Lighting Zones to Achieve Different Looks

Mark Wallace from Adorama TV explains what groups or zones are when you shoot with flash lights, either speedlights or studio lights. Zones are used to turn groups of lights on and off. It helps you save the time by allowing you to control these zones from your camera. Mark set up a lighting scheme in his studio to demonstrate how it all works. His model will be sitting still and by controlling the lights Mark is going to modify the lighting that comes to his model. This is extremely useful if you need to make photos of your clients in a studio because you will be able to shoot several different looks with all the lights already set up and all you have to do is turn on and off light zones.

The key light is always a beauty dish, then he has a small soft box as a fill light from below. Then he uses V-flats lighted by flashes. They reflect and light the model from both sides. Also Mark has a light flash pointing to the background. And there is a soft box that lights the background evenly from below.

By showing diagrams Mark illustrates how different lights work and how you can use a combination of lights to achieve different looks.

Five Focus Tips for your DSLR

Photographer Phil Steele shares 5 tips on DSLR focusing, from basic to more advanced.

  • Set your focus point manually.
    In Auto mode your camera chooses which focus point to use. Any creative mode of your camera will allow you to manually control which focus point you need.

  • Focus and recompose your image.
    If you do not want to mess with choosing a focus point every time you make a shot, you can select the central point as more sensitive and use it to get the focus of your subject by half pressing the shutter button and then recompose your frame to your liking. It may not work if your depth of field is very narrow (usually at larger apertures like 2.8 or 1.4. Then the advice is to try and move your camera at the same distance to the subject when doing your frame recomposing. Another issue may arise if you need to make multiple photos of the same subject, it will be inconvenient to move your camera back and forth for recomposing. In this case appointing a different focus point is a solution.

  • Look for edge contrast
    If there is not enough contrast, the camera cannot pick the focus and keeps hunting, for example try to focus on blue sky. That is why you need some contrast in the area where you are focusing. In this respect the central point works better as it can detect contrast both vertically and horizontally, unlike some of the other focus points.

  • Using manual pre-focus.
    Sometimes you need to abandon autofocus feature of your DSLR camera and use a manual focus instead. For example when shooting sport or action, you usually know where it will take place but you do not know when. So you manually adjust your focusing ring of the lens to the place where you expect a subject to be and when the action begins you just press the shutter.

  • Use Live View for perfect manual focus.
    Sometimes it is hard to tell when your subject is in or out of focus. In this case use Live View for enlarging the area where you are focusing on manually. When done, switch back to normal.

How to Use Off Camera Lighting in Open Air

Wedding Photographers Zach and Jody Gray show on set how they use off camera lighting in order to reach dramatic sky effect on your portrait photos in open air. They explain about the photography gear they use, for example a Westcott soft box 24x32 equipped with a battery powered 400 W light (you can use a flash light instead); a mono pod which gives flexibility but requires an assistant to hold it; a wireless trigger is .

They developed a 3 step system to get an amazing sky on your photo because if you expose on someone's face, the sky will be blown out.

Step 1 - Shoot at ISO 100 and 1/100 shutter speed.

Step 2 - Expose for your background so that it is 1 stop underexposed by adjusting your F-stop.

Step 3 - Adjust your flash according to the f-stop from the previous step by using a light meter. Make sure your light meter is positioned at the same distance as your model's face for accurate reading.

When you shoot outdoors with a flash, it really needs to be a big source of light with a quite powerful light coming to your subject. A bigger size light source like a soft box gives you very even lighting without harsh shadows on your model's face unlike a speed light without any modifier.

You can keep shooting with the same settings as long as the lighting conditions stay the same.

Learn from Begginer Photographers' Mistakes

  • Notice changes in lighting and adjust to them. Sometimes you may forget to change your exposure if you move from the sunlight to a shade. After you made a photo, look at your camera's screen to make sure it has not blown up or black areas.

  • Instead of shooting hundreds of shots try to slow down and compose (frame) your image, tell your subject to change poses. It is also a good idea to limit the number of photos you will take in this session.

  • Learn posing tricks - which poses are good for men or women. Look at other photographers' pictures to learn different poses that your model could use.

  • Shoot in RAW, not JPEG! It will allow you to adjust the exposure of already taken images to a much greater degree. Plus you will be able to change your White Balance as you want.