Photography – Technical & Reviews

What’s the point to a point and shoot?

I visited a wonderful photographer in California a few months ago. Gregory Moore. We had a nice dinner and as we walked along the evening streets chatting about photography (imagine that) he kept pulling out his little point and shoot and clicked off shots of walls, town streets, store fronts, and anything that caught his eye.

I’ve loved his work because of his subdued lighting.  Especially when it’s obviously a location shot.  Well, not really a location shot.  I think he often does a shot in the studio and lights it impeccably.  Then in post he adds one or more backgrounds in and then uses yet another set of amazing skills to blend them so perfectly that I can’t really tell that it might not be on location.  Then again, I’ve been with him on a location shoot where he used even more of the same background to add more flavor and emotion to a shot.


Canon Powershot S120

So, there is still a good reason to have a good P&S in your pocket at all times when wondering around.  Just the other day I was walking the mall and there was a wall between stores that was seemingly out of place.  Beautiful wood or different colors.  Now I have it as a possible backdrop in a future shot.  And it’s mine, I don’t have to pay anyone for the right to use it.

Speaking of rights, I always make sure there isn’t any ‘prior art’ in a shot.  There was a photographer that took a picture that was published and in the background, blurred out by the DOF, was some graffitti.  Now, the graffitti wasn’t legal but the tagger who created it sued the photographer for $10,000 and won.

The first thought is, why not just use my cell phone?  And I have before.  But, having a camera that has enough lens to capture some good light, has a nice ISO range, and in the case of the camera I’m looking at, the Canon S120, the low fStop of f1.8 will make evening pictures rock.  But, most important, is to get one with at least 12mp and RAW so the image can be manipulated a LOT after the fact.  This is also the difference between the $100 camera and the $450 camera.  But, worth it.  Pick whatever you like but so some serious research to make sure you find what you like and it has good reviews.  Sony seems to lead the pack but it’s a close call these days.  Canon is hot on their heels and I didn’t see anyone talking about Nikon at all.  Which is odd because Nikon was hyping their P&S cameras in ads not long ago claiming that if you had their P&S you didn’t need a photographer.  Yeah, that impressed me too…really?

So, work on those masking skills in Photoshop and start building up that background library.


Tight depth of field in the studio

After getting the Canon 85mm f1.2 lens for my 6D I found it hard to use in the studio.  Of course, outdoors I have more control over the camera because I can increase the speed enough to cut the light back and use the beautiful narrow depth of field that the lens affords me.  But in the studio the modeling lights were not bright enough and the flash was ALMOST to much light with the flashes set at their lowest settings.

To get that same beautiful DOF in the studio I needed to cut the light back.  So, I added a Tiffen 72mm Variable Neutral Density filter in front of the lens.  This is a 2-8 fStop filter so I can adjust it for just about anything in the studio.  At f2 it gave me the example shot below.  Notice how fast the DOF dropped off because I was at f1.2 on the lens but blocked the light by 2 fStops balancing it all out well with a flash.  The flash was still low but not at the lowest setting.  This allows me the options to have multipal flashes at different levels to create the moods I want yet still go to f1.2 if I so desire.


Of course, the first 30 shots were pretty much out of focus because I was getting a feel for it.  I’ve found that I can’t use the center focus point on the eyes and then re-frame each shot like I normally do.  I actually have to move the focus point in the camera to be about where the eyes are in whatever frame I want to have.  One at the far end for a full body shot for example and then i can still focus on the eyes.  This, of course, is only important under f2 or so.

If I needed to do autofocus but wanted to crank the filter to a much darker setting I would hold the filter ring and turn it to wide open so I could focus and then just before taking the shot I’d rotate the filter to the darker setting.  The results were a very warm and creamy set of shots.  These examples came from a 2 hour shoot with Michelle were I never changed the camera from f1.2 the whole night and we caught some wonderful shots.

Here is a second example of the beauty of using lower fStops in the studio.


I doubt I’m the first photographer to come to the conclusion that the ND filter can be handy this way…heck, I may be the last one to figure it out.  But, I’d never seen anyone talk about using one in studio so I wanted to share my experiance.  I’m not sure my ND filter will be coming off my 85mm f1.2 anytime soon.



Canon 6D wifi feature…

I’ve used the 6D for studio shooting a few times now and it’s light, simple to use, and I’m very happy with the quality.  The 7D now feels like a tank.

Up until yesterday I had the 6D connecting through the studio wifi router as an infrastructure connection.  That meant no direct connection between it and the iPad I wanted to use to show the pictures.  I found later that this added a delay between a quick unfocused version of the preview and a clear version to replace it.  Sometimes up to 20 seconds.  Not good.  And, this doesn’t allow for location viewing on the iPad since I’d be away from the router.


So, I changed to the peer-to-peer option that set up the 6D as an access point that the iPad could directly connect to.  This eliminated any delay of the preview image.  And, as we shot on location I could hand the iPad to the model to look them over to get an idea of how her posing was and what I was getting.

Other than forgetting the iPad on the ground and walking off leaving this bright pink (don’t ask) fully loaded iPad in a busy park, we got some good use from this feature.  Oh, and there are plenty of honest people around.  I figure 100 people walked right past it and left it sitting right there.  Good heart workout without having to run!

On the drive home the model went through the whole shoot and deleted some obviously bad shots.  That also removes them from the card in the camera so be careful letting people use that feature.  It can be turned off.  She also stared the ones she liked and this is very handy since those stars are added to the meta data on the camera because when I imported those shots into Lightroom they had the stars set.  I can see myself looking through shoots this way and trimming the fat before an import.

One thing to note is that I found it was easier to have the camera and iPad set to stay on all the time…or at least the camera since it’s the access point.  If the camera isn’t on, the iPad or iPhone can’t see the pictures.  The battery in the 6D seems to handle that just fine.  It last as long as my 5D or 7D, even with wifi turned on.

This wifi feature has turned out to be as useful as I’d hoped.  It’s certainly becoming a standard way of shooting for me already.