Dabbling In Cliche: Lens Flare


Lens flare is caused by light reflecting and scattering through the lens instead of refracting on it’s intended path. The result can show up in the image as streaks, artifacts such as rings or circles, and even as a sort of haze that washes out both color saturation and contrast. Lens manufacturers have spent years refining their systems to combat flare with advanced coatings and materials in addition to simple lens hoods and yet flare seems to be popular and “in style.” Photographers are using flare as a technique to add drama, lightness, or even a cinematic feel to images.

While it may almost be cliché to do so, I had the opportunity this past weekend to attempt a few lens flare photos. It was more of a learning experience than anything, but here are a few quick tips on achieving lens flare.

-Remove the lens hood.
-Shoot into the sun as if creating a silhouette.
-Meter off of your subject or switch to manual exposure.
-It may help to compose and meter exposure for the image with the subject blocking the sun and then just step left or right to unblock the sun.
-It’s easier to achieve early or late in the day when the sun is low, otherwise you’ll have to shoot upwards.
-Use a low ISO.
-Don’t use LiveView on a DSLR as it might damage the sensor.
-Compose through the viewfinder and try not to go blind!
-Wide apertures yield larger flares.
-Small apertures create more shapes.
-Lastly, different lenses create different flare, so give them all a try.

Tilted Inspiration


Inspiration can come from anywhere and most of the time I’m not feeling all that inspired. When the April 2012 issue of Popular Photography arrived in the mailbox, I didn’t anticipate seeing an image that I absolutely had to “try”. The article “From Shutter Press to Finished Image” and specifically the Tilt Series by Romain Laurent got me thinking.

The process to create the tilted image is relatively simple although without an assistant to hold the model I had to resort to using a prop and a lesser angle. In post it’s as easy as removing the prop by masking in the background from a photo without the model. So, with Luke Tanner of Tanner Sandals as a willing model, we walked a half mile down a footpath on the west side of Manchester, NH and set up to shoot.

First was a shot of Luke propped up…and note the difference between a single exposure and HDR.

Next came a shot of only the background… again split to show HDR versus a single exposure.

And in the end, after a bit of masking and further processing, I created something that might even work for an advertisement as seen below…

One of the test shots from prior to the session shows a more radical angle…

Luke Tanner liked this post

Session Preparation: Looking Your Best

Fading Away

A photo shoot of any kind is no small investment for most people and being well prepared for the session can make the difference between average and amazing photos. The biggest misconception is that everyone in a photo needs to match, when in reality nobody ever matches. Color coordination and choosing complimentary colors is far more important and pleasing than “matching”. Follow these easy tips and you’ll be well on your way to looking your absolute best. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact me.

General Advice

Makeup and hair should be worn as you normally wear it. Lipstick is recommended. Be sure to blend makeup as best as possible to avoid sharp lines along the jawline and eye areas. When you wash your face, pay attention to eye boogers and sleep crusties. If you wear jewelry, aim for subtlety, and be aware of it twisting or turning.

Bring props that express who you are – band instrument, sports gear like a volleyball or baseball bat, your car/motorcycle/skateboard, letter jacket, sunglasses, or even a stuffed animal. Most of all, rep your style, whatever that may be.

Pack a snack and a water bottle.

Get plenty of sleep the night before unless dark circles and baggie eyes are the look you’re going for. :)

If you’re getting a hair cut for your shoot, do so about two weeks beforehand, just in case it goes wrong – you just never know. For men, a fresh cut a couple of days before the shoot is fine.

Hair Accessories
If you’re shooting outdoors, be ready to put your hair up and make it look nice in case of a windy day. Bring bobby pins, hair clips, headbands or any other favorite accessories.

Red Eyes
Visine is your friend. Of course, not getting drunk the night before your shoot helps, too.

You will probably wipe or lick your lips during your shoot, so bring fresh lip gloss or lipstick to do touch-up. Use lip balm for a few days in advance of your shoot to make them look their best.

If you want to brighten your smile, start your treatments about two weeks before your shoot. Whitening is simple in Photoshop, but is only used when necessary.

Start using African Black Bar Soap for a week in advance of your shoot to help reduce and limit pimples and blemishes. Equally important, don’t cake on a lot of make-up to try to hide blemishes – it’s almost always easier to Photoshop away pimples than to clean up overdone make-up. For fever blisters, avoid getting them in the first place, then use Abreva if one pops up anyway.

A subtle application of make-up can really soften your skin and accent your facial features. But make sure you know what you’re doing, and make sure it matches your skin tone, or your face may look orange compared to the rest of your body.

Facial Hair
Men, be freshly shaved with a new razor, shaving cream and a moisturizing after-shave lotion to avoid bumps and redness. Trim up your board, sideburns, moustache or goatee, especially looking for wiry stray hairs. Clean up those nose hairs as well. Ladies, even if you have some light facial hair (particularly around your lip or chin), indulge in a waxing in advance of your shoot – even barely-there light facial hair will be noticeable in your photos. Men and women both, pluck and clean up those eyebrows.

Dry skin can really detract from a great photo shoot. Start moisturizing nightly a week in advance of your shoot. When you get out of the shower, dry off until lightly damp, and slather on moisturizer. Focus on your arms, shoulders, neck, face, hands, anywhere you’ll be exposed to the camera. This includes your legs if you’re shooting in shorts or a skirt.

A fresh coat of nail polish will make a world of difference in your photo shoot. Pick a neutral color that won’t distract in your shoot or clash with your outfits. Freshen the morning of the shoot, then be careful not to scuff it while prepping. Your photo shoot is a great excuse for a fresh manicure, but if you can’t go to the salon, make sure your nails look tidy and clean, including the cuticles.

Ladies, avoid high salt and high fat foods for two to three days in advance of your shoot. Being bloated will sap your confidence and comfort in front of the camera.

Sunburns and Tan Lines
If your shoot is booked for Saturday, don’t go to the beach on Friday. If you plan to tan before your shoot, do so at least a week beforehand and don’t get burned. Be mindful of clothing tan lines, sunglass tan lines, hat tan lines, etc.

If folks wouldn’t recognize you without glasses, you want to wear glasses in your shoot – however, the glare on glasses can detract from your eyes in photos. You can have your lenses removed from your frames for your shoot (don’t worry, it’s what Hollywood does to avoid glare in movies), ask your eye doctor to loan you a pair of similar frames, or you can also visit an inexpensive company online like Zenni Optical and buy a suitable pair of duplicate frames on the cheap.

Clothing Tips

Generally speaking, wear what you like and be yourself, however, think about your environment and the type of photos you’d like. Plan your outfits in advance, remove any unwanted wrinkles, avoid ill-fitting clothes, and when in doubt, wear jeans. Consider the following..

Try to avoid white, unless everyone is in white. Keep in mind that the eye is drawn to the brightest part of a photo, so if only one person is in white, the eye will be drawn to that shirt or dress as opposed to the person wearing it or the people around them.

It is best to avoid clothing with patterns. Faces are best showcased with a solid top. Of course, I don’t think striped tights and crazy socks ever hurt anyone. :)

People with lighter skin tones should be careful with wearing light colors. People with darker skin tones should be careful with wearing darker colors. Portraits look best when there is significant contrast between skin and clothing.

Bring lots of clothing options. Casual, formal (prom dresses, suits), sports uniforms. Dress in colors you feel you look best in and that represent your style but take the opportunity to also try a new look, just to surprise folks. Coordinate your outfits from head to toe, hats, belts, scarves, and jewelry.

You are welcome to change outfits as many times as you would like within our time frame.

Bra straps won’t do anything to help your outfit look its best. Be sure you bring a set of bras and strap-adjusting accessories to work with any outfit you want to shoot in to keep those straps well-hidden. Undergarments should be planned so they cannot creep out while we shoot, and think about lines that can be seem beneath the fabric. Look in the mirror from the front and the back, and think about if you raise your arms or bend over.

Unless you are extremely thin you may want to wear something that covers your upper-arms. Long- or 3/4-sleeve tops are very flattering.

If you iron, iron the night before and then hang the clothes for your shoot. If you’re wearing something that wrinkles easily, don’t wear it in the car on the way to the shoot – just change at the location.

Ladies, can’t go wrong in heels or wedges. Men, clean’em up! Dress shoes are nice, but as with most things, let your Mother or your wife decide. Sandals, boots, flip-flops, or Fivefingers are all viable options. Barefoot is a possibility, however, many people hate the sight of feet.

Thanks to PartTimePhoto for a significant portion of this list!

Creating Lasting Images of Our Furry Friends

Out in the Pasture

The idea of a custom portrait of a pet elicits a mixed reaction from many because non-pet owners don’t understand that pets are part of the family and just as deserving of having their picture taken as the rest of us. Moving beyond a simple snapshot, many parents of pets want keepsakes both to pamper their companion and to remember them when they’re gone. If there is anything that my experiences behind a lens have taught me, it’s that creating lasting images of our furry friends can be a challenge.

Dogs and cats don’t always sit still and sometimes never stop moving. Some of them are afraid of cameras while others are curious enough that hair or slobber winds up on the lens. Sessions are nearly impossible to plan as what happens is usually unexpected. Lighting changes, animals play, and just as you see a shot about to come together, the pet smells or hears something and you have to recompose for another idea. In the end, capturing that elusive moment becomes more worthwhile because of it and here are a few tips on where to begin.

Patience is a Virtue

Animals aren’t operating on your schedule, so give a session and those special moments time to unfold. Start off each session with some time to get to know the pet, introduce them to the camera and let them get to know you as well. Once they get comfortable, they’ll relax and the images will look more natural. It also helps to let them be themselves. Don’t try to pose them and maybe spend a few minutes following them as they explore where they are. You never know what will happen. I once had a cat repeatedly check to make sure I was tagging along. He led me to his favorite spot in the lawn.

Get Down to Their Level

Perspective matters. Looking down isn’t usually the best angle or even an appealing one at that. Crouch down, sit, lay, crawl, kneel or otherwise do whatever it takes to get down level with a pet and really see things from their point of view. If you work down in their world, you might get a little dirty, but the images will be more compelling.

Focus on the Eyes

As with any portrait, the eyes are key to revealing the soul of the subject. No matter what, the eyes need to be sharp and in focus. Focus on the nearest eye either manually or with spot focus and then compose your shot. Thomas, as seen below, had amazing blue eyes that become the focal point of the image.

Try Spot Metering

Anyone familiar with exposure should remember that solid black or solid white objects requires some special attention to get right. When left up to the camera, black cats and white dogs would come out gray. Add in variable lighting conditions and pet photography becomes a prime time to switch to spot metering and brush up on using exposure compensation. Meter off of the eyes or the face to get a good reading and if necessary, dial in a stop or two of compensation to make the black cat black or the white dog white again.

On-Camera Flash is a Bad Idea

In photography, lighting is everything. Soft, natural light can make for wonderful photographs as can directional light in the morning and early evening. Indoors as well as midday, lighting can become an issue. Dreary interiors don’t typically produce a stunning photo, but this can be remedied with artificial lighting or by finding a large north-facing window. Using the on-camera flash will result in red-eye or any number of undesired results, but by moving the flash away from the camera, these effects will be negated. A softbox or umbrella will diffuse and soften the light, although a burst of flash may scare unwary pets. Dude, as seen below, was lit with a softbox as well as ambient light.

Use A Fast Lens

Lenses in the realm of f/2.8 or larger will allow faster shutter speeds as well as a more shallow depth of field allowing you to blur the background. Faster shutter speeds enable you to capture action as well as hand hold the lens in a wider range of lighting conditions.

Use a Simple Background

If the focal point of the portrait is the pet, why detract from the image by having a cluttered background that distracts the eye? Keep it simple with solid colors and minimize the unnecessary objects either by removing them before taking the shot, composing so that nothing distracting intrudes, or by choosing a large aperture to blur the background and thus eliminate clutter.

Get Their Attention

Unless you’re shooting candids, you need the pet to pay attention, even if only for a second. Using toys or treats can help with this and an occasional noise or whistle might perk up their ears and eyes. Sometimes an image of an alert pet doesn’t seem natural though, so be weary of the type of photo you’re trying to capture.

Tire Them Out

Many times, an energetic pet won’t let you shoot the images you want because it won’t sit still. Change up your game for a minute and play! If you tire them out, they’ll be more inclined to sit for their portrait and you’ll wind up with a wider variety of images in the end (assuming you shot some action photos during playtime). Also consider time of day, as some pets are more active in the morning or early evening. Other pets, like Finnigan seen below, are mellow all day long.

Happy Shooting!

Katie Moody, Marie Rabinowitz liked this post

Bizaarchitecture Returns

Unbalanced Pieces

It was almost a year ago that I got kicked out of the mills and posted my last Bizaarchitecture photos. This time I set up in the lobby of Waumbec Mill, had someone offer for me to use their forehead to set my white balance, took some shots of the antique knitting machine, then wandered towards City Hall for a few more warped perspectives. Who says photographs need to show reality?

The antique knitting machine sits just inside the lobby of Waumbec Mill beneath a window. Flat light splashed across the top of the aging machine but left most of the recesses in the shadows. The amount of dust and texture was something that I didn’t want to lose, so I shot brackets to merge later into HDR. In processing, I tried to keep it natural while bringing out as much detail as I could. The final images have a very three dimensional feel to them which I’m happy with.

Anybody have any ideas for locations for more bizaarchitecture?