This fall, I had an opportunity to take some lovely engagement photos of Heather and her fiancé Kori.  We wanted some fall like pictures, because their wedding is next fall.  A week later may have been better to get some fall colors… but their were some conflicts then.  This was actually one of those near record temperature September days, so the long sleeves and sweaters were warm indeed.  My compliments to them for surviving the heat.

I have put some comments below the photos about what I did and why.  Also some comments about what I liked.  Enjoy the reading and let me know what you like or don’t like about the photos.

_DSC4952-12
I used a softbox to fill in the exposure.  We were in the shade and I didn’t want the background to be completely washed out.  this allowed me to create a soft, but well lit subjects with shadow and highlights to build depth.
_DSC4775-1
This picture was taken in the bright sun.  I used the sun as a back light to highlight hair and give dimension to the picture.  Even though the sun was to their back, they were still squinting some.  This surprised me, but I believe it was because they were looking into some brightly sun lit trees.  But it is still a very acceptable picture.
_DSC4907-8
Heather wanted a picture of her beautiful engagement ring.  The edges of the top of this fence post lead our eyes to the ring.  I really like this one.
_DSC4812-2
I was able to capture this playful moment between Heather and Kori.  It was a nice change of pace.
_DSC4856-5
I was able to get a little greenery to frame this shot a little.  Again an off-camera flash in a softbox kept the light soft with some contouring of the face.  This flash also added a catch light in the eyes to bring more attention to the face.
_DSC4932-10
Kori is an avid outdoor sportsman, so we needed a more ‘nature’ shot.  We did have the softbox off to the left in this shot.  It did help with the exposure some, but I believe another third stop or so would have been better.
_DSC4958-13
Heather is sitting on a very small log, but I love their expressions and exposure.
_DSC4899-7
We created a fun motion shot between the two of them.  They definitely had fun while working on this shot.
_DSC4842-4
I loved this cute expression.  They are an adorable couple.
_DSC4864-6
This is the shot that they chose for their “Save the Date” invitation.  The grassy areas provided plenty of space for text.
_DSC4937-11
Another nature environmental shot.  The softbox again was used to illuminate their faces better.
_DSC4918-9
Yes, the hunt is over, I believe that they are both winners!
Advertisements

An Acquaintance of mine, Carrie Copley, has been writing a book.  This has been one of her big goals in life, and sure enough she finished the book recently.  Check it out at http://www.loveyourlife2.com.  Her site tells about her business and there is a link to buy the book.

I don’t like to do the simple head shots, but I always believe the picture should tell a story. In this case, I wanted to portray Carrie as a fun loving and pleasant person, but one who is also strong and decisive.

We picked a location at a local hotel with some interesting interior architecture.  While we used it some, it wasn’t as useful as originally planned.

_DSC4658-1
I originally picked this location because of the cool accessories such as the watering can.  I tried a bunch of pictures, but none of them worked very well.  This one mostly works, but it was pretty easy to eliminate as a picture for the book.
_DSC4670-2
I figured that I better do the standard business style head shot.  It is always good to have a basic shot that the client may be expecting, or in this case, a book editor.
_DSC4672-3
I thought that I would try this pose, and I like it a lot.  I had her cross her arms for a more power look.  However, I had her position her feet so that it caused her body to not be straight, but to have more shape.  This lowered her left shoulder as well and slight tilt of the head with her wonderful smile.  In the end we have a feminine look with a touch of power and  friendliness.
_DSC4677-4
More of the same in this picture.  The watch isn’t reflecting as bad which helps.  I believe that this is the picture that Carrie is using to promote the book.
_DSC4691-5
In this photo, I. eliminated the watch reflection finally.
_DSC4706-6
This picture was to utilize the repeating pattern in the background.  It works pretty well.  Carrie is using this picture on some of her social media which is cropped to around her face for small pictures.
_DSC4713-7
This was a similar approach as above.  I wanted to use the background lights to add some interest.  If there had been more lights, it may have worked better.  A nice result, but not perfect.
_DSC4723-8
I added a kicker light to separate Carrie from the background a little more.  If I would have used it more as a hair light, it may have helped more.

 

I wanted to hit a few additional points on why to hire a professional photographer.  As I stated in my last blog, selling faster, for more money, and most of all, for you to provide the best service possible to your clients.  End result, you get more listings.  More money in your pocket, so that you can have a family vacation or give to your favorite charity.

I also want to demonstrate some of the differences in various levels of photography.  I set up a pretty common shot, although in a somewhat difficult lighting condition.  The home is an open concept with a kitchen and dining room behind and to the right of camera.  So I chose this camera angle.

I will look at three levels of skill and equipment.

  • Using a cell phone
  • Using a consumer DSLR and with flash
  • Using a high quality DSLR with a quality lens with flash and advanced Lightroom and Photoshop techniques

Of course there are almost infinite levels between these.

Cell Phone

Here is a picture that I took with my iPhone 6s, using the HDR feature.  The windows are blown out and a lot of bloom, loss of details near the windows.  It doesn’t give the warm and fuzzy to make a person look at the home.

Blog2-1677-2

Pict 1 – iPhone 6s – HDR

Consumer DSLR

In this picture I am using my Full Frame camera which is better than a consumer DSLR cameras, but by a small amount.  I am using the standard kit lens that came with the camera.   I should point out that I used Lightroom to edit this shot and the iPhone shot to get as much detail and proper exposure that is possible.  The bloom and colors are better, also more detail.  But, with the blown out windows, it is still not very inviting.

Blog2-3169

Pict 2 – DSLR with a modified single image.

I also did an HDR image with the DSLR camera, I was able to get a better picture, because of better outside exposure.  But, it was also poorer in some aspects.  I might add, that my HDR work could be improved, but from what I can see, the results aren’t better, and the labor can be higher.

Consumer DSLR and using direct flash

I have seen this technique used in many local area listings.  The problem with direct flash is that it leaves a very flat image.  Flash will increase detail and reduce or eliminate the blown out windows.  But, will leave a cold flat photo.  I did a small amount of Lightroom work to reduce the ‘flashy’ look of the photo, but it is difficult to impossible to make much improvement.  Also notice the shadows of the fan blades.  The unnatural shadows and flatness of the image leaves a less than wow impression.  I also had trouble getting the wall the correct color, which usually doesn’t happen in a direct flash… but it can.  I worked pretty hard to get it close.

Blog2b-3176

Pict 3 – DSLR with direct flash

DSLR, Pro Lens, Flash, and advanced Lightroom and Photoshop techniques.

Let’s first look at what a high quality lens can do.  The lens takes a wider angle which will tend to make the house look bigger, but it also renders the picture better.  Especially around the windows, less bloom (that haze around the windows).  The first picture is with a high quality lens from a single shot.  It was adjusted in Lightroom to taste.  This picture is considerably better from a detail and exposure stand point that the kit lens example in Pict 2 above.  But, it lacks detail, the colors are pretty good, but the windows are distracting.

Blog2-3177

Pict 4 – DSLR with a Pro Lens

Last of all, I will show you a picture of the same scene using a flash and 2 pictures blended together using Lightroom and Photoshop.  You can think of it like this, if you go to a photography studio,  they will use large lights and modifiers in the studio.  If you take a picture outside with this same photographer, it is likely, he will bring along some of the same lights to make the natural light, even better.  Conceptually, I am doing the same thing here.  This picture draws you in more with the natural shadows and highlights which provide that 3D and WOW effect, but with the detail and better color of a flash.  End result, yes, I want to look at this house!!

Blog2-2

Pict 5 – DSLR with a Pro Lens, flash and advanced Lightroom and Photoshop techniques

I hope that you enjoyed this blog.  While the equipment does make a difference, a Professional is thinking every day about what makes a good photo and how to improve his/her work.  Your job as a Realtor is to help your clients sell their home.  Just as there are good reasons for me to hire a realtor, the reasons for you to hire a photographer are just as great.  Check out this gallery for more examples click here.

20170421-_DSC2576-Edit-2
Fig 1 – Final Image

I ran across an interesting way to do interior photography that appeared to me to provide some great results and still be able to have control over the complete process with reasonable effort.  I have a relative who does some amazing interior work.  I became aware of how to do it, a few years ago, but it seemed to be just too much work for average properties that most of us think about buying.  When I saw this method of doing interior work, it just clicked with me as a great way to provide value to realtors and have fun while doing it.  If it isn’t fun, I am not doing it.

I will walk us through various levels of difficulty in producing interior photographs.  The most simple is to simply take a picture and adjust the exposure for the interior.  Fig 2 shows this result.

Interior Steps-2576
Fig 2 – Single Exposure for the room

This photo will work, but the windows are distractingly bright.  The rest of the photo doesn’t have much punch and seems a little flat.  This room has an abundance of windows, so there aren’t a lot of problems with color casts.  However, it just doesn’t leave a strong feeling that I want to sit in this room and enjoy myself.

The next way of changing the photo is to add flash.  Flash has good points and bad points.  The good is that if used properly it can remove color casts and we can bring the exposure close to the outside, so that the windows aren’t distracting.  On the bad side, flash can make the picture even more flat.  It can also add distracting shadows and feel unnatural.

Interior Steps-2577
Fig 3 – Flash exposure

In this example, the colors are a little cleaner.  But, the big take away is that the windows are well exposed.  However, the photo has the flatness of flash exposure and many of the shadows are unnatural, especially the ceiling fan shadow.  I also did a small amount of work to reduce the exposure of the foreground in Lightroom.  You might also note that the clock in the far corner has had the glare reduced so that it can be read.

The next step is to merge these two photos together in photoshop to get the best part of each of these photos.

20170421-_DSC2576-Edit-2
Fig 4 – Final Merged Image

This photo has many of the best parts of each photo.  We have reflections on the floor and furniture from the incoming window light.  The reflections on the back of the love seat are from 4 other windows out of the frame.  We also have shadows caused by the windows and over head lights.  But, most of all, it appears to be a room that I want to sit in and have as my own.  Yes, it could have been staged better, but it leaves a positive impression.

As a follow up from the last blog.  I thought I would get some pictures to illustrate different types of lighting.  I will be looking at indoor lighting because it is easiest to illustrate each of the points.

I want to thank my daughter in-law, Joy, for being a good sport and letting me take some ugly pictures of her.  I want to point out also, that she is fair skinned with freckles that are more noticeable, because she is getting lots of sun that is also drying out her skin.  But she is a wonderful young lady that my wife and I are pleased to have her in our family.

The first picture is a direct flash that is mounted on the camera.  This leaves a rather flat picture and an ugly shadow in the back ground.

On Camera Flash -8796

This next picture is a bare flash with no modifiers on it and at about 45° angle from the camera.  This picture looks considerably better.  Still a little flat, but better.  Significant shadows are seen under Joy’s chin and from her nose.  But, it does show the curves of her face better.  Joy’s hair over her left shoulder isn’t showing like I would like.  But the ugly background shadow is gone and her face has more dimension.

Off Camera Direct Flash-8799
Off camera direct flash

This picture is using a soft box about 26″ in diameter.  It is pretty close to her, maybe 3 feet or so.  A soft box located at a close distance will provide a more soft light.  This picture shows more curves on the face and the hair on her shoulder is very smooth and silky.

Off Camera Close Soft Box-8802
Off Camera Soft Box about 3′

The next shot has the soft box moved away about 3 more feet.  The height was about the same, so it came in and highlighted the eyes a bit more.  I also think the angle was a bit more straight on Joy’s face.  We have a better catch light in her eyes.  The shadow under her chin is smaller due to the shallower lighting angle.  But, the shadow line is a bit harder since the flash is further away and it is closer to a point source.  However, it is still much softer than the unmodified flash shots.  You will also notice that the background is also a little lighter now.  This is also a result of the flash being further from the subject.

Off Camera Far Soft Box-8804

This shot is now with the soft box directly above the camera.  It still renders very nicely, but you will notice that the nose shadow goes almost straight down and her chin shadow is more symmetrical as well.  The background has darkened some since the flash is now closer to Joy again.  This type of lighting can help remove skin imperfections, but in my opinion works best with a slim face and high cheek bones.

Off Camera Above Soft Box-8809

This shot was with the soft box pointed away from her.  This helped make the background darker.  If you look carefully, you can see that the catch light in Joy’s eyes is more like a cat’s eye.  A very vertical light.  This is because she was only seeing a small portion of the soft box.

Off Camera Edge Soft Box-8816

For all of the other shots, I had the curtains on a window to Joy’s left closed.  I then opened when I was done and used the light from the window as a fill light.  The light set up was like the third shot, except the soft box was a little lower which allowed better catch lights in the eyes.

_DSC8824

Of course there are an unlimited number of ways to light the scene.  Somebody might ask about bouncing a flash off the ceiling.  The ceiling can act as a giant soft box, but the angle is many times coming too straight down.  There are inexpensive flash modifiers that will reflect some of the light directly at the subject when the flash is pointed at ceiling which can help.  Also, bright windows can provide great soft light as well.

While we were in vacation, we came across an interesting situation, that a non-photographer probably wouldn’t even notice.

We were in Santa Cruz, California walking near the beach.  The first thing that I noticed when getting out of the car, a photographer with 2 soft boxes and a couple cameras heading toward the ocean.

Surfer2
Young Surfers in Santa Cruz, California

We then stopped to watch some surfers for a while.  Once we got past the surfers I noticed a photographer taking pictures of a dancer.  She was striking various poses that aren’t normally held in dance, but they make a good photograph.  This photographer was using natural light without flash.

Then as we moved on we watched another photographer that was getting a picture that to me looked like either an engagement picture or a set the date type of picture.  The hard part about this was that they had a small dog with them that they obviously wanted in the picture.  But, every time the photographer crouched to get the proper angle, the dog would go running to the photographer.  This photographer was using an on camera flash, but holding it away from the camera with his free arm.

surf Museum-08274
Young Surfers in Santa Cruz, California

I apologize for not getting pictures of these photographers, but at the time, it didn’t occur to me that this would turn into a blog post.

The question that many people might ask, which method is better?

Using the soft boxes creates as the name implies, a soft diffused light, with very gradual shadows.  This is the type of lighting that is usually used in a studio or indoors.  It is bulky and this photographer had several people with him carrying equipment.  They were on the beach for a considerable time, but we didn’t see them, so I assume they were below us hidden by the cliffs that we were standing on.  It is difficult or impossible to overpower the sun with soft boxes, so it makes perfect sense that they were taking pictures in the shade of the cliffs.  When we did see them come up from the beach, they started taking pictures in a shady area a ways from the beach.  The pictures that they took on the beach probably resulted in some very nice soft faces with a fairly contrasty background.  The pictures in the shady area probably allowed the photographer to make his subjects considerably better illuminated with a darker but blurred and non-distracting background.

The dancer pictures without flash most likely resulted in a nice environmental portrait showing cliffs, and/or breaking waves and the dancer.  Contrast in the bright, although evening, sun may have been more harsh than some would like.  But, for photographs of sport, gymnastics, and dance can effectively use this higher contrast.

The pictures of the couple and their dog where the photographer was holding a flash at arms length from the camera probably came out nice.  The extra flash probably softened the photo some.  But, if you want to have a picture of a couple walking on the beach, you really don’t have any other option (soft boxes just don’t work in full sun, until almost sunset).  Holding it arms length would have a more softening effect than mounting the flash on camera.

So which is better?  It depends upon what you want for an effect.  The photographer with the soft boxes should have been able to create some nice pictures in the shade of the trees near the beach.  The other two photographers probably created some nice pictures with beautiful ocean and cliffs in the background.  Adding the flash should have softened the couples pictures a bit, which would be a nice improvement.

One of the things about photographers, we are always trying to make the scene as beautiful as it was in person, but to be honest, without a little trickery it simply isn’t done.  So, I thought I would show you what is commonly done.

BigSur-08217
Big Sur out of camera JPG

As you can see it is very blah.  Part of the reason, is that I exposed the photograph for the sky, so ground is underexposed.  This is a very common technique because sky highlights and details are often very important.  Probably not quite as important in this photograph since the clouds are a minor component.

Our eyes when we see a scene like this in real life, will be constantly adjusting the focus and brightness as we look over the landscape.  If we look at the sky, our eyes will adjust to see the most detail.  And the same thing keeps happening as our mind and eye scan the scene.  But it doesn’t seem to happen the same way with a photograph.

So, the battle is to make the photograph look as I remember the scene in my mind.  While I want to emphasize certain things about the scene, I believe it should look real enough that people don’t respond that it is fake.  I use Adobe’s Lightroom for basic modification of photos.  The first step was to modify the photo to make the foreground and bay look as I remember.

BigSur-08217-3
First major step of the image retouching

I will not detail every step, but the major adjustments were to increase the exposure by a little more than an f-stop, increased the clarity, vibrance, and saturation.  The grasses in the foreground, look a little blue… but they were getting a lot of blue sky illumination, so this makes sense.  The same thing with the sand and water in the bay.  But, this is the way I remember it, so I am happy.

The mountain and sky beyond the bay are over exposed now.  Many times the method to fix these issues is with a gradient tool that is found in Lightroom.

BigSur-08217-2
The final picture

The main effect of the gradient tool was to reduce the exposure.  I also used a brush to bring out the clouds a little more.  The gradient started at the first ridge  and ended by the time it hit the horizon at the far mountain.  It basically took out an f-stop of exposure that was added earlier.  There is some brown in the ocean that looks a bit purple in the smaller version.  This is actually a kelp field.  When it is viewed in the larger picture, it looks a bit more realistic than it does above.

I believe this picture will become at least a 20 x 30 inch print in my office soon.  It captures a magical moment in time with my wife.  I will be posting this picture in the project section of this web site soon.  It will also be making an entry in the gallery section as well along with some other nice shots of the Big Sur area of California.

As some of you probably know, my wife and I took a vacation to California just before Memorial Day.  We had a great time and a couple ideas for blogs came up.  Today, I will start with the easier idea.

In the past I have had zero luck getting decent pictures of birds flying.  As many of you know, I shoot Sony.  Some of the naysayers of mirrorless cameras will tell you that you can’t get good pictures of moving wildlife with a mirrorless camera, or at best, it will be very difficult.

Birding2-08043
Many Seagulls near Pacific Grove, California

As you can see in the picture above there were lots of birds and it was possible to get reasonably close.  It was a beautiful day and the SeaGull is a good sized bird, so I thought, let’s try this flying bird picture thing again.

The first 8 pictures or so, were disappointing.  Then, I double checked my auto focus settings.  So, I set Zone focusing on the center area.  And set AF on continous.  I don’t believe that I used the lock-on auto focus.  I moved the ISO to 200 and shot in Aperture Priority at 5.6.  Shutter times went from about 1/500 to 1/2500th of a second depending on how many rocks were in the picture.  I also set my panning 70-200mm lens to a panning mode.  I believe it disables the horizontal stabilization when in this mode.

I had the camera set in continuous shooting at 2.5 frames per second.  While it would be nice to have a little more speed.  I assume the pictures below are about a half second apart and does a decent job of showing the process.  My camera can go to 5 frames/sec, but I don’t believe it refocuses between frames at this speed.

Birding-08002
Coming in for a landing, with a greeting committee
Birding-08003
just before touching down

Another Landing, this one was pretty close to me and isn’t cropped real heavily.

Birding-08021
The air brakes are on with a prized catch
Birding3-08022
A half second later.  There is some evidence of camera shake.

The last shot was a 1/500th of a second and shows some camera shake.  From the original file, I can see that I moved a ways in that half second, nearly a third to a fourth of a frame.

What about birds in flight?

Birding-08006
Flying over head.  I love the shape of their wings.
Birding-08009
One with food, one without…
Birding-08032
I love this with the breaking wave behind
Birding-08041
Birds near and far

Once I set the auto focus correctly, I was extremely happy with the results.  The camera focused quickly and held the focus on the birds as I followed them through the sky.  Probably a 90% focus hit ratio or higher.  The only real problem I had was what I think was camera shake when the shutter dropped to 1/500th of a second or so.  All shots were at about 200mm.

Considering that there are about about 3 or 4 Sony mirrorless cameras that are better suited for this.  I am very happy with the results.  The only thing

I will be posting these and a few other images in a gallery soon so that you can look at them a little closer.