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Today’s Photography Tips and Tricks REVISITED 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.
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Today we are going to talk about how to get lens flare! Lens flare is my (Jody) FAVORITE to shoot! Getting great flare can be a little tricky and take a bit of practice and tweaking, so we will share some tips that will give you the best opportunities for success to get awesome flarey goodness :)
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Jan
24
2014

Friday Finds | Color Calibration

by Zach on January 24, 2014, posted in Friday Finds

The Spyder 4 Elite is what we use to calibrate all of our monitors in our studio to ensure that what we see on the screen, is what we will get back in print. Calibrating your monitor is an absolute necessity if you want to make sure your bride and groom’s faces don’t end up orange in their album. :)

The Spyder 4 Elite is really versatile and can tweak any monitor you have including your laptop, your iPhone or even the flat screen TV you use for showcasing images to your clients at in-home sales sessions! All you do is download the software, place the Spyder over your screen, and it shoots out and array of colors and contrast settings and then reads it, tweaks it and streamlines your color, brightness and contrast. It is amazing! If you have never calibrated your monitor, when you first do this, it can freak you out since everything might look way different. But just remember, it always looked that way, you just didn’t realize it. :)

A few things to keep in mind when it comes to color calibration and editing:

  • Laptops screens for the most part can never really be calibrated as they are not able to accurately show colors, contrast ratios and are not designed for editing. They also can shift their color in a matter of days or weeks and need to constantly be re-calibrated just to be in the ballpark (and many can’t even be adjusted to any real accuracy at all). If you are in the habit of heading to your favorite coffee shop with your laptop to adjust color and tweak and edit images, chances are your printed images will be all over the place. 
  • Make sure you edit in similar lighting conditions without too much ambient light in the room for consistency. If orange light hits your screen from the room lights, you may end up reducing orange, but in reality you only thought you needed to and then your clients look like vampires (which is pretty popular these days, so maybe it will work out for the best). :)  
  • Get a real editing monitor as that tool is just as important as your camera and lenses. We use the Dell U2410 which is designed for editing and is a really great monitor for the price. 
Get your color rockin and pick up a Spyder today!

Welcome back once again to our Tuesday Photography Tips and Tricks..REVISITED!! Today we are talking about natural lit close-up portraits and how to get the lighting killer in-camera so it truly flatters your client. Jody and I have a simple rule when we are out with our couple’s and shooting their portraits, and that is, the closer we get to them, the more fine-tuned the lighting on their faces needs to be.

We are always on the hunt for the most awesome, soft (or indirect) light* sources that we can find that are also coming in at the correct angle to get great light in our clients’ eyes. We always want a catch light just above their pupils and are watching their eyes closely for that. But, many times when you are on location, you don’t always have the luxury of having beautiful, soft, directional light hitting your client just above the pupil.

On a lot of our shoots we need to fill in the gaps that the natural light is leaving by adding some extra light from anywhere that we can find it. On many days here in Nashville, we can have overcast days, or days where there are lots of clouds that are in and out, and even though when it is cloudy out and we have soft light, it is not always coming in at the direction that we want. Usually, on overcast days, all of the light comes straight down on top of our clients’ heads and creates those darker shadows in their eyes. Not cool!!

So, the solution to the problem is simply adding a reflector* to open up those dark shadows by introducing some soft light to them! You would think that using less light on a client would make their skin look better, but in reality, adding LOTS of soft light to their face actually hides their imperfections and allows you to do less retouching after shooting.

Imperfections are seen when subjects have harsh and contrasty light on them. Imperfections can also be more apparent when a subject has bumpy skin (aka a pimple or other imperfection) and the light set up creates a highlight and shadow area. However, by adding soft, indirect light, we actually minimize the shadows that show those imperfections and it ends up making skin look smoother (sometimes smoother than it actually is!).

When shooting in natural light, we use a reflector (or sometimes two, when we want to get super extra-awesome light and play around with attendees at our workshops) to get soft light! See images below!

So, the question is, what do I do with this darn reflector to get that look?!!

If we are out on a cloudy day, the closer we are to our subject, the more particular we get about how soft and direct the light on our client’s face is. Once we get into head-shot range, we want the most amazing light hitting our client and will do whatever we have to do to get it! (Which makes them look even more awesome and saves us tons of time in post!).

As you can see on this full-length shot below, the lighting is really nice, but if you look really close, or zoom in 100%, you may notice that her eyes could be a little brighter than they are. But, because we shot this from so far away, you would never notice that the lighting is not absolutely perfect, just really good. But again, the closer we get, the more critical it is to have spot on lighting.

In this next shot, we are really close to our client’s face, and any imperfections or bad lighting will be very visible, so it is critical to get that lighting dialed in!

 

Here are the steps for getting great light on a cloudy day while doing a close-up head shot:

1. Pick the location that has the best light to begin with (the light hitting our subjects is more important than the background because great light is going to make – or break the shot).

2. Position your clients how you want them and also where most of the existing light will hit their eyes just above the pupil.

3. Since most of the light will be coming down from the clouds, then position your reflector in the opposite direction of that light, or under their chin, in order to bounce the cloudy light back up into the shadow areas. (We use the gold/silver mixed reflector for cloudy days, since it bounces lots of light back and NOT the white, since white usually won’t reflect enough light on cloudy days)

4. Watch the eyes! You know the reflector is in the right position when you can clearly see the reflector in their eyes, so keep moving it around until you see that light popping!

If their eyes are the brightest part of your subject, then you are golden and going to get great looking shots. In the below close up of our previous image, you can clearly see the cloudy sky just barely reflecting in the upper part of her eyes, and the silver/gold reflector in the bottom portion of her eyes below the pupil. You also may notice the very soft shadows and smooth skin that this produces. This images has NO retouching done to it.

The image below was shot in the exact same lighting with the exact same exposure, same lens and same depth of field taken just seconds apart, but this image has the reflector removed. You can clearly see more imperfections in the skin in this shot and you can see how the cloudy light coming straight down on her creates shadows under her eyes that show every line in her face.

The above image in contrast, looks like we retouched her skin and dodged the whites of her eyes to make them brighter, even though all we did was add light while shooting.

5. Remember that the closer you can get that reflector, the softer the light will be and the less imperfections you will see on your clients faces, so get that reflector in CLOSE! (*Note for when shooting your clients: Unless they are used to having their photos taken all of the time, never start off a photo session putting a reflector all up in their mug. We always start our sessions shooting them from far away and then we work up to getting close to them. Then, when we bust out the reflector we tell them that this makes them look even more awesome and they love it).

6. Take awesome shots! :)

A few more tips for getting that creamy skin and soft light are to use a shallow depth of field, like 2.8 or 2.0, and then make sure that you have the correct color on your images by doing a custom white balance which will further help the skin look soft and buttery!

The last thing you want to do is soften the skin by pulling contrast out of your shots in post by taking down the clarity or by reducing contrast in any other way. It could seem logical to remove middle-range contrast (which is what the clarity slider in Lightroom adds or removes) since that middle-range contrast is what shows the imperfections in skin. But the reason we don’t want to do that, is because contrast is created by light and not by a computer, and if you start manipulating that natural contrast on anything other than an overall level, your images will start to look Photo-Chopped and unnatural.

You will also lose clarity on any other part of the image that has middle-range contrast and it will look like you added a soft-filter to your shots (like people did as a trend in film photography in the 90′s). Not cool!! (Try Google image searching “Soft Filter Photography” to see what we mean).

Here are a few more images from some of our weddings where we used the exact same principals to get great in-camera shots that look stellar with little or no editing. All of these were shot in either cloudy overcast days, or in soft, indirect lit areas and we simply added that silver/gold reflector to soften up the skin and add light.

*Definitions:

Soft, indirect light – light that is not coming directly from the source (like the sun) but bouncing off of something evenly (like clouds, a big white wall, or the blue sky) that is LARGER than the source of the light in comparison to your subject.

Reflector – Material that bounces light off of itself to add light to another area of an image. Some reflectors can add soft light, and some can add harsher light depending on the material on the reflector. White reflectors bounce the softest light but reflect the least amount of light, and silver/gold reflectors bounce harsher light, and also reflect the brightest light back.

 

Hope you guys enjoyed this weeks tips!! Want us to blog about something YOU want to hear more about?? Email us on our photographers page by filling out the form HERE.

 

Jan
17
2014

Friday Finds | Fotolanthropy

by Jody on January 17, 2014, posted in Friday Finds

Welcome to this week’s edition of Friday Finds… REVISITED! Allow us to introduce you to Fotolanthropy! I (Jody) met Katie Norris, one of the founders of Fotolanthropy at Pursuite 31, a Christian women’s retreat I was at in October. I loved her story and her heart and what she and her business partner Brooke are doing to make a difference and knew their story and company had to be featured on our blog.

Meet Katie Norris and Brooke Moore, the two amazing women behind the brand that is making a difference, Fotolanthropy. Founded in 2011, Fotolanthropy is a nationwide movement of photographers and filmmakers working together to capture inspiring true stories through photography and film. We love how their heart is to bless families/individuals that have faced trials and give them a platform to share their story across the world so that others may be blessed by their inspiration. So cool! [click to continue…]