Monthly Archives: April 2010

Link Roundup 04-15-2010

Book Review: Captured by the Light

[tweetmeme]I’m a bit delayed with this book review, but better late than never I suppose! My pal, David Ziser, recently published a great book that shares a lot of his knowledge in the field of wedding photography. This guy is a master at what he does, and the content in the book is quite unique.

Captured by the Light, by David Ziser, is an instructional book focused on wedding photography and effective lighting techniques. But the book is a bit more than that since it covers some general photography techniques, composition, and natural light. David lets out a lot of the tricks and techniques he uses for shooting high-end weddings, and he does so in a way that’s easy to comprehend.

Captured by the Light (ISBN 978-0321646873) can be purchased directly from David Ziser or through Amazon.com. The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Captured by the Light: The Essential Guide to Creating Extraordinary Wedding Photography is a softcover book containing 312 pages of text, photos, and diagrams. It’s a medium sized book with a squarish format measuring in at 9×8.9 inches and .9 inches thick. Much of the book is laid out in a two column format with lots of supporting graphics, making it easy to read and understand.

There are 11 chapters, each with several sections. The book starts off with some basic portrait lighting and tips for using your camera. Then it gets right into a few chapters of intermediate/advanced lighting techniques (all with very little equipment and scattered with lots of neat tricks along the way). The technical stuff wraps up with natural lighting, composition, and other equipment needed for the job. The end of the book focuses on how to actually manage a wedding shoot, from planning to final presentation.

This is not a quick read… it’s also not a slow read. You can definitely get through big chunks of it in one setting, but a lot of the material aims to teach you a technique and it will require some practice and experimentation on your part. The book is a good resource worth hanging on to so that you can refer back to it as needed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Ziser is an internationally renowned portrait and wedding photographer. He’s also a top-notch educator and shares his knowledge via the Digital Pro Talk Blog, the Digital Wakeup Call tour, and as a lecturer for events such as the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), and Imaging USA/Professional Photographers of America. He also provides training classes on DVD and online through Kelby Training, writes for Professional Photographer magazine, and posts his artistic works at the Fine Art Photoblog. And I thought I had too many things going on!

Really though, he’s a great guy and he’s very knowledgeable about what he does. I’ve known David for a few years and he always has such an upbeat personality. His enthusiasm for photography is contagious — so be careful.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Hands-down 100% awesome resource for wedding photographers — especially those just getting into it, though I’m sure still useful for the seasoned pros (just check the Amazon.com reviews).

The wedding photography gig is fairly involved and I would be completely lost to the inner workings without a book like this. For the photographers wanting to do weddings, and for those who have done a few already, this book is an essential item to have. I would even say that it’s quite useful for photographers in the field of portraits because there is a lot of lighting and posing information throughout.

Again, Captured by the Light (ISBN 978-0321646873) can be purchased directly from David Ziser or through Amazon.com.

Link Roundup 04-12-2010

Learn Your Camera With the Flip of a Dial

Get off the Green Box (aka AUTO): These are where you should be.
Creative Commons License photo credit: MoHotta18

This quick little tip is aimed mostly at the dSLR users out there who are still learning the ropes. I know how easy it can be to leave the camera in an “auto mode” so you don’t have to worry about all that technical crap. But the non-auto stuff really isn’t that bad, and it opens up a world of possibilities for you.

[tweetmeme]So this little exercise might be somewhat disappointing on your first go, but it should get you rolling in the right direction. You can do this in a single outing or split it up over multiple days — whatever works for you. And if you don’t feel enlightened after your first try, do it again. Alright, here’s the technique:

  1. SHOOT IN AUTO MODE
    If this is what you’re used to doing, just go ahead and get warmed up. Don’t think about that comfort zone you’re about to step out of, just shoot some photos.
  2. SWITCH TO APERTURE PRIORITY
    When you move to aperture priority mode, you control the f-number and everything else is automated. So now you need to start thinking about depth of field. Look for photo opportunities where you might want to blur the background or have everything in focus. Lower f-numbers equate to lower depth of field and higher f-numbers equate to greater depth of field. Pay attention to your foreground and background subjects, and experiment with different f-numbers on the same shot to see the results. You’ll also need to pay attention to your auto shutter speed chosen by the camera — low f-numbers on a sunny day might max out your shutter speed, and high f-numbers on a cloudy day might result in long exposures.
  3. SWITCH TO SHUTTER PRIORITY
    When you move to shutter priority mode, you control the shutter speed and everything else is automated. Now you need to think about motion blur. Look for opportunities where you might want to blur a fast moving object or freeze everything in the frame. Lower shutter speeds equate to more motion blur and higher shutter speeds equate to freezing action. Pay attention to moving objects, and experiment with panning your camera as you take a shot. You’ll also need to pay attention to your auto aperture chosen by the camera — slow shutter speeds on a sunny day might max out your aperture, while fast shutter speeds on a cloudy day might pin your aperture wide open.
  4. SWITCH TO MANUAL
    If you have a handle on the aperture and shutter priority modes, try switching over to full manual controls. The only difference is that you determine both aperture and shutter speed at the same time (and it’s not as hard as it first seems). Modern dSLR cameras have built-in light meters that tell you if your exposure is correct when shooting manual. That little scale in the viewfinder… that’s your light meter. Move the shutter speed and f-number around and you should see an indicator move across that scale at some point. If your exposure is correct, you should be somewhere around the center of that scale. As you experiment with the manual controls, you’ll probably notice that you prefer to leave the aperture or shutter in a steady place while modifying the other. This will tell you which priority mode you lean toward.
  5. Again, if you’ve never shot the priority modes or the manual mode before, this might be brutal on the first round. You’ll mess up a bunch of shots, you’ll miss shots entirely, and you’ll probably be pissed off. Stick with it though!

    The best way to learn the semi-manual and fully-manual controls is via practice. You can read about this stuff all day long, but that will only take you so far. So get out there and learn your camera!

    Any of you experienced folks have tips for those experimenting with the mode dial? Things to watch out for? Things to try?

Film is Better than Digital?!

After I posted my Digital is Better than Film post last week, I expected some amount of rebuttal… but this is outrageous! Those goobers over at FeelingNegative.com had the nerve to mock me by posting a Film is Better than Digital article.

At any rate, I’m only posting the link here because I’m trying to be the bigger person in this situation. Feel free to go read it (I haven’t done so myself), but I’m assuming that it’s a load of crap and easily disputed.

Film is Better than Digital: 5 Situations

If anybody needs me, I’ll be outside burning some film and old cameras out of spite.

Link Roundup 04-10-2010

Link Roundup 04-03-2010

Digital is Better than Film: 5 Situations

[tweetmeme]I hate love film… I really do. But there are occasions when I opt for my digital camera over my film cameras (shh… don’t tell them I said that).

I know, most of you might be thinking “digital is always better than film”. And certainly, the word “better” is open to interpretation. But my point here is that digital photography has certain advantages over film photography for specific situations. I plan to post a follow-up article that explores the situations when film is better than digital (and I might post it on my film photography blog, naturally).

[UPDATE 4-12-2010] I posted a Film is Better than Digital article on my film blog.

So here are 5 situations when digital is usually better than film.

WHEN YOU NEED TO SHOOT A LOT OF PHOTOS

And when I say “need”, I don’t mean shooting a thousand photos on your stroll down the road. I’m talking about situations that require you to photograph hundreds or thousands of photos for some type of event or job.

2010 Parker 425 Car #1532

I can think of several such events that I recently shot with my digital: The Parker 425 race, the Green Man T-Shirt event, the Long Beach Grand Prix, and I’m sure there are others I’ve done. The point is: these types of events (whether you’re shooting as a professional or as a hobbyist) will require that you take many hundreds of photos. Others that come to mind are weddings, concerts, sporting events, product shoots, fashion shows, races, and many more.

It’s not to say that these situations can’t be shot with film, but it becomes very tedious and expensive with ultimately fewer results (unless you’re downright awesome).

WHEN LIGHTING CONDITIONS CHANGE RAPIDLY

One of the major inconveniences of film is the fact that you can’t change your film sensitivity on the fly — you either have to finish the roll or wind it back up and write down where you left off. Digital cameras overcome this inconvenience by allowing you to change the ISO setting at any given time.

We Have Liftoff Moray Eels

One such situation that comes to mind is at a theme park or zoo. One minute you’re outside in the sun, then you’re inside a dark aquarium, then you’re back outside, then you’re back inside, etc. Pain in the butt if you’re shooting film. And again, things like weddings and concerts might have rapidly changing lighting conditions that will require a quick ISO change.

WHEN TRAVELING FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME

At just a “few” shots per roll of film, you could really accumulate a collection of spent film on a long trip. This poses two problems: the cost of the film and developing, and the space needed to lug it around. Digital photos, on the other hand, don’t take up much space — especially if you’re packing a laptop or other mass storage device.

My baby stash. 1,629 shots.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Hillary Stein

Again, not saying that you can’t (or shouldn’t) shoot film on a lengthy vacation, but I wouldn’t leave the digital behind. When traveling, I bring both film and digital cameras, but I always pack way too much film. That’s the other downside to film — you bring more than you need, “just in case”.

WHEN YOU NEED A QUICK TURNAROUND

Not all paid shoots will require a ton of photos, but some will require a quick delivery of images. In this case, dealing with the film might be more work than it’s worth.

Even for personal stuff, sometimes you just need a quick shot of something that you can toss on the web. This is true for things such as blogs, eBay or Craigslist postings, quick family/friend emails, and other such situations. Obviously, digital rules in this area.

If you want to send a film photo through the interwebs, you have to shoot the entire roll, develop it, let it dry, chop it up, scan it, process it, and finally output it for the web. Digital… shoot, download, process, downsize, done. Hell, you could even shoot it on your cell phone and upload it straight to Flickr or Facebook. At any rate, film just takes a bit longer (and more money) to process and digitize.

WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO SPEND THE MONEY

There is certainly an ongoing cost associated with shooting film, and that’s not always a bad thing when you can pick up a camera for less than $50. But not every situation you encounter will justify that film & developing cost.

I shoot a lot of film, even for personal stuff and family get-togethers. But sometimes I just don’t see the benefit of going analog. If you know you’re going to be taking a lot of personal shots that you’ll never have time or money to develop and/or print, just take the digital camera. Or maybe you’ve been shooting a lot of film and falling behind on developing and scanning — shooting digital for a while can be a nice break and allow you to catch up.

WHAT DID I MISS?

Besides the default “digital is always better than film” answer — that doesn’t count (and I’ll prove it wrong with a follow-up post).

Sponsors for March 2010

Another “thank you” to the sponsors for the month of March. These folks provide the funds to keep the site running, and they provide services and products that are useful to photographers. So here’s the line-up this month:

Online Photography Courses

Proud Photography

Proud Photography hosts an online photography school, currently with two offered courses: Interactive Online Photography Course and The Expert Wedding Photographer. You can also read my brief review of Proud Photography here.

Epic Edits also pulls in some residual from Google Adsense, Amazon affiliates, and various other affiliate programs. Those are helpful to fill in the empty spaces and I appreciate it when any of you pitch in through those avenues.

PhotoDump 04-05-2010

More great stuff from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! This selection of photos is from those entered in the pool between 03/22/2010 and 04/05/2010. The selection is a bit skimpy this week… but that’s my fault, not the fault of you guys posting photos. I’m just in a funk tonight; probably too much time spent in the darkroom earlier today.

365/86 Floating banana by aychseaDesert Evening by ahmer_inamHoffmaestro & Chraa by bildterapiharnassing the wind by dldailey32Birthday girl by jrodgersartCome Along, Follow Me by Devansh <Thank You Adobe, for Lightroom>winter desert II by tmizzerIn the Air by Android9Day 199 - D69 by joel8xLooks Like Spring, Feels Like Winter by JonathanRobsonPhotography.comReflect by ashlyncharlieCompany of Thieves @ Lincoln Hall by Tasha {Redwall Photo :: Music}