Photo of the Day: Locked Out

Locked Out

Locked Out by dale73 on Flickr

Photo of the Day: It’s a Hell of a Job

Painting Red

IT’S A HELL OF A JOB by jan2eke on Flickr

Winter Photography: Keeping Your Fingers Warm

Warm gear alert: these photographer gloves are perfect for the shooter who is afraid of having his fingers amputated due to frostbite. For 4,830 yen (approximately $42), you can buy these gloves and easily switch from warm-and-toasty hands to temporary-frozen fingers at ease:

Photography Gloves

The product is offered by Axesquin Outdoor Company.

Composition Matters: Utilizing the Rule of Thirds

If achieving a visually balanced photo is important to you, there are a few photography techniques that are rather necessary to employ to ensure that you are able to achieve the desired result. One of these essential tools is a relatively old rule used by artists and photographers and is called the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds dictates that you should envision your composition being broken into 9 distinct but equal parts by placing two horizontal lines evenly spaced and two evenly spaced vertical lines, much like this:

Rule of Thirds: Digital Photography Tips

Many cameras have this grid built-into the viewfinder.

Instead of centering the subject right in the middle of the photo, you would reposition the subject based on this grid. The circles in this photo that denote intersections are also key dividing points where you would place an important subject matter (if applicable). The goal of this photography technique is to make a well-balanced and interesting photograph.

Consider this example in a photo I have taken:

Rule of Thirds Example

Using the rule of thirds, there is emphasis on various parts of the photo. While there’s not a lot of activity in the top left hand corner, the center top and top right corners consist of the colorfully lighted carnival ride. The top left hand intersection comes very close to one of the essential subjects, the carnival ride. In the center of the photo, there is a feeling of movement and the focus is primarily on the carnival riders flying through the night. The bottom portion of the photo is a different story entirely: beyond this ride is a very vast state fair.

In this photo, the emphasis is on the ride, the people, and throughout the theme park. The points of interest are not, in this case, put smack in the middle but are dispersed throughout the image, making it more interesting.

What can the rule of thirds do for you?

Besides making the photo more interesting (since the conventional method for most photographers is to center the subject), it can create a balance between the subject and its surroundings. It creates a “storytelling” image.

Are there any tricks?

Placement of your subject in certain environments should be considered. In a portrait, for example, consider putting the subject’s eyes in the cross of the top left or top right grid lines. Horizontal lines should complement horizons (or should at least determine placement of the horizon when you compose your shot), and trees or items that stand still should be placed near the vertical lines.

That aside…

The rule of thirds is not written in stone. There’s room for error and creativity. This is just one technique to take with you as you consider framing your subject in your viewfinder.

Ten Essential Camera Gear Items for DSLR Camera Users

So you have your DSLR camera at last. What kind of gear is necessary to trek with the camera when you go on a trip? Here are some ideas.

  1. Get your clean on with a Lens Pen and/or Microfiber Cleaning Cloth (aff). Even if you think you’ll be super careful, you’ll need a cleaning system for your camera. You definitely should have a cleaning brush for dust and a microfiber cleaning cloth to wipe smudges off your lenses. I personally have both in multiples.
  2. A good bag. For a small excursion, I recommend the Adorama Slinger, which can usually fit one body and two lenses (or one lens and a flash unit). For larger trips, especially if you’re going to be lugging around your bag, try the Crumpler Keystone or the Kata R-103. These two bags are pricey and can fit a laptop (which is why I opted for these), but they’re highly recommended.
  3. More power to you. You never want to not have enough batteries. I suggest two spares. For a Nikon D50, D70, D80, or D200, you should get the Nikon EN-EL3e. The D40 takes the Nikon EN-EL9. The Canon XT/XTi and a variety of Powershots all use the same Canon NB-2LH battery.
  4. Get even cleaner. For when you’re on the road, a Lens Pen and Microfiber Cleaning Cloth are good buys. The Giottos Rocket Blower is a little bulky, but it can go with you on your travels as well and is especially helpful if you’re actually going to be switching lenses often. When you have a spot on your sensor (you never should touch it — ever!), the rocket blower is the ultimate tool and pushes air in heavy blasts of air to free the debris.
  5. Light up this party. An external flash is a necessity for portrait photographers. Nikon users should try the Nikon SB-600 or the more powerful SB-800, while Canon users should go for the Canon 430EX Speedlite or the 580EX Speedlite. To soften the flash, go for one of the optional flash accessories, such as a Stofen Omnibounce or Gary Fong Lightsphere (make sure the one you get fits your flash!)
  6. More space! We need some storage here! Stock up on memory cards, whether SD or CompactFlash. You might want to consider additional photo storage, such as the Epson P-4000 80GB multimedia storage device or its cheaper and older sister, the Epson P-3000 40GB.
  7. Tripods help you stand still. When you’re shooting low-light items, you need to keep the shutter open longer than you can handhold the camera, or you’ll have camera shake and the resulting image will be very blurred. Therefore, a decent tripod is necessary, and you need to consider both sturdy legs and a good tripod head. This beginner recommendation is affordable and I have a similar setup (other tripods go upwards of $300+): Bogen Manfrotto 725B Tripod. If you’re interested in learning about monopods, try the Bogen Manfrotto Monopod with 3232 Swivel Tilt Head.
  8. Protect your investment. Even if it’s a basic UV filter, get something on your lenses so that they don’t scratch. If you want special effects in-camera, try a variety of filters. Learn about the offerings by checking out this very good filter guide.
  9. Seeing the right color. Since cameras don’t see everything in black and white, they have difficulty seeing color. For the true beginner and even the somewhat intermediate user, I recommend that you read my first book on photography, Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. He talks about getting a gray card, but you really don’t have to with an Expodisc. The benefit of this device is that it does it for you and lets you correctly set your white-balance preset. Very handy!
  10. Lens caps, body caps, and card storage devices. You don’t know how many times I’ve heard from friends that they’ve lost their rear or front lens caps or even their body caps. Always get an extra — or two or three. eBay has a bunch of these that you can buy in lots. For card storage, you would never want to lose your precious media, so keep it safe. You can get something like this, but there are also soft cases available.

Protect your investment and make it fun. Photography truly is enjoyable, and being a “gear geek” is definitely an aspiration, really!

[Photo of Rebel Gear on a Shoestring by Bakari on Flickr]

Irfanview Lets You Easily Edit Images — and it’s Free (Windows)

Let’s face it. Photography is an expensive hobby, especially if you go above and beyond the point-and-shoot methods and choose to try a DSLR camera. With lenses, cleaning equipment, books on technique and RAW mode, editing your photos — and thinking of the cost of applications to do the trick for you — can get even more time consuming and frustrating.

While for more advanced photography editing you may want to opt for a costly image editor, the basics can be done for free using a wonderful application called Irfanview.

Irfanview: Photo Editor

From the image (that also displays so prominently on their homepage), Irfanview lets you view images (either fullsized, fit to screen, or thumbnails), convert different file types (JPG to GIF, for example), optimize images (crop, rotate, resize, enhance colors, sharpen, saturate, etc.), and more.

I personally know of a few photographers who use Irfanview exclusively for their photo editing needs.

The great thing about Irfanview is that it has a tremendous amount of flexibility. It can do a lot of basic photography edits, and for slower computers, it isn’t as much of a RAM hog as other applications, such as Photoshop. (While I still use Photoshop for the bigger photos, Irfanview is on the top of my list as the application for a quick fix for something that is not necessarily the highest quality.)

I’d recommend that you get the plugin addon as well — it’s a small download giving you even more options (effects, icons, slideshow, etc.)

Irfanview is highly recommended for the photographer who:

  • Likes free and functional
  • Prefers a lightweight application
  • Likes the ease of batch conversions (batch resizing multiple huge 6MP photos is a lot easier on Irfanview — either set up a predefined proportional size or choose to resize the image to a percentage of the original!)
  • Needs a quick fix
  • Wants to rename files in bulk (yes, it does that too!)
  • Doesn’t want to open a huge application for a quick crop and resize

There’s so much that I love about Irfanview and I’m fairly certain you’ll be a convert too, so give it a whirl.

Photo of the Day: Amazon

Amazon by ChrissyJ on Flickr

Photo of the Day: Luksfera Radiator


Luksfera Radiator by Rod Monkey on Flickr

How to Use Lighting to Create Stunning Portraits

Today’s article is written by a guest writer, my friend Chris Manacop. This guide will be better understood by those familiar with the Nikon flash system, though it is beneficial for other users as well.

Read on for Chris’s valuable lighting lessons:

Portraits can be very fun and exciting to shoot and to dream up different ways to light portraits. First, I will go over a simple one light setup. Powerful images can be created with one light if placed properly. I will post some images and go over the lighting techniques that were used in these images. As far as gear, check out for gear advice and additional lighting tutorials. That site has helped me tremendously in my photography and lighting journey. I will be going over some basic concepts that can help you get started.

The first image I would like to go over is this simple one light portrait.

Jose Garcia 8

This is a local actor name Jose Garcia. One light was used in this shot. I call this a “bread and butter” shot, something which I know will work and I can always go back to whenever I need it. Placement of the light was the old “tried and true method” — placing the light 45 degrees from the subject. The light source was also approximately 2 feet above the subject’s head. This was shot with an SB-600 bounced through a 43” white umbrella using Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System). With just one light, most of the face is lit up and the shadows are not too distracting. I myself do not have any studio strobes and thus do not have any modeling lights so I had fire a couple of test shots to attain the light fall off that I was happy with.

No Reflector? No Problem. Here’s another shot where one light was used.

Val 012

I myself tend to be a run and gun “guerrilla” photographer with rarely help from any assistant. Some daylight portraits in which I would like to use a reflector I can’t use because:

  1. There’s no one to hold the reflector
  2. I have no stand to hold the reflector

In this case, I normally revert back to my light stand, speedlight, and Nikon CLS. I metered the ambient lighting and underexposed it about 1/3 stop. I used the sun as one light and filled it with my flash. At the time this particular picture was shot I would have preferred to shoot through an umbrella, but the wind would not allow me to (I also did not have any weights or sandbags, nor did I want to carry these). I put the SB-600 on a stand and stuck a Stofen Omnibounce to diffuse and soften light. To get it even and balanced, I ended up shooting with a flash intensity of 1/16. Sometimes you can use flash and it won’t even be noticeable such as in the case above. On a side note, it is a lot easier to control flash on Manual mode because you can modify it accordingly. I-TTL is fantastic though the intensity is unpredictable. I personally would much rather shoot “M” in the field.

The below picture shows Night Shooting Action with one light. Here are a series of two shots that I will break down. They will yield similar results, but it just depends on how you want to get there.


Back to my “run and gun” tactics. For this particular shot, I of course FORGOT to pack my tripod because I did not realize I was going to lose light very quickly. I remembered reading a strobist article regarding using the sunset as a background so I decided to take advantage of the beautiful light. Unfortunately, without the tripod, I could not drag the shutter (this will be explained in the next picture). To attain this shot I metered for the sky, unfortunately in this lighting to even be hand-holdable I had to boost the ISO to 800. This is semi clean on a Nikon D70 but it is still visible. Once I had the sky metered I placed the SB-600 on a stand and shot through my white 43” umbrella to fill in the model. This yielded quite pleasing results.

This next picture was actually shot for print. This is Antonio Alvenida, the Author of “The DriftingBook”. The website is
86 Life

This photo was shot in downtown LA. Luckily Chris was a good little boy and brought his tripod this time. I was able to keep the ISO at 200 this time to keep the noise down. This picture was lit with one speedlight bounced from an umbrella almost directly from model right. I used a technique called “dragging the shutter”, which involves leaving the shutter open longer in order to register some ambient lighting. So for example instead of shooting at a shutter speed of 1/60 I would shoot at 1/10 to register of that ambient light. This is especially useful on night shoots because it is rather dark and cold if no ambient light is registered. But hey, if dark and cold is what you are going for, then have at it.

Back to the shot. I shot this from atop my truck bed in order to get a higher POV. I dragged the shutter in this particular case because I also wanted to emphasize the car in the background as well as the buildings and street lights. To sum up the engineering of this shot,

  1. SB-600 shot from camera left bounced from an umbrella
  2. Shutter dragged to register ambient and emphasize car

Dragging the shutter requires the models to stay still a tad longer but in my opinion it is worth it in the end.

Now we’ll take a look at Two Light Techniques

Incorporating 2 lights in a shot can often dramatically increase the mood or enhance the shot. Remember, the sun can also be used as a second light (this will also be covered).

Hair Lighting


This shot above is a traditional one light “bread and butter” portrait. Very nice, but adding one more light can dramatically increase the photo.


Here I introduced a second light. To put the beam of light tighter in one area, I fashioned a homemade snoot on one of my speedlights. You can learn how to make this on The second light was placed behind the model and pointed it at her hair (hence the name HAIR LIGHT). As you notice it creates highlights in her hair and dramatically increases the mood of the image (this will also be discussed).

The Sun can be your friend. But let’s cover the basics of photography, DON’T SHOOT INTO THE SUN.

Ok, normally that is a good rule of thumb but things can get a litte “hairy” and improvisation can be quite helpful.

Kyle Mohan Lighting
This is Kyle Mohan. I wrote an article and shot pictures for him and his car. To see the whole article and shoot please visit Kyle is a Professional Drifter and I needed a portrait with him and his car. In this case, I used the sun as a hairlight. It added a nice little edge. I metered for 1 and ½ stops underexposed because I wanted to tame the sun because it was shot at mid day. One of my tactics for shooting at this time of the day is to just overpower the sun. I placed the light almost parallel to the left of the driver. No light modifier was used this was shot bare bulb again because of the time of day. I mainly chose the light placement because of the shadow that it cast, a very extreme shadow which gives a “tougher” look (he is a race car driver for crying out loud). He has to look tough. Once again only one speedlight was used here and I used the sun as second light.

Well I’m a staff shooter for and sometimes when I am covering events I end up in some situations that aren’t ideal for photographers in terms of lighting. This case it’s a bikini contest.

Yes, I know, POOR ME shooting a bikini contest. This is an average 23 year old male’s dream. Yep, well too bad I’m a photographer, since I have other things to worry about like quality of light and compositon, and no time to oogle and body parts. As evident in this photo the press section was placed in the worst place possible, I was shooting directly up at the models and into the sun. Fantastic, like I said, a photographer’s nightmare. I was getting decent stuff by timing it when they blocked the sun and popping them with the flash. This is what I did in the photo above. Unfortunately I was not getting a lot of keepers so I decided to take the flash off camera. This is easy using Nikon CLS, just some quick navigation and I was ready to go. No light stand, no problem, I have two hands right. Well with camera in one hand and flash in the other I started metering for exposure. This was taken at 3pm so light was a tad harsh, I decided to use it to my advantage and just nuke the sun. I pointed the camera at the sky set the camera at its fastest sync speed (which is 1/500 for those D70 users out there) and metered for the sky by adjusting the aperture. I then underexposed the scene by 2-stops to give a more dramatic effect. Once that was set, I started firing test shots and adjusting the flash intensity as I went. All in all I ended up firing the flash at full power around f/18 or 22 (I don’t recall the exact number). Here are the results:


Bikini Photography Shots in the Sun

These have more of the mood and look I was going for considering the circumstances.

Now let’s cover Edge Lighting to create some drama and tension.

Some light on the edge not only can add a cool effect but add some tension as in Kyle’s Picture. It gives the picture more mood and character. Take this picture for example, nicely exposed and very evenly lit. It conveys a warm down-to-earth feeling. And edge light was used here. This shot was lit with 2 speedlights shot through two umbrellas. One camera left at 45 degrees. One camera right extreme model also shot through an umbrella. The edge light is used like a hair light but I used an umbrella so it spreads more.

Mary 9115 Dinner Time

Well putting a cigarette in her mouth just totally changes the mood of the picture. Lighting must be adjusted accordingly to accomdate this new “mood”. I wanted to create a shadow with the edge light to emphasize this.

Mary 9124web

That’s all for now folks. All these shots were shot by my Chris Manacop.

Thanks to Tamar for letting me write a post for her blog; sorry if it’s a tad winded.

Photo of the Day: Rainbow Cookies

Rainbow Cookies

Bought on the way home this evening by paper by design on Flickr