Tips for Hiring a Photographer

When I get approached by potential clients they always have a few questions for me to answer to make sure I am right for the project they have in mind. A lot of the questions are basic and some are specific to me and my style of photography. So I decided to write up this little post that may help you when looking to hire a professional photographer. Read more

How I Bill for Photography

If you are a photographer trying to make a living with your craft you know what it’s like calculating up costs and comparing it to your income. It really is challenging to find the right balance in your pricing. If you try to over charge and make a big profit, you turn a lot of potential clients away. Under charging makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing and likely will never see the great job opportunity come your way. Under charging for your photography also means you get to the end of the year and haven’t made any money after countless hours of shooting and processing photos using fairly expensive equipment.

I say all of this from experience. I regretfully admit that I have under charged for photography work many times. It’s hard not to do this when you keep thinking to yourself that “if I can just get this next job I’ll have great portfolio pieces and then I’ll get tons of work”. I still feel this way. Sometimes I really want a certain photo shoot and stress over quoting too high or low. I don’t want to lose the opportunity but I also don’t want to lose money.

I’ve found that I’m comfortable quoting a simple hourly rate for my photography sessions. I estimate the amount of time needed for setup, equipment management, communication management, hired talent and post processing of the images, and come up with a $ per hour of shooting estimate.

This formula allows me to offer my clients an easy to understand estimate, and also to let them know that there are no add-on costs involved based on the information provided.

Best Photo Editing Software

I see a lot of questions and debating over what is the best software for editing photos. There are a few options that you can choose from. Many photographers choose to combine photo editing applications to edit and manage their images.

There are three photo editing programs that I can recommend, and you will find most photographers relying upon.

  1. Adobe Photoshop
  2. Adobe Lightroom
  3. Aperture

There are others but I’m going to focus on these three because all three are geared towards giving photographers the tools they need to manage and edit their photos regardless of workload. Most professional photographers use at least one of the three and many, like myself, choose to combine. Read more

Keeping Your Camera Clean

If you spend enough time in photography you will eventually run into problems with your camera, lenses or equipment. As with all machinery we use, our photography gear is no exception to needing proper care, cleaning and an occasional tuneup. Read more

Will the Nikon D4 Meet Expectations?

will nikon d4 meet expectations

Photo from Nikon

I love new technology as much as anyone, so obviously I have been super excited to see what (and when) Nikon was going to bring to the ever advancing table of digital photography. We’ve been hearing talk of a new professional level Nikon D4, and possibly a Nikon D800.

Now that the announcements have been made, test models been reviewed, and promotional videos been shared, excitement has warn off a bit. But I’m still intrigued because I haven’t gotten to play with a Nikon D4 yet, and it looks like the D800 has been pushed back due to production effected by the flooding in Taiwan.

I’ve got to say this, my jaw dropped and eyes opened wide when I began reading the official specs offered by the D4. We knew it would offer a full frame (FX) sensor, and all hoped for advancement in 1080p HD video capabilities and even better low-light shooting options with reduced noise.

These all came to be true. What we have been presented with is a monster of a camera.

1080p Full HD Video

The multi-area 1080p HD video feature seems to be just what Nikon buffs have been waiting for. The Nikon D4 shoots video with three different image area options for you to choose. You can use your FX lens for wide-angle shots with limited cropping, your DX lens that offers extended focal length, or a telephoto lens gives you added zoom/crop and still delivers 1080p Full HD video quality. The D4 is also ready for external microphone plugin to capture clear sound.

16.2 Megapixel FX-format Sensor

Nikon engineered the D4 to deliver higher image quality and improved low-light conditions. The D4 sports readout speeds of up to 11 still frames per second. The new image sensor is designed so that each pixel captures the maximum amount of light data to deliver exceptional image quality and detail, even under extreme lighting conditions.

Advanced ISO Sensitivities

The Nikon D4 has taken ISO to the extreme. Now setting ISO 100 as the standard, you have the options to shoot at Equivalent ISO 50, all the way up to Equivalent 204,800 (this isn’t a typo) Hi/Lo settings. I must say I really want to see an image shot at Hi 4, which is equivalent to ISO 204,800.

My Reactions

No surprise on the 1080p Full HD Video. Nikon had to make a move in this field as they seem to have lost many Nikon loyal photographers over the past couple of years due to the lack of an optimal quality professional grade D-SLR with video capabilities.

I was expecting a higher megapixel count. Canon has been shipping FX-format cameras at 24+ megapixels for some time now. I expected the D4 to offer at least 24 megapixels. But if the quality per pixel is as fantastic as they describe I’ll be happy with 16.2 megapixels.

I was expecting improved low-light performance, but wasn’t expecting to see the equivalent to ISO 204,800! As mentioned before, I really want to see a full resolution image shot at this extreme setting.

The biggest let down in my opinion is the price point. The Nikon D4 has a suggested retail price of $5,999.00. There are a lot of advancements being made, I’ll give them that, but this price is really high. A $6000 price tag tremendously limits the customer base. Computers are getting cheaper as technology advances, but sadly, it seams that imaging products are creeping in the opposite direction.

Nikon Gear Available on Amazon

Intro to Portrait Lighting Techniques

portrait lighting in photography

Window Light :: © Bahman Farzad

Most experienced photographers will agree that one of the most challenging things you will face is setting up for a perfectly lit portrait session. Lighting for portrait photography is extremely difficult, much more so than many people will understand until they have done it for themselves.

There are many options for portrait lighting. All photographers have their own style of photography, and most of them have certain techniques they rely on when lighting and shooting their portrait assignments. Some photographers specialize in studio lighting, and some choose to rely on natural lighting with a few reflectors to help fill the gaps.

No matter what your comfort level is, it is very important that you as a photographer experiment with portrait lighting so that you can be prepared when the assignment comes up.

The Basics of Portrait Lighting

Beautiful portrait lighting is accomplished with one goal in mind: take a photograph that captures the emotion in your model or models. It’s that simple. When you set up for the shoot, you know what kind of emotion you want to convey in each photograph. Set up the lighting with that in mind.

dramatic portrait lighting

Yasmin :: © fingertrouble

Dramatic Portrait Lighting

Some times the portrait requires really dramatic lighting. In these instances you can experiment with a single studio light, a constant hot light or a strobe, with a dramatic angle on the model. The single light source creates a strong, dramatic direction of light, and by using the reflectors you can reflect some of that light back to the opposite side to help fill the shadows just a bit so that you do not have a complete loss of detail.

Traditional Portrait Lighting

Often times a photographer is asked to produce the traditional studio portrait. This one, in my opinion, is the most challenging. The traditional three-light portrait requires an understanding of the light and camera setup that only comes with experience.

Traditional three light portrait shoots call for just that, three lights which are usually strobes. Most of the time each light is set to varying strengths and distance from the model. The main light is to be placed to one side of the subject and usually higher than head level to direct the light downward and across the subject. This light produces the shadows and contours of the subject.

The secondary light is usually placed to the opposite side of the subject, meant to fill in some of the shadows to create a less dramatic feel to the photograph. This helps reduce sharp shading in the face, which can sometimes make the subject’s eyes look too deep, or their nose look to big. The secondary light is very often placed slightly lower than head level, directing light upward, and is set with less strength and usually a bit further away from the model.

The third light is used differently by different photographers. Many photographers use the third light to directly light the backdrop. Directing this light on the backdrop can really ad a lot to the photograph by controlling the depth of the photo, and the contrast to the model. A direct light on the backdrop will result in a noticeable gradient effect from the center point of where the light is directed to the outer portions of the backdrop where the light is fading out. This gives the photograph a natural vignette look, directing the viewer’s eye towards the middle of the image.

Additionally, most photographers will use reflectors where needed to fill in the shadows that need a little extra help. Reflectors are a staple in a photographer’s world, and with a little practice you can learn to make many of your photographs much better by using a simple white, or gold panel to reflect light back towards the shadows of your model.

Natural Lighting Portrait

The naturally lit portrait is my favorite for a few reasons. One being that you never know what you are going to get until the time comes. Relying on natural light for your portraits will always produce different results, but with a little experience you will learn how to use what you have available to produce the best portrait possible.

Naturally lit portraits can be shot indoors or outdoors, utilizing available sunlight. You will find many beautiful portraits done near a window, utilizing only the light allowed through the window from outside. These portraits can be very interesting and dramatic, often times high contrast and very defined contours and shading. Again, reflector panels can be used to help control the shadows.

Things to remember:

Reflectors are flat panels used to bounce light back towards the subject. These panels are usually white, gold or blue. White produces a neutral light color, gold produces a warm color, and blue produces a cool color. Most portraits utilize a neutral or warm color approach.

Constant lighting, usually known as “hot lights”, are tungsten light sets that supply a constant light sources. These lights are much easier to control, but are very hot and bright, and can be uncomfortable for a model to be in place for too long. The model will often times begin to sweat or squint, which can effect the outcome of the photo.

Strobe lighting is the most common studio lighting setup that we have all seen that produces a number of lights flashing, triggered by a remote controlled by the camera. Strobe lighting is more difficult to perfect and requires a little training and a lot of experimentation to perfect. Because of the reliability and natural color that strobe lighting produces, most professional photographers prefer strobe lighting in the studio.

7 Photos of Beautiful Natural Lighting

Natural lighting in nature photography makes for the most beautiful images. When the sun is just right, you can find the perfect angle for any shot using the natural light. Many of these images will produce stunning lighting effects after the camera captures the photo.

Beautiful Natural Lighting Photography

Natural lighting is challenging because you as a photographer have to forego the fill light that you may be used to, and focus only on the available light. You will find many great shots that are backlit by the sun, side lit causing drastic horizontal shadows. Shooting your subject directly facing the light source often produces lens flares and really beautiful glares or ray effects in the photograph.

These techniques take some practice but it’s a lot of fun, and offers many options for experimentation. Here are seven photos of natural subject matter that are beautifully shot with only natural lighting.

beautiful natural sunlight on flowers

zero :: by Kym Ellis

beautiful natural lighting on leaves

Early Evening Light :: by ginnerobot

nice natural lighting on grass

Grass :: by Standard Deluxe

beautiful natural lighting on purple flower

Natures Flood Light :: by the__edge

beautiful sunlight beams through trees

Shadow Dance :: by Lightchaser

Beautiful lighting through trees

Beautiful Light :: by JamesBloomfield

natural sunlight on flowers

The Light is so nice! :: by Morphicx

Night Photography Tips

nigh photograph of Sarasota Bay bridge

Night Photography 5 Second Exposure of Sarasota Bay

Night photography can produce some really fantastic images. But at the same time can be very challenging to a photographer without a lot of experience. Here I wanted to discuss a few tips that can make your night photography exploration a little more successful.

What you will need for Night Photography:

  1. Camera with manual shooting mode
  2. Tripod or sturdy surface to support the camera
  3. Remote or wired shutter release (optional but not required)

Technical Knowledge Required for Night Photography:

  • Working knowledge of manual shooting modes
  • Understanding of camera aperture (f-stop)
  • Understanding of shutter speed (exposure time)
  • Understanding of in-camera light metering

Getting Started

To get started you need to pre-determine the shot you want to take and figure out how much motion is in the shot. I point this out because night photography requires a longer exposure, which results in blurs in the image from subject movement and/or camera movement. Read more

Photography on a Budget

Photography can be a very expensive hobby, and an even more expensive profession. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional, you are a photographer. The only difference is how much you paid for your photo gear, and how much time you spend shooting/processing your work.

I know many professional photographers that don’t spend nearly as much time shooting as hobby photographers. It’s been a rough few years in the world of professional photography, and it’s a highly competitive field. Everyone is fighting for a little exposure to potential clients.

But if you are a photographer by hobby, you don’t have to worry about the dollar signs involved until you run into a new piece of equipment that you just can’t live without. It’s a lot of fun ordering a new lens, a few new lens filters, or an upgraded camera body. Read more

National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

National Geographic recently announced the winners of the 2011 National Geographic Photography Contest open to photographers from around the world.

National Geographic Photo Contest 2011 - Nature Winners

National Geographic Photo Contest 2011 - Winners in Nature Category

The winning photos are absolutely stunning. Congratulations to the winning photographers in the Nature Category: Shikhei Goh, Kent Shiraishi, Angel Fitor, Marius Coetzee, Stefano Pesarelli and Dafna Ben Nun!