Philip Hegel Photography: Blog en-us Philip Hegel Photography (Philip Hegel Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:09:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:09:00 GMT Philip Hegel Photography: Blog 120 80 My first ever newborn session leads to a brand new obsession! When I first started out doing professional photography years ago I actually remember saying aloud: "I will not be a newborn photographer".  I also thought I would mostly do couples photography, you know, engagements, anniversaries, weddings, etc.  Then I realized something a couple of years back...I love the genuine expressions you get from children.  Posed photography is always going to be classic for certain occasions, but there is just something to be said about lifestyle photography and the genuine moments that you capture, which would normally be gone forever but I give them the ability to live on forever.  

Recently I was asked to if I could do a newborn session almost at the last minute.  A great friend of mine had another friend who found herself with a beautiful addition to their family, but no photographer to capture that precious time in the beginning that you'll just never have again.  When asked I instantly remembered my moment of thinking I would never be a newborn photographer, but my friend told me that she knew it wasn't something that I did, but that her friend, Stella, had all these props and wanted to get some great photos with them, and she thought I would would be perfect.  Well how could I say no?  So we set it up and had a great session in their home, getting the entire family involved!  Here are some of our favorites from the session that I hope you enjoy as much I as I did!  I think I have found my new calling as a photographer...sometimes you just have to take that first step!

I want to say thank you so much to Stella and Vince Pannarale for taking a chance on a first time newborn photographer...I know you were happy with the results because I waited to blog this until you ordered your prints!  I am proud to say that since this first session, I have completed another and booked three more in the very near future so look out for the next blog to come soon!  I have become addicted to newborn sessions, and I have made a substantial investment in props that grows on a weekly basis.  I never thought I would find myself antiquing on a Sunday afternoon but here we are!  So if you know anyone that is expecting, send them my way!  Referrals still earn discounts on your future sessions!

(Philip Hegel Photography) baby photography chicago event photography chicago newborn photography family photography chicago in home newborn photography lifestyle lifestyle photography newborn photography newborn session palatine baby photography philip hegel photography philip hegel photography blog philip hegel photography newborn Sun, 23 Jul 2017 23:53:15 GMT
Lappas Baptism  

I know I am so late getting this out but I just couldn't decide on my favorites to feature on this post!  A few months back I was approached by George and Julie and honored to be invited to photograph the baptism of little Chirstos.  I love getting to work in different environments and places, and when they told me it would be in the amazingly gorgeous St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in Lincoln Park I couldn't imagine not doing this for them (plus who could say no to photographing this little ham here)!  

The day was as beautiful as the ceremony; a perfect late may afternoon in the city with a beautiful family, all gathered together to celebrate the beginning of Christos path towards a life with God and Christ within their church.  I have never seen so many people turn out for a baptism before, the family came from near and far to witness.

We all need a moment to contemplate before large commitments in life, but Christos was taking his big day in stride as he played with his feet waiting on the baptism to begin!  I think this is my favorite photo of all from this day....but as I said before, it's hard to pick just one!

Thank you again, George and Julie.  I was so happy to be able to capture your sons special day, and I cannot tell you enough how gorgeous everything was!  I wish you and your family the best, and Na Sas Zisi!


(Philip Hegel Photography) baby photography chicago baptism photography photo photographer chicago event photography family photography chicago newborn photography palatine baby photography palatine photography philip hegel photography Tue, 13 Jun 2017 03:14:36 GMT
Adi's Third Birthday!  

I love getting to capture life's events  in addition to my family and lifestyle sessions, especially when it's at in indoor carousel park!  When Jinette and Steve told me where they were planning a third birthday party for their adorable daughter, Adali (Adi for short), I was so excited to have been asked to photograph it for them!  I didn't even know this place existed and now I think every kid should have a party here!

A little frosting on your face is a sure sign of a fun start to a party.  Adi was so adorable riding the ponies, it looked like she was in a storybook with the wonder and magic in her eyes.  What a great idea to have a March birthday party at Jumps n' Jiggles in Elk Grove Village, you just never know what the weather will be like but this place seemed to be just right for all the kids!

The party was a Disney Princess theme, and she was surprised with a magical visit by none other than Cinderella herself!  The carousel spinning in the back makes the scene feel just like a fairy tale, and Adi's eyes just have that sense of amazement in them.  Here are mom and birthday Princess posing with the other Princess!

Mom, and dad take a spin around the carousel with the birthday girl.  I tell you, shooting on a moving carousel while facing backwards is more challenging than I expected, but we got some really great moments.

Being goofy with each other in the mirror was so much fun!  She was making faces at her momma and the camera in the reflection!  Thanks again, Jinette and Steve for letting me be involved in Adali's special birthday party.  It was so cute and so much fun, and those cupcakes were fantastic, thanks for letting me sneak one home!  

Great food, great theme, great party all around! Happy birthday, Adi, and thank you for letting me be part of it. I am so thankful to be able to capture these fast moving times and slow them down a bit for the parents to have lasting memories.  Guests of this event may access the private album for viewing and print ordering here (password required, please obtain from Steve or Jinette)!  If you are interested in booking an event, or a family/lifestyle session, Philip Hegel Photography is now booking for April and May, give me ring!  -phil-

(Philip Hegel Photography) birthday event photography palatine 60074 family photography lifestyle lifestyle photography lifestyle photography palatine 60074 palatine birthday party photographer philip hegel photography philip hegel photography blog photography photos Sun, 19 Mar 2017 01:38:48 GMT
What a Weekend! Can you believe the weather we had this weekend, it was warmer in Chicago than it was in Southern California!?  It was my birthday on Sunday and I can not recall ever being able to enjoy the outdoors as much on February 19th as we did this year!  70 degrees on Sunday, who woulda thunk it?  Since nobody expected this to happen, we had a slow weekend professionally and we were able to get out there and finally shoot our own family photos.  My wife is always saying "you take awesome pictures of everyone else's family, why not ours?" so we carved out time Saturday and Sunday to shoot ours.  We have so much fun doing what I call "professional selfies" in our home, and this was the first time moved the operation outside.  It also gave me a chance to experiment with a new setup for lighting photos and I am very pleased with how it turned out.  Give me call if you love these, and let's get your family photos done, too!  Enjoy!  And to those paying attention, yes I did get a haircut Sunday morning so I look a little "rougher" in the Saturday photos :) We had this great idea that we would go out on Saturday by ourselves while Callie (our Border Collie) was in camp playing and getting nice and exhausted.  The thought was then on Sunday we would include her in the photos because a tired Border Collie is a cooperative one.  We were mistaken.  She is never truly exhausted and always seems to have a fifth gear she can shift into to keep going, so of sixty photos with her, we kept two, and only one was she looking at the camera (this was not that one).

Our favorite from the weekend and the one that is getting hung over the mantle.  It's far from perfect photographic form but when you work with pets, you take what you can get, and her smile was too precious to let the fact our feet were cut off cause me to throw this away.  We only got this because a nice lady was walking by with her dog and noticed that our dog was staring at hers, so she kindly paused and said "I'll wait a moment behind the camera so you can get one of her looking" and it worked.  Thank you kind stranger!

As mentioned earlier, we went out without the dog on Saturday and took some photos at Moraine Hills State Park, a great place for family photos with lots of good little spots with views.  I was practicing my setups, and this one shows it off nicely.  We used a tripod and the wi-fi feature on my camera to connect with the Nikon phone app that allows you to control the camera with your phone.  It takes some practice, but is great fun.  The lighting setup here is three, two speedlights and the sun.  The sun is over our left shoulders (right shoulders looking at the pic) and high in the sky acting as our hairlight providing that halo around the top of our heads, something often done in studio to help separate your subject from the background.  Then the main light is about two feet off camera to the left on the photo (our right while standing there) and a fill light is about three feet to the right of the camera, a little further back so as to still give those facial defining shadows, while properly exposing everything including the background and keeping those blue skies blue. Same setup here with the lights (actually all but the last two photos in this post were setup with two speedlights and the sun all playing varying roles of main, fill, and hairlights).  It was a little harrowing on this shot, as the ice below the dock was just starting to melt away causing the floating dock to move on one side up and down with the water, while the shaded underside was still stuck.  So we would sit on the bench and half the dock would rock like it was going to tip over, until the other frozen half stopped it, and I must have jumped up thinking my camera was headed into the water at least half a dozen times!  We managed to get a great shot, though.   After being too frightened of the uneven dock, we moved to more solid ground and found a little bridge to take advantage of the leading lines of the railing.  This was a smaller area to work in, and it was great to see how even with space limitations the lighting setup I am using this year is so flexible that I could still make it work.  One speedlight about a foot off camera to the left (our right in photo) as a main, but close enough to the front to wrap around the faces for a fill-side light, and the sun as a hairlight behind us over our right shoulders (left side looking at the photo).  This technique is fantastic because it allows you to expose both the background and the subject equally, or play with it, without blowing out the background to make sure the subject is lit.   Just before heading to pick up the dog on Saturday we stopped at a forest preserve near our home (Camp Alphonse) to grab a few more practice shots in a less crowded space.  The parks were filling up so fast by Saturday afternoon that this was actually the third preserve we tried, but the rest had full parking lots and we couldn't get in!  But I know nobody goes to this one.  Simple one light setup again (I actually photoshopped in an extra set of catchlights in our eyes because I like two instead of one reflection).  To the left of the camera, about two feet, and the sun over our left shoulders providing a hair light and wrap around to the face to act as a fill light.  I love the definition you get with this look, and again we were able to shoot in horrible light conditions and still have it come out great!  I hope you enjoy, if you are family and want a print, send me a message with which one and what size and I will get one out to you from my print lab.  Here's to the rest of the week being lovely end-of-April type weather in February!

(Philip Hegel Photography) chicago chicago family photos dog photography family photographer chicago family photography palatine family photos with dog lifestyle palatine lifestyle photography philip philip hegel photography blog photo lighting setup photo technique photography photography" photos selfies Mon, 20 Feb 2017 19:00:16 GMT
Already Missing the Holidays! It was such a great holiday photo season this year, we had so much fun!  So many cute photos with so many great families, these are a few of the cutest kids I got to work with.  I really think that indoor sessions like this are becoming one of my favorite things to do.  You really get to see the family as they are, in a familiar and comfortable setting because they always feel more natural.  Interested in doing a lifestyle shoot at home during the winter months?  Give me a call, lets set up a date!  Enjoy, and thank you to everyone who reached out, I appreciated every second of it.


When I arrived at Kari's house, the first thing you notice was their amazing, gigantic Christmas tree!  Beautiful home and a beautiful family.  We just had to sneak one of the dog into the picture!

Another time we had to get the family pet into the photo, but not your typical family pet!

Want a surefire way to entertain toddlers and get them to smile for photos?  Let them play with Christmas lights (just be careful)!

Although I didn't get to show every family in here today, I do have to admit that this is perhaps my favorite from the entire holiday season and perfectly captures that magic of Christmas...


Well I hope you all had a merry Christmas, and are enjoying a very happy New Year!  Thank you again to all of my clients, past and future!  -phil-

(Philip Hegel Photography) chicago photography christmas photos family photography chicago holiday mini sessions holiday photos philip hegel photography Sat, 14 Jan 2017 03:53:06 GMT
Getting Sharper Photos! Getting Sharp Images 101

Hello, everyone and welcome to Philip Hegel Photography!  I think of all the other blogs, Facebook groups (like Emily's, where you may have come from) and reddit groups about photography that I belong to the question that I see come up the most is "my photos aren't very sharp, should I buy a new camera?".  Short answer, no.  I am sorry to have to tell you, but it's probably you, not your gear.  I love this question though because having tack sharp photos is so important to delivering a quality photo, especially for larger prints. Whether you are brand new as a hobbyist and just got your first dSLR or you have been shooting for a while now, but just started learning about sharpness, this post can get you started. Can most photos get away without being sharp?  Maybe, but that isn't a world I want to live in, so read on for some quick tips about improving the sharpness of your photographs!

We are going to cover some of the most common things here:

-How you focus (choosing your focal point and back button focus)



Choosing Your Focus Points

The first place that I think a lot of photographers start off wrong is with the autofocus functions.  Do professionals use autofocus?  Absolutely, but really only one function of it and that is trusting the camera to ensure we are focused on the finest detail the lens will allow.   If we manually focused all of the time we would miss so many great shots because it just takes more time and we are always looking for smart ways to work faster.  Cameras these days are capable of such amazing things, and one of them is lightning fast focus speeds on AF.  However, you still need to be the one telling the camera where to focus.  

Do you press the shutter button down halfway and see quite a few little boxes light up in the view finder automatically?  If you currently rely on your camera to pick the focus points for you, this is the number reason why you aren't getting consistently sharp photos.   I prefer, and recommend going with single point as shown in the (attempted) photo of the view finder.

As I said, these cameras are smart, but when it comes to focus it can only guess where you think the subject of the photo is.  The camera is not going to guess right enough of the time to make this time saver worthwhile, unlike allowing the camera to focus sharp on the one spot you select.  Myself, I always choose my own focus point, and I keep my AF on "Single Point" (Nikon) which means just one box in the view finder, that you move around to where you want the center of focus to be (but I typically keep it in the middle, and then "focus and recompose", which is a technique I will briefly discuss below but go into detail in another post).  Look in your camera manual or on google to see how to set your camera up this way.  This will allow you to choose specific focus points and to highlight that focus on smaller details.  Instead of focusing on an entire head, you can focus on the eye, or the bridge of the nose and let some of that focal plane naturally fall a little bit forward and a little bit backward from the center, and that is how you start getting those tack sharp images with all of the detail you have been looking for.  Now there are times you may wish to use other focus points, or things like 3D tracking for objects in motion, but for simplicity this post covers mostly stationary subjects.  


For steps on how to setup your camera properly, here are some great videos on YouTube for Nikon, and here are some for Canon.  This brings us to the next topic of how I focus once I have chosen that single spot, and it is not with the shutter button..

Back Button Focus

Your camera straight out of the box is setup to be started quick and used fast.  Often eager photogs jump in so quickly they neglect many of the things the camera can do outside of factory default settings, and the custom menus are probably some of the neatest features of your camera!  You can change the way the camera works, what buttons do what and when, to better fit your hands, your style, whatever you prefer.  One of the easiest changes you can make that might actually affect the sharpness of your photographs is to activate the "back button focus" function.  

To be clear, this isn't a magical "instant sharp button", it is just a different way to focus the lens that many-myself included-find not only ergonomically easier, but less prone to losing focus once obtained through accidental pressure on the shutter button (or worse, accidentally taking the picture by pressing the shutter button before focus was obtained).  

By moving the focus function off the shutter button to a button you operate with your right thumb on the back of the camera (typically the AE-L/AF-L button) you make the shutter button one function: opening the shutter to take a photo.  The pressing halfway down will no longer activate focus, you do it manually with the back button and your thumb.  This way, you can "lock" the focus once you have it by lifting your thumb (or focus continuously by holding it down for moving subjects), and when you are ready you press the shutter button down.  Your camera has a little icon on the viewfinder, it may beep, or the focus boxes may turn green to tell you when it has achieved focus. As long as the distance from the lens to the subject doesn't change after lifting off the back button, neither does your focus from where you left it last.  So you can focus on a stationary object like a models eye, then readjust your camera settings or even the composition of the photo if you need to, and the focus is still locked on the same distance as the subjects eye.  Note that if you move up or down or side to side too far and change the distance from your lens to your subject then your focus point will also move to a different spot.  This can be bad, but it can also be how you "focus and recompose", which I mentioned earlier.  This is why I use just one focus point in the center, because it is usually your best and sharpest focal point.  


Lets say I want to focus on the models eye but I want her in the corner of the photograph, but my focal point is in the middle.  So I point that focal point in the middle at her eye, then I "recompose" the frame of the photo to move the model where I want her in the composition, being very careful to maintain the same distance from the end of my lens to the model.  Focus and recompose is a great technique that I will cover in another post with more detail, but look it up on your own once you get comfortable with back button focusing! 


For instructional videos on how to set up back button focus for Nikon you can start here, for Canon you can start here.  So far we have been pretty non-technical, but the next part will discuss a few technical terms that you need to know, so if you don't, this post won't teach you but I suggest you spend a moment to look them up before you move on.


So you just bought that new 50mm f/1.8 prime lens because you saw that gorgeous bokeh (blurry background) everyone gets shooting with those, then the first time you used it you got that blur, but the photos were not sharp at all.  What's up with that?  Well let me tell you what you (and many others before and after you) probably did wrong: you stopped up too far (made your f/stop number too low).  The solutions to this are simple to understand, though.  The f/stop (aperture) controls not only how much light comes in the lens by opening or closing the aperture blades in your lens but it also determines how deep or shallow your focal plane is.  You need to find that sweet spot on your lens where the f/stop provides you with enough Depth of Field (DoF) to maintain sharpness where you want it, while blurring out the things you don't want so that your subject stands out, giving it that more professional look you desire.  Refer to the first photo on this post for a great example of using bokeh combined with sharpness to really make your model stand out!  One of the first rules of portrait photography is unless you need to let in the extra light (shooting in a church that doesn't allow flash photography might be an example), very rarely will you stop all the way up to f/1.8 (or f/1.4).  Most lenses have that sweet spot about 3-5 stops from being all the way open at the lowest aperture.  For many f/1.8 (or f/1.4) lenses this means shooting at f/2.5-f/3.5.  The next rule to remember is that the opposite also applies, if you continue to stop down too far to say f/10-f/16 then you will start to see your focus fall off again, just as it did when you stopped up to f/1.8 because you are too far off that sweet spot.  Why does this happen?  Well first it is because the aperture sets how "deep" your focal plane is (I will do another post about focal plane alone and link back to it when it is up, but for now google is your friend).  So the smaller the aperture number (which is actually a larger f/stop because like all things in photography we do this a little backwards) the less depth to that focal plane.  So much so that with a 50mm lens at f/1.8 with the subject standing five feet in front of the lens the DoF is only around 3.5 inches deep, total.  That means of the entire picture, only three and a half little inches of the subject will be perfectly focused.  Some of that focus naturally will fall in front of the focal point and some behind, so that means if you are focused on an eye you might not have the nose (or the other eye if the subject is turned to a profile pose) in focus because your focal plane is only about 1.5 inches on either side of the focus point, and a nose is longer than 1.5 inches (see examples).











The photo on the left (top on mobile) was shot at wide open, (f/1.8) notice how the focus starts to drop off so quickly that the tip of the nose and her hair are out of the focal plane and very soft compared to directly underneath the eye on the left (her right).  The right photo (bottom on mobile) was shot with by stopping down the aperture to f/4.5 and decreasing the shutter speed to allow the same amount of light in.  Notice now the entire face and all of the detail is in focus, not just under the eye, and even her hair is in better focus from front to back.  The bigger focal plane increased our Depth of Field allowing for more of the head to be sharp.




Some ways to increase the DoF are to increase the number of the f/stop as mentioned, or stand further from your subject.  But if you stand too far, then you will lose that blurry background you might have wanted.  The easiest way (not always the best but for general purposes this is good) to get sharp faces with blurred backgrounds is to stop down to say f/2.8, place your subject five to ten feet in front of the lens, and the background as far from the subject as possible.  There are TONS of great, free apps for Android and Apple you can download to reference until you start to get the feel.  Now if you have done all of this but you still can't get those tack sharp photos, the last thing to look at is how much light you have in your scene and how you are capturing that light, which we will cover next.


Photography is all about light, in fact it is in the name photography which has it's roots in Greek, where photo means light!  You are capturing photons of light that you see in the scene on an electronic sensor, and you have many ways to let that light in such as your aperture (previously discussed), ISO (increasing the gain electronically on the digital sensor), and shutter speed.  Your shutter speed determines how long the shutter is "open" and letting light fall onto the sensor.  How does this affect sharpness?  Well, bad light will not be able to give you the details you are looking for.  Whether that is too little light, or too much, you will lose sharpness.  The number one way shutter speed affects your sharpness is because you are shooting at too slow of a speed to handhold the camera, and you are getting camera shake in your picture which throws off focus.  The standard rule for handheld photography of 1/focal length is your absolute minimum for shooting without the assistance of a tripod or something else stabilizing.  So using our earlier example of a 50mm prime lens, you should never shoot slower than 1/50th of a second.  If you are shooting with a 70-200mm zoom at 200mm, then you should never shoot less than 1/200th, and so on.  Vibration reduction on your lens can get you to break that rule by up to four stops of slower shutter speed, but don't rely on that, stick to the rule.  Many photographers actually establish a blanket rule of never shooting below 1/250 or 1/400 no matter what lens they use.  So always make sure if you cannot use a tripod that you keep your shutter speed fast enough to ensure no camera shake causing the focus to be lost.  

Leaving after a shoot in the city, this was taken in extremely low light but I was able to take advantage of the available ambient light reflecting off a white washed wall just behind me that reflected perfectly on to her face giving enough light to keep the aperture at f/2.5 to maintain sharpness, even with dead batteries in the flash.

As mentioned before, bad light will prevent sharpness for many reasons like poor capture of details, and causing you to shoot at too slow of a shutter speed.  So how do you overcome this if you cannot open the aperture wider or shoot at a slower shutter speed?  Well, depending on your camera you may be able to just bump the ISO up to increase the signal gain on the sensor, but if you don't have a great sensor capable of shooting at high ISO you will end up with lots of digital noise on your photo.  Odds are that you are the only one who will notice the noise, not your client, but it still bothers us and makes us crazy as artists to see that on our work.  So now you are left with trying to get as much actual light on your subject as you can.  You can move the subject into better light which isn't always an option, use reflectors to move light around the area onto your subject, or use external light such as flash/strobe or continuous studio lighting, but that is a whole other subject we will discuss at a later date.  

In conclusion, remember that you are always trying to capture light in your photography and there are many ways to capture it.  The better the light hitting your sensor, the better the details you will capture.  The better the details, the sharper the photo is, and the better it looks.  Whether it is your focal points being on the wrong part of the light (subject), your aperture not giving you a deep enough focal plane, or your shutter speed causing camera shake these are all fixable issues.  Remember that the odds are best that it is NOT your camera, it is NOT your lens, it is you (sorry!), but that means you can fix sharpness issues without spending money and only spending time to practice!  Happy shooting, and good luck!  Feel free to leave comments or email me at [email protected] if you have any questions and thank you for your time!  -phil-


(Philip Hegel Photography) getting sharp pictures learn learn photography lesson philip hegel photography blog photography photography lesson photos portraits sharp sharp photos sharpness sharpness lesson Thu, 12 Jan 2017 03:03:57 GMT
Our Adventure Begins Here... As I sit here watching the Chicago Cubs in game 7 of the World Series (yes, even this Sox fan watched) I cannot help but sit in amazement at the year both the Cubs, and myself have had.  2016 has been filled with many different up's and down's, and is shaping up to end much different than how my family planned.  I was not to go full-time with photography until next spring, but things changed and here we are!  

I have just finished uploading my first wedding with me as the primary shooter.  This was the most exciting, and scariest thing I have ever done, and it turned out GREAT.  When Kathryn reached out to me this summer to inquire about me shooting her small, 40 person backyard wedding I initially declined her offer.  I told her that I would be more than happy to provide her engagement photos (which is how she came across my portrait work in the first place), but that I had never shot a wedding on my own and I felt a day this important should be left to someone with more experience.  She wasn't having any of that!  She loved my work, and knew it would fit really well with her and her fiance's style and with what they were looking for in the pictures that would capture their most special of days.  I am proud to say that it was a life changing experience, for the positive.  Most photographers I have known in the almost ten years I have been doing this either love weddings, or hate them, and I was nervous how I would feel but I was hooked instantly.  It was such a special thing to be a part of, and I got to really show off my documentary style in several of the photos, and I cannot wait to do my next!

As I was typing this up, I got a call to book my first Sweet 16 Party, so truly 2016 is a year of firsts, let's hope the Cubs get this World Series wrapped up, and we all enjoy a fruitful, and successful 2017!  Our adventure begins here.... Our Adventure Begins Here....

(Philip Hegel Photography) adventure philip hegel photography blog photography photos wedding wedding blog Thu, 03 Nov 2016 01:38:48 GMT