Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shooting in Low Light Conditions

One of the biggest challenges photographers face is not having enough light. Especially when shooting weddings, concerts, anything indoors...

"You just spent $500 on a fancy digital camera, so why do your pictures of your kid blowing out the candles on her birthday cake look so terrible? The answer is that indoor, low-light photography is not always as simple as point and shoot." 

There are several things one can do when shooting in low light... First, you can always bring in more light. External flash, strobe lighting, reflectors, etc are all ways one could increase the light in an indoor space.

But while using a flash seems to be the obvious answer to low light situations, they have their downsides. Not only does a flash interfere with the "moment"... it also tends to flatten images, distort colors and wash out skin tones. It also tends to provide "uneven" light on and around your subject. This problem is especially true with the cheap, built-in flashes on most compact digital cameras. When using a flash, the best kind to use is an external flash, commonly known as a speedlight. The pro's will tell you to just nix using your pop up flash all together. A speedlight with the capability to rotate or tilt the flash in order to bounce it off the ceiling is a good way to balance the light. Another good use of an external flash is to mount it off camera.

If no "external light source" what do you do? The first thing pros will suggest is to ratchet up your camera's ISO or "light sensitivity" setting. Traditionally, high speed film (ISO 800 and higher) was better suited for low light photography. Unfortunately, where high speed film produced enlarged grain, which could often be used for artist effect, higher ISOs on digital cameras tend to just produce color noise -- little specks of red green and blue scattered across your image.

Most point and shoot cameras, even those with manual controls, won't produce quality images above 400 ISO. The solution then is to use lower ISO settings, but that means you'll be facing a new concern -- long exposures.

Noise Reduction Software
High ISO setting tend to create unacceptable levels of color noise in the finished image. There are some ways to get rid of color noise after the fact. Photoshop ships with a noise filter which will smooth your pixels by blending surrounding areas together.

Unfortunately, for all but the most basic situations, the results won't bowl you over. Dedicated software like Noise Ninja ($35-$80, depending on the license) can produce much more dramatic improvements with very little blurring or other side effects. It isn't cheap, but if you do a lot of low light photography, it's a godsend.

Overexpose to Reduce Noise

Another way to reduce noise in a photo is to slightly overexpose your image to the right of the histogram (works especially well if shooting in RAW) and adjust the exposure down in post processing.This works okay for low light situations, and the main thing is to only overexpose to the point before you blow out your whites. If you blow out the highlights in the image, you won't be able to get the detail back. Most cameras have a "blowout warning" that will flash on the screen if you are too far overexposed. 

The image below is your histogram. The left image is a normal exposure (the middle of your meter.) The right image is a slight overexposure, but not to the point of blowout.

If you expose to the point of blowing out your highlights your histogram will look like this:

 Reducing Motion Blur

Long exposure times increase the chance you'll blur the shot, whether through the subject's movement or yours. Here are a few tips for blur-free shots:
  • Start with the largest aperture your camera allows. Use aperture-priority mode if you have one and set f-stop down to f/1.8 or the lowest available.
  • Set the ISO higher (and overexpose to reduce noise as described above).
  • If you have a zoom lens, zoom out as much as possible. More light will hit the photo sensor and exposure time will go down.
  • If the exposure time is still greater than what you can handhold, use a tripod, or anything that will keep your camera still.
  • Consider something small like the Gorilla Pod, a small, flexible tripod which will fit nicely in the average coat pocket. There are several sizes available, some of which probably won't fit in your pocket but still aren't as cumbersome as full-size tripod.
  • If you don't like to carry even a tiny tripod with you all the time, don't worry - there are plenty of solid objects that can fill the role. Just hold your camera up to anything that doesn't shake - a lamppost, a tabletop, a wall - and press on it to keep it still while you take the photo.
  • To reduce the shake that results from pressing the shutter button, use the camera's timer function. Most cameras will have a two-second delay timer that works great, especially on long exposures.
If you have a surgeon's hands, you can try hand-holding even long exposures. Pick a solid stance with your legs slightly apart (like two legs of a tripod). Brace the camera against your face and hold your breath while you press the shutter. Be sure to zoom in on the resulting image to check for blurring! 

Balance Your Whites

The next challenge you face in low light situations is the lighting. In most cases you'll be shooting in artificial light -- the chandelier above your dinner table for instance. 

Light temperatures from incandescent bulbs or florescent overheads can cast yellow or blue tones over a scene. Sometimes, this can have a nice warming effect (in the case of incandescent light). But other times it may not be what you're looking for. 

The solution is to adjust the white balance in your camera. Most digital cameras offer a variety of preset white balance settings which you can experiment with. If all else fails you may be able to customize your own settings. Keep in mind that if you're shooting RAW images, you can always change the white balance after the fact using software. 

Timing Is Everything

Here's our general guide to exposure times (assuming the widest aperture possible). You'll need to experiment to see what works for you.
  • Christmas lights: 1/4 to 3 seconds of exposure.
  • Cityscapes: 2 to 30 seconds.
  • For a night sky with star trails, use the formula: exposure = 600s/focal length of the lens in millimeters.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Photography is my Heart & Soul

John 15:1-2 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser... every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Art, photography, music... is my heart. I've grown up with a passion for these things and a large artistic ability. I want to use this ability for good and to do God's will. This is part of why I came up with my business name (and the fact my middle name is Grace...)

I don't want to be your run of the mill, charge an arm and a leg photographer. ;-) Don't get me wrong, I need to be able to bring in enough income to support my business and family, and one day retire when I'm old and feeble, but I don't want to get rich off of this. I'm also hoping that the other side of my business (selling backdrops) will eventually be enough to carry my photography business so that I am able to provide my services for less. I want to reach out to people who may not be able to afford professional photography, and provide awesome quality images for them.

I want to get involved in charities like OPLove, and reach out to the local DFCS office to provide pro bono services to high school seniors in foster care. I want to provide lower-cost wedding photography to reach people who don't have bookoos of funds to splurge on their big day, but still need to document that special time.

God gave me my gifts and talents, and I want to use them for others, not just myself. The area I live in is not a rich one. It is extremely under-served, and I want to join our church's ministry to reach our community... to change lives and the city we live in.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pose Me Baby Giveaway!

For details: http://lovelifefamilyphotography.com/Blog/2011/08/10/time-for-yet-another-great-giveaway/#comment-149

It’s a Good One too!!! Yay!!!
You know you wannna win!!!
I am trying to get my shop off the ground..(so to speak ;)  )
Pose Me Bay on Etsy opened it’s shop on July 17th 2011!!!
I see LOTS and LOTS of people checking it out.. Making it their Favorites.. But no one is diving in..
So here is my plan ;o)
The winner will get a Code to check out with that will make it $o and 0 cents..
In return… Please Review Pose Me Baby on Etsy :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

PHOTO CONTEST: Win a FREE 54"x6' Vinyl Backdrop!

PHOTO CONTEST TIME! We are looking for backdrop photos of fall scenes, Halloween scenes, pumpkins, scary old houses... email high resolution photo to sandsphotobackdrops@gmail.com with the subj: Fall Foto Contest for a chance to win a FREE 54" x 6' vinyl backdrop. You may enter multiple photos for multiple chances to win! We will randomly draw the winner on August 31st. Photos entered become property of S&S may be used in our design galleries.



Friday, August 12, 2011

Moving From Hobby To Business With Your Photography


Full Article at: 


The statistics overwhelmingly show that people love their cameras.
  • 77% of U.S. households own at least one digital camera.
  • Almost 120 million cameras were sold in 2009, with digital SLRs having a 30% growth in sales.
  • The average consumer takes 72 digital photographs at each event they attend.
  • They share 55% of all photos taken by email.
  • And 40% post their images online at sites like Facebook and Snapfish.
So why not take something you love anyway and turn it into a business? Maybe not a full time business, but something you can make money at here and there.

1. What are your goals? My personal photography goals are to go into a full time, successful career in the field. 

2. Choose the right name for your photography businessI chose Amazing Grace Photography for a couple reasons. I am saved by God's amazing grace and want to give him the glory. I want to branch my business out into charitable opportunities like OPLove and providing senior shoots to foster children. And lastly, my middle name is Grace. I'm a hobbyist at this point, looking at turning this into a small  business. I'm not looking at trademarking my name, etc. However, once I start marketing to turn a profitable income, I will need to register my business with the local area/state.

3. Look at it like a business. Find mentors in your specialty or niche. Want to go into weddings? Find a few where you love their work; follow them online, attend their classes, and meet them at tradeshows. Use them as your guidance to grow.

4. Get proper camera equipment. Sure you can show up at a wedding with a consumer grade digital SLR and a lens or two. But what if you drop the body, or the lens freezes? To be a professional, means great equipment and plenty of backup. You don’t always have to buy – why not rent lenses until you find what you want and can afford.

5. Use tools and software to give your photography an edge. There are many things that can help you become better at photography by being better at the business side. Photoshop is a definite must for photographers. Expand from there.

6. Practice your photography. Because most consumers have access to fairly decent camera equipment, you’re competing with a ton of amateur photographers. You have to not only stand out from the crowd, but completely WOW your potential customers. How can you create something beyond what your competitors are doing?

 7. Price your photography like a professional. There is so much more to pricing your photography than choosing a random number. You have to take many things into account. Will you be able to afford better camera equipment? Is the rent of your studio covered?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Middle Georgia Wedding Photographer - Macon, Warner Robins, Surrounding Areas, GA

Amazing Grace Photography - S&S Wedding Photography
S&S Wedding photography is a new branch of Amazing Grace Photography. Steve & Sarah, stepdad and stepdaughter - we have teamed up to provide double coverage on your big day! We don't want to miss a beat.

Your wedding day should be as special as possible! As your photographers, we understand the importance of catching every detail, every moment, and every smile. Contact us if you are seeking creative wedding photography. We promise to do my best to capture your day, and will deliver a final product of memories worth keeping.

Schedule a pre-wedding consultation. We arrive 1 hour early to your wedding day to get as much captured prior to the cermony as possible. Professional equipment with the knowledge to use it right. You wedding day is safe in our hands - you will receive lasting keepsakes for your precious day.

Wedding Packages starting at $500.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2012 Grads Portfolio Building Special: Middle Georgia, Macon, Warner Robins Senior Photographer

For a limited time only! Through November 30th I am offering a portfolio building special for senior portraits.

NO SESSION FEE + FREE Web-quality CD! LOW-COST print packages available. Minimum order requirement waived.

Multiple locations available - NOTE: some locations include a location fee such as the Cannonball House, or the use of a studio.  Visit my website or contact me for details!