Category Archives: Sourcelight Buzz

Landscape Photography–The Three P’s

The three P’s of landscape photography

When I am running photographic workshops or giving talks I often refer to the three P’s of landscape photography:

Planning – to work out the right time of day and year to be at a specific location (with reference to sun/moon position, the presence or absence of foliage on the trees, tide times etc) as well as keeping an eye on weather forecasts to increase the chance of getting a successful photograph;
Patience – as all landscape photographers know, rarely are we able to just turn up at a location, get out the camera and take a wonderful image. The old adage, ‘if you’ve seen it, you’ve missed it’ normally applies. My usual approach is to set up the camera, fine- tune the composition and then wait for the light, weather conditions, cloud formations and so on to come together in a way that supports what I want to say about the location (based most importantly on what I feel about the location, not just what I see). This requires a lot of patience – I frequently spend hours standing around waiting for all the elements to coincide to give me what I’m after. And of course success is far from guaranteed – going home empty handed is not uncommon.
Persistence – which brings me to the final ‘P’. Revisiting locations is part of the job – sometimes I’ll keep returning to a location over a period of years before I get a photograph that I’m completely happy with.

Sourcelight is the BOM at WaTrust

Sourcelight Photography is WaTrust’s “Business of the Month” for February ’14

WaTrust's Business of the Month: Sourcelight Photography

For the fourth time in the past two years, Sourcelight is Washington Trust Bank’s “Business of the Month.” To celebrate the occasion, we’re on display all month and handing out some terrific promotional discounts on training and portrait sessions.  If you’re a WaTrust customer (or even if you’re not), stop in to the 7802 W. Overland Road location and pick up a discount coupon or two.

We’ve worked with a lot of banks in our 30+ years in business and WaTrust has been the best by far, and the people at this location have always been a particular delight to interact with.  If you’re looking for a reliable financial institution, either for personal or business use, we can recommend Washington Trust without any reservations.  Ask for Sandra, and tell her we sent you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Correct Exposure: There’s an App for That…

iOSLightMeterSmall

If you’ve been to any of our Mastery Series workshops, you know we consider managing light to be the photographer’s first and most important consideration for getting a quality image.  It’s not just a matter of getting a “correct” exposure; it’s also a matter of using the light to direct attention to what’s important in the composition and to help create the impression of depth—that all-important 3rd dimension—in a flat, 2-dimensional medium.

Still, the most skilled composition won’t mean a thing if the image is severely under- or over-exposed, and while the built-in exposure meter in a modern camera is amazingly sophisticated, there are routine, every-day circumstances that simply overwhelm the camera’s metering technology.  In images with an extended dynamic range (think, e.g., a landscape bisected by a horizon with bright blue skies above and a dark forest below), your camera will likely return an unsatisfactory reading and exposure setting.

The reason is that your camera’s meter measures the light that is reflected from your subject.  That won’t tell much about the amount of light falling on your subject, however, since a bright, highly reflective subject will send more light back to the camera than a dark subject will.  If you took one of our workshops, you know that your camera’s meter is programmed to set its exposure for a value that’s known as middle—or 18%—grey, or, in other words, a medium level of brightness.  Unfortunately, when a reflected-light meter encounters something that actually is white, like, say, a bride’s dress, its interpretation is that it’s seeing a grey dress that’s severely over-exposed, so its response is to stomp on the exposure until it’s dark enough to make the white dress look like the camera’s preferred brightness value of middle grey.  Similarly, if it’s looking at the groom’s black tuxedo, instead of recognizing black, the camera’s meter assumes it’s seeing a grey suit that’s severely under-exposed and cranks up the exposure until the black suit washes out to grey.  The camera is now happy; your bride probably won’t be when she sees the photos.

An example of 18% grey exposure calculation

The image on the right is correctly exposed, revealing details in the bride’s white dress. The image on the left is what the camera’s meter prefers, since the brightness level of the dress is now closer to 18% grey.

Sekonic L-358 incident light meter

In contrast, a dedicated light meter is usually programmed to read “incident” light, that is, the amount of light that is falling on the scene, not reflected from it.  Obviously if we’re measuring the source of the light directly rather than its reflected value, our exposure can be set more reliably because it isn’t based on the relative brightness of our subject.  Whether the bride’s dress is white, grey, or black, the amount of light falling on it is constant, and that’s what we want to measure (and set our camera’s exposure to). Good light meters are precise, reliable, and consistent. Unfortunately, they also tend to be expensive. The Sekonic L-358 at left that we’ve used for years is a mid-range unit that currently costs around $400.  Its new, digital replacement, the L-478DR goes for about $420, and you can spend more on other meters with extra features.

Sekonic's L-478DR incident light meterMake no mistake here: these photographic tools are as fundamental to professional photography as a hammer is to a carpenter, and they’re worth every penny if you’re getting paid to take properly exposed photographs.  I’ve been at this for 30 years, and I still wouldn’t take a studio shot without a meter reading.  If I have time outdoors, the meter comes out of the gear bag and goes to work, giving me correctly exposed images on which I can reliably stake my business’s reputation.

However…

While cruising through one of the photography forums I participate in, I recently became aware of something I probably should have known about a long time ago—there’s a smart-phone app for that.  In fact, there are lots of them.  No, they’re not a dedicated, hardware-based light meter, but the best ones are surprisingly functional, and come with extremely useful features enabled by their mini-computer capabilities.  They’re also generally free, or at most, a few dollars, as is the usual case with phone apps.  Unfortunately, with a few notable exceptions, they’re also all reflected-light meters, not incident meters.

So why would anybody use one of these apps instead of the camera’s meter?  Frankly, you probably wouldn’t.  Up to now their primary use has been as a meter for older film cameras that don’t have built-in meters.  If you’re still shooting film, one of these apps can be very helpful, and you’re probably already carrying its phone host anyway.  And, did I mention, they’re free(ish)? At the very least, if you’re still having problems visualizing the innerworkings of the “Triangle of Exposure” (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO), playing with the “dials” on any of these apps will give you a graphic interactive tutorial. Switch any of the three inputs, and see what the app does automatically with the others.

Full disclosure here: although I use a Mac in the studio, my phone is Android-based, and although I’ve used all of the Android apps mentioned below, my experience with iPhone-based apps is by hearsay only.  If you’re using an iPhone and want to try the two listed below, check back in and let us know how it goes.

Android OS

You have to sympathize with the plight of Android phone app developers.  Unlike the iPhone universe, there are numerous hardware platforms running the Android operating system, so the performance of any particular app can vary considerably depending on which phone it’s operating on.  My current phone is a Samsung Galaxy Blaze, and even within the Samsung Galaxy phone universe, app performance can vary — buyer beware (fortunately, all of these apps are free).  With that caveat in mind, there are three Android apps that I like and can cautiously recommend.

BeeCam

Android BeeCam appThe BeeCam app uses the brightness reading from your phone’s camera sensor to perform like a true incident light meter.  As you can see in the image to the left, you can set ISO, F-stop, or shutter speed (T, for time) by tapping one of the “buttons” and selecting or entering a value. Select two of those “Triangle of Exposure” values, aim the camera at the light source, and the BeeCam will calculate the third.  Simple, straight-forward, and seems to consistently return accurate readings.  Like all of these apps, it won’t help you calibrate flash exposures, but if you’re trying to figure out accurate settings for ambient light, particularly in high-contrast situations that might fool your camera’s reflected-light meter, the BeeCam can be a big help.  Click here for the Android Play Store link.  Note that there is also a paid ($1.50) version without ads, but the free version is so functional and relatively free of advertising clutter that I haven’t felt the need to upgrade.

 

SmartLightMeter

Android OS SmartLight appThere’s nothing in this app’s description that indicates it might be an incident light meter, and after initially getting wildly inaccurate readings because I’d assumed it was a reflected light device, I finally realized I’d just been aiming it in the wrong direction.  When I pointed it at the light source, it suddenly started working.  So, yes, it is apparently an incident-meter app, and a pretty accurate one at that.  Instead of pushing virtual buttons, you “roll” the ISO, F, and T “wheels” up and down to make a selection.  Set two, and the app calculates the third.  Hey, if nothing else, it’s fun to watch the wheels spin as the app does its business.  Like most, it has both a free and a paid ($1.50) version, which removes ads.  Click here for the Play Store link.

 

 

 

Photo Tools

Android OS Photo Tools appThis one is clearly a reflected-light meter that simply reads data from a picture you’ve already taken and reports the exposure values — not very useful and much less convenient than just using your camera’s built-in meter.  It also has the ugliest and most cluttered interface of any of these apps.  So why recommend it?  Because it also comes bundled with a treasure chest of other helpful tools.

Want to know when the sun will rise or set in Glacier National Park — or anywhere else — on any particular date in the future?  Just select the date, enter the GPS coordinates (or type in an address), and the app will tell you, both actual sunrise and -set, as well as twilight times for those beautiful, red-horizon landscapes.  There’s a moon-phase calendar and an exposure calculator to help you set correct exposures for photographing la lune, and the app will even track down a weather forecast for the location.  There are calculators for finding the minimal hand-held shutter speed for a particular lens for a particular camera and for estimating depth-of-field, hyperfocal distance, and field-of-view for any particular lens at any particular f-stop.  You can calculate flash exposures based on guide number, aperture, and distance; or how much you need to under-expose each snap if you’re making multiple-exposure images.  The app even includes a time-lapse calculator, a timer, and a stopwatch. Frankly, I’ve never seen such an extensive collection of photo tools in one place, and I find myself using this app, especially for exterior locations quite often.  Here’s the link.

iPhone OS

Unfortunately, if you have an iPhone, the choices are less functional, since all of them at the moment appear to be reflected-light meters.  (There is one app called, well… “Incident Light Meter,” which, well… isn’t; when someone develops an app to execute a function he clearly doesn’t understand, I’d have to question the app’s utility.)   There do appear to be two apps that work, more or less, reliably as reflected light meters, and there is a development afoot with some exciting potential for converting any of these iPhone apps into an actual incident-light meter.

Pocket Light Meter

Pocket LightMeter app for iPhone

 

Here’s its iTunes preview link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocket-light-meter/id381698089?mt=8

And here’s the developer’s web site: http://www.pocketlightmeter.com/

This is the app I mentioned above that was being used by a member of a professional photographers’ forum, primarily in his landscape work with medium-format film.  It appears to be both well regarded and well supported by its developer.  I’m not aware of any additional features beyond the metering capability, but it does seem to perform that job reliably.

 

 

 iLightMeter

iLightMeter iPhone app

 

Here’s the developer’s link: http://ilightmeter.leosh.com/ .  You can follow his featured link to find the app on the iTunes App Store.   Interestingly, this app also claims to work on the iPod Touch 4G, so if you’re carrying your tunes but not your phone, this might be the one for you.  Again, no additional features, but it’s well-reviewed by users, and appears to be functional and stable.

 

 

 

 

Luxi

iPhone Luxi globeHere’s that potential new accessory mentioned above that could turn your iPhone into an actual incident-light meter. It’s a translucent globe, similar to what you see on the dedicated Sekonic light meters shown above.  Although it’s not available at the moment, it has reached its Kickstarter crowd-sourced funding goal and appears to have entered the final manufacturing stage.  Here’s a link to the announcement: http://www.gizmag.com/luxi-incident-light-meter/26374/, and here’s a link to their Kickstarter investor page: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jamesflynn/luxi-incident-light-meter-adapter-for-iphone (be sure to watch the video; it’s a good explanation of what an incident light meter does).

Luxi globe With iPhoneThis certainly could be an interesting product to keep an eye on, especially given that its projected price is under $25.  You’ll note in the gizmag link above that its first projected customization will likely be for the Pocket Light Meter app. Alas, since this is a dedicated hardware accessory, there appears to be no projected coordination with Android-based phones, undoubtedly because their numerous physical form factors are too diverse to profitably design for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thara Fashion Photo Session

Thara Fashion est merveilleux!

Rita Thara Yenga of Thara FashionRecently, we were contacted by a commercial client wanting us to shoot a fashion layout for a new Treasure Valley business: Thara Fashion.  Rita Thara Yenga is a beautiful young woman recently immigrated from Kinshasa in the Republic of Congo, who, with her mother, has created  a clothing and accessories business featuring “bags, clothes, earrings and bracelets with African fabric” (and style, I might add–they’re not just producing the apparel themselves, they’re also creating the designs).

To make matters even more interesting, the official language of RoC is French; Rita’s English is limited and my French is worse, consisting of the usual stand-bys, like “Bonjour,” “Au revoir,” “C’est magnifique,” and, of course, the always-necessary “Où se trouvent les toilettes.” Even scheduling the session required translation services from Rita’s friend, Richard Kitambo, who also attended the session.  Although we shoot a lot of basic commercial work involving models, I hadn’t done a full fashion catalog session in years, and I’d certainly never worked through a translator to direct the model, so it was shaping up to be a novel experience in a variety of ways.

Thara Fashion

When Rita and Richard arrived at the studio, I still didn’t know exactly what to expect.  What rolled in the door was a virtual trunk-load of wonderfully coordinated outfits, 12 dresses or tops in all, complete with matching head-dresses, earrings, bracelets, and handbags—an impressive display of design, outfit coordination, and workmanship.  Even more surprising—modeling her own designs, first-timer Rita proved to be wonderfully coachable and downright adorable.  Lots of pointing, miming, and photographer demonstrations, but Rita was a champ and a delight to work with.

 

Wardrobe preparation for Thara Fashions photo shoot

 

 

In spite of Rita’s modeling inexperience, we managed to get a variety of quality poses in all of the outfits plus catalog close-ups of the handbags in just a little over 4 hours—an impressive pace even for a professional model, and especially so given that Rita was restyling her own hair for almost every outfit in between wardrobe changes.  By the time we’d finished, I was almost ready to hire her as a production stylist for all my commercial work.

RitaYenga013_Handbag10 Thara Fashion session at Sourcelight Photography

 

The Thara Fashion website is currently under development, but until it’s ready, here are a few more designs from the shoot (October 2013, edited to add new web address.)

Thara Fashion photo shoot with Sourcelight PhotographyThara Fashion photo shoot by Sourcelight Photography Thara Fashion photo shoot by Sourcelight Photography Thara Fashion photo shoot by Sourcelight Photography Thara Fashion photo shoot by Sourcelight Photography Thara Fashion photo shoot by Sourcelight Photography Thara Fashion photo shoot by Sourcelight Photography

The Fashionable Senior Portrait

 

The Fashion Flip

As a commercial photographer and television producer, I shot fashion and product advertising for decades, so it’s only natural here at Sourcelight that we have a tendency to approach our portrait clients as if they were models in a magazine or catalog layout.  That means careful attention to details like wardrobe and make-up, carefully selected and composed backgrounds (including seamless white paper), and impeccable lighting.  It takes time and a full production crew, but the images you get exhibit a professional quality and style that you just don’t see in the run-and-gun photojournalistic trend of the last few years.

 

Sourcelight Photography's "Fashion-Forward" style of senior portraiture

 

 

We kept getting calls from teenagers wanting senior pictures that didn’t “look like a senior portrait,” meaning the typical formal pose in front of a studio backdrop.   These days, most urban photographers respond to that request by hitting the streets to capture informal shots with natural lighting, casual clothing, and deliberately unfocused posing.  When we decided last summer to revisit the Sourcelight approach to senior portraiture,  it just made sense to focus on our unique skill set and offer something different from the usual Treasure Valley senior portrait: the fashion-photography experience.

 

Senior portraiture by Sourcelight Photography--Tedi O

Senior photography with a Fashion Flair

Jackie spoofin' in the studio

We’ve been shooting models for years (we literally “wrote the book” on modeling), so transforming the senior portrait into a fashion session didn’t require much of a shift for us, and it’s been well received by our young clients.

Teenagers have always had their own sense of style, but today’s generation is particularly fashion-smart.  They’ve been exposed to more media and pop culture than any group in history, and the old Sears catalog that defined teen fashion for earlier generations has given way to names like Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, Billabong, and Beatrice Holloway—all brands marketed specifically to the teen consumer.

 

Nike sportswear does well with this group as a fashion statement, as does Victoria’s Secret Pink.

This makes our concept pretty easy to pitch to our teen clients: “Imagine you’ve been asked to model the clothes (or make-up or jewelry) for the catalog of the company you bought them from.”  That immediately suggests wardrobe and accessories, backdrops, and poses and expressions.  Our teens get the opportunity to travel with a production crew and star in their own fashion shoot.  Instant glamour and tons of fun!

For more information about Sourcelight’s fashion-forward senior portraiture, visit our seniors page.  To visit the Teens gallery, click here.

Jackie in a hatSwimming champ Cara

Sourcelight Photography's "Fashion

 

 

 

 

Elliott’s Small Steps

Elliott Livingston completes his Small Steps odyssey.

 

Elliott Livingston's Small Steps Finish

This little guy has a BIG story, but it’s only one of the reasons why he’s on our list of all-time favorite Small Steppers.

The opportunity to be intimately involved with new families for the whole first year of their miracle Small Steps experience has always been a great privilege for us, but this family has been even more special than most.

The night before new parents-to-be Briana and Paul were scheduled to come in for the pregnancy photo session, we got a scary notification telling us that Mom was in serious distress and would have to postpone.

The distress continued, and a few days later Baby Elliott had made his appearance into the world a month early, and was about to start his infancy in an incubator, where he would spend the next several weeks.

 

So, although he’d already been born for over a month when he came in for his new-born session (usually done 10-14 days after the birth), Elliott was, nevertheless, even smaller than the usual newby.  And even though Mom and Dad had already been through more trauma than most, we were impressed by how they were handling everything.

Elliott Livingston's Newborn gallery

Paul and his new son, Elliott  Briana and her new son, Elliott

Mother and child Livingston

Over the course of the next year, their sturdy can-do attitude continually impressed us, particularly given that Paul was a soldier, and would have to experience fatherhood between deployments in a war zone.

 

Elliott and Mama at 5 months

 

At five months (or 4 months, depending on your perspective about that premature birth complication thing…), Elliott and Briana were back in for a session, but this time Dad would have to keep tabs on his boy from Iraq.  Being able to provide him with new images of his son’s progress through their private on-line gallery was an unexpected bonus for the Small Steps program.

Hey, check out the hat and suspenders!

 

 

 

Elliott Livingston hams it up

What else can you say?

Terminally cute!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eight-month session was particularly enjoyable because Paul was given temporary leave to return Stateside for a visit.

Family Reunion at 8 months

 

An 8-month birthday party AND a reunion!  Kewl!

 

Elliott and Paul at 8 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like father, like son. Check out that matching hair!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the end of the first year, the baby boy was walking, Dad was back home for good, and the leaves were on the ground.

Elliott is 1-year old!

 

 

 

 

 

 

So after a quick formal in the studio…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elliott in the fall leaves

 

 

…we stepped out for some chilly fall fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Livingston Family moves on into Mr. Elliott's second year

It’s always bittersweet for us to see our Small Steps families complete the program.  When they walk out for the last time, they always leave with a standing invitation to come visit us again at any time.

 

Taquari’s Small Steps

Taquari Reyes puts the final stamp on his Small Steps adventure.

 

Sourcelight's Small Steps Program_Taquari Reyes at 9 monthsTaquari and his mother, Jasmine, were one of the first participants in Sourcelight Photography’s Small Steps Baby Program, a complete package of five photography sessions distributed over a baby’s first year, including mom’s pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sourcelight's pregnancy portraiture_Jasmine ReyesOur goal with the program is to commemorate the entire first year of a baby’s life in images that are deliberately intended for gallery-quality display.  Jasmine and Taquari have been a perfect first client for the program–a beautiful, happy mother and child who’ve both been willing (although Taquari hasn’t had much to say about it) to let us push the envelope w-a-y beyond the usual family album.

 

 

 

The Newborn Session_10 days old!

Sourcelight's newborn infant photography_Taquari Reyes at 10 days

 

When Jasmine first saw her online proofs from the newborn session, she wrote to us, “Okay, so I just stopped crying over how beautiful those pictures are!!!  I have never seen anything more perfect.  Thank you so much.  I just can’t wait ’til the next ones we are going to do.”

And frankly, neither could we.  (BTW, he was born with ALL that hair.  And have you ever seen a cuter, more inquisitive face on a newborn?!?)

 

Four Months

Sourcelight's infant photography_Taquari Reyes's big feet at 4 monthsBy four months, like most babies, Taquari was mostly interested in sleeping, as expected, so we took the photos available to us, and waited for Mr. Bigfoot to wake up.

 

 

 

 

 

Sourcelight's infant photography_Taquari Reyes with a peacock feather

 

 

He still wasn’t much interested in posing for the camera until he snagged a peacock feather Mom was trying to tickle him with and proceeded to destroy it.  Okay, he’s a boy…

 

 

 

 

Nine Months

Sourcelight's infant photography_Jasmine and Taquari Reyes at 9 MonthsBy nine months, Mom had a new look, and Taquari, as usual had an eye for everything.  Easily the most open and fearless baby we’ve ever worked with.

 

Big Grin for the tot-sized ATV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, go ahead… try to resist those eyes and that million-dollar smile, we dare you.

 

 

Braxton’s Small Steps

One small step for a Braxton…

one giant leap for the Clyde Family!

 

Small Steps for Braxton Clyde and parents Braxton Clyde has “graduated” from the Sourcelight Small Steps Baby Program—nice work, youngster!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met new parents-to-be Danielle and Brandon back in January 2010 for the pregnancy photo session.  Baby Braxton’s worldly debut was still a month away, but Mom’s and Dad’s parental instincts were already obvious, as was their desire to help create frameable art.

Danielle at 8 months

 

 

 

 

 

Danielle in white  at 8 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One month later, Braxton was ready to take center stage in his own portrait session.

 

Rock-A-Bye Braxton

 

Little feet for small steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It won’t be long before these feet will be taking their own Small Steps.  Look at those toes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At four months, Mom had a new figure and Braxton was already flashing serious attitude.  Dad was just beaming with pride—and who wouldn’t be?

Braxton at 4 months

 

The 4-month Small Steps session

Braxton's 4-month Small Steps session

 

The eight-month session is always one of our favorites.  By this time, babies are holding their heads up without any effort and crawling everywhere—it means we have to move quickly, but their new-found independence is an enjoyable challenge to capture.

Clyde Family's 8-month Small Steps sessionBraxton's 8-month Small Steps sessionBraxton's 8-month Small Steps session

 

 

Clyde Family's 12-month Small Steps sessionThe one-year photos are often the most challenging.  Babies are often decidedly independent by this time, and since they’re usually walking, they’re also not very patient about sitting in the studio for a portrait.

Mr. Grumpy was having none of it this day, so we took what we could and decided to meet again in a couple of months when warmer weather would let us go outside.

 

 

 

 

Last session—a beautiful spring day in Albertson Park.  Big surprise—Mom showed up carrying Braxton’s soon-to-be sibling.  Here we go again.

Clyde Family's final Small Steps session