Sunday, December 9, 2012

DSLR Cameras For Beginners (AKA Buying Your First Big Camera)

It's funny.  I used to shoot with this big fancy camera in yearbook, an Olympus film camera. I loved that camera so much I got one just like it for graduation. It was the bee's knees! Then digital started coming out (remember the ones with the floppy disks?) My cameras just got smaller and smaller. Then I decided I wanted to shoot weddings: and I needed another big fancy camera.

But not just any camera, a DSLR. Oooooohhhh. Aaaahhhhhch. There's really no point to my story btw. Just that buying your first big camera is an overwhelming choice. So many questions. What brand? How much? What's best for me? Since I got a ton of emails from people asking for tips on this sort of thing,  I thought I should just make a big fat post about it already.

Thinking of buying your first camera (or ready to upgrade?)

Ask yourself:

1)  what is your budget
2)  what do you want to shoot?
3)  do you want video capability or just stills?

Answering these three simple questions makes it sooooo much easier to think of what gear might be right for you.  If you want creative control but don't love the idea of lugging around a big DSLR - then a fancier point and shoot (like the Panasonic Lumix, below) may float your boat.  If you plan on shooting the kiddo's soccer games or marching band events... well then you probably want some type of telephoto lens.  Want to shoot portraits?  A 50mm prime is a great choice.  Want to make videos too?  Be sure to pick a camera that has video capability.  Yep, you've got a lot of options.  Here are just a few examples of what you can get for different budgets.
At some point I'm going to get a camera like the Lumix DMC-LX3.  It will be for those times I don't feel like lugging around my 5DMii but want something better than my iPhone4s (though I LOVE my iPhone!)  What I love about this camera is the 24mm f/2 Leica lens, full manual capability and you can shoot in RAW too.  It's perfect for anyone who wants full creative control and flexibility in low light situations but doesn't want a full fledged DSLR or extra lenses.   A brand new Lumix runs about 400.00 - but now you can snag a used one for about 150.00  That's probably what I'll do, because then I can just by more lenses for my DSLR!  Just one thing:  fancier point and shoots don't have the best ISO capability which means photos can be grainy (especially in low light.)

Lumix DMC-LX3 - used 150.00
other choices:
Lumix DMC-LX7 - new 500.00
also records HD video
Canon Powershot  G15 - new 500.00
also records HD video
Nikon Coolpix P7100 - new 500.00
also records HD video

Now this little combo is pretty stinking affordable for a DSLR.  What's the secret?  Used gear!  There's absolutely nothing wrong with buying used gear, just make sure you're buying from a reputable source.  You'll still need to pick up filters and memory cards, but most used cameras come with a battery and charger.  If you're buying a used lens (especially any you find on eBay) be sure to clarify that it is for a DSLR and not a film camera.  Used gear is a GREAT way to get into digital photography, while saving some cash!

Canon Rebel XSi - used 250.00
Canon 50mm f/1.8 - used 90.00
Hoya 52mm filter - new 13.00
SanDisk Extreme 4GB cards - new 12.00 each

Nikon version:
Nikon D200 - used  250.00
Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 - new 125.00
Hoya 52mm filter - new 13.00

This is the exact same combo as the used option (above) but with a pretty bag to boot!  I wish I had known I could get cute bags like this from the get go.  But the guy at the Camera store (or was it just B&H?) prompted that the Canon bag was the one to get.  As it turned out, I really hated that bag and never really used it.  Sold it at our garage sale for $5 bucks.  heh.   For about $20 bucks more (give or take) I could have upgraded to something snazzy instead. ;)

Canon Rebel XSi - used 250.00
Canon 50mm f/1.8 - used 90.00
Hoya 52mm filter - new 13.00
SanDisk Extreme 4GB cards - new 12.00 each
JoTotes camera bag - Rose in Marigold - 89.00

Nikon version:
Nikon D200 - used  250.00
Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 - new 125.00
Hoya 52mm filter - new 13.00

This combo is the typical camera body + kit lens.  It's what you'll usually find at most retail stores like Best Buy (can't remember if you can get just camera bodies there.) Sam's and Costco also have pretty good deals and you'll usually get a standard bag + an extra lens in their kits.  The lenses that come in kits are what we call "kit lenses."  These type of lenses are more affordable because of their cheaper build quality and limitation of aperture.  Kit lenses have an aperture range like f/3.5-f/5.6  - basically this means that certain apertures only work at certain focal lengths.

I started out with a camera body + kit lens.  For me, it was the Canon 40D and whatever standard zoom lens.  When I bought my camera I didn't realize it was best to just buy the camera body (or that I even had the option!) so basically I never used that lens.  I lovingly refer to it as the paper weight.  Not that it's a bad lens, I just never used it because I also bought my expensive L lenses (remember, wanted to shoot weddings?) and figured out real quick the limitations to the kit lens.

Canon Rebel T3 + 18-55mm IS II Lens Kit - new, 550.00
also records HD video
Hoya 58mm filter - 13.00
SanDisk Extreme 4GB cards - new 12.00 each
Jo Totes camera bag - Betsy in Teal, 109.00

Nikon version:
Nikon D3100 + 18-55mm Nikkor VR Lens Kit - new 650.00
also records HD video
Hoya 52mm filter - 12.000

Personally I think buying the camera body and lens separately is the way to go.

You can actually spend about the same amount as a kit, if you purchase a more affordable prime lens like a 50mm f/1.8. I love prime lenses, and shoot with my 50mm most of the time.  However, sometimes I'm in places where the 50mm is just not wide enough.  That's where my 24-70 zoom comes in.  So if you can afford to spend a little more, then I suggest getting a lens like the Tamron.  This combination is actually a used camera body and a new Tamron lens.  Oh and look, there's the ho-hum Canon bag! ;)  just kidding.

It's all about what. you. want.

Canon Rebel XSi - used 300.00
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 for Canon - new 500.00
Hoya 67 mm filter - 16.00
SanDisk Extreme 4GB cards - new 12.00 each
Canon 100DG camera bag - new 69.00

Nikon version:
Nikon D200 - used  250.00
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 for Nikon - new 500.00
Hoya 67mm filter - 16.00
Nikon bag (value pack) - 70.00

Now with this combination you get a brand new camera.  Instead of buying a more expensive zoom lens, you can get two prime lenses and a new body for about the same price.  Oh and a pretty bag too!  Anyway, this is a great combo for being creative.  The 50mm prime is great for details, candids, portraits and the 35mm is great for everyday activities and travel.  Plus, you get that wide open aperture... great for low light situations and that dreamy background blur!  Get this for less by selecting a used camera (or lenses too!)

Canon Rebel T3 - new 330.00
also records HD video
Canon 35mm prime f/2.0 - new 320.00
Canon 50mm prime f/1.8 - new 125.00
Hoya 52mm filter - 12.00
SanDisk Extreme 4GB cards - new 12.00 each
Jo Totes camera bag - Millie in Sugarplum, 87.00

Nikon version:
Nikon D3100 - used 320.00
also records HD video
Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 - new 200.00
Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 - new 125.00
Hoya 52mm filter - new 13.00

One of my FAVORITE things to shoot is details.  Ring shots, flowers, products, all that fun stuff.  This combination is great for food bloggers, Etsy peeps and anyone who wants to photograph details.  The 50mm prime is awesome for overall detail shots (like capturing a whole floral arrangement) as well as portraits and it's a great walk about lens.  The 50mm macro lens really shines for those super up-close details the 50mm prime just. can't. focus. on.  A true macro lens is a must for ring shots, super close food detail, etc.  Again - you can get this combination for less by choosing used gear.  When I'm not shooting true macro, I prefer to use my 50mm prime because my macro is slower to "hunt" for focus.  However some people use their 50mm macro all the time (for portraits too.)  It's all about what works for you.

Canon Rebel T3 - new 330.00
also records HD video
Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime - new 125.00
Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro - new 269.00
Hoya 52mm filters - 13.00 each
SanDisk Extreme 4GB cards - 12.00 each
Epiphanie camera bag - Charlotte in metallic,  155.00

Nikon version:
Nikon D3100 - used 320.00
also records HD video
Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 prime - new 125.00
Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro for Nikon - new 369.00
Hoya 52mm filter - 13.00
Hoya 55mm filter - 18.00

If you want to really rock your camera, this is an awesome combo.  The zoom lens comes in handy for days at the zoo, baseball games and thanks to that f/2.8 aperture... dance recitals (where you can't use flash!)  But sometimes, f/2.8 just doesn't let in enough light - so in even lower light situations, you've got that 50mm prime.  This is pretty much my favorite lens combo at the moment.  Lots of creative options and low light flexibility.  Remember, if you really want a lens combination like this... you can make it more affordable by purchasing used gear!

Canon Rebel T3 - new, 330.00
also records HD video
Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime - new 125.00
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 for Canon - new 500.00
Hoya 52mm filter - 12.00
Hoya 67 mm filter - 16.00
SanDisk Extreme 4GB cards - 12.00 each
Jo Totes camera bag - Allison in black, 89.00

Nikon version:
Nikon D3100 - used 320.00
also records HD video
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 for Nikon - new 500.00
Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 - new 125.00
Hoya 67mm filter - 16.00
Hoya 52mm filter - new 13.00

For budding paparazzi, there's even bigger zooms.  I actually started out with a 24-70 zoom + a 70-200 zoom, but I really didn't like my 70-200.  Of course, as soon as I sold it and B started shooting, he wished I had it!  Basically I was hardly in the situation where I needed the extra zoom... in many places it flat out didn't work because I was too close to start with.  But for some people, getting that close is awesome.  I just didn't use it enough to justify the cost (I had the Canon 70-22mm f/2.8 IS lens.)  A zoom like the 70-200 is great for sports where you're far away, the zoo and anytime you want to be stealthy at weddings ;)

Canon Rebel T3i - new 600.00
also records HD video
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 for Canon - new 500.00
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 for Canon - new 769.00
Hoya 67 mm filter - 16.00
Hoya 77mm filter - 30.00
Jo Totes camera bag - Gracie in mint, 119.00

Nikon D5100 - new 700.00
also records HD video
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
 for Nikon - new 500.00
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 for Nikon - new 769.00
Hoya 67mm filter - 16.00
Hoya 77mm filter - 30.00

When I decided to shoot weddings, I bought some pretty expensive gear right away.  Kinda extreme considering I'd never even used a DSLR before!  Yep, I was clueless but lucky for me I had some tips from a new wedding photographer in Utah. Opie was kind enough to recommend lenses and how to get a portfolio started.  She also clued me in to this thing called batch editing.  ;)  So I bought two lenses she shot with, but ended up getting Canon L glass (the most expensive) and she actually used Sigmas at the time.  Apparently I was a little confused.  Ha. Oh well, I do love my lenses!   Basically what I'm trying to say is:  the Sigma versions are GREAT lenses and are a smart choice if you can't afford the most expensive glass right away.

Sigmas are more expensive than the Tamrons (which I used in most of the options above) but almost half the price of the Canon L glass.  So while Opie shoots with L glass now, she started out with Sigmas and those photos were just gorgeous.  My favorite macro that I used regularly for wedding ring shots is the Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro.  Just goes to show that again, technical skill is the most important thing.

Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro for Canon - new 369.00
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 for Canon - new 900.00
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 for Canon - new 1400.00

Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro for Nikon - new 369.00
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 for Nikon - new 900.00
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 for Nikon - new 1400.00

Canon 50mm f/1.2 L - new 1600.00
Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L - new 2300.00
Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II - new 2500.00

Nikon 35mm f/1.4 - new 1600.00
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
 - new 1900.00
Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 - new 2400.00

A better camera body is awesome, but glass is more important. That being said there are advantages to more expensive camera bodies.  If you happen to have some extra $$ and want to upgrade (or let's say, you want to start shooting weddings or portraits) then by all means consider picking up an advanced camera body.  Just FYI - knowing your stuff (shooting in manual, lighting) and shooting often is the most important aspect of capturing great photos.  The best gear will only get you so far if you don't master the technique.

So my first DSLR was the Canon 4oD.  It had a higher ISO capability than the Rebels (I could easily shoot at 800 ISO without grain) and it was also more expensive. Now you can still get the 40D used or the newer 60D.  If I was picking out my first camera (for shooting weddings) all over again, I'd probably splurge and get the new Canon 6D.  It has great ISO capability *and* it's full frame!  Or I would pick up a used 5D Mark ii.  Ah, decisions decisions.  The Canon 7D is another great option for a mid-range semi-pro to pro camera.

You might be thinking, what's full frame?   Here's the short answer:  full frame = bigger sensor.  bigger sensor = better photos. Less expensive, beginner camera bodies have a smaller "crop" sensor.  That's why full frame cameras have richer and more true to life colors, better sharpness and ISO capability (less grain at high ISO.)  Since crop body cameras have smaller sensors, there is also a "crop factor" when it comes to lenses.  A 50mm lens will be more like an 80mm on a crop body, but will be the true 50mm focal length on a full frame.  You can also get lenses that are made for crop bodies only.  Nothing wrong with these lenses, but if you ever upgrade to a full frame body... you won't be able to use those lenses.  Full frame cameras are AWESOME but they are also expensive!

After a couple of years of shooting with the 40Ds we upgraded to 5D Markii cameras.  My mom upgraded from her Rebel to an original (used) 5D and saved a ton.  It was perfect for her needs and she LOVES her camera (check out her super cute cards!)  Since then the 5D Mark iii has come out and though I would LOVE to have that camera, I don't really feel like the current 3500.00 price tag... yet. ;)  If I still shot weddings though, I would be allllll over that bad boy.

Canon advanced camera options:
Canon 40 D  - used 400.00
Canon 60D - new 1000.00
also records HD video
Canon 7D -  new 1500.00
also records HD video
Canon 5D* - used 800.00
Canon 6D* - new 2100.00
also records HD video
Canon 5D Mark ii* - used 1700.00, new 2200.00
also records HD video
Canon 5D Mark iii* - new 3500.00
also records HD video

Nikon advanced camera options:
Nikon D90 - used 600.00
also records D video
Nikon D7000 - new 1200.00
also records HD video
Nikon D700* - used 1650.00
Nikon D600* - new 2100.00
also records HD video
Nikon D800* - new 3000.00
also records HD video

*full frame cameras

Holy moly... that was a lot of info!  So there you have it, my tips for buying your first DSLR (or upgrading to something better.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

8 Tips for Shooting Creepy Photos (Part 2)

Grab yourself some candy, your camera and get out there. Here's 8 more tips for shooting creepy photos to help you get spooky with your camera.

1.  Look for spiderwebs
You can't have Halloween without spiders so why not photograph some spiderwebs? The best ones can be found first thing in the morning - I'm not a morning person so I had to make do with what I could find. The original photo was actually one spiderweb that wasn't in the best location and part of it was gone already. I decided to take it a step further: making a copy of the image, then flipping one and merging the two together in Photoshop. It made for an extra creepy photo!

2.  Shoot with props
Decorations aren't just for partying, they can be great creepy subjects! Grab a few of your favorite things and find locations like tall grass or fallen leaves, then shoot from all different angles. Shooting in wide open apertures will give them an even creepier vibe. If you happen to see elements of the prop that are distracting (like metal screws or fabrication lines) you can clone those out to make it look a little more realistic in editing.

3.  Play on phobias
There's a reason why certain things make great Halloween decorations - snakes, spiders, clowns and other phobias are great ideas for creepy photos. A little editing helped make this rubber snake coiled up on dead leaves even more dastardly.

4.  Hit up old shops, barns, etc.
When shooting these photos I walked around my dad's shop area - which has all kinds of great textures. Urban decay like abandoned buildings make great locations too.

5.  Jagged lines
Lines are such strong elements of design that even their shape effects a photo. What do jagged lines convey feelings of? The creeps. Heebie jeebies. Or something's just not right. So look for jagged lines (or make your own) and try shooting them.

6.  Crop in all the wrong places
When shooting people it's a no-no to cut off someone's hand or head, etc. Why? Because it gives the viewer this feeling of being disconnected or well, just disturbed. But that's all out the window for creepy photos so go crop crazy.

7.  Shoot weird looking mushrooms
Or other odd plants. It's best to shoot these really up close in macro - if they look really odd and you can't tell what it is even better.

8.  Edit in B&W
Of course this doesn't work for everything - the picture of Bucky (the skeleton) on the red trailer just had to be in color. Even so, B&W is classic for that spooky vibe and definitely rocks certain shots.

Have fun and spooky shooting!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

8 Tips for Shooting Creepy Photos (Part 1)

One day Pottery Barn was selling a big, expensive Halloween themed canvas print. It was creepy and foggy and pretty much awesome. Of course I wanted it, but it was really expensive and I decided to try and capture my own creepy photos. So we hit up a couple of old graveyards to shoot details.

At first it felt really odd to be walking around in a graveyard taking pictures. Yes, there were plenty of zombie jokes. But then it ended up being such a cool place to shoot! I loved reading the names and dates of really old graves and the tombstones are just beautiful. With so much texture and detail to capture - old graveyards are a great place to really get creative.

Here are some tips for shooting your own creepy photos:

1.  Shoot on a cloudy day
Nothing says creepy like a gray day, sunshine just wouldn't be the same. Besides, overcast light is a gorgeous light to shoot in. It really brings out the color and details!

2.  Try shooting in macro
Most kit lenses have a "macro" setting that lets you get real close to your subject. A true macro lens will let you get even closer. Macro is great for capturing details like the moss on tombstones.

3.  Shoot wide open
Really shallow depth of field brings out even more creepiness in the photo. Focus on your subject, choose an aperture like f/2.8 or bigger and let the surroundings blur. Shoot through leaves and focus on your subject in the distance to "frame" the subject. The leaves will blur and have a slight transparent look.

4.  Shoot with odd and unusual angles
To add an extra element of eerie, odd angles are a great choice. Just tilting the camera a little will change the overall feel of the image.

5.  Look for dried up plants, sticks and weeds
These types of subjects make creepy, unusual photos. Trees that have lost their leaves are really great subjects too.

6.  Fill the frame
Choose interesting subjects - like these fallen leaves on the ground.

7.  Try different actions in Photoshop
Totally Rad's actions Lux (soft) + Bitchin B&W adds to the eerie, creepy effect of this pair of tombstones.

8.  Have fun and be respectful
Remember, graveyards are a place of peace and rest. Try not to step on graves (if you can) and don't be destructive. The older the graveyards you can visit, the more interesting things you'll find to shoot.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to Clean Up Files for a Faster Mac

This week's photo tip is for all my Mac peeps out there... woot woot! Yes, I'm a mac girl.  It's true... I used to say I would never ever EVER get a Mac (much to B's dismay.)  Then one day my brand new PC with Windows Vista (aka the devil) kept crashing Photoshop.  I simply could. not. work.  Desperate, I bought a Macbook Pro.  I've been in love ever since.

Now here's the thing - my Macs are awesome, but sometimes they get stupid slow.  Like I'd rather stick a fork in my eye slow. It's the curse of being a photographer's computer: bogged down with insane amounts of high resolution images and HD video files.  I would break down and finally delete my unwanted files but it still didn't help.  Eventually I figured out that with Macs, just because you empty your trash bin doesn't mean it's gone for good.  In fact, you need to secure empty trash to actually erase those files so they don't take up space.  Or you need to erase the free space on your Mac.

Confused yet?  No worries! Here's a quick video tip for giving your Mac more pep in it's step :)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Light Painting

Here are some fun photos taken at our family reunion this summer. The first night we walked down towards the swimming hole where it was nice and dark. Then we set up and went crazy with lights. Eventually we discovered that using the bulb setting and the remote made our light painting attempts so much easier.

The next night I wanted to get a long exposure of my family enjoying karaoke. One of my cousins was quite entertained helping out and watching me look like a crazy person dancing in the dark for no apparent reason. We used a flashlight for the white light and my iGlowstick app for the colors. We had so much fun and loved the results.

p.s my ever faithful Ava pup was there there whole time. Chocolate labs rule.

camera: 5D Mark II
lens: 24-70 2.8 L
settings: f/6.3, 30 seconds, 24mm, 100 iso

(YES 30 seconds. We were running out butts off to do this in one shot!)

camera: 5D Mark II
lens: 24-70 2.8 L
settings: f/10, 1 min, 24mm, 100 iso

camera: 5D Mark II
lens: 24-70 2.8 L
settings: f/10, 63 seconds, 24mm, 100 iso

This picture actually said "davib" so I flipped the b to d in Photoshop. The "s" was backwards too. Easy fix in editing.

camera: 5D Mark II
lens: 24-70 2.8 L
settings: f/11, 2 min, 24mm, 100 iso

Light painting is so much fun. You'll need a tripod, remote and some lights to dance around with.  Make a night of it and see what you create!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Silhouette Photography - Quick Editing Tip

Here's a quick tip for editing gorgeous silhouettes. I love actions and use them often - my favorites being a mix of Totally Rad Actions and Kubota Actions. Just FYI it's super easy to get caught up in action fever and end up with photos that look too over processed. The trick is to make subtle adjustments to enhance an image - unless you want the picture to have that super saturated / comic effect. And if that's what you're going for, totally cool.

Here's the before picture, straight out of camera, without editing. As you can see this is not exactly a silhouette even though that was my intention with this shot. Yes, I try to get things right in camera as much as possible but sometimes it just happens - no big deal. The exposure is fairly close to what I want and that's an easy fix.

camera: 5D Mark II
lens: 24-70 2.8 L
settings: f/7.1, 1/200, 24mm, 800 iso

And here is the edited silhouette!!

actions used -
Totally Rad Actions (from Daily Grind set)  - "lights out"  used twice
Kubota Artistic Actions (Vol. 2 set)  - "Hawaiian punch"  used once
+ actions adjusted to taste using layer masks

Friday, May 18, 2012

Glitter and Glass - Seeing Things Creatively

One day we hit up a local museum to take some pictures and play around. Here are a few of my favorite shots - I'm digging the glitter and glass.

Next time you're out taking pictures, what will you see?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spring Cleaning - 8 Tips for Photography

Well, it's April and I'm all about getting the yard ready for outdoor time, spring cleaning and getting my photo gear in order too. Are you excited about the spring and summer season coming up? There will be lots of picture taking opportunities so get your cameras ready for spring with these 8 tips:

1. Get inspired
Make a list of things you'd love to photograph this season. Plan dates for photo excursions such as shooting tulips at the Arboretum or a photo day at the zoo. Try to get out there and shoot something for fun at least once a week (even if you only have 30 min. to spare.)

2.  Review your goals and skills
What skills have you learned? What can you do to improve those skills? What new skills would you like to learn? Pick two or three goals and create a game plan. You might want to sign up for a class, buy a new book or new gear... make a list and make it happen!

3.  Get squeaky clean
Call your local camera store or send the camera off to the service center (like Canon or Nikon) to have your camera professionally cleaned. There are kits to do sensor cleaning yourself if you have a steady hand (and a quiet, clean place to do it.) Personally I prefer to have it cleaned so I don't have to stress about messing up the sensor.

4.  Backup your pictures
This is so important! Make sure you have backups of your pictures.  I always have at least 3 backups. Don't forget the images on your phone too. There's nothing worse than losing beloved memories. Use external hard drives, additional computers, data DVDs, etc. Just backup those photos. If you have severe thunderstorms, make sure a copy of photos is not plugged in.  We've had lightning take out all electronics before, which is why we shut down and unplug during bad storms - even with our surge protectors.

5.  Clean up your computer
Delete pictures you no longer want, such as photos that didn't make "the cut" etc.  Clean up old folders, organize your pictures to make them easier to find (I organize by year/month/event)  If you have a PC you'll want to defrag your computer too. Mac users can zero out (erase) free space. Doing so will help your computers have more kick!

6. Clean your camera bags
My camera bags get stupid dirty. I've found twigs, leaves and dirt in mine (hey, I crawl around on the ground a lot.)  Bags not in use are also great places for me to dump random gear. Take a moment to clean out those bags, organize them and even give the insides a little vacuum to pick up any dirt, pet hair, etc. that might get in the bag. When photo inspiration hits, your bag will be good to go!

7.  Sell unused gear
I must admit, I'm really bad about this.  I still have my kit lens that I've never used. That being said, one of my goals this spring is to clear out some unused gear. Just like digging through your clothes closet,  take the time to go through and consider selling gear you don't really like or never use. Then take that extra cash and get something else you really want!

8.  Update inventory.
When I shot weddings, I used to keep a list of all of our photo equipment, for insurance purposes.  If you don't have an inventory list yet, consider starting one. If you do have one, make sure it is up-to-date. Make a list with the make, model and serial number of each piece of equipment then keep it in a safe place (make a few copies too!)  The list also includes important phone #'s. You'll be glad to have it in the rare event you might need it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Shooting Details in Low Light With Basic Lamps and A Tripod

When taking pictures, I'm all about natural light. And for detail shots that nice big window light is the bee's knees. That's my ideal light, but sometimes I run out of time and find myself in the dreaded lamps only low-light situation. Bleh! Yes, I have multiple flashes and could go for an extensive setup but most of the time I'm just lazy. Why would I want to do that? So let's say you're like me and you spent the afternoon playing Sims (um, I mean working) or maybe you just get home after dark. If you're itching to take pictures of your new Etsy swag with only low-light, here's what you do:

Get a tripod.

Tripods come in all sizes and price points - just make sure to get one that is sturdy enough to hold your camera. Those big guns like my Canon 5D Mark II get really heavy. Using a tripod for product shots works wonders in both natural light and low-light detail situations, especially if you want to get lots of stuff in nice focus. But for this post, we're all about that low light situation, inside with just your average household lamps. This is for detail product photography only - not people.

Shooting portraits in this light would just be a hot mess. Trust me.

So here's my lazy person set up:

  • stuff to photograph (globes)

  • camera on tripod

  • two basic floor lamps (different lamps will produce different results, so just try it out)

  • white balance set to Tungsten light (I usually stick with AWB but not in this situation)
Just FYI this is at night, so I'm relying solely on ambient light from lights in the room. In the image above you can see some yucky shadows on the wall.  That's because in this shot the overhead light is on (ceiling fan.) When you're trying to do this, overhead lights like ceiling fans and chandeliers will NOT cut it. They cast too many shadows either on the wall or big shadows from your product.

So let's say you don't have a tripod. This is what happens when you have to use a slow shutter speed to let in more light. Anything handheld slower than 1/50th second is going to look bad.

The other option you have (if you don't have a tripod) is to use flash. Here's an example of the Canon 40D's standard pop up flash. See those big shadows and bright highlights on the globes? Meh.

Low light + details + camera + tripod = yay! In the photo above I only have one light on in the room - lamp #1 (on the right.)  It works nicely, but if you want to fill in a little more shadows / darkness  on the left of the globes... you could turn on lamp #2.

And here it is, a globe shot with both floor lamps turned on. These images have a little editing in Photoshop. There is so much more to work with when you shoot detail shots with a tripod. So the next time you want to take detail shots but it's already dark outside - get out your tripod. And remember, that tripod is great for anytime you're shooting product / detail photography - even when there's still window light to use.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Shooting Macro Photography - Take a Closer Look

One of the best things about digital photography is the ability to take as many pictures as you want to experiment and be creative. Shooting macro photography is just one awesome way to get really creative and it's so much fun.

When I used to shoot weddings, I used my macro lens to shoot ring shots and it's was always one of my favorite things to shoot. Lately I've been looking around the house to see what other stuff I can take pictures of. Once you start thinking on the macro scale of things, all kinds of photo opportunities appear! Note to self: take macro lens and find blue dumpster.

Don't have a macro lens? Some lenses have a "macro" setting and even though it won't get you super close like an actual macro lens, you can still try your hand at shooting in macro.  Just try shooting as close as possible and focus on the little details.  If you have a macro lens, even better!

You could take a picture of a vintage camera:

Or you could get real close:

You could photograph this pretty pretty globe:

Or you could get even closer and focus on where you live:

You could take a picture of a guitar... (guitars are cool, just sayin')

Or you could capture some up-close details (my rockstar husband approves.)

Next time you're out, take a closer look at the details around you... what kind of things would you shoot in macro?