Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Lighting quick tips

We've assembled some quick tips that are important to keep in mind, but simple enough that they don't need an entire post on their own.

Sports League Photography

If you are using a tent, make sure to set it up in the north-south position to keep the morning sun out and shadows consistent throughout the day. You will get the best light if the opening faces north.

Red Eye

Use enough light so your subject's pupils are fully open and keep you flash off-center.

Indoor Ambient Light

Close blinds and turn off overhead lights. Overhead fluorescents can turn your photo green; incandescent floor lamps can turn your photos yellow.

If using a window for lighting, use a north facing window for the best light.

Night Time

Use a tripod and set your camera to the lowest noise rating possible.

Depth of Field

Remember this is an inverse relationship: the larger the opening, the shorter the depth of field. 16 is a small depth of field; 2.8 is a large depth of field.

And, as always, plan ahead with regards to equipment so you have time to become familiar with it before you are on a shoot

Using Continuous Lights

One thing digital cameras have made popular again is the continuous studio light that stays on all of the time, much like the table or desk lamp you read by. These lights fell out of favor in film photography when strobes came along because they required filters on the camera or flash to match the light to the film. Choosing the right filters took more knowledge and experience than most of us have, especially since you couldn't see the results until the film was developed. However, with digital cameras, white balance eliminated this concern so continuous lights are again popular, especially in home and small business studios. One big advantage of continuous lights is that you can see their effects on the setup as you view the scene directly or on the camera's monitor. As you move the lights, you can see the highlights and shadows change on the subject. This allows you to interact with the lighting setup much more than you can when using strobes. It's almost as if you are painting with light.
The only real problem with continuous lights is the heat that some kinds of bulbs throw off—specifically tungsten and quartz-halogen bulbs. Newer daylight balanced fluorescent bulbs have eliminated this problem. There are three parts of these lights to consider: stands, reflectors, and bulbs.
Stands come in a variety of styles and prices. Their purpose is to hold lights and other lighting devices in a fixed position. They are usually collapsible for easy storage and have sections so their height can be adjusted. You can add a boom to hold lights, reflectors, diffusers, gobos, or other objects out at a distance. In tabletop photography, stands need not be too tall—6 to 8 feet should suffice.
Reflectors vary from those found in hardware stores to expensive professional units. When using them be sure they are neutral in color so they don't add a color cast. However, there are gold reflectors and make colors look warmer.

The bulb is the most critical part of the continuous lighting system.
  • Tungsten lamps, especially photofloods, throw off a lot of heat. Some also have an unusually short life span—as low as 3 hours. Because these were the only bulbs available when continuous lights were last popular, they account for the alternate name for continuous lighting "hot lights".
  • HMI (Halide Metal Oxide) lamps are small, very expensive arc lamps that generate four or more times the light of tungsten bulbs with less heat. The light is also perfectly daylight balanced.
  • Fluorescent bulbs are inexpensive, cooler, require 90% less power, and last 100 times longer than tungsten lights—up to 10,000 hours. They can also be dimmed to 3% of their full power and provide a more consistent color temperature. A new type of fluorescent bulb, called a compact fluorescent (CFL) comes in a variety of color temperatures. The 6500°K bulb emits white light commonly called "Cool Daylight" and 5000°K bulbs match midday light. Because these bulbs have so many good features, they are the authors' number one choice for digital desktop photography.
Although a digital camera's white balance control can capture normal colors under a wide variety of lighting conditions, you should be aware that different types of lights cast different colors on a setup. This is why when shooting in homes, photos often have a warm reddish cast, while those taken under some florescent lights look greenish. When choosing studio lights, especially continuous lights, you should investigate two color-related terms used to describe them—color temperature and color rendering index.
  • Color temperature describes how cool or warm the light source appears. For example, incandescent lamps have a warmer, more reddish appearance than colder, bluer HMI lamps. Color Temperature is expressed in degrees Kelvin (K). Daylight on a clear day is about 6500° Kelvin—a mix of direct sun at 5500°K and skylight at 9500°K. Lights with lower color temperatures look red; those with higher color temperatures look blue. To picture this imagine a blacksmith heating an iron bar. It first gets red hot, then as its temperature increases, it becomes white hot, and finally, blue white hot. To measure the color temperature of a light, you can use a color meter. These are fairly expensive and although crucial with film photography, they are not as critical in digital photography because of white balance control.
  • The Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a relative measure of how colors shift when illuminated by a particular lamp as compared to a reference source such as daylight. Daylight has a CRI of 100, the highest possible CRI. The closer the CRI of a light source is to 100, the "truer" it renders color
The power of continuous lights is usually given in watts, but occasionally in lumens.
  • Watts describe the power consumed, not the light emitted. For example, there are many different lighting fixtures that use 100 watt lamps, but the output efficiency of these lamps will vary by 100% or more.
  • Lumens indicates the lighting intensity of continuous lighting. It's a measure of the total light output of the lamp. A 27 watt CFL lamp has 1750 lumens, the same as a 100 watt tungsten bulb.
  • Reflector efficiency ensures that the available light will be focused on the subject to be photographed and not on areas outside the camera's field-of view.
Generally, the brighter the light, the smaller the aperture you can use or the farther the lights can be positioned from the subject. However, for tabletop photography, almost any bright light will work. You can control the light illuminating the subject by moving lights closer to and farther away. The only thing to be aware of is that adjusting brightness also affects the light's color temperature. Be sure to adjust your camera's white balance after adjusting the light's brightness.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Softbox vs. Umbrella

This is a question often asked by beginning (and sometimes established) photographers: should I use softboxes or umbrellas for light modification? There is a lot of debate amongst professional photographers on this topic, and for good reason. If you’ve read about this on the internet before, you’ll be familiar with why.

With the right training, a good photographer can use either of these devices to obtain the results they desire. For a beginner, a basic understanding of how light works should be obtained before tackling the subject.

This entry aims to address the pros and cons of
softboxes, umbrellas, and brolly boxes, and assumes prior knowledge of working with basic photography lighting.

When it comes to lighting,
softboxes can offer you the most (and best) control and most uniform lighting. Multiple shapes are available, ranging from your standard rectangular or square to octagonal. They are double diffused, producing softer light than your other lighting options. Softboxes are more effective at reducing shadows, and can be used with brighter lighting (unlike with other methods, where too much light can wash out your photos).

softboxes are the most expensive option. In most cases, they are also hard to setup (especially when compared to umbrellas and brolly boxes), making use of them on location difficult. Quick setup softboxes are available, but the standard assembly softboxes offer you more versatility.

There are two different types of
umbrellas that you can use for photography: reflective and shoot through. Either option you choose, there are two large incentives for using umbrellas: they are the cheapest lighting modification option, and extremely easy to transport and setup. They produce a soft look, and the light falls nicely onto your background.
Umbrellas are also the most difficult to control and produce the most spill. If you use too much light with them, unlike with softboxes, you will wash out some elements of your photos. Also, if you are not extremely careful, you will get a small black center in the catch light in your subject’s eyes.

Brolly Boxes
A newcomer to the market is the
brolly box. This item combines the quick assembly of the umbrella with some of the advantages of a softbox. A typical brolly box will have an outer white lining for shoot through lighting, with an inner black lining that fits around the head of your light to contain and eliminate spill. Used correctly, they can produce results similar to a softbox of the same size. Additionally, brolly boxes are as easy and convenient to setup and breakdown as an umbrella, and only slightly more expensive.
Brolly boxes generally have more light output than softboxes, but are not as robust as they offer less diffusion and cannot handle as much lighting. If used too far away from your subject, your light fall off will greatly diminish.

If you are a beginning photographer, we recommend becoming familiar with basic lighting before you begin to use modifiers. Once you have a basic knowledge, you should be determine what your needs are for your particular style of shooting.

How to take care of Muslin Backdrops

Care & Handling:
  • Backgrounds should not be machine-washed or dry-cleaned

  • Care should also be taken not to get the background wet

  • When your background is new, it is normal for some light paint dust to rub off on your hands during handling. (This will diminish in time)

  • We recommend spraying the background lightly with a fabric protectant. This will help with cleaning up dirt and spills as well as stabilize the curing dust mentioned above

  • Additional Tips:
  • If a smooth background is preferred, a hand-held steamer may be used (with special care not to saturate the background with moisture)

  • Ironing is also an option, (we suggest covering your ironing board before ironing the background to prevent colour from rubbing off onto the ironing board)

  • * Due to the nature of handmade backgrounds, the colour and pattern may vary slightly from the sample shown

  • Please allow 5 to 10% shrinkage in the manufacturing process

  • Made from the highest quality 100% cotton seamless muslin material

  • Hand painted in a layering technique to add depth in final image

  • Excellent with backlights and colour gels

  • Colours may vary slightly from section of muslin shown in image