My First Subject

Nine years ago today - I started shooting people, one person in particular. I had taken a few portraits, but I was more interested in places and things. Since then, I've spent countless hours photographing him and testing new techniques...while testing his patience. 

Here's a few photos (of the roughly 20k) with some tips and tricks I've learned along the way.

The first thing any new photographer should do is drop the kit lens and buy a 50mm 1.8 lens. It's a prime (not a zoom) so it has less glass inside which helps make it EXTREMELY sharp images with a nice blurry background that is perfect for portraits. You're smart phone takes photos almost as good as a kit lens, so if you're going to break out the DSLR, you might as well make it worth it.

1/30 sec     f/2.8      ISO 200      50mm lens

NJ Photographer

OCF (Off-Camera Flash) creates depth. If you use a pop-up flash, no flash or an on-camera flash pointed forward you're images will be flat (unless you use the sun). OCF creates shadows and highlights that make a portrait stand out.

1/30 sec shutter      f/5.6       ISO 200

NJ Event Photographer

This is the 50mm lens again. The lighting effect is from a ring light which is round with a hole in the middle for your lens. It creates an interesting halo effect on the background, no shadows and a cool round catchlight in the subjects eyes.

1/125 shutter     f/2.8 aperture        ISO 160

NJ Family Portraits

Usually you're suppose to keep your camera still, but breaking rules can also be fun!

For this shot I have an OCF in a large softbox camera right and my shutter is only 1/6th of a second. As my son rides by I move the camera from left to right about three inches while pushing down the shutter. The flash keeps him (somewhat) sharp while the panning blurs the background. This technique gives the sense of motion to an otherwise still image.

1/6th shutter     f/7.1      ISO 400       50mm 1.8

NJ Event Photographer

Here's an example of a High-Key Portrait. Since it's a really sunny day, I expose the shot for my son and not for the background. I used an on camera flash for fill on his face otherwise he would have been in shadow. Flash is not just for low light situations, it gives a nice pop even in the middle of the day. 

1/250 sec     f/3.2 for a blurry background       ISO 100         80mm lens

NJ Food Photographer

I felt like the photographic equivalent of McGyver after this shot! I wanted to capture the setting sun AND the boys, but I only had one small flash and the light would have been really harsh, so I diffused the light with an inflatable pool float that was nearby. I stood it up camera right and put the flash behind it.


A flash is only a few inches wide so it makes a harsh light with sharp unflattering shadows, but if you put it behind something like a softbox, curtain, umbrella, pool float...etc - you make the light source a lot bigger and softer.

1/50 shutter    f/4.5     ISO 1000      38mm lens

Arclight Images

People look better with a longer lens. Faces are squished together instead of being distorted by a wide lens that accentuates noses or other features. This was an 80-200 lens set at 155mm.

Instead of telling, can anyone can guess the lighting setup?

1/160 shutter    f/4.0    ISO 200    155mm lens

Product Photographer NJ

A recent shot of my son with a similar lighting set-up as the previous shot, boy does time fly. I've learned to soften the side lights and make sure they are even. I desaturated the color and bumped up the clarity a bit in Lightroom .

1/160 shutter     f/7.1     ISO 125      155mm lens

Arclight Images

Happy Birthday buddy!