Monday, December 20, 2010

New eBooks and Website!

Today I launched my new website for photography education, and announce the availability of four eBooks on the Amazon Kindle platform.

New Website

The website is called, and will become the central point for my education and training products and services.  I purchased the domain last week, and just built the website from a nice clean template.  It still needs work, but it's a good bare-bones website, and it is giving me experience in the HTML world again!

Photography eBooks

I published four eBooks over the last week, all available at in the Kindle section:

I'll be listing my upcoming seminars and other activities on the website, and will be adding a few more eBooks over the holidays.  Please check them out and let me know your thoughts!

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Photography Classes

In January, we'll be offering our new Winter Series on Adventures in Photography. Set in three Saturday sessions in January 2011, we'll teach the new camera owner how to master the digital SLR camera, lighting, and editing.
The three sessions are $39 each (for four hours of instruction), or $99 for all three sessions.
For my blog members, I'm offering an early bird special of $79 if purchased before December 22nd. That's 12 hours of instruction for an incredible price!
These classes make wonderful gifts for the camera lover in your family, especially if they (or you) receive a camera from Santa!
If you would like a nice certificate to present as a gift, you can contact me and I will print and mail it to you or the lucky recipient.
This is a great way to learn more about photography. For more information on the seminars, click here.
Order soon - class sizes are limited!

And for those of you more experienced: I'm going to offer a "Going Pro: Boot Camp" series in February if there is interest.  This will be tough, hard, challenging, interesting and *very* beneficial to the photographer just breaking into the business. Contact me if you are interested.  While it will cost more than these intro seminars, it will be 2-3 Saturdays full of intense hands-on experience, designed to make you ready to break into the business of professional photography!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tech Update: Radio Poppers and Wedding Photography

I have grown to love my Poppers and flashes.  I now travel with three Canon flashes: one 580 EX2 on the camera to drive it all, and a 430 EX and 580EX2 remote as slaves.  These are all driven with RadioPoppers, which allow full TTL control of the lights.

For outdoors (wedding groups, families, seniors), I usually use one remote flash.  But I'll sometimes use two, for main and fill, especially when fighting a bright back sky, or in a very dark room.

I have two Lumiquest 6x9" softboxes that stick on the front of the flashes, and that helps to soften the impact a bit.  I also have gels that will tweak the light, though I'll admit I'm not great at using them yet. 

I have also made the switch to the new high-power rechargeables.  I chose the Sanyo Eneloop batteries, because they come out of the box charged, don't lose their charge over time, and are rechargeable for over 1000 cycles.  I have 6 sets (4 each) of AA's (for the flashes) and 3 sets of AAA's (for the Poppers). I can get a whole wedding day (that's hundreds of shots) from one set of everything - though I'd burn through them if a lot of the shots were outdoors in daylight.  I just recharge everything Sunday morning for the next week.

Here's a good example of the kind of impact I'm getting with the remote strobes.  The images were taken at a local ballroom, noted for high ceilings and very dark lighting conditions for receptions.  I work here often, and struggle to get good reception exposures.

As you can see in the first image, there's very little "kicker" light from my flash, which was working hard to bounce off of the ceiling 30 feet above me.  While technically clean, the result was a longer exposure at high ISO, with some grain and little separation on the subjects.

The next image has essentially the same shooting angle and subjects.  This night also had some kicker lights on the walls adding a purple stripe and some color interest, but no real added illumination.  In this case, I put a 580EX2 to camera left (behind the bride) on a stand at 6 feet high, with the 6x9" soft box.  It provided a nice kick on the wedding dress and separated the subjects from the room.

I'm now working on developing the placement of two or more strobes in the reception halls to provide the light kick to work at lower ISO's and higher speeds, but still provide some great directional light.  The balance is in choosing the right color and levels to blend with the ambient, so the subjects are not fully lit by the strobes, but nicely highlighted by them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Radio Poppers Outdoors

I, like many intermediate pros, have struggled to balance background with subject exposure.  Two years ago it was bare 430 flash on my Canon camera.  Last year it was the same flash with a modifier, but still the front light and flatness.

This year it's the RadioPoppers powering a remote 430 flash on a stand, commanded by the 580 flash on my camera, which contributes no light to the exposure.  The 430 has been hitting an umbrella, or bare light.  In these shots, it's naked bulb.

I start by metering for the background less sun, backing off a bit and setting WB to flash.  Then I dial in the flash exposure comp on TTL to give me the right exposure on the remote fired 430. I'm usually at about ISO 100, 1/250 sec, and F/5.6 to F/8.  And the flash comp is +2 or so.

In the first image, the flash is a bit weak (being 15-20 feet away), but still works nicely.  In the second case, it is clearly off to camera right at about 10 feet, and casts a nice shadow off to the left.  I push the Saturation quite a bit at sunset time, and this image came off well.

My main gripe with the Poppers is their appetite for AAA batteries.  Tonight I had to rob from my little LCD flashlight to get the sunset session to work.  If you keep batteries in the poppers, they will die on their own.  Especially the transmitter.

But overall I'm getting more comfortable with the Poppers and I think they will do very well for me.  Especially when I power one more flash so I can do rim and main light for individuals and couples after dark. I'll be honest that when shooting alone, I punt and go for the camera mounted flash, but with an assistant and out of wedding mode, I tend to play more.  By the end of this season, I think I'll have it right!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gels on Backgrounds

Today I set up a new background from Backdrop Outlet, and a new Gel setup from AlienBees.

The gel holder fits on my AB400s and I purchased a whole bunch of gels.

It's amazing how well they color a background.  I'll definitely use these with Seniors and Dance.

Next thing I need is a better model!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Erie Photography Seminars: Adventures in Photography

Today we are launching a series of hands-on seminars for new or developing photographers.  Entitled "Adventures in Photography Level 1: Summer Series", we are offering a weekly 2-hour seminar designed to give a broad base of experiences and skills to those wishing to learn more about the technical and artistic side of photography.

All you need to join is a digital SLR with at least one lens, and a desire to learn and grow as a photographer.  We'll provide the material, subjects and experiences to let you produce better images.

Topics include the following (and much more):
  • Digital SLR setup
  • White balance
  • Photographing people, pets, landscape and small items
  • Camera setups for difficult situations (dark rooms, etc.)
  • Image editing and use of websites to share and critique images
Sessions are $30 each, or $200 for the entire series of 8 sessions.  Discounts are available to current and past customers of John Huegel Photography, Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership members, PPA or WPPI members and people over the age of 65.

To register for the class, send us an email here.

We hope you join us!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Low Light Shooting

I have had both personal and professional reasons to shoot with no flash in a low indoor light situation lately. Of most import was my daughter's graduation. She was speaking and I wanted to get a crisp image of her at the podium.

I have the Canon 7D which has very good performance at the ISO3200 range. I set the camera up for incandescent White Balance, ISO3200 and I took some test shots with people to determine the best exposure, which I set at Manual, 1/250 sec at f/2.8. The resulting images were crisp but with nice blur on the background, and good exposure and white balance.

Interestingly, I coached another graduate's mom whom I knew on setting up her camera for the same situation. We'll see how her images came out. I know her lens was not as fast, but even at 1/50 second, a good image often results from a stage image.

I often shoot wedding reception or community event images in similar settings, and the challenge is always how to balance any added light with ambient. I have gelled strobes and on camera flash, which often works, but it's tough to get the color right.

The first person that invents an inexpensive color meter and corresponding flash adjustment set to balance off camera flash with ambient will make a killing in the wedding market.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Canon 7D, Low-light

I just got my 7D and am comparing it to my 50D and getting ready to use it in a wedding tomorrow.

Here are some test shots. I ran the camera up to ISO3200 as I often shoot in dark reception halls and prefer little or no flash. I think they will come out pretty good.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

RadioPopper Test

I am learning my Radio Popper protocol in prep for my weddings and senior sessions this summer. I'm firing a Canon 430 EX remotely using poppers and a 580 flash on my 50D.

Here's a series of images from about 20 feet to around 400 feet. The flash is firing nicely in bright daylight.

It's off camera right just in front of the subject.

I think I'm going to dig my Poppers. One more flash and transmitter for rimlighting and I'm set!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dance Photography in Action

This weekend I continued my springtime Dance Photography activities. Here are some images of my studio and me at work.
We were shooting against a plain black background to highlight the dancer and the costume.

Working with a main and fill in front and 2 grids to the back for rimlighting, we were able to capture some great images of this dancer in mid-leap.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Product Review: Paint Shop Pro X3

I have to admit I'm a Corel Paint Shop Pro (PSP) user. Since version 5, I have used the product. It has kept pace with Photoshop in many respects, and has some specific advantages over it in other cases, in particular, a great set of cosmetic editing tools for facial retouching.

I have used version 12 "PSP X2" for the last year and had good fortune with it. Some of my earlier feedback on that product was its lack of pre-editing work flow - you know, you get 750 photos and need to triage them, and maybe apply some batch flow to them like Lightroom. I used to rely on Canon's Zoombrowser for that stage of my work flow.

X3 now has that. Although it took me some time to figure out how to configure it just right, I did figure out how to pull the images in, rate them with 1-5 stars, and then work on the selected images.

To speed up the editing process, PSP/X3 now has a batch flow process that uses its history/script capability interactively. This is very handy for applying edits to a bunch of similar images.

For example, I had a recent dance shoot against 4 backgrounds. For the first image of each background, I opened the image, tweaked Levels and Saturation, then saved that image. Back in the organizer, I selected that image, and chose "Capture Editing". Then I selected all of the remaining images in that background/set and chose "Apply Editing". In under a minute, all of the images were edited and saved using the same parameters. Then I'd visually check them out and do any cropping or other cleanup. This saved me about 50% of the time I'd spend opening up each image and applying essentially the same edits to these images.

There are a number of other features that I haven't tried out yet, such as removing objects and smart image stretch. Right now I'm just trying to see how it will play into my work flow as the shooting season ramps up.

I will have to say that there are a handful of strange or undesirable things going on such as unpredictable application aborts and memory leaks. I have found that the first service release they send out after the base release tends to fix most of them. I really wish they did a better job of Beta testing to weed these out (hello...I'd volunteer!), but I am generally happy with the X.1 release.

So if you are not already on the Photoshop drug, consider this product. I run my photography business on PSP, both for the cost savings and for the unique retouching features that make my Senior, Dance and Wedding image workflow very efficient. At roughly $60/yr, you can't beat the price.

Incidentally, if/when the X3.1 release comes out, I'll comment on whether it cured any of the bomb/defects that I found in the base release.

UPDATE:I worked with Corel's Tech Support who had me uninstall and reinstall and the hang problem is still there, but at least I worked out a workaround which will prevent the hang. They can't reproduce the problem. There is a patch file but it did not solve my problem.

2ND UPDATE: The workaround doesn't work all of the time. Given that I touch about 20,000 images per year, I can't afford to use a program this unstable. I can't recommend X3 for anything close to professional use. The ironic footnote is that I have backed up to X2 and it's pretty solid. The product is not bad, but the code is UNSTABLE.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Photoshop and Photography

Image 1: Straight Out of Camera.
Image 2: Basic contrast and color adjustments.
Image 3: A bit of halo/softening using a filter.
Image 4: Simple brush strokes filter with some masking around the face.

Image 5: Some texture and masking.
This week, the New York Times' David Pogue published this bit on imagery, asking the question, "Photoshop and Photography: When it is Real?" He was responding to an editorial in Popular Photography by Miriam Leuchter entitled "What is a Photograph?"

The discussion centered around the winning entry of the recent Popular Photography contest, which was a digital composite of two separate images.
Both of these delve into the question regarding image editing. At what point does it stop being a photograph and instead become digital art?

I think the answer depends on the use. Obviously in areas like forensics and journalistic photography, there are pretty strict guidelines around post-capture editing. Other areas such as advertising, the rule book is pretty much open.

I know of many photographers who take each and every image they select to display or sell through Photoshop. I must confess that I review nearly every image and often at least pump the contrast or saturation a bit. 99% of my images are of people. I tend to keep them in their original setting and only enhance the image. Occasionally I create collages but I admit that I'm a bit weak in that areas.

My image editing choices are more a function of my editing comfort zone than an ethical decision.
I don't have the skills to turn an image into a fantasy painting, so I generally stop at optimizing color and contrast and maybe a bit of filtration.

Other photographers go much farther. I see some incredible work out there. My friend Solitaire Miles is an expert at digital editing, and creates amazing images of visual fantasy.
You can see some of her works here. I think it's a natural evolution to create images using digital tools, just as early photographers created images that looked different from reality using film and early cameras.

So what's my point? Very few published images are untouched. In fact I have seen some personal portraits of my friends and colleagues taken by other professional photographers that just screamed for a bit of post processing. I don't have any issues around image editing. With all of the wizards, plug-ins and widgets available on cameras and phones now, people almost expect a heavily processed image.

I believe that professional photographers who cannot use an image editor to manipulate an image will end up with portfolios that may limit their business opportunities. I'm not recommending that you do bad work in camera and "fix it in post", but you will need to be able to enhance images. The digital editor is another tool in expressing yourself as an artist.

So get comfortable with your favorite image editor and decide how far you want to take your images.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Radio Poppers - First Tests

I had an opportunity to try my new Radio Poppers and my Canon 430EX and 580EXII flashes.

In the first shot, I had both flashes on. The 430/slave was behind my model, acting as a back/rim light. The 580 was on camera.

In the second shot, I had the camera-mounted 580EXII turned off, and just the 430/slave firing off to camera left. Nice wash of light and shadow on the wall!

In the third shot, I had the 430 on the ground in front of the model, who is on a shelf about 20" off the ground.

In all three cases, I got what I was looking for. Most of these were bare bulb shots with hard shadows cast, but I also did some images with an umbrella on the slave.

The real trick will be firing that slave from 200 feet away. I can't wait to try!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I just received my new Radio Poppers and a new Canon 580 EXII flash and stand. I'm going to develop my off-camera flash skills. The Poppers can fire a canon flash from over 1000' away. I am going to try some backlit silhouette shots after dark, and some nice side lighting for my wedding and senior clients.

I evaluated the Radio Poppers as well as Paul C Buff's Cyber Commander and the Sekonic Pocket Wizards. The Poppers have by far the best range.

Now I just have to figure out how to operate multiple flash units on my Canon rig. I have the 580 EXII, a 430 EX and two poppers (transmit and receive). Next I'll add the FPE-2 and another receiver so I can run two remote flashes off camera.

I'll post some sample shots once I get it all working.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New eBook: Dance Studio Photography

I just finished the first draft of my first book! It's titled Dance Studio Photography: A Guide for Professional Photographers. It covers these areas:

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Many Types of Dance Photography
Chapter 3: Entering the Market
Chapter 4: Setting up the Commercial Arrangements
Chapter 5: Setting Up
Chapter 6: Conducting the Photography Session
Chapter 7: Post Production and Proofing
Chapter 8: Selling
Chapter 9: Order Fulfillment
Chapter 10: Troubleshooting
Chapter 11: Creating an Action Plan

Without images or diagrams, it's 34 pages of single space type. I'll be adding lots of embellishments, images and helpful charts and diagrams, so I expect it will finish around 50 pages at 8.5x11".

I'm leaning to release it as an eBook through I know it's kind of a niche market but there is literally nothing out there on working with this market.

The first photographer who messages me gets a free preview copy. The only hook is that they must proofread it for me and offer critial feedback.

Click here to be that person.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Blog: Erie Weddings!

Today I launched a new blog, aimed at potential wedding clients in the Erie Area. This blog, called Erie Wedding, will discuss many things of interest for people getting married in the Erie area.

I intend to use this to create value for engaged couples getting married in Erie, independent of their choice of wedding photographer. This will create legitimacy and name recognition for my business, build strong links with partners, and drive eyeballs to my websites and other blogs.

Check it out...perhaps this type of content aggregation may work for you in your community as well.