I thought it might be fun to live stream an attempt at Christmas styled pet portraits. I say, “attempt”, because I didn’t really have a plan going into this. I bought a light curtain and that’s about it. In this video you’ll watch, in real-time, as I place lights, discuss the differences between ttl and manual, problem solve, and of course, take photos of doggies with a Christmas flair! The video runs about 1 hour and 50 minutes, so that should give you an idea of how quickly you can get this up and running in your own home studio! (Hint: the studio doesn’t have to be big!)
Setting up, how to deal with technical issues, comparing ttl and manual, and most importantly, photographing cute dogs!
It's been a minute, fam
Just wanted to take a quick moment and say, it’s good to be back! For those who don’t know, I am the owner and creative director of a graphic design agency, Emotiv. And, well, it’s been busy over in Design-land for the past eight or so months. Things haven’t really slowed down any, but I am managing my time a little better and finding more opportunities to take pictures.
In short, we’re back and we’re loving it! Let’s start off with some Senior Portraits:
Allow me to introduce Alex – an absolutely amazing and classy guy. This was a fun shoot (as you can see from the photos!). When you are a photographer, you live for gigs like this one. Alex is heavily tied in with his school’s marching band, so it was imperative to integrate that into this photo series. Luckily, we had some connections on the inside which allowed us to, ahem, borrow, the band’s bus for an hour. Next, I whisked him off to a quiet patch of parkland here known as the children’s garden, in Canton Ohio’s McKinley Monument park. There’s this little grove of ever greens that I knew would look awesome in the overcast, late Autumn light. I simply placed him in the trees and, wow, the picture sort of just took itself. That’s the best part about amazing locations, they take a lot of the effort off your shoulders as a photographer.
I shot most of these photos with just one strobe. For the football field and the bus, I used an Paul C. Buff Einstein flash unit as my main light. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but it was 1pm on a very clear and sunny day. I needed the Einstein’s power to allow me to correctly expose Alex against the insanely bright environment. I used a second flash to light the side of the bus. For the portraits at the park I, again, defaulted to use of use one flash; this time opting for a speedlight as my light source.
Quite honestly, this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable shoots I’ve done in a long while – it just makes me that much more excited to be behind the camera again!
Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer in the Massillon, Canton, Akron, Cleveland and Northeast Ohio area.
When the Canon EOS R was revealed, the first thing many people noticed was its lack of in-body image stabilisation (IBIS).
So, with the internet rife with cynicism and speculation, we went straight to the horse’s mouth and asked Canon why it opted not to include in-body stabilisation on the EOS R.
“We feel that in-lens IS is the optimum system for image stabilisation,” explained Canon UK’s product intelligence consultant, David Parry.
“With an in-body IS system you are creating something that needs to work over lots of different types of lenses and different lens groups, so you don’t get a dedicated system for that particular lens.
“All lenses move in different ways, and you get different types of shake depending on what kind of lens you’re using, so dedicating the IS system to the particular lens is, for us, the optimum way of doing it – but that’s not to say that we aren’t looking at in-body IS.”
It’s fair to say that Canon traditionally takes its time and is rarely the first to bring a feature to market, from touchscreens to shooting video on DSLRs. When it eventually does bring something to market, though, it tends to be among the best in class.
In other words, then, Canon will introduce in-body stabilisation when it’s good and ready. And when it does, it’s likely to be incredibly good.7
I shoot a lot in front of live audiences, sometimes sizable ones. The places where I do this, let’s face it, are hardly inspirational. They tend to be gray, or beige, or black. The walls are blank. They recede by design. Hence, onstage, when I look out at this bland space, I will, at least occasionally, think of taking a ride into the valley of the gels, as friend and peerless shooter Greg Heisler used to describe it. In these blank rooms, color is often the first refuge I seek.
It was such a day last week in London, at a lighting seminar created and staged by Nikon School UK and Neil Freeman, a talented shooter who runs the wonderful educational programs with a great team in the UK for Nikon. We had help from the stalwart crew at Lastolite by Manfrotto who stepped up and brought tons of kit to play with.
I had MMA fighter Alfie Davis, who’s on a winning streak, and competing next in Dubai. He’s a great physical presence, so a rim-light type of an approach worked. Put red gels on two SB-5000 units in the back of the room, controlling them with radio and winging them right at Alfie. The overhead light is the Speedlight 2 softbox, with a grid, but it really just lights him a little and gives that highlight in his hair. The main deal is a blue gelled flash I have banging into a silver tri-grip reflector that he is actually standing on. The whole thing was an impromptu wing and a prayer in terms of a lighting solution, and our enthusiastic crowd helped out by standing and cheering Alfie in the background. Nothing like a little audience participation!
It was a very different approach for Alfie out on the street. One Speedlight through an Ezybox hotshoe soft box, and done. Less glitz, more character.
One of the most common questions photographers have is “should I upgrade my camera?” It’s right up there with “what lens I should buy” and “can I take selfies with this?” (That last one isn’t actually a common question.)
You may really want that Nikon Z7 or that Canon EOS R, but do you really need it? Whenever I ask myself the same question, I remind myself of a simple phrase that I tell my students thinking about a new camera: Your camera never takes pictures any worse than the day you brought it.
I own a few older cameras. Some I bought for nostalgic value and other were my daily drivers for a time. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of G.A.S., but after having kids, that sort of thing grinds to a halt (diapers are expensive). Now, I’ve learned to really appreciate and use the cameras I’ve got, and in addition, it makes me really think about making every camera purchase count.
I recently got the pang again when I saw the new mirrorless offerings from Nikon and Canon. On paper, they’re specced really well, and one of the new RF mirrorless system lenses from Canon would scratch an itch I’ve been commenting about for a long time: a standard zoom that’s faster than f/2.8, my white whale, the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM. Such a lens coupled with a new, slick-looking EOS R bodyseems like an amazing combo.
How do you create those really soft, flowery fireworks photos?
I am gonna keep this short and sweet! The trick to create these flower-esque firework photos is really simple
- Frame your shot
- A good starting point for camera settings are 100 iso, 5.6/f, 1 second shutter
- Turn your focus ring until completely out of focus.
- Press the shutter button once a firework goes off in your view finder
- Turn the focus ring from out-of-focus to in-focus over the course of the 1 second shutter.
- The End!
I’ve even created this little animated gif to illustrate the process
Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer in the Canton, Akron, Cleveland and Northeast Ohio area.
You don't need a massive studio and an army of gear to shoot great product photos.
I’ve moved 3 times in the past 8 years and have created 5 in-home studios in that same amount of time. Every time I change up my studio I seem to find myself creating smaller, more compact and optimized spaces. The reason is simple – you don’t need a warehouse to take great product photos.
The first step to creating your space is taking inventory of your most used gear – this single step will let you know exactly what sort of space you need. For instance if you rely heavily on natural light then you’ll need windows and perhaps less space for things like studio flashes and light stands. The type of photographs you take will also help inform you decisions on what type of space you need. In my case, I do a lot of portraits and commercial work. I also use studio flash which are often mounted on large C-Stands so that definitely increases both my vertical and horizontal space requirements.
In the end, I utilized a room attached to my house that is 24 feet by 10 feet. This room also has high ceilings, which means I can position my lights above my subjects. After doing some searching online, it turns out that even a compact space like this is pretty large compared to some metropolitan studios out there. I found some studios that are only 8×8, which is impressive!
While my studio is still very much a work in progress (we’re still finishing the walls and ceiling) it was in good enough shape to get things started. When I was contracted to do some product photos we got some things set up in quick order and started taking pictures. Over here to the right you can see what the set up is for this shot. We’re using a basic, plastic, folding card table. These products are shot on white, but we also wanted a reflection, so I used a clean white card with sheet of glass on top of that to help catch reflections. We’re using a two light set up. The first light is above the product and pointed backwards towards the rear of the table. The reason for that is you can highlight the curves and contours of the product without producing the hot, specular highlights you would get if you had the light directly in front of the product. The second light is behind a collapsible diffuser. This adds a little highlight to the edge of the product, but mostly it’s just there to make sure the environment around the product is totally white. I am also using a black flag (the reverse side is shiny metallic in this photo) at the very front of the product to subject extra light from the front of the product to help make the reflections pop out a little more.
After tweaking the lighting and positioning a bit, we were very pleased with the resulting photos. It was nice to see that a little bit of planning could result in a studio space that was refined and streamlined and still produced the quality that we were looking for. You can see the results of our product photo shoot below.
Managing disk space when you are a photographer is a major headache - but here's an amazing way that doesn't cost anything but a little time.
Tony Northurp (video link above, please give him a subscribe on youtube!) shows us a pretty easy way to save yourself a ton of hard drive space. I personally deal with this problem about once a year. I have nearly 20TB of drive space attached to my main computer alone. Managing that much disk space (especially when I am running low) is a major pain. Buying new hard drives or, gulp, expensive raid arrays, will always be a temporary solution – drive space is finite and you’re taking pictures all of the time.
So when I ran across this video where Tony shows us the magic of Adobe’s lossy DNG format, I was intrigued. I tested it out myself and I can honestly tell you that I am now, at this very moment, in the process of converting all of my old photos into Lossy DNG (with the exception of some very important ‘hero’ shots taken for clients). Hundreds of thousands of photos are making the pilgrimage to Lossytown over here, and so far I’ve gotten back several terabytes of space. Let’s hope the trend continues!
Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer in the Canton, Massillon, Cleveland, Akron and northeast Ohio area.
I am a child of the 80's...
… which means I am direct product of that decade. I was never a big fan of 80’s Hair-Metal but I’ve always loved the imagery of that era. As we started to move away from analog and into digital’s earliest incarnations we all took a big step back in quality. People think of VHS as an analog medium, but unlike the homemade movies shot on film in the 60’s and 70’s – which were a true analog and very chemical-based affair – VHS was rendered to tape using electricity and other various pieces of digital wizardry. It’s part of this loss in quality that help define the 80’s within its time in history and also teaches us the concept of, ‘low-quality doesn’t always mean bad-quality’.
Also, the 80’s were a time of great exploration into the visual mediums. For me, there’s never been a time in my life where the movies were more over the top, more gory, more cheesy, more whatever. Sure, we all praise and award movies who work their messages in more subtle manners, but I think a lot of people can also appreciate how wonderful ‘blatant-and-unrepentant’ can be as well!
Enter Stranger Things; a new visual and story-telling trip down a cracked 80’s memory lane. It’s amazing to watching Stranger Things and see my childhood, bikes, clothes, and adventures right there on screen for me to relive. Okay, so my real life adventures at that age weren’t quite as surreal, but they were certainly just as grand within my imagination.
It’s truly an amazing show and it has captured a lot of people’s interest. One such couple, some family friends of mine, have two daughters who they watch the show with. When their oldest daughter shaved and donated her hair to Saint Baldricks, they realized she was a complete doppelganger for one of the TV show’s main protagonists – Eleven. So much so that she was being stopped in the street and people would take pictures of her and follow her around, convinced she was Millie Bobby Brown.
So, we decided to capitalize on this and do a fun Stranger Things photo shoot! They were in charge of the wardrobe, and I would find the right location. For that location I chose the Molly Stark Sanatorium; an old tuberculosis hospital about 30 minutes out of town. This place is defunct, abandoned, and just oozes a whole new level of creepy, so, as you can imagine, it turned out to be the perfect location.
Above: Molly Stark Sanatorium
We showed up around 8pm in the evening. It’s mid-Spring at this point of the year so the sun sets around 8:30 pm. The forecast originally said it would be sunny, but rain had moved in earlier throughout the day and now it was overcast – which wasn’t a problem since we were taking a potentially moody photo. The only impact the cloud cover had on the location was that I instantly lost about 2 stops of light as the sun was setting behind a large blanket of clouds.
Because I would have to expose a little longer to compensate for the darkness (I don’t like to bump up the ISO unless absolutely necessary) I set the camera up on my tripod after scouted the location for the right angle. Using the tripod means I can have a slower shutter speed and still retain a sharp photo. Next I hustled to put up one 32 inch octa on a large light stand. The light was about 12 feet up and about 12 feet away and 45 degrees off center from the subject because I wanted to give the lighting more of a moonlight glow by the time it reaches our model. I then took a second light and positioned that opposite of the main light. It was much lower, with a 7 inch reflector on a bare bulb. I pointed the light so it would light her dark side with a little fill as well as light the bottom of the tree branches to help them retain a little detail from the shadows. Once we had the lights in place it was just a matter of getting the pose right and taking some pictures. To the right is one of the pictures we chose, straight out of the camera.
If you remember what I said at the start of this article, the 80’s are all about the lo-fi elements. This picture is ok as-is, but it doesn’t match either the spirit of the show, or the aesthetic of the decade it’s supposed to take place in – so there’s some work to do!
First thing I did was mess around with the RGB curves in Adobe Lightroom to flatten the dynamic range. I also de-saturated the image and boosted the blues in the shadows. Next, I took the photo into After Effects (yes, the video compositing program) and added in the fog and the light streaks for the lantern.
After Effects is, at it’s heart, an amazing piece of compositing software that does a lot of stuff, dare I say, better than Photoshop. If it’s not a part of your workflow, you should investigate it’s potential! Once I am done there I exported the file into Adobe Photoshop where I made a few final adjustments to color as well as any last tweaks.
Overall most of the color tweaks are done with curves adjustments and I use them throughout the process within all of the various programs I mentioned here. One thing that’s hard to explain is knowing where you should move from one program to the next. For this image, I worked in Lightroom until I had the base color correction in place. I then moved to After Effects to add in the fog and light flares because I know those processes are fairly easy for that program to produce. Photoshop is usually the last step because it’s great for the small details and final color correction.
Here’s the final image