“So how do I turn this thing on?” Ok he was only joking with me, and my student Peter had already taken some great pictures of family and friends with his new Sony Alpha dSLR. But now he wanted to get out of auto mode and start to exercise some creative control over his photos. Following on from our recent group photography course, this was a one-to-one, so we had more time for portfolio review, and could answer some specific questions on ISO and use of fill-in flash. It was great to see Peter really engaging with the camera, and taking control of the settings in full manual mode. We covered aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, and how to read the camera’s built-in light meter. After a bit of theory, we had a session shooting a model in the studio with natural window light, then with studio lights, before venturing out into the midday sun to shoot on location at Sudeley Castle. My hair stylist Jodie modelled for us in the morning, while our regular model Mali joined us in the afternoon. Peter got some great photos on the day, and our thanks again to the White Hart in Winchcombe for providing us with a great lunch.
Well done Libby Clegg on a fantastic Paralympic gold medal in Glasgow last night. Here’s one of my shots of Libby at the 2012 London Paralympic Games to celebrate her recent victory! The blind and partially sighted runners run with a guide runner who paces and ensures they stay in lane. The athlete must cross the line before the guide, or they will be disqualified – and this is the first year that guides will receive medals as well as the athletes.
What a great start to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, with Brit Alistair Brownlee beating his brother Jonny to triathlon gold, and Jodie Stimpson taking the ladies tri title. We’ve had a hatful of medals since day one and what an inspiration the athletes are! Unfortunately I’m not in Glasgow this year to shoot the games, other commitments and my new photography courses have taken priority. But I’m reminded of the amazing experience I had shooting the Paralympics in London in 2012. One of the highlights was a rare visit to the underwater viewing windows where I captured this shot from behind 2″ thick perspex. Autofocus doesn’t work through the perspex, there’s loads of distortion, and chromatic aberration or “fringing” in the colours provide a real test of skill and kit!
I got excited when Paul Oz got in touch to say he had another painting for me to photograph. I was actually out of the country when I got the text – in the stunning French Alps town of Morzine, for the wedding of my dear friends Jo and Chris. It was the first time I’d been to the Alps in summer, and for sure it won’t be the last! Anyway I digress… so this time, the object of Paul’s paints wasn’t a pot of Marmite (love it or hate it?), but the reggae legend that is Bob Marley. The canvas was 4ft high by 3 ft wide, and in Paul’s trademark explosive style, with massive texture and inch thick acrylic oils in places. It was a challenging capture, with bright whites and deep blacks, not to mention the paint was still wet, so reflections were tricky to manage. A BIG soft box, feather the light, and a massive 2m x 1m reflector to bounce some light into the shadows seems to have done the trick…
Stoked to have nailed our first Portrait Photography Course at the studio recently. Models Chanelle and Mali were awesome, made even more beautiful by hair and makeup team Jodie Jacobs and Rosie Charlotte Holland.Thanks again to the White Hart in Winchcombe for lunch, which was also a nice opportunity for me and the students to get to know each other without cameras in our hands. Here are another two of my favourite shots of the day – Mali and Chanelle, both shot in the grounds of the stunning Sudeley Castle. Big lesson of the day – don’t be afraid to rack up your ISO if the light’s down low! Both of these were shot at ISO 1600, with a wide open aperture which allowed a fast enough shutter speed to keep the images crisp. Always better to have a sharp grainy image than a soft and blurry image with no noise or grain. If you’re interested in learning please get in touch as we are running more courses soon!
Ok, if you’re not interested in metering exposures, probably best to go have a look at another blog post, check out the galleries, or even better go and take some pictures! (Even if they’re all over or under exposed because you haven’t read this post). But if you want to know about proper exposure, get comfortable and read on…
During last week’s Portrait Photography course, we worked a lot on metering exposures. “But why do I have to meter my exposures – I have a built in meter on my camera?!” was the usual question. There’s lots of science and jargon to this subject, but let’s cut to the chase: your camera measures the light which is reflected off of your subject, whereas a handheld light meter measures the light falling onto your subject. Easy! So why do they give different readings? Ok, have you ever looked at a white washed building on a brilliant sunny day while on holiday in the Med (or Brighton beach if you’re on a budget) – it blinds you doesn’t it? But when you look at a red brick building on the same day, it doesn’t dazzle you anything like the white building. So the white building is reflecting much more light than the red brick building. And that’s what your camera is measuring – the light reflected off the subject. So your camera meter will give you different readings for subjects of different colours (or more accurately subjects with different reflectivity)
A handheld light meter measures the incident light – which just means the light falling onto the subject – and this is independent of the colour of the subject. It could be white, black, red, green, yellow, or mirrored like a disco ball – and the meter just gives you the same reading.
Of course sometimes you have to use a reflected reading – if you’re photographing a distant mountain range for example, it’d take you a day to trek over there and take an incident reading. So then you need to have your wits about you, and understand how your subject compares to 18% mid grey (which your camera will try and average to). If your subject is lighter than mid grey, your camera will under expose, so you’ll have to overexpose to compensate. If your subject is darker than mid grey, your camera will over expose, so you’ll have to underexpose to compensate. This is also worth bearing in mind when you’re shooting dark subjects on bright backgrounds and vice versa.
So have a think about buying a light meter. When you think of what you spend on camera bodies, lenses, flashguns, laptops, not to mention studio lighting, a light meter is the one tool that should be in every serious photographers bag.
After a lot of hard work, we have now launched our Introduction to Portrait Photography courses! Our first batch of students were a great bunch from Cheltenham and the Cotswolds. We started with a “Get Inspired” session where we had a look at some great photographers work, and a “Get To Know the Basics” section where the students had a chance to understand aperture, shutter speed, ISO, light, and composition in a bit more detail. We shot two models in the studio, with a range of lighting set ups, and then moved on to the grounds of Sudeley Castle, where we found some fantastic locations, and learned that water can acts as a fantastic natural light modifier. Below is one of my favourite shots of Chanelle, photographed by student Claire Rayton. Big thanks go out to Jodie and Rosie for the hair and makeup – we were aiming for a relaxed, natural look, and I think the girls did a great job!
… because it’s a fantastic tool for photographers! I’m not sponsored by them, and don’t have any relationship with the developers, but this really is a handy tool for planning a shoot. What makes LightTrac so cool is that it allows you to determine the position of the Sun on any given day, at any time of day. Just input your geographical location, plus the time and date you’re interested in, and it will tell you both the time and the position (or “bearing”) of the sunrise and sunset. A handy slider then lets you select the time of day and see exactly where the sun will be, including bearing and elevation angle. This is essential for any kind of architectural photography, and really useful in planning any shoot, from portrait to product. Photographing a wedding? Well you’ll probably want to position the group shots in the shade for that gorgeous soft, diffused light. With LightTrac, you can know exactly where the sun is, it’s elevation in the sky, and even how long the shadows will be. Below are a few screenshots I took while I was checking out the sunlight at the studio. The yellow line is sunrise, the blue line is sunset, and the red line moves with the slider to show the position of the sun at a certain time. Anyway, enough of my soap box speech… at least until tomorrow when I tell you about Field Tools!