Saturday, November 18, 2017

PictureCorrect: Tutorial: Commercial Quality Product Photography

To the untrained eye, product photography is clean and uncomplicated. However, there’s always a bit more to anything than initially meets the eye. Even a five second product shot in an advertisement can take hours of planning and preparation. To give you an idea of the sheer amount of time and creative energy that goes into an advertisement, check out the techniques professional cinematographer Matthew Rosen uses to create his commercial product shots:

Setup

The setup Rosen displays in his demo is fairly complex. The foreground and background are adorned with LED pillars to create a sense of ambiance, and Rosen constructs a custom white plexiglass pillar for the product to rest on that fits naturally within the scene. Rosen also went through the trouble of mounting three silks to create a sort of deconstructed light box. Positioned overhead and to the left and right sides of the shot, they provide coverage without taking the product entirely out of the environment.

Lighting

Product photographers have to act very carefully to prevent their product shots from appearing flat on film or in print. For this reason, Rosen paid especially close attention on set. The plexi pillar platform itself was built with an opening to allow for a the inclusion of a key light below the cameras line of vision. This strategy is particularly successful in capturing the texture of the product, as the main light in angled in a way that the bottle’s frosted glass is visible. The overhead silk bounces the already heavily diffused light down onto the product, producing a film of white on the lid that helps separate the darker background. The side silks also contribute to building a sense of shape, as the light they reflect brings out some of the product’s contour.

custom photo shoot lighting

Camera

Once the studio was entirely situated, it was time for the team to turn their attention to their equipment. Choosing the right lens for this scene was particularly crucial. The product’s label featured fine text, which needed to be portrayed pin sharp. However, it was also necessary to employ a shallow depth of field to ensure the foreground and background elements wouldn’t detract the viewer’s attention. Ultimately, Rosen opted for a beautiful Carl Zeiss 50mm f/2 lens. To complete the look, the Zeiss was also equipped with a diopter to magnify the overall focal length.

cosmetics product photography

Movement

Last but not least, the crew decided to incorporate movement to the shot to incorporate some action into the otherwise static scene. They decided to install a Kinney track in the studio and mount the camcorder on. Once attached, it was possible to pan through the shot slowly and smoothly, finishing off the polished piece.

product photography tips

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How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

I love travel portraits. Not only do they test your photography skills but also challenge you to interact with people in unfamiliar environments. The end result directly reflects your subject’s personality along with your ability to make them feel at ease, read the light, select optimal settings, and compose a great shot.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish:

A boy named Ashim and his father at Dasaswamedh Ghat – Varanasi, India.

Every photographer has a slightly different approach, which evolves with every new person you meet and country you visit. Join me as I walk you through an encounter from start to finish and share tips on how to shoot engaging travel portraits.

1 – Approach the person and get permission

As a photographer, it’s up to you to develop your own code of ethics. However, I implore you to seek permission and not just stick a camera in someone’s face. The initial approach can often be the hardest part; taking the shot is comparatively easy.

Aim for a consensual, mutually enjoyable exchange from which you can both walk away with a happy story to tell. Be open, smile, and pay people compliments.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish:

Boy monks at Rumtek Monastery – Sikkim, India. I kept my camera at my side, introduced myself, and asked their names. Their answers made me regret leaving my notebook in the car (Sikkimese names are notoriously long). They wanted to talk about soccer. When I asked for a photo, the boy on the right jumped and said “I know a good place. Follow me!” It was a fun encounter and their personalities shone through in the pictures because they’d had a chance to chat about their favorite topic.

If it’s a firm no, you can smile warmly, tell them it’s absolutely fine, and ask them if they would like to see photos you’ve taken of the local area. This way, you can both still walk away having had a pleasant experience, and sometimes, they even change their mind.

2 – Communicate for a meaningful experience

Your challenge now is to make your subject feel at ease. The best portraits come when people are relaxed and open to you. Most crucially, don’t rush the photo, say goodbye, and walk away. Show genuine interest in their lives.

Ask questions if you can speak a mutual language. If not, remember that much of your intentions and warmth can be communicated through body language, facial expressions, and gestures.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish:

Ba-An, an 81-year-old lady, in front of the Banaue rice terraces – Luzon, Philippines. I will remember Ba-An because I had the longest and most interesting conversation I’ve had with anyone before taking their portrait. “These? They’re chicken feathers,” she said when I asked about her headdress. “Sometimes I tell people it is tradition, but really, we just started doing it a few years ago!”

3 – Read the light and use it to your advantage

With permission granted and your subject warming to you, the next step is reading the light. Whether it’s day or night, look at the lighting conditions around you. Consider asking your subject to turn their body or move completely to seek the best light.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish:

While waiting for a Hindu ceremony to begin, this gentleman wobbled his head enthusiastically and motioned towards my camera – Varanasi, India. Sometimes, as in this situation, when people see you photographing others in a respectful manner, they may prompt you to take their portrait. I asked him to turn so that the light from a spotlight would be cast across his face at a less harsh angle.

4 – Select your settings

Ideally, you have a fixed focal length (prime) lens with a wide aperture attached to your camera body. However, if you’re traveling, you may have an all-purpose zoom lens attached. I like portraits that I’ve taken with both types.

With my fixed focal lens, I often shoot portraits at f/2.8 or slightly above. If you shoot any wider, the focal plane can be so thin that you risk your subject’s eyes being in focus but having their nose out of focus. For a zoom lens, I recommend selecting your widest aperture but standing further away from your subject. Zooming in on their face will accentuate the shallow depth of field effect that works so well for portraits.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

A Muslim traveler at Haji Ali Dargah, an Islamic shrine off the coast of Mumbai – India. My settings and lens for this portrait were f/2.8 | 1/1600th | ISO 160 | Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens. The fast shutter speed allowed by using f/2.8 picked out fine details on the man’s face. Such a fast shutter wasn’t necessary for this level of sharpness but it was an extremely bright day in Mumbai.

For engaging portraits, the most important element requiring sharp focus is the eyes. I suggest setting your camera to spot focus on the center AF point. Next, aim the center point at one of your subject’s eyes. Use the focus and recompose method or even better – the back button focus method to lock in on the eyes. This will ensure they’re in sharp focus in the finished photo.

5 – Choose a strong composition

Numerous compositions can work for portraits. The rule of thirds can work incredibly well but try not to wear it out or all your travel portraits will look the same.

Another one to try is placing one of your subject’s eyes directly in the center of the frame; a study proved that portraits composed this way appeal to viewers on a subconscious level. I promise I’m not making that up. This can be applied in portrait or landscape orientation.

A general rule exists in travel portraiture that you shouldn’t place your subject directly in the center of the frame; however, rules are made to be broken sometimes.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

As I stood taking pictures of the Banaue rice terraces, I heard a frail voice saying “Photo? Who is taking a photo?” It belonged to a 96-year-old woman named Bah Gu-An. She was completely blind. I wasn’t sure how to communicate as I normally would for a portrait so took her hands in mine to let her know I was there. Her friends translated back and forth for us. I decided on a rule of thirds composition because I felt the blue umbrella added extra visual interest and balance to the frame.

6 – Come down to their eye level

Try not to stand above your subject if they are sitting. This is intimidating and works against your goal to relax them. Positive psychological things happen when you come down to someone’s eye level. Take a look at the example below.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

A Hindu holy man on a tiny island in the Brahmaputra River – Assam, India. This is not a touristy location in India so he is the real deal. I sat down on the step to receive a blessing. Accompanied by mystical chanting, I drank some lukewarm tea of unknown provenance, had air blown all over my face, and ash spread across my forehead. We chatted after and I felt in no rush to suggest a portrait. It was a fascinating experience. What do you think when you look at his facial expression – Is the time spent together palpable?

7 – Shoot different styles of portrait

Posed versus candid portraits

Posed refers to approaching a person and asking them to sit for a portrait, whereas candid portraits refer to catching a person in an unguarded moment. This doesn’t have to mean without permission.

For the image below, I’d already gained this lady’s trust and permission but waited until she’d forgotten that I was there to continue shooting. Later, I showed her all of the photos, which she seemed happy with.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

A devotee watches the nightly Ganga Aarti ceremony – Varanasi, India. This image could be called a candid environmental portrait.

Headshot versus environmental portraits

A headshot refers to filling the frame with your subject’s face. The background is not important for setting the scene, although you might consider finding one of a complementary color to your subject’s clothing, skin tone, or eye color. Environmental portraits are zoomed out to allow your subject’s surroundings into the frame to add to their story.

8 – Shoot a series with the same subject

When you have someone’s permission and have bonded with them, consider staying with them a while and shooting a series of images. This is what I did when I met one man in the Philippines recently. I directed him gently for a series of shots after telling him how interested people would be to learn about his culture. He was happy to oblige.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

I would have kicked myself if I’d walked away without getting a side profile shot of this man and his headdress that featured the real heads of a long-dead bird and monkey.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

I decided to fill the frame here to draw attention to his excellent smile, patterned clothes, and monkey headdress.

9 – Always remember aftercare

Aftercare means bringing the encounter to a close in the best possible manner. I believe an extra layer exists as to why the verb is to “take” a portrait. You are taking something from them, but what are you giving in return?

Make sure you show the person their image on the back of your camera, pay them a compliment, and thank them sincerely. So much joy can come from this simple act.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

A man named Ibrahim at the Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai. As we sat together cross-legged on the ground enthusiastically shaking hands at the side of a busy walkway, I could tell from his reaction and those of passersby that this wasn’t a common occurrence. The overall encounter lingered with me for the rest of the day, and I sincerely hope that Ibrahim remembers it fondly too.

Conclusion

I want to know your best advice for shooting travel portraits and see the images you’re most proud of. Be sure to share them in the comments section below.

The post How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish by Ben McKechnie appeared first on Digital Photography School.



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PetaPixel: The Story of a Scammer on Facebook Who Conned Me (and Many Others)

Scams involving cameras are rampant these days. After almost losing a Nikon D850 to a scam on eBay, I recently also discovered a massive camera scam that involved 10 people. Here’s the story.

On 10/02/2017, a person named Megan A. listed a used camera for sale on a Facebook ‘Buy and Sell’ group. The camera, a Sony A5100 with a 16-50mm lens ($500 new), was described as being in pristine condition and barely used. Her ad was answered by a Facebook user named Kassidy Nadile. The potential buyer didn’t haggle on the asking price, and after some discussions via Facebook messenger, the camera was sold to Kassidy, and safely paid for through PayPal.

As Megan was getting ready to ship out the camera, the buyer asked if the camera could be shipped to an address other than the one on her PayPal profile.

“My PayPal address is my mom’s house when I used to live with her but I want to surprise her instead of the mailman lol,” Kassidy wrote in a Facebook message. But Megan, not aware that mailing the item to an address not on the buyer’s PayPal profile would disqualify her seller’s protection, agreed to ship it to the requested address.

“Please don’t forget. Make it look like it was bought from the store” the buyer, Kassidy, later wrote while requesting actual photos of the shipping label.

But following the successful shipment and delivery of the package, the first sign of trouble appeared. Megan was notified by PayPal that a case for an ‘item not received’ or what is known as an INR dispute was opened with PayPal. The buyer had filed a claim with PayPal stating that the parcel containing the camera was never received.

After an initial ruling on the case in favor of the buyer, and despite an appeal of the case by Megan, where evidence of the delivery was submitted to PayPal, the case was closed. On Oct. 21st, Megan was forced to refund the money to the buyer.

This was to be the end of Megan’s case. But was it?…

On the evening of Tuesday, 10/24/2017, I responded to an ad for a camera for sale in a Facebook group by the name of ‘Sony Buy and Sell’. The item was a used Sony A5100 with 16-50mm lens selling for just $200. My son had just dropped and broken his Canon point and shoot, and I figured this would be a nice upgrade. The ad was posted by a Facebook user named Kassidy Nadile. This was in fact, the same Kassidy Nadile who never received Megan’s camera.

The ad later disappeared, and I didn’t think of it much until the following morning when I received a reply from Kassidy via Facebook Messenger with photos of the camera. After reviewing the photos she sent – including one with the camera next to a poster with her name – I replied and asked for a PayPal invoice to be sent to my PayPal account.

Usually, I would do some research to make sure everything looks legit. But at the time, I was outdoors, on my phone, and at a quick glance, nothing really raised any suspicions. And after all, I was going to Pay with a PayPal invoice, so what could go wrong. She said the PayPal request would come from her mother’s account. Soon after I received a request from a PayPal Account under the name of Victoria Nadile, and the invoice was promptly paid.

I asked that the camera be mailed to my verified name and address on file with PayPal.

On the same day, the following USPS tracking number was added to the PayPal transaction.

Tracking #: 9505515854387298059275

The product was Priority Mail 1-day and shipped from Ridgefield, NJ on 10/25. The above tracking number showed as delivered on 10/26, but nothing was actually delivered to my address. On Saturday 10/28, for unknown reasons, a different tracking number was provided via Facebook messenger.

Tracking #: 9500114448427300060608

The product was First Class Package Service shipped from Scarsdale, NY on 10/27. This tracking number showed as delivered on Monday 10/30.

After both tracking numbers showed as delivered and I found that nothing actually had been delivered to my address, I contacted USPS to inquire where those packages were delivered. While USPS does not release shipping address information on their website or on the phone — other than the city, state and ZIP — They were able to confirm that it was not sent to my home address. (The verified address on file with PayPal).

At this point, I suspected that it was a scam. A scam that usually consists of mailing a letter or empty parcel to a random address in the same ZIP code, and using the fact that minimal address information is released by USPS to their advantage. I was aware of other cases where scammers utilize this USPS delivery confirmation as proof that an item was shipped and delivered. Including a case that was recently covered by PetaPixel.

I immediately posted on the Facebook group, asking if anyone had an issue with a member named Kassidy Nadile, who posted a Sony A5100 for sale the prior week.

Minutes later I received a response that the name Kassidy Nadile was mentioned in a warning post in a different group relating to a purchase from a group member. “Warning: Do not sell to Kassidy Nadile. She’s a scammer and dishonest person” Wrote Megan A. on Oct. 29. But unfortunately, her post came a bit too late for myself and other’s to heed the warning.

When I contacted Megan to get more info on her case, she was surprised to hear that the camera she had sold to Kassidy Nadile — which was reported as never received — had been offered for sale by Kassidy in a different Facebook group.

After forwarding the photos of the camera I received from Kassidy to Megan, she immediately confirmed it as being the exact camera she had sold.

“I recognize the lens filter and the little bag that it’s in because it’s from a flea market, Megan wrote to me in our Facebook correspondence. This is also when Megan shared with me all the details of her case (which I shared earlier in this article).

It didn’t take long for my Facebook post to get some more attention. I got a reply from someone who claimed that he was sold the same Sony A5100 camera by Kassidy Nadile. The case was identical to mine. He paid with PayPal, received two shipping tracking numbers and, like me, never got anything delivered.

Within the next few hours and the days that followed, six more people came forward with similar stories of being scammed by Kassidy. I advised them all to open an INR (item not received) dispute with PayPal immediately. In total, we now had 10 people who were scammed by the same person.

After collecting information from the other victims, I noticed that the scammer used a different PayPal account in each transaction. Every one of us paid for the camera to a different PayPal account. Presumably, so that multiple INR cases are not opened against the same account. They were all AOL email addresses, but most of them had slightly different email address variants of the name.

I was puzzled by the fact that one person can own at least 12 different PayPal accounts that I was were aware of, yet this was not detected and flagged by PayPal.

To my disappointment, a day after submitting my INR dispute I received an email from PayPal stating that they had ruled in favor of the seller: “We’ve completed our review and unfortunately are not able to decide the case in your favor”

But as my case closed, my inner sleuth kicked in. It was time to do some detective work. I began by contacting USPS to get documentation on the tracking numbers that were provided to me by Kassidy Nadile.

After not receiving an email reply, I visited my local post office in an attempt to get more information as to where those parcels were delivered in my ZIP code. The USPS clerk was extremely helpful and provided me with not only the actual delivery address but also the weight of the parcels. Both weighed a mere few ounces – not even close to the weight of the Sony camera it supposedly carried.

Leaving the U.S. Post Office with this new information, I took off in the direction of those two delivery addresses. The first stop turned out to be a CVS pharmacy. I was not surprised. As when I researched the USPS delivery confirmation scam, I did come across others who claimed that their packages were shipped to a local pharmacy or to some other large retailer in their ZIP code.

After briefly explaining to the store manager what had transpired within the past few days, he went to look for the mail and recovered the following envelope.

The tracking number matched the one that was provided to me. It was astonishing that this USPS letter-sized envelope, containing nothing but an empty gift card inside, is what was reported to PayPal as the parcel with which the camera was mailed to me.

I thanked the manager for his assistance and continued on to the second address that was provided to me by USPS. I arrived at what looked like an attached three-family dwelling.

While looking to ring Apt. #B to inquire about any parcel that was received in the past few days, I noticed a re-used Amazon box leaning against the brick wall. After matching the tracking number on the box with the one that was provided to me by the scammer via Facebook messenger, I picked up the box. It must have been sitting there for a few days, as it was not addressed to the name of any of the residents. The box was still closed, and I recovered it for evidence.

(Note: none of the boxes were addressed to me. A classic example of the ‘USPS shipping confirmation scam’.)

Now that I was armed with some newly-found evidence, I knew I had a case to open an appeal. But at this point, this was no longer about myself. We were now a larger group, all victims of a merciless scammer. I had to represent a case that would include all of us.

I began by compiling all the information I received from the other victims, including the individual case numbers and the PayPal accounts involved. After several hours writing up most of what you have read in this article, I submitted my case to PayPal and asked for my case to be escalated.

My case was finally overturned and ruled in my favor.

However, it took me a few more days to convince PayPal security to treat all of our cases as one and to use my hard evidence in the other cases involved – since all of our cases were intertwined.

Currently, most victims have gotten their funds returned, but some cases are still open. One of the open cases is Megan’s, which PayPal refuses to refund despite all the evidence we submitted, as she did not qualify for seller’s protection due to mailing the camera to an address not on the PayPal profile.

As much as I wanted this case to end, other victims of the same Facebook profile continued to come forward. I was recently made aware of a group of people who were scammed in a children’s toys Facebook group. The list included an army veteran who told me how she was scammed by Kassidy when she purchased a toy she was going to gift her child for Christmas.

Finally, on 11/05 I received a notification from Facebook that the Facebook profile for Kassidy Nadile has been removed for violating community standards.

While this Facebook profile may be gone, I have no doubt that as long as PayPal and USPS do not fix some of the issues enabling scammers to pull off an elaborate scam of this scale, this same scammer will be back with a new profile to continue scamming other people.

When I searched online for the term ‘USPS shipping confirmation scam’, I discovered that this scam has been going on for years, with companies like eBay, Amazon, and PayPal not doing enough to prevent its customers from being victimized by this scam.

There is a possible solution that I would like to suggest. eBay and PayPal are currently offering an integrated order-fulfillment system that lets sellers purchase a shipping label and provide tracking to the buyer. I propose that in order for a seller to qualify for seller’s protection, the shipping must be purchased via the integrated shipping system. For those using their own shipping system, a record of the shipping address or a photo of the shipping label must be retained by the seller to qualify for protection.

Logically, if the current policy voids the seller’s protection when an item is shipped to an address that is not PayPal verified, PayPal should require the seller to provide proof of the address where the item was shipped to.

The current system where PayPal burdens a buyer to provide hard evidence that an item was not received, combined with the fact that USPS does not share the actual shipping address in its tracking, is what enables the scammers to pull off this scam in the first place.

Finally, if Facebook wants to be a serious contender in the buying and selling of goods via its marketplace, a more secure system must be put in place to protect both buyers and sellers. Facebook needs to integrate a secure payment system like PayPal (or upgrade the security of its own payment system) and add an order-fulfillment and shipping option similar to what eBay and PayPal currently offer — albeit with more secure policies, similar to what I have mentioned above.

While searching on Facebook I came across this post, which we can assume was another attempt to scam people, or perhaps a way of unloading the funds that were scammed from others since a bank transfer or check would leave a trail.

This case is now being submitted to the USPS inspector’s office for further investigation into this widespread mail fraud.


About the author: Eli Wohl is a hobbyist photographer and real estate appraiser in New York City who often shoots street photography in the Jewish Hasidic neighborhood he resides in. He also combines his real estate career and love of photography by shooting architectural, real estate, and interiors for his clients. Eli’s tips have also led to a number of articles on PetaPixel. You can find more of his work on Instagram.



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Canon Submits Another Hybrid Viewfinder Patent

Canon Logo
Canon has filed a patent for a camera "...employing a viewfinder device allowing [for] switching between an optical viewfinder (OVF) and an electronic viewfinder (EVF)."
 
Canon Hybrid Viewfinder Patent Image

Want the benefits of both an optical an electronic viewfinder? Canon may already have your camera in development. We reported on another hybrid viewfinder patent last year, so this technology may show up in a consumer product sooner rather than later (if at all, of course).
 
Patent Details
 
  • Publication number: 2017-146322
  • Date of publication: 24.08.2017
  • Application number: 2016-025399
  • Date of filing: 15.02.2016
  • Applicant: CANON INC
  • Inventor: KARASAWA AKIRA


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