I returned to Northern Pinellas County this morning for my second DSLR Photography Lesson with Karin, but the first with her brand new just arrived Nikon D5100! This was of course my first time hands on with that Nikon as well and I came away impressed by its fit, finish & image quality. The D5100 was not her only new gear though, she also got a cable release for it, a tripod and a 3-light studio package! Karin wants to be able to produce great product shots for her pillows and she is not afraid to get the tools she needs to do it! I can respect that.
Assembling the lights was not that difficult, but it was definitely nice to have two pairs of hands to get them together. Setting up her Nikon D5100 was no problem for me as Nikon has kept things fairly consistent across its product line for some time now. So in just a matter of minutes we had her product shot lighting studio all setup and running! Getting the correct white balance and other settings were super simple thanks to working with continuous lighting.
With the D5100 on the tripod with a cable release, and all the pillows being basically the same size, and the lights being continuous, it really is no mess no fuss to produce absolutely consistent results shot after shot with minimal effort required on the photographer's part. Karin was very delighted with this.
We ended the lesson with a setting the settings hands-on quiz, so I could see if Karin can reproduce the results we got earlier when I am not there. First I changed every setting on the camera so that Karin would have to go through the settings progression I recommend when in manual mode: aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and then finally focus mode. She passed and is now ready to add another hat (product photographer) to the many others she already wears for her business. I am really pleased to have been able to help her with her business in some way.
What Karin said about today's lesson:
"I'm very excited about what I'm learning and you are a great teacher for beginners!"
Two friends, Christine and Kristen, made the drive from their distant Carrollwood and Dade City homes respectively for our DSLR Photography Lesson late Monday afternoon. After conquering downtown St. Petersburg's difficult parking, we met as usual in front of the Museum of Fine Arts and started off with a primer on how to get your DSLR set and ready for shooting. Though they both had Canon camera's, Kristen's Canon 60D and Christine's Canon XSi differed quite a bit in ergonomics and somewhat in menu layout. Still, I am experienced with teaching both DSLRs so I was able to get them both onto the same page quickly, with of course a little friendly competition between them.
They both have children so we spent a good amount of time practicing how to photograph moving subjects. Their children were not with us during the lesson of course so I was running around randomly offering a no doubt less adorable target. We started off in aperture priority mode (A on Nikon; Av on Canon), but once we did the moving subject practice I showed them how using manual settings have the advantage of offering a constant shutter speed insuring the action can be frozen properly, without any blurring.
We stayed in manual mode as we finished the lesson with a bit of flash portrait practice. They both only have the pop-up flashes on their DSLRs, but I think I convinced them to give more money to Canon and invest in an external flash since they really want to make good portraits of their kids and family. This time I let the ladies take their turns as being the models!
It was a fun time and I hope they are photographing their kids on a near daily basis!
Why did I make this photograph? Because of the shadows the branches were burning into the ground. That interested me. As it was close to mid-day the shadows were vividly dark. They appeared to me to be separate from the tree itself, not so much shadows, but rather an alternative existence for another kapok silk-cotton tree bordering two realities. This I saw for just a moment in between a lot of other things, like teaching a DSLR Photography Lesson and cars passing by and people jostling past on the sidewalk and the sun uncomfortably heating my skin.
The photography tip is this: see a different reality
My favorite artist is Van Gogh because he saw a different reality, not in his imagination, but through his normal eyes, or was his mind imaging what he say and his eyes believed it to be the reality of others? Regardless, I believe he literally saw the world as he painted it. When he looked at a night sky, it was all swirly. Thus, his paintings are now masterpieces and hold the interest of millions. If he had painted the sky exactly as it appears to look for most people, he would not be an artist of any significance.
Being able to see a different reality is an extremely valuable skill to any artist, to any photographer. I believe these different realities are not constantly around us though, they exist only for a moment. Take the above photo for example. If I returned to that spot a few hours later, the alternative branch shadow reality would not be there.
To me an interesting artist/photographer skillfully and creatively shows others the different reality he/she sees on a daily basis.
In just ten short days Teresa took all 8-hours of her DSLR Photography Lesson discount package. This afternoon was another strobist and digital photo editing lesson. Teresa showed up from New Port Richey with all kinds of new gear that made things go much smoother than last time. Now with a proper light stand in tow, as well as the same Yongnuo flash radio triggers I have, we were ready to get down to some more in-depth off camera flash photography practice.
We shot exclusively in manual mode all day. For strobist photography it is best to be in manual mode because there are only finite shutter speeds can use with the Yongnuo radio triggers anyway since they only sync up to 1/250th of a second. In addition to using manual settings on her Canon 7D, now since we are using the aforementioned radio triggers we have to use her Nissin flash in manual mode too. So now for the type of shot we were practicing today you have to manually set your aperture, shutter speed, and of course ISO, white balance and focus mode too, plus the power on your flash and then on top of all that think of how to best pose your subject for the given location! There is also the matter of how to best position your light stand. Therefore, it is good to have a good mastery of setting your DSLR for non-flash photography before moving on to strobist shots.
Teresa did really well remembering and putting into use all the tips, knowledge, practices and advice I gave her over the course of our three lessons together. She now has a fairly wide ranging skill set that she can build on herself with more solo practice. We also got her established in a fairly seamless RAW workflow using Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop Elements 9. I showed her the basic ways I edit a portrait by using the dodge and burn brushes especially.
I look forward to seeing the infant photographs Teresa makes in the future and her continuing progress as a strobist photographer!
Kim and Michelle traveled all the way from Lutz for this morning's DSLR Photography Lesson. Actually, the last place I ever lived in the Tampa Bay area before I moved away for a decade was just on the border of Lutz. This was another very rare 2-person lesson, as all others are 1-on-1. I know both of their cameras well ( Nikon D5000 & Canon XSi ), so it did not take much extra time getting two DSLRs set for the varies photography scenarios we practiced shooting in. Kim was actually a (delayed) referral from one of my original photo students, Rosa. Thanks Rosa!
Kim and Michelle both have kids that play baseball, so I made sure that we got in a lot of moving subject shooting practice. Often people coming from point and shoot cameras and/or who use auto-mode on their DSLRs do not realize that when you take control of your DSLR using aperture priority or manual mode, you have to adjust your focus mode for photographing still (Nikon AF-S; Canon One Shot) or moving (Nikon AF-C; Canon AI Servo) subjects. Often just getting into a continuous focusing mode solves many of the problems with trying to freeze action.
I also stressed to Kim and Michelle that even with entry level DSLRs it is wise and often necessary to adopt methods and practices of a professional photographer. For example, have at least two batteries. That way you always have a fully charged one stowed in your camera bag and you never run into a situation of running out of power. Other practices include always being ready to shoot. You should never turn off your DSLR or put the lens cap on until you are absolutely done shooting for the day and getting in your car to head back home. DSLRs use almost no power when not in use so there is no reason to turn a DSLR off to save the battery when just walking around. Also, unless you are walking through thorn bushes, the lens cap should stay off. I advised Kim and Michelle to be in photographer mode whenever their cameras were out. In that way, less shots will be missed and any photo opportunities that may come up one will be ready for.
I look forward to seeing Kim and Michelle's baseball action shots!