Borkware Photoblog

February 7, 2009

Self-Portraiture Tools

Filed under: gallery, Lightroom, Nikon, portraiture, technique — Mark Dalrymple @ 4:25 pm

Img0082.jpgYou can do all the book reading and video watching in the world, but it won’t help you much if you don’t actually practice the stuff. I have a problem with wasting other people’s time, so I ended up doing a fair amount of self-portraiture to experiment with different techniques and get a feel for the tools and gear at my disposal. I’ve done a couple of sessions in different parts of the house, and have come up with some things that worked for me.

One hard part is just triggering the camera. I’ve got a D3, which doesn’t have a built-in wireless shutter release, so I used a cable release for one session. That meant the camera had to be close enough for the cable to reach (it’s not terribly long), which meant using a wider lens (24-70 in this case) I’d be out of luck with a longer lens

A big problem was getting the focus even somewhat accurate. There was a lot of sit down shoot get up chimp tweak focus sit down shoot get up chimp tweak etc etc etc until I found a good spot. Once that’s done, you can leave the camera alone and just mess around with the lights.

For my second session I tried tethering. The first problem was getting a long enough USB cable to connect the camera and the computer. I found an “active usb cable” online which works nicely. It uses power from the usb port to enable a longer distance cable. I could get my 70-200 far enough away by using this cable.

The next step is software. Aperture can do tethering, but unfortunately, it locks out the camera controls. Once you start tethering, you can’t change anything on the camera. Lightroom can’t do tethering, but you can fake it by having tether software drop a file into the file system and tell Lightroom where to look for things. Things to make it go. Tip : go to “loupe” mode, and new photos will appear large on screen. Other library modes will put the new photos at the end and leave the current one selected.

Img0074.jpgCanon folks get remote control software for free with their cameras. Unfortunately (for me) Nikon tries to make their software a profit center. Camera Control Pro 2 is the software to use for remote control of the camera. It’s also $140-$200. Luckily there’s a 30 day trial, and I’m concentrating on this stuff for a month, so I can get by with the trial.

CCP2 is a nice bit of software, letting you change settings on the camera from your laptop, then click a button to fire the shutter. The image comes over the wire and gets dropped in the file system where it gets picked up by Lightroom. LiveView can feed a video stream to the computer, and you can trigger the contrast-detection autofocus. WOOT.

This means I can sit in my comfy chair, point the camera my direction (and hope the lens doesn’t shatter this time), use LiveView autofocus to focus, and trigger the exposure with a click of a button. I used a mouse so I didn’t have to lean over the lappy to fire the camera.

One alternative to tethering is to get a HDMI monitor and connect that to the camera. Set the autochimp mode and see the image appear after you shoot it. If the camera is physically distant you can’t zoom in or trigger other modes.

There’s still a fair amount of up-and-down action that happens, particularly adjusting lighting ratios. I used an SU-800 wireless trigger along with remote strobes. The SU-800 is attached to the camera, so you have to get up and piddle with that. Next time I’m going to try using a hotshoe extender cable so I can keep the commander within arm’s reach.

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for the info. I will try CCP2 and have it drop into Lightroom. It stinks that Nikon charges for this software and Canon doesn’t.

    Comment by Tommy Lockhart — October 11, 2009 @ 4:40 am


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