One of the nicest gifts that anyone can give is a photograph. It can be a portrait of yourself and your loved ones or it can be the gift of a fine art print that you can proudly hang on the wall. Submitted for your approval this month are four photographers whose fine art work spans different genres, but what they have in common is an uncommon vision and a commitment to quality.
Wherein I hereby submit your Secret Santa’s A-list of gizmos, gadgets, and gear for the digitally minded who may have thought they had everything but didn’t know that they needed more stuff to produce that ultimate image. This month’s column can be used as a shopping list for your favorite photographer or you could grab a Sharpie and circle all of the goodies you like and leave it near where your spouse eats their Wheat Chex. It’s worked for me.
The field of studio lighting equipment is a large one and advanced amateur and professional photographers have many different kinds of products to choose from. There are self-powered monolights, traditional power pack and head systems, or continuous light sources that let you see in real time the lighting effect that’s produced. The kind of photographer you are and the type of images you make determines the lighting system that best fits your working style and Dynalite, Interfit, and Rime Lite are three companies that produce systems for every photographic discipline.
There are two general types of inkjet printers available—dye ink and pigment ink. While pigments have the reputation of delivering longer print life, dye inks have the advantage of producing more vibrant colors. The longevity differences are not as much of an issue as they once were, however, with dyes making strides in that direction; in fact, in the case of the Artisan 1430, Epson is claiming up to 200 years in storage, and 98 years on display, and that certainly rivals pigment durability.
Portrait lighting sources have 4 major characteristics: color, direction, quantity and quality. When working with any light source, from speedlights to moonlights, the best way to improve the quality of your lighting is with modification devices such as an umbrella or a lightbank. Each one has their own advantages and disadvantages. But no matter which one you chose, each device is governed by this important rule. The closer a light source is to the subject the softer it is; the further away the light source is, the harder it becomes.
Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada, although up North it’s the second Monday in October. Other places around the world observe Thanksgiving celebrations as well and I’d like to celebrate it here by thanking the people who make this column possible. Big thanks goes to Editorial Director George Schaub and Managing Editor Andrea Keister, who occasionally suggest sites for the column but mostly just make me look good. A big thank you goes out to all of the magazine’s readers for their support over the years. In recent issues I haven’t had as many Shutterbug Reader-of-the-Month sites but I’ll make up for it this month, starting with…
While my silver 10-speed bike is a far cry from the silver Audi R8 I recently piloted around Sonoma Raceway they both have one thing in common: they are essentially transportation devices that allow a person to get from one point to another. And while the R8 gets you there lots faster than a bicycle, the journey is part of the experience. The one thing that the imaging tools featured this month have in common is they help you make images; they do so in different ways, based on the kind of photographer you are and what you like to photograph.
One of the first lighting kits I ever owned was a set of Smith-Victor Adapta-Lights that had screw-base sockets for photoflood lamps. Son of a gun, the company still offers Adapta-Lights as an entry-level solution for beginning portrait photographers who want to work with hot lights. On the other hand, if you prefer making portraits using electronic flash, Smith-Victor’s three-light FL700K Strobe Light Kit may be just what you’re looking for.
The FL700K Strobe Light Kit that I tested is designed for amateur photographers and aspiring pros and contains two FLC300 (320 ws) FlashLite and one 110i (110 ws) FlashLite monolights. The FLC300 monolights offer continuously variable flash power settings, a test button, a ready light, and an optical slave for wireless triggering and have an umbrella stand adapter that’s compatible with 3/8” through 5/8” light stand posts. To expand the kit’s capabilities, Smith-Victor offers more than 100 accessories and light modifiers for the FLC300 monolights, including softboxes, reflectors, snoots, grids, and barn doors. The 110i monolight has a full- or half-power setting, optical slave, small built-in reflector, and umbrella mount. When used together, all three lights give you lots of flexibility for lighting studio or on-location portraits.
Last year I tried a picture-a-day project and was surprised how difficult it was, but also found that it was a great way to stimulate creativity. In 2013, I’ll begin a similar project, this time using Tumblr (www.tumblr.com) because it’s free and the simplest way I know to create a photoblog. To get you inspired, I’ve rounded up four different photo-a-day blogs to show the diverse ways these talented photographers created their sites and blogs. Give it a try because it forces you to think—every day—about making new photographs. And the best way to improve your skills is to practice, practice, practice.
October is my favorite time of year: not only is it Mary’s birthday month, but the mornings are brisk and the aspens are turning gold. Winter is around the corner, so there’s still time to get outside and make photographs before the snow gets too deep and the temperatures get too chilly for my old bones. Shutterbug’s editorial offices are in Florida and sometimes when it’s cold and snowy I envy those lucky sun worshippers, and yet I still love October in Colorado. The crisp air gets me anxious to make new images and to capture infrared photographs before the leaves are gone with the wind. Just remember, as always, to have fun with your photography no matter what the weather is like.