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Be inspired

I’ve said it many times

One of the best things to look at to find inspiration is movies or and videoclips. Both are not only stories but when you look closely you will see that the power of those stories are heavily enhanced by the use of color and lighting

Imaging a movie like Edward scissorhands in muted colors…. Gets a totally different atmosphere or how about that one in black and white with some cool film noir lighting.

Even better what about a horror movie with saturated colors and flat lighting…. Nah takes away the mind tricks

And there we have it. Mind tricks

Our mind is easily fooled. Take a dark room where you hardly see anything and I’m pretty sure that if we fed you stories about the famous shadow figures you will start to see them, out of the corners of your eyes that is.

Now floor the room with light and…gone is the whole illusion.

So lighting and color for photography are for me the best ways to effectively tell a story.

And the best way to practice this is to actually try to recreate some scenes. The images in this blog where shot during a cosplay workshop (one out of four sets of that workshop) and although it doesn’t really represent an actually scene you can see the inspiration.

The most important thing is not to hit that scene exactly but to get a mood and feel. And I think we succeeded in that one.

Now what is that of use for you?
If you’re training yourself to be able to recreate more extreme sets you start to learn more and more what lighting, color, retouching can do for an image. And when your done with something extreme, the next time a client asks you for a certain mood and feel… Well it will be a lot easier.

Practice extreme to become a much better photographer I would say 😉

Many thanks to Marloes and jamilla for their awesomeness

Wait before you throw something out

Don’t just throw stuff out. It can be awesome material to make clothing or accessories

Over the years I’ve shot some bizarre clothes and accessories all made out of material that you would never expect in a photoshoot. Ofcourse it helps to have a crazy creative stylist and model like Nadine 🙂 the images in this blogpost are a mix of styling by myself and Nadine.

For example think about some packing paper and old curtains

Or for example some Christmas paper

But also postal bags work

But one of my favorite must be this heavily inspired by the 50s pulp SF movies shot which is almost completely build up from paper bags

Staying in SF what about a robot all made out of cardboard

But it can also work with a newspaper of course.

Or what about handkerchiefs

And when we are on that route… Some toilet paper ?

And sometimes a lot of fun after the shoot with bubble wrap

And staying in plastic, what about some thrashbags? Not possible? Oh yeah it is

And finally (although I have loads more) what about using some plastic material and don’t use it as clothing but as background

What did you use as a creative solution?

A clean sensor is a happy sensor

Loads of people ask me about my opinion about cleaning their sensor. Often people let specialized shops do it for sometimes a lot of money and don’t realize that the moment they zoom (with some lenses) or change lenses they have new dust building up. Let me start by saying that cleaning a sensor is easy as can be. You’re actually not cleaning the sensor itself but the toplayer. Which is actually pretty strong. There is one thing you, however, have to be careful for.

Some sensors (like the Sony) have onboard image stabilization, this means the sensor is “kinda” floating, so when you apply pressure to the sensor you will actually see it move, now that’s not good of course, to solve this just go into the menu and activate “sensor cleaning” this way the sensor will do it’s “magic” and it will lock itself unless you turn the camera off and on again, this is the moment when you can easily just clean your sensor.

Solutions

The in-camera one
To be honest, most cameras nowadays have sensor cleaning but to be clear, I never really had the idea it worked, yeah it sometimes did clean up a little bit but in essence, it’s the less effective way from what I’m going to discuss here.

Rocket blower
This is probably the most famous one, and for good reason, often all that is needed to get rid of that dust bulb is a good gust of clean wind. In all honesty, this really is a must buy, if you don’t own any of these well…. get out and get one. And don’t EVER blow into your chamber with your mouth, although cleaning a Medium Format sensor can be done by breathing on it and wiping it clean with a pecpad, this is something that should not and never been done inside a camera.

Get your rocket blower here


Arctic Butterfly
If I have to choose one device to use for cleaning, this is it. That’s also the reason I opened the article with an image of the arctic butterfly. I’ve been using them for quite some time now and the “new” versions with led lights are absolutely awesome. Operation is very simple, just activate the butterfly and let it run for a few seconds, stop and clean the sensor, it’s a very effective way of cleaning and takes out a lot more than the rocket blower. The main problem with dust is that not all dust is equal, some dust particles are just “resting” on the sensor and can be blown off, but some are a bit more sticky, and that’s where the butterfly comes to the rescue.

They are delivered in a sturdy case so you can take them with you on travels without worrying about damaging it. And trust me I’ve been in loads of situations where a rocket blower just didn’t do it’s work and being in the middle of nowhere without the option to clean your sensor at a camera store is amazingly annoying and takes a lot of time in Photoshop to clean up those beautiful shots, so if you only can take one device with you make sure it’s this one.

Get your butterfly here

Sensor swipes and Eclipse
If all else fails this is it. The wet method. In essence, there will always be dust that whatever you throw at it it will stay there, it’s like it’s glued to the sensor, now before you take out the paint remover (which you should not even thing about) you should invest in a bottle of eclipse and sensor swipes. I have to be honest, for me, wet cleaning is like a last resort, but it never let me down. I’ve cleaned sensors from students of mine that were so dirty that even on f8 you already saw the dust blobs appearing and after a good wet clean they were “perfect” again.

Get the sensor swipes here
And get the Eclipse here

Conclusion
There is one very important thing you have to keep in mind before you lose your sanity. There will ALWAYS be a little bit of dust on your sensor when shooting at f16 or f22, don’t worry about it, it will be gone in seconds in Photoshop/Lightroom etc. I actually never saw a 100% clean sensor in my life, there are some things you can do to prevent it from building up or getting really bad.

  1. Make sure you always switch lenses up side down and fast.
    don’t let the camera lay on it’s back with the lens mount wide open, change caps first and then the lens. No take the lens off with the camera facing down and immediately put the new lens on
  2. Don’t switch lenses in a windy or dusty environment
    Sounds obvious but you don’t want to know how many people I see changing lenses on the beach or even worse in the dunes.
  3. Don’t push the dust to the sides
    I see this a lot when people start out cleaning their sensors, they will move the dust to the sides of the sensor and don’t take notice, this dust will build up and before you know it it will be very hard to clean and you see a collection of dust particles in your corners or side.
  4. Make sure the dust is gone but don’t over do it
    A good cleaning should be pretty fast, don’t keep rubbing the sensor one good swipe from left to right and maybe one to check but that’s it. Check first and continue later

 

Of course there are more ways to clean a sensor including some I never even tried because somehow they feel a bit sketchy for me, like putting magic tape on your sensor and pulling it off (yeah I really read that somewhere) now let’s make one thing clear, yeah magic tape is supposed to not leave any trails but really seriously would you risk your sensor to that? I won’t. There are also some dustpickers out there with which you can select one dust particle and take it out via a sort of plunger effect, I never tried it because in all honesty with the 3 solutions above I never run into problems.

So what should you always bring?
One would say the rocket blower and although I use it a lot in the studio my choice is, however, the Arctic butterfly. It’s right in the middle of effectiveness between the rocket blower and the wet method and this means that when travelling within seconds I can clean my sensor more than enough to get clean shots for the rest of the trip when I’m home I can always do it “perfectly” with the wet method. And trust me nothing is more frustrating than being on a trip and shooting some stunning scenery and coming back in the hotel/RV and finding out your sky is littered with dust and you didn’t bring anything and there are no camera stores close by enough. Try driving an almost 10mtr RV into a city centre to get some cleaning stuff or lose some time on your trip to find a camera store that sells cleaning gear. So always bring at least one device that really does the trick and for me, the best allrounder is the Arctic Butterfly.

 

Any experiences from you guys?
Post them below

 

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That magic angle

Often when shooting models, landscapes etc. we are shooting from the so called “eyes perspective”, meaning you hold the camera in front of your face and you shoot. This will indeed render the world/your subject the way that YOU see it… but is this the most interesting way… often not.

During workshops, seminars, demos etc. I always stress the attendees/viewers/visitors to really try out different ways of shooting a scene, not only do you trigger your own creativity but you also give your client, being your model or customer, more choices. And in all honesty, we are photographers not just “snappers” right? (hope that is a right expression by the way).

But experimenting with angles you are actually learning about the behavior of lenses, light but also about the poses of the model. This is incredibly important when you start out with photography and when you start with experimenting with poses etc. you will build a much stronger base for your future, at least that’s my opinion.

The shots in this blogpost were shot during a workshop with Anouk with the exact same light setup, as you can see by changing the angle I did not only change the look of the pose but also radically changed the behavior of the light. It may or might not be your taste, but at least try it 🙂

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