Saturday, July 21, 2012

How to photograph an iDevice

I admit it; I'm a gear head.  I love my photography equipment, or course, but I'm also rather fond of my smart phone, my personal computer, and the other sundry electronic gizmos and gadgets scattered throughout my house.  I don't think I'm alone in this regard.  Do a search in Google images or Flickr on the term "iPhone" or "Nexus" and you'll find thousands and thousands of images taken by photographers of every level of expertise.   Some of these images are quite remarkable and could easily stand in for the press photos distributed by Apple or Samsung.  Others are…well...somewhat less remarkable.  A particular problem with many of these photos arises from poorly balanced exposure; either the subject's screen appears dim and washed out or the screen is bright but everything else in the photo is too dark. 

In this post I'll discuss an approach to lighting and photographing gadgets with backlit displays using a DSLR (or any camera with manual shutter/aperture controls), a tripod and a flash.   While the focus of this post is somewhat specialized, it also serves to illustrate a much broader and incredibly useful photographic technique -- balancing exposure from flash and continuous light sources.  I'll return to this broader issue many times in future posts.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Using focal length to control background

I think that most photographers choose the focal length they shoot at primarily based on the desired size of the subject in the frame. Want to get a head shot from far away, use a long lens. Want a full body shot in a confined space, better have a wide-angle lens handy. Today, I'd like to talk about another criteria to consider in choosing your focal length: subject isolation.

In portraiture we usually want the subject to stand out against the background. Experienced portrait photographers don't just look at the subject, they look at the background as well. They try to compose their images so that their backgrounds aren't that too cluttered or colorful or so interesting that they draw the viewer's attention away from the subject. They also tend to shoot at wider apertures to minimize depth-of-field, which allows them to blur the background while keeping the subject in sharp focus. Longer focal length lenses can help on both counts. To explain why, we'll need to introduce a bit of geometry.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lighting glass against a dark background

To make this kind of shot work, you don't need an expensive camera or lots of lighting equipment.  What you do need is plenty of space, many black and white reflectors (I use poster board) along with convenient ways to position them, and a fair bit of patience.  A long lens also helps, but isn't essential.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Welcome to the 8,030,249th photography blog

A Google search of the term "photography blog" yields 8 million hits.  With so many photography blogs out there, it's fair to ask, "why would I choose to start another?"  First, I've learned a great deal about photography from the web, and I think it's time to "pay it forward."  I hope that this blog will provide the kind of information that technically-minded, amateur photographers will find useful and interesting.  Of course, my motives for starting this blog aren't entirely altruistic.  It gives me an opportunity to showcase my work, which is a reward in itself.  And I've found that the very best way to learn a subject is to try to clearly explain it to others.  So I hope that the process of creating this blog will help me to improve my own photography.