Our neighbors’ daughter was home for Thanksgiving, on break from her Masters program at Columbia University, and she had invited 8 of her friends from college to spend their break visiting D.C. She also asked me to come over and take photos of them the morning after they arrived (November 25, 2017), before they headed downtown to play tourist.
I took these photos out on our neighbors’ deck using my Nikon D500 DSLR. I positioned the subjects so that the bright sunshine served as an accent light, producing sharp highlights on their hair and shoulders, to separate them from the background. Then I used a Nikon SB-5000 Speedlight (with Dome Diffuser) mounted to a Fotodiox 20 inch Quick-Collapse Flash Softbox to provide soft lighting on their faces. I took the individual shots with the softbox just outside the field of view at left, and set to roughly half-power. I took the group shots with the softbox farther away and set at roughly full power. The photos below are some of the results after post-processing.
I want to use photography not just to record, but to help people discover something great about themselves. From that perspective, I like the photo above the best.
The above photo is nice, but I should have positioned her more carefully relative to the background.
For post-processing, I used Camera Bits Photo Mechanic 5 to ingest the files, and to screen out the rejects. Then I used Corel AfterShot Pro 3 to straighten and crop, and to make some basic photo adjustments (in particular, exposure, contrast, and saturation, to correct for the lens flare that I was getting by looking into the sun). Finally, I used Portrait Pro 17 for the individual shots to make fine adjustments to faces (mainly increasing exposure, and teeth and eye whitening). I didn’t use Portrait Pro on the group shots.
1. The CamRanger wireless router seems to interfere with the Nikon D500 camera display
When I came over to take these photos, I had my Nikon D500 DSLR set up with the CamRanger wireless router connected to it through the camera’s USB output, with the intention of displaying the photos to my subjects on my Apple iPad Pro 9.7 as I took them. Unfortunately, this connection seems to interfere with the camera’s ability to drive its LED display, because the D500 display would repeatedly shut down less than a second after I pressed the MENU button, and before I had a chance to change the flash settings (I saw similar behavior during a previous photo shoot.).
I wasn’t going to let this problem interfere with taking the best photos, so I disconnected the router, and then the D500 display worked fine. I need to do some research on this one to figure out what’s going on.
2. I need more practice in posing my subjects
Some people are used to posing for photos, and some clearly are not. For those who are not, I need to help them.
In this case, I positioned the subjects with a generally flattering background. But for some of the shots, I could have done better with the fine details of those backgrounds relative to the individual subjects. For instance, with a pretty, but altogether busy background, I should have been more careful to position the subjects so they weren’t competing with it. In some cases, I should have isolated them from the complexity of the background to make them stand out more (And this, of course, was different for subjects of differing heights.). I also have to be more judicious about removing items/symbols from the background whose existence might be interpreted as trying to send a message.
Also, posture and hand position are clearly key. Here, for instance, I could have used hand position to draw attention, and to better communicate the intended message. In this area, I have a lot to learn.
3. The Portrait Pro default settings are too extreme for my purposes
I am (slowly) learning how to use Portrait Pro to make subtle adjustments to portraits. I’m learning to override and tone down the default settings, and to focus mainly on making fine adjustments to exposure, and eye and teeth whitening.
4. The CamRanger iPad app forces the iPad to transmit continuously, draining the battery
After attempting to use the CamRanger app in the morning, when I went to use my iPad later that evening, I found that the battery had been drained. To me, this indicates that the CamRanger app was constantly attempting to communicate with the CamRanger wireless router (which I had also forgotten to turn off). I need to remember to turn the CamRanger app off when I’m not using it.