Coming Soon, Carl Denham explores the explosive growth of film in the age of digital and explains why it may not be right for you. Compelling and enlightening, don’t miss this one.
Today we have Carl Denham back on the Lifestyles Desk with another installment of his informal series we’re now tagging “Advanced Techniques for the Universal Selfie”.
Today Carl offers various exciting and proven techniques to help the four eyed “Selfie” addict avoid those ugly reflections that often ruin their mugs.
If there’s one thing that makes your average photographer eat their liver it’s being tasked with photographing an individual who wears glasses.
Any time you have bright strongly sourced light, you have to consider the real possibility that the light source be reflected in the lenses of the eyewear worn by your subject (or yourself) and back to your camera or smart phone.
If this is a problem for highly skilled professional photographers it’s a nightmare for the committed “Selfie” addict, with multiple thousands of otherwise excellent efforts ruined every day.
As with everything in life when we have a problem in order to find a solution we must first understand that problem.
As this graphic demonstrates, it’s all a question of angles. Light follows a completely predictable path from source to subject to camera lens just like a ball follows a completely predictable path on the pool table when you ride the nine.
And it is that predictability that allows the professional photographer to avoid the bugaboo of glare by simple adjustments in the relationship between light source, subject and camera.
Now I say “simple”. Simple perhaps for the professional photographer who has control over all the elements of his shooting environment.
But not so simple for the “Selfie” King and Queen who often has no control at all and may be dealing with drunken if not outright hostile friends.
So let’s explore the options.
The most obvious solution is for the subject (be it you or others) is to remove the offending glasses.
That might be fine for somebody who alternates between contacts and analog glasses but maybe not for others.
Very often if somebody wears glasses full time that eyewear can be as much a part of their visual identity as the nose on their face.
Very often when asked to remove the glasses ( the subject be someone else or yourself) no one will be happy with the picture because it’s not going to look like the person as the world has come to know them.
That applies even when the person is ourselves.
So we reject that option out of hand.
The second option is to rearrange the relationship between the subject, the light source and the camera.
As we see in the accompanying photographs this can be quite an effective technique when it comes to avoiding reflections from eyewear. But this option is not without problems of it’s own.
It can be a royal pain to move cameras and lights around, especially if the setup revolves around more than one light source.
And arranging lights to avoid reflections may not give you the results you would like.
And of course if you’re shooting film which more of us are doing these days you won’t have the instant feedback of digital so you won’t even know if your adjustments are effective for days or weeks.
And finally this is time consuming and with the slap ‘n’ tickle nature of the “Selfie” time is not your friend here.
There is a another option that is much quicker, a trick the pros often use. Simply tilt the glasses on the head so the lenses are angled downwards.
Properly done the reflections will not hit the camera lens.
But still not the ideal solution as the glasses can easily look askew.
So what’s left?
What will work for us, quick and dirty and with minimal effort?
Perhaps the Bible can provide some inspiration:
“If your eye offend thee pluck it out.”
Now one saying we should pluck out eyes, but we CAN “pluck out” the lenses of eyewear thus remove the offending elements.
A procedure easily accomplished by some thumb pressure properly applied.
And as we see in this comparison photograph of Dorothy the Plastic Head, removing the lenses from our eyewear is an extremely effective method to avoid glare and reflections.
In fact without the lenses glare and reflections are impossible.
But like they say there’s no free lunch.
If you remove the lenses from your “real” glasses you may not be able to put them back.
Therefore I do not recommend that.
What I DO recommend is that all four-eyed “Selfie” addicts invest in one or more “burner” frames and remove the lenses from them.
For about $7 currently the “Selfie” addict should be able to find frames that match their own more or less.
I found serviceable frames two for $14 at Amazon.
I found several more at Zanni even cheaper and now carry a variety in my standard “Selfie” kit, always available and close at hand and thus always loaded for bear.
One final advantage of lens less frames, without the distortion of interceding glass, the eyes can really pop and as the Bible said:
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.”
So it is when the “eyes have it” with “Selfies” too.
A Carl Denham brand commentary
Coming soon, hot “Selfie” techniques for people with glasses.
Carl Denham on the Lifestyle Desk offers advanced tools and techniques guaranteed to avoid reflections and glare and bring out the beauty of the eyes without resorting to technical tricks and photoshop.
A Carl Denham brand commentary
Life is not always about politics and hating Donald J. Trump though it seems that way today.
There are some other important issues that may even be of greater consequence to the average American.
Today Carl Denham is at our Lifestyles Desk where he is opining about one of the more compelling issues of our time, the ubiquitous and ever-present “Selfie” and how this universal symbol of our age and aging can be transformed from all too often bottom drawer into a thing of at least acceptable quality.
I’ve noticed over the years that the problem with most “Selfies” is that they make even the most attractive people look much less so and some can be downright ugly.
That’s the big reason various “beauty filter” apps have been added to smart phones and the like, the smart phone in various configurations being the tool of choice for the “Selfie” generation
The problem with that technology is that increasingly while pleasing the end result can have very little in common with the original subject as far as an accurate representation of same.
Now we are seeing serious psychological distortion among otherwise sane and well-balanced folk, and frustrated “Selfie” addicts are breaking down the doors of plastic surgeons around the world demanding major facial reconstruction and dropping wads of hard-earned cash in the process in a vain attempt to force the reality of their mug to more closely match the ersatz physiognomy they are showing to the world via social media and dating apps.
Now that may be fine for the well-heeled who don’t mind pain but what about honest people of limited means who cannot afford the many thousands of dollars required for that nose job and chipmunk cheek reductions and enhancements to the eyes.
Not to mention those who would rather avoid becoming one of the many horror stories making the rounds of surgery breaking bad, with noses falling off and even the occasional fatal consequences.
Fortunately there are cheap and easy ways to improve the quality of any self-portrait, and without the need of technical tricks or gimmicks or a substantial outlay of Benjamins.
And best of all, the picture will look like YOU, so that Mr. or Ms. Right you scored on your on-line dating platform won’t necessarily bolt when they see you for the first time and in the flesh… you can put your days of hiding out in dark bars and candle lit eateries behind you forever.
There is no such thing as a free lunch of course so you will need to assemble a bit of inexpensive kit.
First out of the chute is a camera support of some sort.
As this illustration shows, this can be anything from a full size tripod to a gorilla pod that can be folded and carried in a pocket, even that “Selfie stick” you already have can be pressed into service if you spring for some rubber bands.
Next thing you need is a target. A Plastic Head like Dorothy here is the gold standard of course and can be found in great variety on Amazon for very little coin.
If you don’t want to spring for the Plastic Head ask your mother or grandmother if she will give you hers.
Women 50 and older were very big into wigs in their youth and they generally have a head or two stowed away somewhere … an attic, maybe a garage.
The advantage of the Plastic Head is that it allows a precision in both focus and framing that you cannot obtain by any other means.
The disadvantage of course is that you are apt not to have a plastic head with you when you need one, unless you are car tripping where an extra head can work magic avoiding fines when illegally using the HOV Lanes on your local Interstate.
And that case a little creativity will serve you well.
A plain paper bag for example can serve as an acceptable target as can an empty water bottle.
This time of year you might find a pumpkin or other fruit or vegetable that can be pressed into service, though not easily. I would not recommend using this pumpkin.
The last piece of kit is the picture taking machine.
While a dedicated camera guarantees Superior Results, more than likely all you’re going to have with you is your smart phone and that’s good enough for the average “Selfie”, at least dumbed down for posting on social media.
You will of course need a bracket so that you can mount it on your camera support. If you have a “Selfie Stick” you already have a bracket and if not they’re easily obtainable for a couple of coin.
You will also need a Self Timer app for your smart phone. This could be either free or at most a couple of coins depending on how much capability you want.
Technique is what is going to make or break your picture.
In terms of general principles exhaustive studies have demonstrated conclusively that no matter the camera, no matter the lens, no matter the settings people look their best when the camera is placed a little over 3 meters (10 feet) away from the tip of their noses.
Except with extreme wide-angle lenses 10 ft (a little over 3 meters) will give you an image without noticable distortion, especially the kind of distortion that makes many “Selfies” butt ugly by adding 5 to 10 pounds to the subject in addition to big noses and slack Jaws.
Cameras placed 10 ft (3 meters) from the subject completely negates any distortion and you are instantly ahead of the game.
Second principal. The camera should always be placed at least at eye level for skinny people and above eye level for those carrying a couple extra pounds.
Some Stellar Photographs can be taken from chin level and below but they are best left to the professionals because they rarely make people look their best in the hands of the average “Selfie” addict.
Finally there’s the question of light.
Light can make or break your portrait.
In fact it is the most critical part of the equation.
Of course we are talking about both the quality and quantity of light.
It goes without saying that you must have enough so your picture-taking device is not forced into High Gain mode. And the quality of such must emphasize the positive aspects of you and not the negatives.
Some basic rules, unless you want your “Selfie” to look like a mug shot, don’t expect the built-in flash to do much for you. They invariably suck.
And avoid light from directly above unless the raccoon or kangaroos looks appeal to you
Also avoid strong backlight … and full sun too.
A personal experience of mine illustrates the latter.
There used to be this famous actress named Cheryl Ladd ( no relation to Alan of “Shane” fame ).
Beautiful woman, her most famous role was when she played one of Charlie’s Angels probably. Her “white bikini” in “Angels in Paradise” was the stuff of legends
A number of years ago I handled photo duties during an interview with her at some farm up-country..
I don’t remember why we were there ( probably some environmental issue ) but I do remember Cheryl had several years on her since “Charlie’s Angels” and while she was still an exceptionally beautiful woman I could easily see some tiny age lines and crow’s-feet sneaking in.
Cheryl wouldn’t do the interview unless we did it in open shade. Reason being as a professional Cheryl knew that FEW men look good in full sun and women NEVER do (unless it’s a character study where you want to show the ravages of time for documentary work or whatever).
So take a tip from Cheryl. Unless it is the so-called Magic Hour right around sunrise or sunset, full sun should be avoided at all cost.
The other principle, strong backlight or a background that is much brighter than the subject will always result in substandard product.
The key is brightness balance between the subject and the background.
It’s actually better if the background is darker than the subject if you can manage that.
Disregarding the strobes these principles are encapsulated in this photograph
Use a target to frame and focus the shot.
Camera placement just over three meters ( 10 feet) from the subject, and above eye level.
Light on the subject sufficient in quantity to balance with the background.
You can see from these comparison shots of me ( Carl Denham )
that these principles apply equally be you inside or out.
Adherence to these basic principles are almost guaranteed to produce a result far superior to what your friends are able to accomplish and without the need for goofy filters and post processing tricks and gimmicks.
And most importantly without the need to spend thousands of dollars on potentially dangerous surgery that may or may not be successful in order to bring your physical appearance in line with that face you’re showing the world.
Is it worth the effort?
That of course is a personal decision but the thing to remember is that images live on the internet forever ( in theory anyway but not actually. But that’s a tale for another day).
Do you really want to be defined 5 10 20 years from now by your grand and great-grandchildren by some less than adequate pictures taken today in your prime after the ravages of age may have rendered you less attractive than you were in your youth?
That is something only the individual can answer but if you take care with your “Selfies” today they will certainly take care of you and your tomorrows.