If you like drama and intense light, try using a Westcott Ice Light in combination with off camera flash at night to achieve this contrast-filled look.
Many of our high school seniors are looking for something “different.” Some want “artsy in the meadow” and some want “suave in the city.” Others want to push it even further and have their photo session at night. This was always a possibility but until we got the Ice Light (which we affectionately call “The Light Saber”) it was just a tad more difficult. The Ice Light has enabled us to create some unforgettable images for our seniors.
This senior guy wanted his photo in his football uniform. We headed out and found some bleachers at one of the local high school stadiums. It was definitely dark, so we knew that we were going to need to use our off camera flash. For info on OCF, check out this article.
The Ice Light was perfect for this shot! When it is dark, it is hard to get a meter reading, so we first used the Ice Light to get a meter reading for our our off-camera flash. Then we used it to fill the shadows behind him as well as give some depth to the bleachers, while lighting the other side with the off-camera flash.
Photographed with the Canon 5D MKII, ISO 200, f/5.6, SS 1/100. OCF (Canon 580 EXII) camera right – TTL
The Ice Light is perfect because we can either hand hold the light for the most control over where the light is going, or if it’s just me on the session, there are threads at either end of it so it can be used on a light stand. My husband Doug is usually with me on photo sessions (that’s him holding the Ice Light), so for these examples, Doug was holding the light. But if there’s a need (and there often is) for a reflector, we can set up our light on the stand and Doug can hold the reflector on the other side of the subject to bounce the light back onto him or her.
For our next model, we were at a really pretty river’s edge that had some really cool foliage around it. This girl was more of an edgy senior and wanted some images that she’d be able to use for her comp card. Again, our Ice Light came in handy. We were using off camera flash again which was set up camera right (you can see it in the photo below). The Ice Light was held up over her head and angled towards her hair to provide separation, as well as a little bit of back light. The power on this almost weightless little light is incredible! The light on Courtney’s hair and on her left shoulder is amazing. It adds definition to her arms and gives me the separation that I needed for her hair and the background.
Photographed with the Canon 5D MKII, ISO 400, f/6.3, SS 1/100. OCF (Canon 580 EXII), camera right
I hope this gives you some ideas for this powerful little light – I highly recommend adding it to your lighting arsenal. I’ll be doing another tutorial on using the Ice Light soon, so be on the look out.
Ally Cohen is a co-owner of Frameable Faces Photography with her husband Doug in the Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield, MI. Ally is the photographer and Doug handles the sales and marketing. Ally and Doug have been in their retail studio space for almost 5 years and you can follow their blog here. She lives in suburban Detroit with Doug, their two awesome kids, and their two cats.
Before and After Step-by-Step Edit: Edit Newborn Photographs
The MCP Show and Tell Site is a place for you to share your images edited with MCP products (our Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, textures and more). We’ve always shared before and after Blueprints on our main blog, but now, we will sometimes share some favorites from Show and Tell to give these photographers even more exposure. If you haven’t checked out Show and Tell yet, what are you waiting for? You’ll learn how other photographers are using our products and see what they can do for your work. And once you are ready, you can show off your own editing skills using MCP goodies. You might even make new friends or gain a customer…. since you get to add your website address right on the page. Bonus!
Today’s Featured Image:
By: Nikki Baldwin
Studio: Nick of Time Photography
MCP sets used: Newborn Necessities Photoshop Actions and Autumn Equinox Photoshop Actions
- Started by duplicating background layer and flipping to fill in ivy.
- Manual curves for proper skin tone based on MCP Color Fixing Class.
- Newborn Necessities: Magic Baby Lotion 15%, Magic Baby Powder 10%
- Autumn Equinox: Sweet Potato, Japanese Maple, Autumn Haze, Directional Glow (Autumn Light) masked in to give more of a spotlight feel.
In my last post about metering, you may have noticed that I made a quick reference to “AE Lock.” You may be unfamiliar with what AE Lock is or what it does. Never fear, I am here to tell you all about it!
What is AE lock?
AE lock (autoexposure lock), simply put, is a function on DSLRs that locks the exposure for a set amount of time so that exposure settings won’t be changed.
That’s nice. But when and why would I use it?
Good question! In my last post about metering, I talked about spot metering. If you are using spot metering (especially with a camera brand where spot metering does not follow the focus point and is, instead, in the center of the viewfinder, causing you to meter and then recompose), and are shooting in manual, you would meter, dial in your settings, and then recompose, focus, and shoot. But you may not be shooting in manual. You may be using one of the other modes, such as Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Program. In these modes, you still have the ability to spot meter. However, if you spot meter off a subject, especially a backlit one, and then recompose, you will notice your settings will change. This is because the camera is metering in real time, and is now metering from where you recomposed to, rather than from your original intended metering point. This will result in photos where the subject is underexposed, sometimes drastically. So how do you get around this? How do you keep your exposure set at what you originally metered from? This is where AE Lock comes in! Using the AE Lock function on your camera will allow you to lock in settings from your original meter reading, and those settings will not change when you recompose your photo.
Below are two example photos I took specifically for this post to demonstrate the principle. Both were taken in aperture priority mode at f/3.5, and both are straight out of the camera.
I did not use AE lock in the previous photo. Notice how my lovely assistant is somewhat underexposed. This is because when I recomposed my photo, the camera was metering from the brighter area of the dock in the background, rather than on my subject.
I did use AE lock on the previous photo. I metered off my subject’s face, just like in the first photo, but then used AE Lock when I recomposed and took the shot. Notice my lovely assistant is now better exposed. I did not use any exposure compensation on this photo; I normally might use + 1/3-2/3 (as you get to know your camera, you will learn these little things) but I wanted to use shots with no adjustments for this post. Also notice that now, the background is brighter and there are some blown out areas with lost detail in the sky. This is a trade off when shooting backlit subjects, whether you are using AE Lock in a creative mode or are shooting manual.
How to use AE Lock?
The AE Lock function is generally accessed via a small button on the top right of the back of your camera. The location varies slightly by camera brands and there are even differences between different camera models made by the same brand, so consult your manual to find out exactly what button you should use and determine if there is any custom set-up needed. Across all brands, the process for using AE Lock is the same: meter off desired subject, then press the AE-Lock button to lock in those settings for a short period of time (usually around five seconds), giving you time to recompose and shoot. Your camera may also give you the ability to hold down the AE Lock button, thus locking your exposure until you release the button. Check your manual for this as well.
Can I only use AE Lock when I spot meter? What if my camera doesn’t have spot metering? Or what if I have a camera brand where spot metering follows the focus point, do I still need AE Lock?
You can use AE Lock in whatever metering mode you would like (though in most cameras, in evaluative/matrix metering mode, the exposure is locked when you half-press the shutter button). You can use it in partial metering, center-weighted…really at any time where you want to lock the metering on any specific area and you do not want it to change even if you recompose the shot. I would still recommend using AE Lock on camera brands where spot metering follows the focus point. Why? Because if you are photographing a portrait, where are you going to focus? The eye. However, it’s quite likely that your subject’s eye is actually darker than their skin, which you want properly exposed, and if you used a meter reading from the eye, you will most likely end up with an underexposed photo. Metering from the skin, using AE Lock, and then recomposing and focusing on an eye would be the best way to get proper exposure even with these cameras.
Using AE Lock takes just a little bit of practice, but once you understand what it is and how to use it, you can achieve the exposure you want in your photos.
Amy Short is the owner of Amy Kristin Photography, a portrait and maternity photography business based in Wakefield, RI. She takes her cameras with her everywhere, even if she’s not doing a shoot. She loves to make new Facebook fans, so be sure to check her out there too!
If you have a DSLR, you’ve probably heard about metering. But you may be a little foggy on what it is, what types there are, or how to use it. Don’t worry! I’m here to help!
What is metering?
DSLRs have a built-in light meters. They are reflective meters, meaning they measure the light reflected off people/scenes. They are not quite as accurate as hand-held (incident) light meters, but they do a very good job. Your meter itself is inside your camera, but you can see its readings through your camera’s viewfinder and also on your camera’s LCD. You can use your camera’s meter reading to determine if your settings for a given shot are good, or if you need to make any changes.
What kinds of metering are there?
The types of metering may vary slightly across camera brands and even camera models within the same brand, so consult your camera’s manual to confirm what types of metering your model has. Generally, however, cameras have most or all of the following:
- Evaluative/Matrix metering. In this metering mode, the camera takes into account the light in the entire scene. The scene is broken up into a grid or matrix by the camera. This mode follows the focus point on most cameras, and the focus point is given the most importance.
- Spot metering. This metering mode uses a very small area to meter from. In Canons, spot metering is limited to the center 1.5%-2.5% of the viewfinder (depending on camera). It does not follow the focus point. In Nikons, it is a very small area that does follow the focus point. This means that your camera is making its meter reading from a very small area and is not taking into account the lighting in the rest of your scene.
- Partial metering. If your camera has this mode, it is similar to spot metering, but comprises a somewhat larger metering area than spot metering (for example, on Canon cameras, it comprises about the center 9% of the viewfinder).
- Center-weighted average metering. This metering mode takes into account the lighting of the whole scene, but gives precedence to the lighting in the center of the scene.
OK, so how do I use these metering types? What are they good for?
Good question! In this blog post, I will talk about the two metering types that I use pretty much exclusively: evaluative/matrix and spot. I’m not saying that the other two modes are useless! I have just found that these two modes work for everything I need to do. I encourage you to read and learn from what I have to say but also encourage you to try other modes if you feel you might need something different.
This metering mode is kind of an “all-purpose” mode. It is what many people use exclusively when they are first starting out, and that’s OK. Evaluative metering is great to use when lighting is relatively even across a scene, such as in a landscape with no extreme frontlighting or backlighting, and is also good for most sports photography. Another area that evaluative metering is useful is if you are in a situation where you are combining ambient light and off-camera lighting. You can use evaluative metering to expose for your background, then use your off camera light to light your subject. Following are some examples of where evaluative metering is useful.
The previous is a landscape-type shot taken on a gray day. Lighting was mostly even, so evaluative metering worked here. Evaluative metering also works on sunny days for the most part, as long as your sun isn’t too low in the east or west and you’re not shooting directly into the sun.
I use evaluative metering when I shoot all my surfing photos, like the one above. Evaluative metering is also good for other sports such as baseball, football, and soccer. You will need to change your settings if the light changes (such as if a cloud passes over or it is getting darker out) so keep an eye on your in-camera meter. Some photographers like to shoot sports in aperture or shutter priority mode, so there is less to worry about if lighting changes.
In this last photo, evaluative metering was used to expose the background trees properly while off camera lighting was used to expose the couple.
Spot metering is the metering mode that I use much of the time. I use it for most of my natural light portraits, but it is quite versatile and has other uses as well. As I mentioned before, spot metering uses a very small portion of the sensor to meter. This means that you can meter specifically off your subject to expose correctly for them, which is great in tricky lighting situations. Spot metering is what you want to use if you are shooting backlit shots with natural light and you do not have a flash or reflector. Meter off your subject’s face (I generally meter off the brightest part). If you play around with indoor natural light and spot metering, you can get some really lovely photos with illuminated faces and darker backgrounds. One other situation where I find spot metering helpful is with sunrise or sunset silhouette shots. I spot meter just to the right or left of the rising or setting sun to get my settings. Keep in mind that if you have a Canon camera or any other brand that spot meters at a set viewfinder area rather than following the focus point, you will need to meter using the center area of the viewfinder, then recompose, keeping your settings, and take your shot.
You may currently shoot using evaluative metering and wonder what the difference is if you are using spot metering. Below are two shots, SOOC (straight out of the camera). The left shot was taken using evaluative metering, where the camera is metering using the lighting of the whole scene. The right photo was taken using spot metering, metering off the pumpkin. The camera is taking into account the light reflected off the pumpkin only in the right photo. See the difference? The trade off is that your background may be blown out, but your subject will not be dark.
A couple of examples of photos using spot metering:
My little backlit buddy. I spot metered off the brightest part of his face.
I wanted to create a silhouette of the house in this photo, so I spot metered on the brightest part of the setting sun.
Do I have to use my camera in manual mode?
No! Your can use metering in aperture and shutter priority modes, too. You will just need to use the AE (autoexposure) lock feature to lock your settings if you need to recompose your shot. Your camera meters in all modes, even auto, but in the auto modes, your camera chooses the settings based on metering rather than you being able to choose or manipulate settings.
My camera doesn’t have spot metering. Can I still take backlit photos?
Of course. There are some camera models that may not have spot metering but do have partial metering. On those models, use partial metering for similar results. You may need to play around a bit to see what works best for your camera.
My camera’s meter is showing a correct exposure, but my photo looks too dark/too bright.
As mentioned in the beginning of this post, reflective meters aren’t perfect, but they are close. The most important thing when you are shooting is to check your histogram to be sure your exposures are good. You will learn how your camera behaves in different situations after awhile (for example, I shoot at least 1/3 of a stop overexposed on all my Canons, and that can increase depending on the situation). If you are shooting in manual mode, you can choose to increase or decrease your aperture, shutter speed, or ISO based on the results you are getting. If you are shooting in aperture or shutter priority mode, you can use exposure compensation to tweak your exposure.
As with all things photography, practice makes perfect!
Amy Short is the owner of Amy Kristin Photography, a portrait and maternity photography business based in Wakefield, RI. She also loves photographing the local landscape in her off hours. Check out her website or find her on Facebook.
As a photographer for the last 7 years, one of the things I struggled with most was finding a way to streamline the post-processing process without skimping on photo quality. When I began to photograph newborns, that became more important than ever, with the massive amount of time I spent already on newborn shoots as it was. Two years ago I began to use MCP’s Fusion Action Set, and when it came out, I also began to use MCP Newborn Necessities Photoshop Actions. In this post, I’d like to show you my editing processes along with all the camera information.
The Camera and Settings:
This is Landry, who at the time was under a week old. She was my first outdoor shoot, which makes her very special to me and my portfolio. I photographed her in Ohio on a cloudy day in July. There was not a speck of sunlight in the sky. We were in the local courthouse lawn in her town. I used a Nikon D5100 and 50mm lens. (If you’re looking for a good portrait lens, I could not suggest a better one!)
My ISO was 100, I shot an aperture of f1.8 and shutter speed of 1/4000. The baby was about 2 meters from me. This image below here is SOOC, no adjustments or crops.
The behind the scenes:
I opted not to bring a diaper cover with me to this shoot, and the mother did not want nude shots of Landry, so we left her diaper on. I bought the Coke bottle at a local grocery store. The vintage Coke crate belongs to my mother, and the two quilts that are stuffed into the crate are handmade vintage quilts from my grandmother.
The setup was simple: Stuff the crate with the folded quilts and place baby on top. I posed her legs underneath her and put her hands under her head. Because it was very warm and humid out, I did not have trouble keeping her asleep. Mom was on the right side directly out of the frame, and an assistant was on the left side as well. (Disclaimer: It’s VERY important in newborn shoots that you always have an assistant, whether paid or the parent. Babies cannot hold themselves up and even when lying down, can roll or move themselves at any moment into an unsafe position, especially when in or on props and not directly on the floor.)
When I brought it into Photoshop, I used ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) to crop the shot and align it. This particular shot was one I did far away, to give a sense of the surrounding landscape. Here is the 8×10 crop I pulled into Photoshop for editing:
Editing in Photoshop:
My personal preference is that I love One Click Color in the Fusion action set, and I use it on almost all of my color shots. I also love the softness of the overlays in Newborn Necessities. Often in a newborn or child shoot, I will mix the two together. When I start, I always start with One Click Color. With this particular shot, I felt the vintage crate and surrounding browns and reds would look well with Rustic, in the Fusion set. I applied Rustic from the Color Fusion actions. This shot below is One Click Color on its own, at 75% opacity:
And this image below is with Rustic, at 50% opacity.
As you can see from the edits, although the color does bring out the Coke crate and the surroundings like the buildings and grass, it’s too contrasted and red on the baby, and this is where Newborn Necessities comes in handy. I started with Hush the Reds from Newborn Necessities. Here is the mask and the final product, at 50% opacity.
And the result:
Next, I applied Hush Jaundice. Even when the baby doesn’t look like she needs it, I will check my color levels and apply it anyways, because the naked eye can’t always see the tiny bit of yellow that a printer will, and I always make sure to edit for print. Here is the mask and the final edit of Hush Jaundice from Newborn Necessities, at 55% opacity.
And the result:
In both Hush Jaundice and the Reds, you’ll notice I use a very loose feathering on the baby. Feathering makes it appear most natural and depending on just how red or yellow the baby is, I may or may not need to go in and do an exact feathering along the line of the baby. This all depends on the shot. I have had shots where I needed to closely follow baby due to color problems. You’ll also notice that in the beginning, SOOC Landry was red. Why didn’t I apply these two first and get that out of the way? Because One Click Color and Rustic applied color settings to Landry that changed how she looked. By waiting until after I’ve applied the biggest color changing actions, I can compensate not just for Landry’s skin, but for the actions as well.
The next edit I wanted to apply was Baby Bottle Photoshop Action from Newborn Necessities. When I have a shot that is a bit dark or contrasted, I like to apply Baby Bottle because it lightens things up with a slight haze, without overdoing it. My newborn shots are not meant to be dark and contrasted, and this helps them. Here is Baby Bottle applied, at 19% opacity:
Baby Bottle also enhances the “Spotlight” layer of One Click Color, which really emphasizes Landry even more. However, I still wanted a nice natural vignette to it, so I used Natural Vignette from Newborn Necessities. I applied it underneath the Baby Bottle layer at 53% opacity, so that it was hazed over slightly by the creamy color and didn’t stick out too much. (Disclaimer: My personal opinion is that when applying a vignette your shots, you should make sure that you aren’t applying something too drastic that totally removes corner colors, or covers your subject at all. While some may say that this is “preference” of photographer and client, I feel that it just looks sloppy. You shouldn’t have a reason to cover your photo over with a vignette, but applying a soft one that enhances the subject is okay.)
And here’s the final shot, with all the edits!
The total process took me about five minutes to compile, in comparison to my fifteen minutes I used to take with manual edits. I used MCP’s Facebook action to make a smaller proof size to share online. I’ve edited the action slightly to save my images out at 1300px on the longest side, which is my personal preference of proof size for clients. When saving a proof I also apply a watermark, which I have added as a brush preset for easy convenience.
Here are some other shots from the session, all edited with Fusion and Newborn Necessities:
Jenna Schwartz is a boutique newborn and child photographer in Henderson, outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. You can find her on Facebook or Pinterest, or view her websites for newborns and portraits.