- Do You Have a Prime Lens in Your Camera Bag?
- Quick Tips on Getting Started in the Field of Product Photography
- Using Shiny Surfaces & On-Camera Flash for Dramatic Portraits (Video)
Posted: 14 Dec 2013 06:32 PM PST
Do you own a prime lens? Every DSLR owner should have at least one fast, fixed focal length lens in their camera bag. Zoom lenses are great; they can reduce weight and expense. When the situation calls for it, however, a good prime lens can be a photographer’s best friend. In the following article, you will learn what a prime lens is and the many ways a fixed focal length lens can improve your photography.
Not so long ago, the average photographer avoided zoom lenses. Single focal length lenses, known as prime lenses, were faster, lighter, and less expensive. More importantly, prime lenses offered superior sharpness and image quality.
Fortunately, lens makers have been able to dramatically improve zoom lenses so their image quality is nearly on par with prime lenses, This has been a tremendous boon to photographers, who can replace an entire bag full of lenses with one or two zooms. If image quality was the only criteria, most photographers could easily get by with a couple of nice zooms. Of course, there is more to lens selection than image quality, and there are many situations where a prime lens is still a superior option.
It is generally easier and less expensive to build a fast single-focal length lens, and few zooms can match the low-light qualities of a prime lens. Prime lenses with maximum apertures of f/1.8 or greater are commonplace. In contrast, most zoom lenses top out an aperture of f/4 or so. Even the very best, most expensive zooms seldom exceed a maximum aperture greater than f/2.8. The superior light-gathering properties of a good prime can make a huge difference if you are shooting available light indoors or after dark. True, you can ramp up the ISO to improve the zoom’s ability to shoot in dim light. But high ISO can create quality problems. When the existing light is feeble and you do not want to break out a flash unit, your prime lens can save the day.
I already said that zooms have reached parity with prime lenses. In general, the optical requirements to create a great prime lens are well understood, while zoom lenses demand extensive engineering to produce excellent results across the entire focal length range. While there are some truly excellent zooms on the market, many zooms are better at certain focal lengths than others. Photographers talk of the sweet-spot, that is, the focal range where a particular zoom offers the best performance. At other focal lengths, sharpness and contrast may suffer. Again, this is not true of all zoom lenses, but as a general rule, it is much simpler to design an excellent prime lens than it is to design a truly superb zoom lens. So great prime lenses are plentiful, while outstanding zooms are rare (and expensive!).
Size and Weight
Typically, a prime lens is much smaller and lighter than a zoom lens. The zoom lens requires more internal elements and there must be a mechanism to move those elements nearer or farther to each another. In addition, fast zoom designs usually incorporate very large components in order to collect more light. As a result, a fast zoom is usually much larger and heavier than a prime lens. This is important when you want to use your DSLR as a light-weight walking-around camera. The unobtrusive prime lens also makes it easier to capture candids, as the lens is far less noticeable than a large zoom.
A quality zoom lens will be more expensive than a a prime lens, although the additional cost is somewhat nullified by the fact that a single zoom can take the place of several fixed focal length lenses. Still, price can be an important consideration, especially if you are looking at a very wide or very long lens. For example, a 300mm prime lens will usually be far cheaper than a good zoom that includes a 300mm focal length.
There are so many lenses on the market that it is difficult to make a blanket statement regarding the auto-focus speed of prime lenses relative to zooms. Still, prime lenses seem to snap into focus more quickly then their adjustable focal-length cousins. Part of that may be the speed aspect again, as extra light allows fast lenses to focus more quickly. The additional elements in a zoom lens can slow focus speed as well. When the situation calls for rapid auto-focusing, you may find a prime lens is a better choice.
There is always room for a small prime lens. When packing for a photo assignment, I usually cull my lenses to save weight and fit everything in my smallest bag. The big zooms are usually the first to be cut, unless I know I will need them for the shoot. In contrast, my short prime lenses take up so little room that I usually slip one or two into the camera bag just in case. If I need the lens I am grateful that I brought it, but if I do not use it I don’t feel that it was a burden to have it along.
You may not use your prime optics every time you shoot, but you will find that prime lenses offer so many advantages that you will want to have one or two different primes with you whenever you venture out with your camera.
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Posted: 14 Dec 2013 02:04 PM PST
Product photography is a field within commercial photography or, more colloquially, advertising photography. The end goal for advertising photography is to illustrate and eventually sell a product or service. Editing techniques like Photoshopping and retouching the portrayed product can be used to make the product seem more appealing to consumers.
Advertising photography can be commissioned out to an advertising agency or design firm that employs digital cameras and techniques to showcase your product in the most favorable light. If the job is outsourced in this way, the advertising agency or design firm will typically send you the final result, which will be in a ready-to-import format for your website’s design and layout needs.
Tips for Entrepreneurial Product Photography
For those on a tight budget, or even just entrepreneurs with a flare for the dramatic, some lighting, background, and point of view tips can help to ensure your product is captured the way that you want. The first and perhaps most important thing to consider before capturing any images is lighting. Knowing the difference between hard and soft light, and the hard and soft shadows each produces, can make or break a product shoot.
For most purposes, advertising firms actually argue against selecting overly hard or soft light and, instead, tell amateurs to use natural light. The distribution of the light matters much more than the quantitative specifications or sheer wattage involved. Still, amateur photographers should at least know the difference between hard and soft shadows. In a nutshell, hard shadows arise when the scope of the light source is tiny in comparison to the size of the object. The opposite is true of soft shadows; the light source is larger than the object.
Typically a subtle shadow in natural light is the most appealing way to advertise and ultimately sell a product. Why? Because a hulking shadow behind the object (i.e., your product) is aesthetically unappealing and detracts from the product you’re trying to sell. A flash diffuser can also limit the amount of hard shadow in your image. For do-it-yourselfers, just placing a piece of duct tape over the flash can reduce the amount of shadow behind your product.
The Importance of Background, POV, and Scale
You will probably want to use a white background to accentuate the object cleanly in the foreground. Unless the object is itself white, a white background is almost always the correct choice for product photography. Also, using a technique called the Infinity Curve, which essentially is having a white, well-lit sheet at a slightly tilted angle, gives the semblance of zero horizon.
Capturing your product with a unique point of view may also highlight the product’s strong points or downplay the weak ones. For instance, if you are advertising an expensive (yet petite) article of jewelry, you may want an overhead view with an unobstructed background to lend a generous perspective to your product.
An issue related to POV is sense of scale. If your object is tiny and you would rather not highlight size, then refrain from putting an object that people are familiar with (e.g., a pencil) next to your product. If you want consumers to grasp the size of your product, then make sure that you place it next to something people are familiar with (e.g., a standard cup of coffee).
After you modify the scale and POV options to your needs, make sure to capture the object in its natural habitat, so to speak, and let the consumer feel a sense of already owning the product. These techniques, coupled with natural light, will draw the right kind of attention.
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Go to full article: Quick Tips on Getting Started in the Field of Product Photography
Posted: 14 Dec 2013 11:05 AM PST
In this instructional video, renowned portrait photographer Damien Lovegrove shows us how to achieve a striking effect using a reflective background with an on-camera flash. This technique works great for portraiture, fashion and beauty photography:
Lovegrove has chosen a background of stainless steel with swirling patterns on it. Shooting with a Nikon D300, a 14-24mm f/2.8 wide angle lens, and an SB800 flash, Lovegrove positions himself within close range of his model (4 or 5 feet away) and directs her to look right into the lens.
By setting his camera’s ISO at 200, exposure at 1/200th of a second, and his aperture at f/20.0, the photographer is able to create several magazine-worthy images.
To create a similar background of your own, Lovegrove says, you can use an angle grinder with a sanding disc attached to create patterns in a sheet of stainless steel. Of course, you can also experiment with other shiny surfaces that you find in your environment to see which creates the effect you like best.
Go to full article: Using Shiny Surfaces & On-Camera Flash for Dramatic Portraits (Video)
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