Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Family of Angles

For today's post we will cover a topic that isn't discussed a lot, but is fundamental to lighting. The term “family of angles” doesn't come up often, if at all in most circles. Is it useful for you? Read on to find out...

Terms Defined
Before going any farther, I want to define some of the terms that are related to this discussion, just to ensure everyone gets this bit of background. These are my definitions, feel free to consult the Wikipedia or your favorite source for better terms.

Direct Reflection Reflections that mirror the light source, as one typically gets from a hard, smooth surface, such as glass, plexiglass, metal, plastic, etc., materials that are shiny. Direct reflection does not diffuse the light in any significant manner.

Diffuse Reflection Reflection that gets diffused, that is, scattered all directions rather than simply mirroring the source. Diffuse reflection is typically associated with textured surfaces like cloth, skin, dirt, uncoated paper, etc., materials that are not shiny.

Angle of View Abbreviated as AOV. The angle extending out from a lens along the path of what the camera can see. It is worth noting that while focal length affects the field of view, the sensor size also affects Angle of view. For example, a 100mm lens with a 35mm sensor will yield a wider AOV than the same lens with a 23mm (APS) sized sensor. See the image below for a graphical depiction of this.

Field of View Abbreviated as FOV. The rectangular area describing what the camera can see at a particular focus point. This is similar to AOV except it describes the rectangular area at the focal point, so the FOV increases/decreases correspondingly with an increase/decrease of the focal point. Because FOV is associated with AOV, it too is affected by sensor size

The Basic Premise
The term “family of angles” refers to the angles from which if light is sourced, a reflective surface will direct light back into the lens creating visible light spots. For a flat surface, the family of angles are the same as the lens' angle of view, but coming back toward the camera. Throughout this discussion it is assumed that the surface being photographed is flat and reflective, which could be glass, plexiglass, metal, plastic, etc.

In the above diagram the dotted line represents the family of angles and is equal to the angle from the lens' field of view. When light is sourced anywhere within this family of angles, it will reflect off of the surface being photographed and back into the lens.

From this diagram you can see that using a longer focal length from a greater distance will reduce the family of angles. Now that the lights are outside the family of angles light will not reflect back into the lens, thus eliminating direct reflections.

What's The Point?
The point is, knowing about the family of angles takes some of the guess work out of lighting. It is actually an intuitive kind of thing, but giving it a name makes it easier to discuss and for me, modeling it on paper drives it deeper into the gray matter.

Knowing about the family of angles helps me to control reflections.

I can add them when they're wanted...

...and eliminate them when they're not.

When shooting materials that are somewhat reflective, and especially for those that are highly reflective, if I'm getting unwanted reflections, I know to either move the lights outside the family of angles or use a longer focal length and move the camera back. There are times I may want reflections, like filling a pair of sun glasses or the entire side of a metal object. To do this, I know to place a light source inside the family of angles.

By now someone has no doubt noted that not all objects are faced perpendicular to the camera and not all objects are flat. When the subject is turned, then the family of angles move accordingly along with the subject. This concept can also be applied for non-flat surfaces; you need to adjust for whatever curvature you encounter. A concave surface will reduce the family of angles whereas a convex surface will increase the family of angles. If photographing a sphere you are out of luck, as all angles reflect back into the lens, so the family of angles are 180º. There are ways of dealing with it, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this little post.

Read This!Publish Post
I have only scratched the surface for how the family of angles plays into photographing various materials. If you care about lighting, please do yourself a favor and get a copy of the book “
Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lightingby Fil Hunter and Paul Fuqua. It covers this subject and much more, in-depth and in a way that makes it interesting and easy. Google books has an excerpt here.

Coming Next
The next post covers a little product photography from a recent shoot. Come on back and I'll show how I approached lighting a larger than tabletop object.

Until then...


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pushing Flash Sync Speed

Pushing the Sync Speed?
Those from the B&W film era will remember push processing film. In digital we used to push the ISO in the days when cameras topped out at ISO 800 or lower. Today I want to demonstrate pushing the camera's flash sync speed. The result is a bit different from pushing ISO, as it is not uniform across the frame (okay, it isn't a perfect analogy). However, the effect is quite distinctive and can be put to good use.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lighting Outside with Flash

Off Camera Flash Outside
Today we will take a look at using off camera flash to supplement natural light. I know that someone will wonder, why would I want to do that? After all, isn't natural light the best light? In my opinion, the best light is the light that looks best. Sometimes a reflector will work wonders for an all natural light sitting, but things are not always such that one can make use of reflectors. This is especially true when shooting candids and even more so when there is nobody to assist.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tabletop Photography – Half Round Hair Accessory

A Last Look at Tabletop Photography
More tabletop coming at you again today and it is the last installment for this tabletop series. This time we are dealing with quite a different lighting problem from what we've seen in these last few examples. The crystal pieces needed a bit of on axis light to create direct reflection for more pop. Today we have a piece for which we want to mostly eliminate direct reflection. The problem is, it is half round, so there is nowhere the light can be placed that will not cause some direct reflection. What to do about this? Read on and I'll show you how I approached the problem...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tabletop Photography – Oval and Rectangular Crystal Hair Accessories

Even More Fun with Tabletop Photography

Doing tabletop again today. I have two subjects to show this time and they are similar to what we saw in the last post. After this we move on to a different tabletop subject.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tabletop Photography – Butterfly Crystal Hair Accessory

More Fun with Tabletop Photography
Today we dive into tabletop again. Though the subject is not the most exciting, each type of item presents its own challenges that are worth documenting for discussion. Some items can be downright difficult, but I thought that we would start with something relatively straight forward, so let's get going.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reader Comments Are Enabled Again!

It has just come to my attention that reader comments have been disabled for all postings since the end of June. That is when I started using Blogger's new editor, which has better behavior and more posting options. Unfortunately, one of the new posting options is to allow/don't allow user comments, and for some strange reason it defaults to "Don't Allow" reader comments instead of using the global setting for reader comments, which I have set to enabled. I apologize for this. It is an oversight on my part.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged! I have gone through all of the postings and enabled reader comments back to where this started happening, so if you had intended to comment on any of the postings over the last couple of months, please feel free to go back and add your comment now!

I have an interesting little post coming up next Tuesday, so don't venture too far.

Until then...


Friday, July 30, 2010

Save 74% on PhotoVision 2010 DVD set

This is a one off post just to let you know about a great deal coming your way! I am a fan of PhotoVision and am now in my second season of PhotoVision subscriptions. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but the folks at PhotoVision sent me a code that will get you about 74% off of the list price, so I wanted to share it. I find PhotoVision to be a worthwhile investment, and at this price you can't loose. For the record, if enough people sign up through me, I get next year free. That probably won't happen and frankly, I don't care. If you have been thinking of getting some new photography resources to help your shooting and/or business acumen, PhotoVision is for you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Strobe Power -Vs- Color

Back to a more technical topic for today's post. Earlier this year I conducted a short experiment to see just how much color shift my strobes (monolights) give as the power is varied from min to max. It is actually an important subject, as color shift is a bad thing if excessive and can go unnoticed for a long time, but then show up unexpectedly and catch you off guard (probably at the worst possible moment, like when an important client is present). This topic doesn't really fit in with anything posted lately, but the experiment was completed back in March and the data has been lying around all this time waiting to be cataloged and the results written up, so finally, here it is.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tabletop Photography – A Dried Flower Bud

A Bit of Fun with Tabletop Photography
Today I thought I would share last night's adventure on the tabletop. As you may know, I've been doing tabletop for some years now. There is always tiny something that can be photographed. Today's specimen comes from the great outdoors. Well, not exactly the wild, more like my wife's flower garden. I believe this is a failed rose bud from some miniature roses that haven't been too excited about this year's dank spring. Those little plants are fickle about their environment and have been making it clear that they are not impressed with Seattle weather.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Natural Light and Filling a Background with Flash

The topic of today's post is a bit odd in that it just isn't the way most people use flash for their outdoor photography. Not that it is unusual to light a background, at least in the studio, but when the background is a shady spot outdoors, the usual line of thought is to put the subject in the shade and use the flash on the subject. In this case I thought, what if I put the subject in the sun, but light the shady background? Can it be done? Not that this is anything all that useful in terms of normal shooting, but if nothing else, it is something to throw in the bag of tricks for that one odd time it is needed. (more after the jump)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Seven Photography Blogs Worth Following – Hoffer Photography's Blog

This is the last posting for this seven part series. Today's blog recommendation is a bit different from the others in that the author is not so much a celebrity, though I don't think that will last long. Read on to find out why...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Seven Photography Blogs Worth Following – Zack Arias' Blog

Today's blog recommendation goes to the blog of Atlanta based editorial photographer, Zack AriasZack is well known in photography circles, but I'm not so sure everyone is aware of his blog. In other words, I wouldn't expect the blog to show up at the top of the list for Internet traffic, but it gets my thumbs up and inclusion because, well, it's good. He covers a lot of photography related ground and does it in a really fun way.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Seven Photography Blogs Worth Following – Digital Photography School

Digital Photography School
Today's blog recommendation goes to the Digital Photography School. I'm not really sure that this is a blog in the strictest sense. In fact, it's more like three blogs in one, as the site has three main categories with postings regularly updated in all three. Nonetheless, the postings are very blog like, so I'm including it here. One of the nice things about being in charge of your own little universe is that you get to make up the rules. Anyway, the important thing is that it is a great resource, so read on.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Seven Photography Blogs Worth Following – Joe McNally's Blog

Joe McNally's Blog
Today's blog recommendation goes to Joe McNally's blog. Perhaps not the most popular blog on the Internet, but certainly one of the most popular photographers on the planet. I first linked to Joe's blog via the Strobist. Of course I knew of Joe McNally, after all, who doesn't? However, I had never thought to see if he had a blog and if so, what it might be like. Well, I'm glad for serendipity, cause this blog is worth keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Seven Photography Blogs Worth Following – Digital ProTalk

Today's blog recommendation goes to what might likely be the most popular wedding photography blog on the planet. However, you don't have to be a wedding photographer to appreciate all the content you will find here.

Digital ProTalk
I am a big fan of Digital ProTalk. I don't remember how I first became acquainted with this blog, probably through a photography forum, but have been quite addicted ever since. I am sure that once you taste all the lighting, posing, shooting, and day to day business and marketing advice offered up, you too will become a follower.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Seven Photography Blogs Worth Following – Strobist

Today's blog recommendation is one of the most popular photography blogs on the net and was included in TIME Magazine's 25 Best Blogs of 2010.

I have been watching this blog for some years now. When I first heard about it I got real excited that someone else was totally into using portable flashes for lighting. At that time I had six Vivitar 285 flashes and thought I must be nearing some kind of record. That was of course before hearing about the infamous Joe McNally and his incredible collection of SB800  and SB900 flashes. More on Joe later, but for today we are talking about the Strobist, a blog dedicated to the small flash for lighting.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Seven Photography Blogs Worth Following – Going Pro

Today's blog recommendation is targeted primarily for those who are either starting a new photography business or contemplating doing so. Those who already have an established photography business will also glean some useful information from this excellent blog. For that matter, nearly any photographer will find something useful in this informational treasure trove.

Going Pro
GoingPro2010 is the most recent blog addition to my iGoogle page, which is where I keep track of blog updates for all of the blogs I follow. The blog's name pretty much says what it is all about. For someone like me, transitioning from part time to full time photography, the name beckoned for a closer look. Glad I did too, as every post is packed with something of real value.

Seven Photography Blogs Worth Following – A full week of blog recommendations

What's That?
This week I would like to share with you seven of my favorite photography related blogs. I am not putting them into any particular order, as they are each the best in their own rights. I will however give you a brief review for each based on my view of universal truth. I hope that you find this series informative and worthwhile.

Coming Next
This series will be coming fast and frequent. No promises, but I hope to put out a post a day for a total of seven postings in seven days. Watch for the first post very soon!

Until then...


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Increasing Contrast with a Gridded Light

The title for today's post is a bit misleading, as a grid doesn't really increase contrast, it only increases the directionality of light giving more control over where the light will and will not appear. What is really going on here is that a small light source at a low lighting ratio is being used to give a subtle, but important contrast boost to the face. The grid lets us place the contrast at a specific area with minimal impact on the rest of the lighting.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Photographing a Baby on Location

In this post I will show the setup and give a rundown for photographing a baby on location with a minimalist lighting setup. Here are a few of the processed shots from this particular shoot. There is no magic in the post processing, just normal spot edits for blems, minute eye enhancements, and a few skin enhancements to add more glow to the skin.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What's in the Bag? High Voltage Battery Pack

This is the last post for this series, 16 in all. It has been a long and somewhat slow journey, so thanks to all of you who have hung in there reading each post and waiting for this thing to finally come in for a landing.

Do You Need One of These?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What's in the Bag? Folding Reflector

Not a whole lot to say about this, except that a lighting kit would be incomplete without a reflector of some sort and a folding reflector is very compact and can really come in handy. I have a variety of folding reflectors in my studio ranging from 12” up to 40” x 60”. Most of these are the 5-in-1 type, but in retrospect, that is not a good idea for the medium and small sizes. More on that in a bit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What's in the Bag? Ball Bungees

The prior post in this “What's in the Bag” series covered plastic spring clamps, so moving along with the theme of clamping or holding things, this short post is covering something you don't often hear about. Yes, today we talk about Ball Bungees!

Monday, April 12, 2010

What's in the Bag? Plastic Spring Clamps

Marching ahead with the “What's in the Bag” series, we now get to talk about the less oft thought of bits of kit that sometimes save the day. Yes folks, today we are going to discuss plastic spring clamps. I found a nice collection of various sized clamps at the local hardware store. It really doesn't matter where you get them, just get them.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What's in the Bag? Spare Batteries

At the end of the last post I said that this one would be short, and so it is.

A backup for everything, not much else to say about that. Always pack extra batteries, freshly charged AA cells for the flashes and new cells for the wireless triggers. The observant reader will note that I am missing the AAA cells for the RF-602 receiver. Not to worry, they are in the bag, but got left out of this and the overview shot.

Coming Next
Just a few more postings left for this series, so hang on and do come back for more.

Until then...

Click Here for the next posting in this series
"Plastic Spring Clamps"

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What's in the Bag? CTR-301P Wireless Triggers (the backup plan)

As I've said before and will likely say again, if not several more times, if shooting professionally, you must have a backup for every piece of equipment. At this point I am using my old wireless triggers for backup. The CTR-301P is actually not a bad little system. So far it has been quite reliable. The range is a bit short, getting spotty beyond about 40 or 50 feet, but in real world use that has not been a problem.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What's in the Bag? RF-602 Wireless Trigger

This is my new favorite device. In my book, wireless triggers are the only way to fire a flash. Forget about using a cord (though you might have one as a backup). Wireless triggers eliminate a trip hazard, are easy to set up with no thought for where to route a cord, they offer complete freedom. Using wireless, you can place a light outside and let it blast through a window (done that). Need to light a couple on a bridge while you shoot from the bottom of a gully? No problem! Try doing that with a PC Sync cord.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's in the Bag? Umbrella Swivel Mounts

Continuing with the “What's in the Bag” series, we now move on from umbrellas to mounting hardware, specifically, the umbrella swivel mount.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What's in the Bag? Calumet 6020 Backlight Stand

Moving ahead with the “What's in the Bag” series, today we are looking at the Calumet 6020 backlight stand. This little jewel is the heaviest duty backlight stand I have found to date. It is composed of a heavy foot section that folds down to 13-1/2 inches by one inch with the mount extending about 1-1/2 inches at the connected side of the feet. I have no fear mounting even my studio lights on this stand.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What's in the Bag? LumoPro LT604 Light Stand

This little darling is the LumoPro LP604 5-section 6ft. Compact stand. It folds down to an amazing 19-3/4 inches. It is heavy duty (for its size), plenty tall for most needs, and sports a nice wide footprint for stability. It is actually better support than my 8ft. Impact stand in terms of heft and stability. At $39.99 it is also the lowest cost compact stand available today, yet it will stand up to the best [insert smiley face here]. I don't hesitate to recommend the LumoPro LP604 for anyone needing a good compact stand.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's in the Bag? Photoflex 30 inch Convertible Umbrella

Continuing with the “What's in the Bag” series, we have taken a look at the Westcott 43 inch Compact Convertible Umbrella, so today we will look at its backup, the Photoflex 30" Convertible Umbrella. I won't spend a lot of time on this, as there is nothing unconventional about the design of the Photoflex umbrella or its performance in terms of softness. We will be taking a look at its performance in terms of color influence and will see it alongside the Westcott convertible umbrella.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What's in the Bag? Westcott 43 inch Compact Convertible Umbrella

Continuing with the “What's in the Bag” series, we now move on from talking about Color and Neutral Density Filters, to a discussing one of my newer favorites, the Westcott 43 inch Compact Convertible Umbrella.

This is the little big umbrella that makes the magic happen anywhere anytime. Its diminutive storage size, just under 15 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter, makes it an easy choice for travel and remote location use. When opened, the 39 inch diameter (Westcott claim 43”) is easily large enough to light a ¾ portrait or a baby with dreamy soft light.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What's in the Bag? Color and Neutral Density Filters

The previous post covered the Lastolite white balance disk, a gray and white affair, but today's post will be colorful! We are going to take a look at gel filters for portable flashes and find out some ways to use them. You can see a whole set spread out in the photo above. At the bottom is the Vivitar 28mm wide-angle lens. The gels are cut from larger 8” sheets to fit the filter holder on the Vivitar 285 flashes.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What's in the Bag? Lastolite EZ Balance Collapsible White Balance Disc

Every digital photographer should have some kind of white balance system. This is especially true for those who use the histogram to determine exposure, because histograms are wildly affected by white balance. For accurate histogram readings, always perform a custom white balance before shooting. Raw shooters can set a custom white balance during raw processing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What's in the Bag? Vivitar 285HV Flash

This is a continuation of the “What's in the Bag” series, and is the first post of several to come describing the contents of my portable studio kit. By time we've gotten through everything I think we all will be ready for a new subject, but for now, let's get on with it.

A Pair of Flashes
If you are going to make photographs, you must have light. These are the two that I pack for goodly power and reliability in a small package. The head swivels from 0 to 90 degrees, but does not rotate. It has a manual zoom from 35 mm to 105 mm, and can go down to 28 mm with the wide-angle lens (more on that later). They operate with thyristor controlled self-metering or in manual with power settings for full, 1/2, 1/4, & 1/16 (note that 1/8 is missing).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's in the Bag?

The previous post mentioned a “truly portable studio kit” and gave a sneak peak at the bag. This posting will dive into the bag and introduce you to what I consider an essential kit for anyone who needs portability. In this posting you will get an overview with a list of contents. In the followup postings, I will be going through each item to report on why it is there, what I like about it and what I don't like about it.