Quick and Easy Photobooth Setup.

Last week when asked to shoot at a 21st Birthday, I was asked if I could set up a photobooth so that the guests could take photos themselves as I shot some more candid images myself. After some milling about I realised that the photobooth could be created entirely with the old equipment I had lying around.

The Equipment: For my photobooth I used:

  • My old D70s with a 24mm 2.8
  • A Manfrotto compact tripod
  • One light stand
  • The umbrella from my SoftLighter II
  • A Yongnuo YN560-II
  • Two Cactus V5 triggers and the D70 synch chord

It’s important to note that any items of this category can be used to substitute the particular equipment I used, the Cactus triggers can be substituted with any infrared or radio shutter release (There are even iphone apps for some newer cameras). You can also use near any brand body, tripod, hotshoe light, and reflective umbrella. The Setup _DSC8615You’ve likely noticed that I only had the two triggers, both of which were handling the remote shutter and neither dedicated to the flash. Thankfully, as I would not be in the way behind the camera, I was able to keep the flash on the camera hotshoe, whilst placing the umbrella directly behind it. Second, I didn’t have a backdrop. You may wish to carry a backdrop or look for a neutral wall if setting up indoors, however outside during a dark night, all we needed was a little application of the inverse square law to achieve a simple, black background. After you’re set up it’s just a matter of finding a model (Or yourself) to set your exposure and focus. Whilst the cactus triggers can focus the camera, I found it easier to flip into manual for spontaneity’s sake, and lay down a marking for where the subjects should stand. Here’s what setting up looked like: _DSC0026

Further Reading:

It’s very easy to set up a black background, but if you want to get a bit more creative check out some of the ideas posted by Photojojo



Hello all.

It’s been a while I know, it’s not that I’ve given up on this blog but rather that I made this blog to fill what I perceived as gaps in the photographic education available on the internet, I suppose in that sense it’s encouraging that there haven’t been any posts.

I’m chiming in to say that if you spent most of your time looking at the pictures you’re in luck, because I now have a blog just for my photography and bookings: joshwellsphotography.com

I still want to keep the two mutually exclusive, so any tutorials I write will still show up here.



Creating Depth and Backlighting

In photography we’re forced to work within a 2D medium and as such it can become difficult to convey depth, in Landscape photography this can be achieved through the use of three separate planes, foreground, mid, and background or through the use of converging parallel lines, these principles are applicable to photographs of people but require a specific geographical condition.

Foreground, Midground, Background.

This principle can be found a large majority of landscape images, and film, it works by playing with the eye’s ability to judge objects based on size. You can add this to a photograph by placing the subject in a composition which already has two planes and uses your subject as the third. The subject will in most cases take up either the foreground or midground, I have found keeping the subject as the midground generally allows for a tighter composition, but if shooting wider you may just as easily be able to include two planes behind them.

Hint: for very tight and simple compositions I will generally place the subject in a garden as can be found in the above image. Some people will have biases against out of focus foreground elements, so you can close down your aperture to bring these in focus. I don’t mind it though, I was quite impressed by it’s use by Max Wanger and took to using it myself from then.

Converging Parallels.

Although it sounds rather paradoxical, as you look between two parallel lines the distance between them will appear to shrink in size the further away they are. You can find parallel lines anywhere with aisles or the like. Supermarkets, libraries, vineyards and tunnels work great.

But what if we already have a composition?

So how do we add depth to an image without having to rely on compositional principles? There are a number of ways you can manipulate your camera and lighting to increase the amount of depth in your image.

Manipulating Depth of Field

This one’s a no brainier, I’m not gonna explain how to open up an aperture and shorten depth of field, I will however brush over why it looks so appealing.

The eye does work somewhat similarly to a camera lens, it has an Iris (ie. Aperture) which it opens and closes to let in more or less light, and to a degree the eye has it’s own depth of field and need to focus, an example of this is if you hold your finger close to your eye and try to look to what’s behind it without moving your eye, which should be out of focus.

As such a shallow depth of field can do one of two things, in lesser doses it can give the eye a cue that what it’s seeing is out of focus because it’s further away than it may, in fact be. (As in the below photo).

Conversely, as in the photo to the right, in more extreme cases a shallow depth of field can flatten the background completely, creating two distinct planes, the subject and the background which the subject can be seen to “pop” out of.

Manipulating Lighting

One fairly easy way to squeeze an extra plane into your image is through back or side lighting. This highlights your subject and brings them forward from the background.

When back-lighting, blowing out highlights isn’t as much of a taboo as it is in other positions, and so it’s possible to just slave a flash behind you or off to the side and leave it be so long as it’s brighter than the key. When lighting from the side you’ll only want to go about a stop above or the subject may become nuclear.

Back-lighting seems to have taken over from short depth of field as my go-to technique for adding depth to an image as of late, and is appearing in near all of my images with over one light. I’ve found it also works well great in studio settings as not only will you generally have lights to spare, but it adds some much needed depth if using a plain background.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia’s page on Depth Perception has a list of all the monocular cues which the eye uses to judge depth. Including Parallax, which explains the principles behind camera movement to create depth. (For examples of Parallax and Fore/mid/background look at any scene in any Michael Bay movie, his movies aren’t groundbreaking compositionally but they stick to a few principles like glue, including the use of complimentary colour schemes, Hence why every person looks orange and the skies are an intense teal).


Lighting: Natural Light

Many reading this will likely have little experience using flash but a few months ago I felt as if any situation could be ultimately improved by artificial lighting, here are a few ways Natural light can be utilized in ways which make it just as pleasant and versatile as artificial.

It can still be soft.

When I took up photography I used natural lighting as I knew nothing else, what sold artificial lighting was the ability to diffuse it to create soft, pleasant light. What I would later find out is that natural light can be just as soft when the subject is placed in open shade. To find effective places for pleasant lighting look for the transitions between direct sunlight and shade, and place the subject just inside the shade.

Easy high key backgrounds.

One of the biggest issues with natural light is the struggle with balancing the exposure of your subject and background. In certain situations it is often easier to expose for your subject and let the background overexpose, resulting in clean high key backgrounds.

You don’t always need to be in open shade.

You can still get relatively soft lighting in direct sunlight too, just point shoot into and slightly to one direction of the sun and compensate, this will result in the side of your subject blowing out slightly, but is not too large a price to pay. You may also use it to your advantage like in the photo to the right where the blown highlights give a separation between the similar tones of the wall and her hair, an effect generally associated with two to three point lighting setups.

Colour Basics: How cameras see colour.

I have decided instead to serialise what was planned to be a very large tutorial on colour, and this is the first of these which will look at how film and camera sensors interpret colour.

How digital sensor’s see colour:

You might not know that a sensor does not natively record colour, and that digital sensors record light by increasing the amount of light in the image into a series of microlenses, which then filter into a pixel for each micro lens, each pixel can only however record the amount of light it receives in black and white.

The way a colour image is created from these pixels is through three channels, for Red, Green and Blue. Each pixel is filtered to only record from one of these and the pixels are aligned in the Bayer interpolation. The Bayer interpolation is an arrangement of the pixels to give even distribution of colour, it is the most commonly used arrangement and features in most DSLRs.
The Bayer interpolation, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

How films see colour:

Films interpret colour chemically and depending on the type of film either darkens (Negative/ Print film) or brightens (Reversal/ Slide Film) under light. Film also divides into three colour channels. This is done through the use of emulsion layers, which are layers which are sensitive to a certain colour of light, with intermittent filters which block the already received colours.
Emulsion layers, courtesy of http://webspace.webring.com/people/gl/lemagicien/kfpage/oncontact How are they different?

There are a variety of differences in the subtleties of how these two methods interpret hues, and there are of course the physical advantages, digital being able to take almost limitless photos with the single sensor, whilst film is relatively immune to sensor dust from shot to shot. Some of the more noticeable differences however are the digital sensor’s “clipping” white highlights, the result of a pixel filling with light and effectively overloading and spilling over to it’s neighboring pixels, this is especially noticeable with CCD sensors (Now less common then the CMOS sensors used in most modern DSLRs). The other key difference is that whilst light from any angle is absorbed directly down through emulsion layers, light hitting the microlenses of a digital sensor from a wide angle lens run the risk of penetrating neighboring pixels of other colours, resulting in chromatic aberration. Below is a diagram of this.
This one is by me, you can probably tell..

Further Reading:

The process is quite simply and understandably demonstrated in Photojojo’s tutorial on how to create a colour image using black and white photographs and coloured filters.

365 Projects, Finding inspiration and more with Sarah Ann Loreth

Merry Christmas everybody!

Today’s lessons on 365 projects and staying inspired comes in the form of an interview with the lovely and very talented Sarah Ann Loreth, a New Hampton based conceptual and self portrait photographer.

Hey Sarah

Do you feel taking up a 365 project has been helpful in your photography?

Sarah: Oh absolutely! I feel like it was the cause of me growing at such an astronomically fast rate. It forced me to go out and practice every single day. And you know what they say about practice. But it kind of fizzled out after about day 150 or so. I started getting to be such a perfectionist and it stressed me out too much. I failed it. But I’m still counting anyway out of habit and stubbornness. I should have been done in October and in reality if I uploaded everything I did shoot, I would have completed it right on time. But I only wanted to upload the best.

Further, what are the best and the most difficult parts of doing one?

The best would definitely be the rate of growth. I’ve followed others undertaking the same project and it’s just crazy how fast people grow.

The worst is the stress. I think everyone encounters it who decides to try the project. It’s hard. It’s really hard. That’s why a lot of people don’t finish and I give so much credit to everyone who does. It becomes a bit of a habit and an expectation where if you don’t have an idea it really becomes a stressful thing. And coming up with ideas, that was so tough.

How do you find inspiration for your photographs?

I read a lot! Poetry and book and everything. Sometimes I go to my favorite poets and pick a line and try to recreate it photographically. I also draw a lot of inspiration from movies and other photographers. Though I’m trying to change my way of being inspired as more of a process instead of the usual random bolt of lightening if you will. The “OH! That would look awesome!” It would be easier if I could brainstorm.

So do you have any poets, writers or films which appear in many of your photos?

I do! I am working on a bit of a literary suicide series. It’s kind of an on going project. I’ve played Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf, and Edgar Allan Poe.

And who are the photographers that inspire you?

There are so many! Flickrwise:
Terra Kate, Alex Stoddard, Karrah Kobus, Rosie Hardy! Gosh there are so many.
I’m also adore Cindy Sherman, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, and Tim Walker!
I don’t know, I am just so drawn to photographers that are able to tell stories and see the world in a different unusual way.

Do you find your self portrait work has made it easier to direct other people when photographing them?

To me, I found it actually limited my ability to work with others. You just kind of get used to doing it all yourself. And I had such bad social anxiety the thought of working with models absolutely terrified me. That’s why I put off doing it for so long. But I knew to grow as a photographer I had to just go out there and do it. So, I did. I worked with my first model and August and I’ve been since. It’s different and sometimes I start feeling out of practice with self portraiture. In the end though working with others had made me evaluate my work as a whole and how I went about it. And I’m still terrible at directing but I’m getting better!

To what degree do you plan or envision your photographs before taking them?

Pretty much almost completely. I don’t feel I create my best work when I “wing it”. My best work is created when I sketch out my details and completely think out what I’m trying to achieve. I like to have my concepts at least detailed a few weeks before the shoot.

Which is your favourite photograph you’ve taken? Which was the most challenging?

Well that changes with my moods. But most recently it would have to be this one:

I think because it came out EXACTLY how I had envisioned it. I find those are always my favorites, when I can see when I saw in my head. And Dawn was such a great sport letting me light her on fire.

And my most challenging was probably this:

At least for shooting. I never meant for the fishtank to break. But it did. It smashed in my tub with me in it and I got so mangled! So I decided to just go with it and turn the shower on haha

What gear do you use?

I use the Canon 5d Mark ii with almost primarily the 50mm 1.2

Are you Happy with your current level of gear?

I am absolutely! These were both my dream camera and lens and I saved for months and months and months for them. It was worth all the cost!

What post processing do your images go through?

Almost all of my conceptual images are composited together from numerous other photos to create one. So, I expand, brighten, darken, sharpen if needed, and color correct!

That’s about it really.

What is the next step in your photography?

Artificial lighting 😦 I know I need to learn it to grow as a photographer but it feels like I’m learning photography all over again. It scares me and I’ve been procrastinating on buying gear. But I’ll get there, when I’m ready!

What advice would you give to others pursuing photography?

Go for it! Don’t be afraid to be open to new ideas and always challenge yourself. Sometimes you’ll feel down on yourself and your work but keep creating. It’s the journey and your own personal growth that matter. And always always always keep a level head and pay it forward. The only competition in art is with yourself, so be helpful and don’t worry so much about what other people are doing. Just be true to yourself and your art and have confidence in yourself and you’ll go places!

You may find Sarah on flickr, facebook and her Etsy store

Lighting Tricks: Windows

Lighting can get very expensive and complicated, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be. Here we’ll look at how we can apply studio sensibilities on natural light in order to get cheap, quality light.

Frosted Glass as a background:

As is shown in the above image, frosted glass windows may be used to create a simple back lit backdrop with a similar effect to blurring out the background with a large aperture. For the above image I used an aperture of f/4 for sharpness, however on slower lenses practically any f stop works as the background is already blurred. (Although every lens is different I use the rule of thumb that a lens is at it’s best two stops below it’s maximum aperture), the only risk with smaller apertures is that you run the risk of revealing too much of the glass’s texture, which is still up to artistic preference.

What’s important to consider when using this technique is that enough light is reflecting onto the subject, you’ll usually want to spot meter the subject however if the background is becoming too overexposed you can use a reflector or fill flash to bring the subject’s brightness closer to the background. I still prefer having the background a fair bit brighter than the subject.

Using a Window as a Soft Light Source:

As can be seen in the work of a variety of natural light and wedding photographers, windows and door frames can be used similarly to softboxes, obviously you can’t bring the window closer to your subject but you can bring your subject closer to the window to soften the light and brighten them or compensate your shutter or ISO to darken the background. In the photo above the window gives a nice soft light along with a lovely catchlight (I find catchlights are more complex and pleasant with natural light), I only wish I’d turned him towards the light more so his left eye wasn’t so much more dull than his right. If you find hotspots or uneven light you may also want to place a piece of diffusion cloth (Or White Bedsheet) over the window to further diffuse it.

Further Reading: 

The diffusion cloth over a window technique appears in some of Peter Hurley‘s earlier work.

Look to natural light photographers for use of windows as light sources. In many cases the  window may even appear in the shot such in these shots by Sarah Ann Loreth (Who we have an interview with soon), the former using the window as the key light whilst the latter acts as backlight to define the subject.

When using frosted glass as a backdrop, pay attention to the glass itself. In the title shot for this article towards the top of the frame there is a sort of grid from the fly screen coating which is common in windows here in Australia, you may also want to watch out for  dents and cracks which could give away the window pane.