Five Photography Tips: Jason Lykins
Cincinnati-area photographer Jason Lykins is mostly known as a portrait artist, but provides many types of photography to a variety of clients. He recently was kind enough to share some of his insights with readers of the PocketWizard blog. Be sure to check out his links at the end of his installment in our on-going series, Five Photography Tips.
1. Move! Moving is the most important thing you can do in photography. Forget settings, f/stops, aperture, and ISO, etc. Forget about all of that. When you change your position. When you crouch down to shoot lower, or when you climb up to shoot from above, you are creating drama. You are creating a view the person looking at your image isn’t used to seeing. This will make your image more compelling. This applies to every type of photography, but since I specialize in portrait photography I find it especially pertains to people. Often times when I shoot portraits I start by shooting standing up at eye level with the subject. This gets them comfortable with me, and allows me to build a rapport with them. I then switch to a lower shooting angle. Usually I am on one knee or sometimes even as low as shooting from my stomach. Shooting from a lower position does multiple things. On women it can elongate their legs making them appear to be taller than they really are. On Men, shooting from lower often times gives the sense of power. For both men and women shooting from a lower angle gives a feeling of dominance in the photograph. Of course there are many, many more advantages from shooting from down low, so try it out and I guarantee your images will become more interesting. On the flip side, positioning yourself above your subject will thin them down. If your subject is larger, shooting from above will make then appear to be skinnier. When they lift their chin to look at the camera it stretches the neck and eliminates double chins. Again there are many, many more advantages to shooting from above, so give it a shot to see what it does for your perspective.
2. Take the time to get it right in the camera. So often I hear people say “I’ll fix it in post.” I hear this and think to myself, “why would they want to spend countless hours in Photoshop, to fix something they could fix in 2 seconds before they take a shot?” If there is a tree/pole/some other inanimate object sticking out of your subject’s head, just move your subject or shooting angle (refer to tip #1). Another example of this is when people say they’re not worried about mixing light colors because they’re shooting in RAW and they’ll just fix it in post. Here’s the deal, RAW is a wonderful thing, and I shoot in it exclusively, however, if half of your subject is lit with a warm (say 3200K) light from a lamp or other tungsten light, and the other half of your subject is lit with a non gel’d flash (around 5500K) “fixing” that in Photoshop is going to be tedious and time consuming. All it would take is placing a CTO Gel on your flash to match the light output of the tungsten lamp and the lighting is even. Why make more work for yourself than you have to? Of course these are just two examples of that mindset. My advice to you? Spend the time to get it right in the camera and you will thank yourself in post-processing.
3. Everyone says, “Know your camera.” We’ve all heard that before, but how about know your flash? It is equally, if not more important to know how your flash system works. Today’s flash systems are becoming just as complex as the camera systems they attach to. Evidence of this can be seen in PocketWizard’s FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 units. Understanding these flashes is the key to quality and consistent lighting. Know how to quickly adjust power, how to control them wirelessly (if equipped), and how to modify them to create the best quality of light possible. Knowing the capabilities of your flash units, whether they’re small speedlights or big studio strobes will help you accomplish your creative goals and keep you from blowing a shot because of an improper setup.
4. Take on personal projects. If you are a professional, you probably have felt like me at some point in your career. You are shooting day in and day out for a client who (usually) has a very specific goal, or direction they want the photographs to go in. That direction isn’t always as creative as you’d like, or what you would have done if it were you calling the shots, so take on personal projects. Even if you’re not a professional, there is no better way to improve your photography than “assigning yourself” a project. Decide what you’re going to do, and shoot it for yourself. Get back to why you decided to be a photographer in the first place. A few personal projects I have done in the past have been close up portraits (just the face or eyes and nose), all-black and white images of people wearing black or white, all one light images (images shot with only one speedlight or studio strobe), etc. The key is to pick a theme, set a project due date, and stick to it. This will make you stick to the project, and stay focused.
5. Try new things! I can’t stress this enough. If you do the same thing over and over again, your photography will never grow. If you always put your main light source on the subject’s left, try placing it on the right. If you’re always doing standard three light portraits (two in the front and a hair light) try a two light setup for more dramatic shadows. Go outside of your comfort zone. It’s the only way to advance yourself as a photographer. I am constantly learning and trying new things. I am constantly trying to find ways to set myself apart from the rest of the pack. Often times I fail. The things I try don’t always work, but sometimes they do, and those times make the experimenting worth it. My advice is this, shoot your “bread and butter” shots first. Do the shots you know, and have done in the past. Make sure you get enough to CYA, and then try something new. Try something that breaks the rules, something you’ve never done before, but that you think would produce a cool look. If it doesn’t work, no big deal because you already have your shots you know you nailed.