How to: create a holiday silhouette

A year or so ago, I typed up a post about silhouettes but because Word Press is sort of the devil, it got eaten and is lost in the pits of internet mystery. So here goes with Take 2: Holiday Silhouette.

Long story short– expose for your tree lights, focus on your people, under exposing the people. Voila! Silhouette.

girls-silhouettewm16
ISO 200, f 1.6, 1/40th, 35mm 1.4 lens used

I just asked my daughters to stand in front of the tree and BE TOTALLY 100% STILL FOR PETE’S SAKE JUST STOP MOVING. (proud parenting moment  -_-)

But I had good reason to demand they be totally still. If you know anything about photography you know LIGHT MATTERS. Light is the single most important factor in your photography but when you shoot this, you want NO LIGHT. Why is that, Wendy?

Glad you asked. To create this specific holiday silhouette, your only light source will be your tree. If you have day light, lights on in the room- you will have a harder time getting that soft bokeh from your lights on your tree. But when you have pretty much zero light, you’re going to need to use a super slow shutter speed. When you have a super low shutter speed, any movement will look like a ghosty blur. No bueno.

What you’ll need in addition to a basic understanding of the manual settings of your camera:

  • tripod or something sturdy to set your camera on
  • holiday lights, the more the better. DO NOT wrap your kids in holiday lights.
  • a kid or two who will STAND STILL FOR THE 100TH TIME, I SWEAR TO GOD. (swearing to god optional). Also good for practicing with, stuffed animals because they are the best at being still when people are in the room.
  • a DLSR camera

Handy to have:

  • remote shutter release

First things first, mount your camera on your tripod or Sturdy Thing. You’re going to keep your ISO low, and your shutter speed SLOOOW like I said above. You can up your ISO a little bit, but don’t go to high or you will risk too much light on your people. My ISO was set to 200. My shutter speed was set to 1/20th– if I was trying to hand-hold my camera at that shutter speed the silhouette would be a motion blurry mess.  If you have a remote shutter release, it’ll be nice to use so you don’t risk shaking the camera even on your tripod when you push the shutter release.

Next you’re going to set your f-stop. I was set to 1.6 since my lens is pretty baller and I knew I would be able to get both girls in focus with it. For super beginners it’s sometimes suggested that your f-stop equal the number of people in your picture, so with 2 people, I could have set my f-stop to 2.8. If your lens only goes to 3.5, just remember to move your subjects farther away from the tree (some day, I’ll teach you all about depth of field and why it matters).

You should be good to give it a shot. Set your person or stuffed animal up, and take a test shot! How’d it look? Was your subject in silhouette? Was it a little brighter than you expected? If so, you can speed up your shutter, or close down your f-stop. Were the lights little pin pricks? Slow down that shutter even father! Show me in the comments on wendy b photos what you got!

Trying new things {editing with wendy b photos}

I shared on my Facebook page that I had been experimenting with some different editing styles and a friend suggested seeing the side by side which is a great idea 🙂 The newer edits are more matte, slightly film like.
In this first example, you can see how vivid the fall colors are. A lot of this is to do with the available light- we had a gorgeous day with lots of light hitting those leaves making everything REALLY bright and strong. In the after, I applied a soft matte and texture which softened those colors without desaturating them too much.

Before and After, trying stuff is fun!
Before and After, trying stuff is fun!

In this image of Cecelia, the edit made the greens a bit deeper and the image a bit cooler/ bluer. I like what happened with the green, but I’m not sold on the skin tone- this is an example of how this newer edit style for me may not work as well on every image, with every skin tone 🙂 I like both images, and could do some work on the skin to bring back some warmth and maybe a bit of light but for comparison’s sake, this is a “one click” edit.

BACeCewm

Then there’s my Lilly. The first edit was almost exactly what I wanted; I remember being really happy with the image over all, but also feeling like something was missing. I shot this over a year ago, and had one of those “AHA!” moments when I created my matte/ film edit. The change is subtle but I love it. Her skin looks perfect, the greens are deep and rich, the matte and grain is just right. I love the clean image, but the film-like texture is *exactly* what I was hoping to get. 

I took some photos of my daughters for their 9th birthday, and edited totally with the new look and loved every one.

So you can see, the changes aren’t huge, but change is hard for lots of people myself included. I’ve been a pretty “safe” editor but something in my gut has been pushing me to try something, to push my boundaries and experiment with my editing style. Like I’ve said, I can’t promise that this softer, grainy, textured, darker look will work with all sessions or images, but I do know that it’s been a lot of fun to use and I really like the look!

Photography HOW TO: photograph fireworks!

Ah, the Fourth of July. Picnics, parties, beer, and brats (that’s bratwurst, not BRATS, well… hopefully not brats 😉  )
And of course, there are fireworks. I’m sure there’s a long and delightful history about why we Americans light up the skies with fireworks and you’re welcome to Google that information in your spare time 😉

how-to-firework-1

I have always been particular about fireworks. By particular, I mean terrified. Then, seven years ago I had two little girls and now Mommy has to put on the brave face. What better way to enjoy those loud, blazing balls of fire raining down on you, but by trying to photograph them! Total transparency here- last year was the first year that I ever tried to photograph them. I’m going to try again this year if this Summer of Unending Rain gives me the chance (Ohio friends know what I’m talking about). You can try, too!

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
1. Remote shutter release like THIS
2. A DLSR and basic understanding of photography
3. A dark place with a clear view of the sky

IT WOULD BE HANDY TO HAVE:
1. tripod
2. wide-ish angle lens that will focus to infinity. Use what you’ve got though, you can make nearly anything work.

I’ll post my photos with my settings to give you an idea about where you can start, but every lighting situation, lens and camera body is different. For what it’s worth, I took these on a Nikon D7000 with a Nikkor 35mm 1.8 lens. I wanted a wide angle lens, and my 35mm is the widest I’ve got.

First things first- get a good spot! Some people like to have cool landmarks in their photos, but I want an unobstructed view. We parked ourselves far across from the field where the fireworks would be shot off. I can fake being cool with fireworks, but only from a safe distance.

Second, turn off your flash. You want the only light your camera sees to be the fireworks themselves. Relatedly, turn your ISO down. Mine was set at 100 for all these photos. Again, we want the only light to be from the fireworks themselves, so we don’t want our cameras to compensate for the dark and make images brighter.

Fireworks-7wm
ISO-100, 35mm, F-16, SS 8.0 seconds

Aperture is next. You’ll want a long focal length. Anywhere from F-11 up will work well. The fireworks will be far away, and we’re going to try to focus to infinity. You’ll want to look up your specific lens if you don’t know how to set it to infinity or even if it does such a thing. A note about my specific 35mm– it is a G lens, meaning “gelded” and does not focus to infinity which made things a little harder. What I did was set my focus to manual and focused on the very farthest thing from me, then crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Set your shutter speed to a reeeeeaaaaaalllllly long exposure. There won’t be a ton of light, we’re using a low ISO and a small aperture (the larger the f-stop number, the smaller the aperture opening). Mine was set anywhere from 8 seconds to 13 seconds. Now you see why you’ll want that wireless remote- there is absolutely no way you can have your hands on your camera when that shutter is released or you’ll get instant camera shake and blurry photos. I would fire off my remote shutter release as soon as I saw the firework shot off- when you see that first streak of light FIRE! If you have a tripod- USE IT. The less motion around your camera the better.

Play around with your shutter speed and see how the speed affects the amount of light let in. The longer you leave your shutter open (hello, 13 whopping seconds) the more light will enter your lens. The cool thing is the light is moving! Since our shutter is super slow, it’s not going to stop that light motion and you’ll get those awesome light streaks.

Get out there, and give it a shot! Share your attempts over on Wendy B Photos on Facebook!

Fireworks-8wm

 

SaveSave

My feelings about #3 …

So, over on Wendy B Photos I shared an article by the amazingly talented Amy Tripple Photography. It’s a list of things photographers want their beloved clients to understand. It’s one of the few times that I thought YES YES YES. I wish I knew how to say this! But then I don’t have to say it, because Amy did it so well. I wanted to talk about #3 on the list.

It hurts my feelings when you joke about my pricing.

  • When you imply that my prices are getting too high, it feels like you’re saying that my work isn’t worth what you’re paying. I’m quite sensitive about my pricing and it feels incredibly vulnerable to have to put a price on my passion and art. There are so many parts of running a business that I can’t expect you to know about: taxes, a studio, equipment, website fees, a salaried studio manager… these are just a few of the things I’m desperate to tell you about when you make a joke that “this hour had better be amazing because we sure are paying for it…” I can’t, of course, so I try to remember that you probably don’t understand all the costs involved in running a small business and continue on with your session.”

While the above doesn’t happen to me during sessions, it stings when someone inquires about a future shoot and straight away asks, “What do you charge?” or they make comments like “when is your next sale?”; it makes me think that the person doesn’t put any value into the work; they’re only looking for someone who is “cheap” even if that’s not the case at all. I know cost is one of the most important things that potential clients consider, but it should never be the #1 most important. How much do you value your photos? I’m neither the most expensive nor the cheapest person working the block so to speak and I do the best I can to work with families for whom budget is the #1 deal breaker. ** if you are worried that you cannot afford my pricing, TELL ME. If you book out far enough in advance, I can gladly take small payments over time so that you can be paid up in time for your session**

I do *everything* I can to provide professional, affordable portraits be they family, maternity, newborns, etc. I do NOT believe that professional and personal photography should be a luxury only the wealthy can afford. There are a lot of people who could never afford to spend $400, $500, $1000 on photos. Does that make them less deserving? I don’t think so.

Does that mean that other photographers need to lower their pricing? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Each one of us sets our pricing in line to where it should to be for our specific needs. None of us will have the same pricing structure, even if we’re located in the same zip code. What works for one of us will likely NOT work for another.

I am priced as low as I can be, while still being able to cover my costs of doing business and as any other small business owner can attest, it’s not cheap doing business. There are times when I need to increase my price, or my product pricing but I have done and will continue to do everything I can to make professional photos available to as many people as possible.

I can’t thank my clients enough for being understanding of the ways in which I operate my business ❤ ❤

Published: PRETTY a photographers resource guide and magazine

**UPDATE! I got my physical copy and omg. I love it. It is available for purchase, and you can order one HERE!! 

Ho boy… so exciting for me!!  In early June, I was approached by the wonderful people at Pretty Presets for Lightroom and told that they wanted to feature me and a few other photographers in their brand-spankin-new photography magazine and resource guide called PRETTY. After I picked myself up off the floor and everyone’s ears had stopping ringing from all my screaming, I sent over three photos I love (absolutely the hardest decision I’ve had to make in a long time) and a bit of information about me and the wait began. 

The first resource guide was published July 7th and you can get yours *FREE* for a limited time as a digital download. There is a boat-load of information in the magazine for photographers and mom-togs alike. You can order a hard copy as well, for a small fee. I downloaded the digital version and wow. I can’t wait for the physical version to get here! Download your copy HERE; you know you want to see what photos I chose 😉 

I am so honored and my mind is 100% blown away by this. Thank you so much for the amazing feature and *awesome* resource guide Amy, Gayle, and Laura! I love what I get to do, I love the people I get to help in the “pretty” group, I love all the things I learn being active in the community. So lucky 😀

‪#‎PRETTY‬  ‪#‎prettypresetsforlightroom‬ ‪#‎wendybphotos‬‪#‎photographymagazine‬ ‪#‎photographyresourceguide‬

What makes a Mini Session “mini?

If you haven’t heard, I’m holding #SpringMiniSessions on April 25th. Now, you might be asking, “What makes a mini session with Wendy a MINI? What do I lose out on if I book during a mini sale?” The answer is time makes it a mini, but you don’t lose out on anything… want to see why? Read on, my friend.

what makes a mini session "mini"?
what makes a mini session “mini”?

It’s true that I am generally one of the lowest priced photographers in the Cleveland area with my experience (there are people out there selling sessions for $60 a pop, but buyer beware :more on that later:)  and it’s true that I provide digital files for sale below the industry norm, not to mention my prints available to all clients a la carte start at $2, so just what makes a mini a mini? (mini mini miiiinnnniiii!)

In short, a mini session with wendy b photos is a strict, set amount of time typically 30 minutes or less. It comes with fewer digital files included on your disk but additional digitals are discounted so you can add files easily. I restrict the number of people who can participate in the mini (usually five people tops) because more people = more shoot time= more edit time. You know what they say about time and money after all.

I offer mini sessions a few times a year; during spring (going on now), fall, and then winter. Minis are a great way to get that family shot you want “just a nice one of the five of us”, update your family photo wall, or grab some quick shots of your little kiddo hitting a fun milestone.

Minis are perfect for the budget-minded as well. Right now, my mini session is 35% off the regular family session price. If you have referral credits, you can in most cases apply them to your mini session, reducing the cost another 10%. Email wendy@wboycephotos.com for info on referral credits!

So, now you know! I have four spaces left for my April 25th family mini sessions– book yours today!

Photography how-to– adjusting settings for DARK rooms

I asked over on my Facebook page if anyone had some photography questions I could help with. One of the respondents said that she was having trouble with her pictures coming out dark and in some cases, blurry. This is a pretty common complaint so I’m going to talk about a few things that may help you get that shot. You will need a basic understanding of photography and the exposure triangle, but I’ll try and explain the whys and whats of everything! If there’s something you’re unsure of, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you 😀

These tips will be most beneficial if you have an SLR, but you can try to make it work if you’re using a point and shoot. Most newer PNS cameras have a settings option.

If you remember nothing else, remember this– LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT. You need light, the more the better.  These photos were taken during a recital rehearsal and it was asked that no flash be used. Obviously in a large, dark auditorium, there won’t *be* a lot of light. So what can you do?

blur1
settings: SS 1/5th, ISO 400, f3.8 focal length 20mm

Let’s take a look at this photo my friend was kind enough to let me use for demonstration; it’s a little dark, but the biggest issue is the blur.

The shutter speed was to slow  at 1/5th of a second which lead to motion blur. I keep my shutter speed close to 1/100th of a second when I’m working with kids. You need a fast shutter when your subject is ALSO fast 🙂 But how do you keep your shutter speed high, without getting a totally black picture since that fast shutter doesn’t let in as much light?

The first thing you’ll want to do in a super dark room, is turn up your ISO. Your ISO setting tells your camera’s sensor how much light is available, or how much light to compensate for in very basic terms. If there is a lot of light, you set your ISO to a low number, if it’s a big, dark place your ISO needs to be high– 800, 1600, maybe 3200. You’ll want to experiment with your camera though- a high ISO introduces film grain.  You can see that the ISO was set to only 400. My friend could have turned up just that ISO alone and would have been able to use a faster shutter speed which would have reduced the motion blur. Problem solved!

A note about grain: To most people a little grain isn’t noticeable, and in most cases if you print a typical snap shot some grain won’t be super detrimental to your print- though, I wouldn’t print larger than a 5×7 of a photo that was visibly grainy (have I lost you? Take a look at a post my friend and photo-inspiration Katy wrote about grain).

This next photo is the perfect DARK example. Whoa.

dark-room-2
SS 1/25th, ISO 1600, f 6.3, focal length 150mm

You can see from the settings that the ISO was high, so why was this still so dark? In this case, it’s the f-stop (f 6.3) which may have killed the photo. I know this was shot with a zoom lens; when you zoom in (that 150MM is zoomed in) your aperture closes down. When your aperture is closed down, it doesn’t let the light in. If you have the ability, open up! If you can’t open your aperture, you’ll have to zoom with your feet. Physically move yourself closer, zoom out and you will be able to open your aperture more. If you’re not able to be up and moving around, get in early and get as close as you can- be that mom (or dad), ha!

To review, if you know you’re going to be in a dark room, turn your ISO up- way up, keep your shutter speed as close to 1/100 as you can, and open up your aperture! Let as much LIGHT in as you can. Like always, your individual settings will vary from shot to shot so get to know your camera so you can adjust on the fly like the pros 😀

Need more help? Have questions about shooting in manual? Leave a comment and I’ll try to be in touch!

Star burst street lamp

At Christmas time, I showed you how to create a star-burst effect with your tree lights. The neighborhood I live in is lined with street lamps and every night I want to photograph them! If you’re in Northeastern Ohio, you know it’s been *really* cold. Really cold + expensive electronics = OH NOZ!

A few nights ago, I got sick of waiting out winter and decided to set up my tripod, camera and remote shutter right in my foyer and shoot through my storm door. I can see two lamps really well, but this spring/ summer, I’m going to head out on to the sidewalk and get more of the neighborhood 🙂

Look how cool these star-bursts are!

twinkle-lamps-3wm twinkle-lamps-2wm twinkle-lamps-1wm

Super love that. Have you tried to create any star bursts? If you need directions, you can find them HERE 😀