Sunday, 24 January 2010

Freezing motion in the studio

On the whole studio lights are the best choice when it comes to studio work, but there is one occasion when a speedlite is a much better choice then a studio head. If you want to freeze a moving subject you need a speedlite and a little strobist know how.

First thing that springs to mind when I talk about freezing action is shutter speed. To be honest you’d normally be absolutely spot on, but there’s one very important thing you really need to know about shutter speed and flash.

Every heard the term “sync speed”? It’s the fastest shutter speed your camera can handle where the shutter is open long enough to expose the whole sensor to the flash of light. It’s most likely to be 1/125th 1/200th or even 1/250th second at the most. Go faster then that and you’ll get a horrible black strip over the image. To put it another way, in the studio setting a faster shutter speed isn’t the answer.

So how do you freeze action? Simple, make the burst of light last for less time.

A burst of light from a typical studio flash head will last for around 1/500th second. It’s called the flash duration and you can think of it as the effective shutter speed. 1/500th sec is pretty fast, but that’s a walk in the park for a speedlite which can reach easily speeds of 1/8000th second or faster.

As you’ll see in the video below a speedlite is easily fast enough to freeze my daughter bouncing on a mini trampoline.

As is often the case there was a lot more I could have shown you in the video, so here’s some extra content for my blog readers…

So you’re probably thinking there must be a down side, and you’d be right. First the speedlite isn’t as powerful as a studio flash head, so I increased the iso to 400 to compensate a little. The second problem is the speedlite takes a while to get up to full power which meant several missed shots.

In the studio I use multiple lights to achieve the look I want, but as I only have a couple of speedlites I had to be a bit more careful about where they were placed. The main light was put in a
Lastolite ezybox at 45 degrees to the model. To fill in the shadows I placed a large white reflector on the opposite side.

Pocket Wizard radio flasg triggers are amazing devices allowing you to maintain full E-TTL even off camera. The practical up shot of that is you can forget about setting the flash strength and concentrate on the other stuff, like focus, posing and aperture.

You’ll probably have noticed that I used a second speedlite to light the white background. Although I could have also set that to E-TTL control, experience has taught me that the white background fools the system. So I set the second speedlite to manual and dialled in 1/8th power. I also deployed the flash diffuser to give a big spread of light.


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Me, me, me.

Don't be fooled by the title, this it's one of those "I'm better then you" blog posts. Instead it's an answer to a question from a message I received from a blog reader (yes, I do read EVERY email and message you send).

The question went something like this... I want to take a self portrait like one I've seen somewhere on the internet.

Ok so far, surfing the web is a great way to get ideas and inspiration. The image I was directed to was an excellent image which featured a guy on a skateboard, but unusually it looked like the guy has skating with half a dozen identical twins.

As I can't skate, here's my interpretation of the image.

You can see abigger version on my Flickr page

So how's it done, your asking? Well here's your answer, complete with live action video showing all the studio work and that's followed by the complete Photoshop technique.


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Busy week on the net

The new years barely a week old but already things are getting busy. As well as creating a couple of new videos for my blog, I've been working on content for a few other websites.

Lighting tutorial
Over on the smick website I've just completed a video tutorial on studio lighting effects which you can view
here. Although the tutorial ,covers video lighting the set up is essentially the same one I use in the studio for portrait photography.

Translated tutorials
At the end of last year I was contacted by Dennis Vermaut who has spent hours and hours translating many of my tutorials in to dutch. I'm really amazed at his dedication. Thank you Dennis. Here's a full list of tutorials and links. ==> Waterdrops ==> Smoke ==> Waterbottle ==> Mirror 3D box ==> HDR ==> Rain ==> James Bond ==> Zip open an apple ==> Fog ==> Image by text ==> Extract filter

Tip Squirrel - Guest Blog
Last but not least today my guest blog post for the tip squirell website goes live. The subject was mine to select and I opted for sharpening in camera RAW. The post has plenty of written content as well as a exclusive video tutorial. To view the post and the video click here

Well that's about it for now. If you're in the UK I hope you're making the most of the snow which still looks fantastic (if a little cold).

How to take amazing photos in the snow

Anyone who lives in the UK will be all too aware that this winter is unusually cold. Snow isn't a rare round these parts but this year has started with an unusually large downfall which has made everywhere look like a winter wonderland.

Of course, no self respecting photographer can resist the temptation of taking snow photos so to help you get decent photos here's a short tutorial on snow photography.

As always I'm not simply making videos for the sake of it, I'm also out taking photos for myself. You can view the photos seen in the video on my flickr page

Here's one of favourite form the day. It's a panoramic made from 6 images. I think this would make an amazing canvas print. 6 images joined together makes for a pretty big image, in fact it can be printed 130cm wide without interpellation.

Click the photo to enlarge

Of course I'm well aware the whole world isn't in the grip of winter and according to Gym, one of my readers in Australia, he's never actually seen real snow!