Inexpensive & DIY Photography Gear Solutions with Larry Becker
Whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, there’s no getting around the fact that photography gear can be expensive. Join our own Larry Becker as he shares all kinds of cool ways you can save money on a wide range of photographic accessories. Larry is always thinking of clever alternatives to conventional gear and do-it-yourself ways to make the things you need at a much lower cost. Sometimes we can save money just by learning from the cautionary tales told by our peers. In this class Larry has gathered up a ton of his favorite tips, tricks, and projects to help you find low cost solutions for things all photographers need and use. By the end of the class you’ll be ready to head out to your local hardware store and start experimenting with your own solutions and alternatives, so that you’ll have more money to spend on the important things.
Hi, my name is Peter Treadway but I’m better known (photographically, at least) as Hybrid Peter, a moniker which derives from being the owner and one half of Hybrid Photography here in the UK (the other half being my buddy Hybrid Dave Williams). As Hybrid Photography, Dave and I are destination wedding specialists, traveling worldwide to capture our clients most treasured moments and it’s a job we absolutely love. However…
I’m not here today to talk about Weddings (I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief as I type that!). No, what I wanted to discuss is an issue that has been around for donkey’s years but has really started to become all too common in the photography community and it’s something that I really can’t abide. It’s the idea that only the most expensive pro kit will get you the results you want and that if you aren’t using said kit, then you can never be a ‘proper’ photographer.
And so whilst it’s true that you may need certain specialist lenses or equipment to fully pull off a select few types of shots, the vast majority of images that you’d want to capture can be so caught using the setup you most likely already have, with perhaps just a couple of other bits of very cheaply sourced kit that, once bought, could be used time and time again. Despite this, I’ve heard even seasoned photographers being fed the line by more ‘experienced’ pros that only the best, most expensive gear will do, but even more disappointing than that is that this ‘advice’ is almost always aimed at the younger generation of togs who, at that stage of their photography journey, have little other information to base their understanding on and so have no real choice but to believe what they’re being told. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s all rubbish!
I know this from personal experience, as I picked up my first entry level DSLR, a Nikon D3000, 6 years ago and within 6 months of buying it, shot my first wedding. Yes, I started shooting weddings on an entry level DSLR with only one lens (a Sigma 18-200mm f3.5-6.3), no speedlight and after only 6 months of having ever pressed a shutter release with any purpose! I think I just heard an old school tog have a heart attack!
As you might imagine then, every website, every photography forum and every photographer that I consulted was telling me that there was no way my shots would be any good whilst using such a basic setup and that I couldn’t even call myself a photographer by shooting with a £400 body… and they were right! But only partly so, as whilst I’m still immensely proud of the photos from that first event, it’s also true to say that they are a world away from the polished and professional images I deliver to my couples these days. However, where the nay sayers were wrong is in suggesting that this had anything to do with my kit, as, in reality, it was everything to do with my lack of training and knowledge. Luckily though, being 30 years old at the time, and therefore slightly older than your average first time shooter, I had the confidence to largely ignore what I knew to be inaccurate information and simply carry on.
Knowing that weddings were absolutely what I wanted to shoot though, and that I needed to improve quicksmart, rather than fall in to the trap of believing that I had to buy ever more expensive gear, I buried myself in every training resource I could find (which is also when I discovered Scott’s Digital Photography set of books and which to this day I still refer to as my bibles) and quite simply practiced, practiced, practiced with my trusty D3000.
Dave and I would head down to London’s Southbank, next to the River Thames, or just drive out to the middle of nowhere for whole days, any opportunity we got, and not stop shooting until our memory cards were full. Then we’d go and grab a bite to eat (usually a cheeky Nandos!) and process the images immediately on our laptops, reviewing what we could have done better, before emptying the cards on to the computers and starting over again, now taking different types of shots of city lights, light trails and playing with light orbs as the sun faded. We’d shoot architecture, street photography, cars and bikes and even model for each other to better understand concepts of lighting and posing and how different setups could completely change the feel of a portrait. I just couldn’t get enough of trying new things.
And so it was that when the next wedding came around 3 months later, despite the only difference being the addition of a small budget speed light, there was a huge difference in the feel of the images. My composition was better, my understanding of camera settings was better and I had a greater idea of where I should be standing at key moments to fully utilise the light available to me.
Still the comments continued to be made though and they did stick with me but thankfully not in a way that had me brooding over them and worrying that I wasn’t good enough but rather reinforced my resolve never to become one of ‘those’ photographers as I continued my photographic progression. They also made me a firm believer in the notion that the only time you should look down on someone, is when you’re helping them up.
This is why, almost from the very beginning, Dave and I have actively tried to impart any knowledge and skills we had acquired to the next wave of eager photographers and have lead a number of educational photowalks and informal training sessions to this end over the years, including being asked to organise and run the Photofocus photowalk earlier this year, as part of The Societies photography convention here in London, where we were joined, amongst others, by Robert Vanelli, Richard Harrington and Eric Renno. On the point of helping people to learn, I’ve also found it to be a fantastic way of picking up tips myself, as strange at that sounds, because in the midst of a giving practical advice to a group of people, there is always some new information that can be picked up during discussion.
As of now then, I am thankfully at a stage in my career where I have managed to surround myself with fellow creatives that share this belief of recycling knowledge and paying forward what they themselves have been taught, without looking down on people and telling them that they’re no good unless they have the latest and greatest stuff. However, having spoken to a number of newer photographers during various training sessions over the last few years, it’s clear that the same tired old phrases regards having to have the ‘right’ gear are still doing the rounds.
A few weeks ago then, while I was sat at home pondering a new photo project and how I could use it to tie in with this ethos of being able to shoot almost anything, almost anywhere and with almost any camera, I hit upon an idea that saw me shooting something I’d been wanting to capture for a while and something that was very dear to my heart… my car!
Now, as a caveat to these images, I should point out that I’m clearly no automotive photographer and that these images would probably never grace the pages of any car magazines but that was never my aim (and besides, my Mum has seen them and she loves them, so that has to mean they’re good, right?). But seriously, what was I really trying to achieve here? Well, I wanted some moody, low key shots of my car, which is what I have ended up with and more importantly, they illustrate one major point:
You don’t need a huge studio, banks of lighting and mega expensive camera gear to take these kind of shots. Let me show you why:
Yep, these were taken on the driveway outside my house and in broad daylight and could easily have been taken in a cramped garage or on the street. So ok, full disclosure (because I know the eagle eyed amongst you will have picked up on this already) I actually took these shots using a full frame Nikon D810, a 14-24 f2.8 lens and a 3 Legged Thing tripod, all of which come in at quite a pretty penny. But, and as Sir Mix-a-lot says, it’s a big but, before you go off espousing that I’m a charlatan of the highest order, let’s consider the settings I used.
All of these images were shot at around f10, ISO100 and using the wide end of the lens, which all means there’s absolutely nothing stopping anyone taking these shots with a baby DSLR, a kit lens, even the cheapest tripod and basic knowledge of your chosen photo editing software (I’ll be posting a full blog on my post processing for these shots over on my website soon, so keep an eye out for that, if you’re interested). As for lighting, I used a Yongnuo speedlight and trigger combo which allowed me to get the flash off my camera hot shoe and cost around £65 ($90) on eBay for the two and a cheap 24” softbox which cost around £25 ($35), again from eBay. So then even when extra bits of kit are needed, it’s clear that they don’t have to be the latest Profotos or Elinchroms to get the job done and it’s likely to be stuff that won’t simply see the light of day for one shoot but that you’ll able to use time and again.
And so with all of that said, I hope that now gives you the confidence to tell the detractors what they can do with their information and gives you the ability to see that the only limit to getting great results from whatever kit you already have, is how creative you’re willing to get with it and that if you think it’s time to upgrade your kit, make sure first that you don’t simply need to upgrade your knowledge!
P.S. I’d just like to say thanks to you all for taking the time to read my idle ramblings and that I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new fellow creatives at Photoshop World later this year (if you haven’t booked your ticket yet, really, what are you waiting for!), so if you’re going and you see me there, feel free to come over and say hello. After all, I’m English, so I’m bound to be polite, right? FInally, I’d also like to say a huge thanks to Scott for allowing me to grace his guest blog spot this week. It’s a genuine honour.
This very popular beauty lighting look is easy to pull off and it works for both men and women. Whether you are using studio strobes or speedlights, Scott shows the light modifiers you’ll need, how to position them, and how to work with your subjects to nail the shots you need.
Scott wraps up the class by showing you his approach to processing the photos from the shoot along with a demonstration of some of his favorite finishing moves to make the photos look their best. Check it out now at KelbyOne.com!
“Lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see.” – Hybrid Dave, 2013 (fact). I’m Dave Williams and I’m a photographer from London, England. I shoot travel and people (which I realise is very broad!) I scour the world for photographic opportunities which will inspire, evoke memories, and make money!
Telling an accomplished, professional photographer that their photographs look good based on the camera they use or the natural beauty of the subject they’re shooting is akin to telling a painter that their canvasses look good based on the skill of their brush. You just wouldn’t. A photographer who is successful puts a lot of work into their images, but what is that work in my mind? What’s my thought process? That’s what I’ve decided to write about for Scott’s blog the week.
What I see in my minds eye will end up on the screen or the wall in front of you, no two ways about it. It’s those photos on that screen, or those photos in the dusty photo album you’ve pulled out of the attic in 50 years time to blow the dust off and show the grandkids which will evoke the memory of that one moment. Long after the dance has been had, the champagne has been drunk, the glacier has melted, the sun has long since set over the horizon, that memory will come to the forefront of your mind and you’ll be taken back to it in time, along with the sudden recollection of a lost memory of the 2 minutes either side of that photo being taken. The sights, sounds and smells, the emotions, they’ll all come back to life.
I’ll make it happen over and over again, and you won’t remember it unless I take that photo in such a way that the composition, timing, lighting and all other elements are skillful, creative and artistic enough to capture that moment precisely. You may not remember it unless I take the photo. The snapshots of time I can make happen through skilled consideration of angle, composition, exposure, lighting, aperture, timing, they are memories. My job is to take all those elements, package them up carefully, and then put them into the shot for everyone to see and it’s something that’s been tried and perfected over years.
Forget composition, that’s been overcooked now. Let’s look at what happens inside us. Why do photos work? How do they release the chemicals in our mind that makes us feel a certain way? I’ve been working on this piece for a while now, and a fair chunk of research has gone into figuring out the link between photographic art and human emotion. Photography is powerful. It captures a real life event, as opposed to an imagined or otherwise represented painting.
It allows us, as photographers, to put people into our eye and our mind. It allows people to see the world from our perspective. One of my favourite photographic lines is, ‘lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see.’ More than this though, we use photography to understand ourselves in relation to everything and everyone around us. We can place ourselves into the perspective of those we see in the image.
Our ability to identify with someone else’s point of view is deeply ingrained in the architecture of our brain. We can imagine what they are seeing. Photography plays a unique role in triggering the region of the brain that controls empathy. To understand how photographs activate this brain network, it’s first necessary to deconstruct emotional processing into simpler components. One of the most fundamental social skills that humans have, that of imitation, is key here. Imitation is automatic and a basic requirement for developing practical social skills, like empathy.
When we see the expression of other peoples faces there is an unconscious activation of the same muscles. We’ve all heard of this, it’s been studied time and time again and comes into play daily on conscious and sub-conscious levels and in all our interactions. It’s the key player in the dating game. If you like someone you’ll copy them, and similarly they’ll copy you if they like you back. Imitation is a result of visual information combining with muscle activation, which in turn facilitates empathy.
Our capacity to imitate is thought to rely upon a specialised network of brain regions called the human mirror neutron system. With a simple photograph our brain will unconsciously processes biological motion, attend to where emotions are being directed, activate muscles of those we are observing, and transmits this information to language processing centres where we can consciously express our own emotional reaction.
Imitation is a basic social skill that often occurs unconsciously due to the learning we’ve been doing all our life. However, as we age we become much more aware of someone’s emotions not by direct observation by rather by judging their intent. Intent requires us to place ourselves into someone else’s perspective and to hold the belief that other people have minds that are distinct from our own. The mind is something we cannot see and thus we must believe that it exists in theory.
Photography is important because it can influence our capacity to empathise, it affects our motivation to help others, and help us connect with people through imitation. Seeing children at war, viewing a familiar scene we’ve never actually seen in real life, watching the total destruction of cities undoubtedly appeal to our emotions and our yearning to interact and feel we have an involvement in the image. The very survival of our species has and still relies on understanding how other feel, attending to the needs of those around us, and working with one another to construct a better society.
Photography is more important than ever because we need visual imagery that reflects our connectedness, especially in a world that is as dynamic as ours with a constant daily bombardment of visual stimulus in the digital world. The way we see is unique to each and every one of us, but the common theme is empathy and this can be generated in the capture of a good photograph. Not just through composition, but in content. The capture of the emotion in front of the lens. In terms of my specialist field, travel photography, I want each and every person to feel the love that goes into my photos.
The Secrets To Becoming A Photography Rockstar with Adam Elmakias Learn how to get started as a concert photographer with Adam Elmakias! Adam is a music photographer based in San Diego who got started in the business at a young age and has learned the ropes from spending time in the trenches with bands on the road, and in all kinds of venues. In this class Adam will teach you all the tools you need to be a successful artist today, from how to get a photo pass to the importance of networking, and from how to build your brand to how to find balance with social media. The photo industry is constantly changing, and one of the most important things you can do is position yourself to be an influencer within your photographic community. Adam addresses all of these points and so much more!
It’s Throwback Thursday! If you missed this class on KelbyOne, you need to watch it right now! It’s one of the best on the topic anywhere – it’s Daniel Gregory’s class Visual Literacy – it’s just brilliant! (ask anybody’s who has seen it).
Throughout my journey to impoverished countries all over the world, one trait has reigned true: warmth. No matter what stressful situation or unknown location we find ourselves, there is always good people we meet among the madness. The old saying goes “A few bad apples spoil the bunch” and I find that to be very true, especially in places that have been riddled with war for decades. Good people are everywhere, even in the darkest of corners of the earth. These good people are responsible for uplifting others and guaranteeing awareness of the problems that many face, every day.
When I was first offered the opportunity to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia I was really unaware of the problems and issues that plague the city and the country as a whole. On the minimal available information I had been given, it was tough to surround my brain around our mission. There is so little knowledge, I was forced to dive deeper and I only scratched the surface of what I would eventually come to find.
It all started with my friends at Nadus Films and their “Give A Story” grant project. We give a grant to those world-wide foundations that need it most. The grant provides the opportunity to document, capture and provide the right tools, so these initiatives can raise awareness and gain traction for further funding. Our project in Ethiopia focused on a foundation titled “Youth Impact” which provides shelter, food and a solid path for homeless children located in the city of Addis Ababa.
Due to famine and communist civil war, nearly 60% of Ethiopia, Africa is under the age of 18 and of that demographic nearly 100,000 children are completely homeless and suffer from tremendous injustice. Poverty, addiction, prostitution and disease. Some children, just 6 years of age roaming the streets of the city. There is an extreme lack of leadership, parents and grandparents. It is a country of youth.
I knew the project would involve children who have struggled. Children who have stories and I wanted to tell their story the only way I know how, through imagery. I decided to form a portrait series of homeless street children as well as people that have grown through the Impact program. I wanted to bring the aesthetic of my portrait work blended with a journalistic mood. That style involved creating a custom 3×4 canvas solely designed from the ground up for this series.
Upon arrival at the Youth Impact shelter the initial mood wasn’t shock, but difficulty. The shelter was small, similar to a one floor ranch-style two bedroom home. The front yard was piled with random rusted debris and the back porch was a concrete dorm with open doors and ropes covered in wet clothing. The shelter is completely surrounded by a 10-foot concrete wall which was embedded with shards of glass; an inferior barbwire.
We didn’t have a system to rig the beautiful 3×4 canvas, so we grabbed what we could from the pile of wreckage on the alley-way next to the Youth Impact shelter, a cracked wooden ladder and trashed twin bed frame. Using a Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp, attached to the backdrop draped over Manfrotto 2983 Adjustable Background Holder Crossbar, we linked the clamp to another Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp and attached it to the debris. Using a combination of Gaff Tape and Zip Ties we secured the bottom of the backdrop to avoid kick up from wind.
The light setup was simple; a Profoto B2 Location Kit attached to a Manfrotto 026 Swivel Umbrella Adapter which we attached to a Manfrotto 680B Compact Monopod for complete mobility. The Profoto B2 head is modified with a 46” Photo Softlighter II, the softest source of modification I’ve ever used. Luckily, I had two trusted assistants who spoke enough broken English to understand my instructions of feathering the light and keeping the strobe consistently directional opposite the sun.
Youth Impact has blazed a trail for dozens of successful business men, architects, carpenters and artists. Once homeless, now-adults had been saved through the Youth Impact initiative. I wanted to capture not only the current children living through the shelter, but also these blossoming people who had so much to owe to their mentors. It was a humbling experience to photograph this community that has so much to say, but no voice. Hopefully, this series provides that voice that they so yearn to have.
It was a true honor to hear the stories behind these young adults, who have so much to offer but, nearly had zero foundation to create a life. Fortunately, Youth Impact has provided a reachable dream and given the ladder of victory. Built upon a dark past, they are the future of Ethiopia.