Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shooting for “Stranger than Paradise”

“Stranger than Paradise” is a very warm place located at Aglantzia, Cyprus. The whole bar is crafted within a real rock mountain and it’s truly amazing! When photographing the place we wanted to highlight that feature, which is the one that makes it unique among other places of its kind. A special technique, called HDR (High Dynamic Range photography) was applied, in order to bring out the structure and the wild beauty of rock formation. At the same time we wanted to demonstrate the warmth and hospitality of the place through some engaging composition. 
As always, our greatest reward is when the customer is delighted with the final result. We had a really great time! (click on the image to enlarge it)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Slow Shutter Speeds

Luna parks are good subjects to experiment with slow shutter speeds. Long exposures require a steady camera:
1. Mount your camera on a tripod.
2. Connect a cable release.
3. Set “Mirror Lock Up”.
4. If your lens comes with a stabilizer, make sure to deactivate it (these systems search for vibration to compensate and if they don’t find any, they create one).
Your photographs will look much more interesting if you take them during the blue hour of the day (it begins about half an hour after sunset and lasts about 20 – 25 minutes). During that period of time the sky turns into a beautiful blue. After that period the sky becomes completely black.
Set your camera to “Manual” mode and the metering mode to “Spot”. Point your camera at 45 degrees up the sky and zero out the harsh mark on the metering bar. Remember to use a small aperture and low ISO in order to have the best quality, maximum depth-of-field and a long shutter speed.

Reframe and take the shoot!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why you want the lens hood on all the time

Most lenses are shipped with a dedicated hood. Its purpose is to diminish lens flare. Lens flare is caused by light rays hitting the lens elements diagonally. As a result, the shape of these elements appears in the final image. Sometimes lens flare is no so obvious; you may not see such shapes into the image, but you get a low contrast image. Because of their design, ultra wide angle lenses are prone to lens flare more than other lenses. It’s very difficult (almost impossible) to shoot into the sun with a wide angle lens and not to get lens flare. Sometimes you can use this “effect” creatively (in fact, Photoshop has a filter to add lens flare in post-processing), but most of the time you want to avoid it.
So what you can do to avoid lens flare?
1. Keep the lens hood on all the time, even in situations where no intense light is present. I see many photographers taking pictures with the lens hood reversed in storage position. I can’t believe you are so lazy to do so. It’s the best thing you can to do to decrease the contrast of your images! The only time when you want to remove the lens hood is when you are going to use your camera’s pop-up flash. Pop-up flashes are located just above the lens, so when they fire the lens hood causes a shade that is present in the final image.
2. If lens hood is not enough you can further up use your hands, cap or whatever you have available to block light rays from reaching the lens diagonally.
3. Avoid shooting directly into the sun/ light source or at near angles, especially if you are using a wide angle lens.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Update your Nikon Software

Owners of Nikon equipment should check this page periodically in order to keep track of software  updates. The installation process is very easy and straightforward. Just follow the instructions given.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The expression of feelings

We all strive for perfection in our photography. We are looking for the best camera our money can buy, fast & sharp lenses, post-processing software, etc., in an effort to create the “perfect” image and we tend to forget that imperfection has its own beauty. I can’t remember who said it, but the problem with digital photography is perfection. Stock agencies are full with what I call “plastic” images; images that have no flaws. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not against stock images (they are products of great imagination, high knowledge and expertise), but most of them lack soul. The only “problem” is that they don’t have any problem, they are just perfect and impress the viewer’s eyes. 
Stand back a little bit and try to bring in mind an old photograph you have seen. An old, maybe B&W photograph, with a lot of grain, low dynamic range and soft focus. Can you describe your feelings? It’s not perfect at all, but it has uniqueness. It speaks to your soul because it moves beyond the boundaries of technicalities and freely focuses on the message it wants to communicate. It’s all about that message; nothing more, nothing less.
The above image was taken with a “lensbaby control freak”. It’s a cheap manual tilt-and-shift kind of lens. It looks and feels like a toy. It’s image quality has nothing to do with my expensive Nikkor 2.8 lenses and the results you get are inconsistent. It’s been a while since the last time I photographed something with enthusiasm. I got tired with sharp lenses, fast autofocus systems, advance metering, photoshop, etc. There are times when I want to express my inner, to put just a 50mm lens on my camera, to meter and focus manually, to see the word with different eyes; my eyes. Dreams aren’t sharp; they don’t even have a distinct subject. Photography is like poetry; it’s about exclusion, it’s about creating your own words, it’s about the expression of feelings. Why do we tend to forget this, I don’t know …  

Friday, November 12, 2010

Photographing Kids (capturing the moment)

Kids are innocent and deliver genuine expressions, but that comes with a cost; they won’t pose or stand still for long periods of time as they get bored quickly. It’s important to have in mind that kids love to play, and try to make the photoshoot look as pleasant as possible. Here are some tips:
1. Make you settings before you place kids in the scene: e.g. use a gray card to meter, or some other person, decide about the aperture, speed, ISO and filters you are going to use, etc. Don’t get the kids involve at this stage, because until you are finished with your settings, they will get bored.
2. Give them time: Don’t rush things out. Kids need their time; they eat frequently and sleep more frequently (!), but when they finish their nap they wake up with very good mood and energy.
3. Make photoshoot a game: give them candies (ask parents’ permission), play with them, ask them silly questions, have toys with you that make stupid sounds and make them laugh.
4. Use a wide aperture & focus on the eyes: A common practice when shooting portraits is to use a wide aperture to throw the disturbing background out of focus. You can use an extreme aperture like f1.4, which will throw everything except the focus point out of focus, but as long as you keep the eyes sharp, you have a winner. Always focus on the eyes; you have to have a very good excuse for not to. It’s also a good practice to use a telephoto lens which compresses facial characteristics and gives a flattering look to the portraits.    
5. Choose a neutral picture control: Don’t use vivid or any other picture control setting that delivers high contrast and saturated colors; skin tones have to look natural.
6. Capture the moment: At the end of the day the photos that will stand out will be the ones that manage to capture the moment (an innocent expression, a true laugh, love). Be ready for them when they show up, because they will; don’t spend time looking at the LCD screen at the back side of your camera; instead look at the action while happening. As a professional photographer you were hired to get these moments, not for taking snapshots.
7. Post-processing: When shooting in RAW you have great control in post-processing, while maintaining the highest image quality. Fix any white-balance and color issues, smooth skin tones and remove any unpleasant blemishes, apply sharpening to the eyes, but be careful so that your images don’t look unnatural; you don’t want skin to look like plastic and the eyes look glassy. Also try converting some of the images to black & white (Don’t just use the default settings, as they will result in a gray image. Black & white images that catch the eye have strong contrast and “extreme” blacks and highlights). Be aware that not all images are suitable for black & white, but when it works, it gives a documentary feeling.