Monday, September 01, 2008

Home and learning the language of light

I’m back from my photography weekend in CA. Here are some highlights of what I learned:

The focus of the class was to help scrapbooking photographers turn their camera dials from auto to manual. And I have to say that I’m convinced. It’s going to take some courage to switch but I’m ready to try.

I want to learn the language of light.

This is a phrase I heard this weekend that resonated with me. I can now see the “good” lighting in my past pictures that came out well and the “bad” lighting in the ones that didn’t. I learned that 2 hours after sunrise and 2 hours before sunset are the best times to shoot and how to position myself and my subject for the best shot.

Are you interested in some toddler tricks for a stationery shoot?
  • Place a sticker where you want them to stand and ask them to stomp on it. When they wander away, ask them to find their sticker.
  • For younger toddlers, have twice as many things for them to do as you think you might need (blocks, pinwheels, stuffed animals) and keep anticipating their boredom. Get them interested in that new activity before they show signs of boredom. One Mom talked about having a bag of toys her kids only saw when she was trying to get them still enough to take a great picture.
  • For older kids, get them talking about funny things such as “who has the stinkiest feet? Or “who has the loudest snore”. Create an arsenal of funny questions you can ask before the shoot.
  • And for shots with two kids or more, get them really close to one another right at the start. Getting them into one another’s personal space brings down lots of barriers.

    Mostly I was exposed to different photographers portfolios. Some ideas I want to copy are:
  • Placing Kylie near a rough fence, or set her on a step with lots of texture and blow bubbles. The contrast between all the texture of the surroundings and the delicacy of the child’s skin and the bubbles was so beautiful.
  • Later I want to have a kitchen shoot, complete with chef’s hat and apron, and take pictures of Kylie stirring bowls, licking frosting off spoons and so forth.
  • Tea parties on the lawn, capes and plastic swords while playing near trees, I could go on and on. There were so many great ideas.

    I really liked the conversations about evoking a feeling in your subject. I remember this well when Karen and I had our portraits taken during our pregnancy session. Our photographer would ask me to close my eyes and think about the baby growing in my belly or meeting her for the first time. One of the retreat teachers spoke about asking her son to close his eyes and to concentrate on feeling brave and strong like Batman (his favorite). You could SEE the difference in her photos of him after she did this. She talked about asking children to feel magical or beautiful. I could see how this would work in taking anyone’s picture. The trick for adults would be to get them talking about something they love. This gets them past the “how do you want me to stand, pose or smile” phase of a photoshoot.

    As for specific sessions, I loved Jessica Sprauge's Adobe Raw class. I’m totally sold on shooting in raw format and tweaking shots in Adobe Raw. Plus it was just awesome to meet someone I admire so much.
    Here’s something I shot this morning

    And here it is tweaked in raw.

    I learned a LOT from Candice Stringham’s class. She taught me how to take a light meter reading on your subject instead of the entire room. This is a great trick when you are working with back lighting.

    Renee Pearson taught me a few Photoshop tricks. Brian Smith’s class was on fill flash but for me it was an excellent beginners course on camera terminology. And finally Nicole Hill and Skye Hardwick shared their beautiful portfolios and shared lots of tips on photographing children.

    Of course, let us not forget that the other purpose of me taking the course was to simply get away. And I loved it. I had room service every night. I slept until 8:00 each morning. And I had uninterrupted time to scrapbook.

    But in the end, I was thrilled to come home.


    Shauna said...

    Sounds like a great weekend away.

    Me, I haven't been able to scrapbook since I went back to work. Between that and the new pregnancy, I just can't find the time or energy. I signed up for NWR and couldn't even participate. I'm disappointed about it all and hope to get back to it one day.

    ajs4ever said...

    Sounds like you learned a lot! Glad you enjoyed yourself, but I'm sure you were glad to be home too:)

    Kerry Lynn said...

    I love the photos of you greeting Kylie.

    Sounds like it was a great time.

    I absolutely love manual and really don't see why everyone wouldn't do it. I even change my white balance (usually not happy with the auto white balance).

    would you mind elaborating on the light meter reading? That's one thing I haven't dealt with.

    Wendy and Karen said...

    Hey Kerry Lynn!

    You know I love ya.

    You had asked about light meter readings.
    Rather than have me stumble through an explanation, check out the video located here:

    To find the exact link, you first have to click on "Picture Perfect Photography" and then mouse down (there isn't a scroll bar) until you see "Metering- take a photo even with backlighting"

    Have fun. And thanks for all your great comments on this blog.

    Lynanne said...

    Your photos keep getting better and better! I'm sitting here in awe - you know I've always been a big fan of yours. :)

    Sounds like you had lots of fun at the course! Thanks for sharing some tips! For more help on photoshop, try one of Scott Kelby's books (I use his Elements 6 book.) I like how he skips the basics (what camera to buy, how to frame a shot, etc) that other books rehash over and over again and gets into all the cool things you can do. Plus, its simple to follow.

    Dodie Sa said...

    I am SO jealous! This weekend away sounds like my dream weekend! All those names: Jessica Sprague, Renee Pearson, Candice Stringham etc. Oh my ! Wonderful!