15 Feb 2014

First photography DIY project of 2014 accomplished

Recently I have started the DIY project, which should end in the big (1x2m), sturdy  frame with detachable light diffuser or reflector, depending on the used fabric. The project is finished, and the result looks quite nice:
Front side

Back side
To check the quality I took several shoots using different materials: a shoot-through umbrella, a diffuser and the combination of two. All shots have been taken with the light source placed 1 meter from my face. I have used one SB-900 speed light flash, working in iTTL mode. I have compensated the light strength of the iTTL by -2 stops. The photos are not super sharp, because I had to operate the setup alone, using the remote trigger. So the lens focus was locked and I tried to keep the same distance from the camera during consecutive shots:
Shoot-through umbrella

Shoot-through umbrella + diffuser
First photo is the least successful in my opinion (let's not discuss quality of the model :-)). Note the blemishes on the chick and relatively high contrast around the ears. Second picture, taken with the screen only improves the blemishes.
The combination (putting the speed light behind the umbrella and the screen) produces the results which are to me most pleasant with respect to the softness of light. The idea of combining both light modifiers comes from Joe McNally (one of his online courses). Just to give an idea of the setup:

The diffuser gives a slightly warm color cast comparing to the umbrella, but it is not a big problem.
I have ended up with the budget for the whole project of about 70 EUR. Not bad, I'd say, considering the final effect.

4 Feb 2014

A potentially useful tip for all interested in practicing the Brenizer technique

No, it will not be yet another post about the Brenizer method. If one wants this kind of information, use Google or (even better), look at the instructions of the author of this technique.
Although it sound simple, it requires some practice before achieving repeatable decent results (at least, I still learn it). Just to mention a few aspects:
- Learn to pre-visualize the final composition,
- Choose the right focal length and the distance to the subject,
- Learn to move the camera properly during taking the shots.
The bottom line of this is that it will require quite some sessions and panoramas to be stitched.
And here comes the tip: at least in the initial phase choose the stitching software that works fast. Just to be able to judge the results quickly and move on.
I have started with Photoshop and its Photomerge function. It delivers good results, but it is slow, especially if the number of photos grows. There are alternatives based on the SIFT algorithm. They work amazingly fast. Autostitch is very simple to use, free, but with the limited functionality. Another that I have tried is Autopano Pro. It works also very fast and offers a lot of post processing options. It is not free, but the demo version is more than enough to practice the Brenizer technique.