Archive for portraiture

It’s all about the light…. and taking great photographs of people!

Posted in Weekly Wonderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 26 October 2016 by misselisabethuk

As some of you may know I have two blogs currently running, one for the first module of my BA Hons in Photography (Expressing Your Vision) and this one, which is more a record of my thoughts and gives you a glimpse in to my life, likes and other shizzles.  Some might say this is the more interesting blog, some might say “What you talkin’ ’bout Willis”, anyhoo….

Today I went on a photography lesson carried out by a Pret-a-Portrait photographer. I always like to sniff out these opportunities whilst on holiday as they invariably impart some small priceless piece of information which becomes invaluable later.  This lesson was no different; a couple of golden nuggets of information was shared and I will share them with you in this blog.

The lesson was primarily focused about studio lighting for portraits, which is one of my current interests so I used the session to maximise my understanding of how lighting works and fortuitously part four of my course is about light so it was very apt and topical.

The first part of the lesson was a standard presentation.  I had been to one of these session before so knew the format but the additional things I learnt, which maybe I should have already known, were:

  • When the shutter button is pressed one door (curtain) opens and when the shutter closes another door (curtain) shuts.  Many times I have seen the ‘second curtain’ referenced and I now know this means the closing shutter.
  • It is OK in studio to use 200-400 ISO so you can increase the aperture.
  • Hard light produces dark shadows and soft light produces lighter shadows.
  • A smaller light source produces harder light than a larger light source.
  • The terms ‘High Key’ and ‘Low Key’ are derived from the main light source, known as the Key Light.
  • The broad side is when the side lit by the Key Light is facing the camera and the narrow (or ‘short’) side is when the side not lit by the Key Light, the shadow side is  facing the camera.

This may have all been obvious but it is good to hear someone tell you, and also see it done in practice.

The next part of the lesson was the practical bit….

All these images were taken as ISO 400, 1/200 sec. and f/22.  I used my Canon 70D and my Sigma 17-50mm lens which was mostly used at the long end (i.e. 50mm).

The first image (top row, left hand side) shows a High Key set up.  This was achieved by having two lights lighting up the background and a large octobox as the Key Light.

The second image (top row, middle) was achieved by turning off the two lights which were lighting up the background.  This is almost Rembrandt lighting; the main light source is at 45 degrees to the subject and a second light source (which is missing here) is about 1 f-stop less bright directly behind the camera (to lighten the shadows). 

The third image (top row, right hand side) was achieved using a black back ground and a beauty dish.

The fourth image, complete with lens flare, (bottom row, left hand side) was achieved by using a standard reflector with a grid on.  A grid stop the light spilling out of the sides of the light modifier and directs the light in one direction.

The fifth image (bottom row, middle) was achieved by placing a white screen on the opposite side of the subject to the light source to reflect the light spilling past the subject.

The sixth image (bottom row, right hand side) was achieved by placing a black screen on the opposite side of the subject to the light source to absorb the light spilling past the subject.

It is important if you are going to be a portrait photographer that you make your subject/s feel relaxed; talk to them to make them feel at ease, tell a joke, make fun of yourself – whatever works!  You will get more natural shots if there is a relaxed atmosphere.

Lastly, a word about ‘posing’ there are a number of different approaches to this:

1 – The completely un-posed picture – choosing a good spot and waiting for the right moment.  Stage manage.

2 – The posed picture – directing the subject to a precise pose and look but taking their mind off being photographed.

3 – The semi-posed picture – arrange and direct to a point then leave an element of chance.  This option may result in more photographs but you will not know which will turn out the best until the shoot is over.

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought when trying out your own photography.  I certainly now have a lot more set ups I now want to try (and practice) as a result.

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