Tag Archives: portrait

A Fun Way To Shoot Portraits Using Strings Of Christmas Lights

Christmas Becky

I subscribe to Petapixel.  It’s an online magazine with all sorts of neat articles about the latest photography news (did you know Lensrentals.com and LensProToGo are merging?), cameras, camera gear, projects, etc.  The other day, I read an article that piqued my interest and I ended up sharing it to my Facebook photography page (Rebecca Latson Photography).  I thought I’d share it in a blog post too.  To read the actual article, click on this link.

After reading the article, I decided to do some experimenting with strings of multi-colored Christmas lights (since I had 5 strings of them and only 2 strings of the white lights), using the same settings that the photographer, Irene Rudnyk applied (ISO 500, f1.2, 1/250 shutter speed, 85mm lens).  Heaven knows, I didn’t have anything better to do, like laundry, dishes, or packing.  It was a fun little experiment and I gained some valuable insights.   Photography is about experimentation as well as about learning new techniques and ideas and stepping outside one’s own comfort zone to apply something new that they’ve learned.  That’s how a good photographer becomes a great photographer.

  1. Ignore the clutter in the room and concentrate on the camera/light/backdrop/light setup. Just as in Ms. Rudnyk’s room, this light project can be accomplished in a very small space.
    8001_View Of Setup8009_Setup View From Camera Angle8005_Looking At The Camera
  2. Yes, you can do this project with just one person (yourself), but it’s not as easy. Because I was both photographer and model, and because I was using a remote shutter release instead of being the one to look through the lens at the subject, I kept checking the images to ensure I was positioned correctly in front of the lens and that the string of lights did not get in the way of the lens.  You can see what happens when a colored light is in front of the subject and too close to a lens wide-open at f1.2.  You also may notice just how shallow the DOF is on a 85mm lens wide-open.  I didn’t mind that too much, as it added a teeny bit of dreamy quality to the shot.
    Christmas Becky Green BlobPink BlobChristmas Becky
  3. I carried out this project twice, over the course of 2 days. During my first attempt, I wasn’t using an 85mm lens, nor did I have the aperture wide-open to get the maximum bokeh.  I used different  settings as well, since I didn’t remember what Ms. Rudnyk’s settings were – I didn’t learn that until I actually watched her YouTube video embedded in the article.

    Christmas Becky - Day 1White Lights And A Christmas Tree

  4. Ms. Rudnyk used white lights in a light, neutral-toned room with a large picture window letting in natural blue/white side light. Her model was pale and wore light-colored clothing. I was in a cluttered spare bedroom, in the evening – so no natural light – using a black backdrop and strings of multi-colored lights. The strings were dark (as opposed to the white strings used in Ms. Rudnyk’s images, which is why I used the black backdrop).  I used a tall lamp near the camera for side-lighting.  Sometimes the strings still showed through, but I don’t consider them too distracting.
  5. Because of the darker atmosphere, I used Curves to lighten, and sometimes Levels to brighten the composition.  I also had to clone out a dark spot on my front tooth – I have a natural indentation on the tooth and it catches the shadow, so in some photos, it looks like a speck of food (sigh).
  6. I used my Canon 5DSR for this shoot. I love this camera, but it totally stinks regarding low-light, higher-ISO noise (what’s up with that Canon?).  So I applied some Imagenomic-brand  Noiseware noise-reduction software to the overall composition, which reduced/removed grain and helped my skin look a little more even (I’m definitely not as young as Ms. Rudnyk’s model).

All-in-all, it was a fun project and I like the results.  Plus, I learned a new technique for neat portrait shots.

Note:  If you are doing this all yourself:

  • Use a wireless remote rather than the timer on your camera.  Really, it is easier.
  • Make certain you have a sturdy step-ladder and/or a spotter to keep you steady while you hang the light strings from the ceiling.
  • Unless you want to put holes in your ceiling, I would suggest using something like duct tape.  Gorilla-brand tape works really well.  If you use any other kind of tape, it may be too weak to hold up the light strings for any length of time.  I noticed this morning that the tape and lights had fallen from the ceiling to the floor.
  • If you want light strings to lead to your lens, don’t use tape or anything else to secure the strings to the lens.  Simply wrap the string around the lens itself to keep the string in place.
  • Remember to stand in front of the light strings to get the nice bokeh.
  • Have fun!  Despite getting all sweaty and hot as I hung the lights up, set up the camera and ran back and forth to take a shot then look at the result, it was a neat, educational project.

Christmas Becky

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Filed under 5DSR, 85mm f1.2L, Canon, Canon Lens, Christmas, Equipment, Exposure, Photography, Portraits

Happy Halloween, Bitches – er, I mean – Witches!

Halloween Becky 3

Halloween Becky 

I recently received a new hand-made felted-wool witch hat from Etsy.  I decided to have a little fun with some self-portraits and studio lighting in my “studio”.  Actually, I live in an apartment and don’t have an official (aka proper) studio.  Instead, I have a couple of lights on stands with translucent umbrellas, all in my living room.  I covered the livingroom window with a black fleece sheet and set up my tripod and Canon 5DSR and Canon 85mm f1.2L lens at the other end of the room.  One studio light was above and looking down at me while the other light was below and looking up at me.  After I processed the photos using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, I ran them through Perfect Photo Suite 9 Effects presets and filters for the final product.

Halloween Becky 3

Halloween Becky – original shot

Halloween Becky 2

Halloween Becky #2

Halloween Becky 2

Halloween Becky – Original Shot

Halloween Becky 2

And for good measure, I decided to have a little fun with black & white (Silver Efex 2) and Adobe Photoshop’s history brush tool.

Halloween Becky 3

Happy Halloween, Everybody!  May you receive all the good candy (Kit Kat, Snickers, Starburst, Heath Bar).

 

 

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Filed under 5DSR, 85mm f1.2L, Canon, Canon Lens, Halloween, Portraits

You Don’t Need A Large Studio For Fun Portrait Pics

Becky-New Dress-Camera I’ve been recuperating from some outpatient surgery and haven’t gotten out for a couple of weeks.  I’ve enjoyed my “stay-cation” of napping, watching TV and reading, but my thoughts always turn to photography in some form or another. I recently received an order of three really cute vintage-inspired dresses and some extra studio light bulbs to replace the ones that burned out on me.  So, I decided to put two and two together and get some self-portraits of me in my new dresses while having fun playing with the studio lighting. Becky In A Blue Dress I don’t have any large rooms to use for dedicated studio work;  I’ve got clutter, luggage, etc. in every room.  But, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t get some great photos within a very small space. Becky-Camera-New Dress As you can see from the photos, I used continuous lighting with a couple of white umbrellas, one on each side of me for equal lighting.  I also used a wireless shutter release which ensured the focus on me was always nice and sharp.  I used both my Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 1DX; my 85mm f1.2 lens was attached to the 1DX while I alternated between the 24-105mm and the 40mm lenses on the 5D Mk III.  My favorite images ultimately came from using the 85mm f1.2 lens on the 1DX.  That combination is killer for portraits and great lighting, I feel. Becky In Blue Moral of the story:  you can get some great portrait images without alot of space or a special background.  And, playing around with the cameras helped me eliminate my bout of the “stir crazies”.

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Filed under Canon, Equipment, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

Meet Kyle & Adrienne

Kyle and Adrienne - Color

Hello everybody! I know, long time, no post. I’ve been a busy gal. I’m getting ready for a late April 2014 return trip to Big Bend National Park.  I’ve also been  putting together my packing list for my August Alaska 2014 trip, and I just purchased a plane ticket for an October visit to Hawaii where I have a reservation for 4 days at Volcano House in Volcanoes National Park. On top of that, I am trying to get into better (waaaayyyy better) shape in order to do the hikes I want for all of these trips. And, I admit, it’s been a little “dry”, photographically, since my last post.

A week ago, however, I traveled north and west of Houston to a lovely home for some engagement photos with Kyle and Adrienne. I’d been hired to photograph their June wedding and Adrienne told me her mother wanted an engagement photo session.

The day dawned overcast with a few sprinkles; the photos were supposed to be taken in Adrienne’s parents’ backyard garden. We’d scheduled a time of 11:30AM, so I knew the light would be flat, but I figured we’d still get some great shots and I’d bring along some fun umbrellas as props to keep the couple dry if it rained. As soon as I parked my car in front of their home, the sun came out; an auspicious omen.

I used my Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 1DX. I placed the Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on the Mk III and the Canon 24-70mm L II lens on the 1DX. I brought along my flash, too, which was good since several of the settings were interior shots. For those of you who have been following my posts for awhile, you know that I generally eschew flash because I simply don’t like it. I did use it for a couple of shots, but I also used just the ambient lighting and increased the ISO to compensate for the low light.

Below are some sample images from the morning’s session.

Multiple Kyles and Adriennes

Multiple Kyles and Adriennes - Garden Closeup

I’m starting to get the hang of this multiple-shots-in-one-image thing and thought it would be a fun trick for a couple of images.

Kyle and Adrien Azaleas - Color

The pink azaleas perfectly matched Adrienne’s sundress.

Kyle and Adrienne - Yucca - Original

Adrienne and Kyle - Tree BW

Among the many images taken, I also made sure to get some poses that might make for a nice photo to put into the engagement section of the newspaper.

Kyle and Adrien at Piano

This image was taken using a high ISO and the ambient light.  I chose to keep it the golden color of the interior lighting.  That beautiful charcoal drawing in the background was done by Adrienne’s mother.

Kyle and Adrien at Piano - Vignette

This image was captured using a flash.  I processed the image in Photoshop then applied some presets from OnOne’s Perfect Effects to soften and create a bit of a glow to the scene.

Kyle and Adrienne Stairs

Once again, I used only the ambient light and a high ISO to capture this image.  Then, I added a very little bit of vignetting to focus the eye more on the subjects.

Kyle and Adrienne On Stairs

I used a flash for this image, then cropped it a little more tightly around  the couple.

All-in-all, it was a fun morning and I’m glad I was able to meet the couple prior to their wedding.  By the end of my hour with Kyle and Adrienne, we were all feeling more relaxed in each other’s company.  Engagement photos are a fun way to introduce the photographer to the prospective bride and groom, discuss what kind of images they have in mind, and get everybody comfortable with each other.

If you would like to see more images taken on this day, click on this link.

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Filed under Canon, Canon Lens, Photo Shoots, Photography, Portraits

The Trickiness of Christmas Lights and Portraiture

I like buying local when I can, and I like buying hand-made. So when my friend Sabyn of Simplysabyn crocheted an adorable little Santa holiday hat for a baby, I asked her if she made them for big people, too. Yes, she did. So I ordered one. After receiving it, I thought it would make for a great Facebook profile pic to get a portrait of me modeling the hat in front of my Christmas tree (yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I have the tree up, lights, ornaments and all).

My goal was to try and get a relatively well-lit shot of me but with all the color and brightness of the lit tree in a darkened room behind me.

Easier said than done.

My first experiment was a shot of me and the tree using only the ambient light given off by the tree. My Canon 5D Mk III was set up with my Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on a tripod. The ISO was set at 1600 with an f-stop of 5 and a shutter speed of 1/10 second. I used my $20 Pixel-brand wireless remote shutter release to get clear images of myself. Oh, and I used myself as the model because I not only like the way I look but I was also the only one around at the time. I wanted to do this experiment right then and there, and I don’t mind doing this over and over until I get it the way I want. I figure other models would get a little bored after awhile. Plus, I wanted to send the final result to my friend Sabyn so she could use them on her FB site if she wanted.

Christmas Becky - Ambient Light

After many takes, here is the resulting image using only the ambient light. The entire image was cast in a golden-red hue which was further emphasized by my red hat and red fleece top. Interesting, but not quite what I was aiming for.

So I brought out a single light stand and screwed in a 500 watt bulb in front of which I put a 24” white umbrella for diffusion since 500 watts at close range is pretty intense – particularly since I was still trying to get the color and glow of the tree lights behind me. The camera was set at ISO 320 with a f-stop of 4.5 and a shutter speed of 1/30.

Christmas Becky

As you can see, the light was great on me, but it totally eliminated the ambience of the tree lights and ornaments.

I’d been working on this for over an hour, was hot and sweaty and more or less done for the day. It wasn’t until the next day that I considered using my flash off-camera. The only problem with that was my focus issue. I couldn’t have my Canon dedicated flash remote trigger on the camera *and* a wireless shutter release (I probably could if I had a different setup). In the end, I relied on manual focus. That was tricky because the only light in the room was provided by the Christmas tree. So I had to set up one of my camera backpacks in the chair in front of the tree, then shine a flashlight on the backpack to help me get the focus correct. Eye roll. But it worked.

This little photo session took forever, because I just couldn’t get the whole lighting thing right. I set the flash to one side of the camera, then I set the flash to practically in front of me, then I set the flash directly behind the camera and raised the stand about a foot above the camera. Finally, just as I was about to give up, I decided to try something. Leaving the flash on the stand behind and above the camera, I deliberately set the camera shutter speed slower than the flash, so that the flash would trigger but the camera shutter would be open for just a bit longer after the flash went off. ISO was 160, the f-stop was 7.1, the shutter speed was ½ second, and the flash intensity was set to between 1/128 and 1/64 (with it being closer to the 1/64 mark).

Christmas Becky-Flash

Ultimately, I had to brighten my face up post-process, but by golly, I got what I was working for: a nicely-lit view of my face and the colorful, glowing ambience of the tree behind me.

Christmas Camera Becky-Flash

Christmas Camera Becky Ornament

Photography is all about practice, experiment, and climbing that learning curve.

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Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Flash Photography, Holidays, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

Portraits

Bear Face

I captured a lot of images of the bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.  The majority of the photos I took were with a rented Canon 500mm f4L Mk II lens on my Canon 1-DX body.  I duplicated many of the originals which I then cropped quite a bit in order to focus only on the faces of the bears (thank goodness for full-frame cameras).  After a time, I began to notice unique differences in each face, their shape, their scars, expressions, and – to some extent – the color of their fur. Here are some of the portraits I took of the denizens of this park.   FYI, I have also created a 2014 calendar with brown bear portraits in addition to other 2014 calendars.  Here is the link to the site where I am selling the calendars, or click on any the calendar images to the left of this screen.

*Note:  the park has stringent rules regarding human/bear interaction.  If’ you read my article about Brooks Lodge written for the National Parks Traveler, you will have read some of the rules I listed and know that all of these photos captured were taken from the safety of the viewing platforms constructed for the viewing of the bears with the super-telephoto lens and then cropped.

Bear Closeup CROP

Portrait Of A Droopy Lip

Sniffing Around

Hiya Becky CROP

Portrait

Look at these portraits and you, too, will notice the characteristics that make each one of these bears as unique as you and I.

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Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Portraits, Travel, Travel and Photography, wildlife

A Wedding In Galveston – The Bride Getting Ready

Taking A Break

Judging by the room Josh and Maegan had, I’d say the San Luis Resort penthouse suites are – well –  sweet 😉

I entered with all of my gear, set it out of the way of the ladies in the room, and began picking up cups and plates off of the coffee table and moving chairs and other things around the room to make space for forthcoming photo ops. I decided there would be no need for any flash as the ambient light from the balcony windows mixed nicely with the interior shadows. The bride finally returned from the salon and the photography process began.  And this, folks is where the art of photography really comes into play when capturing the beauty of the Bride and her Ladies.

Bridesmaids On The Couch

Bride and Bridesmaids Robes

I first saw Maegan in her little “Bride” robe when she waltzed down to the salon for her hair appointment. She told me the bridesmaids and matron of honor each had robes as well only they were in the bride’s color (aqua) with white embroidery writing on the backs.

Showing Bella The Locket

I’ve noticed this about the “getting ready” sessions I have photographed prior to the actual wedding ceremony: they are all very relaxed and intimate, with hugs and fun chatter and quiet excitement of the ceremony to come. Talk centers around family. In the image above, Nana was showing her granddaughter the locket that will someday belong to her.

When you are hired to photograph a wedding, it’s so very important to get to know the couple prior to the Big Day.   Why?  Because having the couple  feel comfortable with you and your style is worth so much in terms of the kinds of photographs you can achieve on their behalf.  When everybody feels comfortable around you, then they tend to not feel so self-conscious and worried about having a camera around them on a constant basis.  They relax in your presence and the photographs you capture reveal the love, affection, and emotion of the day.

Bride

Getting a photo of the wedding dress is almost a de rigeur photo nowadays.  And Maegan was cracking me up.  Pretty much everything she wore said “Bride”, from her robe to her tank top.

That quiet excitement began to build as the bride was helped into her gown and finishing touches were applied.

In The Wedding Dress

I made use of my 70-200mm, 50mm, and 24-70mm lenses for these images. All of them hand-held. No flash. In all of the photos with people (excepting the reception images), I added a touch of Imagenomic’s Portraiture. It’s all about looking good for the wedding, you know.

If you are in a situation where you can utilize side-lighting, then by all means do so, as it is fantastic for portraits.

Buttoning Her Dress

Putting On The Wedding Jewelry

Bride and Bridesmaids

Portrait of Happy

If you are in a situation where you can utilize backlighting for the bride, then this is another one of those “by all means do so” moments.

Maegan-Wedding Dress-Window

Maegan-Wedding Dress-Window

Bella And Maegan At Window

Yes, the backlit bride and her dress are clichéd shots that all photographers get, but nobody can argue they aren’t beautiful images and every backlit bride image is different from wedding to wedding, so it’s not *quite* the same thing as photographing a landscape that everybody else with a camera has captured.

Standing At The Window

Bella And Maegan At Window

Portrait Of The Bride VIGNETTE

I also made use of black & white with some of the photos. Weddings, IMO, were made for monochrome. In some cases, I noticed the black & white images bringing out more dress detail than in the color images.

Next post: Posed Shots – The Bride, Groom, The Bridesmaids, The Bridal Party

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Filed under Black & White, Life, Photography, wedding