Category Archives: photography

Trying to get a good head shot

Tim Sanders blogged about the importance of having at least one really good picture. It’s true: a good head shot adds a dash of personality to blogs, slide decks, corporate directory profiles, and everything else that forms part of your personal brand. If you don’t have a picture on your blog yet, think about adding one! Besides, photos tell stories. =) Here’s the story behind my current profile pic:

Last January, a colleague asked me for a high-resolution head-shot that would be included (along with something I said) in one of their annual reports. I no longer had the high-resolution version of the profile picture I was using at the time. Besides, I’d taken that picture myself in 2005 using a point-and-shoot camera and my desk lamp (you can see the ceiling of my dorm room at Graduate House!), and it was definitely time for a change. But where was I going to find a low-cost photographer on a Friday evening?

Right next to me, apparently. I asked W- to take my picture. It was a good opportunity to try the 50mm lens he got me for Christmas. We’d both read plenty of photography books, so we knew that we needed a plain white wall near a window with good light. The only suitable one was the wall directly across the bathroom, so W- set up the tripod across the threshold and I quickly put on some foundation and tucked my hair into a bun.

The window light was coming from my right, and the shadows were a little too dark. I tried turning this way and that, but I couldn’t turn too far towards the light because my face would then be at the wrong angle. The tripod was stuck in the doorway and we couldn’t move it further. Hmm…

Fortunately, reading books on photography and blogs like Strobist gave us the confidence to try a little lighting. W- had splurged on an external flash unit, though, and we put that to good use. J- got conscripted into holding the large white sheet of paper that was our reflector, and we bounced the light off that in order to fill in the shadows. W- also fiddled with the manual-focus lens until he felt that things were reasonably in focus. (Apparently, it’s hard to get the eyes sharp when the subject’s giggling too much because of the art direction and the assistant’s antics.)

Naturally, J- wanted her picture taken too. (I remember some particularly good zombie-J pictures from this session.)

I was still breaking out in lots of pimples at the time, so I edited the most promising picture in Gimp in order to tone down the distracting bits. I didn’t think I could do anything about my teeth (short of braces–tried them, couldn’t stand them), so I left those alone. Anyway, I ended up with a profile picture that made me happy and taught all of us a little more about playing with light.

My picture’s nowhere near as awesome as my mom’s, but that’s because my dad’s a professional photographer. I’d love to practice taking portraits of friends, and once we either have that yard sale or put all the extra stuff away, maybe I can have people over again… =)

Taking portraits of people

Ian Irving was kind enough to not only introduce me to a wonderful little cafe (Lou’s Coffee Bar at Runnymede and Annette) and share his insights on consulting and tech evangelism, but to also sit for a portrait by this amateur.

Good side-lighting. Yay dimples. =) I also like the background – the
exchange bookshelf at the cafe. I cropped this one really tight, which
improved the composition a bit.

Next time I take a picture, I’ll spend a little more time trying to
make sure it’s in focus.

Not bad for a quick shot, though. =)

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Food photography attempt

That’s what we had for Thanksgiving dinner. I borrowed W-‘s camera to
take the shot, as his was already all set up. This picture used the
room light and an external flash unit placed diagonally in front of
the pan. I like how the background is nice and soft, the roast is
detailed, and the mashed potatoes are cheery but not overwhelming.

If I could shoot this picture again, I’d add another flash behind the
roast in order to add more definition. I’d also find a way to minimize
the shadow cast by the front edge of the pan, perhaps by raising the
front-diagonal flash or increasing the toplight. I’d get rid of that
sprig of whatever that is in front of the lamb, too. I’d also increase
the depth of field by changing apertures so that more of the roast is
in focus.

W- and I enjoy cooking and taking pictures of food. We usually have
time to get a few shots in before hunger sets in. <laugh>

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Learning how to shoot

Yesterday, my dad took me along on his Manila skyline shoot. He talked
the condominium administrator to let him take pictures from the
helipad on the 42nd floor; him, and the ten other photographers he
invited! I tagged along to bond with my dad and to carry equipment.
It was fun.

That was the *best* view I’d ever seen. It was a clear day and we
really could see forever, from the mountains and hills near Antipolo
to the oceans beyond the bay. Because we were on a helipad, there was
that feeling of nothing being between you and the rest of the world.

I shot people more than I shot landscapes, though. It’s easier to tell
stories with people. For example, I got a few good pictures of my dad
telling people stories over halo-halo. What a place to eat halo-halo!
With an unobstructed 360′ view of the Manila skyline and everything…

So yesterday, I learned how to shoot with an SLR. I discovered the
thrill of seeing a picture in your mind’s eye and figuring out how to
make it real. Today, my dad got me a point-and-shoot camera that’s so
much better than my current camera. I’ve been trying it out by taking
pictures of my patient and long-suffering cat. I’m looking forward to
using it for portraits…

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