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Outdoor Activities => Photography => Topic started by: RedLeader on February 15, 2010

Title: Some Photo Advice
Post by: RedLeader on February 15, 2010
I've been trying to take a decent pic of my niece but can't seem to get the light quite right. Was indoors with a flash.
Any tips? Also would I be wise to buy a proper flash for this sort of shot?

Title: Re: Some Photo Advice
Post by: chris on February 15, 2010
The pop up flash produces a very harsh light because its fired straight out. Big flash guns can be angled so that the light hits the ceiling for example and then "washes" over the subject from above resulting in a much more complementary image. The only down side is they are quite expensive. The cheapest one (£110+) is the SB-400 wich is not much bigger than the pop up, the only difference is you can angle it up! Then your looking at the likes of the SB-600(£200) and 800(£400) wich are bigger units with a lot of frills. (I'm sure if you shop around you could get one cheaper those are just the prices of amazon. Sunpak also make flashes and get a good rep.lok for Second hand units too)
If you think your going to be taking a lot of photos inside then maybe look into a flash. In the mean time you could try a diffuser, a piece of toilet paper works well, or you could make something more elaborate out of a milk carton or something!
For tips on the photo I would maybe do something about the background, Even if she's sat infront of a chair with a black coat over the back would look a lot better than a pringles tub imo! Might help with the flash issue aswell as the shadows wouldn't be as noticeable.
Title: Re: Some Photo Advice
Post by: suspectmonkey on February 15, 2010
The on-board flash is next to useless as Chris has said, as the harsh light fired directly at the subject is never going to be flattering. 

If you want to go the flashgun route then the SB-600 is the best place to start.  Indoors you can use it bounced off the ceiling to provide much softer light.  Or you can pair it up with a diffuser like those made by Sto-Fen.  The ultimate option is to go the off-camera flash route but thats a whole other world of fun :)

The most cost effective answer IMO is to make use of natural light.  Good natural light in portraits beats flash time and time again.  Get your subject setup near a nice, big window with plenty of light coming in.  Chances are your subject will now be nicely lit on one side of their face, with shadows on the opposite side.  Time to use a reflector!  Get a big sheet of bright white A3 paper, or even several A4 sheets stuck together.  Now get your "assistant" to hold the reflector on the shadow side of your subject, reflecting the window light back into the face.  You can experiment with this - A4 paper should reflect fairly soft, diffused light but you can use something like tin foil to provide harder light.

Few other tips...

Stick to a nice wide aperture (< F5.6) in Aperture Priority mode, and if necessary use a higher ISO to get an acceptable shutter speed.  If needs be you can use a tripod, but dont forget that even if the camera is steady its unlikely the toddler will be :) 

Use your kit lens at around 50mm, and dont be afraid to turn it on its side and shoot "Portrait".  Whilst there are plenty of times you can take a great portrait in landscape, they still tend to work better in portrait... hence the name.

As Chris has already said, consider the background.  Simple and uncluttered is the way to go.

Oh, nearly forgot one of the most important tips!  Make sure you set your camera to use the centre focus point.  When you point the camera at your subject, half press the shutter with the centre focus point over the subjects eye.  Now re-compose the photo as you like, keeping the shutter half pressed.  This will mean the camera is focused exactly on the subjects eye when you take the shot - sharp eyes are probably rule #1 in portrait photography.

Thats 'bout all I can think of at the moment!  Let us know how you get on :)
Title: Re: Some Photo Advice
Post by: chris on February 15, 2010
also if your trying to take a picture of a toddler and they wont look at the camera you can put a pez dispenser in the hotshoe! Might sound stupid but apparently it works, gives them something colourful and silly to look at.
Title: Re: Some Photo Advice
Post by: Kirth on February 15, 2010
If ya want I can lend you a flash for a weekend, then you can have a play with it.  Totally agree with the guys, if it was me I would take har into the garden set the camera to the wee sport setting and shoot away, that way you will get a nice sharp candid with a shallow depth of field ( blurry background )

if all else fails, ring me and I will do it for £60 per hour !!!!!
Title: Re: Some Photo Advice
Post by: RedLeader on February 15, 2010
Great advice guys cheers. (But buggered if I'm buying a new camera, then paying Kirth to take photos for me :D That said, at £60 per hour lets say 6 photos at a shutter speed of about 1/200 means it would only be 3/100 of a second - bargain at less than a penny ;))

Think I'll try more natural light stuff. The SB400 flash reviews really well and is about £100-130 so I think I'll definitely consider for when I'm eventually allowed to spend money again.