Tag Archives: photography tips

Photography HOW-TO: Window Light portraits

WINDOW LIGHT PORTRAITS

 

 

Example of potrait made with window light by photographer Dan Splaine

Portrait of young women made with available window lighting. Photograph©2009 Daniel J. Splaine -TEST of TIME PHOTO

 

One of the most common subjects and one of the most challenging for in-experienced photographers is portraits.  Photographing people requires communication skills and photographic techniques that can be intricate and hard to manage. Lighting for portrait photography can be infinitely complex but I want to suggest a simpler method that can produce fantastic results and make your portraits look great.

Window light is an exceptionally useful lighting source for your portrait photography.  By using available light (the window) you avoid the complexity of using flash – artificial light-and the exposure control issues that it presents. We often over complicate the photographic creation process to the detriment of the results we get.  The mantra “keep it simple stupid” (the KISS rule) should come to mind for your next portrait session.  By simplifying the lighting you will be less stressed and can concentrate on developing a positive connection with your subject.

Ambient window light provides a large, even light source that provides a gradual transition from highlight to shadow. That quality of the lighting is soft and natural and can be very flattering for your portrait subjects. Electronic flash tends to be direct, contrasty and destroys the subtle transition between that highlight and shadow which is unflattering for portraiture.

When I refer to “window lighting” I have some particular features and qualities in mind.  Direct noon time sun glaring through your window is equally harsh and unflattering as direct flash.  What I am describing is the soft, diffuse lighting that you get from a cloudy day.  North facing windows on an overcast day provide the best representation for this light source.  This lighting has been used effectively in traditional painting for portraits and still life studies for centuries and should be a standard in your photographic inventory.

How does this old school (some would say original source of lighting) help in the digital camera era? The ability for film or digital sensors to record a range of lighting intensities in your photographic scene is limited.  The dynamic range of the scene is the ratio between the minimum (shadow) and maximum (highlight) recordable light intensities.  The human eye has an amazing ability to distinguish luminance difference, something in the order of 20 stops (20 EV) of exposure range.  Your digital camera sensor has a recording range of somewhere between 6 to 10 stops of exposure depending on size and quality).

Young monks studying in Buddhist temple -Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Scene from a Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Tawang, Aruncahel Preadesh, India. The lighting of this dark interior space was provided by a large open door ("window light") behind the photographer position. ©2010 Daniel J. Splaine / TEST of TIME PHOTO- All rights reserved

The diffused light from a window is lower in contrast and easily falls in the dynamic range and recording capability of your camera.  Having a dynamic range of 5 to 7 stops of exposure means that camera is readily able to record detail in all the tones from shadow to highlight.  Your results more closely match the natural range of tone we perceive with our eyes and creating a favorable response from the viewer of your photograph.  Simply said the portraits that you can achieve with window lighting closely match what we can see with the natural eye.

By using window light illumination we reduce contrast, the severity of the tonal transition from highlight to shadow. Having a gradual transition in brightness adds dimension to portraits that is favorable to your subject’s appearance.  How we position the transition zone, the arrangement of our subject to the direction of light, is how we control this effect. Learning how to “read” light and using it to improve your images is a fundamental skill.  Using this source with your people photography is great way to build those abilities.

 

Example of potrait made with window light by photographer Dan splaine

Portrait of young women made with available window lighting. Photograph©2009 Daniel J. Splaine -TEST of TIME PHOTO

Another advantage of window lighting is that is a constant light source.  Studio flash heads have a “modeling” light to provide an approximation of the changes in illumination and position make.   You can observe those changes directly with window light.  As you move your subject closer or further from the light or rotate them you will observe the changes in exposure levels and shadows.  You can have side lighting, backlighting or full frontal lighting depending on the position of the subject and the camera location.  Widow light is a very versatile light source that can be adapted for multiple lighting effects.

 

The ironic thing about all of the studio lighting equipment and modifiers that I have purchased for my inventory of photographic tools is that they are primarily used to replicate the qualities of window light. Granted the inventory gives me absolute control and the ability for creating predictable photographic results on demand. For a photographer building their skills as a portrait photographer I would recommend mastering using this available light source and learning about the qualities of light it produces, before I would recommend investing a dime in any advance lighting equipment.

I often extol my students in my photography workshops and tours about the importance of practice in becoming a better photographer. Giving yourself regular photo assignments to be accomplished is great way to help your performance with your digital camera.  Window light is readily available so why not include it in your next practice session. Go makes some images!

Follow Me on Pinterest
Posted in Digital photography tips, Learn Photography, Photo workshops, Photographer tours, Travel Photography | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , Comments Off

Why should you attend a photography workshop?

 

Photography is a subject that is worthy of, and to be done well, requires study.  My nearly 35 years behind the camera has been a continuous learning experience.  Not only do I present photography workshops – I often attend them.  Photography workshops provide an opportunity to remove yourself from the distractions of your daily life to spend some dedicated hours or days building your photographic skills. Photography workshops often can inspire and reinvigorate your passion for image making. Digital photography in particular has a significant learning curve and attendance in a photo class can help leapfrog your learning.  Workshops presented by a well qualified instructor provide a forum to explore photographic concepts and creative techniques beyond your current skill level

Photography student during photography workshop hosted by photographer Dan Splaine at the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire.

Photo workshop student shooting on Star Island

 

How often do you actually pick up your camera and dedicate time to specifically making photographs?

No doubt those occasions are rare.  A dedicated period of time concentrating solely of photography is the best way to rapidly advance your photo skills.  Even a few hours provide an opportunity to focus on your creative approach to photography subjects. In my experience continuous photography during multi day and weeks long travels are really productive.

Workshops about a particular digital photographic topic or technique provide you the opportunity to explore new methods. Selecting a photo workshop that provides access to a unique location or specialized tools gives you a chance to test drive those techniques.  I often host classes about studio lighting which allow new photographers to use lighting equipment and work with models they normally do not have access to. My photography tours bring photographers to locations that have been scouted and selected for their photographic potential. Workshops that feature a particular photo editing software help inform your purchasing decisions.

The social component of photography workshops adds important value.  Spending a day with other people who share your interest in photography is another benefit of photo classes.  In my opinion photography is a highly individualized form of personal expression.  It is definitely not a team sport.  That being said, the social exchange of ideas and the insights you can gain from a group of photographers can only build your understanding.  In group critique sessions I find the peer-to-peer commentary and conversation well-informed and inspirational.  Other perspectives on your photography and techniques are great learning tools. (To attend one of my photography review sessions click here).

Photographic ability and skills can be learned and have to be practiced.  Attending a photography workshop will build your skills, confidence and inspiration.  The investment of money and time can be justified by the value you receive, by how your creative ability to make photographs will increase.

I offer a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours (over 400 people attend in the last 18 months!) for adults.  Some of the workshops are single photo topic sessions held at my studio or conducted in the field at nearby locations.  Others are daylong sessions (like our Isle of Shoals Workshop held 7/23/11) or weekend packages   (like our March 2011 weekend in Quebec, Canada).  In addition to photo classes my schedule for the fall of 2011 includes a Photographers Weekend in the White Mountains (October 15-16). In April of 2012 I am leading a ten-day photography and cultural exploration in Ireland for STRABO tours.  For more information and to receive notices of all my photography workshop contact me at info@testoftimephoto.com.

Follow Me on Pinterest
Posted in Digital Photo classes, Digital photography tips, Learn Photography, Photo workshops, Photographer tours, Travel Photography | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , Comments Off

ISLE of SHOALS Photographers Workshop – July 23rd, 2011

Still time to Register (Deadline is July 1!)

View of Portsmouth harbor by NH photograher Dan Splaine

Photographer Dan Splaine and TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY with the able assistance of NH TOURS is presenting a one day workshop for photographers on Saturday July 23rd at the ISLE of SHOALS.

This day long excursion to the scenic and historic chain of islands and ledges off the coast of NH and Maine is a photographer’s dream event.  The workshop includes round trip passage on the M?V Thomas Laighton, a four-hour stop over on Star Island, photo instruction and box lunch.

I was able to preview the location last week and I am excited about the photo potential of this location.  I only had a half hour to shoot and was happy with the photography I was able to create. Watch the attached video to examine some of the shots I made.

Shoals_slideshow

This trip is being offered to adult digital photographers of all skill levels.  This is a remarkably beautiful location to visit, with an amazing selection of photography subjects.  If you have never been to the Shoals or you want a chance to photograph a truly unique location I would encourage your to attend this workshop.

For complete information and to register click here.

After July 1 there may be more seats available but they are subject to confirmation by the boat company.  Sign up today to confirm your place.

Follow Me on Pinterest
Posted in Learn Photography, Photo workshops, Photographer tours, Uncategorized | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , Comments Off

Preparing for your portrait photography session

When I create custom portraits for my commercial clients and individuals I use  my craftsmanship to produce an image that shows then m at their best.  Despite my considerable arsenal of photography skills I always require some assistance from my subjects to make portraits that they will cherish.

One of the best suggestions I can make to ensure that we get terrific results from your TEST of TIME photography session is simply ask you not to rush through the experience. Many people feel anxious about being photographed so being hasty will only add to the discomfort.  My style of interaction with my portrait subjects is very relaxed and I make every effort to put my clients at ease.  I promise to do my part and I would request that you would use the following suggestions to make better portraits for you.

How to prepare for your portrait and photography shooting sessions

First make sure you get a full night of restful sleep the night before your photo session. We all have visions of super models living a wild nightlife but the true secret of their success is hitting the hay early.  When you are well rested you look and feel better and that will show in the photos we make. Sleepy faces never look their best.

Secondly try not to be in a hurry the day of your portrait session.  Allow enough time to carefully prepare you wardrobe and keep yourself relaxed.  Take your time with your grooming and preparation and allow plenty of time for travel to our photography location. If you are not sure of the destination take the time the night before to plan your travel. If you’re harried and running late that tension will reflect in your body language.

Arrive early for your studio session or get to your outdoor location 20 to 30 minutes ahead of our scheduled shooting time.  Having an early arrival will benefit your portrait results in a few important ways. You have the time to calm jittery nerves, to relax, and shift gears from the hectic activities of your day. You can take the time to discuss the details of the shoot and to become familiar with the studio. If we are shooting your family portrait in an outdoor location we can walk the terrain and pick our spots..  With group shots and large families the extra time will help in arranging poses and organizing.

My job as your portrait photographer is to make images that you will absolutely love. You can do your part by following these suggestions.  The benefits of  taking our time is that your experience at TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY will be pleasant and calm and your photos will look great!

To learn more about my portrait and photography services call me at the studio or email me at info@testoftiemphoto.com.

Follow Me on Pinterest
Posted in Portrait Photography | Also tagged , , , , , , Comments Off

GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER HABITS – PHOTO SKILL BUILDERS (Part 1 of 2)

Over the decades I have spent being a student and teacher of photography I have learned many techniques and methods to make better photographs.  From the good old days of darkrooms and fixer fumes to the wave after wave of rapidly evolving digital image making, photography has been my constant learning experience.

From that, I have developed a set of habits that I encourage my photography students and old hands with cameras to embrace and make their own.  Some of the ten tips (5 in this post,5 more to come)  I provide to improve your digital photography may seem a little obvious but remain important.  The fact that they are obvious may lead to them being easily overlooked.  This is a distillation of insight acquired in over thirty years of learning and working at becoming a better photographer and will help you do the same.

ALWAYS BRING YOUR CAMERA :  The number one reason why people miss good pictures is because they don’t have a camera with them! Make it a habit to always carry a camera with you, because you never know what you could miss.  If you do not have your full digital SLR kit with you at least consider carrying a point and shoot camera. Compact digital cameras are simple to bring everywhere.  A basic camera, with a few memory cards, batteries give the capacity of taking thousands of images.  Be ready to shoot and make the most of your everyday observations and moments. Photography skills are built by making images not by wishing you had your camera with you!

 

Scenes from digital photography workshops & photo tours offered by Dan SplaineSHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT! and then Shoot more : If you think you shoot enough – you don’t (especially if you have a digital camera, because there is no added cost to taking more photographs).  Why take just one picture if you can take several?  Make a regular habit using and operating your camera in a wide variety of shooting conditions. Attempt to make images in ordinary and exceptional moments of your daily experiences to practice your photographic craft.

Are you in a place you may never visit again?  Your opportunity costs (the price of getting there) is a major investment when compared to the minimal cost of making digital photos.  Is this something you will ever see or experience ever again?  Is this such a common experience that you  have never looked at it for its image  potential ?  Take a picture, because even the most boring day-to-day scenes can become historical in just a few years of time.  Practice your skills on a daily basis.

 

TRUST YOUR EYE: Studying the laws of composition is fine, but when it comes down to it you must trust your eye.  Make a conscious effort to scrutinize the arrangement of the subject elements in your scene thoughtfully. When you frame the shot, move your camera position and fully explore the scene. When you find an angle or composition that FEELS good to you, take the picture immediately!  After the first frame, which is your instinctive response, you can (and should) get several more shots.  Compare that sequence of shots on the computer to learn about your photographic point of view. Your personal style will change and improve with time.  The viewpoint you take with a camera is distinct and interesting. Trust your instinctive response to the view of the scene and build your trust in your point of view.

Train your eye: Look at the photographs you have taken and analyze them,  begin to critique your own work. How does it match up to what came to mind (pre-visualization) before you pushed the trigger?  Did the image turn out like you planned? Do you like the composition? Critically analyze the aesthetics, the emotional impact and the technical features of your photographs.

This self-review stage is essential for you to improve your photographic skills and style.  Examine how the light source and direction affect the scene. How well did you capture the scene as you visualized it?  How was your focus control and the accuracy of your exposure settings?  Deconstructing your image making techniques and comparing the results to your creative intent builds your photographer’s “eye”.

Know your camera: You don’t need to memorize every feature right away, but over time you should be comfortable enough so that operating your camera becomes second nature. It’s like learning to shift gears or ride a bicycle – only when the machine controls become instinctive are you really driving.  Understanding the mechanical functions and how they affect your images is essential to gaining control over your results.  What does your F stop selection or aperture do to change the look of the photo?  How does your light meter respond to different subject conditions? What settings can you select to match a particular lighting situation?  Practice using your camera controls in no pressure shooting conditions so you will be ready for your more important photographic opportunities.

 

This collections of habits for building your photographic skills is the first 5 of 10 that I offer to digital photography students that attend one of my photography workshops.  To learn more about the workshops and tours please contact me at info@testoftiemphoto.com.

Follow Me on Pinterest
Posted in Digital photography tips, Learn Photography | Also tagged , , , , , , , , Comments Off

VisitNH.gov adds photographer itenerary

Attention photographers who are seeking inspiration! If you are looking for nearby destinations that get your creative energy flowing  I have great new guide for you.

The State  of New Hampshire has added a new itinerary for photographers to their collection cultural tours of the Granite state.  The New Hampshire photographer tour guide is posted on the VISITNH.gov website along with food,historical,adventure itineraries for visitors. Great ideas to inspire your travels in New Hampshire!

The New Hampshire photography tour breaks the state into seven distinct tourism regions and gives photographic tips for each area.  The guide has been illustrated with images from NH photographer including yours truly.  My image of a lobster boat on the Piscataqua river in Portsmouth graces the first page of the downloadable PDF.

The seacoast of New Hampshire is an endless source of inspiration for my photography. Maritime environments are dynamic and visually compelling and our little slice of coast in NH is a rich subject.  If you want to explore the coats of NH photographically you should consider joining me for my ISLE of SHOALS photography workshop on July 23rd, 2011.  To get more information about all of my digital photography workshops and tours go to the  TEST of TIME PHOTO website.

 

Follow Me on Pinterest
Posted in Photo workshops, Photographer tours, Travel Photography | Also tagged , , , , Comments Off

The power of PUBLIC RELATIONS photography-10 tips for building your “image”

Photography is an important tool for creating and building individual and corporate identity that is often under utilized, and from my point of view as a professional photographer certainly under appreciated.  Photography has always been an effective public relations tool. My experience goes back thirty years to the days of setting up darkrooms in all kinds of locations and hustling wet prints to the nearest wire service office.  Today with our powerful digital photography capabilities and the infinite requirement the internet has for content its value as a PR device has never been so great.

I would argue that all enterprises and individual entrepreneurs should incorporate photography into their PR and marketing programs.  Listed below are ten suggested ideas and methods for utilizing public relations photography to build your “image” and enhance your personal brand.

  1. Prepare a set of high quality photographs in advance to anticipate a media request or public relations opportunity.  Having some shot “in the can” that illustrate your products, facilities and key personnel that are ready to send will help you capitalize on unexpected  publication offers.
  2. Business portraits and headshots are essential for any entrepreneur.  Having a professionally created portrait of your company personnel is necessary in building a personal connection via social media.  The business mantra that “people buy from who they know “is still true today and your portrait online is a powerful method to become “known”.  These shots are great for business notices and identifiers for blog postings and other marketing material.
  3. Headshots are great for some uses but having an environmental type portrait will work best with editorial outlets.  Images of the person in their work environment or in a setting that adds information about them are better illustrations for editors.  Environmental portraits provide context for the person and more readily transmit a narrative to the viewer.
  4. Make the investment in professional photography services. Digital cameras are common and seemingly in every device you can imagine, truly anyone can take a picture. The distinction for the purposes of your brand is that snapshots will not enhance your image.  Professionally conceived and created photography literally presents you in the best light.  Hire a pro to achieve professional results.
  5. Provide editors and media outlets a good variety of images to select from.  The more options they have in layout and design choices the greater the likelihood your images will be published.  A mix of portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) orientated photos, shots with negative space for headlines and copy and unique points of view are all appreciated by editors, so give them what makes them happy!
  6. Follow submission guidelines carefully.  Sending an image correctly formatted and prepared according to the publications requirements is essential.  Send the photography and illustration incorrectly and you will not get published.  Using a pro photographer adept with photo editing tools and familiar with the process can be critical to avoiding submission problems.
  7. Use images that tell a story and specifically match up to the narrative you are providing with the press release content it is accompanying.  Your visual content is critical to convincing an editor of your value for publication. Photos get stories printed and most importantly read so send out complete packages.
  8. Make sure to correctly caption and keyword  your images to take advantage of the SEO potential photography has as online content.  Image file meta data is searchable text that can be enhanced to maximize your branding and messaging online. Once again using a pro photographer familiar with this process will justify the investment in will add power to your imagery.
  9. Make sure you fill the frame.  Avoid using photography that has a lot of vacant area that makes the subject smaller and distracts the viewer.  Well designed and composed photographs capture the viewer’s attention so take care to use the whole image area well.
  10. Take chances with your photography and show unusual viewpoints and scenes.  Often a story will get published simply because the photography is so attention grabbing.  The same visual impact that gets the editor’s attention works doubly on attracting the viewer to your messaging.

I provide photography for business , shot either on location or in my studio facility in Nashua, NH.  My experience with public relations assignments and live action coverage has ranged from tropical jungles to corporate boardrooms.   For more information about PR photography or any of my other photography services for business contact me at info@testoftimephoto.com

Follow Me on Pinterest
Posted in Business Photography, Digital photography tips, Public relations photography | Also tagged , , , , , , Comments Off