Have you ever struggled with photographing your pet indoors at night? Did you try to use flash, only to find that your dog or cat looked like a deer in your headlights, with your pet unnaturally bright and the background unattractively dark?
If you ever take photography classes, advance far enough, and you're sure to learn about a photography technique called "dragging the shutter," that solves this problem. I most commonly use this technique when photographing wedding receptions, but it applies equally well to cat photography and other nighttime or indoor pet photography. Now, the key is, while it must be relatively dark, there must still be ambient background light (even if not very bright). If you're outside, and the background is truly pitch dark, then dragging the shutter won't help.
So the idea behind dragging the shutter is that you use your flash to properly exposure your subject in combination with a long shutter speed to let in enough of that ambient background light to properly expose the background. Since you're using longer exposures, this also allows you to capture more creative effects. For example, instead of trying to hold your camera still, you can rotate the camera or move it right to left or up and down. Your flash should light your subject and not the background, and because the flash duration is so short, your subject will be frozen (or mostly frozen) and in focus, whereas the stationary lights in the background will look like they're moving (aka light trails).
In the cat portrait of Tashie (above), we placed a flash in an octabox several feet to the left of the camera. To create some light in the background, we placed a mini, pre-lit evergreen tree just slightly behind Tashie and a large white, pre-lit Christmas tree further in the background. (Though I'm saying we "placed" these things around the cats, really, we placed them first, then did our best to lure Tashie into the scene. Tashie was quite the poser for this particular cat photography session.) Then, using a long(er) shutter speed of 1/6 second, during that 1/6 of a second, I moved the camera diagonally down to the right, then diagonally up to the right. And voila! Tashie's eyes are completely sharp, but instead of seeing stationary Christmas lights in the background, they look heart-shaped instead!
For Kita's pet portrait below, the technique was the same, however, I moved the camera in a different direction during the exposure.
The two images below employ a completely different technique called "multiple exposures." While multiple exposures can be done in camera (depending on the type of camera you have), this can be impractical when the scenes/subjects you wish to combine are in different states. So in the case of the pet photography below, I picked out two of my favorite cat portraits of Kita and Tashie, in addition to two forest scenes that I had created years ago - one from the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia, and the other from the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. In Adobe Photoshop, I layered the images and used different blending modes to achieve the multiple exposures. What do you think?
Hooooraaaaaay! The 2017 "People Love Us On Yelp" award is out, and our photography studio is an award-winner for the second year running! Nothing warms our heart more than having the honor of creating gorgeous portrait photography of babies, families, couples, and individuals, and having amazing, wonderful clients who are nothing short of ravingly joyous about their experience with our photography studio. Thanks to each and every one of you who took a few moments from your busy schedule to share your thoughts online with others this past year!
We're always so busy with client work that it's easy to forgo creative time. Yet, that time is essential to continued growth, even for a professional photographer, as it nurtures imagination and creativity. So last month, I decided to dedicate several hours 2-4 times per month to experimentation, and to schedule it on our photography session calendar to ensure we make time for it. This session, we used twinkle lights, sheer burgundy fabric, and orange gels.
I've had a long roll of sheer burgundy fabric that I've used only twice since purchasing five or so years ago. It was time to put it to use on some couple's glamour shots. Here's how we created the five glamour shots below:
(1) We hung a curtain of twinkle lights on a backdrop stand, which gave us the first photograph below - a classic bokeh look.
(2) Then, we added the sheer burgundy fabric in front of the twinkle lights, which dramatically changed the color of the lights and background from yellow-orange to orange-red. I was in love and thinking this glamour shots setup would be perfect for limited edition holiday sessions.
(3) In the third image, notice the orange edge lighting on our arms and the edge of Idrissa's face. That light comes from two edge lights behind and to each side of us, that we gelled with orange gels. I chose the orange gel color to match the background and twinkle light color, which makes the edge lighting look like spill from the twinkle lights, when it's actually added light. (Click here for more ideas of how to use gels in photography.)
(4) and (5) Same setup as #3 with flare added in post-production.
What do you think? Which image do you like best? Are they glitzy and glamorous enough for you?
Want some glitz & glam of your own? You deserve to celebrate yourself!
I got a new Octa softbox along with a new set of colored gels (thin pieces of transparent plastic) and was eager to try them both out.
I started with just a single light with the softbox and grid and a large silver reflector for fill. The background was black, and as you can see in the first headshot below, there wasn't any separation between Idrissa's hair or shirt and the background.
So for the second portrait, I added two rim lights to create separation. I wanted a purple color, so I gelled the main light with a yellow-green gel and used a custom white balance. The green gel, once white-balanced, turned the rim lights from white into purple.
Then I decided I didn't want a black background, so for the third headshot, I added a background light, ungelled, which made the background light purple.
Finally, Idrissa and I decided that the purple rim lights on Idrissa's face was too much color for our taste, so we gelled the rim lights with green (to turn the light back to white) plus light blue to give a slight blue-ish cast in the final portrait.
What do you think? Which of this series of commercial portraits do you like the best?
Take your photography to the next level.
This article by Children’s Photographer and Family Photographer Irene Abdou originally appeared on Angie’s List here.
Make sure you choose a professional photographer so you end up with pictures you love.
Anyone can be a “professional” children’s or family photographer these days.
The barrier to entry is so slim that anyone with enough money to buy a decent camera can call themselves professionals. So read on for six tips to selecting your family photographer so you don’t end up with a set of photographs that you could have made yourself.
1. Review the photographer’s family portrait portfolio
Photographing children and families is different from photographing weddings or corporate work. Check that the photographer is experienced with family photography by reviewing their family photography portfolio.
Remember, photography is subjective. How do you know you will like the photographer’s style if you don’t look at their photographs? Then go further by taking a critical look at lighting. Light makes or breaks a photograph, and often, the most strikingly beautiful images are beautiful because of how the photographer used light.
2. Think about the setting you’d like, and look for a photographer who works in that type of setting
In general, family portraits can be captured in any of four settings: a) studio (on backdrops); b) studio environmental (in studio, but using real furniture, decor on the walls or architectural elements); c) in your home; d) outdoors.
Some photographers work only on location; others work only in studio with backdrops. Think about the setting you prefer, as well as your timing constraints. Do you have extended family visiting for a limited time who will be part of your portrait session? If so, even if you prefer outdoor photography, you may still need a photographer who also has a studio so that you have a rain plan.
Choose a setting that works for the look you are going for, and make sure your photographer can work in that setting.
3. Look for a full-time photographer
Most professional photographers are weekend warriors with day jobs that don’t include photography. Why does this matter? Imagine you had two jobs. Which would you be more dedicated to: the job that pays you a full-time salary and benefits, or the one that gives you a little supplemental income?
This isn’t always the case, but often, full-time photographers are more likely to be reliable, responsive and fast; carry business insurance; have backup equipment in case of camera failure; and institute proper backup procedures in case of hard drive failure or memory card loss. A full-time photographer is more likely to be operating legally as a business, be technically competent and be consistently investing in professional development. A full-time photographer is more likely to understand the costs of being in business and is more likely to still be in business and able to serve as a resource for years to come.
4. When ready, sign a contract
Contracts provide mutually beneficial protection to both you and your photographer. Your photographer should send you a contract once you’ve both decided to move forward. The contract should define studio policies, payment and deliverable schedules, and contingency plans. Read the contract before signing; don’t make any payments until the contract is in place.
5. Ask if the photographer will meet you before your session to plan
Some family photographers will meet with you in person before your session to brainstorm about creative ideas, locations, clothing, etc. If you can meet with your photographer ahead of time, then you’ll have a head start on your session date, and you and your photographer can make the most of your session time together. You may also be more comfortable being photographed having already met him or her previously. Try not to book your photographer at the last minute so there’s time for a planning/design meeting!
6. Ask your photographer if he or she offers in person ordering, design assistance, retouching and printed artwork
Some photographers will sit with your family after the session to review images together, allowing you to order portraits on different print media or with custom framing. These photographers can help you identify the best places in your home to hang wall portraits, even using real pictures of your home to digitally demonstrate what your favorite family portraits will look like hanging above your furniture in different sizes, groupings, or frames.
Send your family photographer photos of your rooms so that s/he can show you what your favorite family portraits will look like hanging over your furniture in various frames, groupings, and sizes.
Take advantage of this complimentary service, as it eliminates uncertainty, allowing you to play around with different options before investing in them. Once you’ve decided on your artwork collection, some photographers will retouch images ordered. And professional photographers have access to higher quality printing and products that you’re not able to access yourself.
So, you may not be picky or have an eye for photography. You might feel that you photograph well. Your need for a photographer might not be important. If so, then that “anybody” with a decent camera may be just the right fit for you. But if it doesn’t sound like you, then I hope these tips will be helpful.
Dreaming of your own set of gorgeous family portraits?