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Carving Out Creative Time With Processes by Neal Carpenter

March 08, 2018

Carving Out Creative Time With Processes by Neal Carpenter

This blog post is brought to you by one of our K&J Advisory Team members, Neal Carpenter. Neal owned his own photography studio for seven years. He now works for The Home Depot in their photo studio and is working on his PPA Master Photographer Designation. After attending ImagingUSA earlier this year, we asked Neal what he believes is one aspect photographers struggle with the most today. His response was how to better carve our time to be creative while shooting by using better processes – a technique he learned about during a presentation by Booray Perry. 


Running a business allows for very little free time. This can be even more acute during a portrait session or wedding. Your day may be filled with back-to-back shoots, and wedding days are notorious for cram packed schedules. You are wrangling groomsmen, chasing toddlers, determining the correct exposure, finding an interesting background, or even troubleshooting a bad flash. When can you be creative?

The challenge in any photographic situation is to balance the technical and artistic needs. Each is important, but the technical can be rather daunting when you are first starting out. You become so consumed with ensuring you have a properly lit, exposed, and color balanced image that you lose sight of making a connection with your client or posing them in a flattering way or creating something new that your client will love.

Photo Credit: Neal Carpenter

Thankfully, I attended a class presented by Booray Perry that will help solve this problem. He has created a system that makes the technical simple and repeatable, and thus giving you the time and confidence needed to accomplish the rest of your goals during a session.

He calls it AS IF (think Elle Woods): Aperture, Shutter, ISO, Flash.

The first step is to determine your light source. If you have good natural light, USE IT! If not, decide which option works better for flash. Do you have a large, light-colored wall you can use to bounce your flash? If you are outside at night or in a huge, dark room, use off camera flash (Whoa, I know. That can be scary, but do not fear.)

Natural light is awesome when you can find it. Look for open shade on the side of a building. Look for a large window.  Look for open doors. Look. Take a minute to observe your surroundings. Is there a spot with good light and, to use Booray’s expression, "no dumpster fires" in the background? That will always be the easiest and quickest option. It will also frequently be the most beautiful and flattering way to light your subject.

If natural light is in short supply, look for a wall you can use as a large bounce card. This is a great technique for group portraits, but also works well for individuals and couples. It doesn’t need to be especially close, but a light, neutral color is best. This setup will give you even exposure across large groups. It also minimizes the darkness of shadows that can often ruin a group portrait. I would recommend playing with the distance from the wall. As your subject gets closer, but light will become more dramatic with darker shadows.

If all else fails, your last resort is off camera flash. This used to be a difficult thing to set up quickly, but with today’s flashes with built-in transmitters, receivers, and TTL, this is a wonderful way to light your subject quickly. You will need a light stand, an umbrella, and an assistant or sand bag to keep it from blowing over.

Now that you’ve found your light, you need to set your camera properly. Each lighting setup has its own requirements, but they are similar.

NATURAL LIGHT

Aperture

  • f4 for one person
  • f5.6 for 2-3 people
  • f7 for large groups

Shutter

  • 1/100th sec

ISO

  • whatever is necessary to make the exposure needle centered

Flash

  • none since we are using natural light

BOUNCE FLASH

Aperture

  • f4 for one person
  • f5.6 for 2-3 people
  • f7 for large groups

Shutter

  • 1/100th secz

ISO

  • whatever is necessary to underexpose the background by one stop

Flash

  • ETTL (or whatever your camera calls the automatic flash setting)

OFF CAMERA FLASH

Aperture

  • f4 for one person
  • f5.6 for 2-3 people
  • f7 for large groups

Shutter

  • 1/100th sec

ISO

  • whatever is necessary to underexpose the background by one stop

Flash

  • ETTL (or whatever your camera calls the automatic flash setting)

(The one other setting I would add is to make sure you are using the RAW setting for your camera so you can make small adjustments in LR or PS afterwards.)

Photo Credit: Neal Carpenter

Practice this on some friends or your children (if you are looking for a real challenge), and it will soon become second nature. That is when the magic happens. 

Now that you’ve conquered the technical, your mind is free to be creative. You can experiment with new poses. You can try new locations with confidence. You can make beautiful images in any conditions. You are basically a superhero!

In all parts or your business, effective processes will allow you to carve out time be creative. Hopefully, this method will help while shooting, but begin looking at your retouching, sales, album design, etc. Are there other time saving methods that could give you back some of your precious time? I know there are.






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