Just recently I worked with a brand new company based in Roanoke, VA called The Black Bibs. An incredible and simple solution to cycling bibs. Nothing but black bibs. After talking to the owner I knew the concept that I wanted to move forward on. I envisioned black on back with some unique and dramatic lighting. This look holds strong to the brand of the company and really makes an impact visually.
So you may or may not know, but I play in a band called My Radio. We've been together almost 10 years and record music mainly for placements in movies and commercials. We have a new album coming out and have been heavily marketing it for the upcoming album release at the Harvester Performance Center on Sept. 23rd.
Obviously we needed a band photo. So we toyed with train tracks or maybe a killer brick wall. Just kidding. Since the album is heavily influenced by California and especially Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles I thought it would be fitting to have a pool theme. I knew I wanted to have a surreal comic approach so I lit the scene with 3 strobes to overpower the sun and give some amazing definition.
My Radio now has a handful of images that we can use for marketing material and press releases.
Studio Set Up for Portraits
When Brett is not shooting portraits for clients at their offices or
other alternative locations, he is using his studio in Roanoke,
Virginia. Having your own studio is helpful to create a professional
central location to take portraits for your clients. There are many
different ways you can set up studio lighting. Different set ups have
different benefits such as making faces appear thiner or creating more
dramatic images with contrasting lights and shadows. Although you can
get into the many complexities of studio portraits such as camera
angles, styles and lighting patterns, and lighting ratio, it is
helpful to start off with a basic set up. Your goal should be to
expose your subject well and have a clean light coverage. For a basic
set up, you will need a quality background and some simple lights.
Setting Up the Background
Brett often uses two stands connected by a crossbar for the frame of
his backdrop. On the crossbar, he uses long rolls of neutral colored
paper that drape behind his subject in the background. If you aren’t
able to use a stand and crossbar, you can tape or hang the background
in your studio or use a neutral colored wall. When setting up a
backdrop, elevate it so that it is taller than your subject. Around
ceiling hight or so is a safe height. When picking out paper for a
backdrop, stick with neutrals for basic portraits, especially
corporate portraits that need a more professional feel. A gray roll
of paper between 5 and 9 feet is ideal for most portraits or groups of
people. If your paper starts to roll up or the frame is unsteady, use
clamps and sandbags or whatever is available to you to secure down the
edges of your paper and weigh down the frame so it doesn’t move.
Lighting the Studio
As a basic lighting set up, I personally like to use one or two soft
boxes facing towards the backdrop. The important thing to remember is
to light the background and your subjects with the same equal amount
of light. Distancing your light set up from the subject a little bit
will help decrease the shadows in the background. Another thing to
keep in mind is to light your subjects evenly. If you have more than
one person in your picture, it is important to keep your light well
When figuring out where to position your lights, you can mimic a
variety of different unique styles of lighting patterns. Lighting
patterns are how lights and shadows can create different shapes on a
subject’s face. Split lighting for instance casts one side of the face
in light and one side in shadow. Most of the time, this can be used
for more dramatic images. Butterfly lighting is when you have a small
shadow under your subject’s nose, whereas loop lighting casts an
angled shadow of the subject’s nose on their cheeks. Other types
involve Rembrandt, Broad, or Short lighting. Different patterns will
flatter different face types and convey different moods in your image.
Recognizing the patterns and knowing how to use them is an acquired
skill, but over time, you will learn how to effective use lighting
Practice Before the Real Shoot
Especially if you are attempting new lighting patterns or setups for
your studio, practice before hand so you are comfortable with the
process. If you have a friend who can spare some time for a mock
photo shoot, practice different lighting patterns and look for the
shapes on their face. It is probably best to use constant light, such
as window light, standing lamps, or even outdoor natural light
somewhere around Raleigh, Roanoke, or from wherever you are located,
so you can see the patterns of light changing as you shift light
sources or reflectors. If you use flash, it is harder to adjust
because you only see the light patterns after you have fired the shot.
Setting up for a studio shoot is not hard, especially after you have
practiced a few times and learned how to position the background,
subject, and lights for effective studio space.
Christmas is almost here and everywhere around neighborhoods in
Raleigh, Christmas lights are being strung on houses and on trees in
living rooms. If you plan on taking pictures during the holiday
season, this is a great opportunity to capture the lights at night and
take some festive pictures.
If you are taking pictures outside at night, you will want to make
sure the lights are bright and clear. Whether you are walking around
downtown taking pictures of the lights strung outside shops and around
parks or you are driving around in neighborhoods admiring the displays
on the houses, the best time to do this is in the early evening. Try
to time it correctly so that the sun has already set, but it is not
completely dark yet. If it is late at night and completely dark, you
will be able to capture the lights, but the rest of your scene won’t
have any detail. If it it too early and still bright outside, your
Christmas lights will be overpowered and look dull in the sunlight.
Another thing to consider is shutter speed. Just like any time you
are taking photos in low light situations, you want to make sure your
shutter speed is set to a slower speed in order to completely capture
your image and expose correctly. However, if you are shooting with a
slow shutter speed, you will often get lots of camera shake when
holding your camera by hand. Make sure you have a tripod with you
when shooting with slower shutter speeds to reduce motion blur. Using
the self timer or a remote to release the shutter will also help to
keep your images from looking blurry.
If you have a wide angle lens, this can be a great way to capture a
fully decorated house or even a wide shot of a neighborhood lit up
with Christmas decorations. Play around with different types of
lenses to get different creative shots. Zoom in on portions of outdoor
decorations or take a step back for a fuller picture.
When I travel home to Virginia for Christmas, I look forward to taking
pictures inside with my family and all the decorations. Taking
pictures indoors during the holidays gives you a fantastic opportunity
to taking pictures with bokeh. Whether you are at a Christmas party
or just taking family pictures around the Christmas tree, setting up
your camera to capture bokeh is fairly simple.
The trick to capturing bokeh is in your aperture. A good way to set
up your camera is to use aperture priority and set the aperture as
wide as it will go. This lets in a lot of light and give you a very
shallow depth of field. If you are taking portraits for instance, you
will want your subject in that shallow depth of field and the
Christmas lights placed behind your subject. Because the lights are
out of your depth of field, they will not be sharp and in focus and
will turn into blurry bokeh!
If you can’t adjust your aperture low enough to get a bokeh effect,
another way to work around this is to create physical space between
your subject and the Christmas lights. Doing this will manipulate
your depth of field and still give you the bokeh effect you want.
More distance created will increase the blurriness of the Christmas
lights, so play around with how far your subject is from the lights to
get the right amount of bokeh.
With a few camera settings and adjustments to the way you normally
shoot, capturing Christmas lights is a breeze! I hope these few tips
help you approach shooting holiday pictures this Christmas season.