Friday, July 29, 2011

Don't Rely On Photoshop - Better Photos... Now!

When it comes to photography, it seems that there are two different schools of thought about getting your photos right in-camera.  This couldn't have been more apparent after hearing a few different photographers speak at different events a few months ago.  One photographer believes it's all about the moment and missing a moment while you try to get a perfect exposure just isn't worth it.  Another photographer believes that getting the exposure perfect in-camera is the only way to shoot.  Regardless of where you fall on this topic, you should probably try to get your photos as close to perfect in-camera as possible (by anticipating the moment if necessary).  Although photo editing programs can work wonders with RAW files, you'll save yourself lots of time and probably get better results if you just get a proper exposure the first time.

When you properly expose an image, everything is balanced.  Shadows are dark but still retain detail.  Highlights are bright but not blown out.  Skin looks normal, colors are saturated and contrast isn't too strong.

When you over or underexpose an image and try to fix it after the fact, shadows can start to show noise and run to deep black with no detail.  Highlights can be completely blown out with no recoverable detail.  Contrast gets much stronger than normal.

Of course, there's always a little wiggle room.  You can be off by 1/2-stop without any real issues.  In a scene without a huge dynamic range you can probably even be off by around 1-stop and get a great looking image.  Any more than 1-stop and your results may or may not be acceptable.

There are always going to be photos that are under or overexposed.  Maybe a moment caught you off guard and your settings weren't perfect.  Maybe you just metered incorrectly and didn't nail the exposure.  It happens.  The less often it happens, though, the better your overall images will be.

Here are a few quick examples from a recent wedding that illustrate the importance of getting the exposure correct in-camera.

Here's a photo that was incorrectly exposed.

While it's possible to recover lots of the information, the highlights
are blown out beyond recovery and the image
doesn't look very good.

Here's an image captured under the same conditions that was properly exposed in-camera.  Much better...
Read all of my DSLR tips here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Randomness - Who's Right?

Who's Right?

I could hear the disgust in his voice.  "No cheese?"  "No, just the lunchmeat."  "Okaaayyy."  (that's how I spell OK when it's said with a fair amount of uncertainty... just an FYI)

I decided to stop by a different store the other day on my way home.  Normally, I buy some lunchmeat from the deli counter and get asked if I want cheese.  I usually say no.  No big deal.  I guess the new deli guy finds it quite offensive to have to even ask if you want cheese, let alone even consider a sandwich without it.  He didn't say so, but I could tell just by the sound of his voice that the thought of a cheese-less sandwich made him lose his appetite.

This got me to thinking about the old saying that "the customer is always right".  While that's certainly up for debate, when you provide a service or sell a product, you might not share the same tastes or needs as your customers, but they're the ones spending their money so you might want to give them what they ask for.

Now, as someone who creates for a living, there are a few different things at play here.  First, I should be attracting clients who like my style, which will keep any conflicts of interest to a minimum.  Second, there is my "artistic integrity", or things that I will or won't put my name on.  Third, there are the wants and needs of my clients.  Put them all together and you can see where there might be some problems from time to time.

Just as a sandwich maker might shudder at the thought of a cheese-less sandwich, I might shudder at the thought of taking a photo of a shirtless guy with a mustache and a mullet... in a seductive pose.  But, just as the sandwich maker might not like the sandwich he's making, he's not paying for it and he's not eating it.  If I had a photo session that was going great and Mr. Mustache said, "Hey, just one more photo.", I don't think I'd argue.  I'd snap the photo, give it to him with the rest of the photos he orders and move on.

Although your personal tastes might not perfectly match those of your clients, they're still your clients.  Treat them with respect and give them what they want (within reason, of course).  In the end, everyone will be happy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Randomness - The Future

The Future

No one knows what their future holds.  No one can control where they end up.  There's no menu from which you can choose your destiny and no secret formula to get you where you want to be.

Today, or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, a chance encounter might change your future.  It might have happened yesterday and you just don't know it yet.  Again, you don't have any control over when these things happen.

What you do have control over is your chances of success (or failure).  Although you can't control where you ultimately end up, you can control your direction by choosing which path you decide to take.  Although you can't control all of your encounters or what happens afterwards, you can control the frequency and quality of your encounters.

Every day you have the opportunity to give your destiny gentle nudges in the direction you want it to go. By getting out and meeting new people, you nudge it.  By nurturing your contacts, you nudge it.  By creating and contributing and participating and communicating, you nudge it.

Nothing is a sure thing.  No one can be 100% certain of what their future holds.  But, by knowing where you want to end up and heading in that direction you'll get close.  Sure, you might get sidetracked or even completely turned around for a while, but if you keep moving, keep looking forward, each step you take will get you closer to your goal and hopefully the people you've met along the way will help get you where you want to go.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Film Is Not Dead

If you're a fan of film, you've probably heard the phrase "film is not dead".  Although digital has all but replaced film for most purposes, there remains a small percentage of photographers who still use film.  While I'm not ready to trade in my digital gear, I did do a photo shoot and used a few different types of film cameras.  Not everything was a success, but I did get some results that I'm happy with.

I just picked up an Epson V500 scanner (which you can expect a review of in the near future) and started scanning in some of my negatives.  So far, with the exception of Polaroids, all of my film work has been on medium format 120 film.  I've used my Yashica-D TLR and Holga, which has an insert that changes the images from a square format to a more traditional portrait format.  Here are a few images that I scanned in today:

You might also remember my Senior Photo Sneak Peek with Kristina last week where I mentioned I shot some film as well as digital.  Here are a few from that shoot:

I am very encouraged with these results and plan on shooting more film in the near future.  Once I do, I'll be sure to share the results!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

C & R - Denver Wedding Photography

When Karina Heneghan asked me to help her photograph a wedding at a castle, I knew I was in for a treat.  Dunafon Castle is located outside of Morrison, CO and is absolutely beautiful!  It was the perfect setting for C & R’s intimate wedding.

Here are a few bonus photos.  While Karina was photographing the bride and groom, the bridal party was just standing around in some beautiful light.  I took the opportunity to grab these portraits.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tech Tuesday - Polaroid 230

I am a technology junkie.  I'll admit it.  When I see a new gadget or gizmo that can do something I've never seen before, I'm usually impressed.  What's even more impressive is to see something you've never seen before from a camera that's 40 years old.

My first experience with a Polaroid camera that used pack film was while I was assisting Rachael Grace Photography while she photographed a wedding. Rachael does wedding photography a little differently. In addition to digital, she uses lots of film, including Polaroid pack film.

I had never seen or used Polaroid pack film. My previous experience with Polaroids was limited to my SX-70. I still haven't gotten stellar results from it (although that is kind of the point, I suppose), so my hopes for her Polaroid 420 were not high.

The way pack film works, you take a photo which exposes the film. You then pull the film through some rollers, which spreads a developer over the film. You wait a few minutes, peel off the photo from the exposed film and you have a photo.

When she shot her first photo, she handed it to me to time and then peel. After 2 minutes, I peeled the photo away from the paper with tempered expectations. What I saw when I peeled away that photo just amazed me! It had color and lots of it! The colors were correct! It was actually a good photo!

I knew I had to get one for myself, so I came straight home, tracked one down and before long I was taking photos with my own Polaroid pack film camera. There was a bit of an experimental period and a learning curve. Some photos came out very dark while others came out looking great. Eventually, though, I got it right (or at least pretty close).

I can't wait to start using this camera with some of my clients. It's not entirely predictable and isn't perfect, but that's part of what makes it so fun to use. If you've got one of these and are interested in learning more about the camera, keep an eye out for a follow up blog post where I'll go over a few tricks I've learned that helped me get better photos.

This was taken in full sun in downtown Denver.

Even in the shade with a longer exposure you can get good results.

This was taken with my new Polaroid 350 with a close-up lens attachment.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kristina - Senior Photo Sneak Peek

Here's a sneak peek at a few photos from Kristina's senior portrait session.  Denver got hammered by storms this day but up north we got pretty lucky with the weather.  I shot a lot of film on this shoot, so I can't wait to share some of those photos with you!  Oh, and not all the photos are so serious... we got some smiles as well!

Randomness - Random Things Photographers Do

Random Things Photographers Do

I'm normally a pretty reserved person, but put someone in front of me and a camera in my hand and I become a different person.  There's something about the need for creation that trumps the need for preserving my dignity.  Need an example?

The other day I was playing with my Polaroid SX-70.  I was trying some new film and wanted to shoot a photo at night.  We were down the by Denver Art Museum and I knew it was going to be a long exposure, so I placed the camera on the ground.  In order to see what I was taking a picture of, I had to lay on the ground as well.  So, down I went.  After composing the photo I pressed the shutter button and waited... and waited... and waited.  I think it was a 15-second exposure.  And I was laying flat on my stomach.  On the ground.  With people walking by.  Normal me would be saying, "Get up!  Everyone thinks you're weird!"  Photographer me says, "They'd better not get in my way.  This is going to be a great photo."  I'm not sure if it was a great photo, but I like it.  See it here.

Other things I've done include standing on just about anything that's convenient just to be a little taller, including chairs, benches, walls, handrails.  I've even climbed a chain-link fence and held on with one hand while holding the camera with my other hand!  Climbing into bushes to get a better shot?  Done it.  Stand in the street and hope I don't get hit by oncoming traffic?  Done that too.  Walk backwards down a rocky dirt hiking trail in the foothills while photographing a couple?  Yup.

Don't even get me started on making noises.  Whether it's getting the attention of a young child, a pet or just a group of people, I'm always amazed at the noises I make.  Hand gestures?  Leg gestures?  Jump around full-body gestures?  While making noises?  Been there, done that.  At least no one ever takes photos of me doing this stuff.

So, what have you done for your profession that you wouldn't normally do in your daily life?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Laurie and Jonathan - Boulder Engagement Photos

Jonathan was the cute guy who lived across the street from Laurie. Laurie was the jogger who timed her runs just right to catch Jonathan when he was outside.  It wasn't long before he was building Sooners snowmen in her driveway and she was painting big red "N"s in his.

Fast forward to this year when Jonathan told Laurie that he was going to take her skiing for her birthday, so she needed to get some time off of work.  On her birthday, instead of heading to the slopes Jonathan surprised Laurie with a vacation to Mexico!  It was there that he proposed and she said yes.

The first time we tried to meet for their engagement session was a gloomy, rainy day. We rescheduled for a week later and I am so glad it worked out. The weather was absolutely perfect and the light was amazing! Laurie and Jonathan wanted to meet up at the Homestead trail near Boulder for their photos. I hadn't ever been there before (although I had hiked a trail that connects to it), but I will definitely be going back. What a beautiful location!

Laurie and Jonathan, I can't wait to photograph your wedding in September. You are both such real, genuine people I think that your wedding is going to be something truly special. Thank you for the great photos!