I received a phone call the other day from a previous workshop attendee named Craig Quartz. He called to tell me a quick story about his last Meetup Group in Portland, Oregon where he was asked to share his top-ten tips for photography. While presenting to the group, he listed off a number of tips on exposure, exposing for the highlights, focus, and composition.
After finishing his tips, everyone in the room room yelled out, “What about Vertizonical!?” For the last number of years, he’s been sharing his favorite tip called Vertizonical to anyone in the club who would listen, but he neglected to mention it to the Portland Meetup group that night, so they all yelled it out in unison! Craig first learned this made-up term from me a few years ago at one of my workshops and now he shares it with anyone who will listen. I was talking about photographic composition and I made up the term vertizonical on the spot during the class. Obviously, the term stuck around!
Vertizonical is simply an approach to help you remember to always take both vertical and horizontal images of each scene you photograph. This discipline of shooting vertical and horizontal allows you the most options when you are editing your images back home after your photo shoot. It is much easier to take another 30 seconds in the field to shoot a different orientation than it is to try and do some industrial Photoshop work on your computer to create a composition that you never produced.
Look at these photo examples from Galapagos in this blog post. Many of the images from this volcanic landscape are austere and dramatic. I love the challenge of creating compelling landscapes in difficult locations. While on the location, I work hard to compose my imagery in the best way possible. Even so, I’ve found over the years that I’m hardly ever the best judge of my compositions while I’m on location because my emotion takes over and due to the thrill of just being there.
Years ago, I was so confident, that I just “knew” that a specific composition was perfect as soon as I saw it. Unfortunately, I’d get home from my shoot and wish I had more options to choose from. Now that I’m older and wiser and more disciplined, I take the time in the field to shoot almost all my scenes vertically and horizontally.
Since I’m a professional photographer, this approach pays off financially for me in various ways.
– My book publishers often need images in a specific orientation for layouts.
– A commercial client needs a specific orientation for their brochures.
– A portrait customer needs a specific orientation for a wall display.
Shooting both verticals and horizontals of all my subjects helps me make more sales and reduces the amount of work I have to do in post-processing.
So, the simple summary is to shoot vertical then shoot horizontal. Vertizonical!
We are headed to the Galapagos again this year and we’d love to have you along on the adventure. Check out our workshop page for more details at Visual Adventures Workshops.
Nikon released a bunch of new firmware updates for many of their cameras today. The firmware updates provide support for the new 800mm f/5.6 as well as improve a variety of things like autofocus, color rendition, miscellaneous errors, and live view functionality. Here are the links to update your camera’s firmware:
D600 Firmware C1.01
D800/D800E Firmware A1.01, B1.02
D4 Firmware A1.05, B1.03
D3s Firmware A1.02, B1.02
D3x Firmware A1.01, B1.02
D3 Firmware A2.03, B2.03
D7000 Firmware A1.03, B1.04
D3200 Firmware C1.01
1. Here’s a link to my downloadable PDFs for the Nikon cameras (D4, D800, D7000, D3, D3x, D3s, D300, D300s, D700, D90, D80, D2x, D2H, D70). I’ll have the D600 guide ready to go in the next week.
2. A few alternative resources for setting up your camera:
a. Moose Peterson’s Nikon D4 settings. http://www.moosepeterson.com/blog/2012/04/09/d4-settings-the-long-form/
b. www.dpreview.com always has good reviews of the cameras with opinions and menu settings summaries.
c. Ken Rockwell does camera reviews including his recommendations for settings. Here’s his Nikon D4 settings file as an example. http://kenrockwell.com/nikon/d4.htm
A pastor friend of mine says that we should always be ready to “preach, pray or die.” These are wise words and I think about them often. The statement implies that no matter where you are, you should always be ready to perform. He tells a story of a young American couple working for an NGO in India. They went to a church service there and the congregation asked them to lead the church in singing songs. Neither of the two Americans had ever led music before, but they just smiled and said yes. They were ready and willing!
Us photographers should also always be ready to give our 100% and produce excellent results at a moment’s notice. Here’s an example that happened to me a couple days ago where someone needed a photo job done ASAP.
On Monday of this week, I received a phone call at 12:30 pm from a friend, calling to see if I could take some head shots for her daughter. They were working with a talent agent to get a modeling job for a new product advertising campaign, and needed some images for her file.
The conversation went like this:
Mother, “Hi Mike, do you have time to take some head shots of my daughter?”
Me, “Of course. When?”
Mother, “Today about 2:45 pm.”
Me, “Umm … ok. I have a little bit of time this afternoon. What are they for?”
Mother, “They are for an advertising job that my daughter is trying out for. We need to create an 8×10 and send it to her agent.”
Me, “How quickly do you need the final images?”
Mother, “The agent needs the head shots by 3:30 pm.”
Me, “Ok. See you at 2:45!”
So, I quickly set up a studio in an open space of my home where we would shoot the images. I decided to use a Lightbox, umbrella, reflector, small diffusion box and a combination of black and white backgrounds. You can see the studio setup below. I used the Nikon Creative Lighting System, so simply set up Nikon SB flashes in each of the light modifiers. The Commander flash was a SB-900 and the remotes were SB-600, SB-700 and SB-800 flashes. I decided to use a Nikon D7000 with Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 for the portraits.
The mother and daughter arrived right at 2:45 pm and we talked quickly about what they needed for the photos. They said they were after simple backgrounds and just needed head shots, not full-body shots. We shot the first group of images with a white background and kept the daughter’s hair down.
A few minutes later, we changed the backdrop to black and had the daughter put her hair up for a different, more youthful look. In all, we took about 40 shots with the white background and 40 shots with the black background.
After shooting 80 pictures, we ran to my computer system to download the RAW files and make quick selections. I used Photo Mechanic for rating/selecting images and we all agreed on one image to send to the agent (we chose the image with her long hair and white background). Next, I brought the picture into Photoshop to quickly retouch her skin and face, then I cropped it as an 8×10 and sent it off via email at exactly 3:30 pm.
Whew! 45 minutes from start to finish. We made it just in time.