Speedlighter.ca | The "Go-To" Instructional Photography Blog
Michael, The Speedlighter, is one of North America’s premier teachers of photography. He teaches across the continent and talks to, trains and motivates large numbers of people. Michael is a Brantford-based full-time photographer and educator
I just spoke as one of the keynote speakers at an Ajax Photography Club event called “Discovering Karsh”. All about Armenian Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh, whom The Economist, after his death, described as “the best portrait photographer in the world for the past fifty years”.
Karsh can teach photographers today a thing or two, and that was the subject of my presentation. He was a master at light, mainly in moody low key portraits (think of the grumpy Churchill portrait, where Karsh had respectfully pulled the cigar from Churchill’s mouth), for one. Google it—for copyright reasons I cannot reproduce it here.
He was also a real people person, and that was his super power. He studied his subjects before a shoot. He talked to them. At length, often, if given the opportunity. Instead of taking 100 pictures and choosing one, he took one or two when the moment was right. He was a master at choosing the moment. And his subjects trusted him and his ability to make them look good.
Google “Karsh” and see the iconic portraits that defined the 20th century. Sure, Karsh is not everyone’s taste—his portraits are low-key and often moody—but they are certainly masterful. And they defined the people that he photographed as well as reflected them. As a portrait photographer, if you can do that, you have made it.
I’ll give you a few landscape tips for beginners, today.
Use the right lens. I recommend either the ultra wide lens (10-20 on a crop camera, 16-35 on a full frame camera), to show perspective and depth; or a telephoto lens, to bring backgrounds closer.
Use a low ISO, like 100 or 200.
Use a high f-number, like 11 or 16. Especially important if you use the telephoto lens above.
If you can, use a tripod. The two settings above may well require it.
Focus one third into your scene. That gives you the best sharp focus range.
Just in case, carry a polarizer and an ND filter. The polarizer for removing reflections or to emphasize some blue skies, and the ND filter for slow shots of waterfalls or water surfaces.
Consider shooting some panoramas. For those, use manual setting, so that all pictures are exposed equally. Avoid foreground objects. Turn the camera while on the tripod, overlapping successive images by, say, 30%.
Don’t pack too much. Weight doubles hourly when carried!
shoot at the best time of day. Often, that means 5pm or 5am, the “golden hour”.
Consider bringing a flash. More than you’d expect, you’ll want to light up your foreground.
Keep the image simple. Pay attention to detail.
Look for attention points in the foreground, middle ground, or background. Like frames, reflections, s-curves, juxtapositions, etc.
Prepare. Enter location coordinates, found on google, into your gps.
take one iPhone picture so that you have the coordinates, and then copy them in Lightroom from that iPhone picture to your other photos. Unless, of course, your camera already has a gps built in.
These fifteen rules should get you going! For a little more detail, see my Landscape Photography book on http://Learning.photography .
Come to my April 27 workshop in Toronto, if you want flash techniques that work. See the previous post.
You have heard me say it many times: “Bright pixels are sharp pixels”.
Nothing wrong with this:
But it does not make the subject stand out as the bright pixels. And it does not feel special. This one does, and is also much more dramatic:
And the subject i s now the Bright Pixels. Shot at 100 ISO, 1/200 sec, at f/11, using a 40mm lens on a full frame camera and lit with a battery-pack powered Bowens strobe fitted with a beauty dish. Slightly desaturated in Lightroom.
This was a picture I shot today in a class I taught at Sheridan College in Oakville.
Many more courses coming up, so stay tuned. I can teach you how to do this, quickly.
Black and white, or B/W, or Monochrome, is underused. Much, if not most art portraits are B/W. And why?
Well – colour, especially when desaturated, is not bad at all. Here’s today’s self portrait:
But the B/W version shows the mood better.
B/W reduces an image to its essence. And coloured items do not distract. And white balance is not an issue. So for both creative and to a lesser extent technical reasons, try some B/W. Shoot RAW so you can do the actual conversion in Lightroom.
Here, finally, is another one, of one of today’s students, using a beauty dish:
And the first thing I did is set all my cameras to the correct time. Which was easy, because they were already set to the correct time, since I came from the Caribbean. But for those of you who did not: set all your cameras to the correct time now!
And here’s a few pics from last week. More, and some advice, to follow in the next days. Stay tuned!
You have heard me talk about the “Sunny Sixteen” rule before. This is a very useful rule of thumb that allows you to shoot without using your camera’s light meter. The rule is:
If your shutter speed is set to 1/ISO (e.g. 125 ISO at 1/125th sec, 200 ISO at 1/200 sec, or 400 ISO at 1/400 sec, etc), then on a fully sunny day at noon, f/16 will give you the right exposure.
Like this, at f/16:
And if it is not sunny?
Soft around edges
This rule is a rule of thumb, so feel free to vary – I often expose two thirds of a stop higher – but since the sun is always the same brightness, it holds well. And it is nice to be able to expose without light meters, if only in order to be able to check your camera.
Bonus question: how do you expose the moon?
Answer: f/16. The moon at noon (there, so any time here, including night) is as bright as the earth at noon- they are the same distance from the sun!