PocketWizard has just announced an update to their PocketWizard Plus line of radio transceivers. The new PocketWizard Plus III is the latest generation radio transmitter/receiver that adds a boatload of new features, but best of all, comes at a much more affordable price of $139 (the old PocketWizard Plus II units are priced at $159).
This is a quick review of the Impact Posing Stool, used in studio environments for seating clients and models to photograph headshots or half-body portraits. When photographing subjects in a studio, especially when doing corporate photography, a simple posing stool is often required. Regular chairs have backs and arms that are problematic for half-body shots, while bar stools can be too high and inconvenient to use, so an adjustable posing stool is ideal in such situations. While there are plenty of adjustable stools available from various manufacturers, most of them are quite expensive. The Impact Posing Stool accomplishes the same task, but at a much more affordable price.
This is a review of the Impact Multiboom Light Stand and Reflector Holder, used in studio environments for holding lights, reflectors, flags and other light accessories. If you do any studio work, whether it is for photographing models or your clients, it is often necessary to use light reflectors to bounce the main light for softer shadows. Other times you might find yourself in a situation when you have too much light spill and you need to block some of that light with a black card, also known as a “flag”. It is great if you have one or more assistants for these kinds of situations, because they can assist in holding reflectors and flags. But what if you work alone or need to hold multiple reflectors and flags? That’s when a boom comes in handy. I have been shopping around for a good, lightweight, portable and inexpensive boom arm + stand combo, and I think I found a perfect one for my needs.
While Nasim is working on another big article about DSLR autofocus systems (shhh, I didn’t tell you that), I decided to write another quick post on a recent photo shoot. I had an opportunity to photograph this beautiful lady, Mari Carlin Dart and her skin care line, Suuthe recently. The session was supposed to last no more than 45 minutes and I only needed a couple of good images for an upcoming advertisement book called “CRAVE“.
First of all, let me introduce Suuthe. It is an all organic skin repair cream company which started with Mari searching for ideas to cure her son’s eczema problem. Without being able to find a solution from doctors for her son Peter’s aching problem, she decided to look further and work on something natural and effective. That’s how Suuthe came to live. As a mother of two children who suffered from eczema for a while, I wish I have met Mari earlier! If you know anyone like that, tell them to check out this wonderful product.
Here is how the photo session unfolded. All of the images were taken with the Nikon D700 body and a single Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens (my favorite as always).
If you have been in a situation where you had a Christmas tree behind your subject and you could not take a good portrait, correctly exposing both the subject and the Christmas tree, then don’t be surprised – you are not the only person having such challenges. Many photographers have a tough time with correctly exposing images indoors, especially when dealing with a very dim room with bright objects in the background. That’s the biggest problem with photographing the Christmas tree – most people like to turn off or dim their main lights and only keep the Christmas tree lights on. With such a low amount of light in the room, all kinds of problems arise for photographers: images come out blurry, portraits are too dark or images have a flat, point and shoot look to them when photographed with a flash. The biggest annoyance and frustration, is when flash lights up the room and makes the Christmas tree lights disappear, as if they are not even on! What is the best way to deal with these problems? How should you take pictures with the Christmas tree? In this article, I will do my best to explain what you need to do to take great family photos during holidays.
1) Challenges with bright backgrounds indoors
When a room is dim, the only thing you can do without using flash is heavily increase your camera’s sensitivity (ISO). Increasing camera ISO, however, results in lots of noise in images and does not help with the problem of having a dark subject with a brightly-lit Christmas tree in the background. If you expose for the subject by setting your camera’s metering mode to “Spot/Partial Metering” and pointing the focus point at your subject, the Christmas tree will be overexposed. If you meter for the Chritmas tree, your subject will be too dark. Just like in these pictures:
I have already shown you how to take pictures with your pop-up flash and use it as a commander to trigger other remote units. A detailed Nikon Speedlight Comparison has also been posted for those who are looking into buying a flash. This time, I want to show you how you can create some amazing portraits indoors, using a Nikon Speedlight in an off-camera configuration with an umbrella.
1) Getting Started
No matter what flash system you are using, if you want to be able to take great portraits, you want to soften the light that comes out of your flash. Direct light creates harsh shadows, similar to how the sun does when you take a picture at noon. While I have already shown you how to soften the light by bouncing it off ceilings and walls, the light does not always look very natural due to its angle. In addition, bouncing the light off very large surfaces typically does not yield nice-looking catch lights in your subjects’ eyes. There are a couple of solutions to this problem, which require some investment and a little bit of extra effort.
One method I would like to talk about, is to use an umbrella on a dedicated stand to soften the light from your flash – a very inexpensive way to soften the light and instantly improve your images. Lola and I use this method a lot for some of our commercial photography and the results do not disappoint. Let’s talk about the gear you will need to accomplish this:
If you have a DSLR, you have three ways to trigger flash units wirelessly: via infrared, radio or a hybrid method that involves both infrared and radio signals. While all three options can be used for triggering off-camera flashes, they all have advantages and disadvantages for indoors and outdoors use. The infrared system works very similarly to your TV remote at home – if you are not in direct line of sight or there is an object in between, the signal will not reach the destination. On the other hand, manufacturers are able to use infrared to its limits, pushing the most amount of features through it and supporting a variety of shooting applications. Unlike infrared, the radio signal has no line of sight limitations, but comes at a rather high cost, with its own set of problems. The hybrid system simply takes the infrared signal from the commander, converts it over to radio and then converts it back to infrared on slave units. Let’s analyze these advantages and disadvantages in more detail.
Technically, the article is supposed to be called “Nikon Speedlight Comparison”, because Nikon calls their flash units “Speedlights”. This article is written as an introduction to the current line of Nikon Speedlights, specifically the Nikon SB-400, SB-600, SB-700, SB-800 (discontinued), SB-900 (discontinued) and SB-910. In addition to some basic information on each Speedlight, I will provide a comparison chart on the bottom of this article as well, to make it simpler for our readers to understand the differences.
Alright, since this week is dedicated to Flash Photography, I decided to post a series of photo shoots I worked on recently. It is always good to be able to use natural/ambient light if it is available. In a very low-light situation, especially if you are photographing moving subjects, it is nearly impossible to properly expose the set without having your moving subjects blurry. This particular shoot was done for the CRAVE Book, to highlight female entrepreneurs. “Hello Gorgeous” is the name of the mobile manicure and pedicure company, run by two amazing individuals – Hani and Kent.
I used my trusty Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 for wide-angle shots, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G for detail shots, two SB-900 Speedlights, three Pocket Wizard transmitters/receivers and just one 30-inch umbrella. Everything was shot in Manual mode to give me consistency and control over flashes and the entire process.
It was an on-location photo shoot and I was informed beforehand that the apartment would have glass and concrete walls all around. The only light available was the 3 chandeliers that you see in the first left image. I also had very little ambient light coming from the far kitchen, to the right of the chairs.
Whether you are shooting with an entry-level or a professional Nikon DSLR, speedlights are a great way to improve your indoors photography. While fast lenses and high ISO levels certainly help to take pictures in low-light environments, they often do not work well for photographing people indoors. In low-light situations, cameras have a tough time acquiring correct focus, motion often results in too much blur and bright backgrounds can ruin the subject’s face and emotions. Speedlights are versatile tools that are designed to overcome these problems and deliver sharp, blur-free and noise-free images with beautifully exposed subjects.
At the same time, without the right technique and tools, flash can quickly transform pictures into flat, lifeless images. Knowing how to bend the light and take advantage of the surrounding environment to manage it is a skill every photographer should master. In this introduction to indoors flash photography video, I will first quickly talk about the differences between Nikon speedlights, along with my recommendations. Then, I will do my best to explain differences between direct and indirect flash and how both affect indoors portraiture, using specific examples.
I highly recommend viewing the video in HD. You can do it by viewing the video in fullscreen mode, then picking “720p” on the bottom right corner.