Tag: photography lessons

How to create a beautiful portrait

By professional fashion photographer Dave Kai-Piper

Dave Kai Piper-35w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerPortrait photography is one of the most amazing genres in my eyes. Simple on the surface, yet complex and diverse underneath. At first glance, photographing people is pretty simple, but when it’s broken down into the 4 main elements: Location, Lighting, Subject & Camera we start to understand the subtle nuances of what it takes to build up a wide and diverse portrait portfolio.

To get started with artificially-lit portraiture, there are 3 main lighting types: Rembrandt, Split and Butterfly. Each of these lighting types has characteristics which allow us to be creative. And it’s by experimenting with each of these lighting types you will learn how to control the shadow placement on your subject, and how by combining these techniques you’ll discover the art of the portrait.

Here is a quick way to identify each lighting type:

Rembrandt lighting: Light will come across the face from a 45 degree angle in an elevated position from the eye-line of the subject. The bridge of the nose should create a triangular area of light under the eye the other side.

Split Lighting: the light will hit one side of the face or part of the head creating a deep shadow on the other side. Normally the light source would be behind the eyeline of the subject.

Butterfly lighting: Commonly used in beauty set ups, the light should present evenly across the face in line with the nose and high above the subjects eye-line. Even shadows under the nose are a sign of this lighting set up.


The shot

In the example I am using here, I have mixed two of these lighting types to give me the effect I am looking for. I have also used two types of light known as Hard light and Soft Light.

Hard light creates shadows with sharp edges; it is made by using undiffused light sources such as a Speedlight aimed directly at the subject.

Soft light creates shadows with a smooth transition between light & dark; it is made by using indirect light sources or by using diffusers to scatter and soften the light before it reaches the subject.

In our example we have set up the split light to have a hard light and the Rembrandt light to be soft.

 


How to create ‘The shot’

Firstly I set up the ‘Key Light‘ (most important light in the shot) to the Rembrandt Lighting position using a Cactus RF60 Speedlight & a Roundflash modifier. I found the exposure setting I wanted by selecting the f-stop I wanted on the camera after setting the ISO at 200. I left the shutter speed at 1/125th of a second.

Our ‘Hair light‘ is in the Split Lighting position and is set up to be used as a hard light. In the sample for this blog we used another Cactus Speedlight but this time modified with a piece of black wrap. This is the same as cooking foil or aluminum foil that you would find in a kitchen, but is matte black. It is very common in the film industry as a quick and effective way to shape light or to block light ‘spilling’ over to an area that was not intended. Here I have rolled it up and created a homemade snoot to give me very close control of the placement of light.

I then used a V6 Cactus Trigger mounted on to the camera hotshoe to control the power output of the flashes; which were mounted on a set of tripods remotely. This allowed me to work faster and in a more controlled way. Once ready, I took three images: one of each light firing independently and then one shot with both firing together to create the final look.

The angle of the camera for this shot was placed just below the subjects eyeline to give her a powerful look, and in this example I used the XF90mm lens to get rid of any unwelcome distortion that wide angles can give.

Focal lengths from around 50mm to 200mm are good for a head shot or portrait.


My 10 top tips:

  1. Portraits are about timing, emotion & people, not cameras, lights or anything that is technical.
  2. The technical guidelines are always starting points and flexible at that.
  3. The bigger & broader the light, the softer the shadows will be. If you want contrast – move your light source away from your model.
  4. Soft defused light is better if you are trying to create a ‘beauty’ light
  5. Hard lights are great for creating hard edged shadows and character
  6. The story is in the shadows.
  7. When setting up your lights, use a lightmeter if you can.
  8. My lights are very rarely on full power, soft and subtle is the key
  9. Be creative, but don’t over complicate the shot.
  10. Avoid lighting people from below the eyeline of your subject

Final result

Here is the final resulting image which has been converted to black & white.

Model: Stephie Rebello, Lighting: 2x Cactus RF60 Speedlights
Model: Stephie Rebello

To see more of Dave Kai-Piper’s work, please visit: ideasandimages.co.uk

Which shutter speed should I use?

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailer

If you are like me, knowing what shutter speed to use when you are trying to capture a particular type of action can be confusing at times. So I’ve put together a little ‘cheat sheet’ to help you get a good idea as to which shutter speed to use for particular shots.

In terms of how to use this ‘cheat sheet’ I recommend you print it off, stick it in your camera bag and, whenever you get a chance to shoot something more tricky, have a look at it and try out the relevant shutter speed. Alternatively, find yourself a willing volunteer to practice with!

Before you get started; Put your camera into ‘Shutter priority’ mode; to do this set your aperture setting to ‘A’, the ISO setting to Auto and moving your shutter speed dial off the ‘A’ position. This ensures you only need to worry about the shutter speed that you choose and nothing else.

Download the ‘Shutter speed cheat sheet’ here


Star jumps at 1/4000 to freeze motion 

4000

Important tip! As a good rule of thumb, always use a focal length that is equal to or less than the shutter speed when not using a tripod – this will help against unwanted blur in your images. For example if the shutter speed is 1/30, you should shoot with a focal length of 30mm or wider (28mm, 18mm, 16mm etc).

Walking fast at 1/250 to freeze motion

250

Walking fast at 1/15 for motion blur effect – panning the camera with the subject

15

Walking fast at 1/4 for motion blur effect – camera on tripod

4

Important tip! If you find that using a slow shutter speed makes your image overexpose consider shooting with an ND filter or shoot at sunset/sunrise.


These are just a few examples to get you thinking about which shutter speed to use – the cheat sheet should assist with other types of shots.

The most important thing to do is just go out and try them, don’t worry about getting it wrong and blurring your shots, as over time with practice you will start to get the shots that you were hoping to get.

If you have a friend that is interested in photography go and learn this with them. You can bounce ideas off each other to create some great shots. And… you can get them to perform star jumps for you until you get them perfectly sharp and in focus!

Until next time

Happy snapping! 🙂

Dale

How to use the Interval Timer function

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerThe Interval Timer feature built into some of our X series* cameras can be an excellent tool to express your creativity.

It can be used to capture multiple images one after the other with the knowledge that you will simply pick your favourite image later on. Or the most likely the reason you would use this feature is to create a time-lapse movie like this little Lego guy doing a dance (rather badly I might add!), or perhaps a flower bud opening up, or even the sun setting behind the horizon – the possibilities are truly endless.

animation-example
Example of time-lapse movie – The Robot Dance

In this tutorial I want to give you a basic idea of how to use the Interval Timer function to create timelapse movies. For in-depth advice on timelapse movie creation and some of the more detailed do’s and don’t’s I would strongly recommend searching ‘How do I get great timelapse results from my camera?‘ as there are so many good tutorials already out there.

The option for timelapse is found in the main menu of the X series cameras under the title ‘INTERVAL TIMER SHOOTING‘, choose this option with the menu/ok button.

From this, select the interval (the time between each shot) using the navigation buttons (up, down, left and right). Once you are happy with the intervals, you will need to choose how many shots you want in total – this is found under the title ‘NUMBER OF TIMES‘. To help with how many shots you want see the tip below:

TIP! In Europe and Canada we normally use 25fps (frames per second) also known as PAL for our movies. Below you can see examples of how many photographs you would need to take to achieve the required length of movie.

Examples for 25fps:

1 second of footage = 25 photographs
2 seconds of footage = 50 photographs
10 seconds of footage =  250 photographs
1 minute of footage = 1500 photographs

Another way to think of this is Video length = Number of pictures ÷ Frame rate

The last step is to choose when the camera actually starts taking pictures, this could be immediately, in which case you would select 0h 00m or for example 20 minutes time (0h 20m). When you are ready to shoot simply press the menu/ok button and this will start the timer.

At the end of the sequence of shots you will then need to put them into a movie making program such as Adobe Premiere Pro or similar to create the timelapse itself – for that part I’d recommend looking up a software specific tutorial, so if you use Premiere Pro try a search like ‘Create a timelapse video in Premiere Pro‘ in your favourite search engine.

TIP! I normally use YouTube for this part to see exactly what buttons the teacher is clicking / using to create the timelapse video – that should stop you getting lost along the way!


TIPS, TIPS, TIPS!

Use a tripod for best results
Use a tripod for best results

Here are some bonus tips to think about when creating a timelapse video:

  • Use a tripod  Otherwise your timelapse video will look like an earthquake is taking place!
  • Set the camera to 16:9 ratio – This will be the correct image ratio for a 1080p Full HD movie file, so you will not need to crop hundreds of images!
  • Plan ahead – If you are shooting a sunrise or sunset, know exactly where the sun is going to end up. Apps like The Photographer’s Ephemeris can really help you achieve this.
  • Think very carefully about composition – This kind of goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway.. 😉 Take your time framing the shot, after all you are going to take hundreds of pictures of your landscape and it would be a real shame to get 300 images of the horizon all wonky!
  • Shoot Raw & Jpeg – Although Jpegs are preferable for many users, if the lighting changes dramatically whilst shooting you will find editing & correcting a RAW file much more flexible as it retains all the detail from an image rather than a compressed version.
  • Shoot manually – To ensure consistently good results always shoot fully manual – set the shutter speed, the aperture, ISO and focus yourself rather than allowing the camera to do this for you.

Below is an example of a timelapse movie shot on the X-T1 and played back at 25FPS. The movie consists of 150 shots.

I hope this has inspired you to go out and give it a go! It can be truly rewarding and really fun too!

Happy Snapping! 🙂

*The Interval Timer feature is available for the FUJIFILM X-T1, X-T10, X100T and X30.

 

Tutorial: Street photography

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerToday I’m going to take you through some of the advice given to me by UK wedding photographer Kevin Mullins. Kevin’s approach to candid wedding photography translates precisely into his street photography style. 

What makes a good “street” shot?

The three key factors that make a good street image are;

  • good light
  • good composition
  • interesting subject

Get all three and you have a great shot. Two of them can result in a good shot. If you can only have one, make sure it’s the interesting subject

Assignment 1 – Shoot with a theme

Start by simply shooting how you want, but with a theme. Try the theme “angles”. When I took this shot below, it was a nice sunny-but-cool day in Cambridge so there were plenty of things to choose from. Look for good light, some sort of interesting subject, and carefully consider the complete composition.

The bright sun meant that to me, the ‘angles’ would need to come from shadows. This guy caught my eye because he was using his phone before getting on his bike. I wondered who he was contacting, or whether he was just checking a map. About 20 mins later we saw a cyclist nearly get taken out by a car so I wonder now if he was sending a ritual “goodbye, just in case” message. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/640 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
The bright sun meant that to me, the ‘angles’ would need to come from shadows. This guy caught my eye because he was using his phone one last time before getting on his bike. I wondered who he was contacting, or whether he was just checking a map. About 20 mins later we saw a cyclist nearly get taken out by a car so I wonder now if he was sending a ritual “goodbye, just in case” message. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/640 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200

Assignment 2 – Frame your subject

Try to use people to frame shots of other people. Pair up with another photographer and go hunting interesting shots together. Use your partner to help provide a frame for the shot. The theme of “angles” was dropped but otherwise everything applied; light, composition, something of interest that tells a story.

Although personally I find the arm in the foreground a bit distracting, it does give a bit more depth to the image and the bright blue of this guy’s jacket and the sign pull your attention away from the frame  . X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
Although personally I find the arm in the foreground a bit distracting, it does give a bit more depth to the image and the bright blue of this guy’s jacket and the sign pull your attention away from the frame . X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
I like this one because the conversation is framed by the arm on the left, and also the stranger on the right. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
I like this one because the conversation is framed by the arm on the left, and also the stranger on the right. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
This last one failed the assignment in that it wasn’t framed by a person in the foreground. However, I like it because of the way the light fell on the faces of the people having the conversation. Nice light and begins to tell a story about a meeting in public. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200
This last one failed the assignment in that it wasn’t framed by a person in the foreground. However, I like it because of the way the light fell on the faces of the people having the conversation. Nice light and begins to tell a story about a meeting in public. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 35; 1/200 sec; f/5.6; ISO 200

Assignment 3 – Spot Metering

The next thing to try is pre-focusing and spot metering. Put your cameras into spot metering and manual focus mode and stand facing a place where people would “break the light”. In other words, pedestrians and cyclists would travel from the bright sunshine, into the shade, or vice-versa. Use the “AF-L” button to pre-focus on the ground where we wanted them to be when we shot and then simply time them right to shoot them just as they cross from the light into the shadow. The camera will adjust for the exposure according to light on the subject, rather than the total light in the scene.

On the X100T, X-T1, X-T10 and X-Pro2 there is a setting that allows you to link the spot metering with the AF box. Activating this allows you to choose the point in your composition to expose for. On cameras without this function the spot metering will only occur in the middle of the frame so you may be slightly limited in your composition.

This shot was actually taken by Kevin himself using his X100T; 1/320 sec; f/16; ISO 640
This shot was actually taken by Kevin himself using his X100T; 1/320 sec; f/16; ISO 640

Assignment 4 – Zone focusing

Get close to your ‘subjects’. Getting close obviously means more chance of affecting the resulting image so it’s key to try to appear like you are not taking photographs. The main reason people need to really see what they are shooting is to make sure you are focusing on the right thing.

Guy working on a market stall. Bikes were everywhere in Cambridge. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/90 sec; f/11; ISO 400
Guy working on a market stall. Bikes were everywhere in Cambridge. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/90 sec; f/11; ISO 400

Keep your camera in Manual Focus mode, select a nice small (big number) aperture value and then used the focus distance indicator on the screen of the camera to understand where the range of acceptable focus would be.

Focus on the ground a few metres in front of you. Your next challenge is to get in close to people and inconspicuously shoot them getting on with their life. Continuous shooting is also very handy here as it allows you to shoot a few frames, especially good if your subject is moving through your zone focus area.

Assignment 5 – Turn invisible

There is now no need to hold the camera up to your eye so all of your shooting can be at waist level, looking down onto the tilting LCD screen (if your camera has one) to check the overall composition. After a while you will be able to simply look around and be confident that you’re going to capture the interesting subject without them knowing, therefore not influencing or changing the subject, but merely documenting what is going on around you.

Not many people "at work" seemed to really be working.  Zone focussed and shot from the hip with X-T1; XF18-55mm @ 35mm; 1/64 sec;   f/13;   ISO 1000
Not many people “at work” seemed to really be working. Zone focused and shot from the hip with X-T1; XF18-55mm @ 35mm; 1/64 sec; f/13; ISO 1000
One of my last images as we were about to lose the sun completely. This is the only guy who looked like he was working, although I question his choice of office. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/125 sec; f/16; ISO 1250
One of my last images as we were about to lose the sun completely. This is one of the few guys who looked like they were actually working, although I question his choice of office. X-T1; XF18-55 @ 55; 1/125 sec; f/16; ISO 1250

Summary

  • The three keys to a good street image are; good light, good composition, interesting subject. All three of these results in a great shot. Two of them can result in a good shot. If you can only have one, it has to be the interesting subject
  • Shoot with a theme. This will make you consider your shot more carefully and not just fill your card.
  • Try to frame your subjects with parts of the background, or even make your own frame by using other photographers
  • Setting your camera on full auto with Spot metering allows you to ignore the exposure settings and let you worry about looking for a good shot
  • Zone focusing allows you to not worry about accurate focus, but rather understand that if a subject is within a certain “zone” in front of your lens, it’ll be sharp and in focus
  • Tiltable LCD screens allow you to shoot at waist level and still see the frame. The camera remote app takes this one step further and you look like you are just using your phone while actually shooting people with the camera hanging around your neck.

Keep practicing, hope for something interesting to unfold in front of your eyes and be ready with your camera when it does. Hopefully these techniques will help you get a great shot without anyone even knowing you were there!