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.