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Portrait photography

6 Jan

Portrait photography can be so much fun but can also be the biggest pain. It’s fun to create moody, artistic and representative images of ones personality. My main objective with portrait photography is to capture the essence of someone while making them look beautiful.

Know your subject

In portraiture, take the 10-15 minutes to discuss with your subject instead of shooting right away. You need to make them feel comfortable. Your confidence will make them confident and more at ease. Talking with your subject will transport them into another frame of mind. Find out what there passions are, talk to them about that. This is where general knowledge will help you to have proper communication with the person in front of you!

Relax, enjoy and make it fun!

Your confidence will also affect your subjects energy. Have you ever noticed how one bad coworker can ruin the mood in a lunch room? The same can happen with portrait photography. You need to have energy, positive reinforcement for the subject and the confidence of achieving the desired look. You can relax because most portraiture session are only going to give you a couple of amazing shots and many good shots. You are working for the amazing one. Most portraits are taken with the camera at (or around) the eye level of the subject. While this is good common sense – completely changing the angle that you shoot from can give your portrait a real WOW factor.To build confidence, you simply have to take photographs. Try to shoot on a weekly basis. Framing is a technique where by you draw attention to one element of an image by framing it with another element of the image. Framing gives an image depth and draws the eye to a point of interest in the image. You could do it by placing your subject in a window or doorway, have them look through a small gap or even use their hands around their face. Portraits can be so static – but what if you added some movement into them? This can be achieved in a few ways:

  • Make your subject move
  • make an element move around your subject while keeping him still.
  • Move your camera or zoom to introduce movement.

TIP: Take your time. I see too many people rushing when they are in a portrait session. Take your time to achieve greater results.


In the equipment spectrum of portrait photography, multiple tools are available to achieve various lightings and moods. The first part will be lenses. A great lens will allow you to have a shallow DOF to direct the eye of the beholder to your subject. The DOF control will be important since you either need to eliminate the background or your need to show it. Various focal lengths can be use to create amazing portrait photography. Don’t hold anything back by thinking that portraiture is only done with one lens or a longer focal length.

TIP: Know your equipment. It looks pretty funny if you are shooting a friend or a client and do not know how to operate your camera or flash.

You can use a 14mm lens

Here is an example with a 24mm wide angle

Here is one with a 50mm

Now an 85mm lens

With a 300mm lens

And last one with a 500mm


A medium size reflector of 32 inches can do wonders on your portrait photography. They fold up nice and can be put in your laptop pocket of your photography bag. I will suggest that you either purchase a 5 in 1 reflector or purchase a white and silver reflector. The contrast will be control by the side or reflector that you use. White will reflect a soft light, silver and gold a harsh light with a tint depending on which one you use. If you do not have the budget for a reflector, you can always go to the local craft store and you can purchase a white foam core. If you need it silver, go to the dollar store and by yourself some aluminium foil and stick it on one side.

TIP: Use the reflector overhead of the subject for the light to look natural and flattering.


You should take the time to read the post on flash photography here.


Candid styles of photography are increasingly becoming popular both in general day to day photography but also in formal photographic situations. Probably the best way to take spontaneous photographs is to always be ready to do so. Taking your camera with you everywhere also helps people to be more at ease with you taking their photo. I find that my friends and family just expect me to have my camera out so when I do fire it up it’s not a signal to them to pose but it’s a normal part of our interaction – this means that they are relaxed and the photos are natural. Don’t be afraid to shoot lots of images to get the right one. With experience your number of keepers will grow. You might want to think about not using flash so that you do not distract the subjects and the others around. While Candid Photography is about capturing the spontaneity of a moment and getting that perfect shot at the right split second of time I find that if you think ahead and anticipate what is about to unfold in front of you that you can greatly increase the chances of getting some great shots. So at a wedding get to the church early (or even go to the rehearsal) and think about what will happen during the ceremony and where will be best for you to stand to capture each moment. Which way will people be facing? What will they be doing? What will the light be like? Thinking through these issues will save you having to run around repositioning yourself when you should be shooting images – it’ll also mean you take a whole heap less shots of the back of people’s heads! Images of people doing things tend to be much more interesting than people sitting passively doing nothing. For one your subject will be focussed upon something which adds energy to a photo (and takes their focus off you) but it also puts them in context and adds an element of story to your image. Timing is everything in Candid shots so wait until they are distracted from you and fully focussed upon what they are doing or who they are with and you’ll inject a feeling into your shots of them being unaware and that the viewer of your image is looking on unseen.Something very interesting happens when you photograph more than one person in an image at a time – it introduces relationship into the shot. Even if the two (or more) people are not really interacting in the shot it can add depth and a sense of story into the viewing of the image. Of course ideally in candid shots you’d like some interaction between your subjects as that will add emotion into the shot also as we the viewer observe how the people are acting. A trick that I often use in candid shots is to purposely include something in the foreground of the shot to make it look as though I’m hiding behind it. You might do this with by shooting over someone’s shoulder, by including a little of a tree branch or the frame of a doorway.


Photojournalism style differ from candid by the fact that a photojournalism portrait will explain an event while being a portrait. You don’t direct, you don’t tell people what to do. You are there to observe and absorb the environment and document it as it is, just like you don’t want to lie to the public when you publish an image. Many photographers use the two names (candid and photojournalism) as if they are the same. However, photojournalism is not just a series of random photographs where the subject is not looking at the camera; nor is it any photograph shot with black and white film. Photojournalism is more of the philosophy on how the photographer approaches photographing a subject or event. Wedding photojournalists, like news photographers, photograph the wedding as an observer, and do not interfere or try to force moments into happening. A true wedding photojournalist will observe and capture key moments and a variety of other shots that help tell the story without any interference. On the other hand, candid photography can be any photo that isn’t posed.


There is no basic rule in any field of photography since there are too many variables. Portraiture does not differ from that. You need to see your light, you need to control it with reflectors or flash, you need to decide on your settings and more.

The first rule is that your Autofocus system should be in AF-s or One shot for static portrait. You should at least work in Aperture priority (A, Av) and understand that you need a minimum of 1/125th of second shutter speed. (Your camera will determine the shutter speed when in aperture mode but your ISO will give you the desired speed for stopping motion or showing motion) When you are capturing images with a wide angle try to be at the height of your subjects sternum so that distortion will be more controlled. With a standard or telephoto lens, try to be at your subjects chins height for a more intimate and connected portrait.

TIP: Have a goal to your madness. Create a desired look or lighting for a portrait don’t just shoot to shoot. Think about the result, the mood, the feel. If it’s not what you are looking for, then change it to your taste.


Sports photography

26 Dec

Sports shooting can be one of the most daunting types of photography, even to the advanced shooter. The slightest mistake can ruin a shot. Having said that, it’s also important to remember that with sports, you get a lot of chances to get a shot with great impact. There’s a built-in drama unlike any other subject I’ve come across.

You will have a head start in sports photography if you understand the sport and it’s rules. This will get you in better situation for capturing “the shot” of the event.

You will need various elements to succeed in sports photography such as Talent, Skill (learn your photography basics), Knowledge (understand your subject), Practice (shoot lots of images to understand the sport, movement and technique), Desire (sacrifices will be needed to achieve a different point of view), Work (commit to be the best) and Luck(luck is also a great factor since you need to be in the right place at the right time, it will shine from time to time)


One of the biggest barrier to sports photography is equipment and technique. It will be hard to achieve a great result without fast and long lenses. The AF system of your camera will also be very important for tracking subjects.

The basic lens for this type of photography is a 70-200mm f/2.8. This lens should be on your camera if you want to shoot fast moving subjects from about 30-60 feet. This will allow you to get “close” to the action for a greater and more personal photography. The aperture of this lens will let you freeze or show motion to your ability and control. Don’t be afraid to change your angle of view for a more dramatic scene. I will always suggest to get low and then go high if possible. Changing your cropping and vantage point will put variety in your photography.

Think about images that will express an idea or a moment in the competition.


With a fast lens (f/2.8) you can decide if you want to stop motion or show motion while shooting sports. A basic shot is stopping motion in sports to an important moment in the competition or the day of the athlete. You can also show speed and effort in slower shutter speed to create a different feel and drama to an event.

If you want to stop motion, you will need a shutter speed of about 1/250 minimum. To easily achieve this speed, put your camera in Tv or S mode. After that, put your camera at 1/250. If the aperture blinks or says LO, bring your ISO up for more light sensitivity. Image stabilization (IS) or Vibration reduction (VR) can be very helpful when showing motion and panning. They will also be recommended in a telephoto lens since your field of view is small. A minor movement of the lens means a big movement in the picture.

You will need to put your camera in a continuous focus or Ai servo. This will allow you to choose your AF point for proper composition and follow your subjects with ease in your viewfinder. This mode of focusing let’s the camera do the work for you. The focusing distances changes with the change of your subject.

TIP: Use the AF-On button when shooting sports for faster AF and better continuous AF. This way your AF will not have to restart when you have taken some shots.


For great hockey photography, you will need a large aperture lens. You will also need to get closer to the ice. You will need to overexposed the images by at least 2 thirds to a full stop of light to get an ice that will be white and not grey! If you are shooting in Shutter speed priority, then you will need to compensate your images to properly exposed your subjects. To get a more personal photography, you will need to shoot at the bottom of the windows (just over the boards). Hold your lens hood up against the window to eliminate the reflections from your images. Watch the play not to get hit by your camera in the eye and to get a black eye!


The angle at which you capture your subject is very important in sport photography. You need to get really low or high. You should try to photograph the event in a way that the human eye is not seeing it live in person. Like you will see in the Kayaking picture…I went into the water to get as low as possible angle for a different point of view. This added lots of drama to the images since the water seems higher then the rider.

The same idea is behind this shot also. We can almost see under the car * Caution this is dangerous if the car fails to achieve the corner, I am getting hit by the race car*

This images was captured to show the concentration and the intensity that a race car driver needs to achieve and maintain.


Master your photography and your equipment. A the paste that sports move, you need to understand your photography gear perfectly and know how to make it perform. Use your vision when at a sporting event. Don’t just look at the event but try to live it and see what really happens during an event! Be prepared at all time for anything. Sports are interesting because the story behind the event changes constantly. You need to get into the proper position to shoot the images. With any sports, you need to capture moments while following the ball and also without the ball! When following an action perfect timing is everything. That is why you should understand the sport that you are photographing. Always pay attention to your surroundings during a sporting event. Fans can create an amazing image, a car crash can happen at anytime, the last buzzer shot can go in! You will need to take chances with your photography to show motion and freeze motion to represent properly a sporting event.

TIP: Photograph the star since they will be talk about the most in the next days newspaper.


What gives you difficulty with sports photography?


21 Dec

The most important factor in your image quality are your lenses. You might spend 3000$ on your camera but you will spend double or triple that on your lenses. The lens is the only object between your scene and the image sensor. It’s the vital part of the equation. It will render contrast, colour, Chromatic aberration, distortion, AF speed, sharpness, DOF and the amount of light that will reflect on your sensor.

TIP: Buy once not twice this way it’s less expensive.

You have two types of lenses. They can be zooms or fixed. A zoom will allow you to change your framing without moving your camera. This is great for photojournalism work, sports and other photography area. Fixed focal length are often preferred for the big aperture, their speed and their sharpness. In those two types of lenses you will find wide angles, standards, telephotos, super telephotos and specialty lenses.

Nikkor lenses simulator

Wide angle lens

A wide angle will give you a great field of view. It will mostly be used for landscape, architectural photography and environment portraiture. A wide angle will create dramatic images. When properly used, the distortion from theses lenses can be well controlled. You need to remember to hold them parallel to the ground. From 14mm until 35mm, the lens will be considered wide angle. The speed of your lens (aperture) will still be important. The next shot was taken with a 14mm f2.8 wide angle. I am so close to the subject that the golf club came by at about 6 inches from the camera.

This next shot was  taken with a 14mm f2.8 lens.

The following image was taken with a 35mm and illuminated with 2 iPhone 4’s.

Standard lens

A standard lens will be from 40-70mm in focal length. It will also be close to what a human eye can see. These are very popular in the fixe focal format especially in the 50mm length. ALmost every pro has a big aperture 50mm in his bag. There are inexpensive to purchase and they do wonders for low light.

Telephoto lens

A telephoto lens will allow you to capture people in their natural way of life. You will be farther away so they will forget that you are there. This is the mostly used modern photojournalistic style focal length. (the older PJ style was with a 35 or 50mm fixed focal length) The disadvantage of these lenses are their size, weight and cost. The 70-200 f2.8 is the most common focal length in the telephoto. It comes in at around 3-4 pounds and will be pretty big to the untrained eye. (beware of comments from uncle BOB) The compression of the foreground and background will be very important. Everything will seem closer to your subject.

the next image will show you how far we are from the buildings in the previous shot.

Super telephoto lens

These lenses will primary be used for sport and wildlife photography. The size and weight of these beast’s will make you bring a tripod or monopod for added support. The focal lengths in this category are from 300mm all the way until 800mm. The following images have been captured with a 500mm f4 lens.

Specialty lens

In the specialty department we will find macro lenses, tilt shift lenses and fisheye lenses. A macro lens gives you the possibility to photograph the small world such as flowers, insects, details in texture and more. The basic macro to shoot insects that will be recommended will be a 100mm focal length. This focal will allow you to be far enough (about 30cm) to capture your subjects in their real world without disturbing them.

Tilt shift lenses are a great commodity for architectural photography and for product photography. They will allow you to control distortion and have a large DOF even wide open. They have the ability to create out of the norm bokeh and subject isolation.

Fisheye lenses give you a broader field of view. They are the widest focal length lenses to be found. They will be used in extreme sports photography and other areas of expertise. They come with a load of distortion which can be fun but also annoying at times.

Ressources for information on lenses:


My bag and why?

My bag is composed of 2 camera body and prime lenses. I decided to go with prime lenses when I knew I was not going back to work in a newspaper. I also decided to go this route for light capabilities. As mention before, the aperture of the lens is an important factor in photography. I love 1.2 or 1.4 lenses. Personally, I find f2.8 to be a tad slow in speed for the type of photography that I do. I am an Wedding and Event photographer. I have to work in very harsh condition with next to no light most of the time. I am often at an aperture of 1.4 with 1/60s at ISO 5000 for example. Using 2.8 is then out of the question since my shutter speed would be way to low to capture images in a photojournalism style.

My wide lens is a Canon 24mm f1.4L. This lens is great at f2 and shines at f4 and up. I use this lens for environmental portraiture, group shots (watch the arms on the side of the frame), landscape photography and to give a different perspective on a otherwise boring subject.

My standard lens is a Canon 50mm f1.4. I decided to go this route for it’s size, weight, price and quality. DSpeaking of quality, I needed 6 different 50mm f1.4 before I got an amazing version. This copy rivals the 50mm f1.2L from Canon. I use this lens regularly for environmental portrait and shallow depth of field with a classic look. My good copy is usable at f1.4, amazing at f2 and perfect at f4.

For more compression I use the Canon 85mm f1.2LII. This lens gives my great sharpness at f1.2 and flattering look for portraiture. The compression of the 85mm with an huge aperture gives this lens a look of it’s one.

I also carry the sharpest lens in Canon lineup. The 135mm f2L gives you a telephoto compression with a big aperture for speed. This lens is fast in AF and amazing even wide open. This is the slowest lens in my bag. This is the second time that I own this lens. I sold it when my bag was the fast zoom type for newspaper work.