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Come in! There are a few adventures I’ve written about, but most of the content offers classes in photography and mentoring for photographers, including photo theory, which, although a vital part in our profession, is largely an overlooked subject in all published media that profits from and feeds our gadget minded mindset today.

Detail photos are great, but get the complete scene, too – A31

September 20 2009 - Photo Technical

Let’s pick up where we left off – I had been taking you through my photographic thinking process and using the April 16th Triton birthday bash as a resource for tips and information that can be helpful to you in taking your pictures.

I have gone through the preparation steps and at the closing of the last article mentioned that I begin, especially with most parties starting in the daylight hours, to take overviews of the location, or the establishing shots.

In time you may forget and friends you show your pictures to might ask “where was this?”  To me, it always makes looking at photos more complete and enjoyable, if I can get a sense of the overall location where photographs were taken.  It helps to create an atmosphere.

The daylight for the establishing shots obviously makes the entire scene much more visible and accessible.  With late afternoon sunlight still coming into the scene, blue sky and clouds still on the horizon, I am eager to try and keep these things visible and properly exposed.  This means ideally the camera shutter setting will be faster and the lens aperture (diaphragm) will be smaller, then it will be later when I loose the ambient light.

Nevertheless, with the late afternoon light there will also be heavy shading of people’s faces turned away from the sun’s light.  So I’m thinking I want to use some flash fill to open up, to see those shadowed areas.  In short, turn on and use your flash.

I’ve discussed in previous articles your flash, any flash is powerless directly against the sun, and is otherwise is unable to have much lighting effect on anything (in most cases) further than twenty feet from where you are shooting.

What this means is that when using the flash with the sunlight behind you, the flash will do nothing to add to the outcome of your photograph.  That’s O.K., you don’t gain, but neither have you messed anything up (outside of using battery power unnecessarily).

If you are taking a shoot against the general direction of the incoming light the flash will be helpful in filling in the shadows of faces, possibly up to twenty feet of so.  It will certainly help to expose the features of faces closer to you.

Whether it is 5, 10, or 20 feet for the effective range of your flash depends on its overall power (technically called its Guide Number), and how the aperture (diaphragm) of the lens is set.  You know, if it’s f2.8 or f8; the former extends and the latter diminishes its range capabilities.

The shutter speed does not have an effect on flash usage, so long as you are at or below the camera sync speed.  With digital cameras today the camera will only fire (expose) at the sync speed or lower if you have your flash on, so life is easy and I do not have to go further into this.

All you really need to know is that it is safe and useful even in bright… especially in bright ambient light conditions, when photographing people or pets, to use the flash built into your camera or an auxiliary flash unit.

Finished with the establishing shots, continuing with use of the flash, I now spend the rest of the evening, with a few exceptions, just doing close up shots of couples or groups of people.

The best approach that I follow in taking people is to catch people off guard by being very fast…  A sort of “before they know what hit them approach.”  In this way I seem to catch people in a more natural state, less prepared and posed, and have fewer eyes closed results.

I quickly plan each shot, although you may be scratching your head on that one, because people are, were they are, and you have to take them like that.  Yes, it’s not elaborate planning, it’s quick planning.  Not only do I always look at the subject(s), but also always look at their backgrounds, and position myself accordingly, quickly a little left or right, up or down. I can (and so can you) anticipate where people are shifting, moving, going, and I will turn away to allow the natural course of events to occur without drawing attention to my camera, and then turn back again to quickly take the shot.

Look, you can do this with people; you can also do this with animals, your pets.  Even with scenic and travel shots, photography has a lot to do with a flow.  You end up with static-fixed images, but the right flow to getting them will give you exceptional results.  Naturally, the degree of commitment has a role, and personally I only photograph with a lot of it.

I thought there was more, before going into the after the pictures are taken phase.  If so I’ll get back to it next time.  From this article keep in mind you can always use flash, be aware, allow for natural staging, be quick, as this will go a long way to getting great shots of friends and your pets.  Now I’ll ask permission to come ashore…