Imitating Hazy Backgrounds with Diffusion Gels


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Shooting in a studio has its advantages. But although being warm, dry and convenient are greatly appreciated, shooting between the same four walls can get a little boring if you’re constantly using them as backgrounds for your shots.

Sure, you could get some colored paper setup, you could even buy a fancy canvas sheet with paint splashes on it, and for the really adventurous, you could even use some colored lights behind your subject. But what happens when you’re finally bored of all that? Time to get a little more creative with your studio backgrounds.

Visual Depth on Location: Depth

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Review: Lensbaby Omni is a Fun Way to Get In-Camera Effects


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Lensbaby has become a bit of a household name in recent years and for those of us searching for a more unique look to our images, Lensbaby has been there to provide a whole host of creative solutions. Its latest product is no different, but this time around it isn’t producing a new lens, but instead a ‘creative filter system’ called the Omni.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one of these Omni’s prior to launch and I also had chance to test it out on a couple of portrait shoots recently so I thought I would

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5 Modifiers for Photographers on the Move


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A little while ago I was teaching one of my lighting workshops and one of the attendees was looking to implement some of the set-ups I was sharing into his workflow. Seems simple enough right? Well, it turns out this photographer was a Formula 1 trackside shooter that needed to get portraits of drivers and crew.

As you may well imagine, there is limited time to set up a photo shoot in a busy pit-lane on race-day, so he was after lighting modifiers that would be suitable for his slightly more ‘run-and-gun’ portraits.

When most of us are looking at

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Are You Sharpening Your Photos Enough?


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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I’ll own up to this and say that I’m guilty of being stuck in my ways. But age is no excuse for not being as adaptive as I should be to the changing times. But let me explain.

I’ve been shooting for many years now and nearly 20 years ago, when I started out, there were zero calls for digital copies of images. Sure, in the early 2000s I was shooting digitally commercially, but we always got requests for prints, not digital files for the web.

Back then I would export my file at the largest size we’d be requested

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Is Bowens Really Back? Yes, And It’s Manufactured by Godox


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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For those of you that are unaware, a couple of weeks ago, the U.K. online photography retailer WEX photographic, quietly announced that Bowens was coming back and to many, myself included, this was a huge surprise.

In late January 2019, the online photographic retailer announced ‘Bowens is Back’

Why Was it So Surprising?

It was surprising because in July 2017, Bowens went into liquidation and nobody’s heard a peep from them since, so understandably we all thought that was the last we’d ever hear of them. But to hear nothing for nearly two years and then see the ‘Bowens

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Using a Single DIY Globe Modifier for Simple, Stunning Portraits


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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It’s not often I get to shoot very simple, clean white light shots, but in a recent shoot the model asked if she could get some updated ‘Polaroids’. For those of you not familiar with the term when used in reference to a model shoot, it’s actually not the now-obsolete and ludicrously expensive single-shot film, but a request for very basic portraits of the model for their agency.

This ‘Polaroid’ term is a relic from the analog film days and it essentially now means shots that are un-retouched and with the model wearing very little makeup.

I was happy to

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Stop Using Tape to Attach Your Gels: How to Use Magnets Instead


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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If you’re like me and you’ve tried to attach gels to your lights in the past, you’ve likely resorted to using one of the many types of sticky tapes available. When I used to manage a studio, I would see all manner of tapes being used to attach gels to hot modifiers.

From masking tape, duct tape, parcel tape and when they ran out, even regular old sticky tape was used. But ultimately, all of these tapes fell short in achieving their simple task of holding a colored gel in front of a light.

The Problem With Using Tape to

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Are You Colorblind, and How Good is Your Color Vision?


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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In this article, we’re going to briefly look at the subjectivity of color. This is a colossal subject, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on how color is perceived by each of us and whether it’s really that important.

Color IS Subjective

First off, color is subjective. I don’t care what else you believe in, but that is an indisputable fact. You perceive the red of an apple differently than I do, and we will never know by how much — ever.

More importantly, though, neither of us are right or wrong, as there is no way

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Why and How to Calibrate Your Lenses for Razor-Sharp Autofocus


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When we finally pluck up the courage to purchase an expensive lens, we expect them to be perfect right? Unfortunately, no matter how good the lens is, there are always going to be minor differences when we attach it to our specific camera.

Often our camera bodies are made at a completely different time and usually in a completely different factory, so when we finally bring the two together there are often minor adjustments that we the user have to make to ensure we’re getting the best image possible from that specific lens.

So regardless of whether our lens is

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Is the Sensor or the Lens to Blame for Poor Image Quality?


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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A few years ago, I was embarrassingly very vocal about how disappointed I was about some of the Nikon lenses. I’ve been using Nikon cameras and lenses for decades and although I was very pleased with the image quality and color rendition their cameras produced, I strongly considered jumping the Nikon ship in search of crisper, cleaner looking lenses.

In fact, I was so close to leaving Nikon a couple of years ago that I went through the process of hiring and testing other brands to see if other manufacturers could deliver what Nikon could not.

But what was my

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Using Diffusion Filters: A Comparison of LEE Soft Filters 1 to 5


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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I’ve used diffusion filters for years but rarely for their intended purpose. If you haven’t heard of them before, diffusion filters are transparent glass or plastic sheets that go in front of the lens and diffuse the light as it enters the camera. The resulting images taken with a diffusion filter have an appearance of reduced contrast that ultimately looks hazy, offering a slightly dream-like effect.

This soft-focus, hazy looking image was a more popular style many years ago and it was a way of making skin look soft and more flattering in a time before Photoshop and skin retouching.

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How to Turn House Lights Into Cheap DIY Light Modifiers


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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There is an almost endless supply of lighting modifiers available on the market right now, some are cheap and some of the better ones are certainly a lot more expensive. But does cost directly relate to quality? Well, a lot of the time yes it does if you’re referring to build quality.

In general, the more you spend, the more well-made and durable the modifier will be. But does that extra money you spend mean you’re getting a better lighting modifier overall? I would have to say no.

In fact, for less than $20 you can get some stunningly beautiful

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How to Contact and Book a Model for a Photo Shoot


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Whether you’ve been shooting for five minutes or five years, there will likely come a time when you’ll have to book a shoot with another person. Maybe it will be a friend or coworker and maybe it will be a full-time professional model.

Whoever you’re contacting though, they’ll need to know some fundamental facts about what’s involved in your shoot before they agree to be involved. In this article, I discuss some of the key things you should include when contacting and booking a model.

A lot of shoots rely heavily on the fact that a model is going to

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How to Make Camera Case Dividers for Less Than $13


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I’m as interested in an “easy life” as much as the next person, so if somebody else has already done the hard work of making a product for me, and I can purchase it for a reasonable price, I’m all over it. After all why make life hard for yourself if you don’t have too. Unfortunately there are times when you literally can’t purchase what you need and the only option is to get all arts-and-crafts on the problem!

I recently decided to upgrade my flash-head carrying bags from the old, long, soft and cumbersome kit bags to the sleek,

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3 Levels of Sharpening You Should Be Applying in Photoshop


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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My name is Jake Hicks, and I’m an editorial and fashion photographer based in the UK. In this article, I’ll share a look at some of the sharpening techniques I use in Photoshop to give my images a little visual-pop before I publish them.

What is Image Sharpening?

This is Lightroom’s default sharpening settings as soon as you import your files. You can see that even the default setting adds a little sharpening to our shots immediately upon import.

Sharpening is one of those odd processes that we all do with our images even if we’re not aware of

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The Modeling Industry: What Photographers Need to Know


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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I think it’s fair to say that most photographers will, at some point in their career, have to work with models at least once—whether you’re a still life shooter that photographs models’ hands holding a fork full of food a couple of times a year or an e-commerce shooter that works with models every single day.

We all need to know how to contact a model, book a model, and what to expect when working with a model.

But working with models in our current industry isn’t just for professional photographers anymore. The digital age of photography has meant that

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6 Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Shooting Sharper Manual Focus Photos


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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This article aims to provide you with key tips, techniques, and hacks that, if followed correctly, should practically guarantee nailing pin-sharp manual focus shots in no time.

Ever since Leica presented a camera at the 1976 Photokina with working automated focusing, autofocus technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Today’s autofocus systems are nothing short of miraculous—so good it’s hard to imagine where the advancement can go from here.

But photographers didn’t alway have focusing this easy

Autofocus History

Although autofocus seems like a given staple of our photographic lives now, it’s only really seen consistent success beyond a gimmick

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Nikon’s ‘Worst’ & ‘Best’ Zoom Lenses Compared


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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nikonlenscomparison

I’m going to preface this by saying that this isn’t a lens review article, there are many photographers better suited for this topic, so if you’re after refraction index comparisons and chromatic aberration charts this article probably isn’t for you.

This article is, however, my personal thoughts on three Nikon zoom lenses and their resulting images but also a broader look at how we as photographers covet lenses and other photographic gear. Is the latest and greatest piece of kit actually worth the investment?

Let me set this up and step back a couple of months and say that I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of growth in my career recently but maybe not in the traditional sense. No I haven’t picked up any major campaigns from Nike or Prada but I have seen a large growth in other areas namely socially and from a larger more global

Some of my favourite shots that I've ever taken were captured using my Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5 zoom lens. I've had this lens for more than a decade now and you can pick up a second hand one now for as little as £150.
I've been carting about the same Bowens strobes for nearly 15 years. I think to say that 'I've had value for money out of these heads' would be an understatement.
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Vintage - 43-86mm Head Shot Crop
Old - 28-105mm 3/4 Crop
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New - 24-70mm 3/4 Crop
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Models, Beware the Warning Signs of Creepy ‘Photographers’


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


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modelingwarningfeat

For the second time in as many months somebody has tried to use my images to lie to models about their photography. Because of this deception, it’s certainly no giant leap to accuse these individuals of ill intent, especially if they are actively lying to models in their first messages of contact.

Over the weekend, I received a concerning email from a model who is familiar with my work. They’re allowing me to share their story, but I will change the model’s name in question to “Sue” for the purpose of this article.

It started when the model Sue was contacted by a lady on Facebook who goes by Jess Nicholl (perhaps a fake name?) who photographs under the name of Jess Nicholl & Michael Hunter Photography (perhaps a fake business?). The conversation began as it usually does, but then Sue asked to see some pictures that “Jess”

The above images were sent to Sue as images of models 'we've worked with'. Although the wording is clever in that it doesn't specifically state these images were directly taken by them Sue spotted the shots were not theirs and it was enough of a warning sign to prompt her to thankfully investigate further.
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Not too long ago I was informed of another  little parasite on Model Mayhem operating under the name JHicksStudios and using my images to set up photo shoots with new models. This sort of thing sickens and terrifies me: I shudder to think what his real intentions are for setting up photo shoots with young girls.

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How to Keep Your Gelled Backgrounds Perfectly Lit in Studio Portraits


This post is by Jake Hicks from PetaPixel


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




gelledbg

In a recent article, I spoke about the best ways to perfectly light your background with colored gels. We covered the best things to keep in mind if strong and vibrant colors across your backdrop are your objective. It turns out that gelling your background is actually relatively simple — it’s keeping those strong vibrant colors that’s actually the tricky part.

What usually happens when we begin a portrait shoot is that we setup our key light to light our subject, and once we’re happy with that we then move on to place another flash to light and gel the background. This is your first mistake.

What happens next is that we set up the gelled background light, take a picture and see that the background gel color behind the model looks pretty washed out and insipid. There’s no rich color saturation back there and it’s not giving you the

reasons
On the left you have the umbrellas and softboxes, these are soft light modifiers and on the right you have grids and snoots, these are hard light modifiers.
On the left is how your gelled lit background looks before you introduce another light to the set. In the middle we have a softbox as our key light and on the right we have a gridded dish as our key light. It's very clear to see that the key light modifier plays a big role in how our gelled background is affected.
Butterfly lighting requires our models key light to be directly in front of her. If we have a gelled light behind her lighting the background it can mean that the background gets are washed out.
Narrow lighting means that our key light is placed to the side of our model and creates more shape and form by casting shadows across our model. The benefit of this lighting is that our key light isn't pointed towards the background and thereby isn't affecting our gelled light.
In the image above, we've placed our key light straight on to the model to get the butterfly lighting effect. Unfortunately as a result we've lost all the saturation on our gel behind her.
In this setup we've opted for a more directional light on our model so we've placed our key light to the side and not pointed it straight towards the background. As a result, all of the light is on the model and none is on the background.
Utilising this technique of bringing your key light quite close the model is often easiest to achieve on beauty shots. The beauty dish key light I'm using here is probably no more than 3 feet from the model and she in turn is no more than 5 feet from the gelled background. Use this technique correctly and you can shoot with gels in very small spaces.
In this setup our key light is relatively close to our subject but she's evenly exposed.
In this setup we have our key light a lot further away so we have to turn the power of the light up to compensate.
In this shot our key light is close to the model and closer to the background but the gelled background color has maintained its tone because we've turned down the power of the key light.
In this setup we've moved our key light a lot further away from the background but also a lot further away from our model. To compensate for that extra distance we've had to increase the power of the light but in doing so our background gel now looks completely washed out.
I've used Cinefoil here to mould onto my barn door to create an extra large flag to control the spill of light.
I use black velvet sheets as flags instead of the large poly boards when I'm on location. They are portable and cheap but just make sure you get the cotton based version as the synthetic one acts more like a reflector than a flag.
Even seemingly heretical gelled lighting setups like softbox-lit butterfly lighting from 2 meters away are possible if you separate your model and background. Treat your background and model like two completely different setups and you'll never have to worry about washing out your beautifully lit gelled backgrounds ever again…….as long as you have the space for it that is.
Obviously when you're  shooting in small spaces you need to be aware of how close your key light is to the background. Even when I'm using a gridded beauty dish really close to the model, I'm still getting a lot of spill onto my gelled backdrop which is washing out the color.
Literally moving the model as little as two or three feet further away from the background can have a dramatic difference. Now that you're a little bit further away your gelled background retains its saturation.

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