Friday, December 31, 2010

PHUN PHRIDAY - California Spanish Missions (Part 4)

I'm ending this little mini series of photos with scenes from the beautiful gardens of the San Juan Capistrano Mission.  It has been blizzard conditions where I live for the past several days and is predicted to be 5 degrees by tonight, colder than normal for winter where I live.  It has been PHUN for me to recall the color, beauty, peaceful surroundings, and especially the WARM weather when we toured this beautiful place!!! 

P.S. HOWEVER YOU CELEBRATE, 
PLEASE BE SAFE THIS NEW YEAR'S EVE!

















(Have you ever seen an artichoke plant????? Me neither!  I threw this photo in because the mission also had a beautiful vegetable garden, and even though I grew up in California, I've never seen one of these plants although I love to eat artichokes drenched in lemon butter.......yum!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Califonia Spanish Missions (Part 3)

This week I am posting some of my favorite photos from several California Spanish Missions we have visited recently.  Today, and tomorrow are photos from the beautiful San Juan Capistrano Mission, which I think is probably the most famous mission.  (You know, where the swallows return each year.)  It certainly is the most beautiful mission we have visited so far.  The grounds are so beautiful and I'll have to spend at least 2 days showing you what I saw.  Today, some of the architecture, and tomorrow, the flowers and spectacular gardens.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO MISSION
















Wednesday, December 29, 2010

California Spanish Missions (Part 2)

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week I am posting photos of several California Spanish Missions we visited in the past year.  The following posts are of the first mission to be built and is located in San Diego.

Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcala
(The first Spanish Mission in California)






Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tech Talk Tuesday - Setting Up a Home Studio (Part 3)

What Else Do I Need????

We've talked about some basic requirements for the actual space you will need for your photography studio and how to best prepare that space.  Then we talked about the various types of lights to use, which is probably the most important consideration in setting up an indoor studio.  Now I'm going to mention additional items that you might want to add as you can.  Remember, you don't need everything, and with many items, there are ways to substitute or use items you already have.


Camera:
  • Tripod
  • Remote shutter release (cable or radio)
Lighting:
  • Stands to hold lights, with rollers to make moving them easy
  • Various modifiers, (soft box, umbrella, etc.) either made or purchased
  • Reflectors, made or purchased in different sizes, shapes and colors
  • Stands to hold reflectors and clips to attach reflectors to stands
  • Incident light meter to check for correct exposure
  • Gray card to check for correct white balance
Backdrops:
  • Purchased backdrops, including rolls of seamless colored paper
  • Homemade backdrops.  A good size is 10x10 which will allow for full body shots or small group shots.  (You can buy canvas or muslin fabric, or other heavy duty neutral colored fabric and/or paint your own textures and colors.  You can use bedspreads, blankets, curtains, etc.)
  • A frame, wall brackets, or purchased system to hang backdrops.  There are many creative ways to attached your backdrop to the wall.  For example, two closet shelf brackets nailed high on the wall about 5 to 6 feet apart can hold a dowel with a roll of seamless paper that can be rolled down.  Or a movable stand made of PVC pipe can be the support for a fabric background.

Props:
  • A variety of tables, chairs, sofas, trunks, stools, benches, rugs, etc.
  • Hats, shoes, boots, scarves, earrings, shirts, sweaters, costumes, other interesting clothing items
  • Toys, baby carriage, tricycle, artificial flowers, pillows, seasonal and holiday items, books, etc.
  • Items to balance a composition such as artificial plants, baskets, end tables, lamps, flower vases
  • Look for anything interesting around your house, garage or yard that can be sat on, leaned against or worn!

Attention Getters:
  • If you are planning to photograph children it is a must to have a variety of attention getters such as; bells, whistles, feather dusters, puppets, bubbles, etc.  A few bribes such as non messy candy or a few inexpensive toys might help too.

Think Creative:
  • Once you have the basics, it's time to get your creative juices flowing.  How about a fan to gently blow hair.  Or colored gel papers to change the mood of the lighting.  What about a fog machine, or a bubble maker, or????? 
Necessities:
  • If you are photographing people, you should have a mirror, comb, and some make up handy, and a bathroom close by.

    On a Shoestring Tips

    Most of the items and ideas listed above you can probably find at either no cost or low cost.  As mentioned, the first place to look is around your own home.  Other great places to find prop and backdrop possibilities are thrift stores and garage sales.  Remember to check with local photographers or camera clubs for used items, as well as Craig's List and ebay.  And once again, HERE is the link to that fabulous e-book that has a ton of inexpensive ideas for you 'do it yourself' photographers.

    Next week we're going to put it all together, and I'll show you pictures of my friend's home studio and how she has it all set up and organized.     

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    California Spanish Missions (Part 1)

    Still in the spirit of Christmas and celebrating Christianity, I am going to highlight several of the southern California Spanish Missions.  I started this project about a year ago, and my goal is to photograph all of them.  This week I will post photos of several of the missions I have visited this past year or so (except for Tech Talk Tuesday).

    Twenty one missions were built as part of the Spanish colonization in the 18th century and are scattered along the coast from San Diego to San Francisco.  All have a similar layout with a large whitewashed church and bells next to an enclosed quadrangle with various other buildings.  The missions were to serve as bases from which to explore the surrounding territory and spread Christianity to the native American Indians.  Most have been restored and are now well known southern California landmarks with museums and beautiful gardens, and many are still used for regular Catholic church services.  (My Catholic blogging buddies might be interested in seeing a bit of their history!)

    I grew up just 5 minutes away from the San Gabriel Arcangel Mission and remember going there as a child.  This past fall, when we were in California visiting family, I took the time to once again tour this mission, and this time I brought my camera.  The following photos are of this mission:

    San Gabriel Arcangel Mission







    Friday, December 24, 2010

    Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

    The Christus

    An exact replica of Danish Sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen's Christus is located in the north Visitor's Center on Temple Square.  Standing over 11 feet tall and made out of white carrara marble, this beautiful representation of the Savior with his arms and hands outstretched, invites all to come unto him, and helps present the central doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (Mormons), that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Savior of all mankind and the Redeemer of the world.  The Christus stands in a beautiful rotunda-like room, (circular), with a mural of the universe painted as a backdrop.  It is an inspiring sight!

    (Note that I did not add the background.  This is the setting of this beautiful statue.)

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Oh Holy Night......

    The Stars Are Brightly Shinning.....
    (This is a figurine I have as part of our Christmas decorations.  I set it on a table with a plain background, then added my own background and embellishments.)

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Just For the Season or All Year Long???

    Inviting the Savior Into Our Home
    Yes, Jesus is the 'Reason for the Season', but shouldn't we remember Him all year?  Shouldn't He play an important role in our lives and in our families.  Do we invite God the Father and Jesus our Savior into our homes and strive to live the way they would want us to?  What gift could we give to them?  “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we ‘give,’ … are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!" - Neal A. Maxwell
    (This beautiful picture hangs in a prominent place in our home)

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    Gifts From the Heart - and a request for your HELP!

    Gifts From the Heart, (and the camera)
    I have been gratified to hear of special ways some of you have taken my challenge to use your photography talents to  bless the lives of others this holiday season (see special post above).  Other than portraits, a beautifully framed picture to hang in someone's home would be a wonderful Christmas gift.  But gifts from the heart don't have to be big or expensive to be meaningful and show family and friends you put a bit of time and thought into giving them something of yourself.  As photographers, many of us make our own greeting cards or give a packet of note cards as a modest gift.  I have given hundreds of these away over the years and now I have many people who look forward to receiving them on birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions.  This year, I've made bookmarks out of some of my images to give away.  (And remember, for you photographers who are not crafty, maybe you could collaborate with your spouse on the crafty part.)  People feel special when they receive something personally made for them, and making people feel special and loved is what gift giving should be about!  So, if anyone has more creative ideas about how to use their photography talents to bless the lives of others, PLEASE leave a comment and give us all some more ideas, and also let us know of your experience with the above challenge.  AND NOW FOR MY PLEA FOR HELP.  SEVERAL MONTHS AGO I SAW THIS WONDERFUL BOOKMARK IDEA ON SOMEONE ELSE'S BLOG.  I LOVED IT AND JOTTED IT DOWN THINKING IT WOULD BE A WONDERFUL GIFT IDEA.  BUT I DIDN'T WRITE DOWN THE BLOG.  I'VE TRIED TO GO BACK AND FIND IT BUT CAN'T.  I MUST GIVE CREDIT TO THE CREATIVE BLOGGER WHOSE IDEA I'VE USED.  PLEASE, IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE THAT PERSON, OR IF YOU KNOW THAT PERSON, PLEASE LET ME KNOW SO I CAN GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE AND LINK TO THAT BLOG! 


    P.S.  For those of you looking for TECH TALK TUESDAY, I've postponed it until next week.  This Christmas week, I echo Scott's sentiments, and want to concentrate on feeling the spirit of Christmas.   Be sure to check out his Christmas week posts HERE.  You will be inspired!  TECH TALK TUESDAY WILL RESUME NEXT WEEK!

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    A Peek at Christmas in My Home

    Christmas Tablescape
    This is part of my coffee table.  If you are trying to figure it out, on the sides you can see a glimpse of the carpet with Christmas lights reflecting on the glass table top.  (Are you getting tired of my Christmas photos yet?????)

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    The Salt Lake Temple - Christmas 2010

    Holiness to the Lord - Oh Come Let Us Adore Him!
    Awe inspiring at any time of the year, but when surrounded by the beauty of hundreds of thousands of sparkling lights at Christmas time,  the Salt Lake Temple is truly magnificent!   

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Phun Phriday Bonus

    Lobby - Joseph Smith Memorial Building
    I was going to post this on next Phun Phriday, but realized it would be after Christmas so decided to do two today.  This beautiful, old building sits on Temple Square.  All the original moldings were made by hand many years ago.  I was having PHUN with my fisheye lens that was able to capture the size of this lobby.  Absolutely stunning and elegant dressed up for the holidays!!!

    Phun Phriday????

    If You Like Christmas Lights..........
    THIS IS THE RIGHT PLACE!

    Lights everywhere - above in the trees, all around in the trees, trees made of lights, lights on walls, lights on the ground, lights suspended in air, lights on the buildings.  A beautiful sight indeed!
    What was PHUN:  In addition to the lights, the laughter of children, couples in love, families enjoying a night together, the "oohs" and "ahhs" of people here for the first time, and visiting with my photographer friends.
    What was NOT PHUN:  Even though I looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy with so many layers of clothes on, my fingers and toes were totally numb!  I really had a hard time fiddling with the dials on my camera.  A funny incident - I had been walking around by myself for awhile when a couple asked me to take a picture of them with their camera.  When I started to speak to say of course I would, I realized my face and mouth were somewhat frozen, too, (kind of like when you take a big mouthful of ice cream), because when I talked I slurred my words.  Even though I tried to explain, I'm sure they thought I'd been drinking!  The other NOT PHUN thing was that I totally missed Scott and Chad even though I looked for them all night.  I was kicking myself for not getting a cell number, but when I got home I saw that Scott had left me an email with a number to call, and told me he'd be wearing a Santa hat.  Darn, I really wanted to see Scott in a Santa hat!!!  I did get a text from Lloyd saying he couldn't make it at the last minute.  Well, maybe next time, guys!
    P.S.  I'll post my favorite image from this outing on Sunday.  This one was just for Phun as I combined several images to depict the feeling of lights everywhere.

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Temple Square Memories

    'Starry' Night on Temple Square 
    Tonight will be my annual pilgrimage to Temple Square to photograph Christmas lights.  I hope to meet Scott, Chad and Lloyd for the first time - all blogging buddies who live in northern Utah.  I hope I don't freeze first!  It's supposed to be a cold night, so I'll put on about 50 lbs. of warm clothing, sling my camera around my neck and see if I can get in a few clicks of the shutter before my finger freezes! (Not sure if I've posted this image before, but it's one of my favorites.  Hope you like it.)

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    P.S. to previous 'Tech Talk Tuesday' post

    In the last post, I realized there were a whole lot of words and no photos.  That is a disgrace for a photography blog!!  So I wanted to show those of you who are 'afraid of the flash' that it's easier than you think.  Here is the image, SOOTC that I took 5 minutes ago on my dining room table:


    LIGHT READING or ENLIGHTENED READING?

    I probably should have waited until evening to take this photo and show off the candle light effect better, but I was impatient.  So I closed the shutters in the dining room, but still had to contend with the light from huge windows in the great room on the other side that also light up the dining room.  Luckily it is a dark and overcast day.  I lit the candles and took some test shots, and saw that the light was too dark on the Bible, which is my main point of interest.  So I put my camera flash on a stand, and placed it to the right of where I was standing, and pointed it at the Bible.  The flash spilled over onto everything and made the whole image bright and boring while I was going for a more moody feel.  So considering my previous lighting post, I started thinking about how I could simply modify the light.  I needed to make it more directional, more like a spot light.  See photo below for my complicated light modifier:


    I hope this doesn't ruin the impact of the first image, because there's not much mood or feeling to this shot!!  But I wanted to show you what I did in 5 minutes.  After I moved the dining room chairs out of the way, I experimented with different candles and compositions.  I took some test shots until I got the composition I wanted, remembering to emphasize the focal point of the image with a narrow depth of field.  Then I lit the candles and started fiddling with the light.  This photo shows my final set up.  One light, my camera flash unit, mounted on a stand!  That's it!  And that professional looking light modifier is three pieces of typing paper taped around the flash.  I could have used a fancy 'snoot' modifier or other type of spot if I'd had one,  but I think this high lights the words 'Holy Bible' very nicely.  Oh, I also experimented with the amount of flash as well.  See how simple this was?  There really is no excuse not to use off camera lighting when you are shooting indoors!!

    I hope this little tutorial has been 'enlightening' and more importantly, I hope we all are 'enlightened' this season by welcoming the 'Light of Christ' into our lives.

    Tech Talk Tuesday - Setting Up a Home Studio (Part 2)



    Lighting for your Home Studio
    Books and books have been written about the type, number and kind of lights you need for indoor photography.  Since all this information is readily available on the internet, I won't try to compete.  My goal for this post will be to help you understand the difference between different lighting sources and pass along some useful information I have picked up that might help you decide what's right for you, or what you can afford at the present.
    First some definitions:

    Strobes or Flash:  Technically, these terms are interchangeable, but usually the word strobe is used for a large studio light, usually halogen, that sits on a stand and when triggered, releases a burst of light.  Flash is usually referring to the smaller light built into your camera, or a dedicated flash that is removable and slides into the hotshoe on top of your camera.
    Continuous lights or hot lights:  These terms can refer to any number of lights, and can be tungsten, quartz or halogen, that stay on all the time, and usually produce a large amount of heat.  The advantage is you can see your lighting before you take the picture, but a disadvantage is they heat up your room.
    Cool lights:  These lights usually are florescent and produce less light, but are becoming more popular as they are continuous and not hot, although they have some limitations because of lower wattage.

    Now some bullet points:
    • Big Point Here:  Yes, one can spend thousands of dollars on studio lighting, but you don't have to!!!  A determined photographer who really wants to shoot indoors and is willing to shop around, and use a little ingenuity and elbow grease, can create lighting solutions that will produce almost the same quality of light as expensive studio lights  (more on this later).  
    • All types of light sources are possible options to help you create the lighting 'look' you are after.  This includes, natural light from windows or skylights, table lamps, flash units that normally fit on the hotshoe of your camera but should be used off camera, standard studio lights, continuous lights, spot lights, candle light, even flash lights or utility lights, and Christmas lights.  You already have many light sources around your house!
    • Even though it would be nice to have a 4 light set-up, beautiful images are possible with just one light source.  To shoot indoors, one does not need to start with lots of lights.
      • All lighting can be manipulated or modified with soft boxes, umbrellas, grids, colored gel sheets, diffusers, or an endless array of creative ways, again, with the goal of creating a specific lighting color or 'look'.  You probably have many materials around your house that you can adapt to modify light.  (more on this later.) 
      • Most standard brands of professional studio lights will be dependable and produce all the light you need.  You don't need to invest in the most expensive, and you don't need a huge amount of wattage to get the job done. Between the 4 light set up shown at the recent workshop I attended, I think the total wattage was less than 600.  Even if you start with one studio light, 300W should be all you need.
      • Other than price, some additional considerations to think about when purchasing a studio light include:
        • If you are considering strobe lighting, does it have a good modeling light.? (This is a low continuous light that allows you to see how the light and shadows will fall on your subject before you take the shot.)
        • Does it use ordinary light bulbs for the modeling light to save on money?
        • Does the front of the light have a way to attach modifiers?  (So you can easily attach an umbrella or soft box.)
        • Is there a store that will service this brand of light locally?
        • Remember, if you have a small room, continuous hot lights will produce a lot of heat so you might want to choose a strobe or cool light system.
      • Other than actual light, something else to consider is using one or more reflectors.  This can be any surface that will reflect the light back onto your subject.  You can choose from a variety of reflectors at your local camera store, or use something you already have, like a white square of foamboard or posterboard, or anything light, bright and/or shiny.
      • Accessories you need in addition to your lights will include:
        • Stands to hold the lights and reflectors.  Stands should be sturdy and adjustable.
        • If you use strobes, you will need a cord to attach the light to your camera, or some kind of cordless transmitters (Pocket Wizards), in order to sync your flash to your camera
        • Various items (either bought or made) to modify the light
      •  
      • When you are ready to purchase your first light, remember you may not have to buy brand new.  Check your local camera stores, camera clubs, local photography studios and other resources for used equipment.  (I was able to buy my first studio strobe light at the workshop I attended several weeks ago.  The instructor was selling both new and used equipment.  I felt comfortable relying on his expertise since he is a master studio/portrait photographer and is well known in our community, country and other countries.  I purchased a basic Rime Lite made by Hyundae.  It has a maximum wattage of 300 and can be set in increments from full power to 1/64 power.  It has a nice modeling light and is simple to understand and use.  The best part, it cost me $200.)

      Remember, the most important advantage of studio photography, is that the photographer can control the light.  He/she can control it's shape, it's color, it's intensity.  Light is used to create a mood or a feeling.  It can be romantic or dramatic.  The placement of lights can change the shape of your subject, and can either flatter or detract.  So learning about lighting is the single most important thing for studio photographers.  Somewhere I read that studio photographers don't fiddle with their camera settings, they fiddle with their light settings.  This is where the real creativity begins.  In Part 4 of this little mini series I'll discuss a 4 light system (main or key light, fill light, background light, hair light).

      Your assignment this week is to get on the internet, and start educating yourself on the various types of lights and lighting kits available.  You will find that prices vary dramatically.  As you read about various types of studio lights, what seems confusing at first will start to make sense, and soon you will get a feel about what will be right for you depending on your personal circumstances. 

      'On a Shoestring' Tip:

      What great timing!  This week in one of the regular emails I get from various photography websites, I received an announcement for a new ebook titled "Home Studio Photography".  For $14.95 I immediately purchased it and was not disappointed.  If you are a photographer determined to turn a corner of your home into a photography nook, but have very limited funds, and are willing to put in some time and work, this is the book for you.  It has a ton of do it yourself projects including, building your own soft boxes, your own light stands, reflector screens, diffusers, a mount to put your camera flash on a stand, a beauty dish, backdrops and props.  Some common materials used are, PVC pipe, foamboard, foil, disposable turkey pan, cardboard box, even beer cans!  If you are willing to put in the time, or have a handyman/woman close by who will do it for you, it's amazing what you can create for almost no money.  It is well worth the money, and here's the link:  http://www.diyphotography.net/ebook-your-complete-guide-to-building-a-photography-studio-at-home

      Next week I'll discuss props, backdrops and everything else you may need.  (P.S.  I've decided to hold off posting photos of my friend's studio until the end when I can pull this all together and show you how her studio is set up and organized.)

              Monday, December 13, 2010

              Proud Mom and Grandma

              You'll have to humor me for today's post.  I've been working on our Christmas letter and the collage of family photos I usually print on the backside of the letter.   I look back on the events of 2010 and give thanks for my many blessings and memories.  Since this is mostly a photography blog, I won't bore you with my family letter, but I must show off my amazing and wonderful family in order of age.
              Our daughter Amber, her husband Will, and Issac, Vanessa and Sabrina

              Our daughter Tiera, her husband Scott, and Taylor, Bennett, Owen and Chase

              Our son Jaron, his wife Michelle, Sawyer, the little bunny who represents our Angel in Heaven Gavin,  and "Bucky" who arrives next month.  (Thank heavens Bucky won't be his name after he is born!)

              Our son Dalin and his bride Emily

              Our son Tyler and his bride Emily (yes, we have two Emilys!)

              And putting it all together for our Christmas letter........
              MERRY CHRISTMAS from THE LARSEN FAMILY 2010


              Saturday, December 11, 2010

              Searching for that Fountain of Youth!


              Just had to put a P.S. to my post HERE and all your great and funny comments.  Here's my best quote:
              "I don't want to brag or make anyone jealous or anything, but I can still fit into the earrings I wore in high school..."  HA HA
              I found this quote on a delightful blog hosted by a very YOUNG and VIBRANT (and beautiful) lady.  Check it out HERE.

              Michael & Diana

              Soft and Dreamy
              In a gallery of wedding photos, I mostly take straight forward color shots, documenting the day's events, which include the typical group shots of the wedding party, and also many candids as the day unfolds.  My favorite time, however, is when I get the bride and groom alone.  In addition to the 'regular' shots, I find that for me to capture the feelings of love, caring, and romance of this special occasion, I often select my favorite shots and add some creative editing to better show the viewer what was happening at that moment in time.

              Friday, December 10, 2010

              PHUN PHRIDAY - A Picture's Not Always What it Seems!

              HELLO Blogging Buddies!

              Jeff and I needed a formal head shot picture so I took this in my 'home studio'.  Well, actually, I used our office and set up my one studio light (that I still don't know how to use), and my speedlight, put my camera on a tripod and used the timer.    And 'tadaa'!, this is what I came up with.

              I just realized, I don't think I've ever posted a picture of myself, (except the little avatar pix taken several years ago),  so I'm sure you must be thinking, "Boy I didn't realize how old and wrinkled she is!"  HaHa.  Kind of like when you listen to a radio personality for a long time, and then you finally see a picture and you are shocked because the person doesn't look anything like what you had imagined!  

              Another semi-related idea.  Remember a few years ago, (before any of us knew about Photoshop or 'retouching'), when you were in the check out stand at the grocery store and you'd look at all the older super stars on the magazine covers and think, 'Wow, they look amazing for their age!'  Now we know better, which leads me to the above photo.  I can't tell you how hard it was for me to leave this untouched.  With just a few clicks I could remove those wrinkles, zap blemishes, lift my eyelids, take away my chicken neck, lose 10 pounds, add a 'glamor' glow.    I do some touch up routinely on every portrait I do, but here I did nothing.  This truly is SOOTC, so if we were to meet on the street for the first time, this is what you'd get, assuming I had makeup on and my hair combed!  I'm really loving the soft light of my first studio light with umbrella attached!

              So the title of this Phun Phriday is that a picture is not always what it seems including the above one, although in a different way than I just talked about.  A long time ago on a 'Tech Talk Tuesday' I said that any manipulation you do to your photographs would be your artistic interpretation and acceptable, unless the purpose of the photograph is photojournalism or reality.  For example, if you were taking a picture of a beautiful hotel next to the beach to be used to entice tourists to vacation there, I personally think it would be deceiving to leave out the garbage dump and sewage plant blocking the view of the ocean. 

              Well, the photo above is not exactly what it seems.  Looks like we dressed up for the picture, or were on our way to a special event.  Look at the REAL shot for my PHUN PHRIDAY picture of the day!
              Happy Weekend Everyone!

               

              Wednesday, December 8, 2010

              Winter Clouds

              Winter Clouds
              This image proved to me once again that regardless of any post editing one may or may not choose to do, it's really all about the light, the composition, the photographer, or a combination of all three.   Two days ago I was out running errands, and decided to take my camera and tripod with me....just in case.   After the errands I drove up to a local ski resort, looking for a photo op, but there was heavy cloud cover and everything looked dull and gray.  Sometimes there's just nothing worth shooting.  Coming home, just before sunset, the clouds began to break up so I decided I'd drive up a canyon which is about 15 minutes from where I live.  Just before the sun went down, (behind the mountain on the right), these low lying clouds were lit by the rays and put on a beautiful show that was ever changing as they quickly moved across the sky, changing formations on their way.  I especially love the little cloud on the left, lit up in front of the mountain.  On the high resolution version, this looks very 3D.  No editing program can do what nature does! 

              Tuesday, December 7, 2010

              Tech Talk Tuesday - Setting Up a Home Studio (Part 1)

              FINDING ADEQUATE SPACE

              If money and available room size were not an issue, then the answer to "How much space do I need to set up a home studio?" is simple....at least double the size of the biggest subject or number of subjects you wish to photograph!  O.K. I know that doesn't help, especially since I'm talking to those of us, (probably all of us), who have limited space and limited resources.  So, understand that all through the process of setting up a home studio, we will be making compromises.

              The first step is to consider both the space you have available or can convert for this purpose, in connection with the type of photography you want to do there.  If you are a portrait photographer, you may only have a large enough space to do just single person head shots, or seniors, or engagements or maybe a group of 3, but maybe not enough for a family group.  On the other hand, if you are a food photographer, or maybe specialize in macro work, you'll very likely have plenty of space to do all your photography in your 'studio'.  Another thought, if you really love 'location' work or 'natural' settings, and live in a warm climate where you can be outdoors year round, then maybe you would feel too confined and bored inside, so a home studio isn't right for you at all.  So, the very first step is to decide if you really want or need to do photography inside, what kind of photography are you planning to do inside, and, do you have enough room inside to do it! 

              By now you've figured out that as far as size goes, there is no right answer, because we all will be using our home studios to shoot different subjects.  Again, if you are shooting macros or food, for example, a space not much bigger than a walk in closet may be all you need.  It will have to be large enough to fit a table to place your work on, a backdrop,  a light or two, and space for you and your camera to move about freely.  That's it, probably not much compromising here!

              If you are shooting people, however, size becomes much more important.  If you would like to shoot full length portraits, then your room needs to be at least 2 feet taller than your subject.  Lengthwise, ideally, you should have 3-5 feet between the subject and the backdrop, 15-20 feet between the subject and your camera, and enough room behind you and the back wall to maneuver easily.   The width of your space will determine how large a group you will be able to accommodate, and that must also include your light setup.  You might have to compromise and use some creativity here because most of us don't have rooms that big.  Maybe you'll have to give up on the idea of full length portraits, or groups of 10, or maybe use your home studio just for close up shots, or have your subjects sitting. One more variable to add to the mix is what size lens will you use.  If your favorite portrait lens length is a 100mm to 200mm, you may not be able to use that lens in the space confinement of your studio. 

              So where will you find your space.  Well, the obvious choices are:  a spare bedroom; a basement; a garage or maybe attic.  If one of these options is readily available, and accessible, then you are off to a great start.  But many of us may have to work harder at finding space.  Maybe you'll have to make some changes that could be difficult.  How about cleaning out the basement you've used to store a lifetime of stuff then having a big garage sale......ouch!  Or maybe you could put your two daughters into the same bedroom, to free up a room.....double ouch ouch!  Or, how about telling your husband he has to give up one side of the garage and move his power tools to the shed....triple ouch ouch ouch!  Another idea, if you are using the spare bedroom as an office, how about consolidating  all your office stuff and relegate it to a corner of the family room.  (Why do you need a whole room dedicated to paying bills, when you'd have so much more fun using it to enjoy photography!!!)   Well, if there's a determined photographer, there's a way!


              I am lucky in that I do have a spare room to start with.  It is what we call a 'bonus' room and built in the attic space above our garage which is attached to the house, so there is a stairway leading down to the main floor.  (This is my very own room, to compensate for the separate 3 car garage my husband built for his car hobby!!)  At the time we built the house I was planning on using this room as a craft/hobby room, so windows on every wall were a plus.  The room is fairly big, about 25 feet by 18 feet, and has ton of storage space and a bathroom attached, but as you can see, because of the sloping ceilings and windows on 3 of the 4 walls, I'll have to do some compromising in set up and how many people I can photograph at the same time.  And as you can CLEARLY see, right now it is the family's junk room, and has never been cleaned or totally unpacked since we moved into the house which has been about 3 years ago.  (Did I just admit that????)

              But if there really is no space at all, then your option might be to set up a temporary studio as I did in the following shot:
              This is my brother and sister-in-law and their handsome family.  Since they were all home for Thanksgiving it was time for a long overdue family picture.  Because it was snowing and cold outside, our only option was an inside photo shoot.  We tried to think of a 'public' building we could use, but with all the kids, we opted for the basement family/game room of their home instead.  Luckily the room is in neutral colors and has a nice long wall on one side that would accommodate this large group.  I plugged in my one studio light mounted on a stand, and placed it to their right.  (I bought this light 5 days earlier at the workshop and really had no idea how to use it).  Then I put my speedlite on another stand just behind and to the left of where I had my camera on a tripod.  The last of my sophisticated setup was to put two household utility lights on the carpet close to the back wall.  We moved the game table out of the way, found a bunch of chairs and some buckets to sit on, and we were in business with a temporary studio of sorts.  This really was a lovely room to use, but the compromise was that the ceiling was fairly low, and the men in the back row are really tall, like between 6'2" and about 6'5", and there was a ceiling fan between me and them.  When they were standing, the fan was blocking part of their heads, so I had to have them sit on stools.  I feel pretty good about how this turned out considering my inexperience and lack of equipment.

              PREPARING THE SPACE 

              Once you have your space, you need to do some preparation work.  First you'll need to to do some painting with latex paint.  You will probably want to paint the walls and ceilings white to avoid unwanted color casts; however, some photographers prefer neutral beige or brown tones.  If you have a bigger room and a bigger budget, you might want to paint a 'custom wall' to resemble a textured backdrop, spray paint a camouflage look,  or design any background scene that suits your fancy.  

              When choosing flooring, the best choice is a hard, flat commercial carpet in a medium brown tone. Never choose a thick, high pile carpet, as it makes moving lights and props difficult.  

              A very important preparation is how you are going to control your lighting.  If there are windows in your room, you may want to leave them uncovered to use natural light on bright days.  But you also need to be able to seal off all the light in order to accurately use studio lights, so you must find a way to attach some kind of light blocking blinds that can be opened and shut.

              You will also need adequate power and electrical outlets to plug in your lights.  Also, if your space is small, and you are doing portrait work using 'hot' lights, your room will get very hot and you and/or your subjects will become uncomfortable very quickly unless you have adequate ventilation or air conditioning.

              If you will be doing portrait work with people other than your family, there are some additional considerations to think about when looking for and preparing your studio space.  Is there easy access or an easy way for people to get to your 'studio' when they come to your home?  Is there a bathroom located close by where your clients can check their makeup or change their clothes or whatever?  Do you have room or closet space to store props?


              'ON A SHOESTRING' TIPS 

              Today we really haven't talked about anything that costs a ton of money, unless you are planning on remodeling or building an addition to your house.  (Don't we all wish!)  Finding and cleaning out your space will mostly take 'elbow grease'.  I do have a tip if you are planning on painting the walls and ceiling.  Go to your local Lowes or Home Depot or other large hardware store and ask if they have any 'miss tint' gallons of paint.  This is just what it says, special order paint that was tinted wrong which stores sell for a reduced price.  If you are able to change the flooring you can look for a remnant or bolt end and save money.  And for your windows, you can always be creative and tape or hang up something solid like foam board or thick fabric, until you can afford those light blocking blinds.

              I know this all has been pretty basic, but I hope it has given you some things to think about.  Next week I'll include photos of my friend's studio and we'll talk about the lighting equipment you will need to get started. 

              P.S.  Did I mention there's a price to pay for reading all this great information??  I'm still waiting to see more of your Christmas light photos, so if you post yours  HERE  I'll consider it payment in full, and a great way to let me know you are still interested in me continuing 'Tech Talk Tuesdays'.