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    I have some free time this weekend, as I am not shooting so I can do some home repairs, basically waiting for spackle to dry, lol.
    Little things to make us Better!
    Many of us that read these posts are or trying to be decent photographers, whether you are a amateur, hobbyist or a professional. We all start at zero and work our way up learning new skills and techniques along the way. Constant learning and experimenting are keys to progressing and becoming a better photographer.
    I wanted to start a new thread where we can share our little tips & tricks and techniques that we use to make us stand out and be better photographers overall.  It can be as simple as shooting technique, camera settings, types of gear we use and why we use them, post production workflows, pretty much anything that you think by sharing will help others to be a better photographer or something to add to our bag of tricks.

    I am not asking to give up your trade secrets or the one thing that you do that makes you stand apart, unless you feel okay with sharing it.

    Far too many times have we seen others, usually faux-tographers, just say that all we are is just people that bash and tear apart others without offering anything positive in return.  I think they are wrong, most of us do offer honest non-biased real-world advice, but some just are not open minded enough to accept that constructive criticism and become then they become defensive.

    Maybe this thread can be that part where we give back and prove them wrong, not that we have anything to prove, mind you.  I know from experience that when someone critiques my work, it gives me a different perspective and insight to how others perceive my images.  Knowing this, I believe makes me a better person, let alone a better photographer.

    Now we all know that no one is perfect and that photography is very subjective and objective.   So please share what you will and let us progress as photographers.



    There are benefits to fast prime lenses and high end constant aperture zoom lenses, but there are also costs. We were always told you need a small aperture for landscape, so you can get everything in focus.  Having an idea of the effects of focal length, aperture and subject distance is helpful, both to know when you really need to stop down, and to know if that ultra expensive F/1.2 lens is really going to help you, or just drain your bank account.

    This set of charts was created using the formulas in Wikipedia and values are slightly different than those the DOF calculator provides, but they are close enough and faster to achieve than bouncing between a spreadsheet and calculator.  The focus distance for all these charts is in feet, at half-foot increments, and the DOF that results is in inches.  At 16 mm, DOF increases very quickly and values went off the chart after a few feet from camera to subject.  At 85 mm, DOF increases slowly and even at 10 feet from the subject, there is not very much available.

    This chart was calculated for a 16 mm lens.  I was thinking of the Canon 16-35 F/2.8 L when I did the chart.  The chart would look pretty similar for an 18 mm lens.



    This chart is for 50 mm.  Is it worth spending money on the F/1.2 lens, or is the slightly faster focusing F/1.4 a better deal.



    This chart is for 85 mm.  By now it is easy to see that the longer the lens, the less DOF you have at any distance, and again is the F/1.2 worth twice the price of an F/1.4?



    It’s all about the light. Not gear, not software, not accessories, not props… In fact light can even trump subject matter/content. When the light is right, you can make a steaming pile of pooh look good. Ok, that might be pushing it a little, but study light people. It’s the most important thing that can make or break a shot regardless what you are shooting with or what you are shooting.
    (Yes, there are rare exceptions, but knowing how to shoot in crappy light is just as important if not more important than shooting in good light)

    Composition, study it. Go beyond just the rule of thirds PLEASE! You’ll thank yourself for it. Learn how to use leading lines, golden rules, framing, etc. learn the rules, and how and when to use them, and when and how to break them successfully. They are not there for us, set up as an obstacle or useless joke. They are all there for a reason, and sorry, but you can’t ignore or break them until you know them and how to use them. People really can see through that crap of a short cut.

    Equipment and tools will change, fads and trends will come and go, but light, and composition will always be first and foremost THE most important elements that go into making a good photograph. As technology improves your use of light and composition will be what makes you a photographer and not just a person with a camera. If you don’t study both intently, then all you are doing is clicking, just like everyone else.

    Slow down, and think. Not only while shooting, but
    Edit/cull your images! There’s nothing worse than a port with essentially the same picture over and over again. It looks careless and sloppy, and will confused or even bore your viewers. If you can’t decide between several, sit on it for a day or two before you share. Still not sure? Maybe none of them are worth sharing then. Ask a photographer for input if needed, but don’t just throw everything an anything out there. Not everything you shoot is brilliant. Get over it, and press on. We all suck, why would you think you are any different? It’s more about knowing when something didn’t work, knowing when a shot or shots suck and/or aren’t our best, and/or knowing when a shot works.
    Quality over quantity always


    I don’t believe there are any secrets being kept from anyone.  I think it’s all a matter of hearing what you don’t want to hear vs hearing onky what makes you feel good


    For those who don’t know me, I do portraits and sports action photos, so interacting with people is key to my business.  I am a people person, with the exception of those people surrounding me on the freeways and cutting me off because you missed your exit, the hell with you.

    I digress.
    I will split the two into separate groups so not to confuse, the second to come at a later time to shorten the post.

    P o r t r a i t s :
    There are a few things I consider to be part of my personal toolbox when shooting for portraits, no matter if they are single person, family portraits or professionals to use as head-shots. These are in no particular order as they can develop over time.

    Confidence – no matter if your are a beginner or a seasoned pro, the persona that you project can influence others around you or at least give them the impression that you are in charge and have everything under control, even if you don’t.
    I recently hired a friend to help with an event full well knowing that he was fairly green at event photography, but I knew from his images that he had the know how to pull it off. I gave him some suggested settings and instilled the confidence within him to pull it off, and he did.  At first he was slightly nervous and after telling him to own the scene and become the director, he was golden.  His final shots turned out great, all he needed was that boost of confidence.

    Quickness – Not the type of quickness you may be thinking of, but the type where you have to adjust on the fly when everything turns to poop.  Anyone can shoot in perfect lighting situations and perfect settings, but what happens when all that changes in a matter of seconds? Knowing your camera and gear and knowing how to adjust quickly in unfavorable lighting and/or scene conditions is what separates the men from the boys or women from the girls if your of the X chromosome variety.

    Taking Charge – A second part of the confidence part of the equation really. In very rare situations is it beneficial to let the model or subjects take charge and run the show, unless it is of course, their show. In most cases, the photographer should be running the show, just as the director runs the show on a movie set, not the actors. Taking charge doesn’t mean bossing everyone around, it just means that you are directing the actor [your subject] to get the best shot(s) possible. Now the subject[model] may know what side or pose works best for them, that is fine for them to convey, but you see how the lighting affects that pose and in turn can affect the final image results.  This is why it is very important for you to “own” the session, besides that, it is your name that will be attached to those final images, not matter if they are bad or are awesome.  You want to be remembered for great photos, not the the few that end up here on YNAP.

    Promptness & Efficiency – The main thing in working with people is timing, more exact being on time and delivering on time. Efficiency affects your timing and so in essence being more efficient saves you time. Promptness can affect what your clients or future clients think of you. If the shoot is to be on location, I like to be bit early so I can survey the scene and look for anything that may interfere with the session. This also affords you some time to start setting up any gear that you may need before the client arrives so that the session can start right away. This is where efficiency comes into play. Waiting for the client to arrive or arriving late and then having to set up any gear can take a toll on a client’s patience, unless of course they have to get ready as well. Having your camera ready to go or getting it set up while your client is finalizing helps you to save time. Remember, especially shooting on location, the light can change by the minute, every minute longer it takes you to get ready is another minute of missed opportunities to shoot.

    The second part of efficiency can take part after the shoot is done. Finding a workflow that works for the type of photography you do can really help you get things done faster and return a better overall final result. Instead of going back and forth tweaking and re-tweaking, a good work flow will help in your post production time and help you to deliver your images to your client on time and leave you at ease knowing that any returns will be for basic retouches and not major modifications to the images.

    Know your surroundings – I really don’t mean that you should know where you are and whats around you unless it is going to affect your shots.  Just as you should never fire a gun without knowing what is downrange, you should never shot your camera without seeing what is in your background.  It is your job, as the photographer, to see what may be wrong in a scene before you shoot it.  You shouldn’t rely on post production to make all your corrections, unless you really like being stuck inside working on the computer and not shooting your camera.  If that is the case, by all means, shoot away.

    Remember, that you should get everything as close to what you think is perfect in camera and make final tweaks later in post, not the other way around.  Post production is a great way to make a good photo better and in some cases save a mediocre photo from being trashed.  Seeing distracting items in your background and knowing what is going on around you that may end up in your shot or at the least affect your shot, will definitely help you to get that better shot.

    I know most of this should be common sense, but I have found that common sense is not as common as it used to be. I hope that is serves you well.

    BTW, my spackle is dry, lol. now it’s time for painting…


    I thought after spackle, came grout!


    Twice I have been receiving CC on these forums about my flash-work not being really great and needing to scrap it out of my portfolio. These were usually shoots that were done at the most popular Vegas tourist locations like the Strip or Fremont Street Experience. I’ve been told to use off-camera flash, but because these areas get crowded on top of having security hassle you because you’re a “professional”, it is hard to do any off-camera flash work. For even the most seasoned Vegas photographer, getting a permit to shoot from the casinos is nearly impossible, so we have to sneak and take pictures discreetly.

    Fortunately, there are no security guards at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, but it does get really crowded. Yesterday, I did a quick shoot with a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary and all the odds were against me. It was crowded and it was windy,  so setting up  a speed light on a stand was not an option. It’s a hassle dealing with the crowds and carrying a speedlight stand and sandbags.  Also, there was no one who could help me and become  a human lightstand and hold my speedlight. So my only option was to use my speedlight on my camera and a small 11×7 softbox. Well these are the pictures. Do you think a flash bracket would have helped?



    Ahh the lovely Las Vegas sign.  I got married just up the street from this sign at the Little Church of the West.

    Sadly alarnold, when dealing with popular spots like the Las Vegas sign, you have to make some sacrifices or deal with it.  Wind is one thing, crowds are another.  It may be a hassle lugging a soft-box and some sandbags to that location, but in reality, parking is just down the street.  Setting up the soft-box and other lighting may have actually helped you in this case.  I would have told the people that this was for a magazine spread or something like that, they they might have been a little more helpful in getting out of the way, maybe.

    Vegas never sleeps, but people do, If the above dod not work I would have scheduled it for 2-4 am shot when most of the tourists are either too drunk to get out to the sign or dropping major coinage in the slots.

    It would be the same for any major attraction, you either shoot with the people in it or shoot when there is no one there.  For instance, I shot the Walt Disney Concert Hall at midnight.  Why?  Because it is right smack in the middle of downtown LA and at midnight the only people out are drunks and police, perfect for shooting, in a photography way.

    As for security, losing a $20 bill in their hands doesn’t hurt.  It’s not a bribe, if they found what you dropped in front of them, get it.

    This falls under my Know Your Surroundings from the above post.  It is easy for anyone to get a shot when the conditions are in your favor, but  knowing how to work with un-favorable conditions and making it work will set you apart.  It’s not going to be easy, mind you, it never is.


    @ CC – in this case spackle is for the drywall.  I sanded it all the other day and came out looking like a powdered donut.

    I know your in Canada so maybe spackle carries a different meaning.


    I have a question, maybe you all could help. What do you do when lighting is spotty and harsh, but you don’t have a great option to modify it. Say a wedding. I was at one this past week where the wedding was at 4 in Arizona, no clouds, but the area where the ceremony had some shade. What ended up happening is the bride was in shade, the groom bright sunlight and the officiant was half and half. Trying to work that through in my head was horrible haha.


    @Bill, if I had it my way, I would have done the shoot an hour before or near dawn! I’ve done shoots at the sign, but only in the daytime, and I tell people we need to go really early. This was a surprise shoot that she set up for her husband and she had other things scheduled, so it HAD to be close to sunset. I know that the parking lot is close, but it’s small, and when I arrived, it was full to the point where the line was slowing down traffic.

    As for setting shoots on the Strip, I try to do exterior shots as much as possible. That way, by the time security gets to me, I’m already done shooting. So far, I had no problems with security in Downtown because the last time I went there, my husband was my human lightstand.

    Bill, I may need to get your personal email because I would like to know the ins and outs of shooting in the LA area. I’ve been wanting to shoot at Griffith Park at night and the lights at LACMA. I frequently travel to the area, as my family still lives there.


    Alarnold, you can hit me up through my flickr page thingy.  LA is one of my more favored places to shoot, but not my local area, but more than welcome to help out.  Also, the “Urban Lights” by Chris Burden, wonderful place to shoot, but also full of people.Here were a couple I did from there, nothing done but RAW adjustments.

    Lights 1
    Lights 2

    – If this was during the ceremony, that is a good one. Without knowing the full layout and what you had available it’s easy to just say use this or do that. You’re are kind of stuck there if you have no say on the positioning of the wedding party. Using a flash for fill is going to blow out what skin is exposed to the already harsh sun but it will fill in the shadows and using a scrim may not be a good idea during the ceremony. After the ceremony, that is a totally different story. Then at that point re-position your party to more appropriate lighting or use the scrim.
    Just curious, were you the”official” photographer or were you just trying to get good photos during the ceremony?


    @Bill — There is a strong possibility the first time I ran into the word, it was used incorrectly, or I misinterpreted the usage as the process of laying tiles was described as spackle & grout.  I have always assumed the spackle part was the glue holding the tiles and grout filled the space between.  I see in the American usage, anyway, that Spackle is a brand of drywall crack filler!

    For what it’s worth, the last drywall crack filler I used, came in a bucket from the local Home Depot.  After drying it was still water soluble so a damp sponge could be used as sandpaper.  The sponge was rinsed in a bucket of water and the excess ended up in the bucket.  This was dust free.

    The last time I had contractors doing drywall work, they sanded up a storm!  The dust is so fine it just goes through regular vacuums.  They are expensive, but Dyson vacuums separate almost all the dust before it gets to the final set of filters.


    @CC – yes, had do do another skim coat of spackle, had some slight imperfections I did not like, so I just got done sanding, again. I tell no lies, that I look like a powdered donut when all is said and done. 3 filter masks so far and I still have white gritty boogers, sorry, no real other way of saying it.
    As for the usage of spackle, it may be used for tile, not sure. I always have called it thincoat, but I think that may be a brand name, like Bandaid bandages.
    BTW, I got mine at Home Depot and yes water-sanding is much easier but can sometimes leave the surface uneven. Mine is overhead, so the water would be running down my arm, and I hate that.

    I have a rudimentary system of getting rid of the dust. Open the door and place a large fan in it and blow it towards the neighbors that I don’t like, lol. I am sure with all my efforts, that I will be dusting like crazy for the next few months.
    My wife is in London at the moment, so I have limited time to tear up the house without her intervention.


    Alarnorld, what you want is a ring flash. It is the only on camera light that really works when shooting people and you want a really nice look, unless you want to spend a lot on a proper ring flash get an orbis adaptor you stick a speedlight in http://enlightphotopro.com/orbis-flash/ . Because the light is coming from exactly the same axis as the lens is you don’t get the same flashed look you get with a speedlight on top of the camera. If you are limited by wind, why not stick two speedlights on those little plastic stands they often come with? Even if the light is low and pretty harsh it’ll look better than on camera flash most of the time


    Please forgive my spelling as I have been consuming mass amounts of adult beverages tonight.

    Not sure a ring-flash would have done her justice for this type of shoot given her distance and location. Not trying to start a debate with you Nesgran, but Just going by her final results. Obviously, she knows the area better then I do, I am vaguely familiar with it, since I have been there a few times over the years.

    A ring flash is great for those up close an personal portraits and general overall lighting, after all it is a strobe, be it from a flash or an actual strobe unit. The ring-flash has a 2 fold design, one to provide direct lighting to cancel out any opposing shadows and 2, to create a nice circular catch light in the eyes of the subject.

    Not saying you are wrong Negran, but given he distance to the subjects, not sure if she would have fully benefitted from using a ring-flash opposed to a standard speed-lite.
    I went on a shoot and actually forgot to pack my strobes but did pack my ring-flash, overall it is a strobe so it wound up working out. Not fully as I intended, but it still worked. So the ring-flash may have helped, maybe not, doesn’t hurt to have an extra tool in your toolbox.

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