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4 super easy practical lighting effects for video or stills

Effects lighting is an extremely fun area of lighting to explore. In this context, they’re about recreating the light that we see in our daily lives with studio lights. While aimed more at video, the techniques and setups can apply equally as well to stills photography, too.

In this 4 Minute Film School video from Aputure, Ted Sim talks to DP Julia Swain about recreating several practical lighting effects. A TV screen, a projector, city lights and police lights. And they’re all done very simply with the minimum of kit.

Although they use the upcoming Aputure Mini 20 in the video, the effects can be done with pretty much any light. You may find that you need to flag off some styles of light, yourself. But, making some DIY barn doors with foamcore and gaffer tape is easy enough.

TV Screen

Creating the glow from a TV screen is fairly straightforward. It’s an effect we see in a lot of movies whenever somebody is watching a TV in the dark. The light was next to the subjects, with the light flagged from hitting them directly. It was then bounced back towards the subjects off a 2ft “pizza box” reflector. Basically, a 2’x2′ silver reflective square.

The secret to selling the effect, at least for video, is to adjust the power of the light while you’re filming. This simulates the changing shots & scenes that would appear on the screen they’re watching. For stills, you don’t really need the flicker. Just a level of light that looks pleasing to you.

Projector

The projector is really just an extension of the TV. Even though the main light source in the real world (the projector itself) would be behind them, there’s still light reflecting off the screen and coming back toward the subjects.

Here, all that’s been done is to add a second light behind the actors working as a backlight. Here, though, things get a little more tricky. The two lights are quite far from each other. So, you’ll need two operators working in sync with each other to ensure that the power goes up and down on each light together. If your projector light goes up while your screen’s glow goes down, it just doesn’t sell the effect.

If you’re short on bodies to work the set, you could always go with remote control lights. The Aputure Mini 20, HR672s, and several others allow you to control multiple lights simultaneously at the single push of a button. So, you’ll always be sure that your “projector” and your “screen” are going up and down together.

Again, for stills, the ability to simulate flicker doesn’t matter. You just need to balance the lights in a way you like.

City Lights

Simulating the outside world through a window is fairly simple during the day. But at night, it can be difficult to simulate, especially with a shallower depth of field.

The trick here is to use Christmas lights. But, you want to buy ones with actual bulbs, not LED strips. With LED strips you’ll often find they flicker or produce weird colour. Although, there are some that can counter this effect. This is true even if you’re shooting stills, if you want consistency and reliability between shots.

You’ll want to make sure to get the lights on the other side of the window, and back as far as possible. This helps to sell the effect of parallax as the camera moves in the scene. It also means the lights will become obscured or visible as they move past the window frame.

Police Lights

This one probably isn’t as common a scene for most of us. But it’s a relatively easy effect to achieve,

There’s a couple of different ways to achieve this effect, as mentioned in the video.

The first is to mount mirrors onto light stands. A pair of red & blue gelled lights bouncing into them as you spin the lights around will create this type of effect. That’s pretty much how police lights work in the real world, too.

But another way to do it, if your lights are small enough is to simply mount two lights together pointing in opposite directions. Then gel one red, and one blue and spin the whole thing.

So, four practical lighting effects that are very simple and straightforward to achieve. And while you don’t really get the full effect in a still that you do with video, they setup is very similar. You just don’t have to worry so much about flickering and movement of lights.

[via No Film School]

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

A magnifying glass is a handy little tool, popular with intrepid detectives and bug collectors. As the name suggests, the convex lens produces a magnified image of an object, but it can also be used to make some unusual and eye-catching imagery. Pairing a photographic lens with a magnifying glass will probably not create a flawless alternative to a macro lens, but the unique properties of a handheld convex lens mean that there are endless combinations of optical effects to exploit.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

What you will need:

  • DSLR camera
  • Magnifying glass
  • Subject to photograph
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Tripod

Getting Started

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

The first thing to remember when using this technique is that the glass in your average, run-of-the-mill magnifying glass will be of far lesser quality than that of the glass inside your camera. The nature of the cheaper quality glass lends a softening effect to an image so sharpening in post-production (using software like Photoshop or Camera Raw) will help to add a bit more definition to the photographs. But don’t worry if you aren’t getting pin-sharp precision, the softness can actually add to the image overall.

Using a tripod to photograph subjects through the lens of a magnifying glass is a good idea too. Without a tripod, camera shake will add another layer of difficulty to a process that can be slightly tricky at times. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ve chosen flowers as my subject. They make good subjects for this technique because they are colorful, interesting and they don’t move around. Getting the hang of this technique on a static subject will save you a bit of frustration when moving onto more animate subject matter later

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

This leaf was photographed against a window with the afternoon sun pouring through from behind. The light illuminated the veins in the leaf and the magnifying glass helped capture the detail in its intricate fibers.

Magnification depends upon a magnifying glass’s distance relative to the subject or camera, so there are endless angles and distances to experiment with to create imagery with soft light and diffused bokeh-like effects.

Method

First, clean the glass of the magnifying glass with a tissue or cleaning cloth to avoid dust spots. Maneuver your camera up close to the subject. If you are using a zoom lens, zoom in as far as possible. Your autofocus will most likely get confused by the additional glass between the lens and the subject, so set your lens to manual focus instead.

Hold the magnifying glass over the front of the lens with your hand.  Notice that it will either make the subject appear bigger or just extremely out of focus. With one hand you will need to either adjust the camera focus manually or move the magnifying glass forward and backward between the camera and subject. Trying to find a sweet spot where part or all of the image looks focused can be tricky – but be open to how the magnifying glass alters the photograph. The results can often surprise you.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Keep in mind that the extra layer of glass will cut down the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor so you may have to adjust the exposure compensation, depending on the available light of your setup. Don’t forget to experiment with depth of field by adjusting the aperture as well. Taking control of the aperture will guide the viewer’s eye around the photograph. That can be crucial in more abstract images like these floral landscapes.

Experiment!

The best bit about this technique is that it rewards experimentation. Once you have a feel for photographing your subject through a magnifying glass, why not use two taped together for greater magnification? Or take a chance at photographing a friend or pet? Or why not try including the loop of the magnifying glass to create a framing effect? With even the slightest adjustment in angle or distance a magnifying glass can render some unique results. Take the time to experiment and have fun.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Experiment with black and white images to highlight shape and form.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Tape two magnifying glasses together for greater magnification.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Create unusual framing effects by incorporating the loop of the magnifying glass in your photograph.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

After you get the hang of photographing still objects, why not move onto something more animated.

Adobe’s new deep learning tech might make green screen keying obsolete

An Adobe Research paper titled Deep Image Matting, might just put an end to green and blue screen techniques. Adobe collaborated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, to develop a new system based on deep convolution neural networks. This system extracts foreground content from its background accurately and intelligently without any kind of blue or green screen background.

Eliminating the green screen isn’t a completely new idea. Lyryo’s cinema cameras are able to do this based on depth perception. But this solution is 100% software based. The paper outlines the process to evaluate images. It then determines what needs to be cut from the background, and how.

Typically, to cut out actors and subjects from their environment, one films them in front of a solid colour background. For Hollywood, this generally means green or blue. For photographers, it’s often white, grey or black. Now, though, Adobe can do it with virtually any background.

The images above show a human created matte (a), and the computer generated matte (b). The computed foreground colours (c) are used to create more realistic transitions to composite the subject onto other backgrounds (d-f).

It’s quite mind boggling just how far learning neural networks have come with imaging in the last few years. And while the phrase is often overused, this could very well be a game changer. Not only for video & cinema, but for the photography world, too. Especially given some of the criticism Photoshop’s selection tools seem to receive.

No word yet on when this technology will come to Photoshop, After Effects or Premiere Pro. But if and when it does, there’s going to be a lot of happy people out there.

If you want to find out more about the process, you can read the full paper here.

[via The Stack]

5 Tips for Photographing Water

Water is a beautiful subject to photograph. It can be as dramatic as a waterfall, predictable as a fountain, vast like the ocean, or just a winding exciting river. Whatever the source, it can be a point of interest in your image or an element of your composition. If you are enchanted with photography water, here are a few tips you can use to improve your final image.

5 Tips for Photographing Water

1. Capture Motion

Firstly, think about what you want to convey and how to add that characteristic to the shot. This may be as simple as choosing the right shutter speed. A fast shutter speed freezes motion and works well for crashing waves to show the activity of an ocean. Sometimes when using faster shutter speeds, your camera may indicate that you are getting insufficient light – this is where adjusting your ISO can come in handy. When using shutter speeds of 1/500th and above, timing is key for spectacular shots.

On the opposite side of fast shutter captures are long exposures. If you want to show greater motion or get that silken effect, slowing down your shutter speed gives you that cool effect. A few key things; aim for an exposure between 0.5 and 10 seconds which means that your camera needs to be absolutely still (a tripod is a definite, you can also use a shutter release cable/remote if possible). Dusk and dawn are great times for long exposures but there is no need to limit yourself to these times of day if you have a neutral density filter (discussed lower down in this post).

Bonus Tip: Getting closer to the water makes the blurring effect of moving water more noticeable.

2. Mirror Mirror

Water is a natural mirror. Seek out reflections and classify them. Is the reflection enhancing your image or distracting from it? In the latter case, move around a bit to eliminate reflections where possible or return to your location when the sun is at a different angle. A polarizing filter can help eliminate some of the reflections and give you nice contrast (rotate the filter and check out what’s possible).

Reflections can also add to an image and are used a lot where water is calm and still. That being said, ripples can also be interesting as they add texture and effect. There are also abstract reflections that look great in moving water such as the lights of a cityscape.

With reflections you can go for a symmetrical composition or not, depending on what you want to portray. You can even just shoot the water reflection and not the subject itself; the possibilities are endless.

3. Filter it

Using a polarizer was mentioned above, but it is worth a second thought as it is quite a useful tool to have in the field when photographing water. In addition to removing reflections (when they’re not wanted), a polarizer is very helpful in cutting out glare. By eliminating glare, it helps bring out any color details of the water and what lies below the surface.

Neutral Density (ND) filters are quite useful for creating long exposures during the day as they give you better control over your exposure. They do this by stopping/restricting light from reaching your camera sensor, thus allowing you to leave your camera with a higher aperture for a longer amount of time.

Note: ND filters do not affect the color in your photo in anyway, while the same cannot be said for a polarizer filter.

4. Underexpose when photographing water

Perfect exposure in-camera is your ideal goal. When water is your subject though, too many highlights can make it look white and it is difficult to recover the details in large areas that are blown out or clipped. If water is the dominant subject in your frame, it will benefit you to underexpose by 1/3 to 1/2 a stop.

Bonus Tip: Shooting waterfalls in overcast conditions is something many landscape photographers would recommend. There is no direct sunlight on the water itself.

5. Get your feet wet

If you can get into the water safely with your tripod, it’s a perspective worth trying. Use extra caution when setting up on slippery rocks and be aware of your surroundings. Make sure your equipment is insured, and you’re all set to try something different.

If this is not an option for you, grab a zoom lens for some close up details. It is worth the time to experiment with unusual angles.

Conclusion

Water is indeed a fascinating subject and with so many ways to capture it, why not give it a try? Are you drawn to the dreamy motion of long exposures, or do you find yourself caught up in a reflection? What other fun tip would you share to help improve other’s water photography?

Evolution of HeadCam: turning a DJI Osmo+ rig into a headcam

Shooting stable video of sailing from a moving boat has always been a near impossible task. Brushless motor gimbal stabilising rigs have become ubiquitous over the last two years or so. They have gotten to the point where they�™re cheap enough and light enough that they are changing the way video of fast moving boats will be shot.

Here is the story of how this…………………. evolved into this.

Starting with a DJI Osmo+ rig straight from the box the first immediately obvious problem was that I couldn�™t easily read the iPhone screen to see the settings or to adjust focus while bouncing around on a small chase boat in bright sunlight.

The iPhone doesn�™t need to be on the handle attachment, the camera and phone communicate by WiFi.
So my solution, add an SLR Video Loupe to the iPhone and bring the whole thing up to my eye.
I accomplished this by designing and 3D printing a mount that would hold the loupe the correct distance from my iPhone screen with a slot for the phone to slide into and a GoPro compatible mounting point so that GoPro brackets and mounts could be used to attach the viewer rig to a helmet.

Much better.

Next issue to overcome was the bounce and vibrations the hand held camera footage was suffering from at speeds around 30 �“ 40 knots in even slight seas.

The gimbal/camera and handle are able to be separated so that pole extensions and other accessories can be added in between. I bought one of DJI�™s Z axis accessories without properly reading the small print. �œNot for extreme sports use” The Z axis would crash into its end stops in even a slight chop. I guess it was only intended as a means to take out the bounce from walking with the camera.

Adding an oil filled shock absorber from a radio controlled model car fixed that.

Back to work. Now I�™m getting excellent steady footage. Here is some footage made with the hand held Osmo+ at full zoom with dampened Z-axis extension.

However, trying to shoot out of the left side of the chase boat while holding on with my left hand meant I was getting all crossed up. Also shooting for extended periods resulted in a tired right arm.

The Osmo+ Camera is �˜steered�™ by moving the handle in the direction you want the camera to go. Tilt or turn the handle and the electronics figure out what you�™re trying to do and follows along (Most of the time). The clever sensors and stuff are in the gimbal end, not the handle so when I discovered there was a cable you could use to connect the gimbal to the handle an obvious solution was to mount the camera/gimbal assembly to the helmet as well. No tired arms, two hands to hold onto the boat (I hang the handle around my neck on a lanyard) and I can steer the gimbal by simply pointing my head in the direction I want the camera to go.

Initially I simply screwed the camera end of the cable to the top of my helmet and mounted the camera to that. Vibrations are back as an issue. Reintroduce the Z-axis contraption. Now it�™s a little top heavy, windage is an issue and I�™ve swapped sore shoulders for a sore neck.

What I really need is a beefed up version of the types of vibration reduction set ups common on many Drones. Base plate separated from camera by four rubber mounts. I tried a couple of different things but eventually settled on Squash balls. I added cross bracing with Bungy line as it was a bit wobbly.

Below is some sample footage alongside GoPro footage of the rig in action.

This was shot using the rig as it was one generation ago. I have since printed an L bracket to mount the gimbal in it�™s horizontal mode as in the photo at the top of this page, rather than the standard vertical mode as can be seen in the above video.
There�™s still obviously room for improvement. As we�™re staying quite a distance away from the subject, the camera is at full zoom, including 2x digital zoom, so about the full frame equivalent of a 77mm lens.

Chris Cameron is an Event / PR / Advertising photographer with a heavy lean toward boats and the people who use them, be it for work, sport or pleasure. For more of his work, check out his website and follow him on Instagram and Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.


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