Kern-Photo http://www.kern-photo.com Minneapolis Wedding Photographer Wed, 25 May 2016 20:55:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.2 Really Important Lighting Stuff pt 2. http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/05/really-import-lighting-stuff-pt-2/ http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/05/really-import-lighting-stuff-pt-2/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 20:30:48 +0000 http://www.kern-photo.com/?p=18953 I’m continuing my series on attending Felix Kunze’s workshop focused on studio lighting. If you are just joining us, click below to catch up on the series: Really Import Lighting Stuff pt 1. It’s often the light you don’t see that matters. You might want to ready that again: It’s often the light you don’t […]

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felix-kunze-studio-lighting-workhop_rj_kern_header-2016-05-25-15-30.jpgI’m continuing my series on attending Felix Kunze’s workshop focused on studio lighting. If you are just joining us, click below to catch up on the series:

Really Import Lighting Stuff pt 1.

It’s often the light you don’t see that matters.

You might want to ready that again: It’s often the light you don’t see that matters.

This was my big lesson for this workshop… a topic I will explore in this blog post.

Painterly Fill

When I first started out learning studio lighting, I studied blogs, books, magazines. I looked at what I thought what mattered most: the key light, which mainly lit the subject in a way the defines shapes and shadows.

However, after studying old paintings in fancy museums, subtle shadow details revealed what my camera couldn’t. There was something missing and I didn’t know how to put my finger on it. Painters, I guess, have it easier. With a brush, they can create all the shadow detail they want, in the proper contrast and tonality they wish. Lucky bastards.

I knew there had to be some sort of special sauce, a golden ratio that made all the difference.

World-class chefs often spend a decade learning the basics, only to find out the “secrets” are often in one thing: fresh ingredients. Not some special tool. Or unique technique.

Dan Winters and David Hobby inspired me to being exploring on-axis fill years ago. That got me close. A new palette of lighting options, yes.

Learning from these talented photographers didn’t define my style.

It informed it.

Working with Felix taught me this (my bridal clients will love this!):
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Phaseone 645 XF with IQ 260 digital back, 80mm at f /4.5 for 1/200 sec, ISO 100.

Dash of Salt

My favorite Maldon Sea salt is used by world-class chefs as a way to naturally enhance flavors of food without bitterness. I found out about it reading The 4-Hour Chef in which Tim Ferriss creates a simple path to cooking like a pro.

A little salt goes a long way. Too much, you stand ruining the dish.

What does studio lighting and cooking have in common you might ask?

Turns out, a ton.

The mark of a signature dish is no different than a creating a unique photography style. No one wants to become a copycat. No one. You take a recipe and make it your own. Like this:

You see an image you like. You learn how it was created. You copy it, well. Then you go and make your own. Share. Reflect on what works, what doesn’t. Repeat.

This has always shaped my progression on developing a photographic style. All artists are influenced by others. We don’t live in a vacuum; It would just be too hard to breath.

Attending Felix’s workshop offered me an opportunity to learn how he makes his images. While on-axis fill was a term new to Felix, he knew the approach like the back of the hand. Bath the subject is soft, beautiful light to establish the minimum amount of shadow detail. Then build the key light around that.

Presto!

Felix’s New Book

Much like Gregory Heisler, Kunze is a photographer’s photographer. Which means if he was to write a book about this workshop, perhaps it would be called:

“Light that Isn’t There: How to Hide Your Key with Your Fill Light.”

I’d buy it.

felix-kunze-studio-lighting-workhop-rj-kern-05-2016-05-25-15-30.jpg
Phaseone 645 XF with IQ 260 digital back, 55mm at f /5.6 for 1/160 sec, ISO 200. Note the native ISO of the IQ 260 is 50, two stops under ISO 200, however to keep things simple when sharing with other attendees we standardized the numbers and kept flash power down and recycle rate up.

Out to Lunch

Without going too technical, the key for learning for me has always been to experience, explore, and have fun. Workshops really help open the schedule book for that opportunity. And of course paying $1,000 forces me to take notes. Good notes.

On a lunch, my mind wandered on how I could soften the Broncolor Para 88 with a large scrim and study the light fall off.

My takeaway: the bigger the light source, the bigger the wrap!
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Phaseone 645 XF with IQ 260 digital back, 55mm at f /8 for 1/160 sec, ISO 50.

Because any good studio lighting blog post is made better with a behind-the-scenes glimpse, here is mine from the setup above:
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Want to know a few more Felix Knuze-isms?

Stay tuned to read the final installment, part 3 coming soon!

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Really Important Lighting Stuff pt 1. http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/05/really-import-lighting-stuff-pt-1/ http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/05/really-import-lighting-stuff-pt-1/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 03:17:29 +0000 http://www.kern-photo.com/?p=18939 “Approach each new person you meet in a spirit of adventure.” — Eleanor Roosevelt To be more productive, do a little less. I write this in my journal as one of the highlights attending the first studio lighting workshop by Felix Kunze, noting that the above four images were created for the same model with a […]

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“Approach each new person you meet in a spirit of adventure.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

To be more productive, do a little less.

I write this in my journal as one of the highlights attending the first studio lighting workshop by Felix Kunze, noting that the above four images were created for the same model with a rather simple, yet dramatic setup. Stay tuned for the how, why, nuts and bolts.

My wedding clients know my panche for “Vanity Fair editorial style” portraits (secrets shared here). Turns out Felix Kunze (pictured center) is a talented photographer in genre with knowledge to share. My first assist, Matt Steaffens (pictured right), supported the knowledge quest:
felix-kunze-worhsop-lighting-kern-photo-2016-05-22-22-17.jpg

In Sum
The one day workshop was an amazing “lightbulb experience” which reaffirmed the basics we’ve known. For those who have years of trying, yet search for a little secret sauce which remains a mystery yet adds depth to an image, this workshop is for you!

Felix challenged us to think critical of the basics, yet remain sensitive to the importance of a soft fill light while controlling the main light in a “messy” manner.

Here is a glimpse of one of my final image post-processed cropped (Shot on PhaseOne XF with IQ 260 medium format digital back, 55mm lens).
felix-kunze-studio-lighting-workhop_04-2016-05-22-22-17.jpg

Want to go deeper?

Stay tuned for Part 2 in which I share a few of the highlights from my workshop experience along with more high res images!

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Sam and Ben {Maui Wedding Vow Renewal} http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/04/sam-and-ben-maui-wedding-vow-renewal/ http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/04/sam-and-ben-maui-wedding-vow-renewal/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2016 22:47:59 +0000 http://www.kern-photo.com/?p=18926 I am falling in love all over again. With weddings in Hawaii, of course. On this particular special occasion, Sam and Ben invited me to be part of the renewal of their wedding vows in Maui with a few family and friends. It doesn’t get much better than this. If Cinderella planned on renewing her […]

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I am falling in love all over again. With weddings in Hawaii, of course. On this particular special occasion, Sam and Ben invited me to be part of the renewal of their wedding vows in Maui with a few family and friends. It doesn’t get much better than this. If Cinderella planned on renewing her vows in Hawaii, perhaps her Pinterest board may include a few of these images. I bet she would even choose florals by Bella Bloom!

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CLICK HERE to view slideshow.

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Fearless Award, Collection 29 http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/02/fearless-award-collection-29/ http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/02/fearless-award-collection-29/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:17:18 +0000 http://www.kern-photo.com/?p=18881 This bridal party fun image from Erin & Eric’s Denver Science Museum wedding won a Fearless Award announced today! This is my fourth award from Fearless Photographers, a group of bold wedding photographers striving to redefine conventional wedding photography. With literally thousands of entries, to land an award makes my Friday! In this blog post, […]

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This bridal party fun image from Erin & Eric’s Denver Science Museum wedding won a Fearless Award announced today! This is my fourth award from Fearless Photographers, a group of bold wedding photographers striving to redefine conventional wedding photography. With literally thousands of entries, to land an award makes my Friday!

In this blog post, I delve into this image and explain what I was thinking when I pressed the shutter and why I think the judges (and my clients) loved it.

rj-kern-photo-fearless-award-collection-29-001-2016-02-12-13-17.jpg
Nikon D700 / 14mm, 1/750 sec at f/4.8, 800 ISO.

A Paleo-Puppeteer?

The bride and groom, Erin & Eric, love science. And a bit of witty humor. They hired “Mr. Bones” to perform during their wedding day. He calls himself a paleo-puppeteer, ‘wears’ a life-sized dinosaur skeleton, moves around with wires. He’s one well-dressed dinosaur, the perfect kind you would want greeting guests to the ceremony at the Denver Science Museum.

During bridal party portraits, OF COURSE I had to use our “prop” in a creative way. I love putting on my creative thinking cap.

A Dino Perspective

To create the dramatic and exaggerated perspective, I used my favorite Nikon 14-24mm lens to offer the viewer an ultra wide perspective. The advantage of the ultra wide is I gain a greater depth of field at any given aperture over, say, my trusty a 85 mm f/1/4. Using an aperture of f/4.8 with my 14mm lens afforded me the luxury of getting from 2 feet in front of me to infinity in focus. Sharp focus. Storytelling focus.

Wide angle lenses are super sexy. They offer an incredible depth of field.

Yet the are often mis-used. You see, there needs to be an interesting foreground, middle ground, and background to make it work. Often, photographers forget about the foreground in focus. What did I do?

I laid down in the grass.

This gave the bridal party something to laugh at and guests to watch as everyone took their positions (the entire event was abut 5 minutes, but guests were equally entertainment watching this unfold).

With a bit of direction, and a count 1- 2 – 3 – GO! .. we were off. On the second take, I was confident I got the shot.

Layers, Peeled

Let’s break it down.

Like an onion, a good photograph should have multiple layers. As you peel back one layer, another visual story reveals itself. I like to think there should be at least 3 interesting things going on in a really good photograph. With this layered approach, the level of difficulty to document the image becomes exponentially challenging. There is no magic to make this happen. Only 100% being focused and present (ample experience and the right tools help, foo).

rj-kern-photo-fearless-award-collection-29-002-2016-02-12-13-17.jpg

  1. T-Rex?
  2. A leg? An arm? A human?
  3. Almost stomped groomsmen… that actually fell (the real moment)
  4. A jumping homage to Henri Cartier Bresson
  5. On-looking couple wondering what the heck is going on??
  6. Crescent moon in the daytime, a detail you might expect around the golden hour.

Choosing the best photo in a sequence isn’t easy, but this is something I think about while making my editing selections.

For tips on choosing your best photos, read this post. Or, tap inside my brain and see my ten things I consider when judging photos (and also when entering photo contests) here.

These six layers make this image shine apart from the others in the sequence that didn’t make the contest (but still made it into the final selections):
rj-kern-photo-fearless-award-collection-29-004-2016-02-12-13-17.jpg

An a personal favorite photo showing Mr. Bones in his puppeteer costume working his T-Rex humor!
rj-kern-photo-fearless-award-collection-29-003-2016-02-12-13-17.jpg

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. I enjoy reading & responding to comments below!
__________

You might also like:

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On Being a Fearless ISPWP Photo Judge http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/02/on-being-a-fearless-ispwp-photo-judge/ http://www.kern-photo.com/2016/02/on-being-a-fearless-ispwp-photo-judge/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 17:02:18 +0000 http://www.kern-photo.com/?p=18233 Being a ring bearer can be stressful. So can entering photo contests. In this post, I share my lessons from being a photo contest judge. The biggest takeaways I had the opportunity to judge for the International Society for Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP) contest recently (winning contest gallery here), an honor I took very seriously! I’ve […]

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Being a ring bearer can be stressful. So can entering photo contests. In this post, I share my lessons from being a photo contest judge.

The biggest takeaways

I had the opportunity to judge for the International Society for Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP) contest recently (winning contest gallery here), an honor I took very seriously! I’ve been apart of the ISPWP since 2009 and have had 25+ images receive accolades from judges of various contests. Usually, I enter 20 images or so thinking one or none might win. Though every now and again I get surprised, like the year I placed in the top five.

Before becoming a judge, I didn’t have a clear insight into the photo judging process. After ranking 4,000 images in a short period of time:

  • There are a lot of great photographers out there. Wedding photography has come a long way in the last 10 years. This is great for the client in terms of end product, but tricky for the client when it comes to choosing a wedding photographer. This is proof that photographers can’t compete on images alone. Excellent customer service and strong business acumen can’t be seen in images, but they are critical factors for long-term success.
  • I see so many of the same images taken over and over. Why? Sameness is often rewarded by clients. This is one of the biggest problems facing wedding photography.
  • The pursuit of an award-winning image should never trump client expectations. Too often photographers forget client expectations and shoot only what they want and neglect key components to a wedding day (like family portraits, for example). I hear complaints from photographers like, “This isn’t what I want to shoot,” or “It’s not creative, it’s boring.” We should never forget who we work for.

What goes into a winning image?

While contests and the judges are subjective, to me a winning image should show a strong composition with a storytelling component and inspiring lighting that highlights a moment. The challenge here is in capturing the moment. No different than an experienced surfer chooses when to catch the right wave and when to let one go, a photographer’s choices are equally as instinctive on when to press the shutter.

10 things I consider when judging photos (and also when entering photo contests)

10. Humans must rock! If I was an alien that landed on Earth for the first time, a winning image would offer a glimpse into the amazing-ness of our species: the beautiful, emotional, fun-loving humans we can be.

9. Winning images are images I would want on my wedding day. Therein lies the subjectivity factor. It can be cool, different, moody, odd… no problem. However, weddings are deeply personal, sentimental, and tug emotional heart strings. Real moments sing! That’s what I want to see.

8. One moment captured is good. Three is best. The two additional supporting moments make my eye dance inside the photo. In my initial cull, I review images as if they were on a contact sheet, choosing the ones that catch my eye. Then I zoom in to confirm details like focus, storytelling, odd distractions, or subtle details. I want my eye to be controlled through the image by the content in the photograph.

7. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. This goes for trespassing, prisming, lightpainting, posing, advanced compositing, etc. When shooting, ask yourself one question: Why? If you have a good reason for why and are confident in your choice, you are half-way to convincing me it’s a good idea.

6. Make me laugh, or cry. Or both. My bias: I’m partial to dogs in wedding photos.

5. Inaccurate skin tones bug me. I get creative post-processing. Yet, green skin isn’t real. I like real. Just because we can shoot at ISO 12,000, doesn’t mean the light has quality and dimensionality. Use a flash with a gel to balance with ambient or create interesting shadows.

4. Dodge photogs. If there is another photographer or camera (or three others) in the image, I’m moving on.

3. Show, don’t tell. Please don’t show me “kissy kissy.” There are so many more creative ways to show emotion and love between a couple. There are exceptions to the rule, but they are few.

2. Deliver depth. My eye prefers 24mm and 85mm angle of views (on a full-frame DSLR) with a definitive foreground, middle ground, and background that adds to storytelling. Since these are my two go-to lenses, that is what my eye is trained to see. Wider is fine. Closer is better. Without foreground context, wide-angle lenses create a very flat, boring image. Storytelling with a greater depth of field, like f/8, will yield more context, making it easier to tell a story. Wider apertures yield less context, making it harder to tell a story.

1. Show me something new and different. If I’ve seen it before, show me better.

With all that said, I’m leaving you with one image I just found out TODAY that won me a Fearless Award (Collection 29).

RJKern-255

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