Whenever someone messages me about “How do I get better at ____,” I often suggest a few things like simply putting in more hours, a couple of tutorial options or maybe some books. But one thing I probably don’t mention enough is how amazing being a second shooter or an assistant can be. (Note: I wish I had more content to share where I assisted some of my favourite projects, but alas I do not have the rights to the final products.)
I’ve learned so much over my career from being willing to be a second shooter or assistant to photographers/videographers whose work I admired, or maybe it was just the person themselves I enjoyed. Early in my career, I took a few second shooting positions with wedding photographers. It was an amazing experience, despite my utter dislike for the events themselves. The experience of the very long creative day, with a massive bouquet of personalities, emotions, and tight timelines was something that would help me in commercial jobs in the future. Being open to assisting put me in places I would not have ever imagined, and my work has always benefitted from it.
My favorite thing to do is to find friends who work in careers completely out of my world. I’ve assisted on product shoots, weddings, beauty sessions, festivals, automotive, music videos, dragged gear for landscape shooters, even just handed supplies to VFX artists who were making a build for a movie set. It’s so interesting to see how other creatives in our world do that thing they do so well, and to see them just be awesome at it. There’s just something about that process that really speaks to me in ways tutorials and online blogs rarely do. (more…)
It’s #TravelTuesday right here at Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider, which means that I, Dave Williams, get to drop in again and share a little something with you all! Aren’t you lucky!
Well, here in London, it has stopped raining for a few minutes, so what better time to drop a top tip for shooting in the sunshine. In the upper half of the world, the days are getting longer, the sun is getting brighter, and the cocktails are tasting better. When we don’t perhaps have the time to shoot during the golden hour times the sun can be something of a hinderance, but that’s only if we let it be. With these tips, you can overcome the hurdles it presents and make the most of shooting at the time when we’re all told as photographers not to! Here goes!
Shooting bracketed shots, three is usually enough, and merging them into an HDR image goes a long way in reducing the glaring highlights and dangerously deep shadows caused by bright, direct sunlight on a summer scene. I’m not talking over-processed, high-vibrance, unrealistic HDR here, I’m talking about using the benefits of a High Dynamic Range to bring balance back to a photo which would otherwise have a lot of contrast and, therefore, not show off your scene. Using the Merge to HDR function in Adobe Camera Raw is the most straightforward way to do this—just select the images you wish to merge, then Right-click and choose Merge to HDR.
High Dynamic Range shooting and processing is absolutely ideal for bright, sunny conditions where you lose details and where your image loses quality. You can have a potentially amazing composition of an amazing subject, but if your image is clipped or your shadows are hiding awesome details, then you’re letting your image down straight from the get-go. That’s what I’m trying to tell you, though—it doesn’t have got be that way! There are people out there who are still put off by HDR’s history of being a bit too “in-your-face-surreal,” but it’s just not like that anymore. Well, not unless you want it to be!
When you shoot with your iPhone, turn on HDR or use Auto-HDR on a sunny day to capture well-balanced images, and when it comes to your DSLR or other camera make sure you know how to shoot bracketed images. Over on KelbyOne.com, you can learn all about the specifics of how to merge your images using different techniques that give different results, and I urge you to start doing it now that the sun’s back out!
Here’s a quick look at what’s up on this glorious Monday in April:
SmugMug buys Flickr (What!!??!!) I don’t know exactly what they’re going to call it, but I’m just glad they did it. Just in case you missed it this weekend – the folks at SmugMug bought Flickr. That’s right! Whoo Hoo!! There’s hope for Flickr at last! SmugMug is a great company, and a class act in our industry, and I can’t wait to see what they do with Flickr — one whose future just got a whole lot brighter. Congrats to the SmugMug crew. Well done, lads! :)
Our first instructor gallery show was a hit! We were honored to feature KelbyOne instructor Moose Peterson for a solo exhibition in ‘The Gallery at KelbyOne’ last Friday night, and people were absolutely LOVING his aviation images (Moose, who is a print master himself, even gave a big shoutout to the folks at Bay Photo Lab for their big beautiful prints, displayed in the gallery using their Xpozer system). It was such a fun night, and Moose’s talk (broadcast live) afterward was funny, insightful, and often touching. We’ll be re-broadcasting the event, free to everyone, streamed on my Facebook page.
Who: Moose Peterson, with host Larry Becker What: A talk with Moose about his aviation photography Where: My Facebook page When: Tuesday, at 2PM ET
Hope you can tune in – you’ll dig it big time.
The “Save $100 Early Bird Discount” to the Photoshop World Conference in Orlando is Ending Soon If you’re thinking of going (and yes, you absolutely should be going – everyone’s invited), then get your ticket’s now before next week’s early bird discount deadline. Hurry hurry! Details and Tickets here.
How to be the first to get my new Lightroom Classic Book (spoiler alert: it’s already on-press) It’s my biggest update to the book yet and has all the new features from the just-released update (including all the new Profile stuff). You can get yours first by pre-ordering right now from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Spend the day with me in Cincinnati / Covington next week, or Hartford the week after I’m teaching my full-day Lightroom seminar (it’s just $99 for the full day) and I want you to come out and spend the day with me learning Lightroom. Lots of fun, useful, practical stuff to share, so come on out. Details and tickets here.
Don’t forget Travel Tuesdays with Dave, here tomorrow.
Here’s wishing you all an absolutely rocking week!
P.S.I finally (finally!) got around to updating my gear page here on the blog – here’s the link if you’ve got a sec.
In Case You Missed It 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!
Photography is easy; buy the best gear and it will do it all for you…
By now, I should have stopped being surprised at photographers who buy gear and expect it to be the secret sauce that takes their pictures to the next level. The reality is that modern camera gear is, “the best you’ve ever had,” but boy is there a lot to learn.
Cameras Packed Full Of Capabilities Here’s the problem; gear is complex, and nobody has time to read or process the instruction books. I keep PDF files of the Speedlite 600EX II-RT and EOS 5D Mark IV open on my Mac all the time. That’s 750 pages of quick reference material. The biggest challenge for all photographers is mentally converting the manual’s ‘how to change a setting,’ into the, ‘why you need it,’ and, ‘how to remember it exists.’
For me to be able to train photographers, I need to use the equipment. I find it is the only way I can convert the instruction book into transferrable knowledge for other people. Sharing knowledge and training satisfies my inner engineer. Being able to provide solutions to questions, and help people enjoy their photography.
Last summer, I held an in-depth EOS 5D Mark IV autofocus and Wi-Fi workshop with a Helsinki-based photo dealer. I spent the whole day with my camera menu set to Finish language. The attendees were convinced I could read Finnish, until I hit cancel, instead of OK, while setting up FTP image transfers. I may be a little extreme, competitive about this even. However, if you can’t change your camera from one-shot focus to AI servo without looking it up, then buying a new lens to improve your focus hit rate is just a bit foolish.
Flash Is All About The Light, Not Science And Magic Light is the key to photography. If you only study one thing, make it light. Even better is that light behaves predictably. To me a Speedlite flash is the “extra paintbrush” in my bag, and with it I can bring something different to my pictures. I’m a firm believer in the David Bailey thinking on available light. Available light is any source of light that’s available to you.
Historically, Canon’s Speedlite flash system has taxed many photographers, but in the last ten years I’ve found it to be something that has rewarded me with pictures I couldn’t have made any other way.
One subtle change in my own work came along with the launch of Canon’s radio Speedlite flash system. I found that I was using flash more often in daylight than in low light. If the subject is in low light, then usually there’s little contrast range, so you can get away with raising the ISO a bunch. But in bright light I often try to control the contrast range, filling in shadows. Radio links made all this possible, reliable, and easy.
I run a number of Speedlite workshops each year, it is the topic that so many photographers struggle with, or are simply afraid of. Which I find a little strange as light is straightforward and the essential component of all photography.
The photo of the car was an interesting challenge. I only had three Speedlites available, and even if I had 18, the Canon system only works with up to 16 devices, one of which is the transmitter. I put three flashes on one light stand using super clamps, and took the first shot. Moved the light stand and took another shot, then four more moves and shots. I used the remote camera shutter release on the flash to trigger the camera for each shot. I put the individual frames in Photoshop and made the resulting picture you see here. Next step will be to shoot it all in-camera using multiple exposures.
I saw some photos of motocross riders online that were clearly lit with extra lights. I found the photographer and spent a day learning how he was using Speedlites to shoot motocross. Suitably inspired, I headed out to another track and set up four Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes on a single light stand. I aimed it across the track, so that it would illuminate the shadow side of the rider. Another hit of the rare English sunlight provided a backlight. Soon I realised that I could use TTL flash, making it simpler for me to move around the track for different vantage points.
After studying the ways of Joe McNally and Gregory Heisler, I have found that I set up my main light quickly, giving me most of my intended result. The bit of the pictures that takes the time is all the small details. The light behind the guy in this shot was snooted, gelled, and then needed a couple of position changes to hit the right spot. It is fortunate that you can fire a modeling flash from Canon Speedlite flashes, using buttons on the flash itself.
I want to thank Scott for asking me to write a guest blog for him. I also hope that my words and pictures have encouraged you to take one more look at your instruction book or seek some training before you spend money on gear trying to create photos when you already have the perfect equipment you need. Remember that your question is the start of the solution, so please ask away.
Brian Worley took a position at Canon Europe in 1995, and was converted to digital photography overnight. He was part of a team launching PowerShot and Digital EOS camerasin Europe until 2010. Since leaving Canon he’s focussed his attention on being a freelance photo tutor, writer and photographer. He has encyclopaedic knowledge of Canon’s EOS system and loves to share his knowledge with all photographers; beginner to professional. You can find more of his work and connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and on his blog P4Ppictures.com.