As a photography studio owner, our number on concern is why can’t I own my pictures if I paid you to take them:
What most people don’t understand is that producing a quality photograph is not as simple as putting batteries in a camera, pointing the camera and clicking. Most photographers have camera equipment that runs in the thousands of dollars. Education, experience and other factors that took years to acquire went into that final photograph. That aside, let me take you through what goes into your photo-shoot.
Once a session has been booked, your photographer meets you at a designated location. In about 30-40 minutes, that photographer takes over 100 images. Your images are then brought back to the studio where someone painstakingly goes through each image to decide which photos can be presented to the client. This could take up to an hour. From there, the chosen images are then adjusted for printing. This process is long and arduous. If you are having a session on the beach, many times, there are people walking behind you, there is wind so hair is out of place, there is trash or trash cans in the shot. All of these things have to be fixed in order to create the family portrait that you finally choose. This takes many hours on the production end of things that the photographer has to do himself or the studio has to pay an expert to do. Now lets take those 100 photographs that we previously mentioned. Imagine having to correct every photograph so that the print will come out the way the client expects.
There are only two options here, one is to sell the images as is which would give the client for the most part, unusable images or correct every image which could take as much as 20 or more hours. Corrections are going to range from cropping every image, color correction, removing unwanted background clutter, fixing hair, eyeglass glare etc. Lastly, every printer and every monitor is calibrated to the individual photographers and their camera. Even the corrected photos will not print the same as they print on the photographers equipment. This opens up a whole new can of worms. The photographs the studio printed for you look completely different than the ones you had printed at the pharmacy or Walmart. It is impossible for a photographer to give you a quality CD that is worthy of their work.
Now, ask yourself, how much would you expect to pay for a finished product CD knowing all of the work that went into it. So as you can imagine, taking the professional equipment, the photographers professional experience, the post shoot work that goes into each photograph and the problems that can arise in printing, you can hopefully understand that so much more goes into your professional portrait than just copying the images out of the camera and burning them onto a CD. We love photographing your families and we love giving you the family portrait that you have always wanted. Just keep in mind, nothing is ever as easy as it seems.
Some Posing Challenges:
* one or more subjects always seem to be looking away or in different directions
* subjects blinking
* someone being missing from the photo
* different moods in the group (some smiling, some serious, some playing up to the camera etc)
* the group being too far away or not all fitting into the shot
Some Tip You Can Try:
* scope out the location of your shot before hand
* think ahead about how you will pose people and frame your shot
* one of the group’s head hiding behind another person
* make your your camera is on and has charged batteries
Give the photo context – A football team photo will be more pleasing on a football field rather than in someones front yard.
Choose a position where your group will fit, where there is enough light for the shot and where there is no distractions in the background. Also avoid setting up a group shot directly in front of a window where the light from your flash might reflect back in a way that destroys your shot.
3. Take Multiple Shots
One of the best ways to avoid the problems of not everyone looking just right in a shot is to take multiple photos quickly. Try shooting some frames off before everyone is ready
Also mix up the framing of your shots a little if you have a zoom lens by taking some shots that are at a wide focal length and some that are more tightly framed.
4. Get in Close
Try to get as close as you can to the group you’re photographing The closer you can get the more detail you’ll have in their faces – something that really improves a shot.
If your group is a smaller one get right in close to them and take some head and shoulder shots. One effective technique for this is to get your small group to all lean their heads in close to enable you to get in even closer. Another way to get in closer is to move people out of a one line formation and stagger them but putting some people in front and behind.
5. Pose the group
In most cases your group will pose itself pretty naturally. Tall people will go to the back, short people to the front. But there are other things you can do to add to the photo’s composition:
* If the event is centered around one or two people (like a wedding or a birthday) make them the central focal point by putting them right in the middle of the group (you can add variation to your shots by taking some of everyone looking at the camera and then everyone looking at the person/couple).
* For formal group photos put taller members in the group not only towards the back of the group but centered with shorter people on the edges of the group.
* Try not to make the group too ‘deep’ (ie keep the distance between the front line of people and the back line as small as you can). This will help to keep everyone in focus. If the group is ‘deep’ use a narrower aperture.
* Tell everyone to raise their chins a little – This will help to minimize double chins.
6. Timing Your Shoot
Pick the moment for your shot carefully. Try to choose a time that works with what is happening at the gathering.
Also towards the start of events can be a good time as everyone is all together,
7. Think about Light
In order to get enough detail in your subjects you need to have sufficient light. The way you get this varies from situation to situation but consider using a flash if the group is small enough and you are close enough for it to take effect – especially if the main source of light is coming from behind the group.
If it’s a bright sunny day and the sun is low in the sky try not to position it directly behind you or you’ll end up with a collection of squinting faces in your shot.
8. Take Control
Communicate with the group of subjects. It is important to keep talking to the group, let them know what you want them to do, motivate them to smile, tell them that they look great and communicate how much longer you’ll need them.
Also important is to give your subjects a reason to pose for the photograph. For example at a sporting event “lets take a group photo to celebrate our win”. When you give people a reason to pose for you you’ll find they are much more willing to take a few minutes to pose for you.
Another very useful line to use with group is – ‘If you can see the camera it can see you’. This one is key if you want to be able to see each person’s face in the shot.
If there are more photographers than just you then wait until others have finished their shots and then get the attention of the full group otherwise you’ll have everyone looking in different directions.
9. For large groups
Large groups of people can be very difficult to photograph.
One solution to this is to find a way to elevate yourself as the photographer. Try bringing a ladder or standing on something to take a shot looking down on the group. In doing this you can fit a lot more people in and still remain quite close to the group (you end up with a shot of lots of faces in focus and less bodies). It also gives an interesting perspective to your shots – especially if you have a nice wide focal length.
10. Use a Tripod
It gives you as the photographer more freedom to be involved in the creation of the posing of your subjects. Set your camera up on your tripod so that’s ready to take the shot in terms of framing, settings and focus and then it will be ready at an instant when you get the group looking just right to capture the moment.
11. Use an Assistant
If you have a very large group and assistant can be very handy to get the group organized well.
An assistant is also incredibly handy if you are taking multiple group shots (like at a wedding when you’re photographing different configurations of a family). In these cases I often ask the couple to provide me with a family or friend member who has a running sheet of the different groups of people to be photographed. I then get this person to ensure we have everyone we need in each shot. Having a family member do this helps to make sure you don’t miss anyone out but also is good because the group is familiar with them and will generally respond well when they order them around.
To keep it simple, here’s my summary recommendation for equipment and settings (note, you MUST NOT use flash (according to USA Gymnastics rules, for the safety of the gymnasts), so be sure you know how to keep your camera’s flash from firing!). Also, unless you are USA Gymnastics safety certified, you are NOT allowed on the gymnastic floor while gymnasts are performing…don’t argue with the officials…those are the rules!)
Camera: Canon 1D Mark III (or equivalent crop-sensor camera)…
Lens: Canon 70 – 200mm f2.8 lens or similar wide-aperture moderate telephoto prime lens.
ISO (light sensitivity): 3200 (stopping the action is probably more important to getting clear images than low noise). In a brightly lit gym, you might be able to get away with ISO 800 or 1600 if the light is bright enough (see shutter speed, below)
Aperture: f/2.0, Aperture priority setting on camera (Av) (or the “brightest” aperture you can use)
Shutter Speed: let the aperture priority setting pick the fastest speed available. You will want a shutter speed of 1/500 to 1/1000 or faster if at all possible with the light available to you. If you can only shoot at 1/250…it’s tough, but you will still get some good photos if you take them when the gymnast is motionless (reversing direction in a gymnastics move)
NOTE: Dimly lit gymnastics events are difficult to photograph with anything less than ISO3200 and f2.8 (or the equivalent combination…e.g. ISO1600 f2.0, ISO800 f1.4, etc.). I recommend “prime” (non-zoom) moderate telephotos because you can get a wide-aperture lens that isn’t huge. Note that the typical f/4 – f/5.6 telephoto zooms … typical “consumer” zooms, just don’t let in enough light to take good gymnastics photos in most gyms. If you have tried to take photos of your son or daughter using an f/4 to f5.6 zoom…getting poor quality images is likely the fault of your equipment, not you! In most gyms, you MUST use a wide-aperture lens and an SLR camera… the typical point and shoot digital camera simply isn’t fast enough to capture a gymnast at the right moment, and the small sensors used are often “high-noise” at higher ISO settings…and they rarely enable an ISO above 800 or so.
You may find using a monopod helpful, however, it is usually the gymnast’s motion that must be frozen. Neither a monopod nor an “image stabilized” (IS) lens will stop the motion of the gymnast. IS may help if you are shooting a long and hard-t0-hold telephoto.
For floor exercise, shut off your auto focus, and stand perpendicular to the direction of travel for the gymnast, so they stay the same distance from you. Prefocus your lens and leave it (unless you are using a camera like the Canon 1D MKIII that has 45 auto focus points). Otherwise, you run a high risk of focusing on the back wall rather than the gymnast when they move out of the center of your image! Floor is tough to photograph!
Need a head shot for your web site? A good photo of the little one for your holiday cards? Taking good pictures of people can be hard, but don’t despair. An average digital camera can take great portraits if you keep a few simple guidelines in mind. No special equipment is required and the features discussed are widely available on most point-and-shoot cameras. Who knows, if you follow along carefully you may never have to pay for those expensive school pictures of your kids again.
Choose The Right Camera Settings
Portrait_mode.jpg Most digital cameras have a “portrait mode” built in. Activate it by turning the mode dial to the portrait icon (usually a person’s head). This setting draws attention to your subject by blurring the background.
Blur More? If your camera has a zoom lens, go to maximum telephoto and zoom in all the way. You may need to take a few steps to get subject in frame; step back and zoom all the way in. This makes the background blur even more, throwing your subject into even sharper relief. (No “digital zoom.” Optical zoom—or “real zoom”—is what you want.)
Make the flash go off. Set your camera so that even in brightly lit places that your flash off in every situation. Do not just let the camera flash if it needs to, because it won’t; you’ll be shooting in plenty of light. You want to literally force the flash to fire. Doing this will soften the shadows on your subject’s face and add a gleam to his/her eye.
Forcing the flash is usually very easy to do and involves pushing the flash mode selector button until the flash mode indicator displays the “will flash no matter what” icon (usually a lightning bolt) as opposed to the “will flash if necessary” icon (a lightning bolt with an “A” next to it). On many cameras there will also be an option to force the flash in red-eye reduction mode (a lightning bolt plus an eye but no “A”). Do this if available.
More About Light
To take a great picture you need more than just the light from your camera’s flash. To get it, go outside in the daytime. Sunny or cloud. Indoor light is often insufficient for good photography, so do yourself a huge favor and step outdoors.
Once you’re outside, place your subject with the sun to the side usually works well. I find that the sunlight from the side, combined with the light from the flash in front, make for a pleasantly lit subject.
Bonus tip: If possible take your picture in the early morning or the late afternoon. The light at these times makes for the best photography.
Composing And Shooting
Frame your shot so you get just the subject’s head and maybe their shoulders. Really, the tighter you frame it the nicer it’ll look.
Remember to zoom all the way in and then compose your shot. You may need to take a step closer to your subject or maybe take a step back. Do not frame the shot by adjusting the zoom; leave it at maximum telephoto.
If you can, try to shoot where the background is as far away as possible. This also helps blur it and draw attention to your subject.
Now that your camera is set, you have good light and you’ve framed your shot it’s time to shoot. Hold your camera steady and push the shutter release button only halfway down. Pushing the button halfway down tells the camera to figure out the auto-focus and auto-exposure. Once the camera is done taking its readings, (a green light, a beep or both will notify you)then you can simply push the button. You could pause here and tell your subject a joke to make him/her laugh and then push it the rest of the way down, capturing that perfect expression.
Aperture is ‘the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken.’
When you hit the shutter release button of your camera a hole opens up that allows your cameras image sensor to catch a glimpse of the scene you’re wanting to capture. The aperture that you set impacts the size of that hole. The larger the hole the more light that gets in – the smaller the hole the less light.
Aperture is measured in ‘f-stops’. You’ll often see them referred to here at Digital Photography School as f/number – for example f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6,f/8,f/22 etc. Moving from one f-stop to the next doubles or halves the size of the amount of opening in your lens (and the amount of light getting through). Keep in mind that a change in shutter speed from one stop to the next doubles or halves the amount of light that gets in also – this means if you increase one and decrease the other you let the same amount of light in – very handy to keep in mind).
One thing that causes a lot of new photographers confusion is that large apertures (where lots of light gets through) are given f/stop smaller numbers and smaller apertures (where less light gets through) have larger f-stop numbers. So f/2.8 is in fact a much larger aperture than f/22. It seems the wrong way around when you first hear it but you’ll get the hang of it.
Depth of Field and Aperture
There are a number of results of changing the aperture of your shots that you’ll want to keep in mind as you consider your setting but the most noticeable one will be the depth of field that your shot will have.
Depth of Field (DOF) is that amount of your shot that will be in focus. Large depth of field means that most of your image will be in focus whether it’s close to your camera or far away (like the picture to the left where both the foreground and background are largely in focus – taken with an aperture of f/22).
Small (or shallow) depth of field means that only part of the image will be in focus and the rest will be fuzzy (like in the flower at the top of this post (click to enlarge). You’ll see in it that the tip of the yellow stems are in focus but even though they are only 1cm or so behind them that the petals are out of focus. This is a very shallow depth of field and was taken with an aperture of f/4.5).
Aperture has a big impact upon depth of field. Large aperture (remember it’s a smaller number) will decrease depth of field while small aperture (larger numbers) will give you larger depth of field.
It can be a little confusing at first but the way I remember it is that small numbers mean small DOF and large numbers mean large DOF.
Let me illustrate this with two pictures I took earlier this week in my garden of two flowers.
The best way to get your head around aperture is to get your camera out and do some experimenting. Go outside and find a spot where you’ve got items close to you as well as far away and take a series of shots with different aperture settings from the smallest setting to the largest. You’ll quickly see the impact that it can have and the usefulness of being able to control aperture.
Some styles of photography require large depths of field (and small Apertures)
For example in most landscape photography you’ll see small aperture settings (large numbers) selected by photographers. This ensures that from the foreground to the horizon is relatively in focus.
On the other hand in portrait photography it can be very handy to have your subject perfectly in focus but to have a nice blurry background in order to ensure that your subject is the main focal point and that other elements in the shot are not distracting. In this case you’d choose a large aperture (small number) to ensure a shallow depth of field.