Chase Jarvis has a bit that he does on his blog where he asks his readers to pick from two alternate versions of shots he’s made and explain why you like one over the other. Here’s an example of his latest one. I thought I’d try it out here with two shots taken within seconds of each other. They are also shown in the order they were made in. I shot these with my Nikon Coolpix P7000 at the 2011 Carolina Green Fair this past Sunday in Marion Square. The subject is the iconic King of Pops rainbow umbrella.
Posted in: Event Photography, Insight, Inspiration, Street Photography
This past Friday, I was asked to shoot portraits at my son’s school for their annual Grandparents Day event. I had less than two hours to shoot group portraits, and 87 families that wanted to get their picture taken! Needless to say, that is not a lot of time to pose, set lights, and make sure people were happy with the results.
Luckily, I had a spectacular assistant to take care of payments, paperwork, and keeping the line moving (my wonderful wife, Amy). I can’t imagine doing something like that alone! I did have one frightening moment with one family when my photos were coming out completely unlit. It’s easy to panic when you have a long line of people waiting for you to get to them, and a family in front of you holding a pose and you can’t get the photo. I changed the batteries on my main flash, but that didn’t help. I contemplated switching my lights, or bringing out my other camera, but I decided to first go through my settings checklist that I had made on my laptop prior to the shoot. Sure enough, I had accidentally bumped my shutter speed just past my camera’s sync speed. Yikes! It really only took about 90 seconds for the whole ordeal to get resolved, but it felt like an eternity in my mind.
The lighting setup was pretty simple. I used two Nikon SB-600’s and a reflector. The main light was in the Softlighter II on the right and it was set to 1/2 power. The fill light was in a Westcott Apollo on top of a boom stand and was set to 1/8th power. I had a circular reflector clamped onto my tripod in front and a little to the left to fill in some light. I was shooting at 200th of a second at F/7.1 and ISO 200. I shot everything in manual, except for my white balance. Lesson learned, as I had to correct the white balance on all of the photos afterward. Never trust auto!
If you’re one of the families that are visiting to find your photo, please visit this gallery. I had a blast spending the morning with these families and look forward to shooting more events at the school!
Let’s talk about this photo for a minute. This represents the number one reason I love photography. Technically, the photo is an utter mess. The main subject is in the middle of the frame and out of balance, the color of the light is totally mismatched (and speaking of the light, there is a lamp growing out of the back of his head), there is a lot of distracting clutter (thanks to my kids sleeping on the couches because their mother is out of town for the weekend – which translates into instant domestic anarchy), and the composition is rushed so that the context of the bowl of pasta becomes just a bowl and it’s hard to tell exactly what it is my son is feeding Lola, our Pomeranian pooch. On paper, this photo is crap.
I love it.
Why? Because it’s real. I could set the same scene up and get everything right, and I bet I could make it look spontaneous as well. But, this is a real moment that was happening. I had my camera out and I was busy doing some stuff on my computer when I turned around and caught my son sneaking the dog some of his dinner. I crept up and put the camera down on the table and let the shutter rip. This was the result. I know what it is, I will remember it, and one day if my son has his own kids and they do what every kid seems to do if they have a dog, he will have a photographic moment from his childhood to make him smile about it. That’s the reason I was initially drawn to photography – To capture life’s moments so that we can look back or share them and connect with each other.
A photo doesn’t have to be perfect to have meaning. Capturing the moment is always more important than the technicality of the shot, although capturing the moment perfectly is always what we strive for. Careers have been made by the perfect blend of skill and being in the right place at the right time. A perfect shot of a lost moment is meaningless nonetheless.
It’s also another reason of why I love my iPhone. Today, my son Kegan had to tail me as I did some work with a client of mine, which happens to be a veterinary emergency hospital. He had a blast playing with the dogs there, and I was able to grab this shot with my phone as he let a Chihuahua play “King of the Mountain” on him:
What better place to spend a national holiday than at the beach? Luckily we’ve got some of America’s best beaches right here in the Charleston, SC area. Unfortunately, the Folly Beach State Park was closed due to erosion from Hurricane Irene (yeah we did have some damage, regardless of my own personal experience – I’m feeling quite sad for my northern friends and family that got it much worse than us). The beach was still a blast anyway.
We headed to “The Burnout”, which is what I call the side of the beach to the right of Folly Road opposite to the ever-so-popular surf spot, “The Washout”. There were quite a lot of surfers out on this side of the Folly Pier. Not to mention body boarders, including my two kids.
I brought my trusty old Nikon D40, and stood in the water getting sloshed around. Even though it got splashed quite a bit, it kept shooting without fail. That little camera has been through a lot with me, and it’s nice to bring it out every once in a while.
I have nothing clever, witty, or necessarily insightful to say about the day. It was just plain awesome to have a day to relax, hang out in the waves, and snap some shots of the kids having fun. I hope your day was at least half as enjoyable as ours was.
I ordered a new backdrop last week for an upcoming event and I needed to set it up, iron/steam it, and test it out with my lights. I grabbed my kids as my test subjects and started to fire away. On my camera’s LCD, the shots looked great, but once I imported them to my laptop, I noticed that they were all underexposed. Sounds like a case of check the histogram! Digital cameras make a lot of things easy, but this is an example of the easiness working against you.
As you can see from the shots above, I was able to brighten these photos up in Lightroom. Sure, that’s a solution to a problem, but it’s a bad solution. The shoot I’m doing this for will be of a lot of different subjects in a short period of time. This means I need to get it right the moment I click the shutter. I will not have time to fix these shots, so I need them to be correctly exposed. I moved my lights to fill in more shadows, I added a reflector to the setup as well. I also increased my aperture by 1/3 of a stop to let in more of the flash. Most importantly, I turned on the histogram on my camera’s display so that I knew that the shots weren’t under-exposed. I’m also going to tether my camera to my laptop and not even bother to judge my camera’s screen.
This is the reason I like to test everything out on my own time. Sometimes very basic things will plague you, and I would rather make those mistakes during practice than while real paying customers are in front of me. I should make use of a light meter and test the backdrop and subject to find the right exposure, but I’m not shooting with studio strobes, I’m using speedlights. I am manually setting them even though I could use Nikon’s iTTL system, because I really want to have full control over the exposure. If anyone has a good light meter they want to give me, I’d be glad to make use of it 😉
I think we all have had plenty of occasions where we took a bunch of photos that looked great on the camera’s LCD screen, but once we looked at them on a computer screen the problems became very obvious. What’s your horror story of a blown shot?