Saturday, November 14, 2015

Understanding Your Camera’s Meter

I think one of the most confusing things for most beginning photographers is learning how to use the meter in your camera to set a proper exposure. The first images we take with a new camera are often our worst because each camera meters somewhat differently and the default metering mode for most is evaluative mode. This means that your camera is looking at the entire scene and averaging all the light and dark areas of the image. The light reflected back to the camera is read as 18% gray which is considered middle gray. To better understand what that means, let’s take a look at a process called the Zone System created by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer back in the early 1930’s.

Adams and Archer devised a method that would help to get consistent results between film and normal contrast photographic paper. In a very simplified version, they developed a scale from pure black to pure white and broke it into 10 zones. Zone 5 is middle gray, the same middle gray that your camera tries to convince you is the right exposure for all your pictures. Zone 1 would represent the pure black and Zone 10 is pure white.

The knowledge that your camera wants to make everything middle grey gives you the advantage to make white objects white and black objects black by adjusting from middle grey. Effectively, the camera is going to loose detail in the blacks at around Zone 3 and detail in the whites at around Zone 8. To make this information useful, average caucasian skin tone would fall at Zone 7. If your camera meters that skin tone as Zone 5, you will need to adjust your shutter speed, aperture, or ISO by 2 stops.

As an example, let’s say you meter directly off the person’s face and your meter says to set your camera at f/5.6 @ 1/125 with your ISO @ 100. In order to get a proper exposure, you would need to change your settings to f/2.8@ 1/125 or f/5.6@ 1/30. Both methods will put the person’s face in Zone 7 which will be a proper exposure. You could also change the ISO from 100 to 400 and accomplish the same thing. With any of the three changes, you are adding 2 stops of light on the subject and getting a more accurate exposure.

Try photographing a white wall using the camera meter settings and then take another shot opened up 3 stops. Which one gives you a white wall that still retains texture? The second shot, of course. The opposite can be used on a black wall. Close down 3 stops and the wall will be black without loss of texture.

Another method would be to meter off of an 18% gray card. Your exposure will be correct because the camera is seeing the same gray that it will always try to find. Gray cards are available at any camera store and are an invaluable tool. One caveat I would point out is that the light falling on the gray card has to be the same light falling on the subject in order for the exposure to be accurate.

In our next blog point, well discuss the differences between incident light meters and reflective meters. (Hint…the meter is your camera is reflective.)

I hope this will help understand metering better, but if you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I will answer all questions. Remember that the only stupid question is the one not asked.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Value Vs. Price

I believe the most often asked question (especially online) is, “Do you have a pricelist?” I suppose the short answer would be “No”. But since that just may sound rude or arrogant, I will get into a little more elaborate answer.

I do have some very basic guidelines for portrait work with a set hourly rate and a minimum of 2 hours. I also give certain incentives the more prints a client orders. Each and every client’s needs are different and, in order to understand those specific needs, I think a personal conversation is really required. I want to fully understand what type of images you want and how you would like them done. I would love to discuss all the nuances of a session so that there are no surprises or misunderstandings at the time of the shoot or at the viewing of the finished proofs. Maybe you have a particular idea of a special setting or styling for a session and I am very happy to try to accommodate that, if at all possible. Perhaps I can make a suggestion that helps you achieve the styling that you want in your images based on the years of experience that I have in this industry. Without that initial conversation, there is really no way I can give an honest answer to price.

I do try to make sure that all my clients know the difference between price and value. Trust me when I say, they are not the same thing. While one photographer will quote a price of $50 for a full session, what are you really getting? Most likely, you’ll get a CD with 20 mediocre photos that have no color correction, retouching, or other “extras” that are common with a professional photographer. That CD will eventually wear out and the image files can very easily become corrupt meaning that every penny you have paid is gone forever. That is price.

Value, on the other hand, is what you get when the photographer takes the time to fully understand what you want and has the experience and proper equipment to make that a reality. While the overall monetary expense may be somewhat more, the value of the final product will be much more. A finished photographic print that you can hold in your hand, hang on your wall, or send to Grandma will mean so much more to you in the long run. Yes, I will provide you with a digital copy of all finished images that will be appropriate for use on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. No, they will not be the full, raw files of the entire shoot on a copyright released CD. I take great pride in the work that I put out into the world. I want every image that is in the final proofs to be something that I will be proud to claim as my work. If I were to give you an image in which you’re eyes were closed or you’re expression was not flattering to you, then you posted that image online for the world to see, my value as a professional is diminished. No one is going to look at that type of photo and say, “Oh, I want him to do pictures just like that for me!” That is where value comes into play.

Above and beyond the question of price versus value, my goal is to put a smile on your face and for your eyes to light up when you look at the proofs of your session with me. I want you to be genuinely happy with the entire experience. If you are, then you will tell your friends, they will tell their friends and maybe I can help them be as happy as you are with you photos.

At the end of the day, one fact remains constant. This is my profession. It is how I pay my bills. It costs a lot to buy the proper cameras, lenses and lighting equipment needed to provide you with the quality you deserve. My experience also figures into the equation. My college education was not cheap and I really want to know that I made a good investment and got VALUE for the money I have spent.

I hope this helps to explain why I don’t have a posted cookie cutter price list. You are unique in your own way and you deserve for the experience of having your images made by me to be just as unique.

Thanks you for considering me to be your photographer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Abrams Falls...Shooting Waterfalls

I used a 9 stop Neutral Density filter so that I could get a 45 sec. exposure. Long exposure gives you that silky water and smooths out the splash pool. Normally, I would have been there before daylight and just used long exposure alone, but this falls is located inside Cade's Cove and the rangers don't open the gate until daylight. It's at least an hour walk in and by that time, the sun was up fairly high making the scene too bright. Intended to do a video there this morning on how to achieve the effect, but the waterfall was so loud, I couldn't get decent audio even with a $300 Rode Microphone. I will have to shoot that video at a quieter stretch of water and I will post a link to my youtube channel when I get it posted.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Beginnings

I truly thought that once we left our house and everything else behind that life would be a lot simpler and in many ways it is. However, moving into a 30' travel trailer from a big 2 story house has a BIG learning curve! The space is smaller, of course, but the adaptation to the change in lifestyle takes a bit more than we had figured. The first few weeks have been mostly spent on getting organized, moving our domicile to another state, getting new drivers licenses, tagging vehicle and trailer and just generally learning what we can and cannot do in such a limited space. It has been eye opening, to say the least. But, alas, I have finally settled into a kind of routine and started getting out to shoot new images everyday. We chose to spend our first few months in the area of the Great Smoky Mountains and make this region our new home base. I had lots of images of the Smokies during spring, summer and fall, but virtually none in winter. Ironically, the weather has been unseasonably warm for the Smokies this year, but I heard last night on the news that we may get some snow later in the week. Yes! I love shooting snow covered mountains and rivers and waterfalls! So look forward to that in upcoming posts. In the meantime, enjoy a few of the images I have been lucky enough to capture the last week or so.
The Ogle Farm is a historic place built in the mid to late 1800's just outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Since it had been raining a lot for a few days, when the rain stopped a beautiful misty fog developed in the higher elevations making some of these old farms look rather surreal and almost spooky. I loved it!
Yesterday, we took off to the far side of the park to revisit a few places I have photographed in the past. Not to mention the wonderful ride through the Smokies, Mother Nature cooperated with some very pleasing light to aid in the documentation of our new journey.
I plan to keep this blog a lot more active from now on, posting at least twice a week with new images, tips and tricks on how the images were captured and processed, and much more. Stay tuned! The journey is just beginning! Please, leave comments, questions and suggestions of things you would like to see or how-to questions. I will do my best to answer them all.
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