Feb 1, 2016

Behind the Lens

A Few Tips from Behind the Scenes

As you all well know, I spend a fare share of my time on airplanes. A task I often try to accomplish while avoiding reading in the air is deleting old and unneccessary iPhone photos. On my last round of jet-lag, I came across a few behind the scenes snaps from shoots over 2015 and reminisced over each shoot, taking into consideration the images that transpired shortly after this quick grab. 

Thus, a blog was born. 

But of course, simply the before and after images aren't quite enough. While an iPhone photo is simply a click, a well composed and exposed image will have a quick thought process. For every frame, I take 4 things into consideration: light, position, equipment, and framing. For your reading delight, I've chosen four instances of an iPhone shot followed by it's fraternal Canon twin.

These, are their stories. 

The photo above was taken with an iPhone moments before the groom was to see his bride. The sky was completely overcast, creating an evenly lit and saturated scene. Have you ever seen one of the big, white umbrellas covering the lights in a photography studio? God sent clouds to photographers to do the exact same thing: diffuse the light. It creates soft, even lighting everywhere, and even creates a little drama and mood. 

I quickly snapped a shot with my iPhone to compare to the photos my Canon could achieve later. Via my Canon 5D MK III, the moment pictured above quickly transpired to this....

Shortly thereafter, the bride joined the party (seen in the photo below). The sun had peaked out just a little, making the overal scene brighter in general. You can now see that the colors are a little less saturated than in the cloudier frame. 

Light: It was EVERYWHERE. With this particular landscape, the clouds helped us tremendously. The Superstition Mountains were the ideal location for this couple to have their first look and portraits taken, but on a wedding day when the timeline might not give you the exact right sun, clouds are all you can ask for. Had there been no clouds, we would have had to deal with 3:00 sun on the bride's face, and nearly lost the color of the mountains and shrubbery. 

Position: Because of the clouds, I could easily position the couple wherever I wanted and had beautiful light. Obviously, I wanted to shoot with the mountains in the background and couple in the foreground. I chose to have the couple face each other rather than looking into the camera because eyes demand attention, and I wanted the attention to be evenly spread through the frame. 

Equipment: I used my Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens in this frame, shot at 1.6. I chose it so I could have the couple closer to the lens and still have a wide shot of the landscape. 

Frame: I'm a sucker for symmetry. I chose to have the full frame of the couple and landscape for the overall "ooooh ahhhh" affect. Did you do it? Good. 

In the iPhone photo below, you'll not only notice me practicing my ultra basic boot-wearing skills, but the fact that I've done yoga once or twice. Go me. 

This photo was taken just before sunset in a Texas May, so the sun was still fairly hot (hot in terms of intensity) around 6:00. As you can see with the haziness of the iPhone photo, there was a significant amount of light coming into the frame.

Light: I chose to face this couple into the sun because it was, at that time of day, low enough to give a softer and more flattering glow and highlight their faces exactly as I wanted. 

Position: I'm obviously higher than Kristyn & Kelsey, but for good reason. Even though the sun was low enough to highlight their faces, the sun was still very bright and the sky wouldn't offer much contrast to the frame. I wanted to position them against the water, meaning I needed to be higher than them to shoot downward. By making them brighter than the background, they immediately jump off the photo. 

Equipment: Sigma 35mm 1.4 at 1.8. It's not only my favorite lens in general because of that incredible milkiness it adds, but it's perfect for getting close to a subject and still having a little something exciting in the frame. 

Frame: Here, I chose to frame what was important to the photo, which is most definitely her expression. The focus is on Kristyn, and then you jump over to Kelsey. Because Kelsey's expression absolutely adds to the meaning of the photo, he is equally as centered as Kristyn. However, my choice to cut off the top of his head in this frame makes his reaction secondary at first glance. 

Same dock, same lens, same settings.

Just an example of a different position in lighting and how the sky was still very blown out at this time of day. You can see the sun directly on Kelsey's back, and highlighting just a little of Kristyn's hair. I had to turn Kelsey just enough so that there were no odd and distracting shadows on Kristyn's face, and try to make it as even as possible. 

The iPhone photo below was taken around 2:30 pm in Scottsdale, AZ in early March. The sun was absolutely intense, but it's a fun thing to work around if you know a few tricks. I'm a big fan of the bright hairlight it often gives, and if used correctly, a contrasted look. 

By the way, I'm a huge fan of my Undfind lens bag. 

Light: Because of the hot afternoon sun, I used the sun to backlight Jen. There was also a cement walkway (as pictured above) bouncing the light back into her face, giving everything a very well lit look.

Position: I made sure I was at a certain height to put Jen's head against the dark background, accentuating the hairlight even more. 

Equipment: Simply put, the 35 was too wide in this situation, so I changed to my handy dandy Canon 50mm 1.2 L. It's a fantastic portrait lens, and a great wedding go-to. I believe this was shot somewhere around 1.6-1.8. 

Framing. For classic shots of a bride and her bouquet, I'm completely fine with being straight on and centered. As long as I can make sure she stays between me and the sun. 

Here's an example of Jen & Stevie in the same hot sun without being positioned against a dark background. The backlighting can only be seen against Jen's left side, because that's where the sun is. For a little something different I chose my 35mm at 1.6 and let some sun flares in to haze the image giving it a softer and less saturated look. I cropped waist up to bring the attention more to their expressions rather than their wardrobe or the surrounding landscape.  

The photo below was taken on a regular Canon full frame by my fab second shooter Rachel, while I was photographing the bride and her bridesmaids. I love this photo because you can see I'm fairly well centered with the bridesmaids, and hey, even I have a hairlight. 

Also note the Holdfast Moneymaker strap which saves my life most days. 

Light: For this image, I brought the bridesmaids into a beam of light (#angels) to give them the hairlight I love so much. Thanks to the trees for making this possible at 2:00 pm. 

Position: I remained directly centered and eye-level with the girls to give them a simple, beautiful portrait with lovely light. 

Equipment: You guessed it, the Sigma 35. Do I have anything else in my bag? Yes, but you wouldn't know by this post. 

I photographed the girls at 1.8 to make sure I was still getting the details in their beautiful dresses and bouquets. Then, I instructed them to all stand on the same plane, which is why all their faces are in focus. 

Framing: I cropped in closely to the girls faces to create a more intimate feel. 

While the below iPhone photo is most clearly not of a wedding or engagement, I included it because of the harsh lighting situation. The sun was hot and high enough that it almost completely desaturated the photo with haze, making this a photo that would need a specific angle. 

Light: SUPER high, super intense. This was taken in a heavily treed area of Dallas around 2:00 pm. I guess I like the challenge. 

I chose to face Emily away from the sun to allow the hot light to give her the glowing hairlight.

Position: I had her sit on the ground so that we could adjust the frame to be lower, and I could get juuuust high enough to avoid the sun coming directly into my camera. Plus, it allowed me to use the light coming off the chain-link fence to add a little foreground bokeh. 

Equipment: I'm predictable. Sigma 35 at 1.4 so I could really blur out the foreground. 

Framing: I positioned myself a little off-center from Emily so I could add the fence as a leading line to her face. I wanted to focus on her face more than anything else, so I was fine cropping her mid-thigh. Most importantly, I had Emily sit flat to the ground while I kneeled and shot downward just a hair; thereby completely avoiding the harsh sunrays to come into my lens and create haze. 

That's my spiel. I love questions, so please use the comment section below or shoot me an email!

Before you go, check out this incredible new camera technology from the guys over at Light. They're working on something to make this thought process less of a task and it's amazing; using a small camera with 16 lenses, firing 10 of them simultaneously to assure you get the best quality shot. 

Okay. Now I'm done. 


Cheers to blogging it up on a Tuesday,