Step Five: Trouble Shoot Problems
Troubleshooting low light, clutter, non-cooperative siblings, and awake or fussy babies. These are the kind of things we're gonna tackle. Look behind them. Oh my gosh, they've just moved in their house and when we talked about it, like, "Yeah, we have some things out, but it's not bad." Literally every room was full of boxes, okay? So that will happen to you and you just need to know how to deal with it. And I asked them, "Hey, do you want this, "cause this is only room that had light in the house, "do you guys want all those boxes in the pictures?" They're like, "Oh yeah, 'cause it'll show we just moved." I'm like, "Okay, good." So it was fine. You know, you just need to be honest with your clients, you know? Just be real. Again, let go of perfection, okay? And it was fine. That dog would not let dad hold the baby. Ever, ever. The dog is in literally every shot with the baby. Kinda funny. Low light: seek light in the shadow. Low light is amazing. Remember this: Low light is amazing. I...
f I get to a home and everybody see my studio, it's light and bright and you know what I'm about to install? Blackout shades. 'Cause I can't get low light and it's driving me crazy. I love light, bright images, as most people do, but I also love shadows. You know why? Low light forces connection, okay? It forces people to connect, 'cause you have to put them in the small areas where you have a light piece of light, right? So you force connection happening, okay? Great creative and think outside of what you think you're supposed to be doing, okay? We think we're supposed to be finding all of these bright rooms, but what happens if you have a room that has some beautiful light just like coming in and it's right there lying on the bed? And it's only this wide? What's gonna happen? They're all gonna be in this little spot and you're gonna get natural reactions, okay? Little 101 photography lesson: There's something called falloff light. Do you guys know what falloff light is? So if you don't, think about a tree. Okay, pretend there's a tree right here and there's a shadow falling off right here. You're standing in the shadow and then right here it's extremely bright in the middle of the day. Are you gonna wanna put your person all the way back underneath the tree. Well, I don't shoot under trees anyways, but if you were, would you put your all the way in the back of the tree? No, you would put them right here where the shadow hits the light and that light, kind of like in your garage, okay? That's called falloff light, and light will fall and you'll be brightly illuminated but then what's behind you? Shadow, lots of visual interest. These are gonna make your photos even better. So what you wanna look for when you are in a home is a situation where you have some light with deep shadows behind it. You can even put people in the shadows and just close enough to get that light to fall off on their face. Does that make sense? I am constantly seeking shadows. As light and as bright as my photos are, I'm still loving shadows. Get creative then decide what you want and remember your why, okay? Don't conform. Get your vision done, so whatever vision you came in to do, but do it creatively. You're always seeking for different light, you know, light sources. These are great for moody black and white images as well because you're gonna have natural highlights, shadows, and mid-tones, okay? Moody black and white images are not done in PhotoShop. They are done in camera, okay? Because you have a full spectrum of that light source. Move furniture. When you get there, if you see a room that's completely illuminated and it's wonderful to have a room that's illuminated, because it makes it easier, the skin tones are softer, you know, the skin looks smoother and parents really like that. So if you see a room that has a lot of light, but there's tons of furniture in there, you've had the conversation with preparation. When you get there and you're walking the house, be like, "Hey, when we get into this room, "would you mind if we move the couch? "Would you mind if we move the chair?" I've never had anybody say no. Never, not once. Technique, gear. You will have grain with poor exposure no matter what your ISO is. If you are not exposing correctly, you will have grain. Go practice with your camera and see how low you can take your ISO and how high you can take your ISO. Play with that ISO on your camera. Take it up as high as you possibly can and note that ISO and see what your grain is at. Now, if you take your ISO up to, say, 2,500, you know, this is an entry-level DSLR ISO range, right around 2,500 before you get grain, which a lot of newer photographers are at. If you notice that your shutter speed is one over 2,000, did you need your ISO that high? No, so when you get back and you start looking at your images and you're like, "Gosh, I wish these weren't "so grainy, but darn it, my ISO will only go to 2,500", don't just look at your ISO. You may have forgotten to take that shutter speed way down. So you could've lowered your ISO, right, this is not basic, but this is camera technique. Lower your ISO so that way your shutter speed can lower. Lower your shutter speed so you can lower your ISO. Does that make sense? But play with that ISO. So in the live shoot that we do, I took, you're gonna laugh at me. I took, because I wanted to show you that you can shoot with grain. I had to go to ISO, I think it's like a 32,000. Crazy, I know. In order to compensate for that high ISO, my shutter speed had to be at like 8,000, which is crazy. I normally wouldn't shoot that way. I did that 'cause I wanna teach you, when you get these images back with grain, what to do, okay? You don't wanna lose the moment. And this is the time where people would be like, "Why don't you just bring lighting?" 'Cause I'm lazy. (laughs) This is the business. You can, it just, for me, I miss moments if I'm worried about setting up lighting equipment. So I'm gonna show you how to go without it, to do without it. There's color noise versus ISO noise. Color noise comes from poor exposure. You can always expose correctly, even with the higher ISO noise, okay? There's different kinds of noise within your photo. Lenses: You need to have a good lens for lifestyle photography. You cannot have a lens where your aperture will only open to two point eight. Why? Who has a microphone? I'm tryna wake you all up. If you have a lens that only can open to two point eight, what's gonna happen to your image? What are you limiting yourself for?
Well, you limit your bokeh, your ability to have that really beautiful, creamy -- (both speaking at once)
But in relation to exposure, if you have a lens that can't go wide open, it's too dark, right? Think about, you guys have to go back to basics for this, and I know a lot of people are watching that are newer photographers. There's a reason that we all spend money on really good prime lenses. If you have a lens, especially zoom lenses, so say you have like the, just pick one, the 24 to 70. At the 24 millimeter range, which makes it a little bit wide open, you're able to go to about two point eight. I think that lens goes to two point eight. Okay, two point eight. Now, if you were to zoom in to the 70 millimeter lens, your depth of field gets narrower, so your focus gets better, you know, you can get more people in focus, but what happens to your light? You lose it. So this is why, with lifestyle photography, zoom lenses, if you don't have an abundant amount of light, are not practical lenses, because you cannot open your lens up wide enough, okay? You need a lens that can go down, Canon one point two, Nikon goes to one point four, both of those are wonderful, wide-open apertures. Remember, aperture is the hole in your lens. When all of that is open, you are letting in a lot more light. Lenses are key. You cannot, you cannot, no matter what camera you have, shoot in a session that's dark without having a lens that gives you the capability of allowing light in, okay? Very important, lens choice. We're gonna go over that in the gear list. I have my gear list. All my lenses are primes, except for like a couple, which I rarely use because, why? They don't let in enough light and they distort the edges, which you can fix in light room, but I'm lazy. (laughter) Anybody have any questions on this?
Erica Henderson had asked, "What is the slowest "shutter speed that you would use "with a lifestyle session?"
Okay, so there's two Emilys, one that's had coffee and one that's not. So, coffee Emily would go down to about one over, maybe like your shutter speed down to about 120, so one over 120, maybe 150. I always kind of give the rule of thumb for newer photographers, don't go under if you have anything that moves. Newborns don't move, so you can go lower. Depends how steady you can keep it. I have gone down to one over 80, but you have to, how do you hold your camera? Really elbows-in, right? And that's back to 101 again, holding your camera in, so one over 80 is the lowest but only you guys know. I can't do one over 80 if I'm coffee Emily. It's like one over 120. (mumbles) (laughs) Okay, that make sense? Okay, any else? These are big ones, I wanna make sure we get to these.
I think some of these are things that you're gonna cover, but Sharice Bledsoe asks, "As far as exposure, do you shoot in Kelvin or auto white "balance and do you use an expo disc ever? "How do you deal with also the fact that there "might be other types of lighting competing "with the natural light?"
That was actually next.
That's a great segue. So I was gonna say, when we walk into homes and when you are walking the home, what do parents do? I'll be like, "Oh, it's kinda dark in here." What do they do? "Oh, we can turn the light on?" I'm like "Oh, but we can't!" (laughs) They're like, "Why?" Without fail, no matter how much we've prepped, you have ambient lighting. What happens? You have a 6,200-watt bulb. You have your outside 5,800, whatever the daylight is outside that day. Depends if it's cloudy or not outside. You have all sorts of different lighting situations going on, which is like, your camera does not like it. So turn off all the lights. Open up the windows, see what the lighting situation is. That being said, I'm gonna derail here for a second. If you're comfortable with this, you can leave ambient lighting on, okay? So, you know, you see those pictures of kids with their iPads, right? And you can expose, you can set your white balance using Kelvin, okay, I don't use an expo disc 'cause I'm lazy, remember, I don't have stuff? Kelvin because I'm minimalistic, and I think it helps me as a photographer not miss things. That's just my opinion. I'm always looking for things versus worrying about gear, okay? You can set your camera to Kelvin and change, you know, change your Kelvin temperature as you need to, okay? I almost 100% of the time shoot in Kelvin, yes. That being said, my camera has an amazing auto white balance system, if anybody has the D4 or the D5, it kills it. So I'll kind of sometimes start there and then change to Kelvin as I see fit. Be mindful, this is very, we will do this in the next, in the live shoot that we had before, I'm gonna show you, their home had a paint color called Revere Pewter. Who has Revere Pewter in their home? Nobody? Like everybody I know has Revere Pewter. I walked in there, I'm like, "Oh, you have "Revere Pewter on your walls." Revere Pewter pulls green, okay? What do Nikon cameras pull? Green, okay? And you cannot change that in your camera unless you go into your histogram thingie, or the color thing, you know the boxes and all the colors? And I have all of mine pulled over to bump to magenta by two, down and over, and later I can show you guys this, but over and magenta, I have it pulled over in Nikon. You can't fix that, so you have to shoot, you know, you shoot for warm or cool, orange or blue, you know? So know that going into, if you're a Nikon shooter, you're gonna be pulling green, and if you have that issue you can actually move that over with inside your camera. And we're gonna show you how to work on that in light room later. Fixing the green. All right. That handles the Kelvin. Okay, shoot wide open. Find the light in the shadows. Bay windows are great. I feel like so many homes have bay windows and a lot of 'em will be covered up with stuff. I move a lot of stuff out of bay windows. This was in their kitchen and their kitchen table was right there, but the house was so dark and it was in the middle of the summer. So what happens in the middle of the summer with trees? They're full, right? And when you have full trees, what happens to the light in the house? A, it's dark, B, it's green, okay? So we have one of my action sets has a "make things not green" action anymore 'cause everything was green. I kept fixing it, I'm like, "I might as well "make a shortcut." It's a very common occurrence. A lot of grays pull green, a lot of paint colors pull green. And I'm gonna show you that on editing at the end of the class and how to get rid of that green. Window seats, so no light on the face. So see again, we talked about that, no light on the face. If you need to, move people. Just move people around. Back to the basics. I wanted to show you this picture again because it's such a good lighting example. Shoot wide open, one room with one window, move them, define the light. This room had a window about the size, you know, like a regular, standard bedroom window. One window, that was it. It was, like, so dark in there and Mom had piled all of the, the diaper thingie-ma-jiggy and everything in there thinking we weren't gonna use that room, and I was like, "Why is all this stuff in here?" And she said, "Well, it's so dark, we weren't "gonna use this room." No, no, no, no. Do you see that streak of light coming right there against your blue wall? So when you see things, you're like, "Wow, "that looks neat. "I don't know why it looks neat. "How can we use this in our photo?" Back to the basics, focal planes. When you have a family of four and you have extremely low light. You will, one, shoot wide open, right? One point four, which we just talked about, or, say, one point two even. If you shoot at one point four and you have a family of four and you have three people here and Dad is here, what's gonna happen? Out of focus. So you need to think back to the basics when you have low light. Keep everybody in that same focal plane. Do you guys remember on my website there was 12 people on that bridge and I shot at one point four. Why? The focal plane. These are back to camera basics, but these are, you know, we tend to forget. We're thinking creatively, we're thinking about getting the shot, we're thinking about keeping the baby happy, we're thinking about Dad not having a meltdown because the toddler's been crying, but we're not thinking about our camera, okay? Focal planes, simple, 'cause then you can shoot wide open and let in a lot of light. A lot of us will go and we'll be shooting a newborn session and lifestyle sessions around two point eight to keep everybody in focus. Do you guys feel like that's kind of a standard, two point eight, maybe two point two, depending on how close we are? We're scared to go to one point four because we want to get everybody in focus. Position everybody in the same focal plane, okay? Shoot in raw. Everybody knows I'm a .jpeg shooter. If you didn't, now you do. That being said, lifestyle, newborn sessions tend to have, you know, babies have skin tone issues or whatever, so I tend to shoot in raw plus .jpeg because sometimes they'll end up liking the .jpegs more and my eye just goes to it, I just like it, there's no right or wrong. The thing with raw, if you're in a low-light situation, this is what we're gonna talk about later on in the class. You can fix noise in light room or with noiseware in PhotoShop, okay? If you had shot at 32,000 in .jpeg, you're not gonna have as much flexibility. As long as you haven't blown any highlights, you can bring some of that information back. Is it gonna be light and bright and airy? Of course not, but you've talked to Mom and you've prepared Mom. "You know, your home is dark, "you know those images you see on my website "that are a little bit moodier and show connection? "That's kinda what yours are gonna look like "and they're gonna be amazing." Prep 'em, okay, 'cause not every house is gonna be light and bright. Watch your shutter speed. I cannot tell you how many times I've gotten home and not as much anymore, when I first started and I'd get home and I'd be like, "Gosh, why are these so blurry?" It's because I had my shutter speed at like one over 20 because I was trying to let in light. How many times have we all done this? You're in the zone and all of the sudden your shutter speed's down too low. So watch your shutter speed, okay? Yes?
I know we, Emily, have this with your last class as well, when we saw you photographing in person and people were continually blown away at how quickly you're able to focus, but also again, that being at such a wide open aperture and get things tack-sharp. So can you tell us again, 'cause I still have questions coming in about sort of the focal plane and how is it that you are getting your images so tack-sharp at those apertures?
Let me go, first thing, they're not always that tack-sharp and I'm okay with that. They're not perfect. When you think about film, right, I love the film look, and that's how my new presets are that I'm editing this next shoot with. Film is not sharp. We are drawn to film. If your images are not completely tack-sharp, as long as people are in focus, you're okay so let that go. Not everything's gonna be tack-sharp. We aim for tack-sharp, right? But if it doesn't happen, be okay with that. Don't throw the image out. Parents will still love it. That being said, everything that comes back to me, keeping my images pretty much in focus like that is, you will notice, all of my clients are on the same focal plane. I'm constantly directing people, okay? I'm guiding them on where to be. Do you see this? What focal plane are they on? Do you know why I shot it this direction? Why did I not shoot this from behind her? That would have been two focal planes, wouldn't it have? Okay, they're on the same focal plane. There's a method to my madness and we wouldn't have seen the connection. When you are looking at connection, you need to take a photograph of what you see, okay? Not how you think it's gonna photograph better. So if I would've been behind them, I would've missed her looking at the baby. So back to the sharp thing, if everybody's in that same focal plane-ish, you're fine. Now, the closer you are to your subject, so, see, if everybody's on the same focal plane and I'm right on top of 'em, if somebody moves, I don't have as much wiggle room because my, you know, depth of field is shallow. If I step back a little bit, your depth of field increases, this is just kind of Photo 101, and you have more wiggle room with getting everybody in focus. Okay, your depth of field is longer. This is a whole nother class, and I'm sure there's one on CreativeLive. (laughs) About depth of field. (laughs) So, search for that. But that's kind of Camera 101.
In a home, it's often tight space, so how do you stand far back enough?
Lens choice. 24 millimeter is what I use. Nikon just came out with a new 24 millimeter one point eight. I never got the one point four, 'cause it was so expensive and I wasn't using it enough. You know, I typically shoot with my and then Nikon just released the one point eight. It's a wonderful lens. So the 24 millimeter is a fabulous lens because the edge distortion is not as strong, I don't feel like. I've got a 17 to 35 as well, I don't tend to use it, A, because it distorts the edges, B, because my aperture is not low enough. You know, I can't shoot wide open enough so when they came out with that prime wide angle lens, it's fabulous. Okay, that's how I do it. That's what I'll use for the crib shot, too. Okay? All right, clutter. Keep clutter that adds to the story. Directing clients before you arrive and have your "clutter plan", okay? So they're gonna know if you're about to shove everything in a closet. And I tell people, "So do you have a bed "with a bed skirt? "'Cause we might shove stuff under the bed", or "Are you okay if I walk into your bathroom?" Always ask before you walk into bathrooms, 'cause you just need to. And so they'll shove stuff into their bathroom. If I get there and Mom's still getting ready and I see clutter all over, I say to her, "Hey, you know what? "I'm gonna take a walk around the house, "is that okay?" You know, "Do you wanna walk me or do you "want me to just go?" I always ask, you know, you don't wanna just walk around somebody's house. And then I say, "While I'm doing that, do you mind "if I kind of take something that you might not want "in the picture and move it?" If there's something I'm not sure about, I need them there with me. A lot of times you'll see lamps with plugs, that way, right? So we'll unplug the lamps since we're not gonna have the lights on anyways, right? We unplug the lamp and hide the stuff. So those are things that I think newer photographers are, not scared, apprehensive to kind of ask clients, and I do it. I just flat-out ask 'em. "If you don't want it in the picture, "you need to move it." Okay. Move furniture, change your perspective. We might be dead set on a room and there's something that just isn't good in the room and we give up. Don't give up. Move, okay? Get on a ladder, get on a step stool and shoot down, shoot up. Go to the left. Go to the right. Just move, okay? Don't let go of your vision because you feel like there's too much clutter. If you have one room that's wonderful, use it. Take furniture in and out of it. Do your whole shoot in one room. I do it all the time and people will say, "How do you have these "homes like this?" And it's just one window, really. You know, it just looks cooler than it is. And shoot up. Crabby siblings, make them feel in control. On the other side of this person, Sarah, my lovely client is a two-year-old. She was hiding in the pillow. I wanted her to feel in control, Mom was holding the baby, and then she was about to sneak up and hold the baby too. So she felt like she was in control. She wanted nothing to do with the baby. Mom had already had a set of twins and this was her second set of twins. She had two sets of twins. Ugh, she's amazing. Yeah, I know. So, you know, this family really goes with the flow really well. This is why I use them for some pictures and for some video I was doing. So have them show you the new nursery. Kids love to show you the new nursery. Ask them, "What do you love about your baby sister? "What do you love about your baby brother?" Ask what they like to do with the new baby. Like, they'll be like, "I wanna feed her." "I wanna touch her toes." I'll be like, "Let me see you touch her toes." You'll see that in the live shoot, because how cute is it when they're touching their toes. And I'll say, "Hey, how 'bout you take your toes "and touch the baby's toes with your toes." Then they're like, "Okay." You know, then they feel like they're in control because they came up with the idea, 'cause those are things they like to do. So have a special sibling-only portion of you shoot, which we talked about, right? Reward them. So I always tell parents if you have a sibling and they're rewardable age, you know, like I have some parents that have, like, 12-month-olds, God bless them, plus a new baby, but if they're rewardable age, have them get a present for them, wrap it, because you want them to have anticipation for opening a gift. I find that rewards that are gifts are something that they know that they're getting, they're just like, "Whatever, "I go to the store all the time, "I get whatever I want." They have something they have to unwrap, it works better. That's kind of like a trick I have up my sleeve for all my families that have siblings. Awake or fussy babies. Wrap 'em up, okay? We're gonna teach you wrapping up next, which is in -- soon, okay? Wrapping 'em up next. Turn up the heat, okay? Check if they are hungry. When all else fails, feed that baby. Who cares if you're gonna be there for four hours, you need a happy baby, okay? I used to work in the NICU, I was speech pathologist and I specialized in feeding therapy. I have a very innate, I have like a good ability to know if a baby is refluxing or those sorts of things. Start to familiarize yourself with all of these issues that babies can have, because you also don't wanna overfeed a baby, because then they're gonna start having really bad reflux and if that happens then you're gonna have a really bad session. So if you start noticing that the baby is just off, something's -- and this just happened, this happens to me probably five times a year. I will cancel the session. We will reschedule a week later. Let the baby figure it out. A lot of babies end up having dairy allergies, end up having, you know, they need to go on special formula or something. Not all babies are just easy eaters. Babies have issues. Babies have gas. Be flexible, okay? Not only be flexible in your session, and let Mom know, "You know, it's okay. "I would much rather come back when she's calm." They might be taking the baby to the doctor the next day. Reschedule it. It's not a big deal. In the back of your mind, you're like, "Ugh, I have so much to do next week", but you know what? That Mom is much more concerned than you are about your schedule, okay? So reschedule it if you have a really fussy baby if nothing is working, 'cause something might be off. Okay, they might have just had really bad reflux or something, okay? The baby shusher. Who knows what the baby shusher is? If you don't, look it up. (laughs) It's a little orange and white thing you turn on, okay, it's a sound machine and you can take it with you everywhere. It's like the best gift to newborn photographers. And then photograph them awake, you know? If they're not going to sleep that's fine. You know, we try to get some sleepy shots, but if we can't, photograph them awake and it's fine. And make sure you keep encouraging Mom. "You know what? "This is wonderful." Parents love when we get awake shots. We're so lucky, sometimes we don't get these, you know? Keep telling 'em, right? So it's all about how you're making them feel. And awake shots are gorgeous. Calming techniques, Happiest Baby on the Block, who's familiar with that book? Okay, get it, read it. Tight swaddle, we're gonna go over that here next. White noise, pacifier, always ask parents about pacifiers. I have a big thing on my website since I did specialize in feeding, it kinda validates me, I think a little bit when I'm them this advice, you know, it's not coming from just a photographer. Babies need to need suck, swaddle, swing, and shush, you know, like all the five Ss or whatever from Happiest Baby on the Block. Babies will not, as long as they're nursing okay, will not confuse a non-food source and a food source. So like breast to pacifier is much different than breast to bottle, okay? And if your families are comfortable with a pacifier, it will knock the baby out. But the parents need to be comfortable with it. Try not to project your opinions on those kind of things onto new moms. New moms are already worried about it and they've heard everything under the book, you know, been scared from them. Within three weeks, they'll probably be giving 'em to 'em. (laughs) Anyways, all right, deep pressure versus light touch. This is their sensory systems, okay? Babies' nervous systems are sensitive, especially babies that come early. I shoot a lot of preemie babies, I shoot a lot of twins. I think twin moms must hang out together. So every twin in St. Louis. They're nervous systems, your sensory system within the womb is the last thing to develop. So they have a sensitivity to sound, light, touch, you know, think about your sensory system. So, you know, a lot of moms and dads'll be doing this, stroking, not good. It's irritating to their skin, okay? You actually want deep pressure. When you're shushing them, if you're shushing them like this (shushes), versus (shushing) really loud, don't shush 'em quietly, it's irritating to them. They need the deep pressure. That's why babies like to be swaddled up tight. When you're swinging them, hold to them to you and, I mean, swing, okay? Don't shake the baby. But swing. Think about those swings that you buy. Think about how, have you seen those swings, how fast they move? As new moms, you put your baby in there and you're like, "Whoa!" And then you call the baby store and be like, "It's broken!" (laughs) Right? Okay, but it's not broken, like, it's supposed to go that fast. Okay, I totally called the baby store and said it was broken. I'm like, "My baby's gonna fly out of it." It's normal, okay? Anybody else been there, right? Somebody else called the baby store, I know it. When you're swinging the baby, and help Mom will all of these things, okay. These are all on my what to expect on your newborn session day, okay? And I just think being a mom kinda helps sometimes too. You know mom tricks. But always gauge what they feel comfortable with. Just kind of guide them into deep pressure. I'll be trying to get the baby to sleep, I'll be swaddling it and the mom's doing this real quietly and I do this all the time to close their eyes, but they're doing it gently and the baby's startling and startling and I'm like, "No no." Tell them, "That's irritating her, don't do that anymore." Actually do some deep pressure, it's a really good calming technique.