Event and Portrait Photography
4 Hutcheson Dr, Kingston, ON K7L 4V3 613.539.5876
Blog entries — July thru December 2013
Friday, 14 June 2013 — Event Coverage Challenges
I've had a long and fun history working with Col Coady (Retired) through most of the Maritime Fest events over a decade, which morphed last year into a Maritime Lobster Do! held on board the Island Star in the St Lawrence River. The challenges for such an event are many: shooting people during a meal without getting them in the act of actually eating, starting shooting at 5 p.m. in harsh daylight in a glass-topped boat and ending around 9 in the dark, and very tight quarters with lots of guests and wait staff moving about.
The first photo below shows a typical scene with happy people, pulled out just a bit to show a bit of the environment they're in. The second shot manages to show most of the folks at a table, along with the view of the moment. Had to pop just a bit of flash onto the people in the foreground to more or less equalize with the scenery outside.
1 - 5
As it started getting darker, I had to push the ISO upward considerably and pop a bit of flash to try to illuminate the foreground without completely obscuring the background. As much as possible, I try to include either some of the inside of the venue in the shot to place the people at the event, or work in a bit of the view outside. In the final shot, taken just about 9 p.m. as we were returning to the dock, I even managed to get a decent lighting balance that included the city skyline.
A lot of fun every year, and the bonus that I even get to enjoy a lobster meal!
Saturday, 11 May 2013 — On Event Coverage
I wrote about setting the camera for the ambient light level and letting the flash pop the main subject back on 6 Jan, and used this technique at an event written about on 24 Feb. Last weekend I shot the Mr Leatherman Kingston contest in a very dimly lit comedy club for the second time, and I like to think the results were considerably better using ambient light for more fill.
Of the two photos below, the first was taken at the 2012 event using a small softbox over the speedlight. ISO 800, using a 1/60 exposure at f5.6, blasting the light at the subject with moderate diffusion from the softbox. A decent image, but too high in contrast and washing out the rich purple background of the venue.
The second photo, taken this year, used a speedlight angled upwards at 45 degrees with a small white bounce card (built-in on the SB-900). Running a few test shots without the flash, I found that ISO 3200 gave me enough speed to work with the ambient light. The vibration reduction on the lens let me do handheld shots at 1/8 without too much shake visible, and f10 helped ensure a better depth of field to keep things in focus. With the angled speedlight, much of the light bounced off the ceiling to add some light to the scene overall, and the bounce card brought back some light on the main subjects.
I like to think this technique resulted in much improved shots. Now the purple walls of the venue are rich and colourful, the people a bit warmer and less washed-out, and the overall interest of the photos is increased. The higher ISO introduced a bit more noise, but the D800 kept it to a minimum and I tuned much of it out with Lightroom. For all intents and purposes, these pics are only used as snapshots for sharing on Facebook, so tack sharp and high quality weren't really an issue.
Guess I'm going to keep working the ambient light thing!
Sunday, 27 April 2013 — Photoshop World Wrap-up
Just back from my fourth Photoshop World, in Orlando again this year, and happy to report that even after four years I'm still getting lots of new ideas and inspiration from the conference. This year I took a colleague along with me for his first PSW, and hope to see him trying new things shortly.
I made every seminar I planned to attend but one. After being up late at Midnight Madness on Thursday, I just couldn't stay awake for the very last seminar on Friday and had to take a pass. Good thing I sat through Corey Barker's 3D seminar last year!
Janine Warner put together a fascinating seminar on building social media profiles; expect to see a new look to my Facebook page once I can sit down and put it to practice. I took in two lectures about portrait lighting with Erik Valind to give me something new to think about when working with my models, and just thoroughly enjoyed his sense of humour while presenting.
In particular, I sat in on Dave Black talking about lightpainting, with both an impressive slideshow to discuss technique and a live model shoot on stage featuring Captain Jack Sparrow, of all people! This is incredible stuff, and watching this art created live was absolutely captivating. In fact, the seminar ran almost 25 minutes long and almost no one got up to leave before he was done.
The NAPP staff always put on a great show, starting with the keynote on Wednesday morning. This year's theme was Top Gun, with a great spoof of the movie. Every year I walk out of the conference and immediately renew my membership as this money is always well-spent.
Saturday, 6 April 2013 — The Photographer's Bookshelf
I recently had occasion to loiter in the book racks at Chapters and found a wonderful book called Annie Liebovitz at Work, by Annie Liebovitz. I first became aware of her work in the late 1980s while living in Germany, when I came across a large coffee table book which featured many of her portraits of celebrities.
She started out photographing bands for Rolling Stone back in the early 1970s, working with only the barest of equipment and technology, but produced a stunningly large body of work that endures.
There's not much for technical detail here, as the book servers mostly as a story-telling device of her experiences, but it is great inspiration for any photog and made me laugh more than once. In particular, she even mentions how and why few people in her photographs are smiling, something I'd noticed in passing more than once but never sought to put an answer to.
I'll be going back through this book in bits and pieces for years to come, I'm certain.
Saturday, 30 March 2013 — The Photographer's Bookshelf
Another Peachpit Press deal, I picked up The Art of Boudoir Photography — How to Create Stunning Photographs of Women, by Christa Meola. It should be obvious that I spend most of my time shooting men and, frankly, have been shooting women much the same way. Thus it was obvious that I should look into what I've been doing wrong.
This author has meticulously put together a wonderful guide to all things important in the artful capture of the female form. She guides the reader through all aspects of the project, from talking to the models before the shoot, to posing and placement strategies during the shoot, to whether retouching is required and, if so, how to go about it after the shoot.
I rushed through this book once and am going back through it again paying closer attention to detail, as I'm working with one of my previous female models to set up another shoot soon and hope to use some of these techniques. In particular, Meola talks of capturing a variety of looks and poses from any one setup to increase the number of must-have shots from the shoot. I can use this with both men and women, or groups for the matter, and will be attempting this on all future shoots. Otherwise, I'm preparing notes to try several things with my next female shoot and hope to display the results here when ready.
Sunday, 10 March 2013 — The Photographer's Bookshelf
Peachpit Press puts out a deal of the week for epubs and occasionally I just can't resist. I recently bought Secrets of Great Portrait Photography — Photographs of the Famous and Infamous, by Brian Smith. He's done some stunning work with celebrities, athletes and executives, and has packed this book with tips for working with busy people.
It's written in a very friendly style, as if he were sitting down with the reader over a beer and comparing stories. In fact, you actually have to go looking to find the nuggets of advice within the many tales from the shoot. His tip about "never, ever, waste a great location" is so neatly tucked into a story about Diego Luna that it's easily missed if one is not paying attention.
The author is not one for detailed shooting notes or recipes for lighting. He casually mentions lighting modifiers used in the shoot, or slips in a comment about focal length. This book is more to motivate and inspire than provide detailed direction, and in that aspect it succeeds nicely. It was a great read and, since it's now on my iPad, I'm sure I'll page through it again on upcoming flights.
Sunday, 24 February 2013 — On Event Coverage
Back on 6 Jan, I wrote about setting the camera for the ambient light level and letting the flash pop the main subject. Well, I got to use that for two events recently with quite different results.
I first gave this a try at a firefighter's banquet, an event I've shot before. The dinner was held in a municipal hall with these huge honking industrial lamps overhead blasting out light that left everything looking green. These things made stadium lighting look inadequate! These lamps were spread out within the facility, giving intense hot spots in some areas surrounded by deep shadows.
It was also a crowded hall with little room remaining for the presentations, and a dreary background. Not good for the photog.
I had brought along a wide variety of speedlights along with two 500WS monolights, but getting them into a position to work would have blocked sightlines for the audience and created a trip hazard, so I stuck with one speedlight on the camera with a small Ezybox Hotshoe softbox and tried to blast out as many photons as possible. The results were mixed but (just!) acceptable [see first image below]. I'll have to work out something better for the next time I shoot that venue.
Last night, though, I shot a whisky festival in a museum with considerably better results [see remaining three images above]. In each of the shots you can see some of the venue surrounding the subjects of the photos, giving the photo more context and depth.
I shot most of the evening using a 24-85mm zoom on my D800, the ISO set to a constant 800, and my SB900 on top inside the Ezybox Hotshoe softbox. I ran some test shots early and found that 1/60 at f4.5 gave me a well-lit background with a reasonable depth of field for hand-held shooting. While I would have liked going to f8 to get more in focus, that would have meant pushing the flash harder, with reduced recycle time and running back to the curator's office for another flash, potentially missing out on an action shot, so I ran with it. I set the flash output power to manual, jigging it up or down throughout the night as needed.
Best of all, the museum is predominantly lit by incandescent lighting, giving me a nice warm background. All my speedlight needed to do was liven up the foreground and give me some interesting shots.
Saturday, 12 January 2013 — The Photographer's Bookshelf
While I've picked up quite a bit from the various seminars and conventions I've attended (just booked in for my fourth Photoshop World in Orlando this April!!), I really learned photography the old-fashioned way... reading books and a lot of trial and error. At the Print Canada trade show in November, I picked up a new book called Lighting for Digital Photography — From Snapshots to Great Shots, by Syl Arena (Peachpit Press) as I'm trying to improve my flash photography of late.
After reading the whole book once, and much of it a second time, I'm left wondering just why this book wasn't written much earlier! I've read a lot of books on flash photography over the past couple of years while moving from studio monolights to a wireless hotshoe flash system, but this author has produced the best such book I've yet seen. He presents technical information in an easy-to-understand manner, and shows lots of examples of the variety of lighting situations and solutions he addresses in the book.
Best of all, I've come away from this book with a much better appreciation for ambient light in a flash shoot. His advice to set the camera for the desired level of ambient light before adding the flash is both amazingly simple and blindingly brilliant. I've got an event shoot next weekend where I'm hoping to put it to practice. Stay tuned!
Sunday, 6 January 2013 — Models for Nothing and Your Pics for Free!
With this newly revised website comes an opportunity to add new content, so I've decided to add a blog where I can write a little bit about something important, or even go on at length about nothing at all every now and then.
To start, I'd like to address the question I'm actually asked the most: "How can I get you to take my photos for free?" Leaving aside the most obvious answers, I do occasionally perform portfolio shoots where I try out new techniques in posing or lighting, new equipment, or just want to get some practice after a dry spell.
How this works is that the model will sit for me for free, and I will shoot the photos for free. The model will receive a set of high- and low-resolution images from the shoot, with the best benefitting from a little retouching. In return, I get a signed release from the model enabling me to use those images for self-promotion (such as this Website) and contests. I will never sell those images, nor do I go out of my way to display explicit images in a public forum.
If you believe you're model material and would like to be considered for a portfolio shoot, consider contacting me by phone or e-mail. My contact information is on every page.
All images © Donald MacPherson, all rights reserved. Images may not be reproduced for any purpose without express written permission.
Some regions of these images may have been altered or obscured for public viewing.