Monday, December 29, 2008

Business cards as a photography marketing tool!

Not too long ago I mentioned a great idea that had been handed down to me from a couple of different sources. The idea that filtered down to me is to make up business cards using your client’s favorite image from their photo shoot and then include them with their order at no cost to them. The deal is that you put your best two or three images on the back of the cards with your information for all to see.

That is great as it places my information, as well as a few samples of my work, directly in the hands of potential clients. The client is happy, the potential client is happy, and I am happy.

This particular client is also a friend of mine and I know that they will be very happy to give these cards out to potential clients for us both. They are rather pleased with their images that I took of their family.

We (the photographers) must absorb the cost of the cards out of your mark up from the order, but what is the price that you’d pay for some awesome marketing? The cards I purchased were cheap enough, and I had them made through the same online lab that prints my images. They are also easy enough to design and then upload for printing.

To make the cards up I had to first download a Photoshop template from the online labs’ website. The template makes making the cards a snap! With the template open I simply added a fast change of background color, and then the images were added with a quick drag and drop using layers. Text was typed on to them just as easily too! Before I knew it the cards were done and uploaded!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Light modifiers for flash heads.

With the current state of affairs of the economy, we would all be wise to make all of the devices that we can, and only purchase what we can not. I have made several of my own light modifying devices, and they work just as well as the ones that can be purchased. Like I have said before; I would think twice about pulling home made devices out on a paying gig, like a wedding. I do not have an ego or too much pride; I just think that cardboard light modifiers might put doubt of my abilities in the hearts of the wedding party. The few light modifying devices that I own and use work great. I have tried to spend as little money as possible while I try to get better at using these devices. Maybe as I get better I will opt for more expensive modifiers, as future pay checks allow. The point is that I did not want to spend cash on something that I may not use more than once or twice.
I would like to start this off with a toast to the person that invented Velcro. I have wrapped each of my flash heads in Velcro, and I suggest that you do the same. I opted for a couple of rolls of this awesome stuff, and I cut it as I need it. Sometimes manufactures get a little skimpy when it comes time to supply the consumer with a Velcro stash, and I understand why, because I would too!

All of these devices that I own are held onto the flash heads with Velcro, with the exception of my home made snoots. I made them snug enough to slip over the front of the flash and hold tight. The types of devices that I use most often are diffusers (soft boxes, umbrellas, and tissue paper), snoots (with and without grids), gels, bounces, and those bare bulb omni thingies that come with Nikon flash heads. The image shows my little collection, and I will quickly detail them, and then detail the ones that are on my wish list.
I started out purchasing light modifiers. I now realize that this is not rocket science. In no time I found myself building the parts and pieces that I wanted next, and others that I could not find for sale.

My first light modifying purchase was a Lumiquest mini soft box diffuser, the LumiQuest SoftBox III LQ-119. I use it on a flash head, mounted on my camera, and aimed directly at the subject. It folds flat, adheres with Velcro, and it has a portion of its surface double thick where the flash is the most intense. Simple, elegant and easy.

Next, I found that I had a need for a bounce.LumiQuest 80-20 bounce Weddings were at the bottom of this need. With the flash on the camera and aimed directly ahead, I noticed a problem. The client was being washed in flash while the area around the clients was rather dark. The shadows were also way too intense I thought. To solve this trouble, I found a great Lumiquest bounce, the “80-20”, or LumiQuest 80-20 bounce. They Velcro onto the flash heads, and fold flat when not in use. These particular styles of bouncers come in different types, or numbers as a name. Let me explain what this name means.

The flash head needs to be aimed straight upwards when you use a bounce like this, the LumiQuest 80-20 bounce. These units are designed to bounce only a portion of the flash forward at the subject and the rest goes straight through the device. The title “80-20” means that 80 percent of the flash goes straight up through this device to be bounced off of the ceiling. The “20” represents the remaining 20 percent of the flash that gets re-directed (bounced) towards the subject. This allows for both a nice bounced lighting for the removal of any harsh shadows, and a nice boost of light on the subject.
Now, for my first “all for play” toy that I purchased, just to make some cooler images. The LumiQuest Snoot (pictured) also attaches with Velcro, and folds flat when not in use. It also has a seam running down its entire length that is held with Velcro. It has a white interior, for bouncing the light, and a black vinyl outside that matches my photography gear. I like the LumiQuest Snoot a lot.

Once I ripped the LumiQuest Snoot open and laid it flat, it occurred to me that it would be easy to make my own snoots out of good ole cardboard. I placed one of my flash heads onto a piece of cardboard one night, and before I knew it I had made a couple of square snoots. I have also recently heard about adding scrims inside of these snoots, made entirely out of straws, on a blog somewhere. These will keep the flash light from scattering, and will keep it tight instead. I have made a set out of regular straws that I cut into about one and a half inch lengths. Well, it aint pretty, but it works quite well!

I also use a lot of colored gels with my flash gear. I like having the option of adding a splash of color to my images. The only two ideas that I have to share here are cutting your own gels out, or just get them for free. Basic lighting gels (of the primary and secondary colors) are sold cheap, but they come in sheets of 8x10 inches. The colors are few in number, but one sheet makes a ton of gels for our small flash heads.
Rosco makes particular gels just for flash photography. They make gels that help out with white balance issues when shooting in all types of lighting conditions. To see where to get a Rosco gel sample kit for free, go to and check out what they have to say first, and then get yourself your own free Rosco gel sample kit. They are just the perfect size for these smaller flash head units.

Now here comes my wish list... I have heard that the good folks at Strobist (see a link for Strobist on your right hand side of this page) have recently come out with barn doors for the smaller Nikon and/or Canon flash head units. These sure would make it easy to gobo out the light that I do not want to show up on surfaces like walls and backgrounds. I am using a section of cardboard now so anything even resembling barn doors would be very welcome.

Next on my wish list are the Westcott brand "Mini Apollo soft box kits" for flash head units (see link) . These come with an attachment for mounting your flash and wireless triggering system, as well as the soft box itself. They are also now making grids and other neat toys for these tiny soft boxes.

As I look into the future I can see that I will have a need for upgrading to the pocket wizard brand of wireless triggers. These have a much longer range and they are a lot more reliable too. I like the ones that I have now, but quality and reliability are the issue.
Well, till next time.... Happy Holidays to you all!!!

Thanks, as always, for reading All Things About Photography, and I hope you have enjoyed it!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dave Hill Rage

Recently I have been seeing a ton of blogs out there that deal with the topic of cool editing tricks.

The “it look” for the times is, without a doubt, the "Dave Hill look” using the Dave Hill technique. Save the link to your favorites so that you can return to it as you learn it and can apply it from memory.

Here is my first attempt at it.

Lots of blogs have been hosting other folks images “all done up” using this cool look. To see what others have been working on, look on Google, under “Dave Hill Technique”, and also look here.
This is a trick that only takes a minute to apply. It could be used as an action in Photoshop except for the eye layer removal part. One can learn this, and get quite good at applying their own version of this look in only a couple of passes!

Please feel free to send me a link or an email with your shots with the Dave Hill Technique added! I will post a few on this blog, for the world to see!! Enjoy and have fun!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Glamour shots with a “beauty dish flash” look for pennies!

I shot this "blown-out" style of glamour-like image, using a simple set up that mimics a “beauty ring flash (beauty dish) attachment”, and I set it up in only seconds flat!

I did it using only two Nikon flashes, a piece of seamless paper, and that's all (besides two wireless triggers for the flashes).

If you do not have a light ring,(beauty dish) then this is how you can mimic the look of using one very easily!

First of all I must admit that I saw this photo set up in a book on photography portrait techniques that must have been twenty (plus) years old. I did not purchase the book, nor can I recall the name of it, but this concept was detailed within its pages. I briefly looked at what they had done, and then I made a couple of mental tweaks to their idea. Weeks later the opportunity to use this exact set up made itself available to me.

The beautiful young lady in these images is a good friend of mine, as well as a client. She came to me with a big problem. The problem was that her boyfriend didn’t even have a single image of her. She has just never had any pictures of herself taken for a long, long time and he has been paying the price. I explained that I would love to solve her problem, and we could both have some fun while doing it!

As far as "a look" for the photography session, she was up for anything. She only wanted something “cool and different”. Upon hearing this, I immediately thought of the simple set up that I had recently seen in that old book. Allow me to explain just what I did in order to obtain these great images!

The first thing that I did was to hang a section of white seamless paper from a height of about five feet, and let it hang down to the floor. I put my Nikon D-200 (on a tripod) and placed it on one side of the hanging seamless paper. She would be on the opposite side of the seamless paper that my camera and myself were on.

Next, I cut a hole in the seamless paper at the exact spot that my lens was at, at just the same size as my lens. This hole would be what I would shoot through. It is important that you not stick your lens through the hole in the paper though, but instead keep it on the same side as the camera. This will prevent flash flairs from entering into your lens and ruining your images. The seamless paper should be white too, as to "bounce" white light onto your subjects face.

Next, I sat my friend down on a small chair directly in front of my new hole that I cut in the seamless paper, and only far enough away from the paper for me to focus on her (a couple of feet away).

Then I placed two flash units (with wireless triggers) onto flash stands, and aimed them at the seamless paper, at about a 45 degree angle to the hole. You do not need a wireless trigger system though, instead use what ever means you normally use for triggering off camera flash units. The flash stands were placed about half of the distance of my model (from the seamless paper) and the flash units were at about the height of her face.

I did not use any diffusers or any sort of softeners on the flash units as I wanted a “blown out look”. However, I could have used them as I ended up softening the images later on in Photoshop. Hind sight is 20/20.

The shot needed to have very little in the terms of shadows, but it needed some tone and some definition in her hair and in her facial features, like as in her eyes. The way that I accomplished this was to vary the intensity of the two flash units until I got it right. Keep the settings of the two flash units equal with each other so that no one side of the face gets a shadow. I set the flash units at ¼ power, with the camera set at 200th of a sec, f-20, and an I.S.O. of about 400.

The mental tweak that I made (and ended up using in this series of shots) was to place some nylon lace behind the model/friend on a stretched frame. Then I placed a separate flash unit with a red gel over the unit on the floor and pointed it straight up towards the nylon lace material. This gave an interesting back ground. I did have to use a gobo on the floor flash unit because some of its light leaked into the white seamless paper, and made it onto her face.

Once again, it goes to show you that you can learn something new from an old book. In this case it was an old book that was written and published back in the days of film photography, but it doesn’t matter! Techniques are techniques, rather it be film or digital! Shop the used book stores as often as you shop the new book stores. That way you can learn some cool new things for a lot less.

Have fun, and enjoy!