Recipe for Family Fun Shots

This works even better when behind a big tree


It’s almost impossible to keep from smiling when doing this!


The standard pyramid.  Note the lighting BEHIND… then expose for the FACES.  Just a pop of fill flash would have made this one even better.
Be sure to get down there with ’em!
Sunset Silhuoette? Meter for the background and finish with a levels adjustment in post.

Recipe for Flash with a Black Background

flash on black

Flash on a black background is as easy as it gets:

1.  Buy a cheap black bed sheet large enough to cover the area behind your subject (note, the cheaper the better…  better sheets with higher thread-counts tend to reflect light.  You don’t want that).

2.  Find a room with a low white ceiling.

3.  Slide a speedlight flash into the hot shoe of your camera.

4.  Turn the lights in the room WAY down.

5.  Pose your subject and take the shot

6.  If your subject is overexposed, turn FEC (flash exposure compensation) down.  If underexposed, turn it up.   Or if your flash is set on manual, make the adjustment there as needed.

Recipe for Eliminating Motion Blurring

The best solution for motion-blurring is to use a tripod whenever possible.  For those times when you can’t and have to shoot hand-held though, shutter speed is the only tool to use.

Pretend you’re looking through a pair of binoculars with about a 7 power magnification at a bird in your front yard.  It jiggles around a little bit as you try to hold it still, but you can make out the bird well enough, and the jiggling isn’t too bad.  Now imagine that the bird flies down the street and lands in another tree there.  You bring out a telescope with a 200 power magnification and try to hold it on the bird.  You’re disappointed to find that without resting the telescope on some solid object, there’s no way you can hold it still enough to see the bird.  The reason for that is because when you increased the magnification of the bird, you also increased the magnification of your movements and shaking.   What can you do?  Either get the telescope on a tripod, or find some way to cut “a thinner slice of time”.

Lens length is how magnification is measured in photography lenses.  The longer the lens: the greater the magnification.  Therefore the longer the lens, the thinner the slice of time that’s needed to eliminate motion blurring… thinner slice of time of course means faster shutter speed.

A “reciprocal” in math is the number that when multiplied with the orginal number equals one.  So if you’re shooting with a 300mm lens, your MINIMUM shutter speed should be 1/300th of a second.  For a 500mm lens it should be not slower than 1/500th, and so forth.  For zoom lenses, just check the setting you’ve chosen on the side of the lens body, then switch to shutter priority (S or Tv on Canon cameras) and choose your shutter speed accordingly.

And by the way, about the “never slower than 1/60th”?  Okay, but why not hold yourself to a higher standard and say “never slower than 1/100th”?

Recipe for a Product Shoot

The assumptions for this shoot are that the subjects aren’t moving, that you’re shooting from a tripod, and that you have control of the lighting – more or less.

Lens:  Best glass you have in the 75-200mm range.  Research minimum distance from subject requirement and set your tripod accordingly.

Shooting mode:  APERTURE PRIORITY (Av on Canon cameras)

Aperture setting:  F8-F16

ISO:  100  (If neither the camera nor the subject are moving, why not choose the most noise-free setting?)

Shutter:  Any    (Let the camera decide, but remember that even road traffic can shake a floor sometimes.)

Exposure Bracketing:  Product shots like these are the perfect time to use AEB.  I routinely bracket everything when on a tripod and shooting still subjects.

Background details:  Pure white sweep if trying to avoid editing.  Otherwise various shades of white or gray if planning to cut out the background in post.  NEVER use colors unless required to.

Misc Notes:  Remember to check the website or other location where the shots will appear.  Be sure a decision-maker is on-site or available via email to approve shots.  Zoom to check focus before going to the next shot.  Use a gray card when colors are involved, and consider post-it notes to yourself in the frame when compositing multiple shots.