Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - Lens Hoods

Most lenses come with one. Sometimes they get used. Sometimes they never leave the box. They have many different uses. Lens hoods are pretty amazing little things.

The purpose of a lens hood is to shield the front lens element from glare. Lens hoods are made specifically for different lenses, because depending on the focal length of your lens, a random lens hood might not offer enough glare protection or it might intrude into the field of view and appear in your photo. Wide-angle lenses have small, petal-shaped hoods. Tele-zooms have long, narrow hoods. These lens manufacturers know what they're doing, so if you're going to use a lens hood, make sure you use the correct one for your lens.

Another use for a lens hood is to protect your lens. Because the front element of a lens is completely exposed, any bumps, scrapes or knocks that your lens takes can potentially damage the glass on the front of your lens. By putting on a lens hood, there is an extra layer of protection between your lens and the real world.

If you've got a lens hood and use it regularly, that's great. I've heard from many pros that they always have a hood on their lens, eve when working indoors, simply to protect the lens. But, what if you don't have a hood or just don't want to be bothered? As for protecting the lens, you can always use a clear filter, but what about glare? Sometimes all you need is your hand, a hat or even a piece of paper. just hold it up above your lens so that no light falls on it and you'll get much better images.

For example, the two shots below were taken only seconds apart with the same exposure, but they look different. Why? I shaded the lens with my hand in the second photo. Note the improved contrast and better color in the second photo. Both of these images are straight out of the camera with no adjustments made.

Keep in mind, this won't work, either with your hand or a lens hood, if your light source is in the frame. If you're shooting into the sun, you're going to have glare, your going to have flare and your images will have a washed-out look. That's not a bad thing if that's the look you're going for, but keep in mind that a lens hood is just a piece of plastic, it's not a magical, light-shielding device that will tame the sun. Actually, maybe it is. I should read that manual sometime...

Quick tip: If you want to keep a hood on your lens at all times but don't have enough storage room for a lens with a hood on it, just flip the hood over! In the image at the top of this post, you'll notice that the lens on the left has a hood, it's just flipped over so that it covers the barrel. They fit great this way and hardly take up any extra room in your bag. When you need it, it's right there on your lens!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I don't believe that everything happens for a reason... but some things do! I first met Stephanie when she came along with Shantey to her shoot. She kind of just hung out in the background and threw out some advice every once in a while. It wasn't until the end of the shoot that she mentioned that she had done a few photo shoots and would be interested in setting something up. So we set something up, but little did I know it would be one of the best shoots I've had in a long while!

We seemed to click right away, which is always a good sign. It means more good photos, more range of emotions and more fun! Sure enough, we got some great photos from this shoot and had a blast! We shot 5-6 different looks, which is a crazy amount of changes to make during a 2 hour shoot, but it didn't feel rushed and we got good photos from each look.

One of the best things about really clicking with someone is when you can just be yourself. During this shoot, I felt really good (might have been the Red Bull, but I don't think so). We laughed a lot and things got a little silly, but that's OK. We're both really happy with the images and we're already planning another shoot. Keep an eye out for that one. It should be even better than the first!

You can see more photos from the shoot here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Colorado Springs Photo Shoot

I first ran across Gary when he commented on a few of my photos on a web site. He and I had done separate photo shoots with the same model (Tanya), so since we had that in common, along with our photography, we struck up a virtual friendship. A few months later, he asked me if I'd be interested in participating in a shoot that he had set up that involved a few models in Palmer Park. Of course, I said Yes!

The shoot was on a beautiful Saturday in early February. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and was nice because it could have been miserable! We had quite a few models who didn't show up, but it actually worked out quite nicely because there were two photographers and 4 models. Any more models and some would have been left out.

Ross lives in Colorado Springs, so he didn't have far to drive. Zach and Sarah both drove down from Denver, just like me! Mandi drove the farthest, as she came down from Fort Collins. Everyone got to know each other a bit and then we started shooting. Zach and Sarah brought their dog along, so we got some "family" photos as well as some individuals. Ross was on his own for the first part, but later teamed up with Mandi for some "couple" shots.

Between the grass, the trees and the rocks, we had lots of location options to choose from. The variety really helped to make it a successful day, as we had quite a few different looking photos of each person or group by the end of the shoot. As the sun set, it started to get chilly, so we called it a day, but everyone was very happy and enthusiastic about the shoot, so we left feeling good.

Gary and I (and his assistant, Crystal) went to get some pho and get to know each other a little better after the shoot. It was amazing how much we had in common. What started out as a friendship because of a mutual acquaintance quickly turned into a friendship based on shared interests. We were already planning our next shoot before we were done with our soup. It's coming up at the end of March and should be amazing!

You can see more photos from the shoot here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - A Quick Wish List

I thought that instead of writing about technology I already have, today I'd write about a few things that I would like to have. I'm not going to write a list of top-of-the-line camera bodies and lenses (although I wouldn't mind owning them), but instead a few things that I've found myself wanting for practical reasons.

Practical reasons? Really? Yes, really. It's easy to get caught up in gear envy and want to get the fastest glass, the best pro bodies and awesome strobes. I understand that and regularly drool over gear that I can't afford. It's also nice to be comfortable with what you own and actually find little parts of your system to be upgraded that will actually make a difference in your daily shooting habits. That's what this list is. So, here we go...

- Battery grip: After doing a photo shoot where I shot over 1300 images in portrait orientation, I decided that a battery grip would be a worth-while investment. I'm sure my wrist and shoulders will thank me.
- Higher-capacity memory cards: I had read something a while back that stressed the importance of shooting with lower-capacity memory cards so that if you lose a card you don't lose so much work. I think it might be better to have the ability to keep shooting and not disrupt the flow of the shoot to change memory cards so often. I've had some great shots that I've lost because I had just filled a card with my last shot.
- More Pocket Wizards: I've already got two, but more are always better. Whether I'm shooting with someone else who doesn't have any or I need to trigger a strobe that doesn't "see" the flash from my main strobe, I think a few more will come in very handy someday.
- Editing tablet: I'm getting tired of using a mouse to do fine editing on my images. I think this would save a lot of frustration.

These final few are just the start of my new camera wish list. I'm not planning on getting a new camera this year, but it's good to know what you need, right?
- Better high-ISO performance: With the advances that have been made in the last year, there's no reason not to get a camera with better high-ISO performance. I could have used it last week...
- 100% viewfinder: I would love to see everything that's going to be in my final frame. For some reason this has started bugging me lately.
- Larger viewfinder: This will probably come with a 100% viewfinder, but I'd love a larger view of what I'm shooting.

At the moment, that's about it. Sure, there are lots of other things that I'd buy if I won the lottery, but as far as "needs", these are at the top of my list because they're more practical and will be more useful on a daily basis, no matter what I'm shooting. Time to go shopping...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - Stylists

So my latest, favorite secret weapon for photo shoots is... a make-up artist? That's not really technology, now is it? No, it's not, but I figure anything that can give your photos that extra edge, that extra bit of polish is worth writing about, so here we go.

Last week I did a big shoot for a local hair stylist, Tanya Owens. Over the course of 4 hours we worked with 11 people and about 15 different looks on two different backgrounds. She was doing some amazing things to these people's hair! I had never done a photo shoot before where the hair was so done, so out of the ordinary. It makes a huge difference! I know that it's not feasible to have a hair stylist for every shoot (although it would be nice), I know that for big shoots it's one of those things that can take your images to the next level.

Speaking of taking things to the next level, Jacki Renee (aka Bella Amore) was on hand to do everyone's makeup. If Tanya's hair took things to the next level, Jacki's makeup put the images over the top! I don't want to say that women don't know how to do their makeup, because they do. They do it every day and it looks great. The problem is, in my opinion, they do it every day! Anything you do on a daily basis will start to become routine. Routine can be boring. Jacki's makeup is not boring! She put on colors and styles that I'm sure these women had never dreamed of applying. The best part is that they just looked so good! The color came out so well in the photos that I was just blown away (and so were the women when they saw the photos on my camera)!

If my normal photos are good, then adding a hair stylist or makeup artist will make them great. Adding both will make them amazing! Who wouldn't want amazing photos? From now on, whenever it's possible I'm going to have as many stylists as possible to take my shoots to the next level.

For more info about Tanya and Jacki, please visit their Model Mayhem sites:

Tanya Owens
Jacki Renee