Composition and Macro Photography Workshop at Green Spring Gardens

3 04 2012

On Sunday afternoon I did a composition and macro mini-workshop (my first ever!) at Green Spring Gardens with more than 30 members of the Northern Virginia Outdoor Portrait Photographers group. I started with a “what’s in my bag” tips and tricks presentation, followed by a tour of my photography exhibit in the Horticulture Center and a great Q&A session (with excellent questions and observations from the members), and then a brief outdoor photo excursion with the group.

Outdoors, I showed them how using a diffuser makes all the difference in getting saturated color in their flower photographs. In the photo below, we used the diffusers and a silver reflector to show how it’s possible to get great shots by harnessing the sun when shooting a human subject, too. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the presentation and look forward to working with the members again in a future portrait or flower photography workshop. Thanks to Rob Bergsohn, the group’s founder, for organizing this event. You have assembled a really a great group of enthusiastic and talented photographers!

Workshop reviews:

“Very informative and excellent opportunity to learn from a masterful artist.” —Tommy Duffy

“Great fun, very nice folks, and Cindy was knowledgeable and fun as well. Her work is amazing.” —Michael Wine

“Cindy was great! She shared just a ton of info and was extremely helpful answering everyone’s questions. The only thing holding this back from a 5 star rating was I would have like to shoot more and had time to get her help/feedback. Her photography is outstanding, if you have never seen it, take the time to view her work, it is truly worth it.” —Doug Stroud, Doug Stroud Photography

“Cindy gave us her all, shared her macro background, walked us thru her exhibit, and then took us outside for a hands on shoot. We each received packet of handouts and info as well! Thank you Cindy and Robin!” —Sally Wood, Sally Wood Photography

“This was such a nice meetup. Thank you Cindy for taking us all out on that fine day. I learned a lot and saw a lot of inspiring work. Thank you!”Dino Tiongco Photography

“Thanks to Cindy for sharing her insights and trade secrets. Her work is amazing and this meet up was a great opportunity to learn first hand from a wonderful person and photographer. Thanks, Robin, for organizing this event.” —Prateek

Photo © Michael Wine

When the background is less than ideal…

5 04 2009

improvise! In this case, the background behind this beautiful Snowdrop Snowflake I photographed this afternoon was light brown mulch, which didn’t provide any contrast, much less any “oomph.”

I carried my Interfit 5 in 1 collapsible reflector (with the translucent base only) so I could shield my subjects from the less-than-ideal-for-shooting mid-day sun. The carrying case is solid black on one side (logo on the other), so I looped it over the plant ID sign behind my subject. Voila! Now the image becomes a “gallery shot.” A piece of black mat board or a piece of black velvet stretched over cardboard would serve the same purpose. The velvet would be more saturated black and require less darkening in Photoshop. Because I was using the translucent reflector (held between the sun and my subject), the black background registered dark enough that no Photoshop work was needed to darken it.

I propped up the translucent reflector to block the harsh sun, creating a “cloud cover.” If you don’t have the luxury of a personal photo caddy (friend, boyfriend, husband, wife, or a complete stranger), prop it up against a tree, your tripod, or lean it against your body. Beware of windy days, though, as an unfurled reflector fast becomes airborne! (I speak from experience.)

The 1/2 stop translucent reflector is easily converted by a zip-on overlay sleeve which allows for additional surfaces to be used: gold, silver, black, and white. The gold, silver and white surfaces fill in reflected light in to the shadow area by up to 1 stop while the black will take away up to 1 stop to improve contrast in the shadow areas.

Amazon also sells the Westcott version of this 5-in-1 reflector online with the case, reflector arm and stand for $96.83 (handy if you don’t have a photo caddy to help you maneuver it while you’re shooting). It’s great for both indoor and outdoor shooting, especially for portraits. If you always have a trusty assistant on your shoots, you can just buy the 5-in-1 reflector without the stand. Yes, you can buy smaller reflectors, but you get less coverage, obviously—and it’s harder to prop up a smaller one and still block (or bounce) the sunlight. Get the largest your budget will allow because it does collapse quite nicely—it will even fit in a carry-on suitcase. I own several smaller ones (2-sided versions, silver & gold, black & white), but I graduated up to this 5-in-1 and rarely use the others.

You can use other things as reflectors (foam core, poster board, etc.). The concept is the same, though. Reflect the light back on to your subject with white, warm it up with something gold, cool it and add highlights with something silver (I used to use tinfoil taped to cardboard in the “olden” days). Stretch a sheet or translucent paper over any kind of frame. They all essentially do the same thing and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference with the end result. The manufactured products just do it in a more portable, professional and convenient way.

There is a great article by Rick Sammon on controlling light with reflectors and diffusers here.

Thanks to Tina and Kerry for the flower identification!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.