A simple way to make your pictures zing

Changing your perspective changes everyone’s perspective.

It seems like 92% of pictures posted online by photographers are taken at eye level.

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Height for the average westerner is 5’10”.  I’m 5’8″ so eye level is roughly 6″!below this.  My personal aim is to ensure that less than 20% of my shots are either significantly higher or lower than this.

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Present images offering your viewers a whole new view of the world.  Maybe a lower perspective is why kids learn so fast and look at things with wonder and intrigue.

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Landscapes shot from 3ft high give your images an amazing and instant foreground interest.  Focus a third into the picture at a relatively small aperture and you have yourself awesome depth of field.

Change the plane of your lens from vertical to downwards and emphasise a unique and skewed perspective.

Street photographs shot from the hip or sitting down just look intriguing and give your viewer a voyeuristic tingle.  Shot from height especially with strong shadows creates amazing abstract composition especially when rendered in contrasts black and white.

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Macro flowers, birds, family dogs shot from the same height create absolutely stunning imagery.

Putting strong diagonals in your composition draw the eye.

Whatever you shoot, however you shoot it don’t too often join the 92% club.

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This technique combined with effective use of aperture will go towards keeping your viewers wanting more.

Look out for further photographic thoughts coming soon.  Feel free to offer your thoughts or ask questions, maybe recommend another technique you would like me to cover.

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How to make your portraits really stand out – Three Point Lighting

Firstly I’d like to introduce Susan, she is our resident studio model and helps me teach lighting to photographers who want to get to grips with studio lighting without having to interact with models.  Once photographers are confident with the basics of lighting and their equipment I then bring in a real breathing model and teach how to communicate with them effectively so that the studio experience is a pleasure for all involved.

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Susan lit with three light setup

When lighting a model in the studio the first aim is to make the lighting as natural as possible and this three point lighting system beautifully does this.

Three Point Lighting aims to add a three dimensional perspective to a two dimensional image and when combined with effective posing will produce stunning effects that you and your sitter will love.

One of the most fundamental parts of any portrait is the sitters eyes and if these are well lit, sharp and have a sparkle the image is on to a good chance of being great.  Eyes tend to be lit with the Key light.  The most important light of the three light set up.

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Key Light

By placing the key light above and to the left of the sitter and quite close you will see both a sparkle in her eyes and a smooth light that envelops Susan creating nice natural shadows by her nose and cheek.  This gives that three dimensional structure to her face.  This single light produces quite a nice portrait on its own but Susan’s hair is disappearing into the background and the shadows around her eyes are just a little too harsh.

To give definition to Susan’s hair here we have introduced a rim light which sometimes on its own can create stunning results especially if you want to emphasise a models face and body profile.  The rim light is positioned behind the model to the left and angled just to light the side of Susan’s head producing a silver effect.  The risk of this is that frizzy hair becomes more apparent.  If you had an additional light stunning effects can be introduced by adding an additional rim light on the other side of your model.

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Rim Light

The final light to add is the fill light and as the name suggests, this light fills in some of the shadows on Susan’s face creating an overall pleasing image.

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Fill Light

In this setup the rim light produces a rather hard light and this is achieved by a reflector with a grid attached.  This directs the light and ensures that minimal excess light spills into other parts of the image.

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Final Image

The key light is diffused through an octobox which produces a beautiful almost round catchlight and adds a buttery soft illumination onto Susan’s face.

The fill light is diffused through a large white umbrella and is less powerful than the key light to keep the three dimensional effect.

Once the fundamentals of lighting are mastered, by fully  understanding these basic principles you can go on to create your own lighting to produce individual results.

If you want to learn more about studio lighting we run one to one sessions here at our studio in Somerset.  I will also add more lighting blog posts over the coming months.  If there is a specific subject you would like me to tackle feel free to get in touch.

Led Continuous Lighting

With the amazing low light iso performance of the fuji xpro1 and xe1 I have come to the conclusion that for portraits flash is largely unnecessary in the studio unless I am looking for clean and crisp high key with arctic white backgrounds.

For Hollywood noir I have been using lupolux daylight fresnel units and photofloods from lupolux and Paterson. These units are large and imposing but produce a gorgeous wrap around light. They are cool running but over a couple of hours still get warm.

After seeing a couple of examples of LED’s in use by Damien Lovegrove and Mark Cleghorn I’ve moved into trying LED light banks. A couple of small led units were procured from Amazon which cost around £20 each. These are each around the size of a box of maltesers and run on various types of batteries including AA’s. During a shoot I can hold the unit and position it so the exact light and shadow is applied. With the AA’s each unit gives full light output for 5 hours.

Results are stunning. I had intended to render images black and white but colour and skin tone was rich and satisfying so ended up copying images and having colour and monochrome versions.

Have fashioned some lighting modifiers with silver insulation bubble wrap and gaffer tape so light can be even more controlled and diffused with fabric and lace to give a dappled and more natural effect.

Next have a couple more different units winging their way to me from China so will add a comparison and images to this over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime I recommend you experiment too.