Friday, January 13, 2012

Creative Live Home Studio Class

Here are some of the images created during my creativeLIVE workshop on setting up and working in a home studio. They start out with an unintentional self portrait as I tried to photography my X-rite Colorchecker Passport and got my head in the way of the shot.

During the class I did headshots of Troy using strobes. For this set I had a 46" Photek Softlighter II on camera right and a 24" square softbox camera right, slightly behind Troy. White seamless paper background that goes gray because there were no direct lights on it.

Then I made some head shots of Trin using fluorescent lamps. Here I had two strip lights (12" x 50" and 12" x 35") with 150 watt fluorescent bulbs forming an inverted-V over the camera lens. For the first two images shown below there was no light on the white seamless backdrop. For the third image I added a strobe on the background to give a cleaner white background.

And then I went back to strobe for these photos of Trin. Here I used a Westcott 7-foot parabolic umbrella (white with black cover) overhead with a home-made reflector under her chin. I also added a head next to the lens with a 7" reflector with a 20-degree grid to add a little more sparkle to the eyes. Background was orange seamless paper with no extra light on it. We also added a sheet of black foam-core as a background in one of the shots to see if it changed the skin coloration, testing to see if the orange background was affecting the skin tone. Finally, we played with some props.

I finished up with a group photo using two lights. On camera left there was a 60" Photek Softlighter II and directly behind the camera was a Paul Buff 7-foot shiny silver PLM parabolic umbrella.

Here is what the last set looked like when using each of the two lights individually. Camera was set to JPG mode to make tether transfer faster for the class. White balance was set to manual and 5700 degrees Kelvin.

Just the Photek Softlighter
from camera left
Just the Paul Buff silver PLM
from camera position

Here is the gear list from the class:
  • Canon 5D mkII body
  • Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS lens
  • Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS lens
  • Manfrotto CarbonOne 441 tripod
  • Arca-Swiss P0 Monoball tripod head
  • Speedotron 805 strobe power pack
  • Speedotron 202 heads (with 7" reflector for the Westcott umbrella and for the grid)
  • Speedotron 102 head (with no reflector for the PLM)
  • Speedotron Force V monolight with 11" reflector (background light for Trin on white)
  • Speedotron 7" grids
  • Pocket Wizard MultiMax radio triggers
  • Manfrotto Auto Poles for the wide white background
  • Savage Porta-Stand background stand for the smaller set
  • Westcott 12x50 strip box
  • Interfit 12x35 strip box
  • Interfit 24x24 soft box
  • Photoflex Starlite-QL lamp heads
  • Photoflex 150-watt compact fluorescent lamp bulbs
  • Westcott 7-foot parabolic umbrella, white with black backing/cover
  • Paul Buff 7-foot silver PLM parabolic umbrella
  • X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
  • Various light stands
  • Savage seamless background paper
  • Foam-core reflectors
If you have questions about the class you can ask them in the creativeLIVE forum and if you missed the class you can purchase the videos (download or watch online) from creativeLIVE to get more details.



Update on my creativeLIVE class

Thanks to all who watched and asked questions during my Home Studio class with creativeLIVE.

I will be adding some photos and a gear list from the class this weekend, but first wanted to share this panoramic view of my studio space with you...

This was created on my iPhone using Pixeet.



Saturday, January 7, 2012

WHITE HOT in Seattle

A pitch black psychodrama.

Just in time for winter.

Don't bring the kids.

So begins the description of the play WHITE HOT that is coming to Seattle this month.

I had the pleasure to work with the director, producer, writer, and cast to create promotional photos for this dark play that features Hannah Victoria Franklin, Tommy Smith, Kimberley Sustad, and Ray Tagavilla. The director is Braden Abraham, written by Tommy Smith, and produced by Mark Siano.

The play runs at the new West of Lenin theater in Fremont from January 20 to February 11, 2012.

Kimberly Sustad and Ray Tagavila 
Kimberly Sustad and Ray Tagavila 
Hannah Victoria Franklin and Tommy Smith
Hannah Victoria Franklin
Kimberley Sustad
Hannah Victoria Franklin and Kimberley Sustad
Hannah Victoria Franklin and Kimberley Sustad

Thursday, January 5, 2012

More On Aperture and DOF

This is a follow up to my recent post about the effect of aperture on the look of a portrait.

There, I mentioned that changing focal length would not affect the depth of field if the camera was moved to maintain the size of the subject in the frame. I didn't have any images prepared then to demonstrate this at the time. I got a chance to create those images last night and present them here. Click on each image to load a larger version that will be easier to study.

 Above we see three photos that were taken with 135mm, 85mm, and 35mm lenses all set to f/2.8. The camera was moved closer with the 85 and even closer with the 35 to make the mannequin head be about the same size in each. If you look closely you will see that the depth of field is about the same in each. The perspective is different in each because the camera was moved (not because of the lens change).

Many photographers go for a lens in the 85 to 105mm (full 35mm frame) range for portraits because they put you at a distance from your subject that gives a nice drawing to the face with pleasing relationship between the features on the face and head (nose, mouth, eyes, ears). If working with a smaller sensor camera look for lenses with similar angles of view for that format (such as 50-65mm on cameras with a 1.5 or 1.6x multiplier).

In the second set of photos everything is the same as the first set, except that the aperture was set to f/22. Again, you can see that the depth of field remains the same, even though various focal length lenses were used (135, 85, and 35).

You may also be surprised to see that the face looks the thinnest in the image taken with the wide angle lens. This is what happens when you move in close. With any lens the objects closest to the camera appear larger than objects further away. When in so close with a short lens the nose is relatively closer to the lens than the cheeks, eyes, and ears. So they fall away and look smaller. When you move back with the longer lens the nose, eyes, and ears are all relatively closer to each other than to the lens, so the face flattens out and they all appear at a similar size. This is due to the camera to subject distance, not the lens, even though this is often erroneously called "telephoto compression." See the fourth set below for more about that.

In this third set of photos the camera remained stationary. The top image was taken with an 85mm, the middle is 135mm, and the bottom is 35mm. Here we can see that the size of the mannequin head is very different between the images and the depth of field changes drastically between because of the difference in magnification from each lens (all set to f/2.8)

In this final group we again have images taken with the 135mm, 85mm, and 35mm lenses, this time all set to f/5.6. As in the third set, the camera remained stationary and the lenses were changed.

In these last two sets of images you should be able to see that the perspective remained the same even though the lenses were changed. The relationship between the head and the background is the same in each. If you cropped in on the 3rd image in this set the perspective would match the 1st image in this set. But the depth of field is different. Remember that when the camera to subject distance is set and the lens is changed the perspective of the area of the image that is common to each image is the same. The camera to lens distance determines the perspective. The focal length determines what fits into that frame.

One of my favorite Ansel Adams quotes is "good photography is about knowing where to stand." I think that many people misunderstand this quote. They might associate it with Jim Richardson's quote "if you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff."  But what I believe Ansel meant was that you need to find the location to set up the camera that gives you the perspective (relationship between items in the scene) that you want, and then you select a lens focal length that fills the frame the way you want. Too often people pick the lens first.

I really don't like the mantra of "zoom with your feet." Zooming implies making the scene smaller or larger while maintaining the perspective by changing focal length without moving. If you move your feet the perspective changes. So you CANNOT zoom with your feet. I'm not saying it is a bad exercise to select one prime lens and learn how to use it by moving around. If you want to make good and interesting photos, do find your location by moving your feet, but then select the appropriate lens to fill the frame of your camera. Maybe the frame should be "move your butt!" And a zoom lens is the perfect lens for this, as you can frame exactly as you want. Zoom lenses got a bad reputation in the 1970s when the quality wasn't nearly as good as prime lenses. Zoom lens design has come a long way since then and today's zooms come very close to the quality of prime lenses. That said, I often use prime lenses instead of my zooms, but this is primarily because of the weight of a good zoom. The primes are easier on my shoulder, elbow and wrist.

One more thing. Something that I learned during the exercise of preparing this article is that it really is difficult to manually focus a wide angle lens. I've always heard that short lenses were more difficult to focus, but it reallyshowed here. The following set of images were taken with the same camera/lens (35mm at f/2.0) combination. A was manually focused through the viewfinder. B was manually focused using Live View at 10x, and C was autofocused. Maybe autofocus isn't such a bad idea....

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Aperture in Portraits Demo

Just a quick post showing the effect of aperture (F/stop) on the look of a portrait by changing the depth of field.

click on the image for a larger version

The mannequin was photographed with a Canon 5D Mark II with the 85mm f/1.8 lens. Focus was on the right eye (camera left). The background is about 32 inches behind the mannequin head. Light is from the modeling lamps in two strobe heads. One is in a Photek 46" Softlighter II (model SL-5000) on camera right and a 2x2 square Interfit softbox on the opposite side as a kicker.

I used the modeling lamps because I would not be able to power down the strobes enough to get the large apertures. This is not practical for normal portraiture because the exposure times at ISO 100 was 10-seconds for the f/22 shot. Even the f/1.8 version was slow at around 1/15 second. You would need to bump up the ISO or use brighter lights to get usable shutter speeds for portraits. It is all about trade-offs. I could get camera strobes to work at f/1.8, but would lose the modeling lamp and possibly have to deal with large dilated pupils. If I switched to studio strobes I could probably get the aperture down to around f/5.6, maybe f/4. To get to f/2 or wider I'd have to use neutral density filters. With a 1000 watt tungsten light I'd have to deal with heat and the comfort of the model (luckily mannequins don't complain). I could get the wide apertures, but would not be able to stop down all that much without running into slow shutter speeds. I don't like to go below 1/60 when doing head shots with continuous lights. A 150-watt fluroescent lamp would give a similar amount of light as the tungsten lamp without the heat, but the bulb is too large to fit into the Softlighter, so I'd have to change to a different modifier for the main light.

So, there's a sampler of the thought process around selecting which lights to use for a project.

You may also ask if using a longer lens would give more control over the depth of field. The answer to that is no. To maintain the head size on the sensor with a longer lens I would have to move back and the depth of field would be the same at the same aperture. The difference would be a narrower angle of view, so we would see less of the background (the pattern would be larger, what is sometimes erroneously called telephoto compression). But the DOF would remain the same. If I left the camera at the same distance from the subject yes there would be less depth of field. But I'd be cutting off the chin and forehead of the subject.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Do you like A or B?

Just a quick little poll here. In each of the pairs of images below, let me know if you like A or B. No need to say why. Don't over analyze, I just want to hear your gut reaction of liking one versus the other in each pair.

Please answer in the comments section below.


Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Just wanted to start off the new year with big thanks to all my new friends out there. 2011 was actually pretty good for/to me. And I look forward to new and exciting ventures in 2012.

Here are a few photos from Seattle's celebration at the Space Needle. For information about how I photograph fireworks, please check out my free video at creativeLIVE. And look for my next class about setting up and working in a home photo studio.

Thanks! And a happy and prosperous new year to all of you!