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Lighting Tips for Pets, People and Pizza
How Mother Nature and a Friend's iPhone can Assist
Who hasn’t snapped a shot of their meal and uploaded it to Facebook? Or taken a pet pic and emailed to family? Want those photos to look more impressive? Southern California pro shooter Prentice Danner offers a few quick and easy tips for better looking photos.
Great Photos of Darkly Colored Pets
Prentice snapped the below shot while on a recent outing with a group of volunteer Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy raisers.
“I always have a hard time photographing black dogs because their coloring absorbs so much light,” smiles Prentice. “If you have photographed dark colored pets you probably have experienced this–the lovely sheen of the coat can often look like a solid mass of black in photos.”
Prentice and the group were taking the dogs out for a stroll. They walked past an alley of lightly colored cement. Knowing that light reflects, Prentice headed the pup toward one of the walls. With his Nikon D300 and a 60mm f/2.8 prime lens, he snapped this adorable image.
The coat has lots of color and texture. See the orange glow on his ears? That cast comes as a reflection from a house that’s located adjacent to the alley.
“The light bounced beautifully from all angles. Using a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/500th of a second, and shallow depth of field at f/3.2, I was able to tap that bounced light and grab a nice portrait of Delmar.” If you are using a point and shoot camera instead of a dSLR, make sure the exposure point is measured on the darkest part of your pet.
Outdoor Shadows That Work
Believe it or not, sometimes shadows can improve your photos. Here’s one way to make use of high contrast settings. For the first image below, Prentice had Mandy stand outside midday when the sunlight fell from directly overhead.
The resulting photo turned out to be too harsh for Prentice’s taste.
Using a Nikon D300s, Prentice set exposure to 1/1600th of a second at f/2.8. A wide aperture makes the background complementary to the subject, rather than distracting. However, the dark shadows are a problem.
To remedy, Prentice found a nearby tree and asked Mandy to stand on the edge of its shadow. This yielded a more balanced portrait.
Prentice did not mind the blown-out background here. It puts more attention on the subject.
To execute this look remember to stay close to the edge of the shadow; the further you go into it the more likely you are to lose light altogether. Also, by keeping your subject close to the sunlight, you get a lot of that light to bounce onto your subject and softly illuminate features. Another bonus—your subject can still relax his or her eyes.
“My advice as far as the sun goes is that, unless it’s rising or setting, seek out shade. Try to find something light in color that’s illuminated by the sun. Then have the subject stand near the source so it can assist in bouncing and filling light into shadowy areas of your framed photo.”
Getting Smart With Camera Phones
“I know many jokes are made about people who take pictures of their dinner, but here goes,” says Prentice. “If you’re a member of the plated food photo club (or find yourself needing a light source for a photo in a dark place), try grabbing a friend’s iPhone. Go to the camera app, switch the setting from “still” to “video,” then turn on the flash! You get a handy LED camera light.”
Most people are unaware that if you tap on an area of the iPhone screen when you’re taking a picture, it will use that point to adjust the exposure and focus. He adds, “For instance, tap a dark area and the camera will expose for the shadows. Tap a bright area and the phone will darken the overall exposure to compensate.”
Photographed with an iPhone 4s set to its normal ‘no flash’ setting. This pizza was delicious, by the way.
For this shot, Prentice tapped the brightest point where the light was falling. That made the overall exposure not too bright.
Prentice’s day-to-day camera is actually an iPhone 4s. Last Christmas he received a relatively inexpensive lens kit a friend had found on Amazon.com. “The lenses attach to the phone magnetically, and include a fisheye, macro and 2X zoom lens. I find myself using these quite a bit. My traditional cameras give the best quality images, but I love the portability and ease-of-use offered by a smart phone camera.”
From the Pro’s Bag
When working client assignments, his photo gear of choice includes:
- Nikon D4 and Nikon D300s with a 60mm f/2.8 or a 24-70mm f/2.8
- Pelican-brand camera and memory card cases
- Spare batteries
- A micro cloth for cleaning lens filters
- A camera strap to keep hands and arms at the ready
- Gaffers tape…never know when this may come in handy
Prentice Danner is an internationally published photographer specializing in entertainment portraiture and editorial photography in Southern California. Prentice served in the U.S. military for 12 years with responsibility for photographing complex subject matter in some of the most remote and engaging environments on the planet.
About Martha Blanchfield
Martha Blanchfield provides marketing, public relations, writing and stunt planning for ‘renegade’ companies. A Napa Valley native, Martha loves prepping photography education programs in Napa-Sonoma and San Francisco. Her articles have appeared in Rangefinder, AfterCapture and Studio Photography magazines. She has worked for clients such as Nikon, Lexar Media, SanDisk and GoPro.
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