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Thread: Composition problems with a prime.

  1. #1

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    Composition problems with a prime.

    Hello everyone. I have not been here in a while and frankly, i miss you all. Some birthday jobs are beginning to tricle in and these are some of the images i recently shot with my new 50mm f/1.8. These shots were taken indoors at night.
    ISO:400, f/2.5, 1/200. I shot manual and increased the power of the flash. (I bounced off the ceiling).
    (Wherever the idea comes from, i seem to be understanding the manual thing better by the day, in daylight however, i try my best to stick to AV and run to P when i get scared or things get awry)


    Composition problems with a prime.
    Composition problems with a prime.
    Composition problems with a prime.

    i do not want to post too many images so i do not get lost during correction from you all.

    New issues: whenever i shoot in a small place like the venue of the above event, composition becomes a serious problem. How do i fix this issue caused by the 50mm prime? Do i now once-in-a-while beckon on the 18-55 kitlens(non AF)? Group photos also tend to be problematic for me too.

    I did very little PP on the pictures, basically correcting exposure issues, some cropping and slightly increasing temperature in some cases.

    These are far from perfect i know but i need you to see my progress and offer more help in form of critique. Let me know what I did right and wrong.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Melkus's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Be a prime lens the only thing you can do is walk forward or backwards to get the composition you want and for a portrait like your first one these lens work great but if you have more than one person in the shot then you will need to step back to get everyone in the photo if you have the room to do so. You could also check on a wider angle lens if your working in small spaces.

  3. #3
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Don't forget that on your camera your 50mm prime is really a short telephoto lens (80mm equivalent on a full-frame camera), so the small room might be limiting how far back you can go. That lens might be a bit more appropriate for portraits of one or perhaps two people,

    Compositionally, the following things strike me about the images:

    1. The person in the white shirt behind the subject does not help. White tends to distract and I feel that this is happening here. Had the person not been in the way, the composition would have been stronger. The same thing can be said about the light coloured object on the right of the image;

    2. I think this is the strongest image compositionally, as the people in the background are out of focus. I find the people on the left less distracting than the man on the right side of the image; I would crop him out. There are a some things just creeping into both the left and right side of the shot that should be cropped.

    Composition problems with a prime.




    3. This image would have been stronger without the face at the very right of the image. Before you press the shutter release, check around the edges of your framing and it there is something that should not be intruding, try to recompose.

    Composition problems with a prime.
    Last edited by GrumpyDiver; 11th December 2012 at 03:15 AM.

  4. #4
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    . . . whenever i shoot in a small place like the venue of the above event, composition becomes a serious problem. How do i fix this issue caused by the 50mm prime?
    As already mentioned, a 50mm lens on an APS-C camera is a SHORT TELEPHOTO LENS.

    If you are working with Flash, then there are very few, if any reasons for you not to use you KIT LENS - so YES- use it for the group shots - what is so wrong with that?


    ***


    However, answering your question about Composition when using a PRIME LENS:

    When using a Prime Lens there are FOUR (Main) Elements which can be used, to change the COMPOSITION (of a Portrait).

    • First: is to set the PERSPECTIVE and that is set by the DISTANCE to the Subject.
    • Second: is to set the Camera Elevation, relative to the Subject - i.e. looking down or looking up
    • Third: is to set the Subject in the Horizontal and Vertical frame of the camera - for example one might use the Rule of Thirds.
    • Fourth: is to set the Skew of the Camera - that is to rotate the camera at an angle to the horizon.


    When using a Camera with Movements - then such a Camera provides more compositional elements, but this is only mentioned for a concise answer to your questions, as this is not possible to make camera movements with your 50/1.8 lens - HOWEVER this does apply when using ‘Tilt & Shift’ Lenses, (for Portraiture).

    NB – one other major Compositional Element is the distance from the Subject to the Background, this is so for any lens, so not specifically for a Prime Lens – but it can be a very powerful compositional element to the image.

    Simulation of changing - Camera Elevation; Framing Horizontal and Vertical and Camera Skew, using one of the Originals:

    Composition problems with a prime.


    ***

    Furthermore - IF you want to shoot Candid Portraiture, indoors (or in other tight places) with a Prime Lens on your APS-C Camera, then a much more suitable Prime Lens would be something like a 35mm or 30mm Lens.


    WW

  5. #5
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Try to fill the screen as a compositional choice. You may miss out on the exact look you wanted but it is a good compromise and will get you to take more shots of your subject.

  6. #6

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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Thank you all for your responses so far. Exposure and lighting wise, how did the pictures do?

  7. #7
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    Thank you all for your responses so far. Exposure and lighting wise, how did the pictures do?
    Lighting
    – They’re fairly typical of ceiling bounce and not much forward diffused flash.
    For example in shots #1 and #2 you’ve got good top hair light and definition at the loss of a good catch-light.
    Also, and more so in shot #2 and especially in shot #3 – all the modelling is ‘downwards’ – so you get:

    The hair fringe shadow on the Forehead
    The eye-brow shadow in the eyelid
    The eye shadow under the eye
    The nose shadow on the upper lip
    The lip shadow on the under lip
    The chin shadow on the neck

    This type of modelling does not create depth and (usually) is not very popular with many Female Clients.

    ***

    Exposure
    – It can only be assumed from your previous comments, (‘I did very little PP on the pictures, basically correcting exposure issues, some cropping and slightly increasing temperature in some cases.’), - that there were problems with exposure.

    What problems I don’t know for sure, but I would guess there were hotspots and close to blown-out, especially on the foreheads and the bridge of the nose of a some shots?

    To investigate better JPEGS SOOC with full EXIF are really needed; also details of exactly what camera lenses and flash you are using.

    ***

    As general comments
    - If you are using flash, then for those tight shots you should have adequate Lighting Power to use at least F/5.6 ~ F/8 – as your DoF is very small and you are missing (for example) the ear jewellery in image #1.

    You need to better time the shots – (for the Background) – in shot #1, the Man in the Background appears to be moving camera left to right, if he was moving then that shot should have been pulled a second or two later.

    For Flash Lighting on the hop - You might like to try a BOUNCE CARD and OFF CAMERA FLASH (you’ll need an Off Camera Cord). This technique requires using TWO HANDS, so you will need to practice using your camera with one hand first and get that technique nailed down.

    As you can see here:
    Composition problems with a prime.

    The Flash is bounced from White Card, held high above the camera: this is a 24mm lens on 5D and shot in very tight quarters – but the Flash still maintains a direct face on alignment and provides reasonable side modelling to those Boys turning their head sightly, here is an enlarged section:
    Composition problems with a prime.
    Also, in this particular case, the Off Camera White Card Bounce is very useful, because there is no ceiling, outside.

    ***

    Off Camera Bounce can be used very close to the Subject to create more severe lighting – for example off to the side here:
    Composition problems with a prime.

    WW
    Last edited by William W; 12th December 2012 at 04:04 AM. Reason: typo correction

  8. #8
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Ife – while I do use bounce flash, I do find it has its limitations and it doesn’t always work that well, so when taking pictures in an environment like you have here, I tend to vary my technique a bit to see which way works best for me. I think Bill has given you some good advice on trying off-camera lighting. It’s not necessarily a technique I use all that often because you do need a bit of space to use it; sticking your arm out with a flash on it and hoping someone does not bump into you does not work in all situations. I find some of the hot spots on your shots a bit distracting, but I have very limited experience in shooting darker skin, so don't know if this is normal or not, especially given the hot climate where you are shooting. Try bracketing your flash shots to see what works best.

    The problem with bounce is that it does have its limitations. The ceiling or wall have to be reasonably close to your subject and have to be a neutral colour, otherwise you can introduce strange colour casts. You do loose a fair bit of light as it bounces to places where you don’t need it. It can result in rather unattractive results; hot spots and strange shadows, especially around the eyes, under the nose and under the chin. I often use a “bounce card”, either a small white card I attach to the flash with a couple of rubber bands. This lets some of the light bounce off the ceiling, but also directs some diffuse light at your subjects, reducing the amount of shadow. One of my flashes has a built-in bounce card, so I tend to use that unit when shooting with that technique.

    I also find that I can reduce the shadows by being at least 2m away from my subjects when using bounce lighting, because the angle the light is coming back from isn’t quite as acute, resulting in fewer problems with shadows. Sometimes I don’t bother with bounce at all and just use direct flash with a diffuser. One of my flash units came with a plastic diffuser and I just wrap a few layers of tissue over the flash head and hold it in place with my unit that does not have one. A number of photographers I know use a Gary Fong “lightsphere”, which sort of does the same thing as a bounce flash / bounce card combination. I’ve never used one (I’m too cheap to buy one), so can’t make any comments based on personal experience.

  9. #9
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    I find some of the hot spots on your shots a bit distracting, but I have very limited experience in shooting darker skin, so don't know if this is normal or not, especially given the hot climate where you are shooting.
    Hi Manfred.

    Yes the hot spot 'sheen' and 'size' does (have to do with dark skin colour and hot environs) - but also it has to do with the Angle of Incidence and Angle of Reflection.

    The Flash bounced down from the ceiling, will almost always 'highlight' - (aka Hot Spot) a larger surface area on the forehead and along the entire length of the bridge of the nose than a Bounce from just above or just to the side of the camera, all other elements being equal.

    Have a look at the close up of the three boys the biggest hot spot in the whole image is on boy #2 (from the left) and it is on a very small area of his forehead.

    ***

    If we are shooting on the hop at a function and we want flatter lighting, for whatever reason (maybe because there is a very close background and we want NO flash shadows) - or we might want just about a guarantee of no hot spots and we know the Subjects themselves might be a bit hot and perspiring then try Bouncing Backwards into the Corner of the wall and Ceiling which above and BEHIND the camera:

    Composition problems with a prime.


    WW

  10. #10
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Thanks Bill - the angle of incidence and reflection I fully understand. I suspected that in a hot climate one would tend to see more perspiration, which would lead to more reflection. Less of a problem here in Great White North at this time of year; with central heating systems drawing in low humidity air from the outside, it tends to get very dry indoors.

    I suspect is that this will be more apparent with dark skin because of higher contrast between the reflection and the skin tone, but I don't know what other factors might be in play.

  11. #11
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    I suspect is that this will be more apparent with dark skin because of higher contrast between the reflection and the skin tone, but I don't know what other factors might be in play.
    Gidday again -

    No. not really. Well maybe - I am not sure exactly what you mean

    However -
    The darker skin acts a a better "mirror backing" than lighter skin.
    The natural body oils are the mirror's reflective surface.

    An example is - you can make a better 'oil mirror' or even a better 'water mirror' if you spread olive oil (or a thin layer of water) on a black plate, than if you spread it on a white plate.

    WW
    Last edited by William W; 13th December 2012 at 02:11 AM. Reason: correcting my speed typing spelling mistakes

  12. #12

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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Well, yes, but that works because the contrast between the mirror reflection (from the oil/water) and the diffuse reflection (from the plate) is a lot larger for a black plate than for a white plate.
    The mirror surface of the liquid will reflect the same amount of light, independent of what's behind it, but a light surface reflects more light than a dark surface (by definition...)

  13. #13
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    "Well yes but" ? ? ?

    . . . I thought that was what I described but in simpler words.

    And that was also to clarify my understanding of what Manfred was getting at.

    It is the total effect of the reflection we are interested in here - the effect of the body oil AND the colour of the skin on which the oil is placed, so it's not all that relevant to this conversation that the body oil, by itself, has the same reflective qualities . . . sure you have no arguement on that fact, but you see, I don't understand the use of: "well yes but" . . .

    WW

    Post Script - Maybe it is just a nuance of language thing.
    Don't sweat it to much - I am not cranky: just confused.
    Last edited by William W; 13th December 2012 at 05:59 AM.

  14. #14

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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    I was confused about your answer as well:
    As I read it, you started by saying that the contrast between skin tone and reflection wasn't that important, and then you give an example where you increase the contrast between background and reflection...

    But thank you for coming back and giving me a chance to clear up the misunderstanding Skin is complicated stuff...

  15. #15
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    OK - I underdstand exactly how you read my answer to Manfred. Thank you for taking the time to explain.

    It would have been clearer for me to just write that I didn't understand what Manfred was getting at: and for me not use the words "No. not really. Well maybe"

    Thanks again,

    WW

  16. #16
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Not having an external flash (don't worry... saving my allowance) my lighting options/experience is academic at present.

    The book, "Digital Photographer's Handbook" by Tom Ang has a section where the same subject is shot in the same situation at the same focal length. All that changes from image to image is the lighting, which is described (along with a diagram) beside each image. It's really quite instructive and truly shows how each lighting change affects the final image.

    Thus far, and I admit to not having looked very hard, I haven't found a similar "tutorial" on the web. Those I have found often vary the subject/composition etc from shot to shot. While these examples are helpful, I don't honestly think they are as instructive as a series of photos where only the lighting is changed.

    Perhaps this could be an idea for a tutorial on this site?

    Regards
    Martin

    Edit:Correct typing mistrake.

  17. #17
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Hi Martin,

    Quote Originally Posted by CP140
    Thus far, and I admit to not having looked very hard, I haven't found a similar "tutorial" on the web. Those I have found often vary the subject/composition etc from shot to shot. While these examples are helpful, I don't honestly think they are as instructive as a series of photos where only the lighting is changed.

    Perhaps this could be an idea for a tutorial on this site?
    Have you seen these?
    Portrait Lighting with One Light: Introduction
    Portrait Lighting with Two Lights: Fill Light

    It took me a while to find 'em (and I knew they were here)

    Not sure if it is what you were after though.

    Cheers,

  18. #18
    CP140's Avatar
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    Re: Composition problems with a prime.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Hi Martin,



    Have you seen these?
    Portrait Lighting with One Light: Introduction
    Portrait Lighting with Two Lights: Fill Light

    It took me a while to find 'em (and I knew they were here)

    Not sure if it is what you were after though.

    Cheers,
    Thanks Dave... and yes I had seen those. They are instructive, but again I didn't find them as helpful as the images/diagrams/descriptions in the book I mentioned. I'd copy a page and post it, but that would be naughty...copyright etc.

    In any case... a bit academic for me with only the onboard flash to work with. Perhaps Santa will slip a nice external flash into my stocking this year..... HAH!?! Who am I trying to kid... no way I've that nice!

    Thanks

    Martin

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