Wednesday, July 19, 2017

SheBloom Photo Shoot

My wife owns a small company called SheBloom. She needed me to take photos for her upcoming line of clothes for the print catalog and website. In the past she's used professional photographers that I admire, this time I was going to be the one behind the camera and I was a little nervous.

I'd been working up to this position by first purchasing a Canon 6D. I know the mark ii version is coming out soon, but I couldn't wait, plus I couldn't afford the $2,000 price tag. For the last couple weeks I've been practicing with the camera and the new perspective it affords me. All my lenses look different through this camera compared to my 7D due to the crop sensor, and I love it! The 50mm lens looks just as I've read about the true life perspective. My tiny 50mm 1.8 has new life and it looks great. But for this shoot, I can't get cute with the big aperture. I've ruined too many photos when it was important to get more in focus than I did.

I ended up choosing my 24-105mm F/4 L version 1 lens. I figured I didn't need the larger aperture, but instead required the zoom flexibility when shooting toddlers. I also packed my Yongnuo flash and Magmod Sphere just in case I need extra light to battle unwanted shadows.

The setting was next to a small vineyard in San Juan Capistrano. Our family had some photos taken there and my wife liked the rustic charm. When we got there the wind was blowing pretty hard, so I decided to have all models facing the wind to keep the hair out of their faces.

I read an article somewhere that battle-front photographers had a phrase, "f/8 and be there". That meant the aperture f/8 is a good general setting to have on your camera to make sure everything you need will be in focus. I started with f/8 and f/9, then when I felt comfortable with the photos I had, I would switch to f/5.6 for a little more artsy vision. To accommodate the smaller apertures while keeping a shutter speed of at least 1/200 second, I opted to increase my iso to 500. I don't want motion blur, but I also despise a noisy photo from high iso's.

SheBloom Photo early in the photo shoot
 A photo from the shoot, early in 
the editing phase. 80mm f/8 iso 500
With these principles in place, I was ready to shoot. I had my Yongnuo flash on a stand and a wireless transmitter on top of my camera ready in case I needed the light.

I was very focused on keeping the subject sharp. My apertures were usually f/8 or f/9, though I realize I could have gone with even smaller apertures when reviewing the images on my computer.

The photo to the right was taken early in the shoot. When I zoomed in close I could see a little bit of noise, but I also thought the image wasn't as sharp as I'd like. It was semi-sharp, though I was able to get better images in the past. Overall I'd rate the images from the shoot a B+, but in the end the wife was happy so I'll upgrade that to an A-.

I think I needed more light. I used my flash for many of the photos, but I think I needed another one for more light. In some cases when I shot with the same settings but more light I was able to get a sharper photo. I also think poor focusing played a part in the degradation of some of the photos. Later in the shoot I decided to open up the aperture to f/4.5 for some baby shots and noticed much of the gown was sharp, but not the eyes. Live and learn I guess.

Here are a few more photos from the shoot. What do you think? Go ahead, be brutal. I can take it, I just want to get better.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Video Short

When I say short, I mean short. I just wanted to take a few shots in my (sorf of) back yard to see what the footage would look like on Youtube. I also wanted to test the editing features of the Canon 7D coupled with the other editing features provided by Youtube. I think given it took me about 15 minutes to put this video together, it's not bad.

I started with some shots showing the peacefulness of T-Street beach in the morning. The surf was small and it is winter here now, so there was not much going on at 7:00 in the morning, but it was clear and beautiful.

I wanted to show off the reason why one would shoot such a video with this camera, depth of field. Without the need of a large aperture, I'd just as soon shoot the video with my iPhone. While I didn't worry about image stabalization, I did try to anchor myself as best I could. As you can see in the video I also manually changed the focus to try to tell a story with the different, yet complementary backgrounds.

When editing the video in the camera, I used the intuitive controls. You can't move frame by frame, but you can get close. I imagine this would be helpful for someone who wants to do rough edits before sitting down to a computer to upload all the raw footage. After cutting each video clip, I had the opportunity to either save the file as a new one, or over write the original file. I elected to over write each file since this was not a video I was very concerned about.

The Youtube editing was quick and easy. The toughest task was choosing the music. I ended up choosing a music clip that matched my emotions that morning.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Eden in SheBloom

My wife has a small business called SheBloom. SheBloom outfits little girls with boutique-style clothing. Often my wife needs some product shots taken for the website. Our latest shoot used a friend's baby girl named Eden.

During our latest shoot I hit on something obvious, but until now never uncovered. I needed to overexpose the shot a little to make the baby pop. Couple that with a little depth of field play and you get shots like this:
Eden in SheBloom clothing. 27mm. f/2.8 1/250 Sec.
Flash set to  about 1/8 power.

I was stunned when I saw the image on my computer. The eyes clearly grab you along with the pouty lips and the blurred focus background that draws you back to the eyes. Everything was sharp where I wanted it to be and blurred out in the right places. While I submitted the camera settings in the photo caption, that only tells part of the story of this image.

First we set up the bed with white everywhere. A white bedspread with white pillows in the background allowed us to preserve a bright atmosphere and create a dreamy backdrop. The next step was to prep the model. Wipes were readily handy because baby faces get dirty easily, and Photoshopping an image will never compare to getting it right at the moment of capture.

Once Eden was ready, I prepped the camera with a couple of shots. I mounted my 430 EX II (for which I had the 600, but that is for another blog post) onto the camera and pointed it up and away from Eden. Since I was in a small room I knew I could bounce the light from the ceiling and walls to give a more natural look to the image. Remember - The larger the light source the more natural the light will appear in the image.

This is how I positioned my flash  for
Eden's photo above.
It might seems strange to point the flash away from the subject, but knowing I could use my wall as a larger light source I could then obtain a more natural look to the final image. Here is a sketch of the room and how we were positioned as well as the placement of the flash. I had light bouncing from the walls and ceiling.

Once I had my settings dialed in, I started to shoot lots of shots. While my wife and Eden's mom were rattling noise makers above my head, I kept moving in front of Eden's face trying to capture her eyes directly into my lens.

One final tip I noticed made a difference in the quality of my photos was raising the exposure value in Lightroom. Making the whites whiter as well as pushing the contrast made an ok photo look much better.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Taking Family Christmas Photos

I recently had my first paid gig. My friends Laurie and Brandon asked me to take photos of their extended family on Laurie's side. I met everyone (10 members in all) at the pier in San Clemente. I was both excited and nervous at the same time. I knew I could get great shots, but will I?

I mad sure the batteries were charged, sensor was clean, and memory cards were emptied. I knew there would be no way I'd fill all 32 gigs of memory, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

I thought about lighting for a while. Should I bring my Speedlight? Should I bring a bounce reflector? If I bring this stuff should I bring an assistant? As the questions started piling up, my wife said, "Keep it simple". So I did just that, I brought my Canon 7D with my 24-70 L 2.8, and my 430 EX II. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a guy with his camera and on-camera flash. I was hoping my manuverability would overcome my ability to overcome lighting limitations. I was going to have to rely on my knowledge of lighting to create interesting photos instead of using manufactured lighting to give me what I wanted.

How did it turn out? At the end of the shoot I was exhausted. I had been thinking hard for 2 hours straight and I was spent. I filled both 16GB cards and my right hand was cramping. I had no idea you could get fatigued like that by just taking photos.

Here are a sampling of my favorites from the shoot.

Once I was done with editing the photos and uploading them to Costco for the client's printing needs, I decided to create an Animoto video to present the photos. In a few short minutes my video was ready for viewing. I skipped off to show my work to Laurie and her mother. Here is the video I showed them.

They were thrilled. Laurie immediately ordered prints at Costco and framed them in her house. They had photos to share on Facebook and more for the photo albums. For me, it felt good to be a part of family memories that will last a lifetime.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Beach Babe Photo

Click on the photo for a larger view.
Here is a photo I took of my daughter, Bella. It was an unusually warm November day and we decided to spend some time at the beach. I was also anxious to test my 430 ex ii against the sun. With the San Clemente pier in the background I began firing away. My first thought was to have the sun provide both a back light and rim light for Bella, check. The sun was at 11:00 and providing lots of light.

Since I had plenty of light I knew I could use a fast shutter speed. I started with setting my aperture to f/5 mostly because I wanted to make sure Bella would be sharp and I knew my Tamron lens didn't get sharp enough until I stopped down to f/4. I chose f/5 also because I wanted to include the pier as a reference, but still wanted Bella to be the focal point, I was afraid f/4 would blur the background too much since I was only 5 feet away from her.

The shutter speed had to be fast. Even though the aperture was stopped down I still had too much light for a good exposure. This is where I used the camera's light meter to tell me where to set the shutter speed. I was going for a slight underexposure to help Bella pop a little more when I lit her with the flash.

Next I had to set the flash. I didn't want to think about this setting so I set the flash to ETTL, or automatic. The purpose of the flash is to provide a fill light for Bella's face. since I was exposing for the background I knew her face would be too dark to see, so I added some light.

One I had my settings it was a matter of patience before I had the shot I wanted. Bella was busy practicing her hand stands and digging holes next to me. The photo I settled on was probably the 10th photo I took in the series.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sunset Surfer Photo

At best I think this image is interesting. The cool part is I shot the exact photo I wanted to, actually it would looked better if the surfer was closer to the water. If you're curious how I created the photo you can play the video below.

Here is the filter I used for the Surfer photograph.
I used my new polarizing filter I ordered from Amazon. I was anxious to see if it would enhance the colors of the photo, unfortunately I didn't take a photo without the filter. I think I was too excited to have a subject to photograph that I wasn't thinking of taking comparison shots. The filter was made by B+H. I heard you don't want to fool with cheap filters, especially when you invest in an expensive lens like the 24-70. I paid about $150 for this filter.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Canon 24-70mm F/2.8 L is a Keeper

Now that I've had a couple of days to play with my new (actually used but new to me) Canon 24-70mm lens I can say I am glad I bought it. This is exactly what the hype is all about.

My first shots of our new born child confirmed this lens is sharp, even wide open. Obviously stopping the lens down will give sharper images, but I am fine shooting at 2.8. This is a big improvement over my Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 VC lens. I know there is a big difference in price, but I was skeptical that the Canon images would be twice as good as those shot with the Tamron lens.

Here are the photos displayed on the video above. I realize they're not the best photos just yet. I just wanted to take some test shots. You can click on each photo to view my comments.

The final straw with the Tamron lens came when our son Presley was born the other day. I hadn't received the Canon lens yet and was stuck capturing the moment with the Tamron. The lighting was less than optimal and the lens was hunting to find the focus point.  I handed the camera over to a nurse to take a photo of me and my son and the lens never stopped hunting. She was confused and I was fuming. At that point I was better off with my camera phone.

That night the lens came. I stopped home to take a shower and pick up the lens. I drove back to take some shots of Mom and baby. There was an instant difference. Not only could I get acceptable shots at 2.8, but there were no more focus issues, just frame and shoot.

The build quality is supreme, but that can be good or bad. The good is I have no fear of bumping the lens, the bad is the lens is heavy..

The only improvement I would make on this lens is image stabalization. I tried to take a few shots in low light that required slow shutter speeds around 1/30th of a second, but I haven't had much success even zoomed out at 24mm.

24-70 or 24-105

I can sum up the debate between these two lenses with a short story. Not long ago I was in the heat of researching my next lens when I took my kids to Legoland, California. We were in line for a ride when I spotted a guy with the 24-105 hanging around his neck (obviously attached to a DSLR body). I said, "Nice lens. Do you like it over the 24-70?"

The guy responded, "The 24-70 is a nice lens".

That is all he said, but he didn't have to say any more. Clearly he had regret over not purchasing the 24-70 and experienced similar limitations I found using the 70-200mm F/4. Even with IS you still need a lot of light for and F/4 lens, and you probably need to stop down.