A guide to two point lighting for city street portraits

By Damien Lovegrove

Contemporary portrait and X-Photographer Damien Lovegrove is no stranger to shooting portraits on-location. In this useful article, he gives you all the tips you need to create his two point lighting set up, specifically when shooting portraits on city streets.


The Equipment

Continue reading A guide to two point lighting for city street portraits

10 Lighting Tips To Up Your Portrait Game

By Dave Kai Piper

It has been said many times that photography is about light, which is true but it is also about shape, shadow and creating story, drama and emotion. Getting to grips with how you can shape light and how your camera can control light, is one of the stepping stones to unlocking more of your skill as a photographer. Here are 10 tips on how to up your portrait game using lighting. Continue reading 10 Lighting Tips To Up Your Portrait Game

Tips for Handheld Macro Photography

guest-blogger-strip-blackBy Nicole S. YoungBumblebeeMacro photography is an fascinating way to get a close-up look at everyday items. Photographers will oftentimes use a tripod to create their photos, but in some cases it is necessary, and also more convenient, to hand-hold the camera to create these images. However with hand-held macro photography you will also face certain challenges along the way. Here are some tips to help get you started creating your own beautiful macro photographs.

Camera gear used in this article:

  • FUJIFILM X-T1 Camera
  • FUJIFILM X-T2 Camera
  • FUJINON XF60mmF2.4 R  Macro Lens
  • Neewer CN-216 Dimmable LED Panel

Add More Light

I like to photograph macro images in the shade or on cloudy days so that I have a nice even light spread across the scene. However, sometimes the existing light is not quite enough for the camera settings required to get a good image (a high shutter speed and lower ISO). To compensate, I will oftentimes use a simple and inexpensive LED light that can either be attached to the hot-shoe of the camera, or held off to the side. This not only adds a good amount of fill light, but it also will help add catchlights to whatever you are photographing.

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The Neewer CN-216 Dimmable LED Panel adds a nice fill-light to a macro photo without being too harsh.

Focus Manually

When photographing something that is moving, just like I did with these images of bees, it was very difficult to use auto-focus. The bees were moving to quickly and positioned themselves out of focus before I could even press the shutter. To work around this challenge, I decided to pre-focus the lens and moved the camera back-and-forth until I could see the bee in focus, and then I pressed the shutter and fire off several consecutive frames. You will end up with a lot of throwaway images with this technique, but you will also have a higher chance of getting one of the images from that set in focus.

Here’s a step-by-step on how I performed this technique:

  1. First, I pre-focused the lens so that the focus point was an appropriate distance from the lens for the subject (in this case, a bee on a flower).
  2. Next, I set my drive mode to “continuous high”.
  3. Once I found a good subject (a bee on a flower), I moved the camera back and forth on the bee until I could see it come into focus on the preview on the back of my camera. As I saw it pop into focus, I pressed the shutter and created several images (with the hopes that one of them is in focus).

Focus on the Eyes

If photographing a bug or small animal, it’s important that you focus on the eyes. Small bugs can move around quickly, and so it can be tempting to feel like you are getting a good photo if the creature is facing away from you. While it won’t hurt anything to fire off a few photos (pixel are cheap, after all), a photo of the eyes of a bee, for example, is much more compelling than a bee butt. Have some patience and position yourself so that you can create the best creature portrait as possible.

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This photo is in focus, but it’s also the wrong end of the bee! (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/680 sec at F2.4, ISO 400)

 

 

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Your best bet is to position yourself so that you can photograph the eyes of your subject. This image shows just how detailed the eyes of a bumblebee can be when zoomed in close. (FUJIFILM X-T1, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/1000 sec at F5, ISO 3200)

Find a Clean Background

Creatively speaking, the composition of your photo is going to be one of the most important aspects. You might have a “technically perfect” photo, but if it does not look good compositionally then it it loses its appeal. I find that one of the easiest ways to get a good composition is to angle myself so that the background is clean and not busy. There are a few different ways you can accomplish this:

  • Move your camera (or yourself) lower to position the frame at eye-level (instead of shooting down). This will help create a blurred background to separate the subject from its surroundings.
  • Find a subject that has contrasting elements behind it so that it stands out.
  • Use a wide aperture to add more blur to the background.
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The bee in this photo is on a very distracting background, and makes the image less pleasing. (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/420 sec at F2.4, ISO 400)

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To get a better photo, I waited for the bee to move and positioned myself so that the background behind the bee was less busy. (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/320 sec at F2.4, ISO 400)

Use a Fast Shutter Speed

With hand-held photography it’s important to make sure that the shutter speed is set fast enough to prevent camera shake. A good rule of thumb is to set the speed to at least the same number as the focal length of your lens. For example, I was using a XF60mm lens for these photos, so I would want to be sure that the shutter speed was set to no slower than 1/60th of a second to make sure that I don’t add motion blur to the photos. However I also needed to make sure that the shutter speed was fast enough to freeze the action of the bees as they moved around. For these photos I found that a shutter speed of 1/250 (and typically higher) was a safe setting.

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At 1/30th of a second, the shutter speed is WAY too slow to both hand-hold the bee and photograph it without moving. As a result, there is a significant amount of motion blur in this image. (FUJIFILM X-T2, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/30 sec at F4, ISO 200)

Bumblebee

Using a faster shutter speed, such as 1/500th of a second, gives you a better chance of getting a photo without any movement. (FUJIFILM X-T1, FUJINON XF60mm Lens, 1/500 sec at F4, ISO 640)

The intensity of the light in the environment you are photographing will determine if this is going to be an issue. If there is a lot of sunshine or it is very bright (even in a shaded area), then you may be in the clear. However if you do need to increase the shutter speed, here are some tips to help you add more light to the scene:

  • Try adding an additional light source (similar to what I mentioned at the beginning of the article).
  • Increase the ISO setting, or set it to “auto” and let the camera decide for you.
  • Use a wide aperture, such as ƒ/2.8 or wider. Doing this will allow more light to the sensor, but it will also increase the blur and narrow your depth of field (the area that is in focus), so it may be more difficult to get an in-focus photograph.

About the Authornicole_s_young_portraitNicole S. Young is a full-time photography educator living in Portland, Oregon. She owns and operates the Nicolesy Store where she creates and sells photography training, presets, and textures for photographers of all levels. Nicole has also been a stock photographer for over 10 years and licenses her work primarily through Stocksy United.

X-Pro2 Portraits with The Woz, Apple’s Co-Founder

Guest Blogger strip BLACK

By Dan Taylor

It’s not every day that you get the chance to photograph a person who is directly involved in creating a product that has changed the world. And it’s even rarer to have this person’s undivided attention for a few minutes just before getting mic’d up to take the stage.Dan Taylor photographing Steve Wozniak for Fujifilm - Image by Dan Taylor - dan@heisenbergmedia.com-1So, when I first got word that I’d have exactly this opportunity to photograph Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in Manchester, England, at Business Rocks, I knew I had to be prepared and have everything ready to go the minute he came out of the green room. Striving for absolute image perfection, my choice of gear was clear: The Fujifilm X-Pro2 and XF56mmF1.2 R.

While I’m generally a fan of the SLR body format, e.g. my X-T1, utilizing the new technology and features in the rangefinder format X-Pro2 was too good to pass up. And when combined with the XF56mmF1.2 R (in this case at F8) the results are razor sharp, crystal clear, and absolutely stunning. I’d even venture to say that the XF56mm is the best headshot lens I’ve ever used.

Knowing that I had very little time with Steve, I had prepared my lighting setup in advance, and fired off a few quick test images with a colleague. Given that our time together was to be quite short, I knew that simplicity would be key. Building on this simplicity, I found a plain white wall between the green room and stage and used a slow(er) shutter speed to capture the ambient lighting to help illuminate the background.

Initially, I had a black background setup, but decided at the last minute to go with white. With the black background I could use a fast shutter speed, as ambient light wasn’t needed or wanted. However, with the introduction of the white background, I did want to capture the ambient light generated by the speedlights. At f/8, a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second was just right.

For my headshot with The Woz, I used 1 key and 1 fill triggered via a wireless transceiver in an off axis clamshell lighting setup. The key light is diffused inside a Lastolite Umbrella Box, and the fill light diffused via a standard umbrella.

Depending on the look you’re trying to create, the fill light might not even be necessary. In this case, I’ve used it to fill and soften the shadows the key light would be casting.Dan Taylor and Steve Wozniak headshot  for Fujifilm - Image by Dan Taylor - dan@heisenbergmedia.com-1When shooting with speedlights and any FUJIFILM X Series camera, one crucial menu option you want to turn off is the Preview Exp./WB in Manual Mode. If this option is on, you’ll be presented with things exactly the way the sensor sees things, normally a good thing, but here, without compensating for the light the speedlights are going to generate.

Right. Settings set, lights lit, The Woz ready to go. Let’s make some magic!

I generally turn to humor to get the ball rolling, and always have a joke or two ready. I’ve got a few really, really bad one liners that are just so horrible, there’s really no choice but not to laugh at them, and so far, they haven’t let me down. With The Woz, I actually had to resort to joke number two, as he gave me the punch line to joke number one before I could even finish the sentence. Ever the prankster.  Steve Wozniak for Fujifilm - Image by Dan Taylor - dan@heisenbergmedia.com-1All in all, I’d estimate that Steve and I did 4 shots together in a time period totaling less than a minute. And even though our time together was short, The Woz has been one of my favorite sessions yet. Not only is he an iconic figure, but a true gentleman, as for when I sent him the images we did together, he replied within minutes, stating, “It was great to watch you work. I love seeing great technical skills of all kinds.”

Thank YOU Steve for a great collaboration!

For me, when it comes to quality, portability, and forward thinking, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is the camera that always makes it in my bag.

Using white balance to take better photos

white balance

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerWhite Balance is a term that may seem foreign to most photographers. Especially as a setting that you could adjust that would make a drastic impact on your photos.

If you ever have taken a photo inside with fluorescent lights as your main source of lighting, you may notice a slight “bluish” look to your photos.

Why did this happen? All light sources have different colour tones based on a temperature reading scale ranging from red (warm) to blue (cold) known as Kelvin (K).

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Your choice of lighting will impact the overall look of your image and the actual colours shown in your photo. A photo mainly lit with a candle will give off a slightly deep orange colour tone. Likewise a photo mainly lit by fluorescent lights will give off a light bluish colour tone. Usually undetectable by the naked eye, we only really notice the difference when we look and compare photos side by side.

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The term ‘White balance’ (WB) is the process of removing unnatural colour tones in photos. All FUJIFILM Digital cameras have ‘White Balance’ controls to help change or correct these colour tones.

Why would a photographer need to change the camera’s white balance setting? Depending on the subject and lighting source used, a photographer can adjust the camera’s white balance setting to properly show colours as the naked eye sees them or to change the “mood” of a particular photo.


So why experiment with white balance?

You may find that the Auto White Balance setting corrects colour tones when you don’t want it to. This can happen with sunsets or landscapes, where the colour of the light is an integral part of the picture. By using one of the preset settings, you can better control the colour tone of your  photos based on the light source used. In addition to one of these “preset” settings, most FUJIFILM cameras offer the ability to pick a custom white balance setting also known as colour temperature (measured in Kelvin).

Here are some of the most commonly found and used white balance settings in Fujifilm cameras:

Auto – this is where the camera takes continuous readings of the light sources and makes adjustments automatically to the colour tone of the photo.

Daylight/Sunny/Fine – not all cameras have this setting because it sets things as fairly ‘normal’ white balance settings.

Tungsten/Incandescent– this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors when traditional incandescent lighting is used. It generally cools down the colors in photos.

Fluorescent – this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots.

Shade – the light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up a little.

Colour Temperature – This option allows you to select the colour temperature using the measurement known as Kelvin, this gives you even more creative control. And without getting too technical here’s our handy hint: If your photos are coming out yellow/orange turn the temperature down (lower number value, for example 2500K) and if they are a bluish colour tone, turn the temperature up (higher number value, for example 8300K). You will soon pick up what lighting environments are around which value of Kelvin.

The other option you have is to shoot in RAW, select Auto White Balance and adjust later in post processing. This does give you more flexibility after the shoot but will add more time to your processing, plus a bit more technical know-how to get best results.

As you can see above the white balance chosen for a shot can make a huge difference to the feel of an image and in some cases what season the image was taken in.

We hope you have found this tutorial helpful and that it will get you out and about experimenting with white balance.

And as an added bonus, check out FujiGuy Billy as he shows you how to get your White Balance settings up and running in camera here.

 

Natural vs artificial light

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w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerLight. There’s a lot of it about. And as photographers it’s up to us to harness it in every shot we take.

You may have a personal preference as to which light source you prefer, be it natural or artificial and, despite the combative title of this blog, we’re not for one minute going to suggest that one is better than the other. Instead, we’d suggest that it’s what you’re shooting that counts and should make your choice accordingly.

By way of demonstration, I set up a couple of still-life images, lighting one using artificial light from a humble desk lamp and the other using diffused daylight on a cloudy day. Along with the lighting being switched, I also changed the subject, but nothing else – the background is the same as is the kit – a tripod-mounted X-T1 with the spectacular XF90mm F2.

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Shooting in artificial light

The beauty of artificial light is that it’s completely controllable. Even a simple desk lamp, like the one I’ve used here, can easily be moved around so you can direct the light where you want it. The same, of course, applies to flash, LED and fluorescent light sources. Compared to daylight, artificial light sources are comparatively small, meaning the light they emit is more harsh. You can diffuse it or you could simply play to these strengths, as I did here to light my spanner collection. Metallic objects – among others – are great for this kind of light, which throws deep shadows on the opposite side to the light source. For the collection of images below, I simply moved the light around the set up to get a variety of different effects.

As well as being a harsher light source, artificial light like my desk lamp tends to be less powerful, so you may need to increase your ISO if you want to shoot hand-held or – as I did here – mount the camera on a tripod. You also need to consider your white balance settings, but we’ll come to that a bit later.

Shooting in daylight

Putting my desk lamp to one side for a minute, I moved on to shooting with daylight, using a large, north-facing window in my house as the light source and opening the curtains completely. North-facing windows are best because no matter what time of day you shoot, the light will always be soft as the sun will never shine directly through it. I had no such problems on this dreary day. Daylight like this is lovely and soft, so it lends itself perfectly to flattering portraiture. With no willing human subjects on hand, I switched to this gerbera, which benefits just as well from the diffused light.

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I started by setting up with the window directly behind me, which created the shot above. It’s OK, but the light is very flat and the background is a little more prominent than I would have liked. To solve this, I moved the flower round by 90° to help create some shadows between the petals and tried again. Much nicer – there’s some improved definition on the stem of the flower and the background is darker!

The daylight was a little brighter than my artificial light set up, but not by a huge margin and, wanting to keep the ISO down, I shot tripod-mounted again. With a human subject, I’d have pushed the ISO higher. Despite the fact that I was shooting within one metre of a floor-to-ceiling window, daylight levels do drop off quickly as you move away from the window. To counteract this, I used an A2 sheet of white card as a reflector to push light into the left hand side of the flower.

A question of white balance

Every light source has its own colour temperature, which is measured in Kelvin, essentially this means that different types of light have different colours. The human eye automatically corrects for this, but cameras can’t so you need to make sure you set the correct white balance setting to make sure colours are accurate under different lighting conditions. It’s tempting to shoot with white balance on Auto, but this one size fits all approach can get caught out. Which is why I always change the white balance setting myself when I shoot. Shooting in Raw is also an option as you can change the white balance setting in post production; a luxury that isn’t available with JPEGs.

Your X series camera comes with a variety of preset white balance options – daylight, incandescent, shady, fluorescent etc – in the first instance, use one of these. But the X-series cameras also have a Custom white-balance option which helps you get super-accurate colours 100% of the time.

Using it is simple, just frame the shot as you want it, select the Custom white-balance mode and then follow the on-screen instructions. Essentially, you need to hold a piece of white paper or card in the same lighting as the subject and then let the camera do the rest. I did that on both set ups, as well as used some presets, the results of which are shown here. Of course, there’s no right or wrong here, you can simply pick the shot you like the best, but it’s well worth playing about with white balance settings. Give it a go, whatever lighting you’re using!

For more help with white balance & settings please find our dedicated tutorial here.

Initial impressions of the Nissin i40

Nissin kindly sent me one of their much talked-about flashes – the i40 – to test out. I plan to write a full review of the flash in mid-February but before then I just wanted to share my initial thoughts. This is only going to be brief as I wanted to get this up as soon as possible as I know a lot of people are interested in this Flash for the X-Series.

Unboxing

Straight out of the box it is very nicely presented, coming with a great little case, a stand and even a diffuser (not always the case with other manufacturers).

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Usage

So what else is there to do when you get a new flash and live seemingly in the middle of nowhere…. Selfies obviously! I set up the X100s with the TCL-X100 attached on a tripod and had the i40 flash on a light stand with a little softbox attached. The camera and flash were connected by a TTL (through the lens metering) cable so allowing TTL. I moved the flash around a little bit and I’m pretty impressed with the flash (the same can’t be said for the model, what’s up with the constant smirk!).

The first image was taken with the camera exposure compensation set at 0ev. With the flash to the left of the camera and slightly higher. 2015/01/img_0699.png
The next two images were taken with the camera exposure compensation set at -1ev. You can see that the background is much darker compared to the above images. 2015/01/img_0704.png
For this image the flash was moved closer to the camera and a little higher so the flash was falling straight down onto my face. 2015/01/img_0705.png

Conclusion

As mentioned before, I will put together a more comprehensive review of the flash in mid-February once I am back from Romania, where I will be putting this little flash through it’s paces, photographing an Ice Hotel for Untravelled Paths.

Until then I have to say that I am very happy with this small but powerful flash. It looks a great addition to the X-Series with the flash balancing well with the cameras.

Where to buy

Click here to see retailers selling the Nissin i40 Fujifilm fit

Illumination Part 5 of 5 – Location Portraits using Flash and Natural Light

We’ve been working with professional portrait photographer Damien Lovegrove to bring you some videos that will inspire you to get more from your camera and help you take your photography to the next level.

Part 5 of 5

Damien finds that the available natural light in the garden is enough for close up portraits of Claire, but decides to use a flash system to brighten up some wider shots and provide some more “sun light”.

We hope you enjoy and please feel free to share with other people who might also like it.

About Damien

Damien Lovegrove is a renowned photographer and lighting guru. He specialises in portrait and beauty photography and teaches professional photographers his craft across the world.

Read more

Illumination Part 4 of 5 – Location Portraits using Flash and Natural Light

We’ve been working with professional portrait photographer Damien Lovegrove to bring you some videos that will inspire you to get more from your camera and help you take your photography to the next level.

Part 4 of 5

Damien goes down into a darker basement to make use of the ambient light to create some wonderful portraits.

We hope you enjoy and please feel free to share with other people who might also like it.

About Damien

Damien Lovegrove is a renowned photographer and lighting guru. He specialises in portrait and beauty photography and teaches professional photographers his craft across the world.

Read more