Blowing out the Background

Blowing out the Background

The image above was not shot on a white background. It has a minimal level of adjustment in Lightroom to it, mostly to clean up the edges, but that’s about it. It was taken in front of the greyish-blue wall in the lobby of the BorrowLenses.com offices in San Carlos. The thing about a relatively light-colored background is that it lends itself to a surprisingly large number of options for photographers. Though grey backgrounds work best for this, you can with some tweaking, turn just about any light-colored background — grey, blue, beige — completely black, as I demonstrated in this article on how to kill your background completely. In this article, I’ll show you how to blow out that background completely to make it look like you’re shooting in front of a white backdrop. The setup for this portrait was exceedingly simple. I placed one Nikon SB-910 in a Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe and one bare-bulb, with the included diffuser attached. The SB-910 in the Lastolite softbox was placed on camera-left, while the bare-bulb SB-910 was placed directly behind Ben, and slightly below the level of his shoulders. It was pointed up at an angle at the wall behind Ben, as shown below. I set the flashes to manual, making sure that the flash hitting the wall was about 2 stops brighter than the flash on Ben’s face. The diffusion in the softbox cut the power of the light on Ben by another 1/3 stop or so, I estimate. That was it. It took a bit of tweaking the power on the lights and the aperture for exposure and...
Daylight Savings Time is Here: Don’t Forget to Change Your Camera’s Clock

Daylight Savings Time is Here: Don’t Forget to Change Your Camera’s Clock

Unlike your computers, tablets, and smartphones, the clock in your camera doesn’t typically do the “Spring forward, Fall back” routine required to keep its clock accurate. If you don’t go in manually to change the time and date on you camera, the EXIF data it stamps your files with will have an inaccurate time/date stamp. While it’s not the end of the world if your photos show a time that’s an hour off, having your clock accurate is always a good thing. Knowing the exact time an image was taken can help you if you want to replicate the exact atmospheric conditions in a landscape shot at a later time, for example.  Having accurate timestamps is especially important if you’re doing any kind of geo-tagging of your images using a GPS tracker or your iPhone to record a GPS track file and apply it to your DSLR photos in Lightroom or Aperture. This article will show you how to adjust the time on your Nikon or Canon camera, as well as how to adjust your photo timestamps if you forget. Not all cameras use the exact same menu setup, so please check your camera’s manual for instructions specific to your gear. On a Nikon (we’re using a D800E in this example) go to your “Setup” menu and select the “Time zone and Date” option. Now, rather than changing the actual time once you’re here, you can simply change the “Daylight Savings Time” option and your camera will automatically jump its clock forward an hour. Switch it form “Off” to “On.”   On a Canon camera (We’re using a 5D...
Shooting Fast Action with a D800E

Shooting Fast Action with a D800E

When you think of fast-action photography, the D800E isn’t exactly the first camera that comes to mind – and with good reason. At a top speed of 4 frames per second and a buffer that will fill up pretty quickly with those massive 36MP files, it’s not a camera that lends itself to that kind of photography easily. If you’re in a pinch, however, and need to be able to use the D800E (or the D800) for a bit of fast-action work, there are a few things you can do to get a bit more performance out of this camera. The first thing you can do is switch your D800/E to DX-mode. This accomplishes a few things. It ups your framerate to 5fps. It makes your file sizes smaller, which gives your camera’s buffer the ability to handle more shots before it chokes your shooting speed. It gives you more “reach” than the FX-mode, so you have the field of view of a 900mm lens when using a 600mm lens. To do this, simply go to the “Image Area” option in the Shooting menu, as shown below. Select the “Choose Image Area” option, then scroll to “DX” and hit the “OK” button on your D800. Now your image size has been dropped down to about 16MP, and if you look through the viewfinder, you’ll see a rectangle outlining the field of view for the cropped image size. Use that to frame your shot. At this point, you’ve already bumped your shooting speed by about 25%, but there’s another way to bump it even more. Rent the MB-D12 battery grip...
Kill the Background: How to Turn a Background Black with Speedlights

Kill the Background: How to Turn a Background Black with Speedlights

I was recently inspired by a recent series of portraits by our very own Alex Huff. Titled “Chiaroscuro Portraiture,” it features these gorgeous close-up portraits of the men and women in her life, each one of which is a study in how to render the interplay between light and shadow. Alex takes these images in front of a grey background, and through a combination of getting in close to her subjects and using one light, sends what little you might see of that grey to almost pitch black. I began to think of what I could do if I didn’t have a backdrop to shoot against, if I needed to make a portrait in a relatively brightly-lit area. In theory, it could be done; a basic understanding of the Inverse-Square Law reveals that much. But what if all you had was a basic modifier and a couple of speedlights, not a big studio strobe? Could you still do it? I had to give it a try. I picked the area above to try this out in. That’s the lobby of the BorrowLenses.com West Coast headquarters in San Carlos, CA. As you can tell, it’s a pretty bright area, with large glass windows letting in a lot of ambient light, grey walls with photos mounted, a television and a glass case in the corner. Not exactly an “uncluttered” background, but it made for a great area for a test case. I roped in a couple of guys from our front-desk team, who’ve been long-suffering models for my various experiments, to be my portrait subjects. I started with taking a test exposure....
Shooting On the Go With the Olympus OM-D

Shooting On the Go With the Olympus OM-D

Not too long ago, I switched to the Nikon D800E with a series of prime lenses for all of my primary photography. I love the Nikon, and it’s proved to be a fantastic system, capably handling just about everything I’ve thrown at it. The downside is that it is, truly, a system. A big, heavy system. I quickly found myself looking for a smaller, carry-around camera for some of my more photojournalistic endeavors, and immediately turned to the family of mirrorless cameras out there for an answer. Of these, there is no shortage. You have the awesome Sony NEX-6, which I’ve raved about in the past. There’s also the Sony RX-1, the Panasonic GF3C, the Fuji X-Pro1, and the subject of this article, the Olympus OM-D E-M5. I’ve had the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for the past few weeks now, and have been using it as my primary “take everywhere” camera. It’s small size, lens selection, and great image quality combine to provide a system that’s flat-out my favorite in this category. In this article, I’ll present my experience shooting with this little thing, rather than a full-on technical review. The Build This thing is solid and extremely well-built. I’ve got chubby little sausages for fingers, but I can still get a pretty decent grip on it, thanks to the tab on the back and the indent in the front that give your thumb and middle fingers a secure place to grasp onto. The buttons, though tiny, are pretty responsive, so it’s not hard to use many of them just by feel The back of the OM-D, shown above, is...