Chuck Espinoza Photography

Los Angeles Based Freelance Photographer.
Photography business

Make it work – Using My 5D Mark II in the dark

By on January 20, 2010

Over the weekend I got a call from a real estate team that I shoot property photography for. They needed an editorial portrait of Tami, one of the partners, and they needed to deliver the image to a client by tuesday morning.  They wanted a fashion inspired editorial portrait using a Range Rover as a prop. In atypical Southern California fashion the heavens opened up and the rain wasn’t expected to stop for a week.  Plan A was a parking garage and plan B was the beach. As luck would have it the skies parted and we were able to schedule it for sunset at the beach.

It was cold, windy, the ocean was chop but at least it wasn’t raining. I got there early in order to figure out how I was going to make Tami look great without the photo looking like a cliche “girl on a car” photo. Worse yet, I couldn’t have the photo look like a Range Rover commercial with Tami as the prop.

I shot a few pics of the ocean and sunset and waited…..

And then I watched the sun go down. So much for Plan A.

Sunset
Sunset

Jim and Tami arrived a few minutes after the sun went down and in order to keep Tami’s hair intact and keep her warm, I used Jim as a stand-in.  By the time we got the framing we wanted and had shot a few tests, the sun had been down for 15 minutes.  While there was some ambient light in the sky I was getting away with using strobes. After the light began to fade the background became dark and lifeless. Because I thought we would be shooting into the setting sun I packed a reflector. We turned on the headlights, I cranked up the ISO on my camera, and we were able to light Tami using just the bounced light from the headlights.

A year ago I would have never considered shooting at an ISO of 2500 but I needed all the help I could get. In a lot of circumstances professional  photographers are asked to make it work.  We have to adjust to the circumstances and make great images with what we’ve got. In this case it meant shooting in the dark.

Canon 5D Mark II - 50mm F1.2 shot at F1.8 1/100 ISO 2500
Canon 5D Mark II - 50mm F1.2 shot at F1.8 1/100 ISO 2500
Canon 5D Mark II - 50mm F1.2 shot at F2.2 1/100 ISO 2500
Canon 5D Mark II - 50mm F1.2 shot at F2.2 1/100 ISO 2500

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Architecture and Design

Images that help you market your business

By on December 20, 2009

A few months ago I shot a job for Engineered Custom Systems, a custom audio and video installation and design firm based in Redondo.  My job was to document ECS’ work throughout a 10,000 square foot home in Rolling hills. ECS installed all of the audio, video and custom control features in the house. There’s nothing like being able to walk into any part of the home and control the lighting and audio with a touch of the button. In addition to a media room with five flat screens the home also has an outdoor spa area with a TV, golf simulator, wine storage room, poker room and speakers installed both inside the pool and above-ground to insure that you can always hear your favorite song when you’re swimming.

In our pre-production meetings we discussed how best to show the quality of ECS’ work. Many of the custom features don’t read well in a still photo but I think that conveys the quality of the work and craftsmanship. The speakers aren’t supposed to be the focal point in the living room and when people overlook the install because the speaker grills have been painted to match the ceiling they know they will receive a high level of service when they work with ECS. Interior designers especially love the fact that with the help of ECS they don’t have to worry about the audio or visual installation taking away from the decor.

Indoor/Outdoor living area
Indoor/Outdoor living area
Pool and back yard
Pool with underwater speaker system
Bar in game room
Bar in game room
Gym
Gym
Media room
Media room

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head shots and portraits

Emily’s Closeup Portraits

By on November 17, 2009

While I was waiting for my model this morning I came across some tear sheets I had saved of Martin Schoeller’s work. For those of you who don’t know his work check out this gallery page.

The goal of the shoot wasn’t to shoot this type of portrait but I felt inspired enough to shoot a few frames before we went with the shoot as we had planned it. I started with a giant softbox but didn’t think being that close with that much in focus was flattering. I ditched the strobes and just used the light coming through the garage door with a sheet of foam core to bounce some light back. These shots were made at F1.2 so the depth of field is super shallow. The dept is so shallow that with her eyes in focus her eyebrow is already soft and out of focus. I liked them enough that I felt inspired to share. I’ll post more from the shoot later.

Emily Pledger Portrait - 1/400 at F1.2
Emily Pledger Portrait - 1/400 at F1.2
Emily Pledger Portrait - 1/400 at F1.2
Emily Pledger Portrait - 1/400 at F1.2

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Photography business

The Annenberg Space for Photography

By on October 29, 2009

There’s nothing like a deadline to motivate me. I got an email from the Anneberg Space that the Pictures of The Year exhibition would end on November 1st. Today I finally made time to visit the museum for the first time.

I was blown away. The photos in the PoY exhibit are the result of a contest of over 45,000 entries by photo journalists covering the events of 2008.  The exhibit included images from the Olympics, the Presidential Race, struggles in Georgia, Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to stories from around the globe. One of the main images used to promote the PoY exhibit is Emilio Morenatti’s image of a Pakistani Lawyer leaping over barbed wire trying to get away from tear gas. At first glance the photo looks staged. It seems too perfect and constructed. The photo on display is printed at 24×16 and is amazing to look at.

©Emilio Morenatti/AP Running from Gas
©Emilio Morenatti/AP Running from Gas

As you progress through the exhibit you encounter digital photography being broadcast on LCD screens as well as various documentaries covering past and current exhibits.  In one room I watched interviews of the contributing photographers and listened to them how their image was created. When it came time for Emilio’s interview, the image above was displayed on a 60 inch plasma TV in HD.  After seeing the image on a monitor I realized that nothing compares to a beautiful print.

I highly recommend checking out the exhibit in the next few days. As powerful as these images are at depicting historic and current events, nothing compares to the power of a beautiful print.

Here are a few shots I made with my trusty iPhone.  (Even the bathroom is an experience)

beads - Anneberge Space for Photography
beads - Anneberge Space for Photography
Men's restroom self portrait - Anneberge Space for Photography
Men's restroom self portrait - Anneberge Space for Photography

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head shots and portraits

What I’m thinking about & getting my own head shots

By on September 24, 2009

For all of my photo shoots there is a pre-production meeting or consultation. We’ll talk about the goals and mood of the shoot; what the images will be used for; who’s the intended audience; styling; location; lighting; props….the list goes on. I have found that it helps the shoot and the end result by discussing all these items before we even pick up a camera.

Once I bring the camera up to my eye there are hundreds of questions that go through my head. First and foremost it’s technical information like the shutter speed, aperture, ISO setting, white balance, focus, framing and lighting. After that I have so much more to consider. How do you look? Are you relaxed? Having fun? Do you have a natural smile or expression? How’s your hair? Your makeup? Your wardrobe? Does the shape of your face look better from a different angle? What’s going on with the background? How did the sun going behind the clouds affect my exposure? Is the flash firing? The list of questions and concerns goes on.

On Monday all of my experience and knowledge went out the window. I couldn’t recall most of it; I was a like a dear in the headlights but in this case the headlight was a camera pointing at me. I finally booked a session with a photographer to get my own picture taken. Over the past couple years several friends and clients asked why I didn’t have a photo up on my site? Even social networking sites like facebook and linkedin were lacking in the photos-of-chuck department. So I finally booked a session with a great local lifestyle photographer named Christian Romero. He was able to work within my budget and his work was loose and relaxed.

I’m not trying to come across as an actor or a model – just a photographer that sometimes has to endure the same pain you feel when you step in front of the camera. The last photo I really liked of just me was shot by our incredible wedding photographer Selima Ani.  The day after my wedding I shaved my head so the photo isn’t exactly accurate anymore.  Do you know of anyone using a less than accurate photo to promote themselves or their business? Ever been the victim of head shot fraud? Been on an internet date where the person just didn’t live up to their photos? I can help.

Chuck Espinoza - Shot by Christian Romero
Chuck Espinoza - Shot by Christian Romero

The experience with Christian on Monday reinforced why personality and rapport has so much to do with getting great shots of people. Remember the glamour shots scene in Napoleon Dynamite where Deb is taking Uncle Rico’s picture in the mall?

Click to see the vid of Deb and Uncle Rico – Napoleon Dynamite

I know that a lot of my clients don’t enjoy being in front of the camera so my goal is to make your experience as painless as possible.

If you are in need of a new photo for your website, business card or facebook page I’m hosting an event on October 1st to provide clients with a quick, painless and affordable way to get updated photos. Call me to discusss the details or click to see examples and read more about it.

Chuck 310.922.5094

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Architecture and Design

Photoshop and Architectural Photography

By on September 10, 2009

Photoshop and architectural photography go hand in hand.

Here’s an example of a recent shot of living room. Because of the level of the camera and the height of the ceilings I needed to tilt the camera up, resulting in a  keystone effect that give the appearance that the walls are leaning in.  Although many people don’t register this immediately, subconsciously our brain knows that walls are supposed to be vetical and that something is off. This perspective distortion can be corrected in a couple ways. The first is to use a tilt-shift lens like Canon’s new 17mm ts-e ($2300).  A tilt shift-lens allows you to correct the perspective by moving the axis of the lens. This lens is not only expensive but has very limited uses. The alternative is to correct the perspective using Photoshop or a similar editing program.

Unedited image Canon 5D and Canon 16-35mm 2.8 lens
Unedited image Canon 5D and Canon 16-35mm 2.8 lens. Walls are supposed to be vertical.

Here’s the result after some work in Photoshop. Not only have we corrected the keystone effect but we have brought back details in the windows cropped out the window and walls that were in the foreground of the original image.  The wall and window didn’t add to the image and were a bit distracting. By removing them we have brought the viewer into the warmth and luxury of this great living room and it’s spectacular views.

Image corrected and edited in Photoshop
Image corrected and edited in Photoshop

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