Everything you ever wanted to know about photography, but were afraid to ask.

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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Fashion Brand H & M use Computer Generated Models in Latest Lines

Well I am all for a bit of photo editing, the odd blemish removal, exposure correction but clothing brand H&M have taken this to a whole new level.

Now let me start of first by saying I love H&M, I love the clothing styles and the photography I find very inspirational, but their latest vision has just gone way to far.

So what have they done

H&M have decided to use computer generated models in their latest campaign, they have taken a head shot of different models and added this to the body which has been completely built using computer software.

I think this is taking the whole use of computers in photography a step too far, I mean there are lots of wonderful models working out there, there are great make up artists and stylists, not to mention photographers. So why go in a direction that is not normal.

I find the normal shots of the H&M lines to be great and very natural, and normally taken on location with superb lighting and composition, but to decided to use fakery in your campaign is a step too far.

So my words to H&M are your clothes are wondeful and your ranges are too good to go and wreck it all by trying to save money and create artificial imagery.

If you check out the H&M site and look in the Swimwear section you can see the use of these images.



Final Thought

So my final word to H&M is to use real people for your campaign, this goes for the models, make up artists, photographers and the editing team. Remember "People buy from People" not computers.

Monday, 28 November 2011

To Post Edit or Not To Post Edit That is the Question?

Well over the years the debate of whether you should post edit your shots or leave them as they come out of the camera, has been one that provokes a bit of a mixed reaction. Some photographers are all for post editing and some photographer are heavily against post editing.

Myself I sit kinda on the fence a bit, I believe that it is possible to get a great shot straight from your camera and it not to need any post editing at all. However I think this mainly applies to certain areas of photography such as landscape photography, as you can take a shot that just works and although you can add something using post editing techniques, landscapes can look best just left alone.

NOW

When it comes to getting and being published and in particular fashion and portfolio work, this is where I think that post editing is almost a must. Put it this way if you are taking shots of a model for their portfolio, you want them to look their best and this although possible to do straight from camera, is best done with some form of post editing, and although most editing I do is minor I feel it adds to the shot, and in my view the best editing is, particularly high fashion, when you dont know and cant tell the shot it edited, and in any publication you buy the shots will have had some form of edit to make them work.

One area that always users post editing is that used by digital retouchers and digital artists, who can take an ordinary shot and make it into something spectacular, and this is where post editing really shows its worth, this can also be recovering old photos to their past glory.

OK so there are some people out there who say that they never edit, and I know that I can take a shot that looks great straight out of the camera, after all thats the art of photography, but as I always shoot in RAW I am required to use post editing to make the shots usable. So anyone who shoots using RAW format will always post edit their shots.

What does Air Brushing Mean?

You may have heard the term "air brushed" used in the press and on TV and have always wondered what it means, well its simple really its the term used when an image has been altered using post production tools such as PhotoShop, so other common terms are photoshopped but in essence they are all the same.

OK now for an example

If you take a look at the shots below, do you think these are straight out of the camera?


Did you guess right, these shots look just fine and you may be thinking, yes these look good so why do you need to post edit. Now look at the shots below.


Now you can clearly see why I think, particularly in fashion photography, post editing is a must. I agree that the best editing is done so that the shots look like they have not been touched, and this is what I hopefully achieved in the finished shots. Oh in case you cant guess the first two are the finished edited versions.

So it is my view that post editing techniques are something that are required in any professional photography, its kinda like the polishing stage. Its not to say that their is anything wrong with the shots before post editing, its just that without this finishing you are not giving the model, makeup artist, stylist and client the best they can get.

Now I admit that I am not a digital retoucher I am a photographer, I just know enough to make my images work, I think that if you want that something extra in your shots such as fantasy, special effects, etc its better to get a professional digital artist / retoucher than to do it yourself. So my photoshopping limits go as far as smartening up my shots and thats it, if I need anything else I use a digital retoucher and you should too. Remember there is a huge difference between simply making minor tweaks to your photos and digital retouching, so dont let anyone tell you anything different.

Bit of an Update

After getting loads of people talking about editing, and after spending a bit of time trawling the web, I thought I would see if I could find a good resource for editing and a basic how to. Thankfully this wonderful web comes up trumps some times and I found a great site by Evan Sharboneau with loads of tips on how to create great photos by editing. Please go and take a look and get a copy of his great E-Book now

Friday, 25 November 2011

Canon 7D Soft Focus and How it Fix It


Ok so you have just bought your nice new Canon 7D, and whilst it works great you are finding that some of the shots you take using the Autofocus (AF) are not quite  in focus, they look soft. So is it the camera or is it you?

First off it’s possible it could be either or both, you or the camera, so I am going to address the latter here, the camera.

Now there are two things to try to fix this issue without the need to send your camera off to the shop for recalibration.

Remove the 2 camera batteries

Open the battery compartment on your camera and take out the main camera battery, now remove the system battery. This battery is the one that is responsible for storing your user setting, dates, etc.

The system battery is located inside the battery compartment on the left, if you hold the camera upside down with the lens facing you and the battery compartment on the top, you will see the system battery holder inside to the left of the main battery compartment.



Now leave both batteries out of the camera for at least 10 minutes, this will allow the camera to completely discharge.

Now reinsert the system battery and the main battery. Hopefully your autofocus problems will be solved.

However if they are not, you may need to use the inbuilt Micro Auto Focus Adjustment functions, now whilst there are lots of different way to make change to the camera Auto Focus system. I am going to concentrate on the one that is fairly straight forward and doesn’t require you to buy anything additional to do the testing and adjustments.

This technique is known as Moire Fringing.
 
Moire Fringing

In order to make changes to the camera Auto Focus system using Moire Fringing there are a few things you need to have or know before your get started.

1.      The Moire Fringing Chart, you can download it here

2.      An available computer and enough room in front of it to be able to mount your camera on a tripod / stable surface and get the entire screen in the frame.

3.      Know where to find the Auto Focus Micro Adjustment settings on your cameras

a.      On the Canon 7D the settings for Auto Focus Micro Adjustment are located in the Fifth option in the third Custom Functions (CIII) Menu (Auto Focus / Drive)

            i.      Press the Menu button on the back of the camera

            ii.      Use the top scroll wheel to scroll to the Custom Functions Menu (the second to last icon on the menu list)

            iii.      Use the Main Scroll wheel on the back of the camera to scroll down to C Fn III then press the set button


               iv.      Use the Main Scroll wheel on the back of the camera to scroll to the fifth option, so number 5 is shown at the top right.

              v.      You should now be in the C.Fn III Autofocus/Drive AF Microadjustment screen


To find out more about Moire Fringing and some other great techniques I recommend you take a look at the video by Jared aka Fro Knows Best

Camera Testing Setup

1.      Download the Moire Fringing chart, if you have not already done so, and load it up on your computer full screen, so it completely fills the monitor or as near as you can get. NOTE you cannot print the Moire Fringing chart for use as it’s the viewing it via your monitor that gives us the effect we need.

2.      Attach a lens to your camera that you wish to test and adjust, we are going to make adjustments to the lenses individually so pick anyone, or just the one you think is focusing a bit soft.

3.      Mount your camera on a tripod or other stable surface in front of your monitor.  The camera ideally has to be a far enough away from your monitor as possible so that when you zoom your camera lens to its furthers zoom, i.e 300mm on a 300mm lens the whole of the Moire Fringing chart can be seem in the view finder. Now in practice this is not really possible, unless you happen to live in a castle or other equally long room. So in reality just make sure your camera is as far as possible from your monitor as you can get it, and then use the furthest zoom possible to fill the view finder with the Moire Fringing chart. Try to avoid fully zooming your lens to its widest point i.e if you have a 28-300mm lens try to get as close to 300mm as you can whilst keeping the chart in the view finder.

4.      Please note you can use which ever mode on your camera you normally use, Full Auto, Full Manual, AV, TV, P but just make sure what ever setting you use you can clearly see the full Moire Fringing chart in the view finder. Unless you are noticing that your photos are soft at a particular F Stop (F8, etc) in that case choose either Full Manual or AV and set the camera to the required aperture you feel is soft. But again make sure you can clearly see the chart in your view finder.

5.      I also recommend using either a centre focus or spot focus for testing, and focus on the centre of the chart.

 Testing

Ok first off the idea behind the Moire Fringing chart is to try to get as many concentric circles in your view finder as you can.

The correctly focused image should look something like the one below



 Ok so lets get started with the testing and adjustments. I am going to list the process of testing and adjustment in order to hopefully make it easier for you to understand and follow.

1.      Set your camera to Manual Focus and focus manually on your monitor with the Moire Fringing chart loaded and your camera at a distance to allow for the complete chart to be visible in the view finder, you are trying to get an image similar to the one above showing the Moire Fringing chart and several concentric circles on it. Now take a photo

2.      Next switch your camera to Auto Focus and set your focus point on the centre of the chart of take a photo.

3.      Now go into the C.FnIII Autofocus / Drive AF Microadjustment menu (as described above) and select the Adjust by lens option (we are selecting this option as not all lenses focus the same and you can repeat the process for each lens you are having problems with), to select the option simply press the set button, then use the big scroll wheel to select the option then press the INFO button. You should now be on the following screen


4.      Make sure that the Marker on the bar is set to 0, then press the set button and then use the menu button to exit the system menus. Now take a photo again making sure you are using Auto Focus and you are focusing on the centre of the chart.

5.      Next go back into the screen, as shown in figure 4, and using the scroll wheel move the marker to +5, then exit the menu and take another photo. Now continue this process and each time you enter the AF Microadjustment menu change the marker in increments of 5,  so start with it +5 then take a photo at  +10, +15 and +20 and each time exit the menu system and take a photo. After this set of shots you should have taken 5 photos, one for each increment starting with 0 then +5, +10, +15, + 20 in order.

6.      Now do the same this time starting at -5 and take a photo at the same increments, -5, -10, -15, -20.

7.      You should now have a total of 10 photos on your camera, one taken using manual focus and 9 taken using Auto Focus and at each increment along the AF Microadjustment scale.

Adjustment

Now you have a set of 10 photos taken on your camera, and you have made adjustments after each shot, you should have a set of shots similar to the ones below. If you took the shots in the order as advised above starting with Manual Focus, then starting with 0 doing the + adjustment then working through the – adjustments your shots will be in the order below.




You now need to do the follow

1.      Load the first shot you took your computer and view it at 100%. (the one your took using manual focus)

2.      Now load the other shots in turn onto your computer and compare each shot to the one first shot you took using manual focus. You are trying to find the shot that matches as close to this one as possible, showing the same amount of concentric circle as the Manual focused shot. The shots you took will be different slightly, and this different is normally very slight but can make all the difference between soft focus and tack sharp shots.

3.      If you look at the sample shot above, click on it to enlarge it, you can see that the there are two shots that are very similar to the manual focused shot and these are shots with adjustments of +5 and -5. You will notice that unlike the other shots taken at other adjustments you can clearly see the concentric circles around the centre of the shot.

4.      Ok so now you have your adjustment setting you need to go back into the camera AF Microadjustment menu (shown below) and set the marker to the number you think is the closest shot to your manually focused shot.


If the adjustment number is 0, this means that your lenses is focusing fine and doesn’t need any Micro adjustment.


Conclusion

If you use more than one lens on your camera simply repeat the steps above for each lens, you can make the same adjustment for all the lenses, but I recommend doing it for each lens, as I found that my Canon kit lens needed no changes at all by my Sigma lens did, also one other word of caution do not take any more shots than the 10 shots your need for testing as this will throw out your order and you won’t know which shot is done at which setting.

One final thought if you find that doing the above does not result in sharper images, you should firstly try to work on your camera holding technique or try tour camera using the timer and a tripod, but if this fails you may need to send your camera off to Canon for recalibration. However thankfully I was able to solve my own soft focus issues using the above technique.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Canon 1DX Now officially launched

I just thought I would post and make you all aware that the Canon 1DX is now officially launched, and as it is a full frame, 18 meg professional DSLR its going to be a great addition to any photographers tool kit.

The anticipated arrival date in most stores will not be until March next year, although there will be a worldwide roll out between now and then, so you may be able to grab one a bit sooner.

The main features of the Canon 1DX are

  • 18.1 MP full frame CMOS sensor
  • Up to 12fps plus 14fps High speed mode
  • 100-51200 ISO, up to H:204800
  • 61 point AF system
  • 100,000 pixel RGB AE metering
  • Full HD 1080p EOS movie
  • Dual “DIGIC 5+” processors
  • Clear View II 8.11 cm (3.2”) 1,040k LCD
  • Ethernet port

  • for full product information visit the Canon website

    This will definately be on my wish list.

    I think thought that the initial rush to buy this new camera will not only push prices high, for at least the next 12 months, but will also make supplies limited. So if you are lucky enough to get your hands on one, let me know.

    Monday, 7 November 2011

    Newcastle Fashion Photo Shoot - Aaron Kah

    Model : Aaron Kah
    Location : City Centre, Newcastle
    Type : Fashion

    This shoot was to be one of the shoots that has come so close to happening in the past that I almost thought it would never happen, sometimes I couldn't make it sometime Aaron couldn't.

    But I am really happy that Aaron got back in touch about this shoot, as the end results are just amazing.

    For this shoot I had a clear idea of the kind if thing I was looking for, I wanted a city centre location to shoot a very high fashion set of shots, with Aarons look I knew this would work well. So after many months of conversations, we finally arranged the date for the shoot and it was all systems go.

    Location

    As I wanted there to be a clear image for this shoot of city environment, I knew just the right place. Newcastle city centre, having grown up in Whitley Bay and gone to college and university in the city I knew it was just the place to do this shoot.

    The great thing about Newcastle is it has a great mix of old and new, and the council have cleaned up the city so gone are the old dirty buildings, instead its now clean buildings, although still old. Mixed with new modern developments, glass, metal, etc.

    Newcastle is just a great city if you are looking to do a photo shoot and capture old and new in the same place.

    The Shoot

    We met at the Haymarket metro station, and headed straight down Northumberland Street, and thankfully my idea for the first set of shots were crowds of people and a busy street, which we got in abundance. The only problem is that when you want to shoot crowds, people are well mannered and tend to shy away from the camera. What this means is that when you take the shot, you get the crowd of people further away, and an actual space of empty around your model, not exactly the look I was going for.

    In order to play with this, it required me lying on the floor shooting at a different angle, capturing the crowds and people from this angle makes the shots just work.

    However, when Aaron and I were shooting we got approach by a group of girls asking to be in the shots, so we said yeah why not, they then kinda stayed in the background for a couple of shots, we almost had our our extras for our shoot, only problem was that they chose to wave at the camera, we I could not use the shots with them in. I think Aaron liked it though as he felt like he had his own entourage with him on the shoot.

    We them decided to change location and went around to the entrance of the new Monument Mall, we decided to shoot in the doorway, as I knew it would give me great light and high fashion feel I was after. So we did a few shots in the doorway, and there were two problems with this location. One was the mannequin in the window, which I had to photoshop out of the final shots. And two a busy body cleaner who decided to radio security about us doing a shoot in the doorway. But thankfully we had all the shots we needed before any security staff turned up and went on our merry way.

    Have to be honest, not sure why this cleaner chap had such a problem, we weren't even in the main mall, just in the doorway outside the doors. Some people!

    The next set of shots were taken a bit further down the road and made use of a new bench, like I said this modern bench looks really good in the old city environment, we also took some shots against the old buildings.

    This shoot was one of the quickest shoots I have done, and thanks to the professionalism of Aaron I got all the shots I could ever want, and he was an absolute pleasure to work with and took direction perfectly.

    I think I have proven in this shoot that its not about shooting off loads of shots, but more about taking your time composing your shots right and taking the shot only when you are happy, this shoot lasted about 1 hour and I came out with easily 14 good shots. So again huge thanks to Aaron for this shoot, I would recommend him to anyone looking for models to shoot with.

    But like I always say, you can be the judge of the shots for yourself.

    Sample shots from Newcastle City Centre Photo Shoot

    To see some of these shots in full size please visit my gallery on my website http://seanjconnollyphotography.co.uk/photography_gallery.htm


    Newcastle Quayside Editorial Photo Shoot - Jade Slavin

    Model : Jade Slavin
    Location : Quayside, Newcastle
    Type : Editorial

    At first this shoot took a while to organise getting both the location and people available, but once everything was set and after several emails about the shoot, look, feel etc it was all systems go.

    This shoot was to be one of an Editorial feel although Jade is really tall and has a great figure for fashion, I thought making use of her look would fit excellent into my editorial / fashion portfolio.

    Location

    This shoot was to be done at the newcastle quayside, although this shoot was to be a more urban shoot so it meant staying at the Millennium bridge end.

    This time I was going to make use of the existing businesses, steps, etc around the bridge to give me a set of shots that were clearly set in a city urban setting.

    The Shoot

    Now as it is just typical on a shoot of the location variety you cant control the weather, and yes you guessed it, for this shoot it was raining. There was a point before the shoot when it was almost called off, but I know the weather and decided to go ahead with the shoot, which worked out well as all we got was a minor shower.

    Have to say I was really impressed by Jade and the fact she was happy to work in this weather, and although it didn't rain too heavy, it did rain. So a huge thank you to Jade for working through it.

    At the start of the shoot we met at the Pitcher and Piano near the millennium bridge, we then set out trying to find the best location for the shots, without either of us getting too wet.

    I decided that the best place for these shots would be around the entrance to the Mal Maison, with Jade sitting down and go for a more editorial feel than on the fashion side.

    We did this and got some great shots.

    We then decided to try some more adventurous shots, Jade walking and due to her figure and height this meant that these shots worked well. Althought to be honest I need a little bit more practise with this style, but the idea is there and I will continue to work on it.

    Some of the best shots of the shoot were with Jade standing against bollards, posts etc, this is due to how tall she is as it is such a good contrast. We got some good shots of her standing, with a kinda waiting around feel to them. This was also due to the fact that there is a Taxi rank near the shoot so this is used in some of the shots.

    We did manage to also take some close up beauty shots, and again although the weather was wet Jade was happy to stand around so we could get these shots. So all in all this was a good shoot, I got some shots I can use, definately more on the editorial side but good shots that I am happy with.

    But again you can be the judge of the shots.

    Sample shots from Newcastle Quayside Photo Shoot
    To see some of these shots in full size please visit my gallery on my website http://seanjconnollyphotography.co.uk/photography_gallery.htm

    Newcastle Quayside Editorial Photo Shoot - Natalie Locke

    Model : Natalie Locke
    Location : Quayside, Newcastle
    Type : Editorial

    This photo shoot was one I decided to do in an area I have done lots of landscape and location work, but not many fashion or editorial shoots.

    After several emails and conversations with Natalie it was decided that this shoot would be themed on a more casual fashion / editorial look, something that can fit into either area as fashion or editorial. That way the otufits could be easy to put together and makeup would not require a Make Up Artist.

    As Natalie has a figure typical of a fashion model, the look, location and feel for this shoot would just work well and all three hopefully would make a good set of shots.

    Location

    On arriving at the location we met just next to the millennium bridge, and as Natalie had done a few shoots in this area before she suggested we shoot at the far end of the quayside near the trees. This sounded like a good plan, only problem was as it turned out the trees were about a hundred miles away (well not quite, but you know what I mean).

    However, when we got to the trees the location was great and well worth the walk, there is a jetty to use and the tree line looks ace, so well done Natalie for this great location.

    The Shoot

    Now to say we had fun on this shoot must be the understatement of the year, Natalie was fun to work with and as mad as a brush. She was happy to try all sorts of shots.

    The first set of shots we took were on the little jetty thing, these required Natalie to lie on the ground, which she never complained once about, she was happy to move to where I needed her for the shots. We took some shots on the jetty and got some shots that really worked.

    Now the next set of shots were taken near the tree line, and again this is where the shoot became such fun. As we thought it would be a good idea to try to get some shots with leaves blowing in the wind, and as there were not leaves around, Natalie and Becky set about collecting handfuls of leaves from the nearby bushes. Once we had enough leaves, it was Becky's job to throw them in Natalies direction at the right time, and again Natalie was happy to try this, bascially happy to have leaves throw at her. Now not many models would be happy with that. We tried these shots and as you can guess, they just didn't work, but at least it was fun.

    I them put on my serious photographer head and decided to use the trees properly, and this time we got some great images, we them decided to use the leaves in the shot, this meant Natalie holding a leaf over her face, and with a few test shots and lighting changes we got an amazing shot.

    We them decided to walk further down the Quayside back towards the Millennium bridge, again Natalie was a pleasure to work with, she was climbing on roundabouts, railings, sitting on steps, in fact anything and everything to try to get the right shots.

    By this time the sun was setting and the light was just looking amazing, and we got some amazing shots using the sun as a backlight with Natalie facing the camera, and these shots just worked (I liked some of these so much I had a hard time picking just one).

    So all in all this was a really fun shoot, and again the model Natalie was a pleasure to work with she is happy to try anything and brings some great ideas to the table.

    But as for the shots, only you can be the judge of whether you like them or not.

    
    Sample shots from Newcastle Quayside Photo Shoot
    
    To see some of these shots in full size please visit my gallery on my website http://seanjconnollyphotography.co.uk/photography_gallery.htm

    Durham Editorial Photo Shoot - Emma Wright

    Model : Emma Wright
    Location : Riverside, Durham
    Type : Editorial

    This shoot was one that I decided to do to add to more the editorial side of my portfolio, thinking with more of the advertising and editorial theme.

    After some emails and discussions with Emma it was decided that Durham was a good location for both of us and the concept for the shoot would be centred around bright clothing, in particular tights. So it was agree that in order to get a few different looks, Emma could bring different outfits that all centred around her figure and bright tights.

    This sounded great to me as the good thing about Emma as a model is she has a great figure for fashion modelling, typical tall and slim.

    Location

    The location was to be Durham City and as I know Durham quite a bit I decided to do the shoot down on the river bank, this is a great location as not only do you get the urban city environment, but you can also get the countryside rural feel.

    We arranged to meet on at the pub just at the beginning of the bridge. Its always a bit nerve racking when you meet someone for the first time, I always worry that I will go up to the wrong person, but Emma stood out from the crowd and we made our way down to the riverside.

    The weather was not too bad for a shoot, not too hot and not too cold, and with the light being difussed by the cloud at times meant that I could get some great lit shots as well as some sunny shots. We finally decided on the location of the little house thing on the riverside, great location and kinda quiet which I was surprised about.

    The Shoot

    We started the shoot and the first sets of shots were to be Emma wearing a more formal outfit in a long coat, shots taken in and around the entrance. Emma was an absolute pleasure to work with she took direction well and in most cases was already in the right pose before I even started composing the shot.

    The main problem on this shoot was lighting, the area was dark, yet I didn't want to make it too artificial by using lights. So I decided to use the reflector to throw a bit of extra natural light onto the shots, this worked great. We got some great shots around the steps, and after a quick change into a more casual look we took some more great shots.

    Again Emma was great fun to work with and the shots turned out great.

    After this very static shooting we decided to step it up a bit and take some moving shots, Emma was game to try these shots. So I climbed up on the wall to get a high view as Emma walked passed, and the first set of these just ended up looking like some peeping tom taking photos.

    So we decided a more level approach was better, and although these shots were better the Emma walking towards the camera shot really never worked all that well, but when she got closer the light fell perfectly and we got the money shot. Great over exposed shot that uses the light just right, and with the expression she made for this shot makes the shot just pop.

    We then tried more of the walking shots, this time with Emma walking away, and again due to her style and figure these shots just look great, and again she took direction well and looked in the right direction just at the right time to give us the great shot. (although this shot needed alot of post production to it due to the councils lack of upkeep on the path)

    We then made our way back to the bridge and decided to try something a bit different and have a little play on the bridge, lets just say the shots are still in the experimental arena and need more work to perfect this style.

    Really enjoyed this shoot, and Emma was an absolute pleasure to work with, and she was happy to try anything, even some of my stupid ideas.

    I just hope you like these shots.

    Sample shots from Durham Photo Shoot
    To see some of these shots in full size please visit my gallery on my website http://seanjconnollyphotography.co.uk/photography_gallery.htm

    Spofforth Castle Wetherby Fashion Shoot - Jenna Duffin

    Model : Jenna Duffin / Becky Magson
    Make Up Artist : Jenna Duffin
    Location : Spofforth Castle, Wetherby
    Type : Fashion

    This shoot was one that I had been looking forward to for ages as there was lots of work  put into the planning, and there was lots of time deciding on the type of shoot, the fashions for the shoot, the location and finally the make up. The whole thing was made a lot easier as one of the models Jenna is a make up artist, so she had lots of ideas on the look for this shoot, keeping in mind my simple brief of a "light and airy shot".

    As Becky, Jenna and I had worked together on a previous shoot (althought not one of mine), there was already a great rapport which made the whole thing go so smoothly.

    The intial idea of this shoot was to add more people into my portfolio and as I had taken lots of shots of Becky before, this shoot was to centre more around Jenna in order to start my portfolio off with a bit of variety.

    Hair and Make Up

    The look we decided on for this shoot was a light and airy natural feel, and after loads of emails with Jenna about the makeup we finally decided on the look for the shoot, well to be honest the actual look was more Jenna than me, all I knew was I wanted an airy feel (how she managed to come up with the fashions and make up still amazes me).

    So on the day of the shoot we arrived in Wetherby and Jenna set about doing the make up, this took the normal amount of time for a fashion shoot, about an hour. The end results were amazing, the look and feel was exactly what I wanted. Not too much make up and a natural daytime look.

    So once the makeup was all done and outfits chosen, we set off for the location. Spofforth Castle in Wetherby.

    Location

    On arriving at the location, it was necessary to be a bit hush hush about the shoot, as the castle is an English Heritage site and they dont take too kindly to photography in their properties.

    But the location was just amazing, there was lots of different areas to play around with and as each of these areas had different lighting it made it even better as this meant I could play around with not only using some gels, but also use the reflector for some shots.

    The only down side of this location was that as it is a public place there were people around, and in particular one family who kept on walking past the area we were shooting, in fact there kids just kept being annoying and just running everywhere. It wasn't the fact that they were in the area, more the fact that we had our bags in the area. So as you can guess this was a pain.

    However this location did have some very cool surprises up its sleeve, it had a little dark room were Becky and Jenna could get changed between sets, kinda useful and not often found on location shoots.

    The Shoot

    Ok so we got underway with shooting, and the initial shots were taken, and as it turns out theses shots were more of a get a feel for the lighting and location, than great shots. Lets just say they turned out not so great, I would even go so far as to say rubbish.

    However, once we got further into the shoot the lighting was working really well, and the poses were really working, very natural and soft. Just the look I was after. So we took some shots in the main part of the castle and they just popped.

    Part of the castle is old stairwells and windows, all of which really worked for amazing backdrops, either because of the excellent ambient light, or because the flash just bounced around perfectly. Also the fact that Jenna was happy to try anything to get the shot, even holding the lightstand meant the shots that we got are really excellent.

    We then moved onto the stairway in the castle, which threw up all sorts of lighting challenges, as there were really bright areas, really dark areas and hugely light absorbant surfaces everywhere. But this made the shots better, I decided to use a mix of backlit gelled shots as well as front lit reflected light shots. Must be honest and say that these shots are some of the best of the shoot. We even got some very close beauty shots using this great light.

    It made it even better as Becky has been so used to holding the reflector in the past, meant I got some great beauty shots of Jenna, which show both the beauty and the make up in the shots.

    Then finally we moved to the outside of the castle, and due to the fact that its an old castle we were able to get some great shots of the ruins in the background, and even sitting on them. These made amazing advertising type shots, and were good enough to go on my website.

    All in all I am so happy with the outcome of this shoot, extra please that the effort put in by Jenna in the initial planning on the outfits and makeup as it made the shoot just work, which also meant I got a sets of images that are totally different looks all from one shoot.

    But as always you can be the best judge of the shots, and please comment as to whether you like the shots or not.

    Sample shots from Spofforth Castle Photo Shoot
    To see some of these shots in full size please visit my gallery on my website http://seanjconnollyphotography.co.uk/photography_gallery.htm

    Mermaid Photo Shoot - Becky Magson

    Model : Becky Magson
    Location : Hartlepool
    Type : Fashion

    It would seem that the current trend for shoots is based on a mermaid type shot, anything from fantasy to fashion is popular. So in preparation for this shoot I opted to stick on the fashion side of the fence, not that there is anything wrong with fantasy shots, I just felt Fashion was more in keeping with my style.

    With Becky having bought some shell shaped nipple tassels / pasties it seemed like the logical solution to do the shoot using these, and as always stay well outside the norm to get that one off shot.

    Location

    The first issue on the agenda was location, and although we were fast approaching the autumn, I felt that finding the location was top of the list and weather was something that can be worked with.

    So I hit the internet, yes I didn't even leave the house. I travelled all over Google Maps as I knew what I was looking for, a coastal location with lots of rocks rather than a sandy beach. So after many hours of Googling I found the ideal location just a bit south of Seaham.

    So all that was left was to scout of this location and see if it looked as good in real life as it did online.

    On getting to the location the main problem I encountered was the sea, the tide to be precise. The location looked just perfect but the tide was in, so I had some additional homework with tide times to do for my next trip. But I thought the location was just right so I would hit it at the right time when the tide was out, or at least coming in.

    The Shoot

    Ok so it was finally here, we were all set on location everything was ready, we actually had a good sunny day (actually the last one of the summer as it turns out), and at arriving at the top of the cliffs to walk down, what do we see. Yes you guessed it people and lots of people, but as I figured most people who go to the beach dont really wander too far I figured we could find a quiet stop. (remember this shoot is about wearing nothing but nipple tassels / pasties and some imagination)

    After a long walk carrying all the gear up a very pebbly beach we hit the perfect spot, and even managed to find some props to use in the shoot, bits of drift wood, sea weed, etc. So we set about getting the shots in, and as they required that mermaid look, it meant standing close to the incoming tide, whilst Becky was in the water. (now if you can guess what happened you get a gold star).

    As on all my shoots nothing bothers me, all I care about is what I can see in the camera, so I was taking the initial shots and suddenly felt my feet get all wet. Yes the tide had come in a bit, and decided to soak my feet. So at this point I ran up the beach to move my kit further up the beach. But as I was happy with these initial shots so that was ok.

    The next set of shots are the best of all, a bit further up the beach it was pebbles rather than sand, perfect, and with bits of drift wood lying around, and even the sun was playing ball. Everything was set for a perfect shot, lighitng location. So we starting taking some of the best shots of the day, and they just worked. I only took about 6 shots, yet got the shot of the day.

    So at this point we were really happy with the shots, and Becky said she needed some other shots of different Nipple Tassels, so we moved just around the corner, where Becky changed into the new tassels and again we started shooting.

    Now bet you cant guess what happened (hint remember my reference to people earlier), yes a man walking his dog walked around the corner, and there I am taking photos of Becky standing against the rocks wearing Nipple Tassels and very little else. Now thankfully the guy was not prudish, and in fact I think it kinda made his day. What a nice treat for him to see whilst walking his dog.

    Well we got the final set of shots and everyone was happy. I just love the shots, but I will let you all be the judge of whether you think the mermaid shot works or not.

    Sample shots from Mermaid Photo Shoot

    To see some of these shots in full size please visit my gallery on my website http://seanjconnollyphotography.co.uk/photography_gallery.htm

    Saturday, 29 October 2011

    My Essential Kit

    I thought I would mention some of the essential items I carry with me in my kit bag everywhere I go and I mean every shoot I go to these items apart from my Canon 7D and memory cards go with me.

    UPDATE - I now also use a Canon 5D mk2 but all my other kit is the same.

    Camera Bag - Lowepro Fastpack 350

    I get asked this question alot, well apart from which camera do I use, what camera bag do I use.

    Lowepro FastPack 350


    The answer is simple I use a lowepro FastPack 350,  I find it lightweight and full of features such as useful side mesh pockets, huge top pocket and of course quick access to your camera, all wrapped up in a ruck sack style bag, with enough space to happily hold two lenses and 2 flash units, along with anything else you can or wish to carry. I have found that what ever I have wanted to carry this bag has been more than big and strong enough to cope.

    This bag also has space for a laptop, killing several birds with one stone, so to speak.

    Battery Grip

    Battery Grip


    I always have a battery grip attached to my camera, and although I use a non Canon grip it has worked without fail in some very harsh environements, from rain to sand, dust to darkness.

    I find not only does the extra battery power make a big difference during longs shoot, as it holds two catteries as oppossed to one, but the additional features of the grip make using the camera a whole lot easier, as the extra side grip makes holding the camera on the side easier (for portraits) added with the extra shutter button makes picture taking a whole difference experience.

    I also find that the extra weight added to the camera gives it better balance.

    Remote Shutter Release Cable

    Remote Shutter Release Cable
    One of the other things I always keep in my kit bag is a remote shutter release, and whilst I have an infrared remote for my camera, I find the cabled version a whole lot better to use. I think the fact that I know it is always ready to use, no worry about batteries, sunlight or anything else, makes it a great piece of kit to keep about me at all times.

    The main reason for keeping this on me is that you never know what kind of shtos you want to take, and in my view its better to "have and not need than need and not have".

    Lens Pen

    Lens Pen Cleaning Tool

    The Lens Pen tool is such as god send and makes lens cleaning so easy, it is basically a little brush on one end and a cleaning pad on the other, it gets rid of marks on my lens way better than any cloth and the brush means I can easily remove dust, sand, dirt or any other dry stuff from my camera without damage.

    Filters

    The first thing to mention is that I always have a screw on UV filter attached to my lenses, as the UV filter does not have a great deal of effect to my shots, although it does absorb some UV light, it is a great way to protect your lens from getting scratched. After all its alot cheaper to replace the UV filter than it is to replace my lens.

    Cokin P Filter Holder and Ring
    I always have in my bag my Cokin P filter holder, like I said before the bag is more than big enough to carry all the little extras I may need, so I keep my Cokin filter holder and adapter ring there in case I heed it. I use this type of filter as it allows me to simply buy different sized adapter rings for my different lenses, instead of buying the same filter for each lens.

    Cokin P Filter - ND Filter

    This is because unlike screw on filters the cokin system has a lens ring attached to your lens, then the holder simply slides onto the holder then into that you can put an array of different filters as you can see from the above pictrue, the actual filters are all the same size, the only thing that changes is the adapter ring for the thread size of your lens.  Much cheaper than buying screw on filters for all my lenses.

    Multi-Tool

    Multi Tool
    One of the most useful thing in my camera kit bag is my multi tool, it has come in handy so many times I just don't know how I would cope without it, so I recommend to anyone out there to carry a multi-tool in there kit bag.

    Flash

    Flash / Strobe
    Although it is not always night time I always carry a flash, I just think you never know when you might need one, even on the brightest sunny days with the sun behind your subject you will need to light then at the front with something, and other than a reflector a flash is a great way to do this.


    Gels

    Flash / Strobe Gels
    Gels are a really cool way to add that something extra to your shots, and as they are so light to carry keeping them with my flash in my kit bag does not add anything to the weight, but can add a whole lot to my shots.

    As you can see in the picture above I use velcro dots to attach my gels to my flash, simply stick one on either side of the flash and one on each end of the gel.

    Tripod

    Although I dont carry my tripod to ever shoot I do carry it alot and my chosen tripod is a Red Snapper tripod, and although these tripods get mixed reviews online I find it to be light enought carry, yet strong enough to hold the camera firmly.

    For more info on Red Snapper Tripods check out http://www.redsnapperuk.com/

    Ok thanks for reading about whats in my kit bag, so what do you have in your kit bag that you could not live without? answers please in the comments section.

    Friday, 28 October 2011

    Lighting

    As every good photographer will know the word photography actually means "writing with light" and this means that one of the most important things you can get right in order to get a great photograph is the lighting.

    For an excellent video guide please check out this great series of tutorials by the Better Photos Academy

    Lighting comes from two main sources ambient and artificial, and being able to control your lighting is the key to your photos being great rather than good.

    Ambient Light
    This is very simple to understand but difficult to master, ambient light is using the light from available light sources that occur naturally in your environment, this can be light from street lighting, light from the sun, the moon or anything else that is around that you do not have direct control over.
    The simple fact that your do not have direct control over ambient light means that you have to use otherways to bring some form of control to the lighting.
    Reflector

    Multi Purpose Reflector


    The most common way to control ambient light is with a reflector / diffuser, this small or large piece of kit allows you to reflect the light to exactly where you want to, and some reflectors are multi purpose and have an in built diffuser which allows you to scatter the light more evenly across your subject.

    A multi purpose reflector works usually in one of the following ways
    1. Directly reflects the light to where you want it, normally done using the silver side.
    2. Reflects the light but softens its colour, normally done using the white side.
    3. Reflect the slight and adds a gold / yellow tinge to it, normally done with the gold side
    4. Diffuses the light by softening it, normally done by using the internal part
    5. Remove light from your subject by absorbing it, normally done with the black side.
    Without / With Reflector
    As you can see from the above portrait sample shot the image on the left is dark in the front, whilst the image on the right has a nice even lighting

    Now although a reflector is the most common tool used to control ambient lighting, you can pretty much use anything you like to get the desired effect, even closing curtains is a way to control ambient light in fact you can just play around with everday objects to give you the right lighting.

    In Camera
    Althought this may sound obvious the best way to play around with  ambient or available light is to change the camera setting, this may mean using a smaller or larger aperture or changing the shutter speed, by adjusting in camera setting you can also control directly the ambient light entering the camera to get the desired effect.
    The simple rule of thumb is
    1. Slower shutter speed will let more light in / Faster shutter speed will let less light in
    2. Smaller aperture number = wider aperture which lets more light in
    3. Higher aperture number = smaller aperture which lets less light in
    4. Hgher ISO number will give lighter photos, but also add noise to your shots.
    Note when shooting at slow shutter speeds remember to put your camera on a stable platform or tripod

    Changing Shutter Speed - Long Exposure
    As you can see in the example above by using a slower shutter speed the ambient light can be made to look really cool. So remember that the only limit is your imagination so go nuts.

    Artificial Light

    When time calls for it and the ambient or available light is insufficient for your needs there are two main choices when it comes to lighting your subject, flash / strobes and continuous lighting.

    Flash / Strobes
    A flash / strobes is the common term for a portable unit that provides light directly in connection with your camera shutter, these come in all shapes and sizes but have common features and functions which I am going to talk about here.



    Ok I will start by giving you an over view of the most common function on modern flash units, I will start at the bottom left of the diagram and work clockwise.
    On / Off Switch
    This switch is used to turn on or off the flash unit, when switch on the flash will normally make a high pitched sound until it is ready to fire.
    Flash Ready / Test
    This button has two purposes the first is it will light up when the flash unit is ready for use, the second is that when it is lit up it can be pressed in order to test fire the flash.
    Flash Zoom (optional)
    This button is used when the flash in in manual mode to zoom or move the flash head inside the flash, this allows the flash to cover either a narrower area or a wider area.

    Note Not all flash units are zoom units and have this function, also this option will be controlled by the flash when not in manual mode.
    Mode
    This is used to switch the flash mode, normally used to select between ETTL (auto) and manual modes.
    F/Stop
    This button is sometime labelled power and allows you to control the output level of the flash when in manual mode, most units support anything from full power to 1/16 of full power, someother units can step down a bit further to reduce the power up to 1/32 of full power.
    Note - the measurement is a percentage of the full output, 1/1 being full power.
    ISO (optional)
    This allow the light sensitivity of the flash to be change as needed
    Alert (optional)
    This allows the noise and alerts on the flash to be alerted.
    Back light
    This turns on and off the flash back light, this is only available on flash units with an LCD screen.
    ETTL - Evaluatitive Through The Lens

    This indicates that the flash is operating is full auto mode and directly in sync with the camera, this mode is only supported by the flash being connected as follows.
    1. On the camera Hot Shoe connector
    2. Tethered to the Hot Shoe connector via a cord
    3. Connected to the camera via a wireless trigger that supports ETTL.
    Note - ETTL simply means that any adjustments made to the camera will be automatically done tot he flash, such as focal length, etc.
    Slave / Master Switch (optional)

    This changes the flash from being either the main flash unit in the set to the slave unit, simply put if your flash has this option it can be remotely fired by other flash units, there will be a infrared sensor on yoru flash either the side or front that must be in the line of sight of other units. When the other flash unit fires this unit will also fire.
    The above is only a guide to the flash units, most work in the same way, but will be laid out differently, but in essence the principles are the same for all.

    Ok that concludes the basic workings of your flash, the other things to look for in your flash and to know about is as follows.

    Guide Number - this is the effect distance your flash can cover when your camera ISO is set to 100, normally expressed in feet ie 48 feet.

    Gels - these are attached to give the flash a colour light rather than the typical white light, if you look at reflector photo above you can see it is back lit in blue, this is done using a gel.

    Flash Gels


    Continuous Lighting

    This is the form of lighting that is always on, it can come from a variety of sources, it is something to play around with and use what ever you have around to light your subject, some of the more common continuous light sources are
    1. Purpose built continuous lights, unlike stobes these do not cycle with your camera.
    2. torch
    3. Anything else you like that gives off light.
    Playing around with lighting
    The shot above shows use of other forms of continuous lighting, again it is only limited by your imagination.