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A big hi and hello to all of you out there! Thank you for stopping by Jenny Sun Photography's blog! This is my brand new blog space! So please make yourself at home, and have a good browse around. There is plenty more to come so check back often :) Just in case any of you are wondering who on earth I am, my name is Jenny Sun. I own a photography company that spans across Australia and Malaysia, particularly in the Sydney and Kuala Lumpur regions respectively. Though I'm not restricted to those areas! :) I love photographing just about anything under the sun, but my particular passion is for weddings and portraits - I seriously LOVE people, their stories, the beautiful relationships formed, and the tales that are told when that shutter goes off!

This blog is my personal and visual journey along this path of photography. Please hop on board the ride, comment along the way (I shamelessly love comments!), and lets see where the wind takes us :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

FAQ: Lights, Camera, Action!

I'm still on the road and/or running around shooting in between it all!! I know, I miss my own bed, the regularity of being able to see the clock chime past the same numbers as I open my eyes each morning, and in essence be a homebody. I want to get my hands all grubby in that domestic goodness, and soak in all its peaceful glory for a good long week or two!

Anyhow...since I can't, and because I love you and my blog way too much to starve it, here's an entry for the component that won the largest number of votes in our recent poll (which you can still vote in!!) And WOW, have we had an influx of FAQs come into our inbox this past week or two! Thank you SOOOO much to all of you who have written in. Our inbox has been so nice and fat because of all your lovely messages :) So please don't stop sending in those questions every time one pops into your head! Not only will you be helping yourself, but probably alot of other photographers out there who may be thinking or wanting to know the same things! Whenever you do have the urge to raise a hand and ask something, just drop us a line at with 'FAQ' as the subject line and we'll add it to the FAQ vault for our next post!  :) We'd love to hear from you! Otherwise, we'd have nothing to answer and that would just be sad because then I would have to stop writing these type of entries!! :)

So, without further ado, here goes! 3 Random questions we picked out of the bunch this week:

(1) LIGHT:
Do you use strobes or reflectors when shooting? Especially when shooting against the sun. 
If not, how do you manage to get the exposure just right?

No, I don't use a single strobe or reflector at all when I shoot outdoors. I am what I like to call a 'light and fast' shooter, meaning the less I have on me, the happier I am when I am snapping away. At very most, I will work with just 2 lenses during a session and nothing else. The more I have to carry, the more it burdens me and which restricts how I think and what angles I can put myself in. And when shooting against the sun, with those backlit photos, I will usually meter for the face, and then adjust accordingly. I shoot entirely in manual mode and completely wide open, and then do some minor curves adjustment in post production. When I am shooting backlit, I often don't care or don't mind if SOME of the sky is completely burnt out because my focus is on the couple's face and interactions in my photos anyway. I am more interested in how the light falls on them, than how 'pretty' the background is. The most important thing about backlit photos is choosing the quality of light. Obviously you are not going to get pretty backlit photos if you are shooting in the middle of the day without a single shade component (eg: trees, building, etc) in a place like a dessert or an open field because the light is not directional... its high above and you will have no shadow. Best to wait a little for a time when the sun is a little lower. I know we don't always get the choice of time to shoot, so in another FAQ or when I decide to run my workshop, I can show you how to shoot in yucky light :)

Just a tip: when shooting outdoors backlit, it is often hard to tell on the LCD screen whether you have the exposure correct. What APPEARS to be a well exposed photo, is often almost always overexposed once you come back and download the photo to your computer. I often find that the ones that are properly exposed are the ones that look slightly underexposed on the LCD screen. Best to read your histogram to really tell for sure and be totally accurate, but I can talk about that in another FAQ if anyone is interested. 

I have noticed that you said you generally use your 1.2 and shoot wide open. I dont have a 1.2, but I do have a 1.8 and everytime I try to shoot at 1.8 i get the focus point in focus, but everything else is out of focus (ie - the eye is in focus, but the ear is foggy, or 1 person in focus, one not). I know the 1.2 is a much better piece of glass than the 1.8, but I dont understand how lowering the f-stop would fix my problem.
 Is there a trick I'm just not getting?

Shooting wide open can be tricky when you are first starting to try it, huh? :) But don't worry it isn't as hard as alot of photographers like to think. I know alot of photographers freak out because shooting wide open means less sharp images (not true! Calibrating your lens and/or investing in a good lens helps in this regard!). Before I had a 1.2 lens, I was shooting at 1.8, 2.0, and 2.8 for most of my photos and even at those apertures, I was experiencing the same dilemma as mentioned above! Until I learnt a term called 'same plane of field', and distance.

To get your subjects in focus and tack sharp, they need to be both/all equally distant from your camera. If one person is a little further back or forward, you will notice the person that is further/closer to your camera will be out of focus. HOWEVER, you will also notice that the further and further you move from your subjects, the distance between your subjects (ie. the subject that is closer/further away from you, and the subject which you have locked focus on) won't be so noticeable, or noticeable at all! :) You can try it at home out in the garden/backyard. Put two chairs on the grass. One a little further back than the other. Start your first couple of shots close up to the chair. You'll notice that the chair further back is very out of focus (this is if you are shooting wide open). Then take several steps back. You'll then notice that the chair behind is still out of focus, but not as blurry as before. Take several more steps back and keep repeating the steps. You'll notice that the further back you are, the more in focus the chair behind looks :) Until both kinda look sharp! :)

Same goes if you are shooting people :) Oh and for the eyes thing, I gather thats when you are shooting up close for makeup and head shots, shot from the side. I find the best angles to do that are when you are shooting straight in front of the subject, or completely 90 degrees from the subject so you don't see the blurry eye. Otherwise, move a little further back :)

Eg: With the below shot from Loren and Josh's wedding, I shot it at a slight angle and slightly elevated. I kept moving my camera back until both lashes were somewhat in focus. 

I know alot of you are asking about post production and what I do. I'd love to give a single response and say that is the magic black and white rule to get all your images looking like that, but post production is sooooo much like cooking. Its a delicate process, and requires adding or subtracting to taste as each photo is different. You'll need to add different ingredients in different amounts depending on light, or colour, and so on. So, I guess the best way I can think of to help in this regard is just to share with you my own recipes I've made for certain images in the hopes that it might inspire you to try your own recipes, or help you create the finished look you are after :)

Today's image was created by using Kubota's awesome set of actions. There are several volumes of actions you can choose from but I'll let your wandering and curious eyes do the shopping and picking, not me :)

(a) Shoot a photo with some kick-ass light!
(b) Inject it with some curves adjustments
(c) Kubota actions: Daily multivitamin + Punch lite + 81K warming

Alright peeps! That's all from me for today! Remember to keep sending in those questions (or at least check one of the reaction boxes below otherwise I'll have to stop writing these entries because I'll start to think I'm boring and that I totally suck in your eyes, and that would make me sad :) Have a beautiful weekend!!


geminie said...

Hey Jenny :)

Awesome FAQ post! It's little tips like this that I love reading about and putting to use. I'm getting better at shooting wide open.. but still hate when I get one eye in focus and one not...

PicturesByTracy said...

Jenny, You are so generous with your behind-the-scenes info! I just adore your photography and you! Thank you for the for the inspiration week after week.

jazzmint said...

jenny, thx for the faq, especially that 2nd i know why :P

Gina Meola said...

Very informative! Thanks for sharing : )

lauren said...

Ta again, Jenny -you rock.

lv said...

thanks jenny for sharing this info esp on #1 & #2. i would definitely love to read more of this kinda post :-)

Louis said...

Thank you Jenny for your handy tips. Hope to see more of these in the near future...
Love your photos!!!

tammeegoreng said...

Hey jen!! love your FAQ, number 2 REALLY helps!!!

Regarding no.1, would love to hear what you have to say about "Yucky light" and reading the histogram.

Also, what lens do you typically bring along with you if you're only carrying 1 or 2 lenses? Do you find it hard to shoot using 1 prime in tight spots?

Thanks :) Tammy

RaymondC said...

Great Tips !!! And thank you for sharing :-)

Johan Sopiee said...

thank you so much for sharing, Jenny. i'm taking your advice and reading the forums.. my mind boggles with so much info now. cheers!