveal.
Your camera captures an incredible amount of detail in each scene that isn’t initially visible. However, with the right software, this detail can be uncovered just as an electron microscope can reveal detail buried deep inside things that the naked eye cannot perceive.
Image editing is all about discovering and revealing what is hiding in plain sight.
Bringing a picture to life doesn’t always require additional touchup procedures. Sometimes, just massaging the existing detail does the trick. The Highlights, Shadows, and Clarity sliders were all that were required to transpose this shot from average to special.
Clarity is the process of accentuating detail. The dictionary defines clarity as “the quality of being easy to see or hear; sharpness of image or sound.” When we clarify something, we clear it up. We understand it better. We view an issue from a different perspective.
Many image editing software packages have a slider called “clarity.” The function of this slider is to accentuate minor distinctions between lighter and darker areas within the image. Each of the other tone sliders (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Clarity, and Dehaze) all perform a clarifying process on specific tone ranges.
The real beauty of shooting with a 12/14-bit camera is the level of access you receive to the detail captured in each image. If you want to think “deep,” you can start with the editing process of your digital images. You’ll be amazed at what you will find when you learn to peel away the microlayers of distracting information in well-exposed photos.
Just as cleaning the lenses of your eyeglasses clarifies what you see, cleansing your pictures of dull lighting will put the sparkle in your photos.
Adobe Camera Raw controls reveal significant detail in the darker portions of the image by simply adjusting the Basic slider controls.
Learning to expose images correctly
The information you learn from excellent teaching resources like Digital Photography School teach you how to correctly set your equipment to capture a variety of subjects and scenes. Study the articles in this amazing collection and learn to shoot pictures understanding the basic tenets of good exposure. Poorly-captured images will hinder your discovery of detail. However, correctly exposed images will reward you with, not only beautiful color but, access to an amazing amount of detail.
Learn to harness the power of light correctly for the challenge that each scene presents by balancing the camera controls of ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. The more balanced your original exposure, the less post-processing will be necessary.
Every scene presents a unique lighting situation and requires a solid understanding of your camera’s light-control processes to capture all possible detail. Any camera can capture events and document happenings, but it takes a serious student of photography to faithfully capture each scene in a way that allows all that information to be skillfully sculpted into a detailed image.
There are a lot of lighting patterns for you to use in your portrait photography. Some of these are covered quite well. Rembrandt and butterfly lighting are two that are both easy to set up and yield great results a lot of the time. Of course, you can use just one lighting pattern all of the time and build a fantastic portfolio; however, if you want to have a full skillset with a variety of techniques to use in your portraits at any time, you will want to learn and understand as many of these lighting patterns as possible.
Broad and short lighting are often clumped together because of the similarities in how they are implemented and described, but they couldn’t be more different in how they affect your images.
This article will introduce you to the broad and short lighting patterns and explain when and why you might want to use them and what you can expect to achieve while using them. These are two very easy lighting patterns that can seem confusing at first, but once you get your head around them, they give you powerful tools to help shape the light and your subjects in your photos.
What is a lighting pattern?
First, let’s start with the very basics. A lighting pattern is any named lighting setup that gives you specific results. There is a fair list of these established lighting patterns for you to learn outside of the broad and short patterns discussed here. These include Rembrandt, Butterfly, split, cross, clamshell and more. Learning and understanding these lighting patterns can act as a shortcut to helping you get great results in your portraits. These lighting patterns apply to both natural light and artificial light, so it does not matter which you prefer.
Broad and short
The names of the broad and short lighting patterns refer to which side of the subject’s face is being lit first.
Sometimes, understanding what broad and short mean in terms of lighting can be confusing. To make it as simple as possible, imagine a face turned slightly away from you. That face now has two sides divided by the nose. The side of the face that is closest to you is the broad side because you see more of it than the other. The other side, the one that’s furthest from you, is the short side.
With broad lighting, your light is going to hit the broad side (or the side that’s closest to you) of the face first.
With short lighting, your light is going to hit the short side (or the side that’s furthest from you) of the face first.
Broad lighting can be used to great effect to help widen faces or give you more contrast than some other lighting patterns.
When you choose to light the broad side of the face, it has several effects on your image. These include:
Broad lighting widens the face.
Broad lighting usually throws the short side of the face in shadow (dependent on light placement).
Broad lighting provides more contrast than some lighting patterns like butterfly lighting.
When you want to use it
Because broad lighting tends to broaden (go figure) the face, you’ll want to use broad lighting when you’re photographing subjects with a narrow face. Using it on subjects with a wider face can exaggerate that shape and you’ll want to avoid it there.
If there’s a feature on one side of your subjects face that you want to take the emphasis away from, you can pose your subject so that feature is on the short side of their face and use broad lighting to ensure that it’s in shadow, taking the emphasis away.
How to set it up
Setting up for broad lighting couldn’t be easier. Just have your subject turn away from the key light until you have the desired effect.
While there is no one way to set up broad lighting, here is a basic method to get you started.
As in the diagram above, place your light forty-five degrees from your subject. Ensure that you have your subject’s face posed away from the light source.
Adding fill to your broad lighting can help with extreme contrast while still retaining shadows for depth.
Lighting patterns are a starting point. This isn’t a zero-sum game. To take your broad lighting setups further, feel free to experiment with fill light. You can use reflectors or a second light to lift up the shadows and reduce the contrast in your images for more flattering portraits. Conversely, you can also choose to emphasize the shadows and the contrast for darker, bolder portraits. The best advice here is to know what result you are after before you start.
With a reflector as fill, you can now control the overall contrast in the image.
Short lighting (depending on variables like your modifiers) tends to lend itself to dark, shadow-heavy imagery. This makes it the perfect lighting pattern when creating low-key images.
When you choose to light the short side of the face first, it also has several effects on your portraits:
Short lighting narrows the face.
Short lighting will throw the broad side of the face in shadow.
Short lighting provides heavy contrast and is ideal for low-key images. It is also useful when you are trying to create images with a lot of depth.
Short lighting can be used to hide imperfections.
How to set it up
Again, there is no one way to go about a short lighting setup.
Short lighting is trickier to set up than broad, but take your time and be deliberate in where the light is hitting your subject.
For this example, start with your light source forty-five degrees to your subject just like you did for the broad lighting setup. This time, have your subject face towards the light. If you have a modeling light, or you’re using natural light, watch the highlights on your subjects face carefully. Either move the light or your subject until the brightest part of your subject’s face is the short side.
Tip: If you’re having trouble seeing the contrast with your eyes, you can squint. I can’t even begin to tell you why this works, but it does. Squinting makes it far easier to see the contrast in a scene with your eyes.
That’s it. While short lighting is slightly trickier than broad lighting, it is still easy to accomplish. Once you have it figured out, it will become second nature.
Because short lighting tends to be heavy on the shadows, you can use as much fill as you want to control them. Use a reflector for a gentle lift, or a second light to bring them close to the other tones in your images.
Since short lighting is so shadow-centric, you will almost certainly want to use fill light to control the contrast in normal situations. You can use a reflector, but if your shadows are quite deep, you may want to opt for fill light. Try exposing your fill light three stops less than your key (your main light) to retain your shadows while ensuring that all of the details are still there.
Using a reflector lifts the shadows in this example, but retains enough contrast for depth.
There you have it; two basic, but powerful lighting patterns that you can use to create bold dynamic portraits. I encourage you to go out and practice with each of these set-ups. Experiment liberally with your distances between your light and subject and try as many different fill lighting techniques that you can come up with. Once you have the basics down; if you want a real challenge: use the short lighting pattern to create a high key image.
When I got started with family and child photography, I thought I had all my bases covered. Between my cameras, lenses, locations, and shot lists, I figured I was all set to create some amazing portraits that families would treasure for generations. Then I ran head-first into a practical problem for which I didn’t really have a good solution; where do people sit? All the camera gear in the world won’t help on location with no place for parents, kids, or high school seniors to sit and pose for their pictures. I finally made my own solution, which has performed flawlessly, and it’s something you can make in an afternoon with a few tools you might already have in your garage.
Before I built benches like this, I tried to use things I had around, such as bar stools, folding chairs, and even our living room coffee table. None of these really worked well or looked very professional. Once I realized I could construct my own bench props, my portraits improved almost immediately.
This tutorial is going to cover a sturdy single-person bench 16 inches high, 16 inches deep, and 18 inches wide. This design is easy to customize if you want something wider, deeper or shorter, but it’s a great place to start if you’re looking for a simple one-person option.
This boy is on a wider version of the bench you’ll build in this tutorial.
The wood and hardware you need to construct a photo bench are pretty minimal:
Two 2×4’s, 8-feet long
3/4-inch thick wood, 8-feet long and 11-inches wide. I like to use low-grade utility shelving but any similar wood will work just fine.
1.5-inch Deck Screws
A saw to cut the wood
The boards on the right, plus some screws, are all you need to build the bench on the left. It’s an easy afternoon project and your clients will appreciate having this highly practical prop. I spent about $40 on the four pieces of wood at a local lumber yard.
The following tools will help you with the construction process, but your own situation might be different. These are what I used, but feel free to adapt as necessary. For instance, you could use a circular saw instead of a miter saw. This is a fun project to do with someone else, so if you don’t have any of these tools, you could ask a friend for help.
Sandpaper or electric sander
Kreg Jig screws 2.5-inches in length with coarse threads*
If you don’t use a Kreg Jig, you will need additional deck screws 2.5-inches in length.
Wood glue (optional)
A table saw is really useful for ripping the utility shelving to a uniform width of 3 inches.
*A Kreg Jig is a staple of a lot of DIY projects, but if you don’t have one already you probably don’t need to buy one just for this photo bench. Traditional wood screws will suffice just fine.
A view of the bench from below. You could probably construct it out of thinner, lighter materials but it would be far less durable.
Phase 1: Cut the wood
For this photo bench you will need to cut the following pieces of wood in the lengths listed below.
A miter saw makes this project a lot easier, but other cutting tools would suffice just fine too.
2×4 boards, 7.5-inches long – 5 pieces
2×4 boards, 15-inches long – 4 pieces
2×4 boards, 15.5-inches long – 4 pieces
3/4-inch thick boards, 3-inches wide and 16-inches long – 8 pieces
3/4-inch thick boards, 3-inches wide and 18-inches long – 12 pieces
It’s a lot easier to cut everything first and then assemble the bench all at once.
Phase 2: Build the frame
If you have a Kreg Jig, you can use it here to construct the frame of the bench. But if not, you can just use traditional screws. If you want to have an extra-secure hold, you could use wood glue at the joints as well, but it’s not necessary. I would recommend against using nails though, as they’re going to wiggle loose over time and you want this bench to be as sturdy as possible.
A Kreg Jig is really useful but not necessary.
If you’re going with this method you’ll need to use your Kreg Jig to drill two pocket holes in each end of the 15-inch, 2×4 boards.
15-inch boards with two pocket holes in each end.
When you’re done putting pocket holes in the 15-inch boards you’ll repeat the process with the 7-inch boards.
7-inch boards with two pocket holes in each end.
Once your pocket holes are ready you can start assembling the frame of the bench. Secure a 15.5-inch board to each end of one of the 15-inch boards to make a U-shape.
This shape will form one side of the bench.
Repeat the process with the other two 15.5-inch board and another 15-inch board. When you’re done you will have two identical U-shapes.
Both sides of the bench, not yet attached to each other.
If you don’t have a Kreg Jig, or don’t want to go to the trouble of using pocket holes, you can use regular screws to attach the 15.5-inch boards to the 15-inch board. As long as you end up with two U-shaped pieces as shown above, you’ll be just fine.
After you get the U-shapes constructed, attach the other 15-inch board on the open end, but rotate it 90-degrees as shown below.
Attach the second 15-inch board to the open side of each U-shape.
Repeat this step with the other U-shape, which will give you two of these square pieces as you can see in the following image.
These form the sides of the bench, and you’ll need to attach them by first securing all the 7-inch boards to one side.
I find it easiest to attach all five of the 7-inch boards to one side, and then attach that entire assembly to the other side.
Again, I like to use a Kreg Jig and pocket holes, but you can just as easily use regular deck screws to do this. Don’t worry too much about appearances either, as if you use deck screws you won’t really see them in the finished product. They will be covered up with the slats you will attach in Phase 3.
Getting your favorite band into your photo studio might sound like a dream come true – but could quickly turn into a disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing! Not all bands know how to pose or position themselves for photographs, and it’s your job as a photographer to direct them. So before you find yourself having a crisis – unsure of how to properly get bands set up for their epic promotional shoot – check out your guide to posing bands in photography!
How is band photography different from other group photography?
I hear this question a lot in my line of work. How does band photography differ from, say, a group portrait at a sports game or a family reunion? Well, the short answer is – the intent is different. Though all types of photographs tell a story, band photography has to sell both the image and idea of the band. The poses, styling, arrangement, lighting, and everything in between is akin to the marketing of the music group itself. To make this even more complex, the audience members have to develop the right preconceived idea of what the music will sound like based on the picture! This is the same principle that is applied to album artwork.
As well as this, the connection between all of the members in the band is different than that of family members or a sports team. Bands can be a complex series of relationships, some akin to kinship, others to sibling rivalry, and some can even be likened to business partners. Whichever is true for the band you are photographing, that unique relationship will come out in the photographs.
Does the genre of music affect the pose?
In short, yes and no. The genre of music can impact every facet of the image, but not necessarily. Doubling back to the idea that a photograph of a band needs to sell their music, the genre portrayal can be a fundamental part of that goal. For example, metal music has a much darker, harder, and tougher edge to it than, say, a girl pop band.
Much of how I figure out how to pose bands has to do with three key factors:
What is the stereotypical image for that genre? (This being said, the image does not have to be stereotypical – but there are some specific poses to include if you want to really push on the fact that the band plays a specific type of music).
What image does the music evoke? (I find that closing my eyes and listening to some of the key songs pointed out by the band can provide a lot of inspiration. Music and imagery tie together, and whatever image is evoked by the sound is one that you should likely follow).
What is the story the band wants to convey with their presence?
Here is an example of how these three questions can drive a photo shoot.
Say that a five-piece, all-female symphonic metal band approaches you, with a melancholy and dark sound, whose story revolves around pagan rituals. With this in mind, the posing will likely be more rigid with the band members standing in a crescent formation due to the ritualistic nature. Their chins will likely be a bit lower down with a very slight hunch and legs tightly placed together, and eyes are looking directly towards the camera (whilst the face is slightly lower down).
Likewise, say an all-male pop duo approaches you with a very light-hearted, summer, beach feel to their music, with a tagline revolving around living every day in the moment. The posing will be very loose, fun, and expressive – likely a popular choice would be to place the two lads back to back with them looking over their shoulders at one another laughing and the arms placed in very relaxed positions.
As a photographer, much of our jobs revolve around bringing a static visual image to an ever-moving description.
To express why genre doesn’t necessarily have to affect the pose, not all bands fall perfectly within a box.
That’s a good thing. Art shouldn’t always be easily categorized.
As such, some acts defy traditional rules and do not follow convention. Their images won’t follow convention either, and the posing may change drastically from the usual.
Common posing qualms
Of course, posing groups of people isn’t without its troubles.
Here are some of the most common posing “uh-ohs” you might encounter (with solutions, of course):
Not all of the band members are a similar height – someone might be very short or extremely tall
This is a very common situation you’ll encounter. Luckily, there are some clever solutions!
Firstly, if your band promotional image doesn’t include full body shots, simply place the member(s) on boxes (often called ‘apples’ in studios) that even-out their height.
If the band does want full body shots, play with perspective. Place the taller members further in the back and the shorter members closer to the front. A reverse V or U shape is an excellent idea!
Thirdly, get creative with levels and props. My go-to – which tends to receive favorable reviews – is to place one member sitting on a chair and pose the rest of the band around the chair. The taller members can crouch on the ground at the corners of the chair while the shorter members can stand around the chair. The frontman or frontwoman sits in the chair.
You can achieve a similar effect by posing on stairs, walls, rocks, or anything that allows one person to sit while the rest are crouched or standing.
Everyone is wearing the same color clothing
I photograph primarily heavy metal and rock music, so this is something I deal with daily. Everyone wants to wear black in a black studio, against a black wall. The result, when done right, is super cool. However, when done wrong, the image suffers from “floating head” syndrome.
The real key here is to ensure that every article of clothing is a different texture from one another. Everyone can wear the same color, but try to encourage the band to wear different textures.
For example, a shiny top with matte pants works great. If a band member has both a matte top and matte pants, throw in a textured scarf or a tie to break it up. Jewelry is also a great idea. The point is, the colors can all be the same, but the way the clothing photographs must be different from one another. This can affect pose positioning as well, as you don’t want the same texture to cross one another and look flat in an image.
You can also use lighting to help separate the subject from the background. For example, shoot your studio lighting behind the band so that it creates a rim light, which pushes them off of the studio wall.
Our Dying World
Someone is dressed elaborately and someone is not
Sometimes, a band member overdresses while others underdress. If you can’t swap out wardrobes or add accessories, then get extremely creative with posing.
When I was pursuing my visual communications degree, I had a wonderful professor drill into my head that the key to an effective image is having the viewer’s eye move around the entire frame rather than settle on one central point.
A great way to get the viewer to take in the entire image rather than settle on one point is to place the elaborately dressed band members around the less-elaborately dressed members on opposite ends.
Another solution is to use the flashy wardrobe to create lines that the viewer can follow throughout the image. A good way to create a line is to have the overdressed band member stretch an arm out to the other band members to encourage the eye to travel.
You are shooting a large piece band in a small, constricted space
If you do backstage photography, you’ll run head-on into this issue (especially in Los Angeles. Unless the band is in a major theater like The Hollywood Bowl, your backstage experience will be cramped. Trust me on this one). The most efficient way to utilize small spaces is posing the band in levels. Have some crouching and some standing, some leaning on walls and some stretched on the floor! Think of keeping everyone in a square image ratio format. You’ll be able to pose even 11-piece bands in a small space (I’ve done it!).
How does the lighting affect the pose?
The lighting you are using will make a difference in how you pose the band. If you’re shooting outdoors and are at the mercy of natural lighting (but don’t have a reflector), you will need to adjust head, hand, arm, and leg positions in order to make the best of the conditions you are working with.
For example, if you ended up shooting at high noon, keep chins up to avoid unflattering shadows on the neck. Likewise, make sure hands aren’t hidden in shadows so that they do not appear too dark.
If you are in the studio with more controlled light, this becomes a bit easier – assuming you have enough lights! Work with what you have, and find creative ways to pose the musicians in order to illuminate them in the most flattering way. If you don’t have enough lighting units to capture certain poses, avoid them altogether (unless you are a whiz at post-processing!).
(Pssst: reflectors are your best friend! Both indoors and outdoors. In outdoor situations, these help control the light. In indoor situations, if you don’t have enough budget for additional studio lights, you can use reflectors to bounce light and help it stretch further. Reflectors are budget-friendly solutions, and can even be made at home if you are DIY-savvy).
Is hierarchy in a band a real thing?
With some bands, it definitely is! Generally, you want the frontman or frontwoman as the center of attention with the rest of the band members posed around. Some bands have more than one vocalist, and often the vocalists tend to be the central figures (not to be confused with importance. All members are important. A band does not function without all of its contributing talents). Guitarists and bassists tend to find themselves beside the singers naturally, and other instruments such as percussion and keys even further off to the sides.
Most of the bands that step into the studio are live performers; that is, they have experience playing on a stage together. As such, the first thing I do is have them stand in my studio the way that they would arrange themselves on stage. I use that as the basis of where I..
Godox – the mighty Chinese brand that’s sweeping the lighting world, bringing fear to long-established premium brands. And their quality has reached the point where they can now be trusted.
One thing they’ve done well to push the brand forward is their system integration. Any of their X-series triggers will fire any light in the system. Not only that, their TTL speedlights can also act as masters for other lights in the system, from the mighty AD600Pro right through to the humble TT350.
That’s what we’re looking at today – the TT350.
This compact and pocketable unit is the smallest flash in the Godox range. It really is small – requiring noting more than two AA batteries.
A Guide Number of 36 (rather than the typical 52 of most larger flashes).
Recycle time of 2.2 seconds at full power
210 full-power flashes available from two 2500maH AA batteries
TTL, Manual, Optical Slave, Optical Slave with Preflash, and Multiflash modes available
Coverage from 24–105mm in full-frame 35mm terms
High-speed sync up to 1/8000 sec
Built in 2.4G radio transmitter and receiver to act as either radio master or slave
Wide-angle diffuser and bounce card
The small size and weight of the TT350 make it the perfect on-camera flash for any camera system, particularly mirrorless systems. While I’m using them with a Fuji, they’re also available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus/Panasonic and even Pentax.
As with any on-camera flash aimed directly at the subject, the light is hard and not particularly flattering.
While the flash does have a bounce card, I prefer using reverse bounce for on-camera situations to create a larger light source coming from behind me.
On-camera, the TT350 can be used as a master for other off-camera flashes.
The benefits of using a flash off-camera are many. You get better placement to control shadows, and by extension the shape of the features in the shot. You also can use a larger range of modifiers to soften or shape the light itself. To go off-camera, you need a flash, a trigger and a stand (with a modifier being an additional option). In this case, our flash is the TT350.
With the TT350 inside a 120cm Octa (with the diffuser on), you’re ready to get some big light from a small flash. With the Octa between you and the subject, you’ll get flattering light in the ‘Butterfly’ position.
To get really shallow depth of field with flash (especially outside), you need to use High-Speed Sync to overcome the limitation of the camera sync speed. To engage it, tap the Sync button once.
Here’s a shot at 1/2000sec and f/1.4, ISO400 with HSS on. (You’ll find bumping the ISO helps save battery life, which is why I’m using ISO400 here).
Another way to help battery life (and the recycle time) is to use two flashes in the modifier.
Set both flashes to the same channel and group. This allows them to automatically match power when you make a change.
You can get double flash brackets and aim them into the center with them positioned either close together or further out.
Here’s a portrait with this dual-light Octa box setup on the left (facing across the shot) and a white reflector on the right.
This is what the setup looks like.
Removing one of the lights and putting it on a stand behind our subject gives a good cross-light setup.
Should you get a TT350?
Clearly, a flash you have with you is better than one you leave behind because of the weight. So for general flash applications the TT350 is great. But, it’s never going to overpower the sun, and and its compact size makes it the lowest-power flash in the range (excluding their mobile phone flash unit).
However, you can buy two TT350s for the price of a V860II. And while they don’t have built-in batteries, combined they can provide more power for less weight.
Me? I bought two so I can use them in the configurations I’ve shown here, and as a master-slave setup if I have an issue with a trigger.
Overall, they’re great tools to have in the bag.
Have you used this flash? What are your thoughts? Please share with us and the dPS community in the comments below.
Using extensions in Photoshop is like putting scaffolding on Mount Everest. The program already has more features than you probably need. But you can add more functionality by using free extensions. Photoshop CC even invites you to “Find Extensions on Exchange…” on the Windows menu.
Finding Photoshop extensions
When browsing the Adobe Exchange site for extensions, take note of what products they’re compatible with. Otherwise, you’ll end up downloading stuff that won’t install. Naturally, free extensions are less likely to be up to date. Some of the paid add-ons are worth a look, with the caveat that you can’t always try them out first.
You can install Adobe extensions easily by using either Anastasiy’s Extension Manager or the ZXP Installer. (I use the latter.) Drag the .zxp file onto the app, and the extension will be waiting next time you open Photoshop. (Or at least it should be.) You can also use Adobe’s Creative Cloud desktop app to install and uninstall extensions.
If your extension doesn’t load automatically through the Creative Cloud app, try Anastasiy’s Extension Manager or the ZXP Installer.
Three great free extensions
Some great up-to-date extensions are available for free. They might be a segue from an unpaid product to a paid one or have some other sales angle, but they’re still handy additions to Photoshop.
Here are three free extensions that work with Photoshop CC in 2019 (version 20.0.4 as I write).
Adobe Paper Textures Pro (Russell Brown)
This extension lets you easily add paper textures to photos. The downside is the supplied textures are web-size only, so you can’t add them to big files without losing definition. Of course, it’s designed to hook you into buying full-res textures from Fly Paper. But if you’re into this type of editing, it’s probably worth it, as they appear to be high quality.
A textured digital photo using one of the supplied Fly Paper overlays in Adobe Paper Textures Pro.
To make Adobe Paper Textures Pro fully functional without costing you anything, you can download free full-res texture images from other web sources and load those up instead. The textures automatically blend with your open image, so it’s quicker than creating layers manually. In the past, the extension has drawn a few negative reviews. But it has behaved well for me, and despite the odd glitch, it’s a lot of fun to use.
Adobe Paper Textures Pro and a separately sourced texture overlay.
Interactive Luminosity Masks (Sven Stork)
Being able to select different areas of luminosity within an image can be useful when making local edits. You might want to adjust the contrast or tone in one area and not another. Or perhaps you want to avoid sharpening noisy, darker areas of the image or apply noise reduction to the shadows.
The Interactive Luminosity Mask lets you select highlights, mid-tones or shadows, and also allows a customized choice with a zone mask and picker.
A luminosity mask exposing shadow areas only for adjustment. You can invert the selection if you want to protect an area rather than edit it.
The extension also includes saturation masks. These were once useful for selectively increasing saturation, but the vibrance slider made that a little redundant. Even so, there’s still a lot of value in being able to use color to make selections. For instance, you may want to avoid sharpening large single-tone areas such as skies. This add-on lets you select areas of low, mid or high saturation, or manually pick a color using the zone mask. You can even launch channels and commonly used adjustment layers from within the extension.
Facebook Grid Cover (Bojan Živkovic)
Facebook grids force you to curate your own photos if you want to create a good one. That’s always a useful exercise. This add-on set of actions works flawlessly.
Facebook covers may seem like a frivolous way to spend your time. But creating a grid of photos that look good together isn’t always easy. Even with a simple three-image grid, you may find composing a good online triptych challenging. This extension doesn’t end up in your extensions menu. Instead, it’s an action (or series of actions) that loads initially onto your desktop.
You can pick up to 13 images to go into your Facebook grid cover, and the actions let you switch any one of them as long as the layers remain intact. Whether you run a photographic Facebook page, or just want one for your own cover, this extension will create an eye-catching result.
Here are some more free extensions for you to try:
Thomas Zagler’s Free Stock Search is ideal for finding free stock images you can use for things such as digital composites. You could compile a folder of free texture photos and use them with the Adobe Paper Textures Pro extension I talked about earlier.
Free stock photos are useful for overlays in Photoshop. Add texture to your photos or drop in a better sky.
This is another first-rate offering from Sven Stork. Adding better skies is one use for blending pictures by tone. You can use a layer mask to brush out any unwanted blending.
Anil Tejwani’s Action Launcher provides useful ways to organize your actions, including alphabetically or by favorites. Note: The favorites feature expires after 30 days unless you upgrade to the pro version.
Action Launcher lets you easily filter and organize your actions.
Davide Barranca’s PS Tools lets you lay out all the Photoshop tools you actually use in a pop-out panel and conceal the rest.
This extension lets you lay out all the tools you usually use and hide the rest. (Note: The panel doesn’t float. The illustration shows screenshots of editing pane and selected tools.)
Denis Yanov’s RealLookLongShadow panel gives you lots of control over drop shadows and their length to make photos or cut-outs stand out.
This extension lets you create longer shadows than is usually possible within Photoshop.
I hope you find some of these extensions useful or fun. Please feel free to add your own recommendations for free or paid extensions in the comments.