Category: Photo Tips and Tricks

Flow Posing Workshop

           So I love photography education!  Photography tips, lighting, posing, Photoshop, Marketing… Anything!!  About a few weeks ago (before I went on a fabulous vacation!) I went to a class put on by the Professional Photographers of Utah.  This particular “workshop” focused on “Flow Posing,” and the instructional portion was giving by Scott Snedden, the owner of DIY Photography of Clearfield.

The best way I define flow posing is the art of making the body flow systematically and uniformed.   We watched him take a subject pose them on a chair and take the shot, move the hands and take a shot, move closer to the subject take a shot, more around the subject and take a shot, move the legs and take a shot.  He took full body, 3/4, and close-up, before moving the subject to the ground, or having them stand up.  Than he’d move out (or zoom out) again and start the process over.  Scott said that Flow Posing made it possible for the photographer to get a large amount of different and unique images in a short amount of time.  He emphasized taking enough pictures during a pose to ensure perfect exposure and sharpness, and then moving on to the next pose.   This way you get the pictures you need, pictures your client is happy with, and have a variety of poses for your portfolio.  This was an awesome workshop, and an awesome way to shoot!  Thanks so much PPU and Scott Snedden!

Newman’s Own: Attributes of Portrait Lighting

During the month of June I was able to take some night classes with Utah’s own Dave Newman.  Dave is an amazing internationally recognized photographer.  He has received his Master Photographer degree, and Photographic Craftsman, and is the author of Professional Portrait Lighting.  During our class we studied studio and natural light, and practiced all types of posing for portraits.

I love taking classes and Dave’s was no exception.  There were some points definitely worth sharing, enjoy!  (Warning: the first three paragraphs are a bit technical.  If you aren’t interested in the “how to get there” and you’d rather just arrive, feel free to skip ahead to the star:))

First, let’s look at lighting ratios. If you place a light directly in front of your subject there isn’t a ratio at all. This is flat lighting, or a straightforward exposure. This can come from diffused light from studio strobes, or from a window.  However, if you put the light right in front of your subject, and right in front of your subject is the camera angle, there is no dimension to your subject.  The subject is the same exposure from the forehead to the chin, and ear to ear.  This is fine, however if you are trying to tell the story of an upset or melancholy man for example, making a difficult decision, then this type of lighting is not appropriate.  It has no dimension, and tells a very flat story.

When two lights are used, such as a main and a fill, things get more interesting.  A person gains character, body, and dimension.  When there is an f-stop difference between the main light and the fill light, the light ratio is said to be 2:1. To determine the light ratio, I point the meter at the light source and not the camera. When the readout of the two strobes shows a one f-stop difference (shutter speed isn’t a factor here), such as between f/11 and f/16, then I have 2:1 ratio.

In the portrait studio, the terms 2:1, 3:1, 4:1 or 5:1 express ratio or intensity of one light level compared to another striking the subjects face.  In portraiture most digital printing responds nicely to 3:1 because printers are only able to print 5 stops of light. (I believe our eyes can see somewhere around 24 stops of light, so we need to control the print even though we enjoy so much more.)  A 3:1 ratio simply means three units of light strike the subjects face additively on the highlight side, while only one unit of light strikes the shadow side.  It follows then that the fill light, which strikes both sides, is only one-half the intensity of the key-light.

*  So the real important take away from this for me is to make sure I have ratios in my photography. When I’m out on location and using natural light, turn my subjects so that the light hits one side of the face before the other.  I might need a reflector depending on the time of day, the light falling off too fast, and the story I’m trying tell with the portrait.  I also might need to meter the face so that the ratio is what I want it to be from one side to the other.

The second point from my class I want to touch on is to make sure you have Lateral lighting. This is more obvious in the studio then outside, but on location if using natural light, lateral lighting is as equally important.  Dave suggests using your hand and placing it above your subjects eyes.  If there eyes shade over then there isn’t enough lateral side light coming in to light the eyes and light needs to be added.  This can produce a dead eye look that is very unflattering in a portrait. Lateral lighting is important as it helps to convey shape and form and give dimension.

The last point from my class I wanted to address is what Dave called Stumatura (honestly I’m not sure that’s how you spell it, but that’s what I wrote in my notes,) nevertheless, the meaning is “without borders.”  This refers to the transition from the lighted side of a form to the shadow side, or the 2 to the 1 referring to the ratio.   In his opinion, (and in regards to my style of shooting, I tend to agree) there should be a smooth transition from light to shadow, and not a rigid line.  Many photographers work hard to produce a natural, and comfortable look with the portraits we produce.  A smooth transition from light to shadow in a photograph adds beauty, depth, and life to the portrait.  We want shadows to help us accentuate curves, help us be thinner, give a portrait mystery, or bring out the highlights that reveal joy.  We don’t want a harsh line on a portrait to draw attention to the fact that there was a harsh line… and the photographer should have just picked up  a reflector or used a light meter.  This type of thought process distracts from the story, and the viewer misses out on the joy of the photograph.

Dave Newman’s portrait classes not only helped me better understand the need for light, shadows and ratios between them in my photography, but made me better aware of my desire to tell the right story with each and every photograph.  Stories full of feelings of mystery, compassion, love, devotion, excitement, confusion, delight and many more are best told with the perfect mix of light, shadow, dimension and shape.

I’ve included some of my work from Dave Newman’s class.  Hope you enjoy!



Light Quantity, Light Quality, Light Direction

Last week I had the privilege of going to study Light with Cris and Deanna Duncan.  Chris is a Master of Photography, a Photographic Craftsman, as well as a Certified Professional Photographer, and Deanna is a Photographic Craftsman, so they know their stuff!!  They were also very kind and willing to answer all of my questions (and if you ever have had a class with me you know I’m not afraid to ask questions (seemingly intelligent or otherwise!))  They taught me so much about different aspects of light, and the experience was so great that I thought I’d share a little of what I learned with you.

Light Quantity, Light Quality, and Light Direction.  These principles were drilled into my mind.  Light Quantity, Light Quality, Light Direction.  See what I mean!  Drilled!  Because Chris goes over these steps in his mind at the beginning of every shoot, he adds the right amount of light to support and enhance every scene, and to give it a lift, but not overpower.  Paying attention to light quantity is important to keep a scene consistent across all your subjects, and properly exposed.  Regarding light quantity it’s also important to have all your tones within a printable range, which to my surprise, is a lot less than the eye can see.  Our eye can see 24 stops of light, however, printers can only print 5 stops of light.   So it is even more important that we make sure our highlights have detail and shadow areas have detail so everything in between is perfectly and properly exposed.  This can be achieved by metering in camera, however, any teacher I have had, or experienced professionals I know, use an incident light meter.  This allows them to get there exposure perfect in the camera and have very little post processing time.

Unlike light quantity, there’s no device to measure light quality. When we discussed the quality of light, we talked about how “hard” or “soft” it is, that is, how hard or how soft the shadow looks. Try this: place a portrait subject in direct sunlight at noon. The overhead light will create deep shadows in the eyes, neck, etc. The nose shadow will be sharp and distinct. This is called a “hard” quality of light. Take the same subject out in the same location at the same time on an overcast day and the transition from the light areas to shadow areas will be very gradual with no distinct shadow lines. This light is “soft”.

How do you go about finding or creating hard or soft light? The rule of thumb is: the bigger the light source in relation to the subject, the softer the light. Place a big soft box 2 ft from a person’s head and you’ll get a soft light.  Move it 25 ft away and it becomes a small, hard light.  Outside, use direct sunlight for hard light, open shade for soft, with many variations in between.  As a general rule, soft light is more flattering than hard, but the choice is yours depending upon the effect you’re trying to achieve.

What I loved about the way Chris lit his shots is if there was already a lot of hard light outside at the time he shot, or his subjects might have been standing in shade but the dappling through the trees was hard, then he lit with harder light to match what the scene called for.  In turn if we were inside, or in areas with more consistent shade he lit with a close large soft box or parabolic umbrella, again matching the light quality the scene called for.  This makes his portraits make sense, his style consistent, and honestly his work breathtaking.

Light Direction really has the biggest effect, in my opinion, on the impact a portrait can have on a viewer.  Light has the ability to sculpt a subject into what the creator wants it to be.  In a studio setting for example one side light with deep dark shadows on the opposite side has the ability to rake across the face, accentuating wrinkles, crevices, scars, and can aid in making a man look very sinister, foreboding, older, or lonely.  A light coming at a 45 degree angle from above has the ability to fill-in shadows, smooth out wrinkles, and make a person look younger and more beautiful.

Our class had the privilege of going with the Duncans on a commercial shoot he was doing with young girls for a cosmetics company.  It was an excellent learning opportunity because it beautifully illustrated each element I discussed previously.  It was a very overcast day and a little difficult to tell where the light was coming from.  However, Cris had already discussed with the head of the project what type of look she wanted for the shoot.  The girls needed to look like friends, having a great time playing and hanging out together, on a beautiful day full of sunshine.  Light Quantity: Chris needed more light so he brought in 2 strobes to boost the light level of the scene consistently from front to back, and to keep his exposure within the 5 printable stops of light.  Light Quality: he needed the light to be harder, like the type of light that we get from a very small sun far away in the sky, in the middle of the day.  The strobes were placed about 25 to 30 feet from the girls one with no modifier in the back and one with a very small medal bowl modifier on the main light.  Light Direction: the main light was placed about 45 degrees above and to the side of the girls to simulate the direction of the sun.  The result were beautiful, fun, sunshiny pictures perfect for a teenage audience.

Our class was given the knowledge to light anywhere, in any situation.  Honestly, it sounds a lot easier than it is.  To me, being mostly a natural light shooter in the past, everything seemed a bit backwards.  My camera lens, usually open to let in more natural light, is closed down to control the amount of artificial light coming from a strobe.  When a subject needed to be lit more evenly, or the amount of light needed to be more even across multiple people, my instinct would be to turn the light to the group.  However, the laws of strobe lighting are kind of counterintuitive.  The photographer needs to feather the light by angling the umbrella or the box, (whichever modifier is selected) until the strength of the light is the desired ratio, or equal from person to person.

Below are some examples taken for our class and after as I went home and applied principles I learned.  What I love about them is I can see how the light is shaping the face in each portrait.  The light is telling a different story for each individual.  Mystery, happiness, confidence, tenderness.  Light has the ability to tell the story, and to change the story.  In the brighter parts, or the darker areas, it is always beautiful.  Thank you Cris and Deanna Duncun for our study with light.  I’m so grateful for your excitement, patience, and desire to help others succeed.  Thank you so much for helping me be a stronger, better, more passionate photographer.


What’s Inside My Camera Bag


What’s inside my Camera Bag

My Photography Essentials:

A lot of people ask me what’s inside my camera bag, or about the equipment I use.  Today I thought it would be fun to share a little peek at what I carry inside my camera bag. Whether it’s out and about taking photos of the kids or on location for a photo shoot, these are some of my most used photography tools, along with a few of my everyday photography necessities.

a-21.  MY CAMERA BAG: I love my Lowepro Flipside 400 AW!  Many professional photographers prefer a rolling suitcase type bag because it’s protective, or I have friends that like a bag that looks like a purse, because it’s cute.  I happen to be very practical.  If I’m lugging in a couple of stands for a reflector, and/or a flash, posing blocks, or props, I don’t want another thing to pull around.  I love having my camera bag be a back pack. Also if I’m on the go, or in a place that’s dirty, or maybe I’m surounded by a lot of different people, I love the fact that my backpack is belted at my waste and I can swing it around like a tabletop and access my lenses from the backside of the backpack.  Very Convenient!

b-1 2.  WHAT’s INSIDE:  The backpack holds 1 pro DSLR with lens attached (300mm f/2.8) plus an additional body, 4-6 additional lenses, chargers and cords, filters, flash unit and 3 memory cards.  I obviously don’t have it packed that tight.  I currently have my camera body, 3 professional lenses, a flash, battery cord and charger, and extra batteries.  I do have 2 additional kit lenses that I use when I am out and about with kids so I don’t have to lug these babies, and they are in a differnet pack.  My pro lenses make this a fairly weighty bag already.  I recommend traveling as light as possible.  We already have plenty to bring on a shoot.

04121615023.  MY CAMERA:  My camera body is the Nikon 7100.  It has great image quality, speed and connectivity.  It’s 24.1-megapixel DX-format image sensor so it’s awesome for shooting portraits, but also gives added zoom and closeness helpful in highlighting athletes in sports photography.   (aka my children’s friends all look like superstars on the soccer field!!)

4.  THE LENSES:  In my opinion your camera body is important, however, it is not as important as having “good glass!!” You hear this a lot in the photography world, “invest in good glass!”  I agree, it’s important. So I will go into LENSES (The Glass) in my next blog post.  I will tell you what I use though!!:) I use a Tamron Sp 70-200mm F/2.8 DI VC USD, a Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 DI VC USD, and I use a AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G.  They are all wonderful lenses.  They are tack sharp with fast aperture, perfect in low light situations and all produce images with beautiful background blur (Bokeh).

                                             a-15          a-14          a-12

a-164.  A FLASH:  A Speedlight is another of the most important tools in your bag.  I am using mine all the time anymore.  I have the Nikon SB-700, and it works great for me especially with my Nikon camera body.  Inside I can bounce it off walls or use a modifier like a spinlight or lightsphere, outside you can diffuse it many different ways,  or even bounce it off a reflector.  I have learned that although you want shadows to add depth and drama to a photograph, light, and knowing how to use it, is the key to beautiful photography!

a-135.  WHITE BALANCE:  The next very awesome, and very important tool in my bag is my Expo Disc 2.0.  It is how I set up my white balance.  I set my camera to take a custom white balance shot and then shoot through my expo disc at the light source.  As soon as your camera says you have a good reading, your good to go for the duration of most shoots.  If the sun goes behind clouds, goes down, you go on the other side of a park, or you go inside, it’s always a good idea to white balance again.  The nice thing about the expo disc is you are done in about 30 seconds!   COOL TIP: so you may or may not realize that if you are inside, and you are going to bounce light off a wall, then you need to have the speedlight facing forward and shoot through the disc at the wall to get the correct white balance off the bounced light.  The cool thing is that if it is a red wall or a green wall, the expo disc will actually correct for the color cast!  Just make sure to take the custom white balance first with the camera and the speedlight aimed at the colored wall, then you turn your camera to the subject and make beautiful pictures in camera, everytime!  Cool!! I think so!

a-116.  EXPOSURE:  Have you every been shooting away getting beautiful shots, children are having fun, parents seem to be into the session… and then you look down and realize you hadn’t changed a setting on your camera from the session before. You assumed you were shooting at an ISO of 800 or something, and it was actually set at 100.  You had just shot for the last 1/2 hour and every picture was underexposed. Now you may have had an experience (or 6) of just what I’m talking about, and you may not care because you can fix it in post.  But what if you shot JPEG and not RAW!  JPEGs are not as fixable.  I could get into that, but I’ll save all that for another post.  The moral of my sometimes very heart breaking story is to train yourself to use a light meter.  I have the SEKONIC L-308S and it’s a great light meter!  Often the one in the camera is just a “get you in the ballpark” kind of an aid.  If your at the point in your career where you don’t have a lot of clients, and your single, then you may have time to edit in post, and that’s your choice.  However, if you are busy, get it right in the camera the first time!  Buy a light meter, and learn how to use it!

7.  A LIST:  Another great thing to have in your bag is a list of WHAT IS IN YOUR BAG!  I haven’t left anything yet, but I don’t want to either.  I made a list that I check at the end of every shoot to make sure everything comes back.

8.  Have a phone or tablet with you:   Have a phone or tablet in my camera bag is so convenient!  They can store your posing ideas, or run great apps such as SHOTHOTSPOT: finds photography locations in the area. Or Mile IQ which tracks your miles for tax purposes!  Good Stuff!

9.  EXTRAS:  Always have extras!!  Just in case!!  I have extra SD cards, camera batteries, some people have extra camera bodies and lenses… just in case.

Hope this has been informative for you!  Next I’ll focus on lenses: why I use what I use.   Which ones I use and when.  After that I’ll get into the other important equipment I use on my photography shoots, outside of the bag.  If you liked the post, please subscribe to the blog and share on facebook and instagram.  If you have any questions you’d like answered or topics you’d like to learn about for future posts I’d love to help in anyway I can.  Thanks so much for visiting!  Have a great day!  Happy Shooting!