Earlier this week I added a new piece of gear to my already hefty camera bag – the Aputre Trigmaster Plus II 2.4G. Up until now, I haven’t had a lot of uses for good, reliable wireless triggers. For my studio lights I’d usually lay out a long sync cord attached to a separate power adjuster. When I used my speedlites I had to rely on some very cheap, and actually very unreliable, wireless triggers. But recently, I’ve been working on shoots that are larger in physical scale, and that increased distance meant it was time to find a trigger that would be reliable at greater range.
If you search the photography forums you’ll see that most photogs will recommend the PocketWizard brand time and time again – and for good reason, I should add. They didn’t earn that loyalty through shoddy quality. But PocketWizards can be a bit on the (very) expensive side and as the number of lights in your photographic arsenal grows so will your need for triggers. This is why I decided to give the Aputure brand of triggers a go. The reviews for these things so far have been pretty stellar and even though I’ve only had the chance to use them on one shoot so far I certainly got the feeling that these are every ounce as professional as their more pricey counterparts.
Like the PocketWizards they do cool things such as channel selection so you can run your triggers near other photogs without interference. You can also set triggers to zones, so you can fire only specific strobes individually or all at once (useful at things like weddings where you may have several flashes set up in an area and only want to target specific sections of a room). The advertised range is fantastic as well – up to 500m, although I haven’t truly tested it any anywhere near that limit. They feel sturdy and hefty too, and in no way cheap. The only downside I have found so far is the styling. While PocketWizards tend to look like next generation stealth aircraft, the Trigmaster Plus II looks like it comes from a pre-Chernobyl era.
Oh, and then there’s the price. These things are less than half the price of their rivals. For that you’re getting nearly all same features and build quality for half the cost. Feel free to compare the prices on Amazon when you get the chance.
A Custom Brush for all Your Photoshop Skin Retouching Needs
Retouching is an important part of any portrait, whether it’s a wedding, engagement, or high school senior’s photo. Most people are used to the airbrush technique, and since in the early days of photo retouching an artist would use an actual airbrush to do this, it’s no wonder why people still use the default airbrush tool in Photoshop today to pretty much the same effect.
Photoshop is great in the respect that you can use your own custom brush in addition to it’s default airbrush preset. I made my own custom brush, using a more organic pattern, to achieve much better results. This brush is great on any type of face, or body part as it replicates the random nature of skin, such as pores and other surface textures. The trick when retouching is being careful not to smooth your subject’s skin out to the point where they look flat and plastic. Using a textured brush like this allows you keep the skin looking real while gently painting away imperfections. Also keep in mind that some imperfections, especially in men, are defining features and should be only diminished in strength rather than removed completely.
You can download the file HERE and then load the brush within Photoshop under the brush menu.
Shooting Portraits on Location at A-1 Auto Repair.
Every now and then you get an amazing lead on a good location to photograph portraits. More often than not that location is something like a beautiful historic mansion, or a wonderful farm landscape or any other number of amazing, but slightly cliché backdrops. However, sometimes that location is something completely different than pretty much anything else out there.
Such was the case when a friend of mine suggested A-1 Auto Repair in Canton, Ohio. When another friend of mine, Chase the Matrix, needed some photos for his promo material I knew this new location would be perfect. Set against the farmed hills west of Canton proper, A-1 Auto Repair is an old-fashioned type of a place. A land that time forgot, but refuses to let go of. When you first pull up you’ll notice a long wall made entirely of old rims and hubcaps, and trust me when I say that would be enough to make this place cool. But it gets better. In front of the fence are several vintage, rusty cars. Again, perfect backdrop for portraits that need to be a little different in look and style.
Behind the fence is an entire, over grown junkyard. Old rusted cars with trees growing through them. Old rusted appliances, old rusted oil cans – old rusted everything! Everywhere you turn your lens there’s an amazing landscape of rusted Americana. Okay, okay, I know rusted cars can be a cliché photo backdrop as well, but not if the location is more than just that, and A-1 Auto is filled with portrait photography possibilities in all 360 degrees.
Now, I should mention, I’ve never shot here before nor had I ever even seen this place with my own eyes until the day we rolled up there for the shoot. That’s pretty risky, especially when you don’t know how the owners will react to you strolling up with a camera and some lights, asking if you can be on their property for an hour. Luckily, the owner and employees were as nice as you could ask for in people. They graciously let us have the run of the place and we did our best to make sure we just didn’t get in the way of their business.
Over all it turned out to be a great place for a portrait session that needed a little extra edge to it. It could even be a great place for some adventurous wedding photography too with the right bride and groom.
Brookside Farms – The perfect place for wedding, engagement and bridal photographs.
With it’s rolling hill sides, old fence backdrops, and historic Barn, Brookside Farms is an amazing place for a wedding. Set on 120 acres of lush pastures, Brookside Farms provides no-ends of possibilities for a modern wedding with an old-world touch.
Separate houses are provided for both brides and grooms, (the farm house for the Bride and the “The Lodge” for the groom), to allow them to get ready for their big day. And when I say houses, I mean it. These aren’t simple rooms with just enough space for the wedding party to get dressed; these are fully fledged homes with areas to meet and mingle, full sized bed rooms for the bride and her party to prepare. These homes are perfect for pre-ceremony photos – capturing those small, intimate, moments where everything comes together.
The ceremony itself can be held in any number of areas on this sprawling farm. Both the fields and the historic barn are two great locations for a wedding filled with ambiance. Trees and wooden fences dot the landscape, giving any outdoor wedding a picturesque backdrop. The barn, a 6,000 square foot historic structure, is perfect for both wedding ceremonies and receptions. It has extra rooms for catering use as well as completely modern restrooms – no guest has to worry about using an outhouse!
The farm house, as mentioned above, is a beautiful location for wedding photos and can also serve as housing for out-of-town guests. It’s an 1870’s brick house that has been completely restored with 3 bedrooms, two full baths, an functioning kitchen, a sitting room, sun room, and living & dining rooms. It’s a gorgeous place to take pictures of the bride and her party when she puts on her wedding dress. There’s even wireless internet for those people who want to keep their social media friends who couldn’t attend in the loop.
It’s important to mention that there are a lot of people involved with any ceremony. Wedding florists, wedding planners, wedding caterers and of course wedding photographers; Brookside Farms is set up perfectly to handle all of these flawlessly with a dedicated staff ready to help in any way needed.
When I was there last, taking photos for a couple who later became good friends, I found the Brookside Farms to be filled with charm and convenience. The perfect confluence of beauty and practicality. There was no where on the property to take a bad photo – the farm did most of the work for me. And when the evening finally came, and the sun began to set behind the hills the photos just kept getting better and better. Brookside Farms isn’t just limited to wedding day photography either. Engagement photos and Bridal Portraits can be taken there as well.
Benjamin Lehman is a Commercial Wedding Photographer from Canton, Ohio.
People love to shoot at sunrise and sunset, and why not? It’s a beautiful time of the day where the sun is doing all of the hard work for you. That low horizon light is flattering in almost all cases and will often remove the need for external flashes completely.
There are times, however, when you can’t escape the mid-day sun, and that harsh, overhead light, can be anything but flattering to your subjects. This was the case when I was recently asked to take a series of portraits for the Akron/Canton Regional Food Bank. The job was to take photos of the clients and volunteers of the food bank, and because the area food banks often hand food out in the late mornings I was constantly faced with shooting with the noon-day sun in the sky. In cases such as this, it’s strongly recommended that you use some sort of a fill light, and if you do it right your photo will be beautifully exposed with your background and subjects left looking amazing.
The way I approach this problem is fairly simple. The sun will almost always be at some sort of angle to you, even in the middle of summer at high noon. The trick is to find that small difference in angle and then put your subject’s backs to it. In this way, you are using the sun as sort of a huge, nuclear rim light. You’re also keeping the sun out of their eyes, which helps reduce squinting.
The next trick is exposure. Since your using an external light source to expose your subject correctly, you need to set your camera to expose for the background. Here I like to use the magic -1 to -2 ev trick. Darkening the background in this way will both saturate the colors of the background and make your subjects pop.
All that’s left now is positioning and dialing in your light’s power. This part is where you can get creative, but generally I like to use a fairly large light source (I use an umbrella/octobox similar to this on location with my AlienBee’s 800) with it positioned directly in front of, or just to the side of my subjects. Light power is set to generally equal neutral exposure on the subjects, although more or less power can be used to add drama.
Nothing lasts forever, nothing can wait too long. A lot of the people who grew up around here have memories of this place; this sea-foam-blue whale. Whenever I mention that it’s still there they say, “Really? I would have though it was torn down by now. I really loved that place.” They haven’t been here to see it and now it’s disappearing, distantly, far away from their eyes. I think you have to take the chance to see these things when it’s given to you; no use thinking it’ll be there waiting endlessly for you.
Sometimes it’s fun to go back; To take a picture of a person or place that you’ve snapped in the past. The annual “Light up Downtown” is a good chance for me to do just that. It happens every year around the same, in the same place and it always combines two of my favorite things. Winter and Fireworks!
I love Autumn. I think all photographers do. Part of it is the early evenings that spawn gorgeous sunsets, and of course, let’s not forget those trees that take on an aura of fire as their leaves change color. So it’s always a little bitter-sweet when the fall rains (and snow!) force all the foliage to the ground, leaving the trees to resemble skeletons. Fortunately, most photographers, including myself, also love the snow and ready or not, it’s right around the corner!
I take my cameras everywhere, as I am sure many of you do too. Zoos are no exception. The Akron Zoo is a small-ish zoo, a boutique zoo, you could call it. The animals are mostly separated from the public by large glass panes – perfect for taking photos without a lot of structures getting in your way.