Thursday, March 29, 2012
Over the weekend, my husband and I visited the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. I was shooting with my macro lens, but didn’t always have a dedicated lens for macro photography, which inspired me to post the tutorial about macros.
Part of what made these photos so fun, was that I had the opportunity to make some new Lightroom presets!
Here are some of the other photos from this particular visit. I’m sure there will be many more for the duration of the festival!
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
I gave my first private photography lesson today! It was so much fun. I used to teach on project management at the University of Central Florida many years ago, and have always enjoyed instructional material. That is partially why I started my “Tutorial Tuesday” series on this blog.
I found the initial session to be a lot of fun, and my client said she felt like she learned some helpful new information, which is very important to me. I enjoyed it so much that I have decided to offer these private instructional courses more frequently. I will fill slots as my schedule allows on a “first come first serve” basis. Now that we are entering into the time of year with longer and later daylight hours, these sessions can be scheduled either on weekends or evenings.
Courses are available for individuals or very small groups. I strictly limit the number of students to 5 per class, in order to make sure photographers are getting the specialized attention they deserve. For these courses, students will pick a location of their choosing in the Orlando, FL area, tell me what they want to learn, and the course will be completely customized for them. A model can even be provided, if desired (for an extra fee).
… or maybe you just want to learn how to take better photos of your growing family:
I am also happy to facilitate educational photo walks as part of this offering.
Course fee information is available on my Photography Pricing page. If you are interested, please use the contact link in the menu on the right column of this blog. :)
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I’m happy to announce that the Frankenfables blog now has RSS support! To be honest, it had RSS support built in already, but I wasn’t aware of this until I did some more reading about the Flatpress blog platform that I’ve been experimenting with. I’ve already made a few modifications to it that I’m very happy with.
Flatpress apparently came with RSS support, but the URL was not broadcasted anywhere, so I built out the little widget in the main menu to the right with icons that link to both the blog RSS feed, and a Feed Burner account I set up for it. If you prefer to consume your blog content via RSS, it should now be much easier for you to do so with this blog. :)
As a resident of Orlando, one of my favorite things to do every year is to visit the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival every spring. Of course, I bring my camera. There are tons of opportunities to capture some really great macros.
As I was editing my photos, I thought a tutorial about some of the different ways to capture good marco images outdoors might make a fun topic.This one is going to be all about the camera, technique, and the equipment, and not so much about the software.
Many photographers, myself included, believe that the best time for outdoor photography is around sunrise or sunset, when the sun is low in the sky, the lighting is soft and diffused, and everything is drenched in a beautiful golden light.
There’s just one little problem. I really like sleeping in. I often don’t arrive to the Flower & Garden Festival until the afternoon, and as soon as I get there, I want to start taking pictures. It is still possible to capture some great macro photography in the middle of the afternoon.
This photo was taken somewhere between 2 and 3pm, in full sunlight, not in the shade. There was no post-processing or corrective work applied to this image, except for some cropping to isolate the part of the image I liked best. Below are some tips for capturing great macros at any time of day, but particularly, if you find yourself shooting in the afternoon.
Use a good quality multi-coated UV filter AND a polarizing filter.
I keep a UV filter permanently on all of my lenses, not only for a little extra protection, but also to filter out UV light. Some people might argue that UV filters aren’t necessary, but they probably aren’t using a high quality multi-coated filter. If you’re serious about photography and you’re buying lenses that cost a few hundred dollars or more, do yourself a favor and spend the extra money for a multi-coated UV filter. You might spend $30 instead of $5, but you’ll notice a difference if you have a keen attention to detail. Your details will be crisper and less hazy, your colors will be more true, and you’ll probably notice less lens flare too.
I also like to add on a polarizing filter, especially if it’s bright outside. If you’ve ever owned a pair of polarized sunglasses, you’ll understand why. Polarizing filters will change details and colors. Skies will be darker and have more contrast, snow and water will have more details and fewer reflections, and colors will be more vibrant.
Why? Polarizing filters are well known for eliminating reflections on shiny surfaces, but everything reflects. Colors reflect off of every surface. Light bounces off of everything. This can cause colors to appear more muddy and less vibrant, based on surrounding objects. Red flowers may not appear as vibrant when surrounded by green foliage that is reflecting an opposing color. When you put a good polarizing filter on your camera, especially on a sunny day when that light is bouncing off every surface, the colors in your photos will pop in a way that surprises you.
Here is another image where I used both a UV and a polarizing filter. Notice how clear, crisp, and true the colors are.
Open up that aperture!
This will require you to use the “AV” setting on your DSLR (”AV” is for Canon users and just “A” for Nikon users). If you’re feeling bold, you can shoot in full manual mode and set your aperture value there too.
Using a wide aperture may be slightly debatable. It really depends on the effect you’re going for. If you want to play around with depth of field, where part of the image is in focus, and the rest is softly blurred, as in the above photograph, then open up that aperture.
The first image in this tutorial was taken at f/2.8. The one above was taken at f/3.5. I personally love playing around with a shallow depth of field for the artistic value, and that soft blurry background that whispers sweet nothings into your eyes. If you’re going for something a bit more journalistic or in the style of National Geographic, you might want to close your aperture down to around f/14, and adjust your other settings accordingly.
You can use macro magnification filters if you aren’t ready to commit to a macro lens.
First of all, I own a nice Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens, which was used to take the two photos above. If you are really into macros, and you can spend the money on one, I completely recommend it. I absolutely love this macro lens. Before I bought it though, I used these:
They are a great low cost alternative if you aren’t ready to invest in a dedicated macro lens. The terms “magnifier” and “filter” are a bit of a misnomer though. They don’t actually magnify the image, and they aren’t really filtering any light waves. They work by changing the focal point so you can get much closer to your subject, and get that macro-like effect. They come in many sizes, so you can screw them onto a variety of lenses. I bought the 58mm magnifiers and used to screw them onto my standard 17-55mm kit lens when I was still using my Rebel XSi as my primary camera. I also really like to use them with my Canon EF 50mm f/1.4.
The following image is an example of one I took using the macro magnifiers on that 17-55mm stock lens. Not too shabby for a basic stock lens and some cheap screw on magnifying glasses, eh?
Use manual focus, not automatic.
I never trust my automatic focus when it comes to my macros. When using a wide aperture to produce a shallow depth of field, as I like to do, the focal point will always end up somewhere the camera thinks it should be, not where I want it to be. If you have a discerning eye, and you want to increase the artistic quality of your macro images, you have to be the one to choose your focal point, not your camera. If you need to wear corrective lenses, now is not the time to be lazy or self-conscious (I’m trying to convince myself a little bit here). Put on those glasses, so you can see every detail in that view finder! It will make a huge difference, I promise.
There will be more eye candy from the 2012 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival coming in subsequent blog posts this week. I am very excited to share some of the photos with you all!
Please also remember that I have a contest going right now to win a free print from my Etsy shop! There is just under one week left to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment on that entry with an idea for a Tutorial Tuesday topic that you would like me to see me post about. :)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
One of the fans on my Facebook photography page inspired this tutorial entry. Ok, she’s not just any Facebook fan. She’s my cousin, and fellow technophile, Erica of ericasays.com, but I’m happy to post tutorials based on questions/comments from anyone who inquires. :)
Erica commented that she really liked the “gorgeous lighting” in one of my burlesque photos:
I thanked her and let her in on one of my secrets:
I didn’t light that photo with any extra equipment and I didn’t even use a flash. The venue has fluorescent tube lighting.
While I do add extra light sources to photo shoots with clients, and almost always use a diffused flash bounced off another surface, I really enjoy the challenge of working with only available lighting when I’m shooting candid, journalistic style photos. The thing I like most is that we don’t allow flash photography at this particular event (it’s a distraction to the model and the artists who are drawing).
What I’m getting at is that creative restrictions can be a good thing. They force you to become familiar with your equipment, so you can adapt when you need to. Along with the no-flash restriction, I also force myself to work only with the manual settings. It’s a really good exercise for staying sharp and becoming intimately familiar with your camera.
Just like with the last tutorial, I’ll start with the before and after composition and the settings used to take the picture:
|Camera||Canon EOS 5D Mark II|
|Exposure||0.017 sec (1/60)|
|Focal Length||175 mm|
There was actually minimal post-processing required for this image. Only a few of the most basic settings were adjusted. Working with available lighting mostly boils down to capturing a good image by paying close attention to composition, noticing how the light sources are interacting with the subject surfaces, and keeping an eye on your white balance.
Before I get started on the software tweaks, here are some tips I have for capturing a good image to start working with:
Always shoot in RAW mode.
On some cameras (like my old Canon Rebel XSi), you can’t shoot in RAW if you’re using the camera in full auto mode. On some of the higher end cameras (like my Canon 5D Mark II), you can, but having such a powerful camera and not using the manual settings to get the most out of such a beautiful machine seems like a waste, IMHO. Shooting in RAW mode will take up more space on your memory card, but will allow you more freedom for adjustments without losing quality later, if you want to tweak some things.
Pay attention to the direction of your light source(s) and where they are hitting your subjects.
In this particular setting, the most prominent light source is a single fluorescent tube light that is directly overhead and off to the model’s right (the left side of the photo). Due to the cropping of this image, you can’t see it, but the model is also on her knees, creating more distance between herself and the light source, which allows for more diffusion. The angle that she has her head tilted in relation to the light source created a very nice balance of light and shadow.
Composition is extremely important.
The placement and positioning of a subject is extremely important when using only available lighting. You need to be aware of which surfaces the light will hit and interact with. Lighter colors and shinier surfaces reflect more light, darker colors and matted surfaces do not. Objects that block the light sources from other surfaces will cast shadows. Finding the right balance between all of these things will help you out a lot when working with only available lighting. It may take some patience, but practice makes perfect. :)
Here is the original image with the crop guides turned on, and some notes about how composition and lighting work together:
Get to know your camera’s white balance settings.
Lighting sources may not always be neutral or ideal. Every camera is a little different in how to adjust them, so I’m not going to cover the specific details for any one camera here, but most DSLRs have a feature that allows you to do so. “AWB” or auto white balance may be sufficient, but I really like to optimize for the correct type of lighting explicitly in the settings. For this reason, it’s important to know which kind of light you’re dealing with. You’ll have less to fix later, and you’ll learn more about your camera.
Ok, time for the fun part. Let’s get to the software portion of the tutorial!
I have a preference for working with Adobe Lightroom, but the settings I’m changing here are really pretty basic, so you could easily find and change the equivalents in Photoshop or some other editing program, if that’s what you prefer.
The first thing I notice about this image is that the skin tone is not quite right, despite having used the fluorescent white balance setting. Not all fluorescent lighting is created equal. Thankfully, most image editing software has white balance (WB) tools built in, and if you happen to have a spot of white in your photo, they work really beautifully.
In Adobe Lightroom, the WB tool is easy to spot. It’s right at the top of the Basic panel, and if you have some white on your photo, you can use the eye dropper to correct the settings.
Just click on the eye dropper and then select a spot on the image that looks neutral. Lightroom will show you a preview in the Navigator panel as you drag the eye dropper around to find just the right spot. On this particular image, there was really only one truly neutral spot, and it was tiny, but selecting it worked really well. Notice how much more natural the skin tone looks.
Finally, we’ll tweak a few settings that will brighten up the image, and soften out some of the shadows. First, tap up the “Fill Light” a bit. For this example, I bumped it up to about 15. Look what a difference it made:
Last, this image could use just a bit more exposure. You’ll have to adjust this to your liking, based on what you feel balances the image. For this tutorial, I tapped it up just to 0.85. That gave it a nice natural look.
The Lightroom panel should look something like this:
You might notice that this finished tutorial photo is not as bright and does not have exactly the same contrast or lighting dynamics as the original portfolio piece at the beginning of the blog post. I tend to favor slightly over-exposed skin and higher contrast in my images, but that’s just my personal style. After the point of image correction - where we are now - adding the extra creative bits is up to your own imagination. :)
If you have ideas for other Tutorial Tuesday topics that you’d like to see, had over to the previous post and make a suggestion for a future Tutorial Tuesday post. You will also be entered to win a free 8×10 print of any image in my < a href="http://www.etsy.com/shop/FrankenfieldPhoto">Frankenfield Photo Etsy shop!