Tip: Use a Mannequin Head to Practice Portrait Lighting Without a Model
Want to learn portrait lighting but don’t have a model you can spend hours and hours with? Here’s a 4-minute video in which photographer Ed Verosky offers a simple suggestion: Buy a cheap mannequin head to practice your skills.
Using a real model to fine-tune your skills can be uncomfortable and boring for the subject. By using a mannequin, you’ll have a simple test subject that won’t mind getting blasted by studio lights all day.
You don’t even need a full-body mannequin. A Styrofoam mannequin head is cheap and can serve you well. Just stick it on a spike in your studio and you’re good to go.
You can practice all sorts of lighting, whether that be butterfly light:
Or even contrasty split lighting:
Verosky even tries out a few variations of the Rembrandt pattern:
A simple Styrofoam mannequin head like this should set you back about $5, according to Verosky. Check out the full video above to see it in action. You can also find more of his videos on his YouTube channel.
Nighttime Photos of Tokyo Under the Glow of Neon Lights
German-French graphic designer Matthieu Bühler has been shooting gorgeous nighttime photos of Tokyo, Japan, focusing his attention on the illumination created by all the different neon lights found across the city. His series is titled “Neon Dreams.”
This Website Tracks the Market Value of Used Camera Gear
Want to quickly find out the current market value of a used camera or lens? Bokeh Market is a new website that can tell you the real-time value of used equipment. It’s like the Kelley Blue Book of camera gear.
The front page features a search bar. Type in whatever piece of equipment you’d like to look up to bring up its product page. The product page features the products specs, a daily price chart that spans about a year, average prices for individual sellers and trusted sellers, and ongoing listings for the product through various marketplaces (e.g. eBay, Adorama, Amazon, KEH, Fred Miranda).
What’s more, registering for an account opens up additional functionality. If you’re hunting for a good deal on a particular camera or lens, you can set alerts with a price ceiling to be notified when a listing appears that you may want to jump on.
You can also input all the items in your gear collection to see its current value at a glance:
If you’re eyeing a bundle of gear and would like to know what the total market price is, you can quickly build any bundle to look up its value:
Bokeh Market is a free service that’s monetized with affiliate links (the service earns money when you click through to marketplaces and make purchases).
A few days ago, my girlfriend, Victoria was trying to take some photos of a bridesmaid gift she received the night before. She was trying to take these images on her phone and was not having any success. After a few unsuccessful attempts, she gave into my suggestion of taking these photos on her X-T10.
She then ran into the issue of having a couple of photos that were poorly framed and somewhat noisy. After some more convincing we had her camera mounted on a tripod. We spent the next few minutes rearranging the objects in the photo and adjusting the tripod to get the composition just right.
She remarked about how so much effort was going into a single photo. I told her that for me a lot of the joy that comes from photography is all of the problem-solving that you have to do on occasion.
This can mean a few different things. For example, you might have to climb a fence to get closer to your subject. You might have to use a reflector to modify the available light in a scene. In the most extreme cases, you might have to fabricate an entire set or some props for your images.
Why You Should Build Your Own Stuff…
You should build your own stuff because it gives you the opportunity to add a unique and personal touch to your photos. Creating something such as this surface, from scratch allows you to add an extra element of control to your photos.
For example, in product photography, it’s important to have complete control over the technical aspects of a photo. So why not take things a step further and be in control of the surroundings as well. Imagine being able to custom build a prop for your clients on an individual basis. In a competitive marketplace, everyone wants something that will help them stand out.
How I Built This Surface
The individual boards are a part of our fence that was damaged in a storm back in August. They had been sitting in the garage for the last few months, waiting for someone to put them to good use. Some of the pieces were longer than others so I started by cutting them all down to the same length, 20 Inches.
I decided to give all the edges a rough look by taking a utility knife to them. I then took some sandpaper and smoothed out the cuts that I had made. You can see in the photos that the edges have much more character than when I started out. In some areas I took a hammer and dented some of the flat surfaces, adding in little nicks and chips.
The boards now have the appearance of some old floorboards or an old table. The idea is to simulate something that has many years of wear and tear on it. After giving the wood some character, I took a piece of sandpaper on a flat block and smoothed out the entire board. A trick here is to cheat the edge a bit with the block. You want the board to be slightly higher in the center than it is on the edge.
After I was happy with the shape of the wood I moved on to staining. I used two colors of which we had laying around to achieve the look you see here. The basecoat is a color called English Chestnut. The second color is a darker stain that I applied to accent some of the flaws in the wood. I wanted to give the wood a dirty look as if stuff had been spilled on it over the years.
Both stains were applied with rags. I dipped a little piece of the rag in and would use that to go over the entire board. I like to stretch out as much stain as I can on as much surface area as possible. You don’t want to lay to stuff on too thick, you want to see the character in the wood. After the stain was applied I let the boards dry overnight, and just like that they were finished.
In total it took me about two hours to do all of the cutting, sanding, and staining. I was lucky enough to have all of the materials laying around in the garage so the total cost for this project was a big fat zero. If you had to buy the materials for this they all tend to be fairly cheap. In most cases, you could probably build something just like this for around $50. It’s also a project that doesn’t require much space so you could even do it in an apartment as long as you don’t mind a little mess from the sanding!
The Joys of Building
One of the most satisfying parts of this little project is that I was able to create something useful with my own two hands. Now I know not everyone is mechanically inclined, and that I have a predisposition to building things. I tend to think “I can build that” before “I can buy that” most of the time.
I see a great benefit to having something custom made, by myself, for my own little photo projects. I didn’t have to read reviews or wait for Amazon to ship me something that is going to improve my photography, and that is a great feeling. For me, it’s satisfying to work on something for a couple of hours and just zone out. The joy that comes from the absence of a phone, a computer, and a camera is overlooked from time to time.
So the next time you’re feeling a little uninspired, just go out into the garage, (or Home Depot) grab a beer, and build something. You’ll be surprised at how it can bring out other bits of creativity you did not know you were capable of.
Here’s what the final surface looks like:
Here are a couple of photos showing how it can be used:
About the author: Michael Mroczek is Photographer & Designer from Williamstown, New Jersey. He lives on a lake with his lovely girlfriend Victoria, and their two pups, Scarlett and Jefferson. He likes old cars, specifically Corvettes, a good story, and Arsenal F.C. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
Which Filters to Use in Landscape Photography and Why
Filters are the bread and butter of landscape photographers. Here’s a 12-minute video from Nature TTL that will teach you what filters every landscape photographer should have in their bag, as well as why to use them in the first place.
The video is presented by official Nikon Ambassador Ross Hoddinott, who’s an incredibly experienced landscape photographer. While out shooting on the coast, Ross talks through his choices of filters and what real situations are making him apply them.
A crucial piece of takeaway information is to not use a filter just because you have it. So many photographers fall into this trap, using unnecessary filters to “get their money’s worth.”
By the end of this video, you should have a good understanding of what to look out for as a cue to tell you that you need a particular filter.
Using an impressive 10-stop solid ND filter, Hoddinott looks to transform this rather dull scene:
But after a drastically increased exposure time, the scene looks far more attractive:
Check out the full video for Hoddinott full lesson on landscape photo filters, and you can subscribe to the Nature TTL channel for more tutorials like this one each week.
Pete Souza Looks Back on 1.9 Million Photos of Obama
NPR‘s Fresh Air just aired this fantastic 30-minute interview (here’s a transcript) with Pete Souza, the Chief Official White House Photographer for U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. In it, Souza reflects on 8 years of capturing Obama’s presidency, creating an archive of over 1.9 million photos during that time.
Souza was a silent observer and a fly on the wall, present at virtually every meeting and moment during Obama’s tenure. Here’s what NPR writes about his silent documenting:
Souza sought to minimize his presence at the White House by working with what he calls a “small footprint” — not using a noisy camera, not using flash and moving around gingerly. “I’m not sure if ‘invisible’ is the right word,” he says. “But I was certainly trying to be a piece of the woodwork.”
Souza has just published a new book this week titled Obama: An Intimate Portrait. It’s a 352-page hardcover book containing a collection of Souza’s favorite photos during his latest stint in the White House.
Sheep can recognize human faces in photos at a level that’s comparable to humans. That’s what scientists discovered through testing sheep by showing them celebrity portraits.
Researchers at Cambridge University led by neurobiology professor Jenny Morton conducted the study by leading 8 different sheep one at a time into a research barn and showing them a photo of one of four celebrities: Barack Obama, Emma Watson, Fiona Bruce, and Jake Gyllenhall. The sheep were given food to create an association.
Next, the sheep were taken into the barn and shown two photos. One was a celebrity it had seen before, and one was a photo of a non-celebrity who looked similar and had the same gender and ethnicity.
Tapping on the “correct” portrait would reward the sheep with food while choosing the wrong face would result in no food and a sound being played.
The sheep were able to pick out the celebrities and earn the food reward 8 out of 10 times.
To challenge the sheep even further, scientists showed them the same celebrities in photos captured from a different, tilted angle. The sheep were still able to choose the correct person, showing that they weren’t simply memorizing what a 2D photo looks like, but instead were understanding the 3D idea of a human head.
“This ability has previously been shown only in humans,” the scientists write. “Sheep successfully recognized the four celebrity faces from tilted images.
“Together these data show that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and non-human primates.”
Here’s a short video showing the experiment in action:
VSCO’s Recipes Let You Share Photo Editing Formulas with Others
VSCO has just introduced Recipes to its popular mobile photo editing app, enabling users to create and share presets that allow for quick applications of certain looks and styles to photos.
The company said it found that many users were trying to use Pinterest to share sets of different settings and filters that could achieve a certain look. Coming up with its own integrated solution to satisfy this need, VSCO has developed what it calls Recipes.
Recipes allow users to save a “unique editing formula,” which could be a combination of filters and/or presets, alongside adjustments to other settings. By creating such a template, users will then be able to share them with others and, in turn, use recipes created by others on their own images.
All VSCO users will be able to create one recipe, with VSCO X members being able to save up to 10.
The feature is very simple, involving just a couple of taps on a button in the edit window. Here’s a quick look at how exactly the new feature will work:
The VSCO app with the new Recipes feature is available for free on Android and iOS devices.
This AI Creates Photo-Realistic Faces of People Who Don’t Exist
Instead of searching for the ideal model for a photo shoot, photographers of the future may be able to generate one using artificial intelligence. Neural networks these days can generate portraits of imaginary people.
NVIDIA recently published a paper titled “Progressive Growing of GANs for Improved Quality, Stability, and Variation.” GAN stands for “generative adversarial network,” and it’s a system that uses two neural networks — one generates things and the other evaluates them. These algorithms are capable of generating artificial “photos” that look real to humans.
For its project, NVIDIA found that training the neural network using low-resolution photos of real celebrities and then ramping up to high-res photos helped to both speed up and stabilize the “learning” process, allowing the AI to create “images of unprecedented quality.”
To demonstrate the system, NVIDIA trained the neural network using the CelebA HQ database of famous faces.
Once it had been trained on these real faces, the AI was able to begin generating photo-realistic photos of fake people.
Here’s a 6-minute video that shows more examples of what this neural network can do:
In addition to faces, the neural network can also generate “photos” of objects and scenes.
“While the quality of our results is generally high compared to earlier work on GANs, and the training is stable in large resolutions, there is a long way to true photorealism,” the researchers conclude in their paper. “That said, we feel that convincing realism may now be within reach.”
Fashion Photographer Goes Dark After Accusations of Sexual Misconduct
Montreal-based fashion photographer Anthony Turano has deleted his large online presence after a number of models publicly accused him of sexual assault and harassment.
Le Journal de Montréal reports that at least five women have gone on record with the paper with stories about Turano’s behavior, and at least one of them has filed a complaint with law enforcement.
“In text and Facebook messages that we were able to consult, models were implicitly but insistently offered sex in exchange for photos,” Le Journal writes. “After agreeing on a photo shoot date, the photographer refused to actually work with these models if they refused her advances, say the women interviewed. The modus operandi of M. Turano was often the same, almost exactly.”
Model Marianne Trudel, who filed the police complaint last month, tells the paper she contacted Turano for portfolio photos. A few days before the session, Trudel allegedly received messages from Turano saying that there was a problem — he was attracted to her.
Trudel says she decided not to work with Turano after concluding that he wasn’t willing to do the photo shoot without a “physical connection.”
Other models claim that they were informed last minute that the paid trip they agreed to take with Turano for a shoot would involve a shared room with only a single bed.
Model Rose Dubuc claims she found out she would have to share a bed with Turano for six nights during a shoot in Los Angeles in late 2016 after Turano paid for her travels, and that Turano blamed the client for booking the arrangement. She says Turano sexually assaulted her several times over the course of that week.
“Every night, he put pressure on me, we had sex and we went to bed,” Dubuc tells Le Journal. “He never sought consent. I told him several times that it did not tempt me, that I did not want to […] I was in a country I did not know and I did not want to call my mother to send me money.”
After the Le Journal article was published yesterday, Dubuc posted a video titled “It’s finally over … #MeToo #ModelLife” (you can enable English translation captions in the video):
Turano has vehemently denied much of the models’ accounts to Le Journal, and he claims the allegations are being made by competitors and rejected models who have tried to defame him for years. He says the screenshots are fabricated, and that the accusations have driven him to the verge of suicide in recent days.
In recent years, Turano has reportedly worked with publications such as GQ, Sports Illustrated, and Vogue. Here’s Turano in a recent photo shoot behind-the-scenes video:
On October 21st, after models went public on social media with their accusations, Turano abruptly retired from photography and deleted his social media accounts.
“Anthony Turano was a photographer from 2002 to 2017 with a unique style and flair for creating stunning fashion editorials for world leading magazines and ad campaigns for his prestigious clients,” his website now reads. “Due to health issues Anthony Turano was forced to retire from this business in late 2017. Anthony Turano chose to concentrate on his family, health and wellbeing.”
Before deleting the accounts, Turano had over 91,000 followers on Instagram and 26,000 on Facebook.
Turano has not yet responded to our request for comment.