Friday, December 31, 2010

If I had to choose 1

If you asked me 10 years ago what single piece of gear I wanted if money was no option, I would have said a monster professional camera. Back then, as a novice, I though by simply getting a "better" camera I would take better pictures.

For many budding photographers this feeling lasts for years. That is until you take that "killer" photo and realize it isn't the camera, it's the skill. Of course good quality equipment is important, but it isn't everything. In fact, if you paid me money to take a high quality family portrait and told me that besides my camera and lenses, I could only take ONE piece of gear....I'd take your cash! It wouldn't take me more than a second to chose one of my reflectors. If you don't know what a reflector is, please google it and come back to this post. They come in all shapes and colors and are great to use indoor and out! This article shows how I used it outdoors with nothing else. No strobes. BUT you can also use it inside WITH strobes as shown below. Below is the setup shot for the portrait above. Shoftbox on right, gelled purple flash clamped to the bookshelf (look for it) and a white reflector on left.
Below shows how the reflector makes this shot MUCH better. It FILLS in with light instead of ADDING light. A major difference. I could have added another light on the left side to fill in shadows but you have to work harder to adjust the lighting to balance it correctly without the subject looking too "hot". Below is a test shot for the lighting. The first does NOT have the refelctor and the second DOES. Notice how the shadow on her arm is gone and the shadow on the side of her face is significantly reduced? (click the pictures to see them larger)

Don't have a strobe? You could replace the softbox with a bright window and set it up the same way. Reflectors can be found for less than $100 and I own several because I love their effect. Below is one last shot (without a setup shot unfortunately) but a gold reflector is used under their faces. You can go uber cheap and use a piece of white foam board from the craft store. I've done that too!

Questions, comments? Email me:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Simple" child portrait

So when I say simple, I mean the setup. Working with a 2 and a half year old is never simple. I took a shot (below) to show you my lighting setup. YOU can do it too.

Well I went into a quiet room to set up my lights and before I even fired a single test shot, in walked the subject - my daughter. (I should have had a child wrangler outside the room!) Well I knew I'd have her attention for 2 minutes if I was LUCKY. So I just started shooting.
Click on picture to enlarge
If I had more time to test, I would have dropped the umbrella fill light a touch in order to allow for a few less shadows, but the contrast did add a little bit of an artsy effect. Behind the chair is a pop-up background..

Friday, October 8, 2010

Plan B

I was reminded recently of the importance of always having a plan B. I was photographing a 3 month old and her mom. I had set up a one light shot right in the living room. I set up my stand and light, put up a soft dark blanket as the background and we put baby on stage!
As you can see -from one of the shots above-  it was a success. But not without a fair share of problems! First, I bounced my single light source in an umbrella. The problem was that the room was so small that the reflecting light off the walls was over-exposing my test shots. Add a 3 month old barely hanging on and I had no time to set up the shot, focus, adjust and try to keep baby engaged. One thing I ditched quick was the umbrella. I pulled it off, bounced the light off the ceiling and had much better control of the light. The lighting wasn't as dramatic, but I needed that one thing to go right (seeking control in an out of control situation). The trade off for getting the shots was well worth it.

I bring this up because when I saw how short a window there was of a happy baby, I quickly thought of a plan B so I would not lose the entire shoot and have to reschedule. Always think of a plan B, C, D etc. It has happened to me more times than I can count. It is always great to go into a situation with a general plan, but sometimes the situation you walk into isn't ideal. Tricky subjects, equipment malfunction, lighting problems, etc. BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dusk Head Shots

You don't need to buy a background. Nature offers free ones.  I used a single light source and bounce card. I actually darkened the background further in post (up'd the blacks until only a little green remained for a little interest)

If you blow up the shot and look closely, you can tell the single light source is an umbrella. Actually it is my 60" shoot through. A large light source like this gives larger catch lights, and is enough light to wrap around her head and act almost like a weak hair light. I also used a bounce card camera left only 2 feet from her face (umbrella was about 5 feet).  The white bounce card prevented shadows on her left side, but MORE IMPORTANTLY it light the hair on HER right shoulder keeping it from blending into the dark background. A separation light from behind would work too (but a bounce is far cheaper!!!!!)

POST: Skin tone color adjustment, increased blacks in RAW, slight crop.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer-time Fun

We have recently gotten back from Lake George, NY and I was able to get lots of great shots of my girl. Here are just a couple. Have a GREAT Fourth of July!!

Monday, May 31, 2010

I got silver...on a cloudy day

I photographed a client recently and took advantage of the warm outdoor temperature and OVERCAST day. Using an overcast day for outdoor shoots is like using a huge softbox. Though the lighting is complimentary to skin tones and very even, you can still step it up a notch. For the shot above, I used a silver reflector under her face (you could use a gold one also). This added a little more light to her eye area (lower lids, inner corners by nose) and added great catch lights in her eyes. No fill flash needed and it doesn't cause your subject to squint - assuming you have it far enough away.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Swing Shift

Portraits don't need to be "set up". Here is a perfect example that is in line with the topic of a former post,  "Child's Play"

Instead of posing them (which I did too), I allowed them to play (in good lighting) and they decided to swing. I captured the above shot. Would look great in a black wood frame, white matte. The bonus is they forgot ignored the fact that I was even taking pictures. You can't pose the natural expressions you get this way.

Post: Converted to B&W, increase contrast and slight high pass filter.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Head Shots

In the world of portrait photography, the "Head Shot" is a classic and usually simple way to capture a subject.The picture to the left is a classic head shot. To get a more pleasing and flattering angle, the subject looked up at me at about a 45 degree angle and I stood at about a 45 degree angle to the front of him. This caused him to look up at me and placed his shoulders at an angle (incidentally he was sitting on a swing). You can remember this as the 45/45.

Though you can have some of the body in a head shot, you need to keep it to a minimum (or it's no longer a head shot). Though his head is squared up in the shot, it too can be at an angle by twisting the camera. I guess that would be a 45/45/45.

The other consideration in shooting a head shot is to use a lower aperture to decrease your depth of field and blur out the background. It isn't a requisite but usually helps. You can see that was done in this shot. The aperture in this shot was 2.0 so that his whole face was in focus. Keep an eye on that in your magic preview screen - so that you get what you want.

POST: slight saturation of shirt; color adjust for skin tone and airbrushed blemishes on skin.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New Shoes

Kids and new clothes = good photo op!

When I saw my daughter run across the sidewalk chalk in her new shoes, it just clicked. I knew I needed to grab my camera! 20 mins in post work: increasing "blacks", contrast and vibrance. Great spring/summer type of shot.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Chair Portrait

Any amateur can set up this shot with just 2 elements. One light source and a chair.

Many professional portraits on location have been done using a backwards chair. It helps the subject's posture and if the camera is set to a 45 degree angle, the shoulders
set up at a pleasing angle. Of course the subject can look at you or not and the hands can do what ever you want. Woman can claps them together for a more feminine look and man can just hang them over the edge - for a manlier look. As for the light source? Well I used one inexpensive strobe, but since you don't have to worry about color cast by converting to B&W, you can use any bright spot (or even work) light.

I used my black background for this shot. You can put up a black blanket, or a brick wall, whatever you like - just make sure to underexpose it! That will make it dark and allow all the light (and attention) on your subject.

Simple portrait. And it was fun to do. (photographer's secret: He was wearing sweat pants). Might as well be

POST: converted to B&W. Adjusted contrast.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stop the Madness

I needed to put up a brief post today for all of my amateurs and beginners. A friend of mine put up a new website recently. He asked me to use my graphic artist eye to check it out. One page was a slew of photographs of his employees. They were all headshots done quickly.

I am all fine with quick and dirty BUT the photographer committed a cardinal sin. There were dark creepy shadows behind all the heads because they were standing 3 inches from the wall behind them. One simple change would have solved the problem, MOVE AWAY FROM THE WALL. Unless you are looking for shadows, always be at least 5 feet from your background when using a flash. Especially if you are stuck using the on-board flash. Whether inside, outside; pro background or natural candid....always be at least 5 feet away. Thank you. Rant over.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cory Vincent - Northern NJ Photographer

- Professional Services -

Cory Vincent Photography specializes in portraits of children, newborns, individuals, families and corporate executives. All sessions are done on location, making the client (especially children) more relaxed and comfortable. Weather permitting, I like to shoot outdoors for the natural, warm lighting.  The setting is your choice: I prefer "candid portraits" as are shown above and below. And as always with Cory Vincent Photography, if you are not satisfied with the results, YOU PAY NOTHING.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Window Lighting

When recently photographing a child, I shot the necessary posed shots. After a few setting changes, I let him walk around and I followed with the camera.

He started looking out the window to see who was coming. With just the natural light I captured this shot. I performed some post work and rendered a great candid portrait.  Window light is important. Especially for the amateur photographer without a lot of money in the budget for expensive lighting. Even the big wedding photographers use this technique as it provides great soft indirect lighting on the face. The low saturation (except for the red sweater) and the timeless outfit give this portrait a very classic look.

Post work: decrease saturation - but INCREASED saturation in sweater. increased the contract, burned the edges/corners.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Aim, don't smile, SHOOT!

I do not enjoy studio work as a general rule. To each his own, but to me the lighting is contrived, flat, boring and typically unflattering. I do not have much of a choice in the winter, I need to shoot things indoors and if I am forced to do it, I like to make it interesting. I usually play around with the lighting until it looks, well, UN-studio like. In the shot above the lighting is more harsh, but it adds a lot of character. I used a $30 black collapsible background and we set it up in the subject's kitchen. SIMPLE.

This subject does not like the way he looks when he smiles. So, I didn't make him smile. Don't always think you need to pose your subjects smiling. Try different expressions. Try to make them laugh; or maybe it's a tough guy and he can look aggressive. Kids are great. Have them make scary faces or silly faces. They can pretend to cry or be sad. In the shot above we got a smirk. Mix it up.

Photo above setup/post: Subject sat on chair against wall, with black background behind him. Softbox strobe on camera right (only a foot or so away) and umbrella on low power on camera left (to lighten shadow and pull out ear). I adjusted the contrast and "blacks" when converting the TIFF. You will see some other shots from this session in future posts.

Friday, December 25, 2009

New Logo

This is the new version of my logo. I started my photography business years ago, specializing in event photography. I got caught doing too many weddings (which was never my passion). I have shifted my focus and specialties to portraits of children and families. Let me know what you think, and if you need a portrait photographer, please email me:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Child Christmas Portrait on a Budget

Portraits at a mall studio are cheap. You can sign up for a yearly package and spend next to nothing (I'm told). And the results are "OK", but as you know, I HATE studio portraits. Living in northern, NJ I will allow them at only one time of the year. Christmas.

So my friend takes her son to one of those studios and has new portraits hanging up every month. They do a nice job but she was not satisfied with his Christmas shot. After bribing me with compliments and a free meal, I stopped by and got this shot for her. It was a very simple setup. They had just gotten their tree (not yet decorated) and propped in up in a corner near a window. Perfect! I set up my TTL flash, camera left, as my key light and used the window (that had a diffused shade) as my fill light on camera right. I liked the outcome and spent only 7 minutes in Photoshop Elements. Adjusted color and saturation, and burned the edges. In addition, I burned just the shadows in the tree. Send it to Walmart, they print it up on their Christmas card paper and you are good to go.
Fast. Cheap. The comfort of home for a 2 year old?  ....Priceless!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Step it Up

I loved this photo as soon as I saw it. The lighting was great, the coloration perfect and the smile; simple and uncoaxed. I did, however, think I could tweak it up a notch in Photoshop Elements, and that is exactly what I did.

I played with the contrast and saturation as well as the exposure.  Since she was in a stroller and I wanted to downplay that, I burned the edges. It helped to make her face standout and gave it almost a "snoot" flash effect. Hey, it's good enough for a website or fireplace mantel, and in essence it was a quick "snapshot" with my Rebel.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Colorful Standouts

Continuing on with some Photoshop ideas.....I often see the below effect done in wedding photography. The photographer highlights the bridal bouquet by keeping it in color and making the rest of the photo black and white.

 I was at a car show and saw this sideview mirror that captured the reflection of an American flag. When I converted the picture to B&W and kept the flag in color, it really popped. It is very easy to do in Photoshop. This took me less than 5 minutes. I also darkened the window in the background in order to highlight the chrome mirror.
Below is another twist in which you can use a "color standout" for more drama.
The impressive handmade cake pops in color and the emotion expressed in the girl is amplified in B&W. The result is win-win. You can do this in your portrait photos by converting photos to B&W and keeping colors in eyes, toys, flowers, etc. In the fall you can keep apples red or pumpkins orange. During the winter, you can keep a sled red or a Christmas tree green. I suggest keeping it in mind when you are photographing and an object just jumps out at you. One of my plans, for example, is to get a photo of my daughter in her Radio Flyer Wagon and keeping only the wagon red.

Want a last idea? Practice a close-up on a favorite ornament (maybe baby's first x-mas?) and keep only the (colorful!) ornament in color and convert the background tree to B&W.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dodge and Burn your Way to Better Photos

I don't believe very strongly in Photoshop for two reasons. The first reason is that the full version is well over $500 and the second reason is that most "Photoshoped" pictures reek of, well, Photoshopedness. (It's a word; trust me.) The two part solution? Buy Photoshop Elements and use it at the right times.

The picture above was Photoshoped.  I slightly darked the exposure and dodged the shadows (made the shadows darker). I also burned the highlights (making them lighter). I believe this helped make a flat photograph look a little more exciting. I would rather frame the one on the left than the original on the right. This means you can improve a rather ordinary photograph in just a few minutes. You can click on the images above for a larger view.
About the price. Photoshop is expensive, but Photoshop Elements, is a stripped down version of the software that you can purchase for less than $100. I used Elements on the above - in fact I don't own the full version.  I will post a few more Photoshop articles in the next 2 months because some people may wish to add Elements to their Christmas list. And the other reason is well, I don't take as many photos in the winter, so a good time to talk about equipment and post work.

And if you don't want to spend the money on Photoshop, AT LEAST get the free Google photo editing software called Picasa. You can crop, clear blemishes, color correct etc. I use it often for a "quick fix" with very good results. You can hit up Youtube for some great tutorials on digital editing.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Directional Lighting

Off Camera Flash: Part One of Many

One thing that I tell people getting into photography is - get out there and shoot different things. In order to expand your skills you need to push yourself; that includes getting past your comfort zone. I recently followed my own advice and photographed a friend's band practice. I never did anything like it before and asked permission, just for my own growth. I hadn't seen them practice and knew nothing ahead of time other than it was in a studio a few towns away. With the band's blessing I packed up my gear and headed out one cold October night.

By now you at least know that I have limited lighting equipment so when I walked into this tiny, DARK room I almost panicked. Thank god, I thought to myself, this was not a paying client. The room was small and filled wall to wall with at least 5 guys, plus me, equipment, wires, speakers, stands, amps, et al. The walls were a dark blue hard carpet and there were 2 pathetic fluorescent light bulbs offering just enough light to see who you were talking to. I guess I should have been thankful they weren't blinking!

I knew ahead of time that I was shooting in black and white. It was the vision I had in my mind. Seeing the poor lighting first hand removed any doubt. There was no way these shots would have had half a chance in color. The tonal qualities and "noise" would have been, well, not good. Black and white can be a great healer in poor light (just another free tip from OP).

A true professional taking "real" shots (for a cd cover or promo materials) would have set up multiple light stands and assorted lighting gear. My target audience clearly doesn't own that - but I really don't either, so I went with Plan 'B'. In all the shots, I used a cable for my Speedlite flash. This took the flash away from the camera and gave that directional lighting

In the picture just above you can tell that the light is coming from the right of the camera (I was holding it in my hand). This allowed lighting other than dreadful head-on. It also casts a nice shadow on the left of his face and under-exposed the background helping it fade away. As a side note- if this had been a "pro" shot of mine, I would have removed the white board, but since I was just playing I left it. I also liked the fact that there were all the band members' names clearly visible.

To get the shadows and underexpose the background, I shot ALL the pictures on Manual. This way I could control all the exposures. It isn't difficult, I played around until I found the recipe I liked. It helps when you have a cheat screen right on the back of the camera! I was lucky; the carpeted walls I loathed when I walked in really helped suck in the light and gave great dark backgrounds.

Before I end this post I want to explain why I hate head-on (on the camera flash). Simple: it looks awful. Photos are all about lighting. It is the key element. No light, no photo. So following that logic a little further...
 > no light = no photo
 > bad light = bad photo
 > decent light = decent photo
 > amazing light = amazing photo (OK, I know it is not that simple, but you get the idea)

In the simplest terms, the further the flash is from the lens, the better the lighting will look. That is precisely why wedding photographers have those brackets that get the flashes up higher and thus further away from the lens. In the photo at right, I have the flashed stretched on the cable as far away from the camera as it would go. Look at the shadow behind his head, you can see that it lands at a 90 degree angle from the camera and the effect is pretty cool, right? If you compared it to an on the camera flash there would be stark differences. For one, it would be far less dramatic. Second, he would have appeared very flat. In the future I will take some comparative pictures that I know will speak for themselves and better illustrate my point. If you are serious about improving the quality of your photos, you need to invest in a flash and (at least) a cable. The holidays are coming up. You can buy, or receive, a decent pivoting-head flash for under $200.

So I hope these photos help demonstrate what a single, directional light source can do to improve your photos. For a band I thought the effect was perfect. Dramatic, contrasty, a little edgy. Leave some comments and let me know what you think.

In any post that I use pictures, I will end with details on what I have done with them, post process.

POST: None were posed, all were candid. Slight underexposure and enhanced contrast.
PS - Thanks Joe!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fine Arts

There are a few elements I use to get artsy shots.  I wanted to share a few of those tips so you can make some ordinary shots a little more....interesting.

The first thing you can do is choose to go black and white.  There is something about black and white shots that often strikes up more of an emotional response. I don't always use it but the beauty of digital is that you can always shoot it in color and see what it looks like in B&W when post processing. You couldn't do that with film.  Most film photographers would carry around 2 bodies, one with color film and one with B&W. They would just switch the lenses back and forth. Seems like so long ago now....

Click below to read about the other elements.