DIY Softbox

Hi and welcome to this blog post!

Sorry for the enormous delay in posting, but now I’m back with this interesting topic – how to build a softbox the easiest way.

Well, even if I’m using professional stuff most of the time I also like DIY equipment. ­čÖé

Some photographers will lough now, maybe. But this is a very easy way to get a softbox. Also remind Joe McNally who uses windows with linen in front of them as a giant softbox. There are no borders to create a softbox. You do not always need that expensive Pro-Stuff.

Anywas, the easiest way to build a softbox is to use a carton. Some hardware stores sell those “automatic” cartons. One move and they are ready to go.
So, buy one of these and also a white color spray can. Paint the inside of the carton completely white. That will be the reflector inside our softbox.

In the next step tape velcro on the front edges of the carton and cut the upper carton lids first. Now get a piece of white linen or some other kind of cloth that fits the front of the carton, but let a edge where you will stitch the velcro onto it.
Finally, put the cloth onto the front of the carton and fix both with the velcro.

That’s it. Now you have a great softbox that you can set up and strip down very fast.

You can use the handle holes of the carton to put the softbox onto a stand. Also try to mount it onto a c-stand. I use Superclamps to fix it. Maybe you have another great idea how to fix it on a lightstand – just write a comment. ­čÖé

This softbox is more for indoor than outdoor use.
The results are great. Don’t worry the softbox function is always the same. You really do not need to buy expensive softboxes for your home photo studio.

There are lots of carton types. Just use a bigger and flatter one for a much bigger and softer light. Feed all of them with one, two or more Speedlights.

Here is my very fast version of that softbox:

I used any carton I had at home.

For the inside of the carton I used aluminum foil, because I had not any white color at home. I made that very sloppy because it doesn’t matter how detailed you work. Just remember: It has to work not to look great. ­čśë

In the next step I mounted the carton onto a light stand. Therefor I used Superclamps – one underneath another one above the handle hole of the carton.

Finally, I put a Nikon SB-800 into it and covered the carton with a white cloth.

And here you can see the result:

Looks like the light out of a typically softbox. Isn’t that kool? Of course it is. ­čÖé Just give it a try and maybe you can do it even better. ­čśë
Have fun.

Bye!
Chris


Projects for 2012

Hi and welcome to this blog post in February!

Well, everything’s just fine now. On the 23rd I will graduate in General Management Bachelor of Arts. After that I will have a lot of time to realize some great photography projects. =)

So, here are this years topics:

#1:
Wedding. Yes, I was so fascinated by that Engagement Shot in November that I want to learn more about it. I don’t know if it will be successful, but I plan to be part of Weddings as a second shooter. Finally, that summer I will cover the wedding of my friends Timo and Jessica near Hamburg, DE. That will be fantastic. I am VERY excited and you will be able to read about the whole job here in my blog.

#2:
Nature. Of course, nature again this year because of the spectacular Ospreys at the reservoir. This time I will shoot them from the middle of the lake using strobes in a decent way.  That means to expand much effort because of the whole strobe arrangement, the boat, the permissions etc., but I am sure it will be worth it get outstanding images.

#3:
Cars. The continuation of my commercial-like car shoots. In spring I will shoot a Nissan Skyline, for example. There will be several more cars, but this one will be a more prominent one. That means to find a cool location that underlines the character of the car and creates a special mood.

#4:
Smartphone Camera. This will be fun. I want to know if it’s possible to take (more or less) professional photos with a smartphone camera and the built in or an external flash. I just want to show how you can take better images with your smartphone camera.

#5:
Sports. Yeah, sports will be also a topic of 2012. I will shoot some more “exotic” sports this year and tell you something about the light arrangement etc.

 

Well, that’s all for the moment. I don’t know how the order of the topics will be – we will see.

I hope you will find a topic that you are interested in. I am sure there will be more topics for 2012, but those are the big ones.

See you in March!

Bye!
Chris

 

 


True Words

Hi everybody and welcome to a short blog post about how camera gear can influence your success.

When I read my G+ stream this morning I saw a post from Lisa Bettany who wrote something about “not to be limited by the camera gear you own”.
On January the 10th she also wrote something similar linked with a success story of herself. When she started photography with an Canon Rebel DSLR she experimented a lot and shot a backlit cowboy during sunset. She published the image on flickr.com and a year later Lisa got a request by Penguin which wants her image for a book cover.
So, the quintessence is, that she took an experimental photo with entry-level camera gear which got published on a book cover of a Penguin Readers book.
That’s cool, isn’t it?

I can confirm such kind of success with entry-level gear. When I was new to DSLR in 2005, I shot and experimented a lot, too. I started with an entry-class NIKON D70s and cheap but good SIGMA lenses. I went out there in the woods and nature to take great images. While I was walking around and looking for a nice scene, I took notice of a sunlit forest path. The whole scene was backlit and the sun glanced through the branches and flood the path with warm yellow light. I composed a bit then pressed the shutter.
Someday I found a postcard publisher on the net and decided to sent them a few of my images, maybe they would use one for their postcards. A few months later I got a reply from them that they want to use the “sunlit forest path” image for a postcard. Finally, this image got published as a postcard and was distributed in Germany.

As you can see, success doesn’t has to do that much with high-end camera gear. Of course, you cannot cover a fast sports action scene in a dark gym with just a 3 frames per second, noisy ISO 3200 entry-camera and a 18-50mm f3.5-5.6 kit-lens and expect high-class images. Just use your gear in fields that it is suitable for. And use it as effectively as it is possible to cover the best images possible.

And Lisa’s G+ post contains another good tip: If you really need high-end gear for a job, you can always rent it.

Think about it. As a photographer you always have to think of profitability aspects, too.

Have a nice weekend!

Bye!
Chris


Wow, suddenly they are using flash!

Hi and welcome to this short blog post about the current sports photography circumstances in Alsfeld.

When I opened the local newspaper’s sports section yesterday (and today) I was pretty surprised. A local sports photographer used flash for an indoor football game coverage! It’s interesting that after the publication of my strobed indoor sports photos other local sports photographers suddenly use flash, too.


This shot is a nice try in terms of using flash, but it’s still a simple straight on camera flash that – in all probability – disturbs the players, causes cast shadows, red eyes (see the goalkeeper), a flat 2D impression and no kind of dramatic. Of cause, this flash reveals the players and enables a faster shutter speed, but it’s just an unfavorable type of flash – it’s a straight flash. However, this photographer still made a good start to get better images in dark gyms. It’s really necessary to rise the level of the picture quality in our local newspaper – especially in the sports section.

Nevertheless let’s have a look at a shot that was made by using a professional off camera flash technique.


As you can see, this shot doesn’t show any cast shadows of the players. It’s kind of 3D because I was using two strobes that also helped to create a dramatic light. The visitors in the background are primarily lit by the available light and the players by the flash light. Because the flash light comes from the ceiling and is mixed with the ambient light, it doesn’t disturb the players.

Seems like my sports images and my way of lighting causes a new understanding of quality in local sports photography.┬á Would be nice to see more sports images of good quality in our local newspaper. ­čÖé

Bye!
Chris


This was 2011!

Hi and welcome to my first blog post for 2012!

I hope you had great holidays!

So, what’s up? At the moment I’m working on my Bachelor Thesis in General Management. I will graduate in March, hopefully. ­čśë
Well, more about the prospects of 2012 in one of the upcoming blog posts …

Today let’s look back on my photographic aspects of 2011.

2011 I began with a new approach: “Going professional.”

In 2010 I already sold a lot of things that I wouldn’t need anymore. From the proceeds I bought photo gear. While the 4th quarter of 2010 paved the way for this approach, with new photo gear, methods and ideas, now it was time to put it into action.

Therefor I started my own flash photography project. This should help me to practice the usage of flash in the field.
I was almost obsessed by using flash and available light in the best way possible just to move on from that dull looking amateur photos – in order to create photos that have that professional clean look.┬á It’s bad, but I never really mind the light – until now. Like Dave Black says: “Light is the greatest influence.” And he’s absolutely right. It’s so obvious that light MUST be the greatest influence because photography means “drawing with light”! So why don’t we use the light to create awesome “light paintings”? This was the first thing I had to realize before I could go on.

I read lots of books and blogs of professional photographers all year and analyzed their photos. That help me to increase my knowledge while the regular shooting increased my practical skills. I learned the theory than went out into the field to practice until I got acceptable results. It was that easy, indeed.

 

SPORTS
I started my personal flash training with shooting sports. Therefor I asked the local sports clubs if it is possible to take pictures during the training. This also helped me to learn something about the planning of shoots and making arrangements. It was not always that easy to cover a training session or even a game. It needs so many permissions that it is really elaborating to establish a shoot. Often coaches are skeptical toward using flash because they think it could disturb the athletes. So, it needed some cogency to arrange a shoot. But it was worth the effort.
Finally, I shot several indoor and outdoor sports like swimming, motocross, track and field, handball, basketball and football during the year. My favorite sport was motocross. Since I went to the first motocross race with my uncle in 1989  I like it. It was always fun to watch it, but to shoot it was much better! As I shot it the first time and saw the results I was amazed! The results were awesome! I made a quantum leap from dull amateur pictures to high-quality professional images.

I also used professional off camera flash solutions and techniques to realize high-quality images in extreme dark gyms. This effort helped me to contrast from competitors once more. Now I’m ranking┬á a bit higher in the Mount Olympus of our local sports photographers. ­čśë

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTOJOURNALISM

Thanks to all these flash tips I got from the pros and the intense training, also my press photos became better. The coverage of the opening of the MUNA museum for example was just fun to cover. Shooting indoors with flash was suddenly easy-going!

 

 

 

 

 

In June the village in which I’m living was underwater because of heavy rainfalls and a dried out soil. When I woke up from a short breathing pause and glanced out of the window on that evening,I saw how the water had flood the meadows in front of our house. It also flood the households near the river. I grabbed the camera and covered this disaster. I sent the photos to the local newspaper immediately. Finally, the German Press Agency (dpa) bought them and the next day I found my photos in well known German newspapers and online magazines. On one hand a success for me, but on the other hand a flooded village. That’s life.

 

 

 

 
COMMERCIAL
Commercial photography was another very interesting thing I did in 2011.
I love the clean look of commercial images and wanted to know more tricks about commercial photography. My sports images had already a commercial look so I used these techniques to create car shots. I also searched the web for great car photographers. Studying their photos helped me to get similar results in my own style.

 

 

 

EDITORIAL and PORTRAITURE

I also acted in the field of editorial and portraiture in 2011. Well, I nearly got through every field of photography that I’m interested in. Portraiture was the most difficult. I tried many lighting setups and read Joe McNally’s Books that helped and inspired me a lot.
This portrait of a bassist was some kind of elaborating. I shot one flash through a window on the 2nd floor, another one through an umbrella from the camera left and a third one I used as contour light from the camera right. I gelled all flashes wit a CTO (except the contour light) to create a sunset look.

Another highlight was my first Engagement Shoot with Timo and Jessica in November. They asked me if I could take nice pictures of them for their marriage invitation cards. And so I did.
They wanted the shoot to be in the nature, so I looked for nice places around our house and found some. For the whole shoot I used flash and 300mm to 600mm lenses to create a smooth background that doesn’t distract from the couple. With a fresh and bright style the images looked great for an invitation card of a happy event like a marriage.

 

 

 

CONCERT

Okay, now we are coming toward the end of my 2011 flash experience. Concerts. At Eaze hired me to cover one of its shows in October. I know the band since 2008 and covered a lot of their shows, so I had the possibility to use flash for the coverage. This wasn’t my first try to use flash in a concert, but it was the first one with an professional approach. Off camera flash helped me to keep the disturbing low, to create clean images and to reveal important subjects like the drummer and the audience. At Eaze loved the results and that’s so much honor. Thanks.

 

 

 

NATURE

From August to September I shot Ospreys at the reservoir and this was the only field of photography where I didn’t use flash. But I will. It’s an elaborating project for this year. I will also use remote cameras to capture unique moments of wildlife. This project will be hilarious – I’m sure.
I went several times to the reservoir nearby to capture Ospreys while they are hunting fish. The problem was: A focal length of 600mm was much to short to get close-ups. Well, seems like I have to rent a larger lens next time – maybe 800mm and use it with a teleconverter. However, the hours at the reservoir were the most extensive photography moments of 2011. I loved the silence and the opportunity to watch some kind of wildlife that people around don’t really notice. Local nature has plenty to offer you just have to look for it. Also photos of mushrooms in the wood can look professional if using fill flash.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I learned a lot about using flash and creating interesting scenes and therefor created fantastic images. I learned to use the light because “Light is the greatest influence.”. And I learned that if you want to learn something about photography you better ask the pros. Forums are a great thing to exchange experiences, but you should never use a forum to learn photography. Ask the pros, buy their books, go to professional workshops and practice what you have learned! That’s the best way.

Well, this was my review of 2011. A year of flash photography. A year with a professional approach. A year with much better images than the years before. A year of personal success in terms of photography. So, let’s see what we can do for 2012. ­čÖé

I wish all of you the best for 2012!

Bye!
Chris


My 1st Engagement Shoot

Hi and welcome to another blog post!

Because I have a lot to do at the moment and there will be lots of work in the upcoming months, I am going to post job and project reviews on a monthly basis from now on. But there will also be several other “news posts” from time to time.

However, last Sunday I had my first Engagement Shoot and I was pretty excited about this job. Timo an ex-classmate at the university and his soon-to-be-wife Jessica facebooked me a few days ago and asked me to take some images for their invitation card. I agreed and that was my first step into this.

Although I love to interact and communicate with people it is also always a challenge to establish a great shooting atmosphere and a comfortable feeling for the client and anyone who is involved in the shoot.

Therefore it needs some preparation in terms of finding out the clients interests, searching for great locations and suggesting them to the client, offering a perfect service, being kind and having an open mind for the clients suggestions/ideas etc. These are just a few ingredients that slip into the whole process of planning a shoot.

On the other hand there is the technically and artistically aspect like: Which lens to use? Which style fits the best? How will the light quality be? Is a flash necessary or a reflector? Do I need an assistant? How should the light setup be?

If you decide to do the whole job without an assistant and to take available light shots only that means you will save a lot of time and effort. But will the quality be that good like when you press every button? I don’t think so. That’s the reason why I am always trying to do everything possible.

During the week I thought about the shoot and what to prepare for it. They wanted the pictures to be taken in the nature. So, I made a walk through the field and wood behind our house, on Friday. I looked for nice places and found some like a meadow with an old construction trailer in front of the wood, a colorful forest path with leaves on it, another meadow on the forest edge with a deerstand and a moss-grown place in the pinewood. I took several shots of these places and send them to Timo and Jessica. Finally, on Sunday we took the pictures at the places they liked most.

For this shoot I decided to used super telephoto lenses (300mm and 600mm) and flash. I pursued the goal not to disturb the couple as much as it would be necessary to get an authentic shot plus I wanted to shoot from an observer angle. The long focal length and wide aperture should help to soften the background and turn it into a pleasant background from which the subject sharply dispatches.

My assistant Freda assisted me with the flash and helped to establish a relaxed atmosphere. Although it was cold and windy on that day everyone had fun. Timo, Jessica and Freda were cold and I sweat under the pressure to create the best images possible. ­čÖé

Lighting the cosy scene

The bright and clean style makes the image alive

Shooting from far away with a long focal length letting them act as natural as if they were absolutely on their own – no disturbing shutter click and instructions from the photographer

A long focal length and a wide aperture softens and reveals the subject from the background and helps to concentrate on the essentials

Reflecting memorable moments of a wonderful relationship

Well, this was a fantastic day with Timo and Jessica for Freda and me. We learned a lot and this was just the beginning of taking Engagement Shoots! ­čÖé

Thanks a lot and have a great time!

Bye!
Chris


Next Blog Post: Sunday the 27th

Hi everybody!

If you’re missing the latest blog post from last Sunday – sorry for that.
There will be an extracurricular post on Sunday the 27th.

But I still want to give you some photo input.
I found that fantastic page on the Internet which deals with the past and that is pretty cool to refresh your memories or to make a time journey:

DEAR PHOTOGRAPH

Have fun and a great and successful week!
See you next Sunday!

Bye!

Chris