More On Photographing Children

More On Photographing Children

by William Lulow

Earlier this week, I had an assignment to make a series of photographs at a school facility that catered to children of various ages and provided them with daycare as well as projects of interest to them. As I have said, the trick to photographing children successfully is to be ready whenever they are, because you never know when you’ll be able to capture an expression, movement or something they do that will make a great image. A basic knowledge about kids and how spontaneous they are is also necessary!

In this particular school, I basically used my lighting to raise the overall level of light in the various rooms I visited, in order to be able to shoot at 1/125th of a second at something like f/5.6. I used one speedlight on a stand, bounced off the ceiling and another on the camera, also bounced.

Here are some of the results:

If you rely on the camera alone, you will wind up shooting at wide-open apertures and high ISO speeds. Most normal, digital lenses are not manufactured to produce really sharp images at their maximum apertures. (Maybe the really expensive, fast lenses can, but I like to use a 20mm f/2.8 lens on my Canon 60D, cropped sensor camera. I have also experienced the same effects with my 85mm f/1.8 lens). For lenses like this, you need to be able to stop down the lens so that you can shoot one or two stops from maximum. So, for a lens that has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, you would have to be shooting at f/4 or f/5.6. A faster lens, say f/1.4 or f/1.2, would enable you to shoot at f/2.8 or f/3.5. So this is where the extra light comes in very handy. I use two speedlights as detailed above.

My last blog article spoke about obtaining really sharp images from your digital lenses. This was a case in point! The extra light provided by the speedlights made all the difference because it enabled me not only to shoot at smaller apertures, but also at faster shutter speeds, thus capturing the children’s actions.

 

Image Sharpness With Digital Lenses

Image Sharpness With Digital Lenses

by William Lulow

If you are struggling to achieve really sharp images, this article might just help. Lenses are curved pieces of high-quality glass that serve to focus light rays as they enter the camera on a spot behind the lens called the focal plane. The better lenses can focus the light, the sharper the image will be. One of the characteristics of all lenses is that they are made up of a number of elements of glass all spaced in such a way as to make the focusing of light accurate. The further apart these elements are, the more the lens is able to focus on a small part of the scene and magnify it or make it appear larger. The closer together these elements are, the more the lens is able to take in a wider angle of view. If the elements are able to move within the lens (as in a variable focus or zoom lens), the more they will be able to focus on near objects and distant objects both. Movable elements introduce a factor that often makes it difficult for the lens to achieve really sharp results and that factor is that the elements are always moving. Sometimes they can drift out of perfect alignment, causing the image to lose quality.  That is not to say that acceptable results can’t be achieved with zoom lenses, but as a rule, they are not as sharp as fixed focus lenses with no movable elements. (And, keep in mind that if you use a normal, “point-and-shoot” digital camera, it will almost always have a built-in zoom lens.) The other factor that determines a lens’ sharpness is the quality of the glass used. Obviously, cheaper lenses use cheaper glass. So, again, as a rule, a cheap lens will usually yield images of lesser quality. You can sometimes get an inexpensive lens that happens to be very sharp, but that is the exception, not the rule.

As a lens is used at its largest aperture, more of the edges of the glass are used to focus the light rays. Because of this, the larger the widest aperture, the less the lens will need to be used at that opening to make an acceptable exposure. If the lens can be stopped down one or two f/stops, it will be using more of the center of the lens and less of the edges. This will yield sharper images. In other words, a lens with an aperture of f/1.8 has a larger piece of glass in order to be able to admit a correspondingly larger amount of light. Therefore, this lens, if used at an f/stop of f/2.8 will yield a sharper image than a lens whose largest aperture is f/2.8, because it will be stopped down one or two f/stops, thus using more of the center of the glass. As a lens uses more of its center to focus light rays, it’s ability to render sharp focus increases up to a certain point. (Within the lens, the shutter blades themselves can cause some refraction of light. So, if a lens is stopped down to its minimum aperture (say f/16 or f/22) some refraction will usually take place that alters the sharpness of the image even though you will get more depth-of-field at smaller apertures. So, you have to make tests to see if there is any fall off of sharpness at those small apertures. In addition, the number of blades that make up the shutter affect the overall sharpness as well. Better lenses have more shutter blades and consequently yield a rounder aperture. This would help a lens’ overall sharpness.

A view camera with bellows and separate front (which has the lens) and the back (which has the focal plane), can be adjusted to provide infinite focus at just about any f/stop. Digital cameras, however, do not have this feature. So, the only way to achieve really sharp focus is by using the lens and ISO settings correctly.

The point of all of this is that if a good lens is used a couple of stops from wide open and/or a couple of stops from its minimum aperture, it will probably achieve its maximum sharpness. For photographers intent on producing really sharp images, this means using lenses that are fast enough (have a wide enough maximum aperture) for their purpose and having enough light in the scene so that they can be used somewhere in the middle of their aperture range. If you are shooting in mostly low light situations where you have to shoot wide open, you probably won’t be able to achieve really sharp images. One way around this is to increase the camera’s ISO settings to allow for shooting one or two stops down from wide open. If you can control the amount of ISO increase to one or two stops, you will probably achieve acceptable sharpness. Using really large ISO numbers usually introduces an element of “noise” or “grain” to the image. So, you want to stay away from ISO numbers that are much higher than around 2500.

Canon 24mm f_1.4 Canon 85mm f/1.8

I use this principle when I shoot concert photographs where there is little or no stage light.

LucyKaplansky(w_copyright)

This image of singer/songwriter Lucy Kaplansky was made with an 85mm f/1.8 lens at 1/125th of a second at f/5.6 using an ISO setting of 2000. This f/stop setting was more in the middle of the lens’ aperture range and because of the high ISO setting, I didn’t have to use the lens wide open. I had enough speed to stop the action and the image has enough sharpness to make a large print.

And, here is an image made with a studio strobe unit which put out enough light to allow and ISO setting of 100 and an aperture of f/22:

FenderGuitar_6-Edit_2

Note that focus is carried almost from the very front of the guitar to the very rear. This was shot with a Canon 60mm Macro lens. The camera was mounted on a tripod for extra stability.

Now, with all this being said, there are other factors that could cause soft images. They are:

-Unsteady camera  – Use a tripod or a monopod.

-Slow shutter speed – Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough for you to hand-hold the camera. You can increase your ISO a bit to yield a higher shutter speed.

-Improper autofocus settings. – AI Servo is probably the best.

-Check your autofocus points as well. Probably best to use one point in the center so that your AF doesn’t get fooled that often.

-Use your camera on Manual rather than P or A.

As I have said, it’s important to know that if you use a point-and-shoot camera, they almost always come equipped with a zoom lens. The better ones will have a fast zoom lens that carries its largest aperture through all of the focal lengths. So, that’s something to look for if you like these kinds of cameras. Otherwise, you may end up with unsatisfying results as to sharpness. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” definitely works here.

All of the above techniques should ensure fairly sharp images overall. In order to really check for sharpness I recommend making 8×10 inch prints. We are so used to seeing images on one kind of screen or another that we are sometimes fooled into thinking that an image is sharp when it is only marginally so. If you make a print, you will know immediately whether it is sharp or not.

 

Photographer’s Websites

Photographer’s Websites

by William Lulow

It used to be that a photographer would gather together his best photographs, make sure they were mounted in some kind of portfolio or “book” and begin to shop it around to various art directors, editors and business owners in an effort to procure clients. These days, it’s mostly done electronically, like most everything else. And, that is accomplished with the help of a really good website!

What makes a good website? Well, several things go into the construction of a good presence on the World Wide Web:

  1. Design: a website must be designed to attract attention. Keep in mind that there are literally millions of websites out there, all competing for the same business.
  2. Ease of Navigation: pages on your website should be easy to look at and have a “flow” to them.
  3. Fast Loading of Images: today, people are always in a hurry. So, if your pictures take a long time to display, they will lose interest in your site.
  4. Relevant Information: your site must have your contact information prominently displayed so people can get in touch with you by email, phone or text message.
  5. Be Current: nothing irritates me more than to look at a website and see images and articles from several years ago. Any articles you write or pictures you display must be current. A “What’s New” page normally takes care of that. But make sure it is continually updated.
  6. Be Multiple Platform-Ready: these days, it has been shown by many research groups, that most people do what’s called a “nano search.” That’s when they look for information on the internet in their spare time, while waiting on line for something or thinking about something else. They do this mostly on their mobile phones. So, a website must be completely visible and navigable on ALL devices including mobile phones (Apple & Android), iPads & other tablets as well as computers.
  7. Search Engine Optimization: Again, these days, if someone wants to hire a photographer, they have to be able to find you. So, you need to spend a fair amount of time writing and re-writing keywords to your site description making it as easy as possible for people to land on your site when they search for photographers. This doesn’t have to cost a lot, but it has to be researched. I paid someone who was an “SEO specialist” and found out that they didn’t really do anything for my website. What did work is some advice from my guru on web matters, Jarom Adair at http://www.internetmarketingforbusinessowners.com 

Jarom helped me tweak keywords I had already included in my site and I quickly rose to number one listing on page one of Google. So, it pays to get good advice for this.

Since websites have taken the place of portfolios these days, it has become really important to set them up correctly and maintain them constantly. They need to be refreshed all the time in order to keep current. I set aside time in each of my workdays to make sure I review my site and add new and relevant material to it, just the way I used to with my printed book. Also, the search engines are able to pick up on relevant CONTENT for each site. If your material gets old or stale, you will drop in the rankings and potential clients will find it harder to reach you.

 

Photographing The Famous & Not-So-Famous

Photographing The Famous And Not-So-Famous!

by William Lulow

I was listening to a “famous” photographer, probably more famous than me, talk about photographing famous subjects and I noticed a group of people paying rapt attention. This is good, but I began to wonder what they were expecting from this photographer. Were they just interested in the stories behind the images or were they looking for information that could help them be better photographers themselves? You see, each photographer’s experiences are different and perhaps, interesting in their own right and we all go about the process in different ways even though we may have very similar encounters, but is it enough to explain how you got access to a famous person? I’ve even made images of some of the same famous people, and they were very different. The process of making photographs of famous people basically entails the same sorts of stories. Famous people are notoriously short on time and it takes a very high degree of knowledge to get great images under these kinds of pressure-filled conditions.

So, I’m not as interested in a photographer’s backstory regarding shooting someone famous as I am in the technique he or she used. Oh, backstories are interesting as stories go, but they rarely teach anything. They don’t really get at the heart of how a particular image was made. It may be nice to hear how so-and-so photographed President Obama, but as a photographer, I’m more interested in how that artist was able to obtain those images.

I have been paying much more attention to photographing my actual studio lighting setups recently than worrying about how I managed to photograph a person. From a photographic standpoint as well as a teaching one, I find it much more interesting to notice just how lights were set up, or how particular exposures were determined or which lights were placed in which positions. With images being much easier to make these days, I have tried to educate my audiences more about the tools and techniques of making great photographs rather than fill up space with stories about access to famous subjects. Here’s a recent example of what I’m talking about:

This was my setup in a corporate office to do a series of portraits of people for their annual report and other brochures. You can see how I set up my lights to create the kinds of images I make (along with the tripod and the power pack). And, here is one of the portraits made with this setup:

This is the kind of information that is useful to other photographers. They can readily see how I was able to make this image from the above setup. Does it really matter how I came to be in the same room with this individual? It really doesn’t matter if the person is famous or not. A person’s fame may be of interest to the general public, but for someone wishing to learn photographic technique, it is largely irrelevant!

If you have a camera and know a bit about how to use it (enough to get a proper exposure), and, you are in the same room with a famous person, and, that person allows you to take his picture, then you’re going to have an image of that person. The story of how you came to be in that room with that famous person may be interesting, but others can’t really learn anything about photographic technique from it. There was a fairly well-known photographer many years ago, who happened to be married to a famous person. This photographer was often in the presence of other famous people and she always had a camera with her. She, I’m sure, considered herself a “photojournalist” and, although she managed to make many images of famous people, I never once asked myself “How did she get that photo?” I knew immediately how she did it. She was just in the presence of the famous person and actually had the notion to snap the shutter.

Photographing a famous person in a studio setting is quite another matter. There is rarely any “luck” involved. You have to know what you’re doing with your lighting and other equipment and you have to be able to engage the person somehow in order to elicit a particular expression. THAT is when the backstory could have some relevance. It might be interesting to know how a photographer was able to get a particular pose or expression from a famous subject.

Here is my portrait of the late novelist, Ira Levin. I was assigned by Random House to make the jacket photograph for his novel “The Boys From Brazil.” I did some research on Mr. Levin, found out what some of his current interests were and also found out that he was somewhat of an oenophile! I was also able to ascertain the brand of wine that was his favorite and managed to procure a couple of bottles. When he came to the studio, I had some cheese, crackers and this wonderful bottle of wine of which we both proceeded to imbibe! This was one of the ways I was able to obtain this image. Fortunately, I still had enough presence of mind to remember to snap the 

Here, there was obviously some interaction between me and Mr. Levin and the expression reveals it. This was one of my early attempts at doing this type of portraiture and I’ve done many since. But, the lighting, the studio setup and the technique I used is far more interesting than the story of how I actually got to meet Mr. Levin. I used the same, large portrait umbrella that I use today except that there was no fill-in light in order to keep the shadows that created this kind of haunting portrait.

Why Photographers Should Not Compete On Price!

Why Photographers Should Not Compete On Price!

by

William Lulow

Chances are, you’ve bid on a commercial photography job only to find out that someone else came in with a lower bid and stole the job from you. Or, perhaps you didn’t bid enough and the prospective client thought you were valuing your services too little. Both can be signs of not being sure what to charge for a commercial photography assignment.

Well, today, with all kinds of digital cameras around, everyone is a photographer. And, even advanced amateurs can probably come up with a set of images that would be okay for use on a website that wasn’t too fussy about its image in general. So, if you are looking for clients who are always going to pay the minimum, going rate, that is exactly what you will get.

On the other hand, as a professional photographer, you have an image of your own to maintain. In addition, you have a standard of living and working that you have been used to for a while. People know you by the kinds of pictures you make. So, in order to keep that image, you cannot compete on price. Someone will always be willing to do it cheaper. Therefore, you need to come up with a selling point that no one else in your area has. It could be personality, convenience, ability, talent, special equipment or another intangible that could separate your service or product from the rest. It could be an advertising phrase that you constantly live up to and make part of your service. It could be a special way of working that gives your clients more of what they expect from a photographer. Whatever it is, or whatever you decide it should be, that’s got to be your selling point. You set a certain value on your work and that’s the price for which you will sell it!

Let’s say you’re a portrait photographer like me. You have a good studio and you’ve got expenses that need to be paid. Your price point is somewhere around $350 – $500 for an ordinary corporate portrait that takes you less than an hour to shoot and maybe another hour to upload and edit. (By the way, in the days of film, this price was usually much higher due to the film, processing & print component that no longer exists). Then you come across someone who will do it for $100. Can you compete with this other “photographer?” I’m imagining that someone who will shoot a decent portrait for $100 has no studio, no real overhead except transportation. He or she has to go to the client and shoot “on location.” Maybe this photographer doesn’t really have any professional-type lighting equipment save for a portable flash. This person cannot possibly do the same type of job you can do in your studio. So, the client who hires this “photographer” either has to expect that the result won’t be as good as that from a studio photographer or this client will wind up being disappointed and may have to have the job re-shot. This client is only looking for the cheapest product, not the best. The whole thing might just wind up costing him more than the “deal” he was getting in the first place if he needs to fix a bad job. If a potential client is not willing to pay your price, a price you have arrived at after careful assessment of what it costs to be in business, then that’s not the client for you. There will probably be someone who will shoot his portrait for $50 even! Or $25! (God forbid!) I’ve even seen people looking for photographers who are “building their portfolios” and might even do a portrait for free! If you’re in this business, those clients are not for you. I have often said that I would not shoot at all rather than give my services away. This is not to say that you can’t do “pro-bono” jobs when you think that they might establish some good will or get your name out there more. But we shouldn’t just give our talents and services away.

(I recently did some event photographs for a company in exchange for their promoting my studio)!

So, you can easily see where this is all headed. Once you agree to take less than what you think a job is worth, it becomes a slippery slope from which you will never recover. The moral is: You Can’t Compete On Price alone! All of us in this business have to maintain our value set and not deviate from it. You might be able to give discounts for continuing customers or offer specials from time-to-time, but those deals are different than lowering your price just to compete with another photographer.

Here’s a shot which was actually done on location in an airplane hangar. It looks like it could have been shot with a simple point-and-shoot camera, but in fact, it was made with three studio electronic flash units. Two bounced into umbrellas and the third used “raw” to add enough light to make a really good portrait AND light up the rear of the plane as well.  Also, because umbrellas were used, the light was soft enough not to cast much shadow! Many shots like this look easier to make than they actually are. Then again, that’s the job of a true professional.

The Relationship Between Photographer & Subject

The Relationship Between Photographer And Subject

by William Lulow

When making photographs, the relationship between the photographer and his subject is of paramount importance. There must be some evidence that there is something going on there in order to create a really strong image. Otherwise, it’s just a recording of where the camera is at any given time, much like a surveillance camera simply recording what’s going on at a street corner. 

So, how is this “relationship” demonstrated in an image? In portraiture, it is shown by expressions, moods or interactions between people and their interaction with the photographer combined with an interesting lighting. The better the portraitist, the more expressive will be his images!

When it comes to making images of landscapes, say, relationships can be shown through point-of-view and good compositions that keep the viewer’s eye involved in the picture. 

If it’s a still life or product shot, it should be a new way of looking at an old, familiar object. It could be a particular way of lighting something. It could be an unusual camera angle or background. Or, it might contain a “surprise” element that is of special interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever it is, it needs to show some thought on the photographer’s part. If you simply take a snapshot, that doesn’t qualify as a great image because there’s no real thought to it except to get everything you’re aiming at into the frame. 

When I talk about “all things photographic” on this website, I’m speaking about just that! How experiences that we have can all be expressed photographically. If you know what to look for, you can translate your feelings into images. But you also need to have the tools at your disposal and the knowledge of how to use them properly. This means you have to understand how light is used to make images and how the equipment you use can be brought to each photographic occasion to produce remarkable pictures. 

That’s the goal! Not just to act as a recording medium, but to say what you want about your subjects. 

Learning How To “See” Light

Learning How To “See” Light

by William Lulow

Note: This article was originally published back in May of this year, but I thought it important enough to re-publish it today. Light is the photographer’s most important tool!

Students often ask what the purpose is in learning studio lighting for portraits, when they really don’t have an interest in setting up their own studios or portrait business. It’s a great question, and easily answered. You need to know what the classical lighting setups are in order to be aware of them when you see them! It almost goes without saying that light is an integral part of how we live our lives and it is responsible for many of our emotions.   Even if you never work with any artificial light, it would behoove you to learn what it’s all about. Many would-be photographers can recognize a good, crisp light on a building, but really couldn’t tell you how it was created – how the sun and shadows play with each other to create an interesting and provocative image.

So, if you learn your studio lighting, you will be better able to spot them as they happen and take advantage of the various effects created. Your photographs will improve dramatically! Don’t forget that it is really light that makes a photograph special!

There are many studio lighting setups. Here are just a few:

  1. Hollywood Light:
  2. Rembrandt Light
  3. Side Light
  4. Edge Light
  5. Halo Light
  6. Silhouette Light

I’m only going to concentrate on the first six studio lighting setups for this article. There are quite a few more, but once you learn them, you should be able to recognize them when you see them. To help you do this, I’ve included some examples of these lightings here alongside similar lightings I’ve found in nature

1. Hollywood Light:

The “natural”  image was made from a helicopter with a 4×5 flat-bed view camera mounted on a gyroscope. I went up just at the right time for the sun to create this lighting on the famous statue. Note the telltale shadow under the nose! In the studio version, the light was simply on the other side of the face.

2. Rembrandt Light:

The shot of some peonies was made when the sun was about 45-degrees to the right of the flower and made this light. (Note where the shadows are). The shadows will tell you the kind of light you are using. The studio Rembrandt Light was made with the light at a 45-degree angle from the camera position and above the camera as well.

3. Side Light:

Shooting a performance from the side is a great example of how to use a SIDE LIGHT. When you stand next to the stage, the lights are in front of the stage. But from the camera’s position, they make a SIDE LIGHT.

4. Edge Light:

The EDGE LIGHT comes from 45 degrees behind the subject and lights just the edge of the face (hence the name). In this “natural” shot, the light was coming from  just behind the subject as well, creating a nice highlight on the shoreline’s edge.

5. Halo Light:

The HALO LIGHT is created by putting the light directly behind the subject and making the shadow of the subject fall on the camera lens. Often tricky to do in nature, this image was made with the sun just about directly behind these plants. I had to use my hat as a lens shade. Sometimes I use a black umbrella to shade my lens. You can often stand in the shadow of a tree or building and photograph your subject in the sun with the light behind it, thus creating a “halo.”

6. Silhouette Light:

The definition of a silhouette is that the background is lit and not the subject. There should be no detail in the subject. In this natural silhouette, there was just a little spill-over from the background so that some detail on the faces can be seen. Otherwise, all the light came from behind the subjects.

In order to recognize these lightings as they occur naturally, as I said, you need to know what they look like in the studio. You can refer back to earlier blog articles in which they are explained in more detail (with diagrams of how I set them up in the studio), but knowing them will greatly improve your image-making!

Shooting Events With Some Creativity – II

Shooting Events With Some Creativity – II

by William Lulow

As I might have mentioned in a prior blog article, I have been getting more than my share of events to shoot lately. Many people don’t like shooting them because they think that there is really no room for creativity when all you are capturing are shots of people grinning for the camera. But, if you know your studio lighting, you can often come up with interesting and creative ways to cover events.

Most events like weddings, take place in a hotel ballroom or other convention-type facility. So, I like to go in, see what the set up is as far as a dais or lecturn goes and then set my lights up so that I have a background light as well as an accent light to go along with the light on my camera. So, for me, it’s usually a three-light job. And, I’m constantly turning each one off and on again to obtain various effects. This, most recent event was held at a local conference center.

When you are shooting an event, you never know where people are going to stand especially when it’s a cocktail party or a “meet & greet” gathering. Therefore, I like to cover all bases. I can turn on or off the light on my camera as well as the other lights I have set up around the room to get a variety of interesting lightings. Here is one :

This image was made by turning off all the extra lights except the one on the camera. I usually use this light for capturing quick takes when people are standing around talking.

As an aside, I have noticed recently, that lens flare with newer glass made for digital cameras, has been kept to a minimum because these lenses are made with an anti-flare coating that makes the reproduction of lens flare, when it is within the frame, much less obvious. I have even used it as a creative element which gives a burst of light from time to time.

Here’s another example of a creative use of the background light:

For this shot, I simply used my background light and the extra foreground light and turned off the one on the camera. Here was the setup I used basically to light the room:

If you look carefully, you can see one light on the left, just near the last set of beams, and one to the right just after the opening to the room. For the shot above, I just used the light to the left.

I can create some interesting lighting by bouncing the on-camera light off the ceiling and letting the accent light (which is aimed directly at the subject(s), be a bit brighter. (Remember: if you want the accent light to register white in the image, it needs to be about 1 f/stop brighter than your main light). I get this effect sort of naturally because the main is bounced, thus reducing it somewhat while the others are direct.

Here you can see the effects of the accent light coming from the left with the overall brightness of the scene from the main light on the camera.

So, the take-away from this article should really be that seemingly boring and straightforward types of events can be made much more interesting visually, by the addition of several other lights and, of course, the knowledge of how to use them properly.

Why Should You “Invest” In Professional Portraits?

Why Should You “Invest” In Professional Portraits?

by William Lulow

Note: I’m re-publishing this article because of the importance of highlighting differences between professional and non-professional approaches to portraiture.

For starters, why are you even thinking of professional portraits? You must be thinking that those done by a professional photographer have to be better than a selfie made with your iPhone or even a shot done by a friend who “knows” how to use his camera. If you are, you’d be right! It should go without saying that a professional photographer with a studio knows how to deliver a better result than you could do yourself.

The next thing you should be asking yourself is “what do I need a portrait for?” If it is for a resume, job interview, website, brochure or book jacket, then you’re talking about a “professional use.” Why on earth would you even consider taking a “selfie” for such an important use? In addition, ask yourself how much time you’ve spent on getting a good resume together. Do you think that a promotional portrait is less important?

The problem is, these days, the taking of many photographs has been reduced to a camera set on “AUTO.” Furthermore, many people still have that “good enough” mentality, meaning that it’s just a headshot. It doesn’t have to be all that great or complicated or expensive – right?  WRONG!

 

If you intend on promoting yourself in any way, for any use, or even if you just would like to have a family portrait done for yourself, you deserve to have a portrait that you’d be proud to display, not make excuses for! When I talk about “investment,” it is exactly that. It takes time and a great deal of effort to get just the right looking portrait. These days, good headshots or portraits cost $250 and up. I’ve mentioned many times that when I do a portrait, I usually shoot more than 100 frames in order to get just the right combination of lighting, pose and expression that begins to say something about my subjects and how I see them. Then I crop and retouch them myself to get just the right look. I use professional grade cameras and lights to yield just the right lighting and crispness of image. There is a kind of interview that takes place between me and my subject during which I try to find out just enough about him or her to bring out an expression that makes the image kind of “jump” off the page. My intent is to get the viewers of the image to want to get to know my subjects as well.

It seems to me that almost ANY price would be worth the time and effort that I normally devote to this task. But, the market, being what it is, there might just be a limit to what people are willing to pay, even for their own success!

 

Your Camera’s ISO Settings

Your Camera’s ISO Settings

by William Lulow

The camera’s ISO setting is a tool that controls the amount of light entering the camera by setting its sensitivity to light. ISO stands for INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS ORGANIZATION. This is an international group of people who decide what standards the world will use for most items that require numeration of some sort. The lower the number, the less light the camera “sees.” So, an ISO setting of 100 will be less sensitive to light than a setting of 1000, say. If you are shooting in a situation where there is very little light, (at night, for example), you might need to use a higher ISO number so that the camera can “see” more light. In many cameras equipped with a built-in flash, if you don’t change the ISO number, the flash will automatically pop up to add light to the scene. This would be undesirable in shooting a sunset, or a concert. So, if you don’t want to use the flash, you would need to increase your ISO setting.

The ISO setting is really where to begin your exposure settings. But, you need to decide what you are willing to sacrifice if you use a higher ISO number, because as you increase your ISO setting, you begin to decrease the quality of the images. Higher ISO settings introduce some “noise” or “grain” to the image. The higher the ISO setting, the greater sensitivity to light will be affected but also the greater the graininess of the image. If you are in a situation where there is very little light, you may decide to sacrifice some quality in the image for the chance to make any image at all! This was the case the other night while I was shooting a band performance. Most concert venues have stage light that highlights the performers. This place had no such light. So making images there was extremely difficult, at best. Here’s one example:

Here, the light on the musician’s face and the light reflecting off the guitar were very difficult to balance and needed some help from Photoshop.

Here’s another where the light on the musician’s face was almost negligible and as he looked down, it was even less. Some of these images were shot at ISO 2500 or 3200. Usually, when I shoot performances, I like to keep the ISO setting at no more than 2500. Because at much more than that, you will begin to see some breakdown in image quality.

This one was shot at ISO 2500, but the instrument was darker and therefore did not reflect more light than the singer’s face. Here the detail was pretty good and the exposure was fairly accurate. (All readings were made with the camera’s meter in center spot mode with “Back Button” focusing. Some images were underexposed by 1 stop when the subject was under the one bright light at this venue).