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Thread: 5 Minute Photos

  1. #1
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    Default 5 Minute Photos

    Lately a lot of people have asked me how I shoot my photos indoors, so I figured I'd do a mini-session of how I go through my shooting process. Please note that I'm not a professional photographer, nor do I even consider myself a good photographer. It's completely a hobby and any info I share with you is probably not the best of way of doing it; it's just my way.

    First and foremost, lets get the equipment out of the way. This is the equipment that I generally use when shooting my boas:

    1. Nikon D90 + Nikon 18-108 mm Kit Lens
    2. Nikon SB-900
    3. Photoflex Umbrella
    4. Westcott 6-in-1 Reflectors and Diffusers
    5. And an assortment of light stands and poster boards

    I will explain how I use these equipment in a second, but before I go on, note that you don't have to use the same stuff I'm using. You could get the same quality photos (if not better) with cheaper equipment as long as you understand the principles behind how they work.

    I personally don't have a whole lot of time to shoot photos of my boas, so I like to do things quick and dirty. I usually spend about 5-10 minutes taking photos of my boas, and while the pictures aren't perfect, they manage to do the job.

    The two biggest things I focus on are quality of light and composition; everything else is just for fun!!

    To most accurately depict your boa in a photo, your light quality has to be soft and clean. One of the best way to achieve this is to diffuse your light source. Typical light sources (flash or afternoon sunlight) are harsh lights and when they hit your subject, they create very hard shadows that aren't always pleasing (this is not always true - hard light is sometimes desired based on application).

    The rule of thumb is that the closer and bigger your source of light, the softer and cleaner the light will be. A flash unit shot from very far away will be very hard and direct when it finally touches the subject. So to remedy this, I use an umbrella and a 1 1/2 stop diffuser to cut down some of the roughness of my flash unit.

    The purpose of an umbrella is to spread out your tiny flash into a bigger light source (making the light softer), and if you use a shoot-through umbrella, it will also soften the light slightly because it will prevent all the light from going through. Typically, this setup is good for most people, however, I really like my light to be extremely soft and clean, so I also use a 1 1/2 stop diffuser in front of my umbrella to cut back some of the light and help spread my light even further.

    If this makes no sense, don't worry because I have a picture. This is what my light setup looks like:



    As you can see, my Nikon SB-900 flash projects the light into the umbrella, which then reflects it back and spreads across the diffuser. The diffuser then takes some of the intensity of the light out and then spreads it even further before hitting my subject (boa).

    Now this isn't always enough because a lot of the times the subject isn't always fully lit and there can be some dark spots (most often the face because the boa's heads are so low to the ground). So to fix this issue, I usually place a huge white, reflective poster board across from my umbrella, to bounce some of that lost light back on to the subject. This is essentially creating a 'light box'.

    This is what that setup looks like:



    One of the great things about doing this is that I am now free to shoot the boa at any angle and be sure that all of the boa will have a fair amount of light exposure.

    Here is a photo taken today with this exact setup:



    Another cool thing with using a very clean and soft light source with your boas is that you'll be able to capture a lot more scale detail making the picture look sharper and cleaner:



    Now while a very openly lit photo is nice:



    don't be too afraid of shadows. They can help add depth and draw the viewer's eyes to the photo:






    Another very important thing in shooting photos is your composition. A lot of people shoot directly from the top or really far away, or they shoot at extremely high f-stops (f-9 - f-11) and that takes away a lot of depth from your photos. Don't be afraid to get in real close to your boas or shoot at wide apertures to get a little bit of the 'out-of-focus' or 'bokeh' look. I personally believe that it makes the photo a lot more personable and brings out the subject a lot more.










    Again, I'd like to point out that I by no means have all the answers. I'm sure there are tons of better ways of taking pictures of your animals, but this method works for me in the time period that I have available for snapping photos. If I ever have more time, I usually spend it by coming up with creative ways to portray my animals. You can achieve some FANTASTIC photos simply by have a nice background or object within the frame.

    It's also always worth your while to experiment and try different things. Even if it doesn't turn out well, it is always a great learning lesson. When it comes to photography, you have to learn to embrace your mistakes. They are your best friends.

    Hopefully this helped out the few people that are having some trouble operating their flash unit. Remember that these principles apply to ALL light sources including the sun. So keep them in mind whenever you're shooting photos and they will take you a long ways.

    I'm still in the learning process, so if anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to contribute!

  2. #2
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    Nice write up dude!!!

    jb

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    great info and AWESOME photos.
    Christian Clodfelter

  4. #4
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    Great writeup. I get really frustrated when it comes to taking pictures, but I've come to realize that it's because my lighting sucks all around. I've tried to augment my photography with various lights, but they always come out too yellow. Do you know if there's a good DIY way to make the umbrella thing work?

    PS - All of your boa shots are beautiful.

  5. #5
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    Nice writeup and beautiful pics and boas..

  6. #6
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    Thanks for sharing...Good information and amazing boas...!
    Vaya con Dios,
    Buddy Young

  7. #7
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    Broussard, LA with my wife Kayla and our "zoo". LOL
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    Good thread for me!
    I spend alot of time outdoors and have started taking along a camera. Just never took the time to learn how to properly use a camera.
    And of course the pics I take of my snakes, etc. need to improve.

  8. #8
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    Great job bro, I love that Suri, always have and you capture it very well!
    Alex Burgos

  9. #9
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    Thanks Ali. I never understood how some folks can take such great photos of their animals indoors. Very informative.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by natieb View Post
    Great writeup. I get really frustrated when it comes to taking pictures, but I've come to realize that it's because my lighting sucks all around. I've tried to augment my photography with various lights, but they always come out too yellow. Do you know if there's a good DIY way to make the umbrella thing work?

    PS - All of your boa shots are beautiful.

    If your photo has an unnatural color tint to it, it's most likely due to your camera's white balance settings. The easiest way to fix this is to either shoot with a neutral gray card or light meter, or just shoot your photos in RAW format and correct the white balance on Photoshop's camera RAW. The yellow tint generally means that your photos are way too warm on the temperature scale.

    Also note that if you shoot with multiple lights (flash + florescent), each light source will have a different color cast, therefore, its own white balance. For example, if you are using an external flash and a fluorescent light fixture in the room and you set your camera's white balance so that your flash light will look perfect, then any portion of the photo where the fluorescent light hits will look weird and green. This is also true for incandescent light sources, but they will look red.

    So it's important that you either use only one style of light source, or use gel filters to correct the color of your flash to match your room's lights.

    As far as a DIY umbrella...they are very easy to make as long as you understand how they work. An umbrella just takes a normal light source, reflects it, and spreads it across a larger area.

    You can achieve the same thing by pointing your external flash up at the wall and letting it bounce and spread across the room. While the light won't be as soft and clean and will look slightly flat, it will still do a great job of illuminating your subject. One of the biggest things you have to worry about though is that your wall can't be too high up (arch ceilings) because the flash will no longer be effective, and your wall has to be white because light picks up the color of the surface that it reflects from.

    Another great way to do this setup very cheaply is to use a clean, thin, white bed sheep. If your flash is strong enough, you can position it about 6-7 feet away from the bed sheet and blast it full power through the sheet to get a very clean and soft light on your subject. It's very easy to run out of batteries doing this though, so keep it in mind.

    Here are some cheap photography tools that will tremendously help you with your lighting setup:

    http://www.lumiquest.com/products/big-bounce.htm

    http://www.lumiquest.com/products/80-20.htm

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc..._Umbrella.html

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