Saturday, August 23, 2008

New kitty on the blog

Hi there. I'm Heart. Silly name you say? Sure. I didn't pick it, one of the little Camabses did. She got it from a bedtime story. But it's fine, I'll manage. Better than my old name. Too many memories attached. Bad stuff, teenage mum, ended up in the gutter. Life at the Camabs residence is better though. Food, attention, two kids to scare every now and then. Nothing serious, no heavy bleeding involved. A soft bite is sufficient to make 'm cry. Young humans are such weak creatures.

Not the Camabs-guy though. Typical alpha male that one. Huge guy, strong voice. But such gentle hands. Prrrrrr. He's lazy though. Thinks it's too much trouble to write three blog articles a week. Wants me to write one every now and then. Oh well. He feeds me, how can I refuse him anything? So, you'll see more of me here. Time for my nap now, see you 'round.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Photography tips: the sweet spot

Sweet spot, you may have heard that word before. You may even have been checking some of your pictures for it. You didn't findt it, did you? Sweet spot is not in the picture. It relates to the optimal aperture of a lens.

The term 'optimal' is a bit misleading here, because the optimal aperture depends on the type of picture you are trying to make. If you want a shallow depth-of-field, your aperture has to be larger than in the case you want a deep field. In low light situations, a large aperture (small f-number) is often the only option. But apart from these considerations, you may be looking for the maximum resolution (i.e. sharpness) of your lens. The aperture where the overall resolution reaches its maximum value is called the sweet spot. It is nice to know the sweet spot of your lens by heart, so that you can use it if you end up in a situation where you can. Shooting landscape photos in broad daylight would be such a situation.

Finding the sweet spot
But how do you find the sweet spot? It is not in the manual of the lens. It is actually quite simple. Find a review of your lens that contains a laboratory resolution test at different apertures. Photozone has them for all the lenses they have reviewed. Then check the resolution graph (or table) for the highest value and find the aperture that produces it. You have now found the sweet spot. Note that some lenses have different sweet spots for centre and border, and zoom lenses may have different sweet spots for different focal lengths. Then it takes some common decide to decide.
An example
Here's a quick example from one of my favorite lenses, the Canon EF 35/2. The figure (click on it to see it in it's context) shows that center sharpness is maximum at f/5.6, and border sharpness at f/8. That is not a clear verdict as to what the sweet spot is, but since border sharpness is below centre sharpness, I would say overall sharpness is best at f/8.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Modeling tips: Duo Shoot

A Duo shoot involves two models. That sounds simple and it is simple. It does however imply a lot more than that. For a good duo shoot, one plus one is greater than two. The magic word here is interaction. A duo shoot benefits from the interaction between the persons involved. It may however also benefit from the explicit and intended lack of interaction. Much of this is up to the photographer, but the models can make an impact too.

Check the intention
The photographer or client that initiates the duo shoot probably has a certain idea behind the interaction in the shoot. They want to attach a certain feel to the pics. For commercial shoots, this will probably be either soft-sensual or shiny-happy-people kind of feel. For artistic shoots, these may also be appropriate, but the photographer may also have allienation in mind or want to adjust to a certain theme. Make sure you have the intention clear before the shoot, allowing you to practice poses and experession and look at examples.

Who's your partner?
If you can, meet the other model prior to the shoot. No need to engage in extensive pre-shoot practice, but it helps if you know each other and you might want to discuss your interpretations of the shoot. Having met is especially helpful if the shoot has a sensual feel to it. Do note that 'a sensual feel' does not have to depict sex or nudity. The sensual feel is often limited to suggestion. This still requires convincing interaction between the models, probably even more than in the case where nudity would be inolved.

Be an actor
Knowing the intended feel and knowing your partner, it all comes down to your acting abilities. If you have no acting experience, use your imagination. Pretend to be in love if that's the theme, and imagine how you would act. Copying the examples you have looked at in advance may also help. Make sure you make eye contact with the other model (unless the photographer explictly asks you not to). If the other model is more experienced, let him or her lead you and try to follow. You can copy parts of what he/she does, but don't copy all of it. The photographer hired two models, not a model and a mirror.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Midlife crisis

I think I need your help here, dear readers. In a little less than five months, I will turn 40. So it is about time I picked my peculiarity for my midlife crisis. I already ride a motorbike, so that's no option, and I won't consider a convertible untill my mid-50s or so. I thought of dating younger women, but my wife told me that's very much out of fashion these days. No idea where she got that from, but I'll follow her advise, 'cause that's what I allways do.

That still leaves me without a clue where to devote my midlife crisis. I started loosing weight as a kind of no-regret-policy. This gives me the opportunity to switch to some kind of extreme sport once the midlife crisis kicks in, or go after the younger... oh no, that was not an option.

But then what? Say I reach my 40th birthday at a kind-of-healthy weight? What's next? Becoming annorexic is not my kind of thing and I know nothing about all these extreme sports or anything. Please advise me, help me find a typical midlife crisis type of hobby. Thanks!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Photography tips: Fire!

Fire depicts warmth, coziness, maybe even a romantic evening in front of the fireplace. It may also depict danger and destruction, as fire has destructive powers. Plenty of reasons to want to photograph fire. But how?

Fire is a light source
Apart from warmth, fire provides light. It is important to note that the light that fire provides is weak and has a pretty high color temperature. Lighting a room with just fire provides a dimly lit room in an orange flow. The amount of light a normal fire provides is so weak that you can even look or photograph right into it. This obviously depends on the type of fire, since the sun is in fact nothing less than fire, and you would not want to look directly into it, even if it is thousands of miles away. But we are talking burning wood here.

Cozy or blazing?
Like I said, fire has two faces, the warm and kind one and the destructive one. If you look closely at both types of fire, you’ll note that the cozy fire burns much slower. You can use this knowledge to make a blazing fire pic out of a cozy fire. Using a fairly long exposure (try 1/3 sec for starters, and use a tripod) will create motion blur out of the slow movement of the flames, thus suggesting that the flames burn much faster.

Shorter exposures (say 1/100 sec) will freeze the motion, thus suggesting a cozy fire. However, fire provides insufficient light to make a decent picture at such a shutter speed. This implies that you will either have to raise our ISO or use a flash. In the latter case, make sure to bounce your flash and set your shutter time to balance flashlight and the light from the fire. See my earlier articles on bouncing and flashing by daylight for more details. Too much flash will result in a dull picture without the warm fire glow, so make sure to balance your light sources.

More resources:
Photoshop fire tutorials

Friday, August 1, 2008

Modeling tips: get an agent (what?)

So, there you are. You've followed trough everything I told you last week and now you have 5, maybe 6 agencies offering you a deal. What to do?

Exclusive or not?
The first question is whether you want to be with one single agency, or several. There is no easy answer to this question. Logic tells us that more agencies mean more work, and more of a hassle as well. If you are represented by 3 agents, you will have to update schedules and coordinate portfolio shoots. So if you wanted an agency to get rid of the hassle, exclusivity may be the answer. If you are trying to maximize the number of shoots (and income), then you might want to have more agencies out there trying to find work for you. Unless of course you get a great deal from an internationally renowned agent to sign an exclusive contract.

Avoid scams
Make sure you check your agencies before signing up. Check BBB, look for blacklists and check out thier reputation on modeling discussion forums in your region. Contact models and photographers you know and ask them if they know the agency. Like with photographers, you can check in advance for not-ok signs (see my earlier article):
  • The agency requires advance payments;
  • The agent has no office;
  • Agency commissions over 25%;
  • The agency promises you the world;
  • The agency does not comply to local regulations;
  • Advertisements (most reputable agencies don't advertise. They simply don't have to).

Like with photographers, seeing these signs does not mean these guys are crooks by definition, but be extra careful if you see such a sign.

Aspects to base your choice on
When picking an agency, take a closer look at the work of their photographers. Are they any good? Do they publish in magazines? Similarly, look at the models of the agency. Their achievements tell you a lot about what to expect for yourself. And obviously, look at the offer. How will they help you? Will they help you building a portfolio for instance? What's in the small print of the contract? What contract duration do they offer? It is generally not a very good idea for starting models to sign contracts with duration of more than 2 years.

More resources:
Exclusive vs non-exclusive, the arguments
about scams
why to get an agent
how to get an agent