scrutinizing shutter speed

most people know that the shutter of the camera is what opens and closes when you take a picture. we’ll start with this component because it’s the easiest to understand of the three main contributors to your photo capture (the other two being ISO and aperture). shutter speed is measured in seconds, although more commonly in fractions of a second. the shutter speed can affect a few things in a photo, but in isolation its main impact is on the ‘fluidity’ of the picture. the easiest way to illustrate this is with some examples.

this first photo is taken with a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second, f/5, ISO 250, and with on-camera flash. for this post we’re only interested in the shutter speed parameter. notice how the water looks pretty sharp and ‘frozen in time’.

this second photo was taken of the same exact drip stream of water, but with a shutter speed of 1/30 of a second, f/11, ISO 1600, and no flash. the same flow of water now looks more fluid, almost like a complete stream. the use of the flash makes a difference, but the concept is illustrated the same.

what’s the deal? why does it do that? when the shutter snaps quickly (generally anything faster than 1/100 second) you typically get a clean picture that doesn’t have any blur. most things don’t move very much in 1/100 second. when you shoot with a shutter speed down in the range of about 1/30 second all the way down to multiple seconds, you are essentially taking a video that keeps overlapping onto the same photo. lots of things can move in a few seconds, even lazy people. as long as the shutter is open, it’s letting light in to hit the sensor and recording it.

“matt, my point-and-shoot camera pictures keep coming out blurry and i don’t know what’s going on, plus i don’t care about all this technical stuff. how do i fix it? ps – i love your blog.” well first off that’s very flattering. secondly, chances are that your friend, mr. shutter, is too slow. the simplest and most casual way to remedy that problem is by turning your flash on. this will allow your shutter to fire faster than 1/60 of a second and your blurs and ghosting should disappear. there are other ways, but they’ll be explained in a later post after we learn about a few other things.

due to a high risk of beating a dead horse by continuing this little shutter biography, i will end this post here. if you have any questions, feel free to leave’em in the comments and i will reply as quick as i can and try to help you out.

next up: aperture

sharpen your pencils

as a photographer i often get “how do i” type inquiries and questions from people regarding basic camera control. i thought it would be a practical and appreciated use of blogspace to write a short miniseries on camera basics for all that are interested. i realize the majority of people use point-and-shoot cameras (or even iphones and other cell phones) to take casual photos. entry-level dslr cameras are also becoming more common (nikon D3000, canon rebel XS, etc…), so these posts will be written accordingly. those of you with the aforementioned dslr’s that use them in automatic mode all the time are only using a small part of your camera’s capability. even with the simplest camera, a basic understanding of how the camera works will allow you to use it in ways you hadn’t before and can open up new photo possibilities.

we’ll walk through shutter speed, aperture, ISO, flash, white balance, dynamic range, exposure blending and HDR techniques, focal length, and resolution basics. i’ll dedicate a post to each topic and try to get one out each day. i promise to try not to make it too nerdy, although as an electrical engineer by degree it will probably be very difficult for me.

keep me in check. just leave me a mean-spirited comment reprimanding me for talking about bits and logic levels and analog-to-digital converters if it gets out of hand.

feel free to fire off any questions about any of the content along the way. i hope this series helps you guys out. stay tuned…

i need the bluecube

it’s time to formally introduce the bluecube. in case this gets as popular as i think it will, i will write this blog post as if it were a wikipedia entry so in the future i can simply copy paste from here to wikipedia, the source of all internet knowledge. in the third person, here we go…

This article does not cite any references or sources.
Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed(February 2010)

the bluecube is a photobooth that was custom designed by blueflash photography. it nominally measures 8 feet wide by 8 feet long by 8 feet tall. it is 128 cubic feet of photographic goodness. its size is adjustable ranging from 6′ x 6′ x 6′ all the way up to 10′ x 10′ x 10′.

the bluecube is the brainchild of matt celeste, owner/operator/photographer/head of marketing and sales/chief financial officer/secretary/biggest fan/first employee/graphic designer/janitor of blueflash photography. he felt as though most photobooths that were available were either one or both of the following: overpriced and too small. the large size of the bluecube allows bigger groups of party/wedding guests to pile in. a picture of auntie edith and cousin bill is nice, but wouldn’t it be better if grandma gertrude, uncle jerry, the bride and the groom, and a few other guests could get in the picture? heck, you might as well grab the photographer and have him in there too. the more the merrier. as for price, a quick internet search will reveal the fact that most photobooths will run you well over $1000 for a four hour rental. after hours, days, even weeks on end of grueling brainstorming by the blueflash think tank, the solution to this problem was found: don’t make the price that high.

after a hundred paper designs, a prototype was finally built using pvc piping and ikea bed sheets. the concept was proven and steps were taken to move the idea from prototype to saleable photobooth. standing in the prototype setup, a conversation went like this:

matt: so what do you think dad?
matt’s dad: it’s ok… except i feel like i’m standing in the plumbing department at lowe’s

the decision was soon thereafter made not to build the final unit with pvc pipe. thanks dad for the input.

the heart of the bluecube is mostly proprietary and cannot be divulged on such mediums as open-source internet encyclopedias. it does include, but is not limited to, a professional dslr camera in conjunction with studio strobes to provide high quality photographs.

the following logo will be used to market the bluecube

the photos that the bluecube produces look a lot like matthew celeste’s profile photo on facebook. they are bright and full of energy. all the photos from a bluecube session are posted to the blueflash website under the bluecube section. all photos are posted in both color and black and white. they can be ordered in any print size and on pretty much any item you can think of, i.e. mousepads, keychains, tote bags, coffee mugs, elephants, buttons, etc… you can also order a digital download of the file and walk to your favorite cvs and purchase some low quality prints at your leisure.


what do you think?

the boston 411

the title of this post sounds like it’s trying to be clever, but really it’s the name of a bridal show coming up the first weekend in march. the boston 411 spring home and bridal show is march 5th, 6th, and 7th at the hynes convention center in boston, massachusetts. blueflash will be there in the corner booth, a giant 20 foot by 10 foot booth right near the main stage where all the shows are happening. this will be my first bridal show, either as an attender or as a vendor. when my wife was going to bridal shows for our wedding planning a couple years ago, i was conveniently doing stereotypical male activities like using power tools or riding my motorcycle.

i’ve got boothmates… i will be joined by rachel rosati of sweet somethings – a custom cupcake company doing business in the new england area. i’ll write more about sweet somethings in a future post. she’s bringing 5000 (five thousand!) cupcakes for samples to hand out to show attendees. i figure that at least 3000 will actually make it to attendees and the other 2000 will mysteriously go missing throughout the weekend.
rounding out our eclectic assortment of vendors in one booth will be ashley tucker of inbloom. she makes the custom hairpieces that are rapidly growing in popularity across the country. some of her work can be seen in the shots of molly in the previous blog post. she makes much more than what’s seen in the photos, you’ll have to come by the booth to check it all out. she’s going to have roughly 50 sample pieces on hand for display and for sale. more and more brides are opting for a unique hair piece rather than a traditional veil.
lastly, i will be there. my display will consist of a bunch of prints of different sizes ranging from 6″x9″ up to 20″x24″. i’ll have photobooks for people to browse through, a slideshow running on a large monitor, 5000 business cards (we have a “5000” theme we’re trying to push), and my wife whose job is to increase the aesthetic appeal. in addition to all of that, the bluecube will make it’s official debut. the bluecube needs enough explaining to warrant its own post, so i’ll devote the next one to bluecube and dump the details there. all i’ll say here is that it’ll be setup the entire weekend and will be open for anybody and everybody to use for free.

yes, our booth will be happening. very, very happening. there will be flashes going off from bluecube and frosting flying all over the place from the cupcakes and all of our hair will be neatly pinned in place during the chaos courtesy of the inbloom hair clips.

if anybody is interested in attending the show on any of the three days, let me know. leave a comment and i can get you some complimentary tickets. i have a limited amount since i am a vendor in the show. i’ve already distributed a decent amount of them to most of my brides but i still have some left. let me know as soon as you can, i’d love to see you all there! next post – what the heck is the bluecube?

the molly project

being the wedding off-season, i felt it was a perfect time to organize a shoot purely for creative purposes. i started by searching around for a model and eventually stumbled across molly. good find number one. i wanted to do this right, so i was going to need hair and makeup. i threw out a facebook message asking if anyone wanted to be involved or knew someone else who’d be good for it and got a connection from a previous wedding client’s sister to kelly o’keefe of blush. good find number two. the hair spot was filled by ashley tucker, a friend of mine who is a hair stylist and also runs inbloom, a business that designs custom hair clips. not only would she style the hair, but she could throw in her hair clips for a little more interest. good find number three. the last link was the location. trunk show chic is a rhode island jewelry company that i’ve done a couple shoots for in the past and who just happened to grab a storefront in downtown providence. they actually signed the lease the night before the shoot. the space had high ceilings, huge windows, concrete floors, rough walls, and it was still kind of dirty. it was perfect. they were cool enough to let us use the space for the day and style the shoot with their jewelry.

at seven o’clock on saturday morning i loaded up the van with all the photo equipment and every potential prop i could scrounge up and headed over to the shoot location. a couple hours later molly, kelly, and ashley showed up and everyone went to work. we setup the first shot in the corner with a giant trunk i had, some old books, some twigs and branches, and the secret weapon – the fog machine. kelly and ashley turned molly into a dark, almost menacing looking model. we did a quick outfit change and took some more shots. i love this one below of her climbing out of the trunk.

kelly and ashley transformed molly into a totally different look and i tried some shots purposefully blowing out the background to get some real bright shots. we ended up with what you see on the right. the last look of the day was real natural looking makeup and some teased out hair. my terms for hair and makeup are probably incorrect, that’s why i take pictures instead of working in a salon. this was my favorite look of the day. molly’s outfit is actually a sheet that ashley skillfully held together with some hair clips (there may have been some duct tape involved too). here’s a couple from that look…

the day was awesome. molly was great to work with and was game for anything, including climbing out of a dirty old trunk, wearing a sheet, and getting sprayed by a fog machine over and over and over and over again. ashley did a great job with the hair and her clips added a lot to the shots. she also interpreted for me when i used boy terms for anything related to makeup, hair, and clothing. kelly nailed the makeup on every look and was a pleasure to work with. i would highly recommend her to any bride in the market for a makeup artist for their wedding. she’s way more than competent and has a great personality. stay tuned to the blog in the future because there will definitely be more from me and kelly on new collaborative projects. we’re in the process of planning some big stuff, but i can’t let the cat totally out of the bag quite yet. i’d like to give a huge thanks to everyone involved, especially trunk show chic for hooking us up with the space to use for the day. check out their website for some unique jewelry. be sure to also check out kelly’s site and learn a little more about her business. ashley’s inbloom site will be up soon and i’ll link up to it once it’s ready to go. more photos from this shoot can be found on the facebook page or on the blueflash website.

blueflash, bluecube, and blogs

it’s 2010 and i’m a photographer, so i think it’s time for a blog. my name’s matt celeste and i run blueflash – a photography business based out of the providence, rhode island area. in an effort to not be pegged as vain, i’ll leave the biography at that.

i think the internet is already saturated with people’s thoughts on life, so i’ll keep this blog pretty simple and to the point, at all times avoiding deviations into how neat it is that a valence electron jump causes emission of light or speculations about anti-matter (i’m a nerd at heart). this blog won’t bless you with beautiful prose or wonderfully crafted iambic pentameter, although i will do my best to spell correctly and utilize the punctuation afforded us by the english language. i will not, however, use capital letters. this is what i will do: when a new shoot happens, i’ll use this to talk about it – who was involved, what the event was, how it went, post some photos, etc…

this will also serve as an outlet for photographic endeavors that are not necessarily blueflash sessions, i.e. personal photos that i feel might have public interest. if i shoot anything i think is cool while on vacation or a day trip with my wife, you’ll find it here.

facebook is great to post photos and do single sentence write-ups, the website works well to post albums and let people order prints, but a blog is the only way i can go into detail about a shoot and what’s going on with blueflash. wedding season is right around the corner and there’s going to be a lot going on, so this is where it’ll be shared with anyone who is interested.

when one does creative work, feedback is the best thing you can get back for it. honest feedback, positive or negative, is the best way to continually improve (plus it’s entertaining). if the one thing that falls out of this blog is that i get a bunch of reader’s feedback on my work then i would consider it a success.

ok. let’s do this…

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