Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category

How to Photograph Rainbows

July 20, 2009

“Rainbow”
© Copyright Peter Horner

Rainbows can be a fickle subject to photograph. They only come out when the atmospheric conditions are just right and, even then, they usually don’t stick around for long. Capturing one with your camera and keeping it true to the awe-inspiring splendor that motivated you to get out your camera in the first place, can present a formidable challenge to any photographer.

This article by Jason Paterson of fotohacker.com greatly demystifies the process of capturing these wondrous spectral images on camera, like lightning in a bottle.

Jason recommends the following:

  1. Consider your framing carefully. If your background looks bad, the resulting picture will look bad no matter how beautiful the rainbow is.
  2. Use a polarizing filter. This will allow you to get the most vivid and saturated colors from both the sky and the surrounding scenery. More information about polarizing filters can be found at this link.
  3. Use a tripod and a low shutter speed. When you use the polarizing filter, you’re going to lose light. The tripod will make sure the picture remains sharply in focus.

Be sure to read the complete article for additional tips.

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A Recipe for Photographing Food

July 15, 2009

Photo © Copyright Michael Ray

Most of us are probably too busy eating food to photograph it. However, if you’ve ever wondered what goes on at a food photography shoot, be sure to check out this interesting piece on the Food Photography blog.

Michael Ray is a professional food photographer. His final shot is shown above, worthy of inclusion in bon appétit magazine. In this article, he details the forty steps he took to get there.

It all starts with a sample image, supplied by the Art Director, in order to provide the basic “feel” for the shot. In this instance, the idea was to capture a picnic table outdoors. The first two dozen or so shots show how the background and foreground elements combine with lighting and focus to compose a shot that satisfied the client.

Just like actors on a film set, food also has stand-ins for lighting. Check out step 26: While the chicken stays warm in its trailer (er, microwave oven?), a piece of wood is used to help fine-tune the lighting. In fact, the food doesn’t join the shot until step 28. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the prima donna ear of corn say, “Can we shoot this thing already? It’s getting cold out here!” while a sycophantic production assistant slathers its backside in warm butter.

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How to Photograph the Stars

July 13, 2009

“Andromeda Galaxy”
© Copyright Paul LeFevre

If you ever wanted to photograph the stars, summertime is a good time to start. There are more opportunities for clear skies and the weather is warmer, which is important because you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors at night.

Astrophotographer Paul LeFevre shares some tips on how to shoot the stars in an article at PopPhoto.com. You may not want to invest in multi-scope, multi-refractor camera systems right away, but you can still photograph the stars using these tips below:

1. Do it in the dark. Cities and suburbs have a lot of light pollution which not only makes it difficult to see stars with the naked eye but also causes a loss of contrast and detail in your photos, according to Paul LeFevre. High altitude, remote locations are best.

2. Go for comfort. You’ll be at high altitudes in the cold for long periods of time while you shoot long exposures, so wear warm clothing, bring something hot to drink, a comfortable chair, and a lot of batteries or an AC adapter if there’s a power source.

3. Find those stars. Use a tracking chart or software such as SkyMap Pro to figure out patterns in the sky and then align your camera system accordingly.

4. Maintain star alignment. According to PopPhoto.com, “The earth rotates 1 degree every 4 minutes — so in a 4-hour exposure, your astral body has moved 60 degrees away from you. Buy a tracking mount, which compensates by rotating slowly the opposite direction. The Min-EQ tabletop mount with tracking motor starts at $88 (street); sturdier versions for both telescope and camera go for $600 (street). A cheap solution is a ‘barn door’ mount, which tracks manually using two hinged boards.”

Read the article at PopPhoto.com for more tips and details. A more in-depth article by Paul LeFevre entitled “How-To: Astrophotography 101” is also at PopPhoto.com. Paul LeFevre’s website is at http://lefevre.darkhorizons.org .

Follow these tips and perhaps one day you’ll be featured in the Astronomy Picture of the Day, a great website which we’ve covered many times before in the Photobird Daily.

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How to Get Great Photos of Small Objects

June 22, 2009

Photo © Copyright Stobist

When you sell something online, it’s important to make the item’s description both visually appealing and informative. If the item looks its best, potential buyers will dramatically increase the number of bids and the final selling price of your item. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, nothing says “Buy now!” more than a well-lit macro shot of the item you intend to sell.

The best way to get a beautifully lit photograph of your item is by creating your very own macro photo studio. Sounds highfalutin and expensive, you say. Nonsense, says I: Check out this article on the Strobist where David has constructed his very own macro photo studio for less than $10 using a recycled 12 x 12 x 12-inch box and some tissue paper.

The photo of the flower and vase shown above was shot with the simple set-up shown below. As you can see in the photo, David used an off-camera flash to light up his shot, but you can also use worklights, such as those sold at home improvement stores.

Photo © Copyright Stobist

Once your box is built, you’ll have a lot of control over the light. You can easily stop reflections, add or remove definition, and have a nice seamless top to bottom background, known in the biz as an “infinity sweep”. Be sure to read David’s article for complete details.

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How to Photograph an Aurora

June 17, 2009

“Auroral Explosion”
© Copyright Ben Hattenbach

Auroras make for stunning photographs. I imagine that auroras are even more incredible when viewed in person. But what’s the best way to photograph auroras? Ben Hattenbach wrote a detailed article on The Luminous Landscape website that describes how he photographed the Aurora Borealis during “nine chilly nights” in the Alaska wilderness.

He also has some good anecdotes about how his photography equipment fared in the freezing cold: “On this trip to Alaska, the nighttime temperatures in the mountains I was exploring normally ranged between -20 oF (-29 oC) and -40 oF (-40 oC), conditions that the locals dismissed as mere ‘t-shirt weather.'”

I recommend you read the entire article for all the details, but here’s a quick summary:

Where in Alaska Can One Find an Aurora? Destination: Fairbanks. Ben Hattenbach describes three different locations within about 60 miles of the city, with Clearly Summit along the Steese Highway being only 20 miles from town.

When is the Aurora Best Viewed? Late February and March when the Alaskan skies are the most clear, and between midnight and 2am when the aurorae are most intense.

What’s the Best Way to Photograph the Aurora? Ben Hattenbach explains: “Capture the aurora’s lines and structure, together with some landscape for context.” A sturdy tripod is a must. A fast wide-angle lens is optimal, on a DSLR that produces photos at high ISOs with little or no noise. His suggestions for camera settings include:

  • Manually prefocus at infinity.
  • Use the largest lens aperture available, preferably f2.8 or below.
  • Choose the highest ISO with which your camera will provide reasonably good quality photos.
  • Set your exposure time manually and keep it as short as possible.

Read Ben Hattenbach’s article for more details and more amazing aurora photos.

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A Shot in the Dark: Low-Light Photography Tips

June 8, 2009
Golden Gate Bridge Lamp

“Golden Gate Bridge lamp”
© Copyright Ed Krimen

Whether you’re shooting photos indoors at a birthday party or outside roasting marshmallows by the campfire, you’ll often find you’re working in conditions where you simply don’t have enough natural light.

Ryan Brenizer offers some excellent suggestions to help photographers compensate for low-light shooting conditions. The most important thing to remember is to use a tripod so you can photograph with a longer shutter speed.

If you left the tripod at home:

  • Keep the camera close to your center of gravity.
  • Hold your breath before shooting.
  • Use the “fast burst mode” on the camera, if available, so that you’ll take more than one photo each time you press down the shutter.

It’s not mentioned in the article, but you may also consider resting your camera on a stationary object such as a fence, pillar, or bench, if one is available. This is what I did when I shot the sunset photo shown above of the street lamp and Golden Gate Bridge for my review of the 5-megapixel Canon PowerShot SD450.

Photographing fireworks uses similar techniques, and definitely requires a tripod. See the article Top 5 Tips for Shooting Fireworks in the Photobird Learning Center for more details.

Ryan also advises readers to understand how other factors such as the lens aperture, shutter speed, and even the quality of the light itself will ultimately affect your photographs.

With these low-light photography tips, good photographs are more than a “shot in the dark” when the lighting conditions aren’t bright.

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5 Reasons to Shoot Directly to a Computer

May 4, 2009

Photo © Copyright Image Mechanics

Image Mechanics is a small, cutting-edge, high-tech company in Los Angeles that pushes photography equipment to its limits. The company serves leading advertising and celebrity portrait photographers around the world. Image Mechanics provides high-tech photography skills and expertise to its clients who require the highest-quality results at lightning speed.

Image Mechanics recently started “Counter Intelligence“, an online magazine and in-person kiosks where they share their knowledge as digital capture experts.

I’ve written about Image Mechanics before in the Photobird Daily and a list of those articles is at the end of this article.

In one of Image Mechanics’ recent articles at Counter Intelligence entitled “5 Reasons to Shoot Tethered“, they explain why capturing photos directly to a computer instead of to memory cards is better, easier, and makes clients happier.

1. Huge instant preview. Your photos appear almost instantly on a huge monitor instead of a tiny 3-inch screen on your camera. When computer monitors can be 30-inches or larger, your photos can be previewed at 16-inches by 20-inches. Those are huge photos!

2. True feedback on focus, exposure, and color. LCD screens on cameras have become larger and have better resolution than previous models, but you know from experience that your photos are easier to judge when you see them on your computer monitor. Professional photographers and their clients need this immediate, high-quality feedback on large monitors. I wrote about how LCD screens are deficient in the Photobird Daily article entitled “STOP! Don’t Delete that Picture!

3. Faster shooting speed and more storage. Image Mechanics writes: “In some situations, shooting tethered allows you to shoot just a little bit faster than shooting to card, as well as eliminating the need to swap those cards all the time.” One of Image Mechanics’ clients shot up to 4000 photos in a single day, which I wrote about in the Photobird Daily article “Technical Details of a Professional Photo Shoot“.

4. Instant backups. Once photos appear on the computer, they can be immediately backed up to as many places as you want. It’s safer than waiting until the end of the shoot to download and backup everything. You can have multiple backups of each photo immediately after each photo is taken.

5. Instant processing. Photos can be reviewed, retouched, and delivered to the client immediately after shooting because the photos can be processed in parallel while the photography session is still going on. You don’t need to wait until the end of the shoot to copy the memory cards to computer and then start reviewing and processing photos. In the photo above from one of Image Mechanics’ photo shoots which I wrote about in the Photobird Daily article “Technical Details of a Professional Photo Shoot“, the project manager, the marketing manager, and the designer are all reviewing photos and signing off on shots while the photographer continues to shoot.

Continue to use memory cards and laptops as backups. But as Image Mechanics’ writes, “Photography is a competitive field and shooting tethered provides that little extra ‘something’ that can often mean wowing the client or getting left at home.”

Read the entire article at Image Mechanics’ Counter Intelligence website.

More articles in the Photobird Daily about photographic adventures with Image Mechanics, the company profiled in this article:

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Professional Photo Backup System

March 16, 2009

Photo © Copyright Image Mechanics

As a professional photographer, you know it’s extremely important to keep backups of your photos so you don’t lose them. Part of your backup strategy includes accurate and efficient labeling, and a system for storing at least one copy of your photos in a separate location in case something happens to your local copy.

Image Mechanics, a high-tech, cutting edge photography company in Los Angeles, seems to have found an ideal backup and archive solution. They routinely work with photographers that shoot over 3000 medium-format images per day, so they need a system that will allow them to archive very large numbers of photos at a reasonable cost. Expandability — being able to add more capacity to their backup system — is also very important to them.

Furthermore, they determined that it isn’t practical or necessary to keep all of their archived photos live and accessible on a server 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A system like that would be very expensive to buy and very expensive to operate continuously.

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Photographic Tales from Antarctica

February 18, 2009

“Crystal Sea. The Gullet, Antarctica – January, 2009”
© Copyright Michael Reichmann

Professional photographer Michael Reichmann and 76 other photographers traveled for two weeks in Antarctica last month and he wrote about his experience with the photographic gear that was used on the trip. We wrote about this trip in the Photobird Daily over a year ago in the article “Wanderlust Antarctica“. Michael Reichmann’s website, The Luminous Landscape, had a contest and the prize was a seat on this expedition, valued at more than $15,000.

I encourage you to read the article at Luminous-landscape.com if you’re interested in professional photography gear and traveling to exotic locations.

Here’s a synopsis of what Michael Reichmann covers in his article:

  • Goodies – On an expedition costing thousands of dollars per participant, there’s bound to be some expensive photographic toys to play with (and to be marketed) on the trip. WhiBal, a white balance card system, was provided to every member of the expedition. WhiBal isn’t very expensive though. The expensive toys were the Phase One P45+ and P65+ digital backs capable of 39 megapixels and 60 megapixels, respectively. They cost tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Cameras and lenses – Michael Reichmann brought his two Sony Alpha A900 camera bodies along with seven lenses. That was his main camera system for the trip. Like many other photographers on the trip, he also brought along a Canon Powershot G10 as his pocket camera. He was loaned a Phase One 645 camera and P65+ digital back to take on the trip as well as a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Nikon DSLRs were also used on the trip, as were medium-format cameras.
  • Failures – Canon cameras didn’t seem to survive well on this trip. Nikon cameras fared much better.
  • Bags – Michael Reichmann took three equipment bags with him on this trip, including a 30-pound backpack that fit in the airplane’s overhead compartment and carried two camera bodies, six lenses, a flash, filters, accessories, flashlights, cleaning tools, rain covers, and more. He also had a shoulder back for his 15″ Apple MacBook Pro, two 500GB hard drives, and personal items, such as wallet and passport. He had a duffle bag which contained a tripod.
  • Lessons learned – Michael Reichmann has traveled with photography gear countless times before, so he has a lot of experience doing this, but his first lesson learned was that, as always, he brought too much stuff with him. He estimates that he brought 50% more gear than he needed.

Read his article for an interesting look at some of the photographic equipment challenges experienced on this Antarctic expedition.

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Take Your Camera With You Everywhere

January 28, 2009

“Golden Gate Bridge lamp”
© Copyright Ed Krimen

To shoot great photos, you need to have your camera with you. Sure, you can shoot only on the weekends, when you pack up your car with your photography gear to go shooting, just like you pack up your fishing gear to go fishing.

But when you limit yourself to shoot only on the weekends, you’re limiting yourself to an extremely small amount of time, when the lighting and locations might not be right. Sometimes the fish just aren’t biting when you want them to. But unlike fishing, you can easily shoot photos seven days a week while you go about your daily life because cameras, unlike fishing poles, are much more portable. And these days, they even make cameras that will fit in your pocket and still take great photos.

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