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Teaching Archives - Steven Joseph Photography

Steve teaches photography locally to professional photographers, and enthusiasts wanting to improve their photographs. This section is where all things teaching related will live. Sometimes Steve is teaching through the University of Utah, or at Pictureline, or in his home studio. Sometimes Steve is offering quick tight little tips on one very narrowly focused topic.

UPDATED! Top Seven Reasons Canon Speedlites Misfire when using RadioPoppers and How to Fix Them

June 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

UPDATED with new information. See Point 1 below.

Have you ever been using your Speedlites in wireless mode and the slave flashes do a full power dump, blowing out your photo in near-pure white (and burning through your batteries)? Or sometimes they just won’t pop at all?

I love my Canon Speedlites and my RadioPopper PX triggers. So much so that I recently sold off my Quantum T5d-Rs, and I’ve almost fully transitioned to using just Speedlites for all aspects of my wedding & portrait photography.

I typically bring 10 Canon Speedlites – all triggered with RadioPoppers – to wedding, engagement and portrait shoots and I use them in wireless mode all day long.

I guess you could call me a #Speedlite #Strobist.

I’m pretty sure I’ve run into (hopefully) every kind of misfire and malfunction one can experience when using Canon Speedlites and RadioPopper PXs, and I’m pretty sure I know what to do to fix them on the spot.

What do I mean by “misfire”? I’m referring to either a total dump (when your flashes fire at full power), or unexpected results (too little light or too much light pouring out of your Speedlites), or where your Speedlites just won’t pop at all.

If your Speedlites and RadioPoppers are misfiring, this is how to fix them, in order of likelihood of source of trouble and ease of fix:

  1. BATTERIES!: change all batteries, in Speedlites and in RadioPoppers. NOTE: I am updating this post to reflect just how important your batteries are, and how likely they are to be the point of failure. Recently I’ve started using expensive Lithium AA and AAA batteries in both my Speedlites and RadioPopper triggers. Not only do I know get lightning fast recharging and availability time from my flashes, but virtually all of the instability (full dumps, no firing) goes away with fresh Lithium batteries. Lithium batteries also last much, much longer than either Alkaline or rechargeable, and they are noticeably lighter. While their two disadvantages are big (expensive and not rechargeable), Lithium batteries in your Speedlites and RadioPoppers offer big enough advantages that I have decided to always use them going forward for any jobs that generate significant revenue, like commercial, wedding, elopement, editorial and headshot jobs. If you’re just starting out or experimenting probably better to stick with rechargeables.
  2. Blocked Infrared Port: check if the foam doughnut has slipped and is blocking the infrared port on the RadioPopper PX receiver.
  3. Reset Poppers: reset all of your RadioPoppers back to factory settings using the following steps from Page 15 of the RadioPopper user manual. For the PX Receiver / PX Transmitter (with the RadioPopper turned on)
  • Press “X” once
  • Press “P” seven times / eight times
  • Hold down “X” for six seconds
  • Power up your RadioPopper PX once, then again. Done! You’ve reset to factory specs.
  1. Loose Hotshoe: wiggle your master flash in the camera body hotshoe to reset it as snugly and tightly as possible.
  2. Broken Hotshoe: hotshoe on either camera body or on master Speedlite is bad, and needs to be repaired. Send to Canon Professional Services :-(.
  3. Slave Speedlite Not In Slave Mode: it’s easy to accidentally knock the slave mode switch off with the 430ex. It’s easy to forget to put canon’s other Speedlites (430exII, 580ex, 580exII) into slave mode.
  4. Master or Slave Speedlite in Wrong Channel: Much harder to accidentally put either the master or slave in the wrong channel, but once you’ve temporarily changed channels (say to divide lights between 1st & 2nd photographers at reception) it’s easy to forget to set them back. I have.

Notice that of these seven causes of misfires only two are the fault of the RadioPoppers. In my experience misfires are usually caused by my batteries, my gear or my error, and the radiopoppers are simply passing on bad information.

I Prefer It On Top: Professionally Lit or Available Light

June 1, 2013 | By | One Comment

Sometimes when I’m making formal portraits, my lights don’t pop. And I’m reminded how “available light” portraits look. I prefer the top one.

Why’s It Take So Long To Get My Photos?

September 5, 2012 | By | One Comment

AFTER: this image was dramatically improved with some quick context-sensitive fill-in, cloning out my lovely wife and lighting assistant Christina, a little toning, crop and vignetting. Voila!

AFTER: we patched up the grass, cropped in a little tighter, bumped a tone curve on it. This is what a *finishedimage looks like. We spend a lot of time making your images look better.

BEFORE: This is what the image looked like straight out of the camera (pretty nice, right? 🙂 ) But the grass needs sprucing up, she could use a vignette, and the crop is a little wide.

STEVE, you promise to get our photos to us in 6-12 weeks. Why’s it take that long?

That’s a fair question. The quick answer is because we care. We care deeply about how great your photos look. And we want them to look the very best that they can. We’ve even had clients say they think we care more about making their photos great than they do.

For a full day wedding we’ll come home with 2,000 to 4,000 images. We touch every single one, if only to put some out of their misery 🙂  Most photos, however, we love dearly, and like a fussy mother we want our gorgeous children to look their best, their hair combed, their shirt tucked in, that chocolate milk shake mustache wiped off of their pretty face.

What exactly do we do that takes so long? Here’s an incomplete, short list of some of the things we do to just about every photo we touch.

  • culling (rate, reject, accept, star)
  • dust spot removal
  • crop / straighten
  • adjust color temperature / white balance
  • exposure / f/stop
  • fill light
  • black point
  • brightness
  • contrast
  • clarity / sharpen
  • vibrance
  • tone curve
  • noise reduction
  • vignette

Then for some photos we take it even further, giving extra special TLC in advanced editing apps like Photoshop. Often when I use off-camera lighting I need to remove my assistant & the light & light stand from the shot using Photoshop.

Please enjoy seeing the BEFORE & AFTER examples below. And thank you for your patience as we get our children cleaned up, looking their best before we send them out the door over to your house!   🙂

AFTER: Cloned out my lighting assistant, a smidge of toning & vignetting.AFTER: saturation, sharpening, toning, vignetting.

AFTER: cloning out my lighting assistant, selective toning on my beautiful happy couple.

What do “available light” photographers do when the lights go out?

May 14, 2012 | By | No Comments

What do "available light" photographers do when the lights go out?

The above photos are out-takes from an intimate dinner I shot at Canaletto’s fine Italian restaurant in The Venetian this past weekend. In one shot my lights fired. In the other my lights did not.

What’s interesting is that my camera settings are otherwise identical – aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/60, ISO 3200. For the non-photographers that means WIDE OPEN. My high-end professional camera is at the outer reaches of its ability to take in light, and yet the unlit shot is really dark.

Wedding photographers work in places this DARK all the time.

I love working with “available light” when the available light is great. And then I also love reaching into my tool bag of different lights to create my own better light. Sometimes I make my own lighting conditions for artistic or dramatic purposes, but usually just to give your photos a little extra pop. Sometimes, like in the photo above, I’ve got to create my own light because there just isn’t any available light available.  🙂

As a wedding photographer, I have to solve this problem all the time – during receptions in low-lit banquet rooms; during intimate dinners in low-lit restaurants. Or outdoors after the sun has gone down.

I often wonder, what do “Available Light” photographers do when the lights go out?

I dunno. But it’s a question you should probably ask when you’re interviewing photographers for your wedding or event.

You should probably also ask to see examples of their work in dark conditions. On many photographers’ websites I don’t see any photos after the sun has gone down.

You’ll notice on my wedding portfolio and throughout my blog that I regularly post after-dark photos where I have created the light.

Low light conditions? Challenge Accepted.  🙂

I guess the lesson learned is, if you hire an “available light only” photographer, make sure your wedding is over before the lights go out! 🙂

Terrence Lighten – Las Vegas Wedding Cinematographer of the Year

December 7, 2011 | By | One Comment

True to his giving spirit, Terrence Ligthen made a behind-the-scenes video of the annual Vegas PUG shootout out at Jean Lake. The Vegas PUG is a monthly gathering of photographers in Las Vegas. We get together to share knowledge, help each other out, and have some fun. Once a year we do a hands on shoot.

This photo is a test shot of my lighting at the lighting demonstration I set up for the shootout. Terrence and his #1 man Steve took a second to pose for me.

Just so happens that Terrence & his company Lighten Films won the coveted “Wedding Cinematographer of the Year” award at last night’s Las Vegas Wedding Awards.

Thanks for modeling gentlemen, and congratulations on the big win!

Grateful to Lead the Lighting Seminar at this month’s Las Vegas PUG

December 4, 2011 | By | No Comments

Behind the Scenes - on location lighting

I am so grateful to have been invited by the incredibly talented and effervescent Chelsea Nicole to lead the lighting component of our annual on-location photo shoot. It will be Monday, December 5, 2011 from 3pm ’til dusk out at the Jean dry lake bed. For full details, including directions, you should check out the Vegas PUG Facebook page. We’re already expecting over 60 photographers – all of whom are in for a very big fun beautiful surprise regarding our models. I will demonstrate how dramatically different portraits can look when you bring strobes and you are Master of the Light! If you’re not yet signed up (it’s FREE) come on out to get a chance to flex your photo muscles in a new direction. Besides the off-camera strobe group, photographers will have the opportunity to visit 3 other groups, all with their own models. And, as far as I know, you get to keep and use the photos in your portfolio.