I love making beautiful family photography for my amazing clients, it's a real pleasure and privilege to immortalise such fantastic moments in artworks for them to enjoy & cherish. I recently had a great time shooting in the beautiful Milton Country Park, scoping out locations for my new Mini-Sessions. Here are a few of my favourites from the session:
One of the most important settings on your camera is one you may not even know you had. Unless you're shooting in full manual all the time (check you out Mr Fancy-Pants!) you have probably had shots ruined that would have been great, if only you had known about Exposure Compensation.
Let's start with your camera, It's your loyal servant, your faithful friend. Unfortunately in spite of all the electronics inside, your beloved camera is very stupid. It's not really your poor camera's fault though, it's just doing what it was designed to do by the smart men in white coats over at Nikon/Canon/Fuji etc HQ.
You see, if you strip away all the bells and whistles, your camera is basically just a light meter in a sealed box. Light meters are great, photography wouldn't be anywhere without them, the problem is that (without wanting to anthropomorphise them too much) they get confused and panic very easily.
Let's say for example that you're playing in the snow with your dog, who is a dark-ish brown colour. To your eye the scene looks great so you pull out your camera and take a photo to show your parents on Facebook later, you get home and, damnit! The snow is an awful grey colour and the dog might as well be a black blob in the middle, you can't even tell what colour he is, it's just awful.
Here's what happened in that split second: Your camera's light meter analysed the scene and noticed that the snow was very bright and tried to compensate by lowering the exposure in response, rendering the snow as an average value instead of a bright one. This bumping of the overall exposure meant that everything else in frame gots darker too, so not only is the snow that horrible grey, your dog is practically in silhouette.
Don't blame the camera, in addition to being an inanimate object it is also not psychic, it didn't know what you intended and just went along with what it would normally do. You have a tool to directly tell the camera what you intend without having to go into full manual mode and get lost in twiddling dials.
As long as your camera is sufficiently advanced enough you should have either a button or dial with this symbol on it:
This is the Exposure Compensation symbol, a square divided in half diagonally, one half black with a white plus and the other black with a white plus. Press the button and turn the related control dial and you are able to communicate exactly what adjustments you want the camera to make when it does its calculations. As an aside, if you're shooting your camera's own RAW file you can easily tweak this later in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom (within reasonable limits, usually +/- 3eV at the cost of some increased noise in the shadows).
Rerun the snowy scenario with this in mind: You notice that the snow on the ground is reflecting a lot of light so you tweak your exposure compensation up by one whole stop (+1eV), communicating to the camera that yes; it's a bright scene, please don't panic; and yes you would like the photo to look bright too. You take the photo. Bingo! The white snow is a nice bright shade and Fido looks the same colour as when you see him, and his coat is full of detail. A photo worthy of gracing your Facebook!
This works the other way as well. If you're trying to take a photo of something dark, or at night, your camera will panic and try and brighten everything. Lights in the photo turn into glaring white blobs while everything else is usually noisy or blurred because your camera just can't shoot with a high enough shutter speed to beat the camera wobble in the dark. It's trying to exposure your night scene as though it were daytime, absent a tripod, it's not going to succeed.
Relax. Just adjust your exposure compensation downward. The photo will be darker as a result (it's night-time, it's dark, that's ok) but at least your camera isn't straining to do the impossible.
Of course, you could turn the flash on but that brings its own host of issues (more on that in another blog post).
This isn't just for the night-time though, anything dark will have the same effect on your camera. Try and take a photo of a black jumper or a PS4 and you'll run into the same problem, dial that compensation down.
“Everyone has a camera these days” is something we hear often in this business, usually from fellow photographers frustrated with their friends and relatives. Camera ownership is an almost ubiquitous feature of our modern lives, and they're here to stay. Consumer cameras have been available in some form or another since the Kodak Brownie, but the flood of mobile phones containing integrated cameras has caused an explosion in photographic enthusiasm amongst people who wouldn't consider themselves photographers. All five of the most popular cameras used to take photos for Flickr are mobile phone cameras, and this lead is only increasing.
The reasons for this are manifold and have been discussed at length for years: Everyone carries a phone nowadays and so everyone also carries with them a compact camera; the film that was so expensive, difficult to use is no longer necessary; pictures taken with mobile phones can be shared immediately via Twitter, Instagram, or other social networks. Surely the proliferation of amateur photography spells doom for the professional? Actually, though much diminished from its heyday, I believe that professional portrait photography is still relevant in the modern world.
Although it may seem contradictory while we are taking more photos than ever, the market for photo prints is in sharp decline, tumbling 20% between 2013 and 2015. This reluctance to print photos for display and preservation rather than viewing on a screen can cause problems. I don't know about you, but whereas my parents still have almost all the printed photos they took over their lifetimes, a lot of the photos they took during the dawn of digital photography are lost. Stored on memory cards that are no longer readable, or on computer hard-drives that have since ceased to function and been thrown away.
Surely the solution is just to print more photos, right? Well, not really. Phone camera photos are (relatively) small, so despite what you might read online, they don't necessarily bear the brunt of printing very well. For example, a photo from Instagram will only print at around 2 ½” (smaller than a credit card) without severe degradation of quality.
Speaking of quality, professional portrait photography charges ahead in what can be achieved. The professional photographer community stakes its reputation on the ability to consistently produce high quality photographs. A talented professional photographer can shape light to create dynamism and use techniques to maximise sharpness and detail. Prints from professional cameras (and skilled photographers!) can be wall-sized with outstanding clarity and quality. A bit ambitious? Well, perhaps, but nothing beats a camera in the hands of a professional when it comes to quality. When you employ a professional for your portraits, you're not just hiring a fancy camera but also the benefit of thousands upon thousands of hours spent honing and perfecting the craft.
My sister got married a few years ago in the U.S. state of New Jersey on a scorching August day. As a wedding present I'd offered to photograph their wedding (my first wedding). In this post are some personal reflections on the anxiety and excitement of wedding photography.
Every photographer's first wedding is poised to be a nightmare, and mine was no different. The sense of dread on the day before quickly ballooned among the excitement. I did what I could, made sure I read everything available, charged all the batteries, bought new memory cards, cleaned lenses, and tried to do some visualisation. My biggest fear was running out of battery in both my primary and spare, there'd be no coming back from that.
In preparation for this I repeatedly asked myself these questions: “What could go wrong?”, “How can I make sure that doesn't happen?”, and “What will I do if it does happen?”
The day itself was a sweltering and completely still 27 degrees. Being used to temperatures in the mid-to-high teens I was out of my element, sweating before I'd even begun. The pattern of the day (and my schedule) had been decided in advance the evening before: Go to the groom's house and photograph the men preparing, and then to the bride's hotel room and her preparation. To the church, from there to the country park for portraits, and finally the reception. All in all, my day would end up as 14 hours from start to finish, almost all of it on my feet in uncomfortable rented shoes.
All this build-up, all this pressure and tension was finally coming to a head. In a foreign country, shooting a one-time thing for my beloved family, with scant room for error. The deep breath before the plunge.
Despite the mounting adrenaline, as soon as the shooting started and I had something to focus on, the anxiety melted away. A deafening roar diminished to a mere whisper.
Maybe I do know what I'm doing after all.