Posts Tagged ‘Randy Grosse’

Zero Your Meter for Foolproof Manual Exposure

July 26, 2013

Here’s a quick, foolproof way to correctly set shutter speed and aperture values for manual exposures.

When your camera is in manual mode you’ve disabled its ability to set shutter speed and aperture values for you. However, the camera’s meter is still active, and as long as flash is not involved, you can still use this sophisticated metering system to help you choose the correct values.

I recently helped a coaching client set up a small studio to photograph still life compositions. To keep lighting setups simple, she will be using continuous light—not flash.

Photo 1 - Basic Set

Photo 1 – Basic Setup

Photo 1 shows the basic setup. We will be using a single compact fluorescent light fixture with a 42” white shoot-through umbrella at camera left as a key light, and a silver reflector at camera right for fill.

Once our subject is in place (in this case an orchid) and the key light and reflector are positioned the way we want, it’s time to select an aperture and shutter speed combination that  will give us a correct exposure.

The question you may be asking right now is, “Why use manual mode at all, why not use aperture or shutter priority?”

The answer is you could, but you will be relying on the camera to set the correct exposure in what is a typical situation where the camera’s reflective meter will likely be fooled. If you want to know why, take a look at my blog post, Metering 101.

In a still life composition, depth of field is much more important than shutter speed. We will begin by selecting an aperture of f/16, which should provide the desired depth of field.

Now let’s use the camera’s meter to select a shutter speed, but let’s make sure the meter gets it right. We’ll do this by metering off of a value known to the camera—a value that will not fool the meter—18% gray.

Photo 2- 18% Gray Card

Photo 2- 18% Gray Card

Photo 2 shows an 18% Gray Card standing in for our subject on the posing table. Now it’s time to “Zero” the camera’s meter.

  • First, make sure all the camera sees is the gray card. Either zoom in or move the camera closer so that all you see through the viewfinder is the gray card.
  • Next, depress your shutter release part way so that your meter is active.
  • Now check your camera’s exposure level indicator. This is the same plus/minus scale you use to set exposure compensation in Shutter and Aperture Priority Modes. Most cameras will display the indicator in two places; on the LCD info screen (see Photo 3), and in the viewfinder.
Photo 3- Minus 1

Photo 3- Minus 1

  • As displayed in Photo 3, note that at a shutter speed of 1-second at f/16 the indicator hash mark registers at Minus 1. The meter is telling us we are one stop underexposed.
  • Last, “Zero” the meter by changing the shutter speed setting until the index hash mark is registered dead center at the “Zero.”  (Note: if the indicator disappears, tap the shutter release button to activate the meter again.) As you can see in Photo 4 by changing the shutter speed to two seconds the hash mark now registers at zero, indicating a correct exposure.
Photo 4- Meter At Zero

Photo 4- Meter At Zero

Once you have done this a time or two you’ll see how easy it is to set a correct exposure using a gray card in manual mode.

From a studio still life composition, to a natural light portrait, I use this method whenever I am photographing a subject illuminated by a continuous light source.

Give it a try!

Until next time,

Randy

Sample Image With Light Setup

Sample Image With Light Setup

Showing Texture and Detail in Your Photographs

July 9, 2013

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Question: Why am I lighting this photograph from the side?

Answer: To make sure the subject’s texture and detail (a painting in this case) show in the photograph!

The key to showing texture and detail in a photograph is directional lighting.

Flat Versus Directional Lighting

Let’s keep this simple; flat lighting is light that comes from the camera position, think camera mounted flash. Directional lighting is everything else.

  • Flat light coming from (or directly behind) the camera’s position eliminates shadows. No shadows mean no texture and lack of detail in the photograph.
  • Directional light is light originating from the left or right of the camera position. It shows texture and detail by creating highlights and shadows. This presence of highlight and shadow allows us to see depth and shape, and thus the texture and detail present in the subject of our photograph.

Take a look at the three sets of photographs below (click to enlarge). These pictures are close-ups of acrylic paintings done on canvas.

template1

template2

template3

As you can see from the Side Lit images, the artist creates a lot of texture and detail in her paintings. However, that texture and detail all but disappear when the light source is moved to the Front Lit camera position.

Above, I have included a photograph of the lighting setup. I positioned the light source at 90-degrees to camera right to show maximum texture in the image. To show less texture I could move the light towards the camera to a 30-45 degree position. To eliminate texture completely I would place the light directly behind the camera creating a flat light similar to a hot shoe mounted flash.

Directional light is necessary whenever it is important to show your subject’s texture, detail, and shape in your photograph.

  • This is why landscape and architectural photographers won’t photograph with the sun behind them.
  • It’s why portrait photographers seldom employ a key light at the camera position.
  • And why product photographers light products with directional light sources.

Give directional light a try. Position your subject so the main light source is coming from the side, i.e., from 30-90 degrees camera right or left. Watch how the play of shadow and highlight allow your camera to capture the texture, detail, and shape of your subject.

Take the same photograph with the light source at or directly behind the camera position. Notice how the flat light evenly illuminates the subject. The resulting lack of shadows eliminates texture, detail, and shape in the photograph.

Additional Information:

Creating Shape and Depth with Directional Light

Off-camera Flash For Portraiture

Until next time…

All the best,

Randy

 

Simple Fill Flash For Outdoor Headshots and Senior Portraits

August 28, 2012

Recently my wife and I flew to Florida to spend a long weekend with daughter one. Daughter two, who lives in Los Angeles, flew to Florida as well to join us for a short family vacation.

Daughter two, also known as Kayla, needed updated headshots for use in Los Angeles.

She wanted a series of outdoor portraits. Our time would be limited; as would the amount of gear I could pack into a carryon bag.

My normal gear for an outdoor headshot (senior portrait) would include a large reflector, a powerful battery-powered strobe with a light stand, remote trigger and either a shoot-through umbrella or soft box.

For this trip I had to limit my gear to two lenses, a speedlight, and a camera body. I also wanted to take a modifier along for the speedlight. I opted for a Rogue Larger Reflector fitted with their new Large Diffusion Panel.

The reflector and panel attach directly to your speedlight and fold flat for transportation. (See image)

Rogue Large and Small Flash Diffusion Panels

Here’s the simplest solution I have come up with to date for an outdoor portrait with a minimum of equipment.

Step One: Shoot in open shade with the sun positioned to one side or slightly behind your subject. The sun will provide beautiful highlights on your subject’s face and hair. The open shade will serve as a base exposure for your subject’s face.

Step Two: Put your camera in aperture priority mode at f/2.8 to f/4.0 depending on how defocused you want the background. Take a test exposure and note what your camera chooses for a shutter speed. The background and sun’s highlights should be properly exposed, but the lighting on the face will be flat and slightly dark.

Step Three: Now it’s time to add fill-flash to make the image pop. Turn on the flash. Switch your camera to manual mode and set the aperture to whatever you used in step two. Set the shutter speed to match your camera’s settings in step two. (An important note here: if the shutter speed exceeds your camera’s maximum flash sync speed you will need to have a flash capable of High Speed Sync flash. As an alternative you can lower your ISO and/or stop down your aperture to achieve a slower shutter speed.)

Step Four: You’re ready to take beautiful portraits. Monitor the exposures as you shoot. Adjust flash brightness using Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC+/-). I normally start with FEC set at minus one. You can also adjust the brightness of the background by changing shutter speed. A faster shutter speed will darken the background; a slower shutter speed will brighten it.

The two images above are from my session with Kayla. I have included my camera settings for your reference.

Macro Photography Reveals A World Unseen

March 13, 2012

Are you ready to try something new with your photography? If you have yet to venture into the world of macro photography maybe it’s time to give it a go.

Macro photography often reveals a world not perceived by the naked eye. In the case of the images shown here, it is a world of color, texture, and surreal design elements.

So exactly what is macro photography?

You can find the textbook definition here.

For me macro photography is a way to take the ordinary and mold it into the extraordinary. Take a glass bowl, that while interesting on its own, becomes something otherworldly when photographed with a macro lens.

For these images I used a Canon 50mm macro lens. Lighting included a gold reflector, and two studio strobes with colored gels.

Macro photography requires a way to magnify your subject beyond the capabilities of a normal camera lens.

A normal lens will not allow you to focus close enough to your subject to produce a true macro image. A macro lens captures subjects at a 1:1 ratio, also called life-size.

Macro lenses can be expensive. A low-cost alternative is a set of extension tubes.

Extension tubes are attached to a lens you already own. The tube (or tubes) attach between your camera body and lens. Extending the distance between the rear element of your lens and the image sensor (or film) turns your normal lens into a macro-focusing lens.

To capture macro images I use macro lenses, extension tubes, and even a perspective control (tilt-shift) lens.

If you would like to learn more about macro photography I highly recommend Jim Zuckerman’s e-book, “Secrets Behind Great Macro Photography.” I ordered my copy from his website.

Follow the links below to take a closer look at the macro images used in this post.

Sun Worshippers

Watching 01

Until next time, have fun with Macro!

RG

Add A Little Color To A Black Background

March 6, 2012

In the course of teaching a studio lighting class and daily conversations with photographers, the topic of backgrounds inevitably comes up.

I thought I would use this post to show the versatility of the good old black paper background.

We all know black makes a terrific background color for portraiture—usually with a background light added for accent and separation.

What many photographers seem to forget is that the background light need not always need be the standard white we are all use to seeing.

How about adding some color to your black background?

It seldom fails. Whenever I suggest adding color to a black background I get a quizzical look… Add color to black? Can you do that?

And of course you can. By hanging a colored gel in front of a background flash source the black paper takes on a whole new look. (I use a studio strobe with a 20-30 degree grid. See photo below.)

Strobe with grid and colored gel.

You will get a deep shade of the gel’s color where the strobe is strongest, with the color gradually radiating back to black towards the edge of the background. I love this look.

The photographs shown here show how I used this effect in three of my flower images. I have also used this method to create some of my favorite portraits and product shots.

Give it a try next time you are looking to add a little variety to your studio session.

All the best,

Randy

The floral images pictured in this post are available as fine art prints by following the links below.

Calla Lily

Pink Mum

Orchid 01

Composition Basics

February 20, 2012

I teach a number of entry and intermediate digital camera courses. We spend the bulk of our class time on camera operation.

Inevitably, after we cover f-stops and apertures, the topic of composition comes up. Students want to know more than just how to take a technically correct image; they also want to capture photographs that are pleasing to look at. That’s where technical expertise ends and composition begins.

Composition is the art of creating images that tell the story the photographer intended. This first post on composition features examples of two composition basics: The Rule of Thirds, and The Leading Line.

Environmental portraits can often leave the viewer wondering if the image is about the environment, or the person(s) in the portrait. To emphasize my portrait subject in this image I employed the Rule of Thirds to focus the viewer’s attention on Andy, and not the surrounding woods.

The Rule of Thirds states that important information in the photograph should fall on the lines and intersections created by dividing the frame horizontally and vertically into thirds.

If you imagine two lines drawn vertically to split the frame into thirds you will see that my subject is standing a third of the way into the frame. If you then draw two horizontal lines to divide the image into thirds from top to bottom, you will see the subject’s head is located one-third from the top of the image at a point of intersection of our imaginary horizontal and vertical lines.

This placement serves as a visual anchor. In fact, the viewer will have a difficult time focusing on another part of the image. Test this for yourself. Close your eyes and then open them to see the portrait. Inevitably your attention will come to rest on Andy. I have further enhanced this effect by anchoring the left side of the image with the dark tree trunk. A bright open space between Andy and the left side of the frame would have competed for your attention.

This next image is an example of using a Leading Line to direct the viewer’s attention through the photograph. The leading line in this image is obvious, although there are a couple of notes I would like you to observe.

First, the railing enters the image from the left at a different angle from the rest of the path. Notice how this part of the railing is located based on the Rule of Thirds. Had I not included this part of the railing a viewer’s eye would be led through the image just the same. However, there would be no visible anchor to bring the eye back into the frame.

The left side of the image serves as an anchor to bring the viewer back to the starting point of the image over and over. For this same reason I visually closed the top portion of the image with the overhanging branches. This helps to keep your attention focused on my leading line.

I hope you find these composition tips helpful.

Until next time,

Randy