Shooting Portraits Of Men

Shooting Portraits Of Men

by William Lulow

You might ask, what’s the difference between doing portraits of men and women? On first blush, you might not see any real differences. But, they are there nonetheless. Because men are naturally more “rugged” than women, they can usually take a much harsher lighting. More dramatic lightings usually highlight a man’s features, while softer lightings are generally more flattering to women. Therefore, when I do a man’s portrait I always feel as though I have much more leeway, lighting-wise than with women.

I usually begin with my soft umbrella, though for just about anyone. Then I can move to more dramatic lightings as I see how the session unfolds. Here’s a good, dramatic shot:

The face is pretty much lit except for some shadow on the left side. But the accent light on the left helps to define the face in a much more rugged way. There was no fill-in light used in the front, as I would normally do for a woman.

Here’s a side-lighting used as an advertisement for an art director. Note how the shadow works to separate the face from the background.

And another example from earlier this week:

For a portrait of writer Peter Boyer, I was able to try a couple of different lightings. This one used my two accent lights with only the mainlight umbrella with no fill-in light.

This one, used mainlight, background light, but only one accent light:

Here you can see the effects of using a mainlight without any fill-in light. I get a “wrap-around” effect from my large umbrella mainlight, but still have some shadow which tends to add some depth to the picture. It also keeps the neck in shadow, thus calling more attention to the face. Shadows can be used in many creative ways. They can hide unwanted or unnecessary details, they can be used to direct attention to the lighter areas, or can simply add that dramatic touch. Remember, the principle at work is that darker areas tend to recede while lighter areas attract more attention.

As I said, men can usually take a bit more drama in the lighting than can women. But I still had all my lights set up and ready to go if I thought I needed them. Portrait photographers have to stay flexible because we usually meet our subjects for the first time when they walk in the studio door! We have to decide on-the-spot, how we think we will light them and what lighting setup would look best for their needs.

 

How Stylists Help Photographers

How Stylists Help Photographers

by William Lulow

I guess it can’t be spoken of enough. Stylists improve a commercial photo shoot in ways one might never have thought about! We recently did a portrait for a woman who had never really had professional pictures done. We do that quite a bit these days, but this one was special because it was someone both the makeup artist Jill Harth and I both knew. Our job was to make our subject feel comfortable enough to be able to express herself for the camera.

I have often said that for a portrait session, having the subject invest something more than the fee in the whole process goes a long way to producing great results. If someone comes to the studio and just sits for their portrait without any fuss over her, she is kind of made to feel more like just an object. But, if the hair and makeup process takes some time and the subject gets the idea that the photographic “team” really cares about how the pictures will look, that seems to make all the difference.

This was some of the behind the scenes views:

This was a shot of my studio’s back room looking out to the deck. (Nice to have a studio in the country for a change)!

The stylist takes the time and effort to make the subject look and feel great about themselves. Once the subject sees what is involved and the time it takes, she is much more involved in the whole shoot itself. In this case, our subject, Cindy Weinstein looked terrific. Here’s one of the finished shots:

And, here’s another:

I could tell from behind the camera that Cindy was having a good time posing for us. She had the sense that she looked great and that feeling came through on the images. Thanks again to Jill Harth for another great job.

Slow Down Your Picture Taking!

Slow Down Your Picture Taking!

by William Lulow

There was an article in the paper last week or so about how many high schools are using analog techniques (film, darkroom, chemicals and photo paper) to teach photography. I have to admit that when I was first learning how to develop film and make prints, I was fascinated by the process and the “magic” involved in seeing a print “appear” in a developing tray under the safelight! (I still have that same entranced feeling even when I see an image come up on the computer screen).

The article goes on to say that the whole analog process made people really think about what they were photographing and why! When you have only 36 shots on a roll (for medium format, it was usually 12 and for sheet film with view cameras, one!), and you have to develop the film, wait for it to dry, make a contact sheet, select the frame you wanted to enlarge, clean the negative, insert it into the enlarger, make an exposure, then run the print through first, the developer, then the stopbath, finally the fixer and then wash it for a half hour….it made you think twice about just which images were worth all that work!

These days, the digital imaging process lets you take as many shots as your SD or CD card will hold, sometimes in rapid succession. Many people just take a lot of pictures in hopes that one will be really great. This is the wrong way to go about the process of taking pictures!

What I have been telling all my students (and anyone else who will listen), is first, to get a clear image in your mind of the kind of photograph you wish to make. Then, either go out and find a location that you know well, or set up an indoor (studio) shot with equipment that you know equally well and try to duplicate an image that you have seen in your mind’s eye. Or, absent a clear vision of your own, try to duplicate a photograph that has caught your eye before! I know that it’s been said that copying something is the sincerest form of flattery, but when learning how to think more deeply about the photographic process, it is another way to train your senses.

I remember trying to duplicate portrait lightings that I saw over and over again from the Avedons, Halsmans, Penns and any other photographer I admired. I would look closely at the catchlights in their subjects’ eyes and shadows in each image to try to determine the position of lights in the studio. I studied endless numbers of magazine photographs with the idea of duplicating the results. I pored over poses, props and angles, then tried to copy the images with my own setups.

My point is that I spent a great deal of time studying successful images before I tried it myself! If you are intent on making better pictures, you should really spend a lot of time thinking about the process first. In our digital age, you can see results immediately, which doesn’t help the thinking process much! When I was learning, I had to go through the whole development process (outlined above) before I knew if I succeeded or not! It sharpened by vision skills! Today, I often find myself imagining what an image would look like without even using a camera.

This is such an image. I was driving by this spot and actually passed it by! Then, it was actually in my rear-view mirror that I saw its possibilities and turned around. All that was left was to find the correct angle to duplicate what I saw in the mirror.

This was a spot that I have driven by several times without actually taking any pictures. Finally, one day, all the elements seemed right to make this pastoral, winter scene…talk about going slow!! This experience reminds me of a photographer I met a while ago who went out to one of the national parks and just sat in one spot for a couple of weeks, waiting for an ideal light! Now, that’s being patient!

This was a shot that I thought about before I actually made it. I just didn’t know what the location would be like, so I had to work around several elements to achieve the image I saw in my mind first!

This brings me back to going slow when it comes to making images. Someone once asked the famous director Alfred Hitchcock if he spent time watching his own movies. His response: “…not really. I’ve seen them all in my mind!” There is really no substitute for having some kind of clear vision when you start to make a photograph. Staying in close touch with your own psychological frame of mind is probably the best way. If you know what you are feeling, you can probably get a good idea of how to translate that feeling into the elements of a photograph. But, you also have to be thoroughly versed in the language of pictures as well.

 

“Access:” What It Means To Photographers

“Access:” What It Means To Photographers

by William Lulow

I recently read a biography of Edward S. Curtis, a well-known photographer who lived in the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. It was written by Timothy Egan several years ago. Mr. Egan is also a columnist for the New York Times and he is quite an excellent writer. He does a massive amount of research on his topics and can be counted on to render a complete and thorough account of whatever topic he chooses.

Edward S. Curtis is world renowned for his depiction of various North American Native peoples who have inhabited parts of the continent. The thing that registered with me about this book, is that for a story about a photographer, very little is mentioned about his photographic techniques. Mr. Egan does mention that Curtis used a 14″x17″ view camera (mostly all that was available then until after the turn of the 20th century), with glass plates that he had to coat with light sensitive emulsions in order to record the scenes he found. (Can you imagine doing this out of a horse-drawn covered wagon?)

The book is mainly about the man (Curtis) and the kinds of things that drove him to make the images he made, as a proper biography should. But it is also about access and how he was able to travel among the North American tribes freely, how he learned their languages (some) and how he was able to persuade various people to finance his photographic forays into the American West. It’s also, sadly, about how difficult it was to become a published “artist” in those days, and the trials and tribulations Curtis went through to publish his life’s work.

Doing any type of attention-getting art work has always been about access! If you can convince someone to let you do your artwork and pay for it, you will obtain the necessary access you need to create. I think this has been a problem for artists from time immemorial! The great Dutch Masters often needed sponsors. These days, very few artists are able to create masterpieces on their own, with their own financing, because, make no mistake, ART REQUIRES MONEY! It costs something to have any kind of photographic equipment these days, and that’s why the term “starving artist” evolved. Many good artists couldn’t afford to do their art! Even if you do everything yourself, it will still cost you. The great photographers like Penn, Avedon, Halsman, Karsh as well as all those like Eisenstadt who worked for great publishers and magazines, were able to create their art while someone else paid the bill. Any commercial photographer these days, gains access by having clients who need photographs. Curtis, himself, ran a large, fairly successful portrait studio in Seattle. That was the thing that gave him his start. But his true passion of documenting the Native American populations would wind up costing him his fortune, his marriage and eventually his health.

So, the story of how Edward S. Curtis gained access to these native peoples is really the story and not how he set up his camera. But, within that framework, it is also important to find out just how Curtis was able to make those remarkable images. As I said though, no real answer to this question was offered in this book.  Ansel Adams often shared his knowledge of the science of photography. I had an opportunity to meet him in 1975, at one of his lectures. I believe he was a scientist before he was an artist. In the early days of photography (dating back to around 1835), the problem was how to make images permanent. The Dutch Masters had the camera obscura, but no paper prints could be made from the images. It wasn’t until people figured out how to fix an image chemically on a piece of paper or a glass plate, that the real art of photography was born. So, it would have been interesting to read a description of how Curtis actually went about making his images, but that was not the focus of the book. It was more about the man himself and what drove him to do what he did.

But, to this day, photographers who are able to gain access to someone or something they truly love, helps them create great works of art.

I was fortunate, early in my career to gain access to a number of rock and roll musicians and was able to make some interesting and poignant images of them in performance. Since music was always an interest of mine, I felt I spoke their language and that I was uniquely qualified to make these images:

Chuck Berry

Elton John

So, access really means everything to a photographer because making images requires the camera to be present at whatever scene you are photographing. Getting access to your favorite subject matter is the first step to making great photographs.

Advanced Portrait Techniques

Advanced Portrait Techniques

by William Lulow

Once you have mastered the art of producing really top-notch portraits and you can rely on your lighting schemes every time, you can then begin to try different lightings during your shoots to see if breaking any rules or using alternative lighting setups can enhance your normal portrait images. I think it should be said, that most portrait studios develop a style and technique that they apply across the board for anyone who comes to the studio. But, the notion of real creativity comes with the ability to change lighting styles whenever you want slightly different effects.

Here’s what I mean:

This was a recent portrait sitting for a high school senior. It uses my typical beauty lighting which consists of my large umbrella main light, a small softbox fill-in light, two edge lights that provided highlights on the hair and one light to illuminate the background.

Once I had a number of these images with different poses and expressions shot, I decided to see if a more dramatic lighting would work on my subject. Here is one result:

This is a typical “Hollywood Light,” similar to ones used by photographers to photograph Hollywood actresses in the 1930s and 1940s. Note the shadows, but also note how the face is completely illuminated! Now compare this to the one above which is lit with much softer light. You can readily see how the shadows add some drama to the picture, but do not always provide a flattering image. This image was lit with one mainlight directed at the subject and one highlight aimed at the subject’s hair from the camera’s right side.

Here is yet another version with the subject leaning against a studio wall:

This was lit with my large, soft umbrella main light plus an additional highlight (accent) off to camera right.

My point to all this is that once you think you have a salable image or series of images, you are then free to experiment with other lightings to see if anything else strikes you. Don’t be afraid to try different poses, positions, lights, etc., once you have images you know the client will like. There was a successful headshot photographer I knew years ago, who had a small studio but really didn’t try to obtain different results whenever he had a new client. In effect, all his subjects were shot under the same lighting setup. So, they were technically good, but not really creative. It’s best to start with something you know, but then to experiment with different techniques and go for more interesting results.

Soft lighting, in general, always works best when you are trying to please a client. There are also considerations about camera angles that either flatter the subject or distort her. More about these in a subsequent article.

Product Photography

Product Photography

by William Lulow

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about doing product photography, so here is an article about it. Commercial photographers are often asked to shoot many different kinds of subjects under many different conditions. The mark of a good commercial photographer is that he knows all the various details and “tricks” about how to make ANY subject look good. So, even though I photograph people mostly, I did a stint as a catalog product photographer early in my career. It was during that time that I learned many of the techniques of good product photography.

So, the other day I was asked to photograph a number of brushed suede dopp kits (for shaving supplies, toothbrushes, etc.), for use on a website. Now, most products should, normally be lit from above, with fill-in lights added on both sides where necessary. This was my initial setup for shooting these products:

I was able to shoot this upstairs in my small studio because all I needed was a tabletop with a no-seam paper for a set. These “softboxes” give excellent light. They are direct, but diffuse and help to delineate the subject.

Here is one shot we made with this setup:

This was the rest of the lighting setup:

This shows one fill-in light added from camera-left position, but for the above product, it was bounced into an umbrella. There was another softbox placed to the right of the camera which provided a highlight on the right side of the bag. Note: For bottles or shiny objects, you should really have two softboxes, one on each side of the subject, in order to provide the correct highlights.

Now, the client needed for her bags to be represented in their true color, since she was selling them online. If customers are shopping from a website or catalog, it is important that everything in the shot be crystal clear and show the product accurately. If they order something and it’s not EXACTLY what they wanted when it arrives, the company has lost the sale. So, it’s very important that the photography be spot-on! Each image was downloaded immediately to my computer with its 27″ screen so that the client could get a good picture of what each image was.

Here’s another example:

Here, we added a couple of props and used the client’s hands for the laptop. (Image on the screen was “burned in” using a slow shutter speed while turning off all studio lights.)

Here’s yet another example:

You can see the effect of all the lights. The detail on the zipper shows as well as the highlights from the main light (softbox).

I used to shoot all of my product shots with my 8×10 Deardorff or my 4×5 flatbed view cameras. These days, I do most of my product photography with my Canon 5D with a 60mm macro lens. I also like to use the 60D with the revolvable LCD screen. Most of the images were shot at f/11 or f/14 to ensure maximum sharpness.

Large Group Portrait Techniques

Large Group Portrait Techniques

by William Lulow

I just read an article published in PDN online that talked about a photographer’s technique for shooting large groups. It talked about adding light from one side of the set and then somehow strengthening it by adding additional lights in a sort of progressive manner.

The problems with shooting a large group are several: 

  1. To make sure everyone in the shot is lit fairly evenly
  2. To make sure that everyone in the shot is visible
  3. To make sure that every person in the shot is sharp

Photographing large groups outdoors:

Here is my technique for photographing a large group outdoors. I like to find a nice spot where I can put the people in the sunlight with the sun behind them. This enables me to use the sun as an accent light (or in this case a hairlight). Having people face away from the sun accomplishes two things: (1) it uses the sun as a highlight because it is brighter than the fill-in light and (2) it allows the subjects to open their eyes without having to squint. I also try to find some shade in which I can place my camera. If there is no shade available, I carry a black umbrella with which my assistant will provide some, so that the lens is always shaded. With this setup you always need to fill-in the shadows so that the subjects’ faces are lit. For this I use my portable speedlights mounted on stands with their own battery packs. Sometimes I use two of them or only one, if it provides enough fill-in light. I usually have the power dialed down to 1/2 or 1/4 to make sure that the fill light is less intense than the sun. If they were the same, the image would be washed out and the sun would not be doing its job as an accent light. If power is available, I use my studio strobe units, usually two of them, each fitted with an umbrella

Here is one example of a group portrait shot with just one portable speedlight as a fill in light:

Bleustein (29)B

In this group shot, they are all in the sun and the sun lights up their hair and shoulders. Note that the shadows on the grass are in front of the group. This image was filled in with one speedlight mounted on a light stand, set at 1/2 power and placed about 10 feet away and a bit off to the left.

Here’s another example of the same type of lighting setup for a large group:

GroupShotWEB

This image was made on a NYC rooftop using the same technique. Note the great highlights and the open expressions. Since there was a place to plug in my portable studio strobe units, this image was lit with a two lights each aimed into a small umbrella. It provided nice, even illumination of everyone in the group.

The technique of utilizing the sun as an accent light, if you will, works extremely well because it adds a three-dimensional quality to the image. Also, everyone is sharp because I was able to use a small enough aperture to carry focus from front to rear.

Photographing Large Groups Indoors:

If you’re going to shoot a large group indoors, you have several requirements again:

  1. You need enough room to pose everyone comfortably
  2. You need enough room to position your lights
  3. You need enough light to be able to stop the lens down enough to carry focus from front to back
  4. Light has to be even so that each person receives the same amount of light on his/her face
  5. There has to be enough room to light the background

Here is a large group which I shot indoors in a rented studio with a large cyclorama:

The lights included in the shot were just props. First of all, the camera was mounted on a tripod set on top of a large platform above the group. A large umbrella was placed almost as high as the camera and as close to the camera as possible. Another umbrella was placed on the opposite side of the camera, a bit lower. In order to carry background tone from front to back, two (2) background lights were placed on either side of the set (making 4 background lights in all) and aimed directly at the background. So, there were a total of six lights used on this set ensuring that everyone was lit evenly and the background was lit evenly as well.

In order to be able to carry focus with my digital SLR, I determined that I needed an aperture of at least f/11, so the main light (large umbrella) was connected to a pack which had a 1600 watt/second output. The fill-in light to the right of the camera was set at 800 watt/seconds and each set of background lights were set at 1000 watt/seconds each. Note how everyone is sharp and well-lit!

Here’s a slightly different technique for a group shot:

For this shot, (a take-off of the Beatles first record cover) was made with a directional main light from the right side, but feathered a bit toward the front in order to make sure everyone was lit. There will always be some fall off from a directional main light, so here is where you might want to add a second light, from the same direction, placed a bit closer to the people farthest away from the main light. You need to make sure that this second light doesn’t overpower the first. You only want to bring the light level of the people furthest away up a bit.

The other thing you need to think about when shooting large groups is to position your subjects at various heights. Sometimes it is hard to avoid that “straight horizon line” look, but if you have chairs, boxes, ladders etc., to give you different heights of the heads in the shot, you will create a much more interesting group portrait.

 

How To Set Up An Accent Light

How To Set Up An Accent Light

by William Lulow

While on a location shoot the other day, I decided to take some images of how I set up my accent lights. I was doing a corporate portrait and I decided to use just three lights. One main light (bounced into my big umbrella, one accent light and one background light. (Since the subject was a man, I wanted the image to have the same look as others I had done for this company, but I wanted to make it a bit more dramatic)! So, how do accent lights work to make a portrait more dramatic? First, an “accent light” is really just a highlight that attracts the eye to a particular part of the person you are shooting. In order to do that, it must be lighter than the rest of the face because, in an image, anything light tends to attract our attention much more than something dark. The rule is: light stands out, dark recedes! This is the reason for setting up an accent light in the first place. You want to give the portrait some added depth by creating light areas as well as dark ones.

As I have said many times, if you want the accent lights to register as white (and thereby stand out in the image), they should be roughly one f/stop brighter than the main light. So, here is how I set that up:

pack1854c-1

This is the power “pack” I use. (The slider bars only control the modeling lights not the power).  You will notice that there is one head plugged into the “A” bank on this pack. That is my mainlight umbrella. The umbrella is diffusing the light and softening it. That is the light that I want to be my main exposure. It is set at 125watt/seconds.  My camera meter on that light read f/11 using ISO 100. You will also notice that there are two heads plugged in to the “B” bank. In addition, notice that the switch controlling whether both banks would be used together or separately is on “separate.” Both heads connected to this bank are used without any diffusion. They are “raw.” Note also that the power switch is on 250watt/seconds. My camera meter reading from the subject’s hair and shoulders read f/16. That is how I know that the highlights (accent lights) would register white.

This was my “studio” setup at this company with the positions of the lights I used:

Here is the result:

The accent lighting on the edge of the subject’s face and on the hair are reproduced as white. They are one stop brighter than the mainlight, which is nice and soft, giving the face a very neutral tone.

The background light, which is also one f/stop brighter than my umbrella light is placed on the floor and when aimed up at a gray background, produces a nice gradation from light to dark as the top part of the background actually absorbs the light as it goes from lower to higher.

These power settings are fairly low compared to the capability of this pack. Given the DSLR’s sensitivity to light these days, the same amount of power is just not needed today as in the past.

You can see that the accent light here gives the portrait a bit more interest than simply a head shot against a plain background. There is really no limit to the results  you can obtain by knowing when and where to place your lights.

The Real Need For Education or “How To Re-Invent Yourself!”

The Real Need For Education or “How To Re-Invent Yourself!”

by William Lulow

Note: This article was published back in May of this year, but I’ve added some information to it. I like to remind folks from time to time, of the need for practical education.

Many people seem to be angry these days about technology taking their jobs and they sometimes look to politicians to help change things. Well, as someone once said, “You can’t stop the growth of technology and you can’t stop change.” After all, we outgrew the need for lamplighters well over a century ago. And, politicians from the coal-producing states had better get used to the notion that coal mining, the way it used to be, is a thing of the past as well. But, it’s hard to convince people to change when they’ve been used to a certain way of life for generations.

It’s the advancing technology that produces this type of change and it has affected the photography industry as well. But, as old-fashioned jobs are lost, there are many new ones that technology creates. With the photography industry, it’s really the photographer’s creative “eye” that hasn’t really changed all that much. Even though there are new cameras, digital applications and mobile smart phones with cameras built in, the basic need for photographs has only increased not decreased! The problem is that many photographers have had to re-invent the way they make images and thus conduct their businesses and workflow patterns. No job will remain as it used to be for very long, so we must re-think what kinds of jobs we want to do and how we wish to proceed. Also, I’ve mentioned before that the world has become a very “do-it-yourself” (DIY) place. People can do all sorts of things these days that they couldn’t do before without some kind of professional intervention. There is all kinds of instruction available now, online! So, rather than lament a lost job, we need to invent new ones. Or, we need to re-invent different and more modern ways of doing the old jobs and sometimes, we need to become more entrepreneurial and change our business models to keep up with the times!

Photography is one of those fields that is both an art and a science at the same time. There are certain precepts that you must follow if you are going to make a successful image no matter what equipment you use! You still have to use a camera of some sort and you still need to use light to make most photographs. This is where the education part comes in. Learning about light AND new equipment would increase your chances of making good photographs. I thought about this over thirty years ago when I began teaching a portrait lighting course at the New School For Social Research in New York City. I could see that there were people back then, who were attempting to make photographs without really understanding the properties of light! So, I thought it would be a good idea to begin teaching other people what I was doing in my studio to make the kinds of images I was making, and to teach them about how to use light to create better images.

I knew also, that I wanted to impart my love of photography to others and to help them make better portraits. I am certainly not the first photographer who has made this transition. There are many others as well. But, I have developed, over the years, a step-by-step approach to the teaching of studio lighting for portraits which greatly simplifies the application of artificial light in a studio setting. It proceeds from the use of one light up to using multiple lights to help make your portraits (and other photographic efforts) take on new dimensions.

This “re-invention” was a fairly logical step in my case, because I am a trained teacher.  I wound up creating several courses in photography from beginning camera techniques to advanced lighting applications and I often share what I know from my forty years in the photography business, right here in these blog articles.

But, what is significant about my change and re-invention can be applied to almost any industry. With more people trying to do things themselves, comes more demand for information on how, exactly to do it! So, one way to re-invent oneself in today’s employment market is to offer people a way to learn to do what it is that you do!

This is one of my advertisements from last year:

My workshops offer various techniques in photography and portrait lighting. One of them was about how to use what you know of psychology to make better, more compelling portraits.

I know several people who have done this in their various fields and met with a high degree of success.

Teaching time-proven techniques only helps elevate everyone’s skill level and helps them re-invent themselves as well! If you are interested in a workshop, contact me!

How To Use “Back Button” Focusing

How To Use “Back Button” Focusing

by William Lulow

Note: This article was published six months ago, but I thought it important enough to republish it here. This is a technique that can speed up focusing as well as composition.

Here’s a neat little trick I read about in PDN last year.  It’s called “Back Button Focusing.” I learned that you can assign a button on the back of your DSLR to use for your auto focusing tasks. Most DSLRS these days have a feature which enables the user to hold the shutter release button down half way to allow the camera’s auto focus mechanism to acquire proper focus on the subject. Then, when you actually release the shutter button all the way, the picture is taken. Re-assigning the AF task is a simple matter, but you need to consult your camera manual for how this is done with your particular camera.

With “Back Button Focusing”, you can use one of the buttons on the back of the camera to do the same thing. I have been using this technique all the time now and did so last year while photographing singer/songwriter Kathy Mattea in concert. I re-assigned the auto focus task to my AF button which I held down with my thumb while I pressed the shutter button with my forefinger, as always. I set up only ONE AF point in the center and while holding down the AF button on the part of the image I wanted to be sharp, I re-composed the shot and then released the shutter with my forefinger. What I found was that the whole procedure of using auto-focus seemed to go a bit faster because you are holding focus on the element you want to be sharp while composing your shot. I found it was much harder to do the same thing by holding the shutter release button halfway. I found it much easier to use both buttons. My images were sharper and my compositions better.

For these images, I aimed the center AF point directly on the singer’s face to make sure that it was sharp, held the “Back Button” down and released the shutter, keeping the AF where I wanted it:

Mattea_0325(c)

Mattea_0151(c)

Mattea_0207(c)

Since most of my early concert shots were done in Black&White, I always like to shoot some frames in original monochrome mode when I’m shooting concerts these days.

So, try this technique out. See if you like it and it helps you with your AF tasks. I found it to be particularly helpful with subjects that move a lot. I’ve taken to using it with my normal studio portrait shoots as well. Just seems to make things faster and easier.