White balance is an age old problem that is becoming all too modern with so many people moving to digital SLRs. Today’s cameras all have a pretty decent auto white balance settings, from the basic point/shot cameras to the pro SLRs. There are also several “fixed” settings on many of the simple cameras and most of the SLRs like Sunlight, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, etc. But as many of you may know, these settings are not always perfect, and sometimes far from it.
Learning all of the technical aspects of digital photography can be quite mind numbing for newcomers. Trying to learn about aperture, f-stops, shutter speed, depth of field, and other technical terms can be a bit overwhelming. So what do you do when you know what you want to accomplish but you just don’t know how to go about it?
David Berman is a British news photographer and has posted a narrated slideshow showing some recent assignments with the final photos and then diagrams detailed the lighting setups he used. This is great information to learn how really dramatic photos can be taken. What is nice is that he doesn’t rely on a truckload of equipment, often its just one or two lights with umbrellas (brollys), reflectors, or gells.
Natural light can be your friend or your enemy depending on how you approach it. The biggest mistake people make is thinking that the sun is a giant soft light in the sky. While the Sun is over 92 million miles away, if you hold your thumb up to the sun at high noon, it appears to only be the size of your thumbnail making it a VERY small spotlight which causes very harsh shadows.
Muslin is an excellent background material because it can be stored easily, hung on almost anything, and takes light well. However, muslins are quite expensive, often heading into the $250+ range. As always, we try to save money where we can and finding muslins on eBay from Amvona for under $30 was just too good to pass up.
The most common mistake in doing a portrait is to use an on-camera flash. While an on-camera flash will illuminate a subject well, the direct head-on light will wash out all the shadows making the face look flat. So our first rule is to have the key light off to the side of the subject’s face.
The whole color management process is getting pretty solid as printers are more accurate than ever and if you are using a known paper, you will get great prints. However, the weak link is the monitor, if you monitor isnâ€™t displaying accurate color, if you tweak and adjust your image to match what you saw, when you print it, the colors will be off.
If you have been reading along lately, you know my battle with cheap lights and my discovery of the Lowel Omni light which totally changed my mind about trying to do things on the cheap. But did it? Yeah, I knew I should have just kept bidding away on eBay until I won another Lowel light, but hey, I have been trying to save you all some money along the way as well so I decided to try some of the cheapest of the high wattage lights available. The DynaPhos products from Amvona are some of the most affordable around, butâ€¦..are they any good?
As I have said before, I am a huge fan of saving money where ever and whenever you can…..if it makes sense. Let’s talk about lighting and why doing this on the cheap is so hard. Lightbulbs suck. There, I said it, plain and simple. I have tried probably 20 different lightbulbs this past year, bright white, daylight, you name it, if it claimed to be some form of daylight bulb, I have tried it. The end result of over $100 in light bulb purchases this year? Cheap daylight bulbs all over the house, and the purchase of decent studio lights. Why didn’t these lights work?
As you get more into photography and Photoshop, eventually you being to think you would like some extra control over what you are doing in Photoshop even if you cant quite put your finger on what that means. This is usually the time to plunk down a couple hundred bucks on a Wacom tablet and gain a whole new level of functionaly from the brush-based tools (brush, eraser, healing tools, etc) than you had with just a mouse.
In forums and comments all over the net you will see people asking the same question over and over again – “What equipment should I buy?”. Not meaning to sound rude, but this is like asking some stranger on the street “what kind of car should I buy?”, the simple answer is “you aren’t giving me enough information to give you an answer”.
I am a big believer in bartering goods and services whenever possible. This week I did some computer service for a professional photographer friend of mine, in exchange he offered me one of his older studio lights. When he handed it to me I thought “what the hell is he giving me”. The old box lamp that looked like something from the dark ages. He swore this Lowel Omni Light was a top notch light.
As i write this I am on vacation with my wife in San Francisco and I think that taking a look at some example photographs may help you take better travel photos. While there are plenty of the basic snapshot photos, I also want to capture something a little different sometimes.
Sure a nice set of Alien Bee’s may be in your Amazon wish-list waiting for you to win the lottery in order to afford them. If you are just getting started, you don’t need to spend that kind of money on some basic lighting.
If you aren’t an avid eBay’er, this isn’t a bad time to get started, but you can find all of the components you need at your local stores.