OUR LATEST POSTS
Today’s post is about something that is actually very simple to do, and adds lots of depth to our compositions and is also fun to experiment with! Layering compositions.
Any time that you can take an image from having 2 layers (which is common in most images) and add another layer, the composition becomes much more 3 dimensional and adds impact. Many images are simply a subject and a background like this shot.
When we were shooting weddings, we had a 95% close rate when someone sat down to meet with us about their wedding day. This wasn’t luck and wasn’t because we are the best wedding photographers. It was because we know why people buy, and made sure to give people what they wanted. Today we want to teach you one of the tools we used so you can start to get the same results.
In part 1, we talked through shooting backlit as the sun is still a little high in the sky and how to get that “glow” on your images that all portrait shooters love. In part 2, we talked about adding contrast to your images by using the just-setting sun directly to get a completely different look. Now, here in part 3, we are going to cover shooting with highly reduced contrast as the sun finally goes down.
The image above was shot AFTER the sun had completely set. This is a great time to shoot because the sun itself is not a source of light that we have to deal with, but rather the sky (that the set sun is still lighting up). The sky is now one HUGE soft-box that creates really soft light that has reduced contrast due to its large size in comparison to our subjects.
As you can see in the final images, the shots are soft, slightly flat, and have a very low contrast ratio from highlight to dark.
This time of day looks best with clear to partly cloudy skies so that the sun can bounce off the sky and send light our way. If we have an overcast day, then this timeframe for shooting can look really dreary and dark without some sort of additional lighting or lighting modifiers.
The great thing about shooting in this light, is there is not much instruction needed for HOW to do it, because we just have one gigantic light that is really easy to deal with. We can have our subjects posed in ways that flatter them, and then just expect to see everything since the light is hitting it all. You do have to be careful at this time of day because you can’t use light (or the lack thereof) to hide any parts of your client that you may not want to see. You have to use posing and correct lens choices to get flattering images. But, as you can see, the images will all have very soft skin tones that is flattering in that respect.
With these three options for shooting at sunset, you should be able to get a great wide variety of images in a very short amount of time that your clients will love! Now get out there and shoot!
This is a 3 part series and parts 2 and 3 will come out this Thursday and next Tuesday respectively! :)
Natural light, at just the right time of day or in the right circumstances can be a thing of beauty. Today, we want to talk about 3 key ways that we use natural light during sunset in order to get 3 completely different looks. Variety is important to you as an artist to keep your work fresh, and it gives your clients great choices which can help lead to more sales.
Set-Up #1 – Backlit Diffusion
The image above was shot at about 45 minutes prior to the sun-setting. When the sun is still a little high in the sky, we tend to use this method we will talk about today as our first option. There are the 3 key things we do in order to make the light soft and have the subtle “glow” to it that you see here. When you follow these steps, you will get really stunning lighting on your images that your clients will LOVE!
Do you ever take a photo of a large group of people that you love, only to get home, zoom in, and realize that it’s not in focus or discover that not every face is tack sharp? It’s the WORST FEELING!
We’re here to help with that! Here are eight quick tips to ensure your group photos will be sharp!
1. ONE SHOOTER, ONE ORGANIZER
We always divide and conquer family & group portraits to expedite the process. Amy stays near the group, reads off combinations, poses and positions each person, and looks for anything that’s out of order. This gives Jordan the chance to worry about one thing: getting the pictures in focus. Splitting up the roles has really helped us execute this well, because trying to do both is just too much for one person (in our opinion), and can lead to mistakes with the camera.
2. LINE UP THEIR FEET
Groups have a tendency to curl in on the ends to make a U-shape without even realizing it! We all do it — even photographers! — but it’s a problem when trying to get everyone in focus, because as the people on the ends curl up, they’re leaving the focal plane of the people in the middle. So, if you focus on the person in the middle, then the people on the outsides will be out of focus, and vice versa. Amy uses the direction, “Let’s line up your toes,” to help them get straightened out and back on the same plane.
3.TRY TO AVOID MULTIPLE ROWS WHEN POSSIBLE
If you’re able to get everyone lined up on the same focal plane, that’s best. If you have to do two lines, just make sure and remind the people in the back row to get uncomfortably close to the people in front of them. The farther apart the subjects are (from front to back), the more difficult it will be to get everyone in focus. The closer they are together, the easier.
4. FOCUS ON THE PEOPLE IN THE FRONT
If you have a two rows of people standing, make sure to focus on someone in the front and center. Aperture, like a lot of things in photography, works in a system of thirds. So, if your aperture is f/4, then within that focal plane, wherever you focus, 1/3 of that will go forward and 2/3 will go backward. In other words, when you focus on someone in the front, you just need them to be in focus, and nothing in front of them, but you do need the people behind them to be in focus, so you’ll have a better chance of doing that if you give them the extra 2/3 of that aperture’s focal depth.
5. PICK THE RIGHT APERTURE
If we’re shooting a bride and groom and their parents or a small grouping of bridesmaids or groomsmen (of about 4 people), and they’re all on the same focal plane, we’ll shoot it at f/2.8 to get them all in focus and have nice bokeh in the background. If we’re shooting a full bridal party (of about 10-18 people), and they’re all on the same focal plane, then we’ll bump our aperture up a full stop to f/4.0 (if that makes you uncomfortable, you can always go to f/5.6, but we like f/4.0). We’ll do the same if there’s a second row added in on a small grouping, as long as everyone is very close together, like we explained earlier. If there’s a third row, we’ll go to at least f/5.6 and maybe even f/8.0, but we rarely encounter that because most of our clients usually just want immediate family in the photos: parents, siblings, and grandparents. As a rule of thumb, though, we tend to hang out at f/4.0 for most of family portrait time and keep the groupings smaller, because even though we give up some of the bokeh in the background compared to f/2.8, we’ll trade that for guaranteed in-focus family shots any day of the week. Your client won’t notice the difference between f/2.8 and f/4.0, but they will notice if they’re blurry!
A lens’s sharpest aperture isn’t actually its highest number (like f/22). For most lenses, it’s around f/8 – f/11, so if you’re really worried about getting everyone in a layered group shot sharp and in focus, something in that range will definitely do the trick!
6. KEEP YOUR SHUTTER SPEED FAST
Your shutter should always be double your focal length — at least. We shoot a lot of our family portraits with a Canon 70-200 2.8 at 200mm because it allows us to compress the subjects (which makes everyone look SO good!) and pull in a small piece of the background and get clean, non-distracting shots, so that means we keep our shutter at around 400 just to be safe. Can that lens handle a slower shutter? Yes, probably. We shoot it lower than that all the time, but not during group formals. It’s just not worth it. If you’re not getting enough light, bump up your ISO one stop to keep your shutter fast. You’ll never notice the grain, and neither will anyone else.
7. WATCH OUT FOR LENS FLARE
If sunlight is hitting your lens directly and you see lens flare, make an adjustment before you start family portraits. Sun flare can cause the camera to have trouble focusing 100%. You might not even notice sun flare right away, but even if it’s subtle, it can still create a tack-sharp focusing issue. We recommend lens hoods in situations like that. Sometimes we’re limited to where we can shoot family portraits, so if the only spot available is somewhere that has sunlight hitting the lens directly, a good lens hood will minimize or eliminate that. If you can’t get rid of all of it, you can always have a second shooter or assistant hold a diffuser over the camera, like a a reflector or umbrella, to shade the lens.
8. CHECK YOUR LCD SCREEN
Every time we take a set of group formals, we quickly zoom in and check the LCD before we move on to the next combination. It takes a few seconds to make sure everyone’s eyes are open and in focus, and it’s so worth it. We’re committed to getting everything right in-camera so that we don’t have to pay someone to Photoshop eyes onto a subject whose are closed, so, instead, we double-check on-site and do the shot one more time if we need to. It’s worth it to get it right while we’re there!
Friend, we hope that these tips help you get your family portraits in focus every time! If you try these tips and you’re still having trouble, it might be time to send your lens or camera in for an inspection. We’ve had to replace our shutter after too much wear. But most of the time, these tricks will do the trick! We’ll be anxious to hear how things turn out!