Ask a photo instructor any photography question you want about photography/lighting

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
Hey guys, I'm a photographer/photography instructor in Atlanta. Been doing it for about a decade now and teach a bunch of professionals and amateurs about it. Feel free to ask any question you want about photography on this thread and I'll leave a comment.

Some quick notes

  • Yes I am experience, but that doesn't mean I'm perfect. I'll answer as objectively as possible on technical questions, but on the art side it's completely subjective.
  • I do a LOT of studio lighting classes so please feel free to ask about lighting, which is the most important thing about photography
  • My main focus is protraiture, so most answers will be given with portraiture in mind. But please feel free to ask about any subject.
  • Fucking geeky as hell, so hardware and software questions are a major source of happiness for me.
  • No beating around the bush (Snort), I have done a lot of adult content photography but not pornography. More budoir, art nudes, and stuff like that. I am PERFECTLY fine answering questions of this content, but if you are shy about it feel free to PM me and I will answer your questions about this type of photography.

There are many other H members probably as experienced or with their own insight. Feel free to chime in if you want.

For those who need reference.

my website is : http://trentchau.500px.com

My photography equipment - Canon 5D Mark III and 6D, with 10 lenses. I currently use a mixture of Elinchrom, Norman, Paul C Buff Einstein lights.

Why free advice? - Because the reason I love teaching photography is it's a way to witness humanity. When I asked myself when I was younger how I could help make this world better I realized being a doctor, or a lawyer...was well..shitty. Not my thing. There is great joy in photography, and seeing the beauty in things. As humans no matter the subject, what we capture we find beautiful in a human sort of way. And when we have the nerve to share it with others we really are telling others "This is what I see as worth nothing in life, this is what I consider meaningful and beautiful.". With that mindset I have taught photography to the experienced and inexperienced and the most important rule I have is to teach people how to do photography, but never to teach them how to "Shoot Like Me".

Here are samples of my work.

14737284080_988e35617e_b.jpg


14494070007_c9c5333d63_b.jpg


5495906481_95f1124b09_b.jpg


10939178025_079ff83310_b.jpg



And this is me :) Some of you guys may know this guy

10966314634_e2c9b015a2_b.jpg
 
Last edited:

madFive

metal[H]ead
Joined
Mar 26, 2008
Messages
9,076
Everyone here is a photo instructor! You didn't notice that yet? ;)

But seriously, thanks for offering your expertise. I'm in Atlanta too - might be fun to show up for one of your lighting classes.

Only question I might have is if you're hiring any backup shooters any time soon, but I'm juggling a few side projects at the moment, so not sure I'd have time.
 

northrop

grumman
Joined
Sep 27, 2005
Messages
10,194
Ok, I'll bite.

Got an open space in my place, approximately 12 by 22 feet, but with only 8 foot ceiling. For the longest time, I've been contemplating about turning the space into a home studio, but know next to nothing about lights. Looking at all the Elinchrom, AlienBees, Profotos and everything else in between gives me a headache. What would be a decent all around setup for someone who just messes around with photography for shits and giggles? Say... $2500 for all.

What's wrong with these pictures,
http://transamws6.com/pics/digicam/50mm-f18-phone.jpg[/IMG

[IMG]http://transamws6.com/pics/pool/pool001.jpg[/IMG[/QUOTE]

For starters, both were taken with a Canon ;) :D
 

Zepher

[H]ipster Replacement
Joined
Sep 29, 2001
Messages
18,787
We have some alien bees, a B800 and pair of B400's and they work great for the price.

set.jpg


april-nitto2.jpg
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
Sorry been playing Smite all day lol. But since we are about to be snowed in in Atlanta, will answer all these tonight.
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
Everyone here is a photo instructor! You didn't notice that yet? ;)

But seriously, thanks for offering your expertise. I'm in Atlanta too - might be fun to show up for one of your lighting classes.

Only question I might have is if you're hiring any backup shooters any time soon, but I'm juggling a few side projects at the moment, so not sure I'd have time.

Hey Mad, actually I never mind meeting up for coffee and chatting. Concerning help, if you don't mind a little corporate work than yes, but paid positions are already taken for most of the year from my second and third shooter. If you would like to learn how to setup photobooth type lighting and interfacing with lights I always welcome help as long as you get education out of it.

If you do end up at a class I'll take 50% off. Or if you are interested in helping me load and unload the car I'll give it to you for free.
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
What's wrong with these pictures,
50mm-f18-phone.jpg


pool001.jpg

This will be the first subjective criticism on this thread.

When it comes to what's wrong, the first thing that stands out to me is the image on top appears more like a snapshot, the image on the bottom is stronger but suggestions below. To tell a story you are asking your viewer to read your photos, and the best way to do that is to define your subject.

The first thing I do when looking at an image is try to define what the photographer may want me to view. What's the reason he/she took this moment in time and decided to share it public ally. If I see something and quickly glance at it without exploring, or I'm distracted by something it tends to be more a snapshot imho. When I "read" a photograph, not only do I see the content, but also recall thoughts, memories, or moments from my mind, and that photo has more artistic value in my opinion.

On the top image your main content I believe would be the phone. The main issue though is there's a reflection from the phones front. If you were doing an product type shot I would use a circular polarizer to limit the amount of reflection. But given the content of the shot (The 50 1.8 box) I believe you are probably doing a bokeh test with your lens :)
If it is that than the image serves it purpose, but outside of being a snap shot I don't see it having much value to you as you build your photography expertise other than testing out a lens.

The second shot stands out to me more as something you tried composing in. But the only thing I'll ask is "What is your subject?". Our eyes are attracted to the brightest part of an image and that right now is the cue ball and the pool table. You have a stunning pensive look on the player, but I had to strain to see it. To make this image stand out more try getting the player lit. The shot I think you really wanted was a few seconds after this when the pool player will take his shot and the overhead light will illuminate the concentration on his face. Lets say you like this shot, but want to make it more commercial feel, the same pose is great but light his face. Use a locker mirror on the camera left and shine some light on his face (yes this would be a posed shot, not candid). It will serve to illuminate his face, drawing attention to him, while keeping the mood and feel of the image.
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
Ok, I'll bite.

Got an open space in my place, approximately 12 by 22 feet, but with only 8 foot ceiling. For the longest time, I've been contemplating about turning the space into a home studio, but know next to nothing about lights. Looking at all the Elinchrom, AlienBees, Profotos and everything else in between gives me a headache. What would be a decent all around setup for someone who just messes around with photography for shits and giggles? Say... $2500 for all.



For starters, both were taken with a Canon ;) :D

For starters I would go for Alienbees. Here's why.

  • They are the cheapest in total - The units are of low price, and the modifiers for the Paul C Buff system is low price also. Ultimately you get more bang for your buck with a paul buff system.
  • Resell. It's odd mentioning this, but you may or may not enjoy studio lighting. If you love it and want to get better lights, you can stick with the buff brand and buy the einsteins. Ultimately you may want to resell the lights and the paul buff brand gets 85% of its value. Other brands may get a comparable amount but the turnaround time to sell them could be months at a time.
  • Paul C Buff has INCREDIBLE customer service. If you live in the southeast like me you can expect service that's fast! I had to repair both my norman lights and einsteins this year, and the estimated turnaround on the normans were a month, and 3 days for the einsteins.
  • Profotos are exceptionally awesome, but would you trust a first time driver behind a ferrari. You get a monster of a light, but there's no reason to go high end. A light is a light, and the only thing I'll say about profotos is this. "Why buy Profotos when your clients will buy you them.". Unless you are being paid for your photography, there's no reason for Profoto lights. Experienced photographers would have a hell of a time knowing the difference from an alienbee or profoto unless you show them ALL photos from your shoot. A light is a light, and when it comes to studio lights theres no reason to pay $1200 for a light you can get for $350 unless once again someone buys it for you.

If you are dying to start with something and want something of decent quality, I would get a couple Einsteins to start. The overall cost of the system will be roughly about $1400 after taxes and shipping but you will get an amazing amount of use from it. If you want to add one more light as a hair light, or a kicker you can go ahead and purchase an AlienBee B400 for $179.

Since you have a space, what I do suggest is looking for wall mounts of Cstands. Normal Light stands flare out on the bottom and since your sujbject will mostly be sitting or laying down (depending on the content of your shoot) the light stand legs will be in your shot quite a bit. C stands have legs that are lower and will not really be in your photo.

Best of luck, feel free to email me at trent@trentchau.com if you want more answers about this. Smart buying at the start saves you a lot of headache, and I don't mind giving advice on it.
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
We have some alien bees, a B800 and pair of B400's and they work great for the price.

You didn't really ask for critiques so if you don't mind I want to make some aesthetic suggestions. Since you have 2 lights I suggest getting a super clamp and putting a 30 degree grid in the black alienbee and using it behind your subject as a kicker light. This will help create seperation in the hair. RIght now with both lights up front you are getting flat lighting, so move your pink/red alienbee closer to you and you will achieve a similiar look lighting wise.

While this kicker is strong, you can see what it's doing to Emily's hair to help give a little more OOMPH to the subject.

15316975632_2f161be115_b.jpg
 

Zepher

[H]ipster Replacement
Joined
Sep 29, 2001
Messages
18,787
I learned a lot from a friend that I was working with doing onsite portrait photography.
At this event we were stuck in a tiny room so we had to use the small backdrop.
He uses 4 lights in his setup, 2 front lights, hair light above and a kicker light slightly behind the subjects on the female side.
onsite4.jpg


I was running the printing part of the operation, we started using a small PC and 2 Kodak Dye Subs but eventually upgraded to a decent 18" laptop and Shinko 8x10 dye sub.

this is the old setup,
onsite2.jpg

Those Kodaks were relatively slow and they started jamming up every now and then which would disrupt my workflow as I would have to stop and see what image didn't get printed and send that back into the queue.

This is the Shinko setup,
shinko.jpg
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
I learned a lot from a friend that I was working with doing onsite portrait photography.
At this event we were stuck in a tiny room so we had to use the small backdrop.
He uses 4 lights in his setup, 2 front lights, hair light above and a kicker light slightly behind the subjects on the female side.

The main thing that I don't like about the top setup picture if you are running a print operation is the lack of gaffers tape and weights on your stands. It might be your home studio so ignore this if it doesn't apply, but all it takes is one light to fall on your subject for liability problems to occur. It's even a nightmare if you have insurance.

While its boring as shit to keep reminding people about, I always notice how a pro does their cabling. ONe last tip is to wrap the power cord from your light around the bottom of the leg. If the cords are high up on the stand if anyone trips on it it will pull from the top and the light will topple over. If you wrap the cord on the bottom of the stand and twist it a few times around the bottom leg, if anyone trips on it they will pull the light towards them before it topples. It takes a little more for the lights to fall over. Weigh down those lights also with sandbags!


Concerning onsite printing, surprisingly it's a small amount of my business now. I still have a dye sub Sony stored that does up 5x7's but I've only used it about 2~3 times the last 3 years. The issues at Fukishima and the earthquake actually really affected inventory.
 

Zepher

[H]ipster Replacement
Joined
Sep 29, 2001
Messages
18,787
Ya, any cords that are in the path of people walking are either duct taped down or rugs are put over them.
In the above pic there is only one path to the backdrop, through the door where I took the photo and they would walk between the tripod and light stand on the right. there were no cables for anyone to trip on and pull down any equipment.
 

MN Scout

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jan 26, 2003
Messages
4,711
Any experience in different ways to sell prints, or digital files? I have a sizable quantity of different landscape photos, and pictures of business and other things that people may want framed pictures of, or digital files for newsletters and flyers.

There are two options I'm considering. 1. Smug Mug. Appears to have everything I need and the purchasing and checkout would be smooth. 2. Put up a unique catalog identifier with every picture on my website and tell the people to use the contact form. Takes a lot of my time, and the customers time. If someone wants a digital file for their newsletter they likely don't want to wait a day for me to respond with a payment link and a digital file link. 3. Something else I'm missing?

I haven't tried the stock photography websites. I figured they are generally over loaded with landscape stuff, and that what actually sells is photos with people in them. Something that I'm not in the position to take right now.

Thoughts?
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
Any experience in different ways to sell prints, or digital files? I have a sizable quantity of different landscape photos, and pictures of business and other things that people may want framed pictures of, or digital files for newsletters and flyers.

There are two options I'm considering. 1. Smug Mug. Appears to have everything I need and the purchasing and checkout would be smooth. 2. Put up a unique catalog identifier with every picture on my website and tell the people to use the contact form. Takes a lot of my time, and the customers time. If someone wants a digital file for their newsletter they likely don't want to wait a day for me to respond with a payment link and a digital file link. 3. Something else I'm missing?

I haven't tried the stock photography websites. I figured they are generally over loaded with landscape stuff, and that what actually sells is photos with people in them. Something that I'm not in the position to take right now.

Thoughts?

From my personal experience my level of help on this high. I have never tried the path of "Fine Art" prints.

From my observations most of my photographer friends who do sell prints of landscapes have tried saturating multiple types of ways in attempts to garner attention and potential sale. I've seen some successful on 500px.com and various other "newer" website that now offer sale of photos, but see those success with a grain of salt because there's a lot of fluffing to make things look good.

I'll ask my buddies who have made money doing this, but they tend to be secretive.


Concering Stock websites, I actually suggest trying it out. If you have a body of work already than you have most of the labor done. It doesn't hurt not to make a sale, but if you do make a sale it's more money in your pocket. I've had a few friends make great supplemental income via microstock also. Nothing to write home about, but an extra 4~5k a year help.


Wish I can do more, but you actually asked a question in my weakest area photography wise.
 

MN Scout

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jan 26, 2003
Messages
4,711
Thanks for the encouragement. I'll have to try and submit a few to some stock sites.

I considered art fares, but the cover charges(few hundred dollars) and finicky number of attendants (weather dependent and advertising dependent) seriously scares me off.

I'll also have to try getting my personal website squared up.
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
Thanks for the encouragement. I'll have to try and submit a few to some stock sites.

I considered art fares, but the cover charges(few hundred dollars) and finicky number of attendants (weather dependent and advertising dependent) seriously scares me off.

I'll also have to try getting my personal website squared up.

It is a slow burn for that. Concerning art fairs they can actually be quiet lucrative. Here in Atlanta there are some festivals were people do sell a bit of prints. We also have a VERY active photography celebration called Atlanta Celebrates photography in September. It's not uncommon for a photographer to go to a venue with a good body of work and say "Hey take 40% of sales from my print, but host my photos". Then for $100 you tell the acp group that you are having a showing and people show up :) It's pretty neat.
 

patric

Gawd
Joined
Mar 10, 2008
Messages
665
Here's a post processing question for you. Got any good tips for cleaning up footprints and scuff marks quickly when shooting on seamless paper or a really dirty cyc wall?

I was shooting at someone else's studio the other day and this is pretty much what I had to work with:
IMG_1160_zps6bul6fj4.jpg
 

UnknownSouljer

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Sep 24, 2001
Messages
7,098
Here's a post processing question for you. Got any good tips for cleaning up footprints and scuff marks quickly when shooting on seamless paper or a really dirty cyc wall?

I'm not Trent, but I would say you're SOL in terms of "speed". I worked as a Gaff/Grip for a pretty big shoot with Geary's of Hollywood at a very expensive studio in downtown LA. I say all that to say, in those situations for every client they repaint the cyc (which is probably one of the reasons why the studio was pricey). Because the time in post to remove things is astronomical. The entire crew also had to wear booties while on set to minimize footprints. For one part of the shoot, they wheeled in a Rolls Royce. And as soon as it was in position, no joke they came in and touched up the paint where the wheels rolled in (and setup a fan to aid drying, although the paint used is a type of quick dry paint). Because that takes less time than all the time in post.

There is nothing you can do, other than spend the time doing all the techniques I'm sure you know about. Healing Brush/Clone Stamp and possibly some level of D&B. It'll probably make you extremely selective about what you bother to edit, or just not worry about it.

The next time you shoot on it, your options will be the same, save one: you could choose to blow out all the white with lights specifically for that purpose. But then your look of course will be decidedly high-key which you may or may not want.
 

patric

Gawd
Joined
Mar 10, 2008
Messages
665
I'm not Trent, but I would say you're SOL in terms of "speed". I worked as a Gaff/Grip for a pretty big shoot with Geary's of Hollywood at a very expensive studio in downtown LA. I say all that to say, in those situations for every client they repaint the cyc (which is probably one of the reasons why the studio was pricey). Because the time in post to remove things is astronomical. The entire crew also had to wear booties while on set to minimize footprints. For one part of the shoot, they wheeled in a Rolls Royce. And as soon as it was in position, no joke they came in and touched up the paint where the wheels rolled in (and setup a fan to aid drying, although the paint used is a type of quick dry paint). Because that takes less time than all the time in post.

There is nothing you can do, other than spend the time doing all the techniques I'm sure you know about. Healing Brush/Clone Stamp and possibly some level of D&B. It'll probably make you extremely selective about what you bother to edit, or just not worry about it.

The next time you shoot on it, your options will be the same, save one: you could choose to blow out all the white with lights specifically for that purpose. But then your look of course will be decidedly high-key which you may or may not want.

Yeah, these shots are tough going. For now I've just made a new blank layer and have been brushing over it at about 5% flow and sampling the colors a ton. That doesn't really help me in the shadow areas though. Here's where I'm at on the image I'm currently working on. Needless to say, she's not gonna get a ton of shots from this particular setup...

IMG_1151_zps2a2byvl1.jpg
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
Here's a post processing question for you. Got any good tips for cleaning up footprints and scuff marks quickly when shooting on seamless paper or a really dirty cyc wall?

I was shooting at someone else's studio the other day and this is pretty much what I had to work with:
IMG_1160_zps6bul6fj4.jpg

What Uknown wrote about is the BEST advice someone can give to post processing on a cyc.

Ultimately when given a choice, always fix what you can in the picture before you take the photo, rather than after it. Having to remove the same white piece of lint in every photo underneath the chair over and over again in 10~100 shots can be annoying :).

But going to the picture. Fortunately it's a lot easier now to remove things as the spot/patch heal tool in photoshop has become a lot smarter.

For most of the cyc wall stuff, just use the spot healing brush in photoshop. Fortunately you can also do a quick selection around your subject, feather the selection and do various steps to clean up the backdrop via healing, cloning, etc.

Check out this trick also using the Median Filter

http://phlearn.com/clean-backgrounds-photoshop
 

UnknownSouljer

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Sep 24, 2001
Messages
7,098
I forgot to mention, you could also try frequency separation. As in try just color sampling on the color layer and hopefully that will "paint over the problems" without affecting the texture layer. The going gets tricky on that though and it's definitely easier said than done.

I do a bit of frequency separation on some of my work, and it's definitely a technique that I think requires a fair bit of practice to use properly.

EDIT: It actually may be the other way around. That is to say it might all be removable through the texture layer. This is why I mention practice mattering. Test and figure it out I guess.
 
Last edited:

madFive

metal[H]ead
Joined
Mar 26, 2008
Messages
9,076
Here's a post processing question for you. Got any good tips for cleaning up footprints and scuff marks quickly when shooting on seamless paper or a really dirty cyc wall?

I was shooting at someone else's studio the other day and this is pretty much what I had to work with:
[/QUOTE]

Guess I'm a little confused on what the final image was supposed to look like. If you just want a white background, the scuffs just take like 2 seconds in photoshop to paint out (use eye-dropper to get color, then paint over it). Or like 5 seconds if you want to use the heal/stamp brush to fix the texture. Either way you'll spend a lot more time cleaning up the edges around the subject than anything in the background.

How many images in this set needed this treatment? Yeah, if it's more than a couple dozen, you definitely want to get paid for that time. And if this was a video, not still photo shoot, I'm not a video guy so I have no idea what to do in that instance. :P
 

patric

Gawd
Joined
Mar 10, 2008
Messages
665
The Median filter worked pretty well...it basically left me with a few corners to clean up, but that's it!
 

Stryke1983

Limp Gawd
Joined
Dec 1, 2011
Messages
271
I figure this is as good a place as any to ask... what photo editing software do you recommend for an beginner or in general? Is Adobe Photoshop the standard? My wife got a Canon T5 over the holidays and is wanting to get a little more serious with it. Not to the extent of doing it professionally, but she enjoys it and wants to be able to do decent family photos and some more artsy things. I am entirely clueless about it all though.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
I figure this is as good a place as any to ask... what photo editing software do you recommend for an beginner or in general? Is Adobe Photoshop the standard? My wife got a Canon T5 over the holidays and is wanting to get a little more serious with it. Not to the extent of doing it professionally, but she enjoys it and wants to be able to do decent family photos and some more artsy things. I am entirely clueless about it all though.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

If you want the best bang for your buck gateway drug of photo editing programs. I would vote lightroom. It's not only an image organizer but also an extremely powerful editing solution that provides a large level of editing if you or her decides to jump into it.

The difference between lightroom and say something like photoshop and gimp is lightroom manipulates the current image while photoshop does that but allows to to add dinosaurs and lasers into the image also.

Here's a free video of a class I used to charge $50 for showing the power of lightroom.


https://youtu.be/0AjyFIUVRPQ


When it comes to very beginner software. Iphoto on Mac and Picasa on pc aren't bad. For anything more advice I highly suggest just going lightroom. It's smarter.
 

Criticalhitkoala

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 17, 2015
Messages
1,982
Thank you for the info.

No problem. To further expand on why lightroom is a good solution is it combines a great organization application and also independent editing options such and unique color channel control, dynamic range adjustment of Shadows and light, noise reduction, and even allows you to draw on alterations to unique portions of the image. Stuff like this is almost all most people need for photo editing.

There is a slight learning curve for it but ultimately it will provide one of the strongest image editing experience outside of applications like photoshop.
 
Top