natgeoyourshot

A Seamless Way to Build Your Own Studio

natgeoyourshot:

Becky Hale is a staff photographer for National Geographic. She is also the mother of two children who often become her photographic subjects.

Most people don’t have a studio at their disposal, but shooting a head-to-toe portrait on white seamless is a lot simpler than you may imagine. It’s a great way to capture the character of your subject by isolating them on a clean, simple background and you don’t need a lot of gear.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Camera

2. Tripod

3. Roll of super-white background paper

4. Roll of heavy-duty tape

5. A flat surface (like a driveway) that’s in open shade

6. A tall friend or a ladder

7. A willing subject

Step 1: Location

You want to shoot this portrait in open shade, so finding the perfect spot is important. My small one-story garage casts a shadow on my driveway, but the rest of the driveway is in the sun. The light hitting the driveway (and houses across the street) fill my subject’s face with even, soft light. There is no direct light hitting my subject and my background paper is completely in the shade.

Step 2. Setup

Unroll your paper. The big roll end should remain on the ground. Pull the paper up as high as you can and tape it straight across a flat surface. In my case, I taped it to the top of my garage door. It doesn’t have to be pretty as it won’t be in shot. Roll the paper out a few feet, so that your subject has about two or three feet of paper to stand on.

Step 3. With your subject standing against the background and with their body completely in the shade, start shooting and expose for the white paper. This is really important as you want the paper to go white, not gray. If can be very easy - especially if you’re shooting outside - to be fooled by your camera display and accidentally underexpose this shot. Sometimes I’ll even zip inside to look at the image out of the bright sun to be sure my exposure is ok. You can always tweak exposure and contrast after-the-fact, but like all scenarios, you want your in-camera image to be really strong.

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A few tips:

•  I use a 53” background like this. If you want to shoot more than one person, you’ll need something wider.

• I like using a tripod. It allows me to set up the shot and then step away from my camera a bit, make eye contact with my subject (especially if they’re my kids) and keep the shoot feeling fun and less formal. 

• If you’re shooting outside, keep your surroundings in mind. If your lawn is just beyond your subject, it could be casting green light onto their faces. It’s best to have a pretty neutral color reflecting into your paper.

• It’s fine to put your white balance on “Auto”!

 Happy shooting! 

On Product Photography

I have mastered the lighting, I have mastered the backdrops, but I also have learned this terrible truth about myself:

I am constitutionally incapable of holding the damn camera straight.

I have to rotate every photo at least four degrees counterclockwise when I crop it. Except the ones that I have to rotate clockwise. 

Another truth about myself: I do not know the difference between clockwise and counterclockwise until after I have clicked the button. 

For summer, we’ve marked down all the lenses in our Etsy shop— all vintage manual-focus lenses— by 20%. Check it out! See if you find anything you like. Selections include a lot of Canon FD mount, some Pentax K mount, a selection of Minolta MD mount, and a few Nikon F mount, along with a couple other oddballs like Konica and Petri, some Olympus OM... a Ricoh or two… 
We have adapters to mount them to digital SLRs too. 
Manual-focus lenses like this are phenomenal for use in freelensing. I haven’t tried this technique yet myself, but I plan to— manual-focus primes with accessible aperture rings are easy to use as manual budget tilt-shift lenses for special effects. So we’ll see if I come up with anything cool along those lines!

For summer, we’ve marked down all the lenses in our Etsy shop— all vintage manual-focus lenses— by 20%. Check it out! See if you find anything you like. Selections include a lot of Canon FD mount, some Pentax K mount, a selection of Minolta MD mount, and a few Nikon F mount, along with a couple other oddballs like Konica and Petri, some Olympus OM... a Ricoh or two… 

We have adapters to mount them to digital SLRs too. 

Manual-focus lenses like this are phenomenal for use in freelensing. I haven’t tried this technique yet myself, but I plan to— manual-focus primes with accessible aperture rings are easy to use as manual budget tilt-shift lenses for special effects. So we’ll see if I come up with anything cool along those lines!

I don’t think this photo would win any photo competitions (I should’ve cropped it so the pillar was straight, among other things), but this right here is an example of what a really wide aperture will do. Whether it’s an effect you like or not, this was taken at f/1.4 (a Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4), and that means that not only is the background blurry, but the figures in the foreground are slightly blurry. The only completely-sharp thing is the smartphone. 
(My 2-year-old niece, who can’t read yet but is VERY GOOD at touchscreens, helps my mother play Words With Friends.) 

I don’t think this photo would win any photo competitions (I should’ve cropped it so the pillar was straight, among other things), but this right here is an example of what a really wide aperture will do. Whether it’s an effect you like or not, this was taken at f/1.4 (a Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4), and that means that not only is the background blurry, but the figures in the foreground are slightly blurry. The only completely-sharp thing is the smartphone. 

(My 2-year-old niece, who can’t read yet but is VERY GOOD at touchscreens, helps my mother play Words With Friends.) 

Shooting used lenses to list on Etsy and eBay, I dumped one out of its box to discover that entombed along with it was this little fellow. 

I often do product photography with a macro lens, as we sell them in the store. This one is a Tamron 60mm f/2 macro, which is one of my favorites. I was shooting on a chunk of white countertop shoved up against a white wall, with a studio strobe behind an umbrella about halfway across the room pointed approximately at my ‘canvas’. I tend to be a little lackadaisical about the setup. 

But it was a decent canvas to investigate the details of this small visitor inside the lens box. Who knows how long ago he buzzed his last buzz? I gave him a decent burial in our garbage can after commemorating his brief Earthly sojourn. 

I’m just copy-pasting my Etsy description on here because seriously. Seriously. SERIOUSLY this thing is an APS SLR. FOR REAL. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. 
Remember Kodak’s last big push against the rising tide of digitization? They came out with the Advanced Photo System, Advantix, a computerized cartridge-based type of film slightly thinner than 35mm, that was loaded into these highly-automated little cartridges and compatible with advanced, complicated, expensive new cameras. 
Those who adopted it adopted it hard, and our film labs still see some diehards grimly hanging onto this format. Kodak seems to have dropped it from their roster of products, and Fuji recently discontinued theirs, but you can still find it online if you search hard enough. We try to keep it in stock in our stores, but it can be hard to come up with. 

(I don’t have any listed because our stock varies so much and I don’t want to be constantly listing and unlisting it, but convo me and I can probably get you some. I know a guy. Maybe.)

Well. Minolta dived right into this APS trend with their Vectis series of cameras, including a handful of SLR interchangeable-lens dealies. They were actually really good cameras, according to enthusiasts on the Internet. Which is probably the worst thing about all of this, really: it’s actually a really good camera. 

This one, the S1, was their flagship of the line. It’s splashproof, it’s hip, it’s trendy, it’s so so so incredibly 90s. Pearl gray and black with keen slanty graphics. Weirdly sleek yet clunky. Electronically controlled, but totally mechanical. It’s… it’s giving me flashbacks. (I was a teenager in the 90s. Everything was both awesome and terrible. You know precisely what I mean, I know you do or you wouldn’t still be reading this.)

This kit has the camera body, which totally works, the 28-56mm lens that was the basic lens, plus a sweet telephoto 56-170 complete with lens hood and back cap and trendily Minolta-branded front cap. The whole thing works. It’s in reasonable vintage condition, meaning some wear and discoloration on the rubber bits, but no cracks or dings or chunks missing. 

This thing is both the best and worst thing I’ve ever seen. Please, please buy it, because someone needs to have this. And use it. Please use it. If you can’t get APS film developed, convo me, because we can do that.

PSA

Please, please please, if your camera loses your photos, don’t randomly Google for recovery software. We get so so so many customers who come in with their camera disks that have been run through these “free” programs that are now demanding money to give them the files they’ve taken hostage. 

Please. Please don’t do this. Please be careful and don’t fall for these scams. 

Okay. Okay okay okay. Check this thing out.

I’m not 100% sure this item is really old enough to be labeled vintage on Etsy, I’m just going to say that right up front, but it definitely, definitely has recent-retro kitsch. This camera literally actually truly takes floppy disks. We can’t even find a computer that takes those, still, so this camera has made it on here just out of the sheer amazement at how cool that is. It takes floppy disks. The little three-and-a-quarter jobbies. 
It’s probably actually late 90s, maybe even early 2000s, and up until fairly recently was still in demand among insurance brokers just because the floppies were universal. Up until fairly recently. 
How time flies! 
But I digress.
This is a Sony Digital Mavica and sports a whopping 1.3 megapixels of resolution, and is so advanced it can even capture mpeg movies. For its day, the nearly 2-inch LCD screen was truly enormous. And actually the lens is, objectively assessed, probably fairly nice, though it’s got very little optical zoom. (6x digital zoom! is meaningless, digital zoom is just cropping the image, which you could also just do after the fact.)

Anyway. Apologies if this is too recent to really count as “vintage”, but I found this in a box in our back room and I absolutely needed to share it. It is a camera that takes floppy disks. And I know for a fact we actually paid really good money for it once upon a time. Brand new, these things cost a *mint*.
Now, well… your cellphone camera has, while not as nice a lens, probably eight times the resolution, at least, and probably ten times the low light capability. This stands as a monument to the rapidity of digital evolution.