Recommended Gear

The following is a list of gear I currently use and recommend.

Gear

Cameras

Primary – Nikon D600 

Lenses

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens

Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens 

Nikon 18-35mm f.3.5-4.5 Lens 

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 Lens

Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Lens

Flash

Alienbee B1600 Strobe 

Paul C Buff Vagabond Mini 

Yongnuo Speedlite YN560-II (6+)

Yongnuo 506N Flash Triggers (use as receiver)

Yongnuo 506N-II Flash Triggers (use as transmitter and receiver with both Yongnuo and Alienbee)

Nikon AS-15 Sync Terminal Adapter Hot Shoe To PC (use as backup with sync cord for Alienbee)

LumoPro LP633 Compact Umbrella Swivel with Variable Cold Shoe (x3)

Fstoppers Flash Disc

Westcott Pocketbox 8×12

Godox 32″/ 80cm Umbrella Octagon Softbox 

Phototek Softlighter

Westcott X Drop System

Fovitec StudioPRO 7’6″ Classic Light Stand Kit (x2)

Rosco The Strobist Collection, Strobist 55 Piece Cinegel Filter Kit

Black and White Foam-core

Various Sized Shoot Thru Umbrellas Ranging from 7 foot to very small portable sizes

Accessories 

Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod

Kirk B3 Ball Head

Kirk L Bracket for Nikon D600 

Manfrotto Super Clamp

Shurtape 672 Gaffers Tape 

Color Checker Passport

Rode Video Mic Pro

Software

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan including both Lightroom and Photoshop 

Rental Studios

LensProToGo

BorrowLenses

 

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Selling Your Unwanted Photography Gear

Since cameras and photography gear are constantly improving it is inevitable that you will eventually end up with gear that is now outdated and no longer wanted. Luckily there are several ways to sell your unwanted camera gear with ease.

B&H Photo is my preferred place to sell camera gear. They are one of the largest camera stores in the country. They buy camera gear and resell it both online and at their store in New York City. You simply fill out info on your gear and then mail your gear to them via UPS. They even cover the shipping. They buy your gear and you don’t have to wait for them to resell it to someone else for them to pay you. I recently sold a Sigma 20mm f/1.8 Lens to B&H for over $200. The entire process took a little under a month. The only downside is that because they are buying your gear to resell it you won’t get as much for your gear as if you were to sell it to someone who was going to use it. They are also not open on Jewish holidays.

Local camera stores are another option for selling used photography equipment. Unlike larger camera stores they probably won’t just buy your gear outright but instead will sell it on commission. The downside to this option is that your item can sit for a very long time without selling and the store usually takes a large cut of the final sale.

Craigslist or eBay can also be good places for selling used camera gear. The main advantage to one of these sites is that you can get higher prices because in most cases you will be selling directly to the person using the gear and not to someone who is trying to resell it for profit. If you live in an area with less people interested in photography eBay is probably the better option because it allows you to sell your gear nation wide. If you live in an area where there is a higher interest in photography equipment Craigslist is a good choice. The downside to this option is it is more work to sell. You’ll have to take photos of your gear, deal with the buyer, and take care of shipping.

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What can I do with broken photography gear? 

 

Cameras, lenses, and other photography gear are bound to break eventually. So what can you do with this broken gear? First you need to see how much damage has been done. Many local camera stores will give you quotes on how much it will be to repair various photography equipment. This will usually cost you a small fee of around $20 for the assessment. With cheaper cameras and lenses the cost to repair the will usually be higher than the original cost of the equipment. In these cases your broken gear can be sold to places like B&H Photo, which will resell them for parts. If the piece of equipment is worth getting fixed usually your local camera store will be able to fix it or get you in contact with someone who can.

 

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iPhoneography: Behind the Scenes

I have been shooting with an iPhone 5s since December 2013 and have shot enough good images with it that I’ve created a personal series iPhoneography. I always have my phone on me therefore I shoot quite frequently with my iPhone’s camera for both personal work (non commissioned photographs) and location scouting (looking for locations to photograph later).

 

Many great photographs can be made with smart phone cameras if you know the cameras limitations. Smart phones still can’t perform well in low light nor do they have good zoom capabilities. Also the largest prints I’ll make with my iPhone are around 8×10 due to the small sensor and megapixel count. As long as you shoot in situations with decent ambient light, get close to your subject, and don’t make large prints of your iPhone images it is a very convenient camera.

 

When shooting with the iPhone it automatically exposes the scene for you, which makes the camera easy to use but gives you less control over the images final exposure. The exposure can be tweaked to some extent with apps after the capture but exposures that are to far overexposed (to bright) or underexposed (to dark) are beyond fixing.

 

To focus you simply press the screen of your phone where you want the image to be in focus. You can’t get a shallow depth of field with the iPhones camera so most of the mages will be in focus. Your camera will have an easier time focusing on subjects with some contrast and texture. For example it will have a hard time focusing on a white wall but will easily focus on a tweet sport jacket.

 

Usually when I’m shooting I use the standard camera app on my iPhone but if I want a high contrast black and white look I’ll shoot with Contrast by Hornbeck. This free app shoots very high contrast black and white images. It is great for dramatic skies. You can also shoot things inverted for a unique effect.

 

I use several apps to enhance my photos on my phone. These apps are only helpful with images that are sharp and excessively grainy to begin with. Bad photos can’t be fixed with manipulation in apps. If your images are blurry or grainy it is probably from trying to shoot in to low of light which the iPhone’s camera can’t handle.

 

My go to app for basic retouching of iPhone images is VSCOcam. This app contains adjustments for exposure, color, contrast, sharpness, tonality, and easy black and white conversion. Almost all of the images in my iPhoneography gallery have went through some editing in VSCOcam.

 

Mextures is another app I use frequently. Mextures allows you to apply various textures and presets to your photos resulting in a wide variety of creative results.

 

Matter is one of my favorite apps. It adds various shapes to your images. You can control how this shapes react to the scene their being places in how the lighting hits them.

 

Hyperlapse is a great app for making time-lapse videos. Make sure you have your iPhone on a tripod or steady surface and a full battery before shooting these.

 

All of the images in my iPhoneography series are available as prints.

The series can be viewed here ryanwatkinsphotography.com/iPhoneography. Contact me for details about sizes available.

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5 Affordable Alternatives to Picture Frames

Framed prints look great but high quality frames can be very expensive. Luckily there are several more affordable alternatives to framing your prints.

Whether you are looking for some unique alternatives to framed prints from your portrait session or are a fellow photographer trying to find new ways to display your work this post should shed some light on unique photo products that are currently available to you.

Metal Prints with Float Mount

One of my most popular products is my ready to hang metal prints from Miller’s Professional Imaging. These are printed on aluminum and have a very glossy appearance. These look great for either black and white or color prints. On the back of the print is a “float mount” which allows you to hang it on a nail or screw. I offer metal prints in both my collections and a la carter menu. Miller’s also sells versions with stands as well. Other companies also offer acrylic and Plexiglas prints that hang in a similar fashion.

Wood Prints

I personally love wood prints from Woodsnap! These are printed directly onto wood and are ready to hang. These even come with screws. Woodsnap’s prints look beautiful especially with high key photos since the wood grain shows thru in all of the brighter parts of the image. These prints are a great compliment to a rustic interior. I offer wood prints in both my collections and a la carte menu. Woodsnap also sells stands for their prints as well.

Photo Books

Instead of having multiple small prints made I’d recommend getting a nice photo book instead. I personally use Miller’s Layflat books for my professional work. These allow you to print multiple images affordably while still retaining a very high quality print. I offer photo books in both my collections and a la carte menu.

Social Prints

If you’re like me and use Instagram a ton then you’ll love Social Prints! They let you print a wide variety of square prints, posters, magnets, and books specifically aimed towards Instagram users. Very affordable as well!

Ornaments

Nations Photo Lab offers very nice Christmas ornaments with your images printed on them. These can be great Christmas gifts!

Christmas Gifts for Professional Photographers

 

With the Holidays coming up I’ve already seen a ton of articles about the best gear and gifts for photographers for this Christmas. Buying something useful for a professional photographer for Christmas can usually be tricky especially if you don’t know much about the industry. Instead of wasting your money on some gadget they’ll never use try one of these options this year for the professional photographer on your list. Keep in mind these are geared towards professional photographers and not amateurs.

Gaffer’s Tape

There is probably a million different ways pro photographers use this stuff! Gaffer’s tape is a strong yet safe to stick to gear. Most photographers preferable color is black.

Apple Boxes

You can never have to many apple boxes! These can be used as a stool to pose clients, elevate Plexiglas in the studio, and a hundred or so other things.

Foamcore

Us professional photographers use foam core to create white and black cards that we use to bounce and subtract light from our subjects. Stick with white and black. This is best for studio photographers.

Gift Cards

Lastly gift cards to camera stores like B&H or Adorama are always a good gift choice. Also gift cards to print labs like Miller’s Professional Imaging, Nations Photo Lab, or Woodsnap can also be very beneficial. Nonchalantly asking which camera store or print lab they prefer before ordering is a good idea.

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The Basics of White Balance

The Basics of White Balance

White balance, which can also be referred to as grey balance or neutral balance, is the term used to describe the colors in a photograph. In most cases you want to adjust the white balance in your images so that neutral colors, grey, white, etc, look accurate and don’t have any blue, orange, green, or magenta color shifts.

White balance is measured in Kelvin. A lower Kelvin temperature, like 3000K, will result in cooler or bluer image. A higher Kelvin temperature, like 8000K, will result in a warmer or oranger image. Daylight and flash is measured somewhere around 5000K.

This is the same scene photographed at three different white balances (3000K,5000K, and 8000K respectively).

Different light sources give off different color light. For examples in the image below the tungsten lights inside the church give off a very warm light while the natural light outdoors during twilight gives off a very cold light.

The following three images are all lit by different light sources so different white balances are needed to get proper colors.

This image was shot later in the evening when the natural light was cooler so a warmer white balance of 17000K was needed to ensure proper colors.

The lights inside this church were warmer, so a cooler white balance of 3950K was needed for proper white balance.

Lastly this image was shot entirely with flash, which is similar to daylight in color, so white balance of 5100K was needed.

How to Get the Proper White Balance

Built In White Balance Presets

Many cameras have built in white balance presets like daylight, flash, cloudy, shade, tungsten, etc. Using these presents in the appropriate situation should get you close to the correct white balance. Auto white balance attempts to create accurate colors but is usually inaccurate.

18% Grey Cards

A more accurate way to get proper white balance is using a grey card. Most digital cameras will let you set the white balance manually by photographing something 18% grey. After shooting the grey card the camera can obtain the correct white balance from the image of the grey card. Your camera’s manual should tell you how to obtain a proper white balance by shooting a grey card. Grey cards can be bought fairly inexpensively from most camera stores.

You can also correct your white balance in post using either Adobe Lightroom or Capture One by clicking part of the image that is 18% grey with the eyedropper tool.

Color Checker Passport and Camera Profiles

The way I ensure my colors are always correct is by using a color checker passport. The color checker passport has several colored patches on it and after it is photographed it can be used to create color profiles that ensure the most accurate color.

First during the shoot I make sure to photograph the color checker every time my lighting changes. Next I import these images in Lightroom and change the images of a color checker to a DNG file. Next I move the DNG files to ColorCheckerPassport software where it creates a color profile from the image. After this is finished I go back to Lightroom apply the new color profile and then correct the white balance by taking the eyedropper tool and clicking on the 18% Grey square on the color checker. Creating color profiles then correcting the white balance will ensure the most accurate colors in your photographs.

Hopefully this article helped give you a basic understanding of white balance. If there are any other photography and retouching questions you have let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

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Behind the Scenes of the My Halloween Themed Shoot

 

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Back in October one of my favorite models, Cassi Gross, messaged me asking if I’d be interested in doing a “post-apocalyptic themed belly dance shoot” before Halloween. This is something you simply don’t say “no” to.

 

Before all of my shoots I like to go “location scouting” where I look for the most fitting location for the shoot. An abandon house, that my family owns, right down the road from me ended up being the perfect location for Cassi and I’s creepy Halloween shoot.

 

iPhone shots of the location taken earlier that day.

 

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To give the images that eerie Halloween look I knew they’d have to be tonally darker so we chose to shoot after dark and light it mostly with flash.

 

For the first shoot I had Cassi get into fully costume and climb into this abandon building. I had my Alienbee strobe with an umbrella to camera right just out of the shot. I was also on a tripod because I was using a slow shutter speed to pick up some of the subtle blue colors in sky in the background.

 

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For the next image I moved my flash into the building, removed the umbrella, and pointed it towards Cassi. This lit up the textured walls of the building and helped give Cassi’s mask shape. Both this image and prior required minimal retouching in Photoshop and Lightroom.

 

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The last image in this shoot involved lighting the craggily tree in the front yard. To light up all of the branches I’d have to do a composite, or combine multiple images into one using Photoshop. With more flashes this look would have been achievable without compositing. I attached my camera to my tripod and photographed three images with my flash in various locations lighting up the different parts of the tree.

 

The three images before retouching used to make the final composite.

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I later combined the three images in Photoshop. I used layer masks to reveal the parts of each image with the tree lit up the best. I also applied some sharpening, dodging, and burning to achieve the final product.

 

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We shot a few less successful images that evening before hearing something that we both thought was wolf. We freaked out and packed up only to realize once we listened closer to it that it was only an owl. We talked a bit longer before parting ways for the evening. A huge thanks to Cassi for the photo shoot idea and being willing to model for me again!

 

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How to Improve Your iPhoneography

 

I love to shoot with my iPhone! I bring it with me everywhere and the image quality is surprisingly good. I even have an entire series dedicated to images photographed with it. Here are some tips for how to get better images with your smart phone.

Use Editing Apps but with Caution

I use VSCOcam, Mextures, Matter, and Filmborn to edit my iPhone images. When used right these editing apps can really enhance your images, but some filters can look awful. Most of my iPhoneography will have sharpening and contrast adjustments done in VSCOcam. I personally try to avoid filters that make the colors look unnatural in most cases. In the end your filters should enhance the photo; you can’t save a bad image with a ton of filters.

Realize Your Camera Phone’s Limitations

Smart phones sensors don’t work well in low light. Night shots and indoor images at night probably won’t turn out well when shot on your phone. These will usually result in underexposed noisy images. When shooting with your phone try to stay in well-lit areas.

Another limitation of smart phone cameras is there low dynamic range. In laymen’s terms it can’t keep details in scenes with extreme lights and darks. An example of this would be a landscape with a dark foreground against a bright sky. Your phone’s camera would only be able to retain details in the shy or the foreground. The HDR feature on many smart phones can help with some higher contrast scenes. In many scenarios you’ll only have detail in either the lights or darks. Even lower contrast light ensures details throughout the image. Intentionally letting parts of the image go pure white of pure black can make for interesting images as well.

Zooming on the iPhone 5s is the same as cropping. This cuts down on the quality of the image. Instead of zooming walk closer to your subject if possible. Avoid cropping in to far on the images as well.

Understand Composition

Understanding composition is critical to creating any good image. Avoid distractions in the background. Try having things frame your subject or use leading lines to draw your viewer’s eye to the subject. Do some research on composition before you go out and shoot next.

Find Interesting Subjects

Regardless of your equipment images with interesting subjects always look better. Aim to find interesting subjects.

Experiment

I experiment with weird abstracted shots all the time. Sometimes these images work and sometimes they don’t. Play around and try to create something unique!

To see my latest iPhoneography follow me on Instagram @ryanwatkinsphotography.

 

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How to Photograph Fireworks

I usually have a lot of people ask me around this time of year how to take good photos of the Fourth of July fireworks. Here are some helpful tips so you can get some great images this weekend!

What gear to do you need?

You’ll need a tripod and a camera that has both manual focus and manual exposure. I love shooting with my iPhone but sadly this time it probably won’t cut it. An entry level DSLR or even a point and shoot camera with these criteria should work fine. Bring your phone or a flashlight to illuminate your camera so you can see all the buttons in the dark. Lastly remember to charge your batteries and bring plenty of memory cards.

Lens wise I usually bring my Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8. I like to switch between focal lengths to get a better variety of images. Also your location and proximity to the fireworks makes a big impact on what focal length you’ll be using as well. If you are farther away you’ll probably be using longer lenses. If you are closer you can get away with using wider lenses. Come prepared and bring a standard zoom and telephoto zoom lens.

What exposure should you use?

For fireworks you’ll need to use the Manual exposure mode on your camera. Finding the right exposure takes a bit of trial an error. I usually start with a 3 second exposure at f/11 at 100 ISO. Take a few tests shots and check your screen frequently to make sure your exposure is correct.

The longer exposure of 3 seconds makes it so the firework has time to explode so you get the trails. Shorter exposures will make the trails smaller. The opposite is also true that the longer exposure will make the trails longer.

The longer exposure makes your image more prone to increased noise so make sure to keep you ISO low. I usually shot at 100 ISO.

How do you focus?

Autofocus and fireworks don’t work well together. Just like auto exposure and fireworks don’t work well together. You’ll need to manually focus the image. The good thing is once you’re is in focus you won’t need to change it for the rest of the night if you stay in the same spot. Usually with fireworks you’re fairly far away so the correct focus is a little bit before infinity. Manually focus once the fireworks start.

How do you time the best firework shot?

To prevent blur I not only shoot on a tripod but also use a two second timer. This prevents the image from getting blurry because of me touching the camera. To time the perfect firework shot I press the shutter approximately 2 or 3 seconds before the firework explodes.