Wednesday, October 24, 2012

0 Tips on How to work with Models

A Guest Post by David Haworth.

Lucy 21 sml

I’ve no doubt you’ve read many articles on the ins and outs of portrait photography. Many words have been written giving advice on the use of flashes, studio lighting or using natural light on location. Posing techniques and making the best use of the subject’s features, while addressing each model’s physical attributes, are covered in a myriad of magazine and online articles.?
The purpose of this article is to share my experiences with you, and by doing so I hope to help you avoid the mistakes I made and give you the benefit of advice passed down to me by experienced mentors

Elizabeth 5 sml
?You have made contact with a willing model (for this article’s purposes, a female) and wish to know how to proceed. If at all possible I advise you to meet with the person first. This will give you a good idea of her personality, her confidence level, her physical appearance and put you on a friendly footing. Photographers planning involved shoots with props and stylists will often use a test shoot to assess potential models. ??At the very least, move beyond the impersonal communications of texts and internet messages and call her on the phone to discuss her expectations and your requirements. Part of the enjoyment of doing portrait shoots on a regular basis is meeting new people and developing your people skills. I was quite shy and not a really good conversationalist. I had to learn to initiate conversations and really listen to my model. If you are being comfortable with yourself, you will project an air of confidence to the model, which in turn will help make her at ease. This will come with practice.?
My advice on meeting a model, at the start of a shoot, is to leave your camera in its bag and to engage her in conversation. If you can find some area of common interest it will break down barriers quicker. Ask her questions about her previous modeling experiences, her clothes or makeup and be genuinely interested in her answers.

Drea 7 sml
?Remember, she may have a degree of nerves and trepidation about being in front of a camera with a photographer she does not know.?
I approach a shoot with the realization that unless the model is very experienced, the first 30 minutes of the shoot will rarely produce the best images. This is the period of building a rapport with the model and getting her comfortable with you and the camera. If you are on location I suggest the best areas of the locale be saved for the latter half of the shoot.??If you are in a studio setting I am a believer in the power of music to create a comfortable ambience. I provide a player and ask the model to bring music she enjoys. This is played as background music allowing conversation and interaction.
?While shooting there are a few rules I have made for myself. I find the model appreciates being shown the progress by reviewing the camera screen at intervals. Often they will pick up on awkward shapes, slipped bra straps and have suggestions of how they can improve what they are doing. This also involves the model in the process. Some models have told me that they don’t like working with photographers who decline to do this. Always be respectful and professional in your interactions. This does not mean that you cannot have fun and one of the best comments you can get at the end of a shoot is “I really enjoyed that!”??If you are working to a concept, either keep the concept photos in your head or on your phone. Don’t show your model photos of other models. Your model is the most important person in the world while you are shooting.

Rebecca 4 sml

Praise while shooting will give positive reinforcement and spur her on to better things. To point your lens and just shoot, is to have the model working in a vacuum.  If you engage your model in conversation while you are shooting you will create an atmosphere of camaraderie. You will find when you are working well as a team that the shoot will flow. The model will respond to the click of the camera or the flash of the strobe as an indication that she is finding the right look and position and will be encouraged to find new poses.??New and inexperienced models will need direction on the shoot. Point out to them that they do not need to look at the camera and many of the most attractive photos will be when she is looking away. Move in and out and around your model, ask her to change position of her own volition and if she finds a great position, this is the time to stop her with a superlative and work to refine that photo with small adjustments. Beginner models need to be shown how to move and refine positions in very small incremental movements. Alternatively it is just as acceptable to free shoot with your model and let the shoot happen organically with little adjustments from you. ??Variation in expression is important. You don’t want a camera full of images with the one expression. Ask your model to remember things that made her happy, sad, melancholic or any other moods she can think of. When you are confident in your rapport ask her to play-act scenarios. Variations such as mouth open, half open or closed and even eyes shut should be tried. Asking a model to close her eyes and imagine something and then open her eyes before you shoot can produce good results. Use movement even to the point of blur. Dancing around will often produce a sense of fun and physically relax the model. Dancers often make wonderful models as they have a great awareness of their bodies.??One of the best pieces of advice I was given is to consider that you will only ever be in the one place with this model at this time and to make the most of it. I was capturing up to 200 images per three hour shoot. I now shoot between 400 and 500 images. Capturing that pose with the right expression is more likely to be a success if you maximise the possibilities.??Zoe 1 sml

When the shoot is finished, be prompt and professional. Your model will be very interested in the results. Try not to make them wait longer than necessary. Every photographer will have their own way of dealing with this process. My choice is to shoot small Jpeg along with RAW and upload a PRIVATE set of Jpegs to my Flickr pro account with an emailed invitation to view. This can be done on the evening of the shoot and I then can process the model’s choices as well as my own favourites. Surprisingly these only occasionally coincide. I then email small web size images as I process them so the model can upload them to the web as she sees fit.??Models can be found on the websites Model Mayhem and Starnow
?It’s best to join these websites when you have at least 8-10 quality images as models will look at what you can do when you approach them. Photograph friends and acquaintances, ensuring you get their permission to show their photos on the web.
?Facebook is a great place to meet models and makeup artists and get inspiration from other photographer. I have a personal page and also a fan page where I promote my photography. Most models you will shoot will have a Facebook page and will know other people in the industry. Women’s fashion retailers, both mainstream and alternative clothing companies have pages and you will soon build a network of models, photographers ?hair stylists and makeup artists. It’s a good idea to comment on other’s photos when you see impressive work and you will become well known to them and they will encourage you when you post your work. There are also groups such as Women in the Industry and Artistic Collaborations where you can arrange to work with others or find collaborators for your projects.?When you have a body of work, be sure to set up a website as well, as not everyone uses Facebook. Print some business cards with your website email and Facebook fan page addresses and hand them out at all opportunities.??Working with models creating unique and personal images is fun, challenging and ultimately very rewarding.

See more of David Haworth’s work at his website and connect with him on Facebook.

This post was written by a guest contributor to DPS. Please see their details in the post above. Become a Contributor: Check out Write for DPS page for details about how YOU can share your photography tips with the DPS community.

View the original article here

0 Top 5 Tips on How to Photograph Food

A Guest Post by Deidra Wilson.

Food Photographer Vegas Deidra Wilson DPS

Many of you may want to step up your food photography from iPhone to fabulous, but you’re sure that it’s quite impossible to do without a food stylist and ten grand worth of gear to help you make that dish look amazing. I am living proof that that’s just not the case. If you have a team that is willing to work hard and a location that allows for great lighting, you’re more than halfway there.

Since you likely don’t have a food stylist, make sure you have a chef that’s willing to go above and beyond when it comes to plating the dish. You want everything to be brightly colored and placed neatly. Any garnishes should be super fresh (no wilted greens, please!). Sauces, when used as decoration, should be bright and shiny. Since you don’t have a stylist, you’re in charge of styling the food on the plate. Look through your lens and take a few test shots. Look at the images and determine what (if anything) is detracting from the image. If there is, fix it and try again!

If you must photograph for an extended period of time, you may wish to replace parts of the dish as needed. For example – melted cheese will harden quickly and no longer appear appetizing. If you are photographing any type of meat, it will likely start to release juices that will mar the plate. Re-plate it and keep shooting! It’s better to take the time to redo something, rather than try to correct it in post-production.

For example, if you have a piece of meat that is grilled, make sure those grill marks are beautifully straight and perfectly criss-crossed. If you have a sushi roll, make sure the pieces are placed in an appealing manner and that any details like sauces or garnishes aren’t detracting from the image. Sometimes less is better when it comes to food photography. A plate with too much going on will easily detract from the star of the image.

Natural daylight tends to be the most flattering for any subject, food included! I love to shoot food right next to a big window. You can either backlight it by shooting into the light, or use the available light to light your image. If you must use lights, try to use daylight-balanced hot lights or strobes (around 5000K if possible). This will nearly replicate natural light and allow you to achieve beautiful results.

This creates interest and drama in the subject and allows you to make the best of the available light. When you shoot with a shallow DOF, you’ll want to keep the focal point towards the front of the image. So, if you’re photographing a sushi roll, don’t focus on the pieces furthest from your lens – focus on the piece closest to the front and let the rest of the roll elegantly fade into a beautiful bokeh.

Overall, have fun with it! I’ve been photographing food as a commercial photographer for more than a decade. Every shoot is different and I’ve worked under nearly every condition imaginable, including completely dark rooms. Be creative, be willing to think outside the box and get ready to experiment and have fun.

Deidra Wilson is a Las Vegas Photographer who loves to make the best out of any lighting situation and create incredible images from seemingly nothing. You can follow her on Twitter at @deidraphoto

This post was written by a guest contributor to DPS. Please see their details in the post above. Become a Contributor: Check out Write for DPS page for details about how YOU can share your photography tips with the DPS community.

View the original article here

Monday, September 24, 2012

0 More than a Vignette: The Simple Secrets of Dodging and Burning

A Guest Post by Alex Smith

On the wonderful journey through the world of photography many of us have points where we stop to smell the roses for a bit. Maybe we change from shooting landscapes to portraits or delve into the miraculous details of the macro world. Either way, after a shoot we are inevitably left with some post-processing finesse to add to our images.

If you are like me, you can never learn too many techniques to give your images some spark or flair hoping that the final result captures the viewer’s attention, making them stop for that split second to admire the magnificence of your capture. So lets add a gourmet recipe to your photography cookbook and give you a simple, elegant way to add that extra special spice to your photos.

As you peruse the photo collections of your peers you will find that many photographers use vignettes that darken the corners or edges of their images while leaving the central area of the photo lighter.

Why do they use this technique? It is likely that most of you already know that as you look at a photo, the eye is naturally drawn to lighter areas of the photo and away form darker areas. In the days of the darkroom, negatives were dodged (lightened) and burned (darkened) for this same purpose. Thus, the vignette is one of the simplest ways to guide the viewer’s eye toward your central subject.

Let’s delve into this idea with a little more depth. If we are using vignettes to focus the eye of our viewer and we can all agree that the viewer is the one responsible for deeming whether our artistic endeavor is view worthy, then this business of lightening and darkening in an image is pretty powerful stuff. So why not use this lightening and darkening in a pre-meditated way to take the eye on a narrated, guided tour of our image?

Think about that statement for a second. It’s like having parallel park assist on a new vehicle. We can control where we want the viewer’s eye to park.


Let’s start with seeing the simple and subtle use of this technique in an image I took while on a trip with a good friend to Portland, Oregon. This is Punchbowl Falls, one of the many gorgeous waterfalls in the Portland area. When you look at this photo, the lightness of the water automatically draws you into the majestic waterfall roaring down into the creek where the rippling torrents slowly meander out towards the bottom of the frame.

As you look further, you see the lush, green vegetation surrounding the scene in an explosion of growth, however, then the eye goes right back to that waterfall. The only thing you don’t see is me, standing barefoot, and ankle deep in the middle of the creek, balancing on a few rocks praying that I can get the shot before the hypothermia sets in. Now, let me show you an overlay of how I used this lightening and darkening technique in a subtle yet calculated way to get you to drawn into the scene and experience the full gravity of it.


Bingo! I have selectively lightened the areas outlined in red and darkened the areas outlined in blue and all of those leading lines guide your eye right back to the middle of the photo. The key is that it is not totally obvious that this is happening when you look at the original. It is a subtle yet wonderfully effective method to help further enhance the visual impact of your photo. Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes of how this is done.

There are several ways to lighten and darken areas of an image and really any technique you prefer can work, but I like to do this in Photoshop just cause that is where I am comfortable working. Once my image is open I hold down the Alt/Option key (PC/Mac) and click on the new layer icon to bring up a new layer dialogue box. In the Dial ogue box I change the blend mode to soft light and check the box to fill the layer with 50% Gray.


What this does is give me a layer on which everything that I paint that is darker than 50% gray gets darker and anything I paint lighter than 50% gray gets lighter. I then get a soft edge brush set to an opacity of anywhere between 4-8%. I like to keep opacity low so I can just lightly layer in the effect with each brush stroke with a lot of control as to how much I am adding.

Next, I paint anywhere I want darker in black and anywhere I want lighter in white. Remember the key is to keep in mind how you want the image to be visualized by the viewer and plan your brush strokes accordingly. I do many separate brush strokes in each area until I start seeing the effect set-in.

Now, I know some die hard Photoshop enthusiasts are saying why not do separate layers for the dark and light areas so each is independent of the other? That certainly could be done, but I try to keep my number of layers to a minimum so I don’t bog down my system and I find that if I have gone too dark somewhere then I just paint over it again with white to lighten it and vice versa.

If you over do it a bit, you can always decrease the opacity of the layer itself. Now for that little extra something just to make it all transition smoothly. I like to go to Filter->Blur->Gaussian blur and add about anywhere from a 10-30 pixel radius of Gaussian blur to the effect to get a smoother and more subtle look.


This is my secret sauce so to speak and I find it does wonders especially when applying this effect to portraits. Portraits? Did he just say portraits? You bet! I apply this same effect to highlight cheekbones, brow lines, accentuate hair highlights, etc…

Usually with portraits I find that my end step Gaussian blur pixel radius is a lot higher than for landscapes and often keep it set at 30. Here are a couple more images where I have successfully used this technique in different ways.




So now you are equipped with yet another pearl in your post-processing repertoire. I just hope you remember that it is not just a technique, but it is a guided visual tour through your photo. Use it to enhance drama, create mood, or simply just to de-emphasize some of those more distracting elements in your photo. Now, get out there and give it a try. Your viewers have bought their tickets and are waiting for you to guide their way!

Alex Smith is a photographer and blogger out of Denver, Colorado. His blog is dedicated towards making better photography easier for everyone. More of his work can be viewed at

This post was written by a guest contributor to DPS. Please see their details in the post above. Become a Contributor: Check out Write for DPS page for details about how YOU can share your photography tips with the DPS community.

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0 Choosing Lenses: When to Use Which Lens and Why

A Guest Post by Rick Berk

All DSLR systems offer a dizzying selection of lenses for their cameras. These range from fisheyes that give a 180° field of view, to telephoto lenses up to 800mm or more. You’ve got zooms, primes, macro, super telephoto, and of course, tilt-shift lenses as well.

In my time as a photographer I’ve often had friends, students, or casual acquaintances ask me “What lens should I get?” There is no one right answer to this question, and it can lead to more confusion unless I ask a few questions myself.

First off, and easiest to figure out is, “What do you want to shoot?” It could be sports, wildlife, birds, landscapes, architecture, portraits, or any number of other subjects. Next is to find out what their budget is. The cost of the lens depends on several things. Less expensive lenses will generally have variable apertures, meaning as you zoom, the maximum aperture gets smaller. More expensive lenses have a fixed aperture. The good news is that all major camera and lens manufacturers offer a variety of focal lengths to satisfy most budgets.

After those two questions are answered it becomes more difficult. I try to lead them to their choice, rather than just tell them “Get this lens.” So let’s take a look at different types of lenses and how they can be used.


We’ll start with the wide angles. In my early days as a photographer, I NEVER used wide angle lenses. I started my career as a sports photographer and rarely used anything shorter than a 70-200, often going for 400mm f2.8 or 600mm f/4 lenses. As I began shooting landscapes as more of a hobby, I began to discover the magic of wide angles. Wide angles give a wide expansive view, and when used correctly, can wrap you in the scene. My favorite lenses for landscape work tend to be in the ranges from 14mm f/2.8, 16-35 f/2.8, and 24mm f/1.4.

Wide angles should be used when prominent foreground objects are present. The primary mistake made by new photographers is to use wide angles incorrectly- by not being close enough, having no interest in the foreground, or by trying to include too much in the scene. Wide angles are also handy in tight areas, like small rooms, cars, caves, etc. They can give volume to the small area. Wide angles have the potential to drastically change your photography.


Standard lenses tend to range from about 35mm up to around 85mm. Lenses in the standard zoom range will cover moderate wide angles- typically 24mm to 35mm, to moderate telephoto lengths- around 70mm and up to about 105mm. Standard zoom lenses are great “walk around” lenses. They are versatile, allowing both for wide angle work such as a landscape, or zooming in to the telephoto end of the lens to take a great portrait.

Standard zooms are generally included in many SLR kits that come with lenses. 18-55mm, 18-135mm, 24-105mm, 24-70mm, and others are popular standard zooms. However, there are also standard prime lenses. Prime lenses are lenses that are just one focal length. Back in the good ol’ days of film, the most popular standard lens was a 50mm. When I was a student, everyone in the class started with a 50mm lens. Whether you choose a zoom or a prime is up to you. Most people tend to feel that zooms offer more bang for the buck these days, while a prime forces you to think more about composition and point of view, simply because it can’t zoom.


More often than not, when I speak to neophyte photographers looking to purchase their next lens, they are looking for something on the telephoto end. The most popular seems to be various flavors of 70-300mm or 70-200mm. These lenses are excellent when used properly. However, too often, telephoto zooms allow the photographer to become lazy.

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” said famed war photographer Robert Capa. Telephoto zooms allow one to stand back a little when the subject isn’t quite as approachable, or when your subject might be feeling overwhelmed by the presence of the camera. This makes telephoto zooms extremely useful for portraiture, but keep in mind Capa’s words, as it is easy to get lazy and let the lens do the work for you.


Telephoto lenses compress distance, making everything appear closer, as opposed to wide angles which distort perspective and make things look further away. This can be useful for landscapes when you want the sun or moon to appear large in comparison to other objects in the image. In this shot of Shenandoah Valley at sunset, the telephoto lens compresses the distance, making the layers of mountains and mist look almost flat.

Of course, telephoto lenses are also excellent for sports, nature, and wildlife, where it can be difficult to get close. Sports, however, presents its own set of challenges. To be able to stop action without blurring, you need to use a fast shutter speed. Typically, faster telephoto lenses are required. Faster telephoto lenses have larger maximum apertures.

A “fast” lens is usually one that has an aperture of f/4, f/2.8 or larger. If sports is one of your primary subjects, a telephoto zoom such as a 70-200 f/2.8 is an excellent choice. If you really want to shoot like the pros, you’ll want a 300mm f/4, or 300mm f/2.8 or 400mm f/2.8. These lenses are great for getting you closer to the action, but you need to be sure your shutter speed is fast enough. Too slow a shutter speed will result in motion blur. Typically, AT LEAST 1/500 to 1/1000 shutter speed is the minimum. Using these longer lenses can be challenging to track movement, so it becomes much easier if the subject is coming directly at you, rather than trying to track movement parallel to the camera.

Beyond the usual types of lenses, there are a variety of specialty lenses available. Like shooting tiny things? Try a macro lens. Architecture? A tilt-shift or perspective correction lens might be your choice. There is a lens for every purpose, it’s just a matter of putting it to good use. As always, remember that a lens is just another tool on the camera; it’s up to the photographer to make it work.

Rick Berk is based in New York and has been involved in photography for 20 years, shooting portraits, landscapes, and professional sports. His images can be viewed and purchased at

This post was written by a guest contributor to DPS. Please see their details in the post above. Become a Contributor: Check out Write for DPS page for details about how YOU can share your photography tips with the DPS community.

View the original article here

0 2 New Bags from thinkTank Photo

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram on his 'darrenrowse' account, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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0 New Cameras Announced by Most Manufacturers: Here are the Ones that Caught Our Eye

Over the last week we’ve seen a truckload of new cameras announced by most of the major camera manufacturers in the lead up to Photokina conference happening in Cologne this week.

Rather than create a post for each new camera we decided this time around to do a summary post of some of the cameras that caught our eye and that might interest dPS readers (note: there are certainly more than we’ve covered here but here are some highlights).

Which camera catches your eye and why?


The much romored Canon 6D is now official. Being sold as an affordable full frame DSLR – this 20.2MP camera comes with GPS and Wi-Fi built in and has an ISO range of 100-25600 (expandable to 50-102400), 4.5 frames per second shooting, silent shutter mode, 1080p30 video, 11 point AF system and more.

Some are calling this camera the full frame version of the 60D and a competitor to the new Nikon 600.

Canon also released the new Canon Powershot S110 (pictured below) -a refresh of the popular S100 – which comes with Wi-Fi and a touch screen and updated 12MP CMOS sensor.


Also announced by Canon is the new Powershot G15 (pictured below). This camera has a 12MP CMOS lens and refreshed lens which is still 28-140mm but has a faster aperture of F1.8-2.8 through its range.



Speaking of full frame DSLRs aimed at the enthusiast market…. meet the new NIkon D600.

It’s being pitched as the smallest full frame DSLR on the market and features a 24MP CMOS sensor. Its size is similar to the D7000 but feature wise it is more in the league of the bigger D800.

Featuring 39 point autofocusing, 1080p HD video, optional Wi-Fi unit to allow the camera to be controlled by you mobile device, ISO of 100-6400 (expandable to 50-25600), headphone jack etc – it only weighs 760 grams (without battery or lens).


Fujifilm have been scoring some big wins with its X series of cameras in the last year or so and so their new XF1 grabbed a lot of attention with Fujifans this week. It is a 12MP compact camera with a 25-100mm equivalent F1.8-4.9 lens. It’s sensor is a 2/3 CMOS sensor and the lens is image stabilised. The XF1 shoots in RAW and has full manual control.

This looks like being a potential replacement for the X10 (it shares the same sensor). It is small but has no viewfinder or no optical or EVF. This camera is positioned to compete in the space of the Canon S series power shots and Sony’s newish RX100 (the premium compact camera space).


This camera sent the internet into a frenzy a few days ago when release. It is a full frame compact camera with a fixed 35mm f/2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens.

Everyone has been raving about the previously released RX100 from Sony (I picked one up for my wife and it’s been amazing) but to see Sony build upon the RX range with a full frame camera is just fantastic.

The sensor is a 24MP full frame CMOS sensor, ISO range is 100-25600, it features a dedicated aperture ring, five customisable buttons, hotshot, 1080p60 HD movies, focus peaking (to help with manual focusing) and bulb mode complete with cape release socket).

This camera is aimed directly at serious photographers looking for a compact option. It’s not cheap though – you’re looking at $2800 if you want to pick up one of these which is a lot considering you can’t upgrade this with other lenses.


Also announced by Sony is the new SLR-A99 (pictured above) – a 24 MP full frame camera and the new Sony NEX-6 (pictured below) – an interchangeable lens mirror less camera that comes with Wi-Fi.



Olympus have refreshed it’s PEN series of cameras (which has been a little overshadowed by the release of the OM-D E-M5) with two new cameras – the E-PL5 and the E-PM2 (pictured above).

Both models have 16MP sensors (same as the one in the E-M5), touch screen LCDs and 8 frames per second shooting. The E-PL5 costs an extra $100 and offers a mode dial, flip-up LCD and screw-on grip.

Olympus also announced the XZ-2 (pictured below) – a premium compact camera with 12MP CMOS sensor, 28-112mm f/1.8-2.5 iZuiko lens, customisable lens ling and buttons, hotshot and more.

olympus XZ-2.jpeg


Panasonic came to the party this week by announcing a new Micro 4/3 camera – the GH3. This camera has a 16MP sensor and is being promoted as a camera for the professional videographer. It is weather sealed, has microphone and headphone sockets, shoots at 6 frames per second, in camera HDR, ISO of 200-25600, fast AF… and a load more.


Leica today made a number of announcements but the ones that are being spoken about around the web most are the new ‘M’ cameras.

Widely tipped to be announcing an M10, Leica surprised people at its event by announcing 2 cameras – neither called the M10.

The higher spec camera of the two is simply being called the ‘M’ (pictured above). It is a 24MP full frame camera with a CMOS sensor (the M9 was a CCD), Live View, focus peaking and video. This is the first M series camera from Leica with anything resembling bells and whistles and is as a result causing some debate.

The ‘M’ also features a variety of accessories including an adapter to allow fitting of Leica R lenses (long awaited by many), an EVF and grip. It is also weather sealed and has an ISO of up to 6400.

Essentially they’ve addressed most of the complaints we’ve heard about the M9 – except the most common one – the price which is $6950 (which is actually the same price the M9 was released at so not as expensive as some were expecting).


Also announced by Leica is the ‘M-E’ (pictured above) which is really just an update of sorts to the M9. It is being pitched as a stripped down and entry level option (although you’ll still need $5450 to get it). Really it’s very similar to the M9 except it comes without a frame line selector switch and USB port.

Pentax also announced new DSLRs in the lead up to Photokina – they come with 16MP sensors, weather sealed and a new autofocus sensor that is said to have better low light performance.

The difference between the K-5 II and the K-5 IIs is that the ‘s’ comes without an anti-aliasing filter and as a result gives higher resolution (but potentially more moire.

Also new from Pentax is the Q10 – another small mirrorless camera addition to their Q range. Interestingly they also announced a new adapter that allows mounting K-mount lenses on Q-mount cameras.

So which new cameras announced this week have caught your eye – and why? Tell us in comments below!

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

0 How to Photograph Fire

A Guest Post by Jon Beard

1/320 f/8 ISO1000 105mm

Fire is an interesting thing. Watch people around a campfire and it’s easy to see the spell it can cast on us. We have such a deep and instinctive relationship with it, there’s no wonder why including flame in a photo can have such an impact. In this write-up I hope to give you some examples, some understanding of how they’re done, and some direction toward creating your own fire shots.

1/15 f/16 ISO200 105mm

In the wise words of Frankenstein’s monster, “Fire bad!” The heat and smoke can damage your equipment, the flame can quickly get out of control and burn things you don’t want burned, and most importantly, fire can flat out kill you. Plenty of great fire info can be found at but here are some basic safety tips you should already know (and follow!):

Think ahead and plan your shoot from beginning to end.Have a plan for putting the fire out should it get loose.Do not work near anything that you do not want on fire as well.Work in a well-ventilated area.Be sure you’re working somewhere that if the worst happens, the worst isn’t all that bad.And if the grandmothers in the area where I grew up can be believed: Don’t play with matches or you’ll wet the bed.

Well, folks… Break out the bed liners and a grab a change of clothes because here we go!

You’ll find fire used in three main ways in a photo. It can be the primary subject, an accentuating element, or the primary light source. Typically, you’ll have a combination of the three, but understanding them individually is the best way to start.

With these shots, the main draw and focus is on the flame (or effects of it) and the detail that can be shown within it.

In most cases you’ll want to use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze motion in order to see the detail in the flame. As always, “fast enough” is relative to what you’re shooting, but a good starting point is around 1/250 or faster. As your shutter speeds increase you’ll need to use wider apertures and higher ISOs.

1/2000 f/5.6 ISO2000 105mm

1/250 f/13 ISO400 105mm

Sometimes, the more interesting detail will be in what the fire emits – the path sparks take when leaving a jumping jack or a sparkler, for example. Slower shutter speeds are the key to capturing this kind of photo.

1.6” f/40 ISO100 105mm

38” f/36 ISO100 105mm

In this type of shot the flame is one element of larger scene. It can be the most difficult kind to pull off because of the additional lighting needed to show the flame while still seeing the surroundings. The key here is to expose for the flame and then add light to the rest of the scene. If you’re not able to control the lighting situation then you’ll need to look for shooting angles where you can put the flame against a background that will let it stand out. A darker, solid background is preferable, but anything that can offer some contrast should work.

1/2500 f/5.6 ISO1250 110mm

1/60 f/11 ISO1000 105mm

1/250 f/7.1 ISO200 105mm

30” f/8 ISO640 15mm

Fire can make a wonderful light source with its soft shadows and warm color. Longer shutter speeds, wider apertures, and higher ISOs are often the right choice for campfire situations. Medium to shorter shutter speeds can be used as you get closer to the fire and have more and stronger light falling on your subject.

When working with the narrower depth of field that comes along with a wider aperture, try setting your focus on objects that have hard contrast edges (like silhouettes of stationary objects) rather than what you may consider the main subject. This can give you an overall sharper looking image since the shifting fire light will blur edges and soften shadows of the objects it illuminates.

25” f/4.5 ISO3200 14mm

30” f/8 ISO200 20mm

1/10 f/3.5 ISO200 50mm

1/100 f/4 ISO800 50mm

1/60 f/8 ISO800 500mm

Take a close look at a flame and you’ll see multiple colors, gradients, and intensities so it should go without saying that the color of a flame is a complex topic. It’s dependent on temperature, fuel-type, how much oxygen there is and how well it’s mixed with the fuel, along with many other factors. With that said, when it comes to photographing fire, a few simple ideas should help you control the color of your flame.

In fire photography, the most influential factor in the color of the flame will be the fuel being burned. Wood, paper, clothing, or anything else that puts off a lot of unburned particles (smoke) will probably burn yellowish-orange. Butanes lighters, propanes torches, liquids with high alcohol content, or other fuels that can more easily mix with the available oxygen before burning will burn more on the bluish side. There are additives (pyrotechnic colorants to be precise) you can buy to add to your fire to change the color of the flame. I found some pre-packaged powders at my local camping store designed to be thrown onto a campfire and they worked pretty well. Or, if you’re into chemistry, this wiki article describes which compounds can be used to create which colors:

Of course, the easiest way to get control of your flame color is to add the desired color in post.

1/2500 f/8 ISO200 105mm

1/250 f/8 ISO200 105mm

Smoke can add an interesting element to your photo, but unless you’re taking steps to make sure it’s in there, you’ll be lucky to see it. Here are three things you can do to better show it off:

Be certain your fire is making smoke. Fuels that burn efficiently (like some gas torches and alcohols) may not emit much. Using inefficient fuels like wood or paper will maximize your smoke output.Light the smoke. A light source shining into the smoke can solidify those lines and cause them to stand out more.Use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the smoke trails. Slower shutters will make the smoke appear like haze rather than wisps. Left: 1/8 f/8 ISO800 50mm --- Center: 4” f/8 ISO800 50mm --- Right: 1/8 f/8 ISO800 50mm + Flash

A candle is a simple and relatively safe way to learn about flame photography. As practice, see if you can accomplish the three primary types of fire shots we’ve covered – as the subject, an accent, and a light source. Try shooting a similar series to what I have above and make notes of what settings it takes to freeze the flame and what it takes to illuminate a subject sitting next to the candle. Then, use an artificial light source and take a shot where you can see both the flame in detail along with the well exposed subject next to it.

I always have a great time adding fire to my photos and I hope I’ve given you a good start on making your own. I’d love to hear from you and see some of the creative ways you’ve used fire in your own photography!

The images in this write-up and other fire related images can be seen in a Flickr set at

Jon Beard is an adventurer from the mountains of southwestern Virginia. He organizes the regional photo club, leads photography workshops and guided shoots, and has a passion for shooting in the dark. Photos, workshop dates, and more at

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