How do I get my pic to look like this?


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Jan 7, 2010
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New York
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Hi! So i am new to photography and I use a canon dslr...I am trying to make a bday collage of my son and I was looking at another photographers pics to kind of imitate but mine never look as good. I don't know if it is the way I am shooting them or if it has something to do with post-production but I was hoping someone could give me some tips..

Here is her collage: (Scroll down to the little boy smashing the cake!)

2010 January |

and here are a few of my pics...

Flickr: Ked1986's Photostream

Thanks so much for your help :)
I don't really take pictures of people so this is out of my wheel house, however the first thing I notice is lighting. It looks to me like she has a few soft boxes set up and she is shooting with a with a very open aperture. If you want to get these results you will need "studio" lighting and pick yourself up a Canon 50mm 1.8 (I think you can get it for under $100) your photos of your children will thank you.

Edit, I don't know if you do or not but shoot in RAW, it makes post more effective.
I highly recommend the 50mm 1.8. I'd also get lower. Your shots are still from an angle instead of straight on.
In all of the photos, on that site you linked to, there is a square catchlight in the eyes. That's from a softbox.
And you get your photos to look like that the same way you get to Carnegie Hall... Practice practice practice!
It's not the lens, it's the light. To get that buttery-smooth, even light, you need a large surface area of light close to the subject. As reznap pointed out, that comes from a softbox. And that, usually means a studio setup. Of course, once you have that beautiful, enveloping light, then the lens will contribute to create the right amount of sharpness/softness...
Looks like you are using your onboard flash? it cast the shadows on the background render the pics unflattering. The other pics look to be shot in a studio with good lighting and a better backdrop.

The first one is only 8x9, so really tiny by soft box standards. The larger the soft box, the bigger the light appears and the softer the light. That one may be meant for a flash mount, but it also doesn't come with a stand. You'll also need a cable or wireless trigger if you flash is going to be the light source.

You can also try a diffuser, like a gary fong light sphere. While not ideal, it diffuses the light and gets rid of harsh shadows by bouncing light behind the subject rather than right into the subject. If you are going to use the studio stuff, check out a complete set up, but if this is only for the one shoot, explore less expensive avenues.
Oldpacman nailed it.

Although a studio setup would be the most controllable and convenient (you shoot when you want to), it does require the most equipment ($$$) and space. So let's think out of the box (pardon the pun).

The challenge is to have a wide (large) souce of even light that can envelope your subject. One way of achieving this is to shoot in a white room with white ceilings, and use your flash(es) in bounce mode, so that it is the reflected light that surrounds the subject. However, bouncing the light around a room uses up a lot of light, and you need a strong flash to provide enough power. If the room is small, you could probably get away with the 430, but if it's a normal room (more than 15'x15'), you would need at least a 580 or maybe even more. You also have to aim the flashes behind you, so the back (white) wall becomes the surface providing the light, otherwise if you bounce the light just off the ceiling, you get eye and chin shadows.

The Gary Fong diffuser works very well, as long as you're in a room with white ceilings that are 8-9 ft. high, and you're shooting close (5-8 ft). The range is short because again you're spreading out the available flash light. The Gary Fong diffuser (kinda) avoids the shadows from the bounce above by directing some of the light horizontally. I use it a lot, it works well (certainly much better and flattering pictures than direct flash!), but it's not quite as good as the studio setup.

Another way of getting the envelopping light is to shoot in front of a large window which is brightly lit but not with direct sunlight. Then, you don't need the flash setup at all, but you do have to take care of the colour balance (shoot a grey card for custom colour balance), and you're somewhat limited in terms of your shooting direction.

Still another way is to take the whole thing outdoors, surround your "shooting area" with white sheets so that they provide a source of "wide" light. You don't want direct sunlight as that will cause shadows and be "harsh".

Back to your question - If you've got the money and the space, your second selection would certainly give you a good starting point. Add the flashes, radio triggers, a few reflectors, and lots of practice, and you'll get there.
The best bet to get close to the result you want would be to start with one flash unit and a single softbox and learn how to use them. You will see a world of difference in your photos.

Oh, and get that 50mm 1.8 anyway!
Short of the aforementioned soft box (which is really the only correct solution), you can at least improve your shots with an external flash that's not aimed at your subject... rather, it's bounced off a nearby ceiling, wall, etc. This creates much softer lighting.

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