From adding artistry to your action shots to zinging zip into your zebra portraits, this year’s annual how-to special is a veritable encyclopedia of photographic fun. Read on for an alphabet of inspiration.
R is for Ring light
Photo by: Anastasia Abramova-Guendel
Ring lights produce cool portrait effects beloved by fashion and beauty shooters—spooky ring-like catchlights in the eyes and a glowing, halo-like shadow behind the subject. Use a close-focusing portrait lens: The closer you can get your rig, the larger those impressive catchlights will be. Keep the ring light parallel to the subject: This will give you the halo-like shadow behind a subject who is close (but not immediately against) a white background. The halo will have more of a glow-like appearance if it’s defocused, so shoot at or near maximum aperture with a high-speed lens.
S is for Star Trails
Photo by: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia.com
Contributing Editor Ian Plant offers his best tips for capturing stars at long exposures. Find a remote spot: Any place near an urban area will have sky glow that can suppress star trails. Use a freshly charged camera battery: Hour-long exposures eat batteries. For very long exposures, consider auxiliary power like a Quantum flash power pack. Use a wide-angle lens: Make sure to include a foreground element. Shoot at ISO 400 to 800: It’s high enough to record stars, and low enough to suppress noise. Set an aperture around f/5.6: It will provide pretty good depth of field; smaller apertures will make the star trails faint. Aim at the North Star: This gives the classic vortex effect. Cut noise: In cold weather, noise is much less of an issue than in warm. Long-exposure noise reduction can work, but it doubles the exposure time; consider reducing noise in editing.
T is for Tone
The split-toning tool in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop Lightroom is aces for adding tone to black-and-white images, but it is cool for color, too. Make faux-vintage looks: Add warm tones to shadows and cool tones to highlights (and vice versa), or just go selectively sunbleached by warming up shadows and highlights separately. If you’re working in Lightroom, you can create presets to easily replicate favorite effects.
U is for Uploading
Photo-sharing sites can be cruel to your images, skewing their colors and adding artifacts. Give them a fighting chance by prepping them beforehand. Downsize them: Use Photoshop’s Save for Web option, which will make for quicker uploads. Make them to measure: Website auto-sizing functions often degrade image quality. So size an image as closely as possible to the dimensions at which it will be displayed. Sharpen after resizing: You’ll see more accurately than you would at full-res how sharpening affects the final image. Save images in the sRGB color space: Web browsers prefer this over alternatives such as Adobe RGB.
V is for V-Reflector
One of the most effective reflectors can’t be found in stores. Make your own: Tape together two same-size white foamcore boards along the long edge to form a hinge and let them stand freely. Modify light: Place the source within the V-reflector and adjust contrast by opening or closing the hinge. For hard light, place the source close to the hinge and close the doors. For softer output, open them and pull the light back from the hinge. Bonus: A large V-reflector makes an intimate background—see Irving Penn’s portraits of Truman Capote or Igor Stravinsky.