Monday, July 15, 2019

Master photographer at work | Story behind the iconic Steve Jobs portrait

We all remember the iconic photograph of Steve Jobs where he is just looking straight at you. There is an intense expression which is shot against a clean white backdrop. Given how long some of this photo session can get, especially to get this kind of portrait, it is remarkable how fast this portrait was made. In the video below you see a master explain his work. Albert Watson who made this portrait describes his thought process and explains how he created the iconic photograph.

If you look at the photograph the expression is priceless which would give you the illusion that Jobs was great at posing and giving expression. While this may have been true, it is also true that Jobs did not like being photographed.

This makes this photograph even more compelling as a study. While we see the expression what we don't see is the master photographer who put Jobs in that state of mind to evoke that expression out of him. This is one of the most important parts of a portrait photograph "Emotion". Albert Watson gave Steve Jobs simple instructions before the shoot. Not only is Albert great at posting but also has mastery of light. There is a common joke among portrait photographers that in addition photographers, they are part psychologist and part director. All this and much more can be seen in this video below. The best part about this is he finished it in less than the time Jobs was scheduled for the portrait!

What did you notice from this video? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Creating a cool look

I was walking through the mall recently and saw this really large poster on the wall which looked like a scene from one of the recent vampire movies. The overall look of the image was blue in colour but the person in the image had almost a normal skin tone.

So I did what any sensible person would do, I went about recreating it. Which lead me to my next obvious question who would be the be willing to be in front of the camera. I reached to a friend who said he could help with a person after some stuff not working out he checked with a few of his friends he said: "hey I know this guy who will come". Felt like a movie dialogue at that point, and I was almost at the point where I was willing to just shoot a scarecrow but he said to have patience. Little did I know the friend he was referring to he was an Instagram Influence. Which I was blissfully not aware of. We had a few conversations about wardrobe and then he showed up. The guy looked like he stepped out of a magazine cover and with a face cut so sharp one could get cuts merely by looking at him, but I digress.

My second challenge was the location. After a bit of location scouting, I finally settled on a park nearby,  which had a lot of trees to create the look of a forest. Also, I was on a budget of nothing so parks worked out just fine.

The trick to the image is white balance. [Warning technical stuff ahead] Normally flash temperature is at 5500K or 6000K which is about the colour temperature of daylight. If you add a gel on it the color temperature shifts. You can shift the white balance number to a higher number or a lower number. For my look, I wanted to get to a white balance of about 3500K. This is done by adding an orange filter on the light also known as a gel.

For the shoot I used this big umbrella was to produce soft light. It looks ridiculous in person but produces beautiful soft light

Now if there is daylight everywhere and if you balance for the orange colour everything will look blue and the person will look normal. If everything is kept normal the person would look like they have jaundice or some disease so don't try this without fixing the white balance. I have been there, does not look good.

The result is what you see below.

Since I was there and with such sharp features I decided to pull off a few more you can check them out here.

Give this a try and post your comments below.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Photographing on the move

It is the summer time and a lot of you would be traveling all over the place. There are breathtaking views you plan your visit to that make you pause and you catch yourself saying "Damm this is my life!!!". However, that is not the only time you see beautiful sights. A lot of times we see amazing visuals while we are on the move like sitting on a train, a bus, heck even while flying in the sky from an aircraft.
A view from a moving bus
Photo was taken from a moving bus

View from above

It is at these moments that we wish we had more time to stop and make a picture, but in actuality, we are not able to do so, because we cannot stop. To help you with this I am going to share with you some of the ways I get around this problem. I have broken it down on the following aspects such as lens choice, camera setting etc. So let's get started. (Almost all the lens details are for the crop body.)

Lens Choice
My preferred lens to shoot with is the 16-85mm Nikkor. Though this lens has a lot of distortion at all possible angles, it gives me the range I like to shoot with. For me, I like to get a bit wider in my perspective and the 18mm on the crop body was just not cutting it.

I also carry a few lenses when I am traveling but mostly these never get out of my camera bag. I usually pack the 35mm f1.8 and one short telephoto lens. Any more than lenses than this and it is a nightmare getting through airport security. This also adds weight while I traveling.

However, if don't have this lens or any of the other no problem your 18-55mm which comes as the standard kit lens is a really good place to start. If you can afford to buy lense only for travel a lot of travelers recommend any one of these 18-140/200/250/300. These lense replace almost all the lens requirements and if you want to shoot portraits in low light add the 35 mm f1.8 and you are set. With such long lens, it removes the requirement to change lenses very often. This is very helpful when traveling, you can quickly go from wide to tele really fast and covers almost all the required ranges. This is great as you also avoid sensor dust getting into your camera when you change lenses.

When you get one of these there is a lot of distortion but you can fix most of in post-processing. However, if you are a stickler for edge to edge performance then get ready to carry loads of lense. 

If you are on the full frame then the 28-300 would be the equivalent. If you can rent one of these then that is a good way to try out the lens out before you drop your money on one of them.

Shooting Style

If you only have your kit lens don't worry. All the lenses in the world are useless if you don't know how to shoot or don't have a good technique. So work on your technique and you will still walk away with great images. For this, you need two things

  1. Preparation
  2. Anticipation
1. Preparation
When you are on the go, your vehicle is moving quite fast, well mostly... In this case, you can do one of two things, take advantage of the movement or get ahead of movement. One way to take advantage of the movement is is reverse panning. In panning the subject is moving and you are still. However, in this case, the reverse is happening. You are moving and the subject is still. What you get is this dissing photo something like what you see below. The man in the photo is sharp but in front and behind we see movement. You get motion blur in front and behind the subject. But the subject is sharp.

Reverse Panning

The second is to have a high ISO open aperture and camera on AF-C. This will help your camera click an image even if it does not get a true focus. The downside is you may get a really blurry image. Here is an example of shooting at high speed. Mostly you would be able to freeze action as your shutter speed is faster than your moving vehicle. You could walk away or in this case move away with an image like what you see below. 

For this you need to keep your aperture open to as wide it will go, keep your lens at the wide angle and ISO at least 800 or above. Some of your cameras will allow you to go to 4000 or so, try it. I rather have a grainy image rather than none at all.

Dramatic sky's

The third is to shoot continuously or have your drive mode in continues shooting mode. The more you click the higher your chances to nail a great image. This is about the only time I do spray and pray for an image. Otherwise, most of my shooting is quite deliberate. 

2. Anticipation

If the journey requires you to go and come along the same route then keep an eye out for interesting things you see. Make a note of where it is and then you can photograph it on your way back. A tip, change your position to the other side in the vehicle you are sitting in on your way back if you want to click what you saw from your window while going.

If this is something that you cannot do, then look ahead at what is coming and get the camera out where you expect to take a great photo. This will take some practice. You will initially miss some moments but over time you will get good at anticipating and clicking.

Sind River

I saw the above view while going and was ready on the way back and used the spray and prey technique. Not bad I would say.

Next is see images of the places you are likely to visit on your way and be prepared in advance. This means you are going to click these places from a moving vehicle. You would also require to practice before you go on such expedition. Practice this on your everyday commute to get better.

These are some of my techniques, share the techniques you use while you are on the move by adding comments in the comments section below. If you found this useful share your experience.