Photographer’s Opinion

Oh, the struggles of appearance. Does the photographer’s opinion about your appearance hold any value?

What do you do when you love a photo of a person, but they hate it? A photographer, especially one in the first few years of their business, has to post often to develop interest, and mark their skill. Not only that, but how can you let your client walk away with a sub-par photo? Well, it’s their choice and how they want to look is up to them… I suppose.

“My smile looks too goofy, the expression is too big, I don’t like the furrow in my brow…”

It was a fantastic photo. I think she should have been walking away with that one. Instead, she chose a very safe, somewhat blank, doll-faced expression.

Why are people so uncomfortable with being real?

Honestly, it is a joy to look at that photo, and I think any other person would think the same. It was another business photo for a woman involved with sales/distribution… To be honest I forgot specifically what she said. The photo she chose is just fine, I’m sure it will work well towards her ends, but I don’t love that one.

Another session, a friend of mine, I haven’t even finished editing. Every photo I showed her from it she didn’t seem to like. I haven’t shared any of the photos, either. I would love to add them to my portfolio, but she was so dissatisfied with them that I felt it would be a breach of our contract: “For consideration received.” I wouldn’t be very considerate, posting a photo that they hate.

One that I liked was a just-before-laugh, slightly open-mouthed smile. So slight! Beautiful light in her eyes. She doesn’t like the expression. Another could have been on a fashion magazine, if she had the clout. Kind of a doll-faced expression. I feel like I put three hours of touch up into it. She doesn’t like it. Always the expression.

Another challenge for me is my photo cull. I will see a photo from a family shoot that I would never want displayed in my portfolio. It’s too soft, there’s a background detail that gets in the way, colours are clashing, who knows, but the kid’s expression is so awesome! So real! So fun! I know the parents would like it, and I’m torn as I hover over the “delete” key.

They almost never buy those photos, but I like to show them, at least.

Another frustrating scenario is the person that likes every photo you take of them. They are just so infatuated with themselves that even when their expression is so obviously unattractive, they love it!

I suppose there is a certain type of person that I like working with. Right in the sweet spot of comfortable with their appearance, but not afraid to mention critical details about their preference. The too hard is endless frustration, but lessons learned. Too soft, an easy sell and an uncomfortable feeling in my gut. Every photo shoot should be somewhat of a challenge, I wouldn’t be doing my job if they weren’t, but some have simply been impossible and I’m at a loss for how I could have done better.

There’s no convincing some people.

Sometimes a Perfect Photo Situation Falls Into Your Lap

I did a great thing, as a photographer, and I hope that I can have many more of these moments and master them and condense them in order to have higher value shoots that work out so very well.
It was all wrong up until the finish. I even threw in a creepy phrase, as I’m apt to do, to add in social faux pas to the mix.  Strike three.

I get a call as I am, if I remember correctly, sitting in studio at my employers’, editing a family’s outdoor shoot photographed by one of the regular girls at the studio. 

An Aside: A Very Irregular Lady, Indeed

I say “regular girl” because my studio is across town, but I cover shifts all over the city. Also, it is seemingly rare for a man to work under this employer, perhaps because of all the work with children and negative stigma and all that. When the DM starts the weekly meeting, she says “Good morning, Ladies.” As such, I must be a lady, just not regular to this particular studio.

The call is from a man inquiring about professional business photos, to update his Linked In. I’m very confident with single subjects, and I spoke to him, in my opinion, a little too “buddy-buddy.” Strike one. Luckily, he was comfortable with me and ok with the price.

On account of my lack of wits, I forgot to mention our hours of operation. Strike two. He came on my lunch, while I was out banking. Luckily, he wasn’t upset when I came back. He walked around, did a little shopping, and came back to me at my best: with a full tummy and all the patience in the world.

An Aside: Business Photos

I’ve always been so frustrated with these things. I once got 3 – 5 people all at once, on their lunch, expecting a miracle. One of them was oddly photogenic. The office “pretty girl.” Everyone else was a challenge and desperately needed a different environment, or more time.

The “pretty girl” could have probably had a more “real” photo as well, but in comparison to her companions it was a work of art. They all joked about how great hers looked, and I noticed she was very self conscious when she should have been flattered.

The leader of the group was one with magical, disappearing eyes. Every time she smiled and focussed on the camera, her eyes squinted and went black. Her, I wish I could have spent more time with because her dissatisfaction with the photography could have been scooped out of the air. She was far too polite and said nothing.

That experience was a serious blow to my confidence with headshots.

I worked with him from, I believe, a standing pose into a far more relaxed stool-top with leg support pose. That’s typically my base for business and seniors/grads. That’s where I get their “Money shot.” I always try out a standing pose, though: some people are fantastic standers. Myself, like so many others, not so much.

Visible is only a 3/4: from about elbow or mid bicep to head with plenty of lead and about 1/4 of the frame of background at top to avoid the photo looking like an ID. An elbow resting on the knee raised by the support brings his shoulders up and forward a little, making him seem more full-bodied, but relaxed.

We figured out the pose, we were both in agreement upon review that it was a good one. The only problem was in his eyes. He didn’t have a true enough expression.

“The only problem I see is in your eyes. Let’s recreate this and see if we can fix that,” I quipped, knowing that all too often people are too damn polite to say whether they don’t like something.

He’s a salesman. I read about marketing and sales and the interactions related. I’m a photographer: we wear many hats.
As he was getting into position, I asked him about some of the best clients he’s ever had. Who was it that he wanted to work with, was my question. What was his ideal? He told me a story of some clients that he was very happy with, and you could see it in his face when he came to a rest. A perfect smile. A perfect headshot.

It’s the same feeling I used to get when I finally landed a trick on a skateboard. Y’know, before I gave up being a delinquent and went straight into grumpy old man.

I believe a great portrait photographer is a great conversationalist. Someone of that nature, in that career, must have a very large ammo bag. Talking points can be as fleeting and inconsequential as viral Facebook posts, but the photographer must control where the content leads — to what emotions. Also, trivial conversation like that can fall completely flat with a person who doesn’t have time to prattle. Seems it’s a delicate balance, and a fair bit of luck.

I was incredibly lucky with this man. His demeanor was perfect, even in the face of things that many others are frustrated by he seemed patient. Stowed it somewhere, maybe. I was lucky that we work in similar fields. Further, I was lucky that I was reading Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. My question was basically derived from chapter one, and it made that man an incredible photograph for his profile.

He liked it so much that, when it was all said and done with, he admitted he thought the price was high, but after experiencing it with me he wasn’t  upset by it

Thank you, James Michael Taylor of Outlaw Photography (I’ll mention him here because he’s way too far out to be competition) for sharing that resource in one of your emails. Though a small success, you’ve helped create a golden staple in my career. Looking forward to more of our conversations.

What is a Good Photo Shoot, Anyway?

I made a mistake. It was a high-paying shoot, at least, for my employer’s business. I’m too much of a perfectionist, perhaps, but it was a shoot I’m not so happy about.

A couple, maybe engaged, maybe together for a long time. Fairly reserved people, they didn’t have an appointment but managed to catch me at a slow time — even still, having no “mental prep” throws me off — and they were in a hurry.

An Aside: Rudeness and Frustration

Not to mention every drop-in looking for document photos, and I should be at there beck and call regardless of whether I have other customers. They stew and fret in the seats we foolishely provide, glaring impatiently into the studio room, upsetting my clients. What would I do if I owned the place? Raise prices on ID photos. Emblazon them at the front of the store with a glowing neon statement: “Yes, they are very expensive here,” and get rid of the waiting chairs.

They were very pleasant to work with, but I don’t think the shoot was worth what they paid. Sure, digital copies aren’t cheap anywhere: if a photographer is giving everything away, they should ask for everything in return. We only really got one angle, though. I mean, we took many different poses, from a few different angles, but we didn’t get past the “money shot.”

An Aside: The Money Shot

“Smile. Make it real. Look at the camera, all at once. *Snap* No one blinked? Good.” Kah-ching!

That’s only really good for a $20 – $30 single pose pack. Well, in my opinion. I feel like I’m going to cause an argument every time I suggest that the subject doesn’t have to be staring directly into the camera to make it a good photo. That thought is so limiting! People who come every month and pay for multiple poses and only want the money shot: I want to slap them. Some people just want the 3/4 headshot of their grandchild in an 8×10 of every milestone. Fine, I get that, but when I think “Full, Professional Photo Shoot” I imagine a more full range of expressions and interactions and eye directions and actual emotions to go home with, not a bag full of headshots from the exact same day.

“See all these different photos in which your faces all look the same? Really, just pick your favourite one and get a load of sizes, it’s less expensive.”

If you are there for business photos, that’s a different story. Something to update your Linked In profile is going to have a very specific look, and it can take working through multiple poses before we get one that is right. Though, often in that sense, one is all you need.

I feel like I’m judging my clients, that feels all wrong. Thing is, I don’t like selling work that I’m not happy with, and I’m not happy with a lot of my work. Perfectionism or an intermediate’s lack of confidence. Who knows.

I feel these people were not looking at the industry of photography accurately, and therefore spent money they should not have. In a more private environment, a more carefully planned event and with less ticking clocks we may have done better. If I had all the time in the world for them we may have reached a few intimate levels, I may have photographed real interaction between the two of them. They wouldn’t be going home with a mundane collection of “money shots.” 
That’s just my opinion, that’s just my style. I hope they’re happy with what they got, I don’t mean to poop on their parade.

How to Synchronize External Audio with Camera Audio in Adobe Premier CC 2015

DSLR cameras are fairly advanced, but when recording professional quality video their omni-directional microphones often leave much to be desired. This video will demonstrate how to combine audio recorded from any other source with the audio from the camera.

 

When I was discussing mixing audio from multiple sources with the audio from my DSLR, my instructors and my classmates said: “Yeah, it’s easy, just align the peaks in premier.” Uh huh. Right.

No.

Premier has a much smarter process to handle this for us.

Equipment Used:

Primary camera: Canon SL1

Secondary camera: Nikon D3200

Audio Recorder: Zoom H2N

 

Speedlight Review (Yongnuo YN-560 II)

The search for a powerful, trustworthy speedlight that doesn’t cost $400 could leave someone penniless and frustrated. This flash is a good’n.

I bought this flash about a year ago to replace an ancient Vivitar. I still use the Vivitar in combination with the Yongnuo, but only that way.

Portable flash has come a long way since I had previously used it as a youngster with my mother’s Minolta Maxxum to photograph graffiti under bridges. When I got into the market for the devices, I was astounded at the prices. Canon marks flashes with real on-camera capabilities above $300. As a student, that is way out of my price range, and I was unwilling to gamble on 3rd party companies.

My mind was changed about a year ago in a photography for journalism course when my instructor told me that Yongnuo was a trustworthy brand. I was surprised to hear him advocate El-Cheapo when he was using $3000+ cameras, Canon speedlights and Pocket Wizards. He didn’t seem the type to pinch pennies on gear…

For more of my justifications for 3rd party companies, see To 3rd Party, or Not?

The YN-560 II is (almost) everything someone could want in a camera flash.

Almost, as it lacks proper pairing with Canon cameras, at least the SL1 and XT, and therefore cannot make use of the advanced flash settings. It seems a wireless transceiversystem (similar to Pocket Wizard) can add that capability, though.

It’s fairly powerful, with a guide number of 190′ at ISO 100 at 105mm zoom (it can light a subject almost 200 feet away when the camera is set to ISO 100 and the flash at maximum zoom).

Without knowing it, I tested this once. Photographing a subject across a pond that was roughly 100 feet wide, my idea was half-baked, but the flash did it’s job!

It also has all the movement to compete with name-brand flashes. It rotates and tilts so the photographer can use it on-camera and bounce the flash to avoid that direct lit, dimensionless, flat look. Also, red-eye is mostly eliminated because of the flash head’s height above the lens.

The YN-560 II has a recycle rate on its most powerful setting around 2.5 – 4 seconds, meaning it takes under four seconds for it to recharge and flash again. In continual flash mode, or the camera in drive mode, it fires at 1/4 power a maximum 3 times, and 1/8th a maximum of 7.

1/8th power with this flash can be plenty for 3/4 or taller portrait photography flashed through an umbrella at ISO 100 and apertures ranging up to f/8.

The build seems frail, though this flash has been dropped from a 6′ light stand up to… several… times… It still functions perfectly. As far as weather resistance, the battery compartment is most likely to be vulnerable, or perhaps where the swivel connects the flash head to the body. It’s not likely that it would last long in adverse conditions, but this one has survived a small share of condensation from temperature differences and misty/snowy days.

I’m probably really lucky about the tumbles it took, as well…

Used with Energizer 1.2v 2300 mAh NiMh batteries, the flash charges quickly. In power modes under 1/1 it functions for a long period before the strain on the batteries is noticeable, 50+ shots at 1/4.

No longer carried by companies like B and H due to updates in the product line, the flash is still available from sites like Amazon. An updated model may be adviseable since they’re in the same price range.

Yongnuo Speedlights on Amazon

Price Range:

  • $89 – $110

Features:

  • 90° degree tilt
  • 270° degree rotation
  • 24 – 105 zoom light focusing (24, 28, 35, 50, 70, 80, 105)
  • 1/1 – 1/128 power settings with 1/3 incremental stops between divisions
  • Notification sound for full charge/ ready to fire
  • Two slave modes for proper pairing with other flash and camera shutter
  • multi flash mode
  • Remote trigger cable and DC in covered by rubber flap
  • 109′ GN at 105mm, ISO 100

Power

  • Four AA batteries
  • Specified DC adapter

I should let you know that if you click a link here and buy something from Amazon I will make a small commission. You can consider me a salesman, but I am definitely not hiding anything. Everything I list I have faith in as a product enough to recommend it, or have used myself.

I hope to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision about your purchases. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me, and if you plan on buying a product I’ve mentioned, please use my links!

Hand-Held Photography

Certain settings are impossible to use with certain lenses. It’s best to understand a few basic principles before setting out without a tripod.

There are many times when a tripod or extra gear is simply not practical. Without the extras, a photographer needs to know what their camera can produce in its bare-bones state.

Combine the photographic triangle (aperture, shutter speed and ISO), controlled by the camera, and a lens of given focal length and the limitations are easy to see.

Most beginning photographers will have a “stock lens,” whatever the camera was sold with. This lens is often considered “slow.” The definition of a slow or fast lens refers to its aperture setting. Minimum apertures are often listed on the lens on the plastic surrounding the glass. Stock lenses are often in the range of f/3.5 – f/5.6.

A “slow” lens is not a bad lens, many stock lenses have impressive capabilities. You can also spend many hundreds of dollars on a slow lens.

The “f/#” is an equation for how “wide-open” the lens is. “f” being the diameter of the lens and the number being a division created by the iris blades. ISO is how fast a camera can record an image.

More on aperture and ISO later, if you are having trouble adjusting these settings you may need to switch into a Manual Mode

Aperture, ISO and shutter speed work together to determine how an image will look. Limitations to handheld photography will be seen when the shutter speed drops below a certain point, and will be further affected by the lens’ length. If your shutter speed is too slow, your body will move too much to take sharp pictures.

A rough rule that proves to be very effective is to match or exceed the focal length with the shutter speed. This rule is meant to take sharp images from a hand-held camera, it does not account for subject movement. Great for fruit stands, landscapes — just about any still subject. However, any photographer will have difficulty taking sharp pictures with a shutter speed of more than 1/30th of a second, no matter the focal length, unless the camera or lens has stabilization technology.

In practice, a lens with a focal length of 50mm has a minimum hand-held shutter speed of 1/50th of a second (1/50sec). A 300mm lens has a minimum 1/300sec shutter speed.

Having a “faster” lens (able to open up wider, has a small division number) will allow faster shutter speeds at lower ISO (high ISO is considered low quality due to grain). Further, depending on subject matter, the minimum hand-held shutter speed for a lens may not be fast enough. Careful, as well, as the closer a subject is the more pronounced the limited depth of field will be from a wide aperture.

My benchmark shutter speeds for portrait photography using ambient light (no flash) are 1/60sec and 1/125sec. I find these do a good job of eliminating blur from subject movement, and most of the time allow reasonable apertures with low ISO.

A good investment for any photographer is a 1.8 lens around 50mm. These can be found from name brands to match cameras from around $100 – $150. Gambling on 3rd party is out of the question for these as prices are very similar.

IMG_7181.jpg

All those extra stops open up a lot of light conditions to hand-held photography.

I use a Canon EF 50mm 1.8 II. It’s my sharpest lens, runner up is the 18-55 EFS that the SL1 came with.

The only downfall of a prime lens (fixed focal length) is to adjust composition a lot of foot work needs to be done. No pampered zoom capabilities, but the trade-off is a very high quality lens for a low price. Take a deep breath and buy a step counter as well.

I should let you know that if you click a link here and buy something from Amazon I will make a small commission. You can consider me a salesman, but I am definitely not hiding anything. Everything I list I have faith in as a product enough to recommend it, or have used myself.

I hope to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision about your purchases. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me, and if you plan on buying a product I’ve mentioned, please use my links!

To 3rd Party, or Not?

The YN-560 is a huge upgrade from an old Vivitar. The price is right, it has a wide range of functions and seems durable (may have taken a few tumbles off of a light stand) but it does lack some features like TTL and rear curtain sync.

In the market for cameras and gear, there is a huge price gap between Functional and Extensive.

The Yongnuo brand seems to be a promising competitor in the Functional category. Their flashes have more power and often more ability than minimum functionality products from first market competitors.

For comparison, take the Canon 90EX: lower power output, no swivel, no zoom control. About $129. What it does have on the Yongnuo speedlights, though, is the ability to control other Canon flashes (where a transmitter and receiver system is necessary otherwise), and the benefit of custom functions from Canon cameras like rear curtain sync (which is useful for night-time photography).

The  Yongnuo YN-560 II is a more valuable on-camera flash. The Canon 90EX, not having swivel, zoom, tilt or height above the lens, pales in comparison. Someone with really deep pockets who could afford to buy Canon and nothing but Canon would benefit from the high-tech capabilities of the flashes, but on a budget the 3rd party products make sense.

The YN-560 II, at about $100, has the same physical functionality as the Canon 430EX III-RT, at about $400. YN also has two slave modes for syncing with other flashes (one flash can act as a “master” to trigger slaves) which closely mimics the Canon flash’s ability to control each other.

1 flash with many software capabilities, or 2 flashes with light stands and umbrellas?

This argument depends on your needs, but I value the versatility of many lights and simply can’t afford Canon models. Trustworthy 3rd party producers have allowed me to do things with photography that I would not have been able otherwise. Not without a much larger investment.

I would love to own Canon flashes. There are many times when the extra functionality would have made for great creative shots to add to my portfolio. Instead, I chose a route to quickest monetize my equipment and skill. It seems I made the right decision…

Yongnuo isn’t left in the dust for software capability, however. They keep releasing new models with better specs that remain in a similar price margin. Their new wireless system appears to be very promising, and even boasts TTL and Rear Curtain Sync. For about $400, when combined with two speedlights and light stands, this system allows a purchaser to gain greater capabilities for about the same price as a flagship Canon flash.

The Canon flashes, being all inclusive for functionality within themselves, are a tighter package. However, with slave mode on the Yongnuo flash, only two wireless transceivers are required to activate many lights. They don’t take up a lot of room in a camera bag.

Cautions with 3rd party products:

  1. Don’t drop them. Same goes for all camera gear, but these may not be made with the same durability.
  2. Keep away from water/dust. Again, this should be standard with all gear. A light mist is probably OK, but prolonged exposure should be avoided.

I should let you know that if you click a link here and buy something from Amazon I will make a small commission. You can consider me a salesman, but I am definitely not hiding anything. Everything I list I have faith in as a product enough to recommend it, or have used myself.

I hope to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision about your purchases. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me, and if you plan on buying a product I’ve mentioned, please use my links!