Friday, September 26, 2008

Fun Assignment: SELF PORTRAIT

Many photographers say they have difficulty photographing people, but one of your most difficult subjects to capture could be you yourself! We all have a vision of ourselves that we create, but when we are forced to face ourselves, we shy away. But the self portrait can also reveal something about ourselves, or allow us to express ourselves, and have some fun.

Photographing your reflection in a mirror or something reflective is a simple example of a self portrait, like the picture above of myself reflected in a glass garden ball. The only problem is that you usually get the camera in the picture.

You can also set the camera on a tripod to photograph yourself in a location.
Set up the scene how you want(you sitting at your desk, in your favourite chair, whatever) Get a proper exposure, compose the scene, and focus where you will be. Hit the shutter to begin the timer, then run like heck to get back in place(or use your remote to trigger the shutter!)
Or you could set everything up and have someone else take the picture.
You can put a mirror in behind the camera to help pose yourself as well.

You can also photograph your shadow, or parts of your body. You can make goofy faces, or dress up as someone else. When I was a student and later a teacher at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, every year there would be at least one or two self-portraits as drug overdose victims...There is no reason why a self portrait can’t be fun, humorous, or just plain silly

Almost as easy is to hold your camera out as far as possible and turn the lens back on you. The drawbacks to this method are the facial distortion caused as you will have to use your wide angle to get a lot of yourself in the frame. Unless you have really long arms of course...

I'd you to try to more serious self portraits(showing you as you are) then maybe try some fun shots! Get yourself distorted in a spoon. Shoot yourself up close. Try the wide angle arms outstretched method. Set up a funny scene, get dressed up, anything. Well, keep it clean of course!

You can see some interesting examples taken by some of my own students here:
If you'd like to share some, post a comment with a link to your pix!

Friday, September 19, 2008


You've just spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on camera equipment, so it's not a good idea to go cheap with what you're going to use to support it.I've seen more than a few camera that have been destroyed from crappy tripods! The image above is not my camera, one that I found on the net that is a perfect example...
Here is my advice on what to buy.

The brand that I recommend is MANFROTTO. They are well built, sturdy, and easy to use. They are not the cheapest, but are worth the extra money. You will also need to buy a tripod head. These are the models I recommend:

MANFROTTO 055 Series $200-$300
MANFROTTO 190 Series $150-$200

The 055 is sturdier, heavy, and taller than the 190. Both models allow you to remove the middle pole and mount it upside down or horizontally. If money is not a factor, look at the same models made from CARBON(055MF4 or the 190 CF). They are twice as expensive but since they are made from carbon they are lighter weight and just as sturdy.

Manfrotto 484RC2 Quick Release Ball Head $80
Manfrotto 484 Ball Head $65
Manfrotto 222 Joystick(with quick release) $140
Manfrotto 322 Grip Action head $189

If you just want a basic head, for the extra $15, buy the 484RC2, which has a plate that stays on your camera and allows you to quickly attach and detach it from the tripod. The joystick is the coolest head available. To move it, you grip the joystick and let it go when it's positioned where you want. The 322 is similar but is a bit more compact.

VELBON SHERPA 250 pro $120 (comes with quick release head)

If you decide to go with a cheaper brand, here's what you should look for:

NO PLASTIC-buy metal or carbon, plastic isn't heavy enough.
SEPARATE LEGS-if the legs are attached, tripod cannot go very low
PORTABILITY-make sure it's not too heavy or long to carry easily
HEIGHT-you want it to reach at least eye level without using the middle column
EASE OF USE-it should be easy to set up and adjust
TRIPOD HEAD-don't get the panning heads, they are made for smooth panning with video cameras and are terrible for photography

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Want to Share Your Love of Photography with Others? Join a Camera Club!

If you enjoy sharing your love of photography with others, or just want to get out of the house or away from your spouse and kids for a night, joining a camera club can fulfill that need!

Most camera clubs offer a membership of various skill levels, from total beginner to professionals. No matter what level of skill, you will fit in. Most clubs offer guest speakers, field trips, competitions, and the sharing of information, techniques, and inspirations. Plus you get this all at a very affordable price!
In New Brunswick, there are quite a few camera clubs. Here is a list of the ones that I know about:

Fundy Camera Club(Saint John)
Their meetings are held on the fourth Monday of each month, 6:30 to 9:00PM, from September to June.
Contact is Ginny Abbott (club secretary) (506) 696-4337 email:

KV Camera Club
For those of you in the valley, this club meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. from September to June.
Couldn't find an email contact, but you can contact them through the website:

Hampton Camera Club
A recent addition, the contact is club President Gary Rent at 832-5311 or

Focus Camera Club in Moncton

Photo Fredericton
Contact is President: Michiko Nishijima phone-367-1189 email:

Do you know of any other camera clubs? Send me the info and I'll edit the posting!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Workflow and Saving Images

Lots of people ask me the process I go through when working my images. Here are the steps I follow when I am downloading images(note, this is how I do it, other people may have better ways, but it works for me!):

1) Download the images from the card to my hard drive on my computer to a folder called ORIGINALS.

2) Copy them onto a backup hard drive into an identical ORIGINALS folder.

3) I then make a copy of the originals and put them into a folder called TO CORRECT

4) Make my corrections to the images, then save them in a folder called CORRECTED. Depending on what the client requires, I will save them as TIFF or JPEGS.

5) Copy the corrected images onto the backup hard drive in a folder called CORRECTED.

6) Once i have over 4 gigabytes of images, I will burn them to DVD, making two copies just in case something happens to a DVD.

This way, i've got three or four copies of the images in a variety of places so if my computer crashes, I've got a copy somewhere else.

Friday, September 12, 2008


 People tend to always ask me "What is the best assignment you've done as a photographer?" and I have to think about it, since I have been fortunate to have so many great experiences that it's hard to pick one as the best. I can pretty much guarantee the worst....the house full of cats.

How to shoot the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival(or any other concert!)

Not only can you enjoy the sounds of a concert or festival, you can record the sights with you camera! Here are some tips on how to get some great shots!

Flash or No Flash?
Whether or not you use flash will pretty much be based on how bright the light is. If there is enough ambient light to get a decent exposure, you can shoot without flash. However, most lighting is bright enough for the eye, but not very bright when it comes to photography and getting good exposures. The problem with direct flash is that it is very harsh. If you can bounce the flash off the ceiling(if the concert is in a tent with a white ceiling, AWESOME!) you will get much softer light. However you will lose any color in the stage lighting.

The shot below is using the ambient light. the light has a nice direction to it and retains the color of the stage lighting. Exposure was 60th/second at F6.3 with ISO 800. He didn't move too much, so the shutter speed was fast enough to freeze him.


If you are using flash and the light is good, 400 is fine. If you are going for ambient light, you will most likely have to use 800 or even 1600 to get a good exposure.

If your are using flash, use flash or auto. If you are going with ambient, choose TUNGSTEN/INCANDESCENT(little bulb)

Here is where having a wide aperture(smaller number) is good. if you want to shoot with just the ambient light, having a lens that opens to 3.5/2.8/1.8 will let in a lot of light and allow you to get faster speeds. A 50mm lens with a wide aperture is a great lens if you shoot lots of concerts.

Wide angle lenses will allow you to show the whole stage, telephoto lenses allow you to zoom in.

If you go with just the ambient light, the key is to remember you need a shutter speed that is fast enough to freeze movement of the musicians. 250th of a second is best, 500th would be good for a musician who is moving fast, like Matt Andersen. Again, you will most likely have to up your ISO to get a fast enough speed.

You could also try to some slower shutter speeds with flash to get some blur and sharpness, like the close ups below of Carson Downey Jr soloing. To do this, choose the shutter speed you want to use(60th-15th works well) and adjust the aperture to get a proper meter reading(or use TV/S mode, which is shutter priority and allows you to set the shutter speed you want to use and the camera controls the aperture). Then pop or turn on your flash, and use TTL or Manual flash mode and adjust the power if necessary to get the light balanced. Very import, your flash should be second to rear or second curtain sync. That way the flash fires at the end of the exposure, not at the start, so the flash image will be ON TOP of the blur.

Good comparison here:
JP LeBlanc, fast shutter speed(250th), with flash:

JP LeBlanc, slower shutter speed(60th), with flash:

Now, when you do balance the light, expect to get some mixed colors. Below you can see some normal flesh tones mixed in with the orange and yellows of the lights.

Right at the front of the stage allows you to get really close to the action, but you will have to use a wider angle lens, resulting in a bit of distortion, like the image below of the late Jeff Healey. You will also be more likely to get lights in the background, which could create some flaring.

If you can stand farther back in front of the stage and use a zoom, you can get a shot without distortion . You may want to try to get up higher to get above the crowd(a small step ladder works well).

The side angle can also provide an interesting shot, and it will help avoid getting the microphones and stands in the picture or obscuring the faces.

And watch out for microphone stands! They get in the way all the time, try for an angle where you can't see them!

Also, don' t forget the bass player! The bassist usually doesn't get much attention, but are such an integral part to the rhythm and sound.

This shot is funny because I caught a string breaking on the last song.

Don't forget to see if there are any interesting possibilities with the other musicians, such as the drummers(show framed through the drum kit, with a beaming smile!) Most band members usually get a chance to solo for a bit(at least in the jazz fest!)

Or using a bit slower shutter speed with flash to get some sharpness and blur like below.

Nice harmonica close up!

And the sax solo:

Some final tips:

-WEAR EARPLUGS!!! Especially if you are going to be shooting up front. It doesn't take very long to affect your hearing!
-watch out for drunk people with beer in their hands...BEER is BAD for your camera. It smells, and it's sticky and hard to clean off..and if some drunk asks you to take their picture, just snap a shot to humour them so they don't get mad and do something stupid..

have fun!

ps-if you want to see some great ambient light shots, check out Dan Culberson's site He rocks!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Story Behind the Photo-Freeman Patterson

Many people ask me about how photographs I've done were taken. Lots of interest in the techniques or technical aspects. So I thought I'd start posting some pix and tell the story behind them. If you see any shots of mine that you are dying to know how they were done, send me an email and I'll post em.

As a photographer, being assigned to photograph one of your peers with the stature of Freeman Patterson would scare anyone. Having known Freeman personally for a few years however made me a bit less apprehensive. The assignment was made more difficult however as he insisted that he would not be photographed with a camera, slides, or taking photographs.

As we went through his house he showed me some recent slides images he had captured. One of which was a scene of backlit trees with light shining through, with the trees blurred by camera movement, a technique he uses frequently. When I asked him where the photograph was taken, he said in the woods just outside his front door. We ventured into those woods, and I saw the same type of light as the photograph he showed me. I had him stand so he was backlit by the trees, then using a slow shutter speed I began attempting various blurring techniques like zooming, juggling, and rotating the camera during the exposure.
This created the interesting background, but of course Freeman was backlit so he was just a black shape. So to get him in the photograph, I used a flash off camera to fire at the end of the exposure, which then produced a sharp Freeman in the middle of the blur. The fact he was backlit was very important, because if the same light was on him that was on the background, it would have recorded him as a blur as well as the flash. When I showed the photos to Freeman, he asked me how I was able to get him sharp in the that was cool, I was able to teach Freeman Patterson something!!!

Below are some outtakes from the shoot using different movement!

Technical info:
Canon EOS-1D Mark II N
Lens: 35mm
ISO: 100
Shutter Speed: 1/4
Aperture: F11
Whitebalance: Daylight
Metering: MANUAL of course!

Noel Chenier

Photographer and teacher
Connect with Noel on INSTAGRAM or TWITTER or via EMAIL 
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I hope you find these tips useful!
If so, it would be awesome if you would check out my Photography Assignment Generator Apps on the app store, a unique photography app that's meant to inspire you to take great photos!

Perfect for anyone taking part in a Photo 365 challenge, there are over a hundred individual assignments and hundreds of thousands of potential random ones. Versions available for iPhone/iPod and iPad, including free versions so you can try them out! Full details, including reviews and tour videos of the apps can be found at Even if you only download the free version that would help get it up the app store lists!

Noel Chenier

Friday, September 5, 2008


As many of you know, myself and my photo colleagues at the Telegraph Journal recently had an exhibit of our work, Pixels to Print: The Art of Photojournalism in Saint John and Fredericton.
I had created a nice quality catalog book of the images through, an online publisher, for ourselves as a memento, and due to the response by our co workers made copies for them as well.

Due to the response to our show and the fact that others who have seen the book have asked about getting copies, I thought I'd find out how many others would be interested in getting a copy.
The price will be around $25, which will include shipping and taxes.

You can view a preview of the book here:

***NOTE-DO NOT CLICK ON ADD CART! If you order through the website, you will have to pay for full shipping and taxes as well!****
My plan is to do one large order, therefore reducing the shipping charges. You will have to pay for the book beforehand, either through Visa or mastercard or coming in to the Telegraph office on Crown Street and paying cash.

The book is 7" high by 9" wide, full colour high quality printing, and contains every image in the show.

Exact specs:
9" x 7", perfect binding, white interior paper (80# weight), full-color interior ink, white exterior paper (100# weight), full-color exterior ink

If you are interested, please reply to me at nchenier(at), and forward this info on to anyone else you think may be interested!



Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Welcome to my blog

Yeah, i decided to try doing a blog...hopefully I'll be able to update often...but i can't promise!

I'll post tips, tricks, links, rants, etc that might be of interest to you.

We'll see how it goes...