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7 Mistakes to Avoid When Shooting a Portrait

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Shooting a Portrait

You have a portrait shoot coming up. It’s possible you spent the last week preparing for the photo shoot to the point you feel confident you’ve got this and that nothing is going to go wrong. Excitement is in the air as you cannot wait to test your skill and creativity. While you think the shoot went brilliantly, after reviewing the images, you realize so many mistakes you made that could’ve been avoided that have now either cost you additional time in post production or they have made your images completely unusable.

A simple studio portrait.

 

It’s sort of a relief to know that even professionals make mistakes on portrait shoots too and that you should consider them learning experiences. However, here are seven common mistakes to be aware of and how to avoid them on your future portrait shoots to create a more pleasant experience for both you and your client.

MISTAKE #1 – HINDERING BACKGROUNDS & MERGERS

Sometimes we neglect to look at what is behind our subjects when photographing outdoors and even in more controlled environments like a photography studio. A merger is the appearance that an object behind your subject is merged with your subject, such as a light pole or tree branch sticking out of your subject’s head. This can also happen in a studio environment too depending on the set that you build. Sure, these mistakes can be removed with Adobe Photoshop – potentially hours later – but why waste the time when you can get it right upon capture?

An example of a merger is the tree branches appearing to stick out of my subject’s head.

 

A more common mistake is a distracting background. A few things can distract a viewer’s eye in an image: a sharp background, brightness, bold colors or high contrast. Since you want the attention to fall on your subject instead of the background, the idea here is to be aware of your subject’s surroundings including the background and foreground.

The image of me above looks quite busy and not very appealing.

Image courtesy of John Ritchie

 

Since you want your subject to be sharp, the best way to combat a busy background is to leave it slightly out of focus and you can do this in one of three ways: 1) shoot with a larger aperture, which creates a shallow depth of field; 2) use a long lens; or 3) pull your subject away from the background altogether. The goal here is to separate your subject from the background.

This image is much more pleasing than the previous image as the shallow depth of field separates me from the background.

Image courtesy of John Ritchie

 

MISTAKE #2 – INCORRECT FOCUS

The sharpest point in a photograph is where your viewer’s eyes will go first. The most important feature when capturing a portrait is your subject’s eyes, specifically, the one closest to the camera if your subject is even slightly turned to the side. Without the eye being in focus, your subject in your portrait can appear lifeless. The autofocus feature on many cameras can cause the mistake of incorrect focus, so it’s important to be aware of this and to set your focus to a single point on the eyes and not the nose or ear.

Her eyes look sharp and vibrant. His eyes look lifeless and out of focus.

Models: Valery Lessard and Bryan Fitzgerald

 

On the example above, you can see the difference in how it appears as the female model’s eyes are sharp and vibrant whereas the male model’s eyes are out of focus and appear dead and lifeless.

 

MISTAKE #3 – SHOOTING WITH THE WRONG LENS

Shooting with the wrong lens can cause very unflattering results in portraiture as distortion tends to occur on both ends of the spectrum. Below is a very extreme example but when you shoot a subject close up with a wide angle lens, their face becomes stretched and hardly recognizable, which can be a fun shot in some instances, but not for a professional portrait.

OK, so this is an exaggerated example, but this is distortion caused by using a Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens.

 

To avoid this distortion, an 85mm-150mm lens on full frame or a 50mm-105mm lens on cropped sensor is the choice lenses to use for shooting people. Around the equivalent of an 85mm focal length is generally the sweet spot for shooting portraits as the wider the angle of lens, the larger features like the nose and chin become.

Minor distortion with a 50mm F/1.4 lens used close up.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

Stepping back with an 85mm lens hits the sweet spot.

Model: Andy Mizerek

 

Stepping further back with a 100mm lens offers no distortion here.

Model/Actor: Bryan Fitzgerald

 

A telephoto zoom lens like the 70-200mm F/2.8 also creates little to no distortion.

Model: Bonnie Byrnes

 

A wide angle lens can work well for people photography typically when shooting an environmental portrait.

 

MISTAKE #4 – FORGETTING THE DETAILS

Sometimes we get into a groove. The music is playing, your subject is moving – we are snap, snap, snapping! However, when you forget to pay attention to the details, you might be capturing a bunch of images that you’ll either end up finding completely useless or spending hours fixing in post-production.

Missed wrinkles in a dress.

Model: Katie Buell

 

Save time by taking your time and being diligent. Does your subject have a hair band that they took off and left on their wrist? Do they have a flyaway hair on their forehead? A string on their sweater? Wrinkles in their dress?

Missed tag on the scarf and stray hairs on the neck.

Model: Maria Iodice

 

Correct the issues before capture to yield more useable images to choose from otherwise you may end up shooting a half of a day worth of useless images because you did not notice and fix what was wrong before capture.

String on the sweater.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

MISTAKE #5 – SHOOTING AT THE WRONG ANGLE

A common mistake in portraiture can be shooting your subject from the wrong angle. A typical guideline for a flattering portrait is to shoot them just above eye level.

Shooting at eye level.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

Shooting a subject from above may be an interesting point of view, but it will make your subject look smaller than they are and/or for balding men, it can expose a receding hairline.

Shooting too high makes a person appear smaller than they are.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

When you shoot a subject from below, you may make them look taller, but if you’re not careful to position them the right way, you may lose their neck to a shoulder, be looking up their nose and/or you may expose a double chin or even cause the appearance of a double chin they didn’t have to begin with!

Shooting too low can be unflattering, hides the neck and shows things like a double chin.

Model: Bonnie Byrnes

 

MISTAKE #6 – HARSH SHADOWS

Harsh shadows can appropriately be the result of an interesting choice of lighting for male subjects creating mystery and allure and for women, it can create a particular mood or add drama in a portrait.

An example of good, soft, flattering shadows.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

 

However, very harsh shadows produced by a poor choice of lighting or from undiffused light from the sun, can be unflattering and very distracting.

The shadows in her face are too harsh.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

 

You can create softer shadows by using a diffuser in between your light source and your subject, by using a reflector and filling in harsh shadows by bouncing light from the key light back onto the subject, and by proper placement of your subject in relation to your light source.

By using a reflector and bouncing light onto the shadow side of her face, the shadows are much softer.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

 

MISTAKE #7  – STATIC POSING

Posing can be one of the harder elements of a portrait to master just after lighting. The goal is to create an extraordinary portrait rather than a boring, lifeless photograph. So good direction to your subject is in order as it not only relaxes your subject a bit, but most of us do not really know how to pose in a flattering manner in front of a camera so you must be their guide.

For a reclining position, this image exhibits good angles and dynamic feet.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

Have your subject place their feet in different directions or positions from one another. This creates a dynamic stance. When the feet face the same direction, the image looks flatter than if each foot were positioned in a different way such as kicking one foot up on a tow, popping the hip out and placing one foot facing out to the side while the other is straightforward.

The pose here is a bit stiff. While there is a nice angle in the arms, the feet face the same direction losing the depth in the image.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

In the similar image below, the subject’s feet are pointed in different directions, her hips are uneven and there are many angles to her arms and legs creating a better pose.

Many angles and more dynamic feet.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

Good posture is important in a portrait. A slumped over look can create make the stomach appear larger than it is whereas straight posture can actually pull it in. A sculpted face is typically also desired. By having your subject pull their head up, as if the top of their head is attached to puppet strings, pushing their face out (which will accentuate the clavicle), and pulling the chin down – all of which may feel a little unnatural – will create a slimmer, more sculpted look in the face.

Here her posture is straight and her head is pulled high, face out and chin slightly down to create a more sculpted face.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

A good portrait will exhibit a more defined three dimensional look which is achieved by proper feet placement; good posture; angled arms and legs; and head placement that accentuates the face and exposes the neck as much as possible.

A good angled, dynamic pose.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

LEARNING FROM YOUR MISTAKES

You can never know everything there is to know about photography so you will make mistakes as you go along. Even professionals still make mistakes as photography is a constant learning process. Don’t look at a mistake as the end of the world and hang up your camera. Look at them as a learning experience, something necessary to get even better at your craft. The seven tips above are just a few of many mistakes which can be learned and avoided. What are some mistakes you’ve made in the past? Feel free to share your mistakes and what you’ve learned from them in the comment section below.

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Capturing Magic: Finding Inspiration For Captivating Portraits

Capturing Magic: Finding Inspiration For Captivating Portraits

Portraiture has been around for many centuries. Before the digital age and even before the age of film, portraits had been created through other mediums such as paintings and sculptures. A portrait is a treasure that people keep around for a lifetime. A great portrait embodies the essence of the person and tells his or her story without saying a word. How can you make your portraits stand out from the rest? Getting creative. Doing something different. But then, where do you find the inspiration for such types of portraits?

Here I created an artist set to get the look of interrupting an artist at work.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

The idea for a portrait can revolve around many different things, such as an overall theme, maybe a piece of clothing, a location, a prop or the person you are photographing – among many other things. You can generate ideas for a portrait through music, art, books and more. It becomes easier to find inspiration the more you become aware of your surroundings and most importantly, familiar with your subject.

 

What’s the Purpose of the Portrait?

The first thing you should think about when deciding how to tackle capturing a portrait of someone is: what is the purpose of the portrait? A portrait might be a senior portrait for a teenager getting ready to graduate high school in the next year, an individual’s portrait, a couple’s portrait, family portraits or even glamour or boudoir portraits.

A senior portrait.

 

Determining the purpose of the portrait can help guide you toward the characteristics your client might be looking for in their portrait such as a couple’s portrait might want to display their love for one another, a senior portrait might symbolize hope for a bright future and for a boudoir portrait, the idea is “sexy”.

Glamour portrait in my hallway.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

Below are several characteristics that you may find can help jog some creativity into your portraiture.

 

Background Choice

In a car. A sixteen-year-old boy just got their first car. He is proud of achieving the passing of his driving test and as a typical sixteen-year-old boy, his car is his most prized possession. This is a good opportunity to suggest shooting a few portraits with him in or standing next to his car.

Outdoors. Shooting a portrait outdoors offers an infinite number of possibilities for backgrounds. Find out your client’s favorite area of town and meet them there for the shoot. If they like the beach, shoot at the beach. Are they avid hikers? Strap on your hiking boots and let them guide you to their favorite spot and photograph them in that environment. If they’re unsure of an outdoor location, it’s up to you to scout out an interesting backdrop.

We shot this portrait outdoors in my neighborhood.

Model: Bonnie Byrnes

 

In a studio setting. Many portrait photographers opt to shoot in a studio so that they can better control the light. You have options for backgrounds in the studio such as seamless paper, canvas, muslin or you can even build a set. Below I used a Savage Mocha seamless paper background along with dramatic lighting.

Background choice in the studio against Savage Mocha seamless paper.

Model/Actress: Celeste Smith

 

Work Your Angles

 

Shoot From Above. Savage Floor Drops can make for an interesting background when you shoot your subject from above. Having materials around such as fur and silk also add texture and sheen to the image. In the image below, I also added pillows and lit tea candles as well as a guitar to create an “At Home With the Musician” type of portrait.

Get on a ladder and shoot from above.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

Give your subject space to look into. As a good rule of thumb, when shooting a portrait, especially “landscape-oriented” (horizontally), frame your subject on one side of the image or the other (use The Rule of Thirds as a guide) and make sure that he or she has space to stare into. When you have a subject facing outside the frame closest to him or her, the image generally evokes a bit of tension within the viewer.

Placing your subject on one side of the image and giving them a lot of negative space on one side gives them space to look into.

Model: Maria Iodice

 

Shooting Orientation. I generally ignore the idea that portraits should be “portrait-oriented” (vertical). I generally shoot a portrait both portrait-oriented and landscape oriented (horizontal) for variations.

Vertical orientation.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

Remember the best way to shoot landscape-oriented people photos is to give your subject space to look into by placing them on one side of the image or the other with their face facing into the image center.

Horizontal orientation.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

Tight Shots

When I shoot, I generally have my subject hold for 2-3 shots and capture the same photo a few different ways, such as full body, ¾ shot, waist up, headshot and a tight shot. Tight shots can be an interesting choice to create a unique portrait. It especially comes in handy if your subject has a receding hairline or a double chin.

Tight shot of a friend.

 

Play With Light & Shadow

 

Mixing Multiple Light Sources. I remember I was once told that mixing different types of lighting could be tricky or disastrous. I did an experiment once in outdoor shade next to a building doorway where there was a combination of ambient daylight, my speedlight and a tungsten bulb in the doorway and came up with the portrait below. Don’t ever be afraid to experiment and create things someone else told you that you couldn’t.

Here I blended ambient light, the tungsten bulb light in the doorway to the right and my speedlight to get this shot.

Model: Andy Mizerek

 

Use Shadows. Whether it’s shadows created from mini-blinds indoors or from trees outdoors, or even shadows you create with studio lighting, shadows can transform such a humdrum image into something very extraordinary.

I used a tree to break up harsh lighting and got some interesting shadow patterns.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

Create Silhouettes. A portrait doesn’t necessarily need to capture all the details of a subject. Sometimes just a silhouette outline of your subject can make for a creative portrait too.

Silhouettes can make for interesting portraits.

 

Go High-Key or Low-Key. High key portraits evoke a feeling of lightness, innocence and purity. The key to creating a high key portrait is a lot of light, while still managing to maintain a true black point.

A high key portrait always has a light and pure feel to it.

Model: Kathryn Hopkins

 

Low-key portraits are a good choice for music and athletic portraits or any type of portrait where you want to create a lot of drama as the images are very dark and the light is very focused on a particular part of a subject such as their face, hands or maybe even just a baby’s feet. In the image below I added a rim light to create a separation between my subject and the background to add dimension.

Low-key lighting can add drama.

Model: Baron Jackson

 

Use window light whenever possible. Many photographers are a fan of natural light and prefer daylight studios to just any ole studio. There’s just a quality of softness about light that comes through a window, which can serve as a little bit of a diffuser itself. Window light can be recreated artificially, but there’s just something striking about natural window light.

Window light makes for a beautiful dramatic portrait.

Model: Bonnie Byrnes

 

Add Movement

 

Spin, Spin, Spin. I recently wrote an article on getting more creative with your self-portraits and experimented with spinning and shooting with a slow shutter. I managed to create the image below on the second try. Here you can see my face in profile and full face. Just a unique “spin” to a portrait.

A slow shutter offers a nice motion shot.

 

Blowing confetti/glitter. You’ve see the images. A girl with a party hat (or not) blowing confetti toward the camera lens. It’s a nice shot to try to capture for a birthday portrait, but it does take practice and a tripod to capture the confetti in the air prior to its descent.

Sports portraits. You might be hired to shoot some portraits during a child’s sports game. Anticipation of movement is the key to a sports portrait – that and a fast shutter speed. After the game you can slow down and capture images of the athlete in his or soiled uniform holding the football, catcher’s mitt, baseball bat, or whatnot. It provides much more character than a stark, sterile, clean uniform.

Dancing portraits. A photographer can capture beautiful portraits of ballet dancers who are  quick, agile and can hold a pose for a pretty long time. I actually added movement into the image below by shooting the dancer through a piece of Plexiglas wrapped in Saran wrap.

I shot through saran wrap on Plexiglas here to create a sense of movement.

Model/dancer: Shoko Fujita

 

Reflections

A different way to approach shooting a subject is through the use of a mirror. If you can find a room with a full length mirror on one side, this can make for a stunning image – especially the more dramatic the wardrobe they are wearing. No mirror wall? A stand-up mirror can also work to capture a person in a just little bit of a different way than just a “smile and say cheese” portrait.

Use of a mirror for this portrait.

Model: Colleen Rose Careri

 

Composites & Double Exposure

 

Composites. A composite, if done right, can add a new dimension to a portrait. I’m not an expert with Adobe Photoshop, nor do I have the patience to spend hours and hours to do outrageously amazing composites, but taking your subject and placing them on a different background can sometimes make the image more interesting.

A composite created from a studio shot on white seamless and an image borrowed from Google.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

Double Exposure Images. A double exposure image is another process that can take a little bit of time but can fun and can literally share your subject with something they like. I’m a huge fan of sunflowers so we created the double exposure of me in a sunflower field. The sun just happened to be in a perfect spot to generate an even deeper meaning to the portrait.

This is a double exposure self-portrait amongst my favorite flower.

 

Introduce Props

 

Flowers and foliage. Whether you add flowers to your client’s hair or put flowers in their hands (which can also help to relax your subject by giving them something to do with their hands…!), adding a client’s favorite flower to their portrait not only adds an additional piece of beauty into the image but it also adds yet another hint to the viewer as to the subject’s likes and preferences. Beyond the example below, the self-portrait above also showcases this.

Giving my subject flowers gave her something to do with her hands too.

Model: Larissa Byrd

 

Food. Yes food… but make it fun food! A portrait of a child blowing out candles on a birthday cake makes a nice sentiment. Combining a lollipop or even a piece of fruit into a portrait can make the portrait a little more fun and interesting. If your subject is holding the object, even better! Giving them something to do with their hands helps to relax them a little in front of the lens as it helps take their attention of the camera and places it on the object they are holding.

Add a lollipop for a twist to the semi-monochromatic image.

Model: Bonnie Byrnes

 

Materials and Lace. Exaggeration is okay not only in fashion, but portraiture too. In the image below I draped a piece of beautiful jade lace over my client’s hair and gave her a bouquet of black calla lilies to create a little bit of a darker portrait. Adding various materials or lace to a portrait set whether it’s on your subject or they are laying on it, adds a nice touch to the final result.

Here the props were the lace made into a veil and the black calla lillies.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

Incorporate Accessories

 

Hats. Hats can be a fun addition to a portrait depending on what they are wearing and your subject’s personality.

I added a cowgirl hat to complete this ensemble.

Model: Bonnie Byrnes

 

Scarves. In addition, a scarf can also be a nice addition to a subject’s look in a portrait. In the image below, my subject has an Eastern European background and actually asked me if we could incorporate a scarf into some of her portraits.

Because of her ethnic background, the scarf helps lend to her story.

Model: Maria Iodice

 

Add Embellishments to Makeup

 

Feathers. While feathers might be a little overboard, they can make for a fun and dramatic portrait if you have a great makeup artist on hand. In the image below, we went with a beautiful peacock theme.

We created a beautiful peacock theme for this shot.

Model: Kathryn Hopkins

 

Jewels. Adding jewels to makeup, especially around the eyes, can really bring out the feature they are near. The colors and sparkle also really stand out.

Adding jewels to her eyes draws your attention to the most important part of the portrait – the windows to the soul.

Model: Lizbeth Sawyers

 

Various Facial Expressions & Emotions

Rather than a typical, “say cheese” portrait, you may be able to evoke several different emotions in your client and capture them. Teenagers are notorious for being a bit reserved when it comes to professional portraits when it’s not their idea and the parents are the ones demanding them. A serious expression is quite fine though! Try to conjure up different expressions from your client. A sly or coy smile here, a bright cheery smile there, a pensive and thoughtful expression there – it all works!

It’s ok to capture a normal beautiful portrait.

Model: Chelsea Jackson

 

If your client is a bit of a jokester, even capturing capturing silly facial expressions really captures their essence and shows the viewer their personality.

Sometimes different facial expressions can show a fun side of someone in a portrait.

Model: Chelsea Jackson

 

Shoot Candids Between the Posed Shots

Of course, capturing candid shots in between the posed shots can also be a huge bonus as you’re capturing unposed, true, expressions of your client when they are being themselves and are caught off-guard. I managed to capture this candid portrait below during a pause between poses. I thought it was a bit calm and serene (almost meditative) and the client loved it.

I caught this shot between poses.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

A Last Word About Gaining Creative Insight…

Finding inspiration and coming up with creative ideas for captivating portraits can be very easy. The more aware you are of your surroundings, the more you will realize that the possibilities for ideas are endless. One of the great things I’ve learned over the past few years that has helped my creativity is self-portraits. You learn a lot not only about being in front of the lens, but how to tell your own story.

Self-Portrait.

 

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
10 Tips for New Photography Students

10 Tips for New Photography Students

Photography is a hobby for some, a part-time venture for many and a career for others. There are many things that some photographers wish they knew in the beginning, before even picking up a camera and creating their first photo. Some wish they knew the easier way around doing things to get the same result. Here are 10 starters tips to help give you a jumpstart ahead of the rest as you begin you journey into the world of photography.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

  1. Always Shoot RAW. I learned the hard way after several trips around the world and 20,000 images later that the best way to shoot is RAW. Why? Shooting RAW records the most data. This allows you to do as much nondestructive editing as you wish. When you shoot only in JPEG, every time you open a file,  make adjustments and resave the image – you lose quality. If you shoot an image under or overexposed, it’s much easier to fix this if the image is in RAW than if it were in JPEG format.

Switch your camera mode to RAW format before you begin shooting.

 

One of the best photo editing programs out there for importing, organizing, keywording, editing and sharing your images from RAW is Adobe Lightroom 6. We always teach our students to do as much as you can possibly do in Lightroom (because it’s so much easier!) and then make any fine adjustments in Adobe Photoshop, if needed. The Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Creative Cloud 12-Month Subscription Photography Plan goes for $119 at Adorama. You’ll always be current with your software version if you go the subscription route.

 

  1. Don’t Delete Images In-Camera Based on Your LCD Monitor. Another common mistake photographers sometimes make is to delete images in-camera based on reviewing it on the back of that 3.5” LCD monitor. It’s really better to invest in a few extra memory cards than to erase potentially good images by mistake. Keep all of your images until you can get to a larger monitor to review your images in detail.

Your LCD monitor is small. Invest in additional memory cards and wait to review images on a larger screen.

 

To make sure you do get the shot in the outdoors however, I recommend the Hoodman Compact Hoodloupe Optical Viewfinder. When you are shooting in bright conditions, this not only puts a nice tunnel vision between your eye and the LCD monitor when reviewing an image, but you can magnify the details by a slight twist of the middle piece. In a studio? Invest in a Tether Tools Starter Tethering Kit. I am so glad I did because it has saved me hours of reviewing too many images that could have been reduced by seeing what needed adjusting as I go along. This one piece cord connects your camera to your computer or laptop where you can review your images as you are shooting them. The Jerkstopper for both the camera and computer each help keep the cord where is belongs preventing disconnect.

 

  1. Save For Quality Gear and Equipment. Photography can get really expensive. Just ask any professional. It’s better to wait and invest in a quality piece of gear or equipment than to buy something that will fall apart within months because it was so inexpensive and not made to last. This is really key with cameras, lenses, light stands and tripods. Buy the camera you want rather than what you can afford. When you buy the camera you want, you are more likely to use it. As far as lenses, a low-quality piece of glass in front of a high end camera will not make the best image. Invest in at least one high quality lens before you begin buying a bunch of accessories you’ll probably never need or use. For more on good camera and lens choices, check out my article, Building the Home Studio Part 1: Space and Essential Shooting Gear.

 

Quality light stands and tripods are also really important. They what are supporting your $500+ camera, lens and/or light setup. Buying something low quality because it was less expensive is a recipe for disaster. Check out my article, Tripods: Choosing the Right Support for Your Investment for more on choosing the right tripod and my other article, Building the Home Studio Part 2: Continuous Lights and Light Stands for more on light stands.

 

  1. Vary Your Shooting Orientation and Angles. My mentor once taught me, “If you want to make your images better than 80% of the other photographers out there – change your perspective.” He was absolutely right.

“Bug’s eye” view of tulips.

 

Get on the ground and try shooting from the ground up. Get up on a ledge or ladder and shoot down.

Shot from the top of a ladder.

 

Try shooting every subject/scene both horizontally and vertically – or even shoot from the hip. You never know what might end up being really interesting.

 

  1. Learn To Understand and See Light. Light is the most important element of photography, so it’s important to understand and be able to see and work with it. I’ve had numerous student assistants who struggle with using a collapsible reflector in that they cannot see the light bounced from a light source onto the subject using one. It’s good to practice with a collapsible reflector as you can use these for so many photography subjects be it people or flowers. I own a variety of shapes and sizes of collapsible reflectors selecting from those what is the best for a particular situation. My favorites are the Lastolite LR3696 8-in-1 Tri Flip Reflector Kit and for a larger reflector, I use the Westcott 40” 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector w/ Case.

Learn light. This is a 2-light setup a spotlight in the front with a rim light in the back.

Model/Actress: Celeste Smith

 

For studio work, the best way to learn how to light something is to get a continuous light and try placing it in various positions around your subject. A continuous light will produce a what-you-see-is-what-you-get result before you click the shutter so you already know what the end result will be. I’m in love with the Fiilex P360EX Variable Color LED Light as you can control the color of the light for a more natural look.

 

  1. Try Different Genres of Photography. Don’t get stuck in one area of photography. It took me 12 years to venture out from travel and street photography into shooting people for portraits, headshots and fashion.


A sample of some of my travel work.

 

It’s not that I fell out of love or got bored with travel and street photography. I just hadn’t discovered yet that I also had a love for and was very good at shooting people too.

A few samples of my portrait/fashion work.

Models clockwise from top-left: Katie Buell, Daria Komarkova, Shoko Fujita and Karen Ramos.

 

After trying as many different genres of photography as you can, then narrow down your specialty for a career based on what you are good at and what you enjoy.

 

  1. Develop a Workflow and Stick To It. Setting up a consistent workflow for your photography is very important to do from the start because it gets really difficult (but not impossible!) to start implementing one 20,000 images into your portfolio.

Import screen in Adobe Lightroom.

 

The instructors of my group, NYC Digital Photography Workshops and I generally recommend Adobe Lightroom as a great way to set up a consistent, accurate and streamlined workflow. You can check out my article, Photography Workflow and Digital Asset Management (D.A.M.) for more on workflow.

 

  1. Charge For Your Work. Unless you are collaborating with models and hair and makeup artists on a creative project, or for practice – charge for your work and charge what you are worth. This makes your photography more rewarding is some ways, plus it helps to cover the cost of your equipment and time. It’s also important to note that photography is a full-time career for some, so keep in mind that there will be more full-time freelance working photographers out there struggling to make ends meet if they are competing with photographers working for very little or for free.

 

  1. Look for Opportunities to Show and Sell Your Work. Another rewarding thing about photography is sharing it with the world. Look for opportunities to show and sell your work through exhibitions, art fairs, etc. I wrote two articles on exhibiting that are great reads if you are interested in going this route: Selling Your Photography and Where to Show and Sell Your Photography.


Showing your work is a very rewarding part of photography.

 

Both articles are excerpts from my upcoming book to be released in the upcoming months called, Exhibitions, Marketing, Promotion and Publicity.

 

  1. Always Continue Learning Your Craft. As photographers, we can never know everything about photography. It is a constant learning process as technology changes…and technique changes, as we discover more interesting ways to make an image. It’s really important to continue learning and honing your craft whether it’s studying the masters, doing photo walks, taking group or private workshops, having your portfolio critiqued or reading books and articles like these.

 

Photography is an amazing, rewarding journey – allowing you to capture memories and points in time, subjects of interest and/or scenes in our lives. It’s a wonderful outlet for many and it’s a beautiful creative process that is growing with interest for anyone who embraces their sense of sight. It’s only up to you to bring a unique twist to your work to share and capture viewer’s attention.

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
The Art of Portraiture Part 1: Composition, Depth of Field & Background

The Art of Portraiture Part 1: Composition, Depth of Field & Background

Creating a portrait of a person isn’t always an easy task. A portrait should represent its subject, his or her character, likes and dislikes, feelings, mood and more. I love portraiture. I love to capture people with their raw, naked emotion and to show my subject an image of their true self.

An outdoor portrait of a model/actress – with a lucky tailwind to boot!

Model/Actress: Valery Lessard

 

They are always moved in what they see, when showing them the reflection of what I captured of who they are. I also like to manipulate emotions and get my subject to step outside of their comfort zones such as in the image below.

Good boy turned bad.

Model: Baron Jackson

 

It was really tough to get my subject above to play a bad boy as he was a sweet kid with a crazy positive attitude, but he was thrilled to see a different side of him that I was able to bring out with a little coaxing.

 

COMPOSITION

Composition can make or break an image. There are many techniques to gaining a great composition in portraiture. The first, most commonly known guideline is the Rule of Thirds.

 

Rule of Thirds

We’ve all heard of it: The Rule of Thirds. The term “rule”, though, sounds like there is no room for deviation. As an educator, I prefer to think of it as more like “guideline” for composition as it then becomes much less dreadful and a little more beneficial.  The Rule of Thirds is taking a frame and dividing it equally into three sections horizontally and equally into three sections vertically using two lines each resulting in nine equal-sized boxes (imagine a tic-tac-toe box…) Composing your frame so that your focus point of your subject falls on one or more of the four intersecting points, tends to make an image more naturally appealing for a viewer to engage.

The subject’s eye falls on one of the four intersecting points.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

While you may not always get your subject perfectly on one of the four intersecting points, aligning your subject along any one of those four lines still makes for a more balanced image.

 

Alter Perspectives and Angles

I once had a mentor mention that if you want your images to be better than 80% of the rest of the images out there in the world, change your perspective! This means, get down low and shoot upward…

Self-portrait shot from below.

 

Or get up high and shoot downward…

Self-portrait shot from above.

 

Use Negative Space

The use of negative space can also be appealing when shooting a portrait. I’ve always been a huge fan of shooting my portraits and headshots horizontally when most people shoot them portrait-oriented… I never knew why it was more appealing to me until I realized that I was turned on by the use of negative space, which is also a big turn-on of famous photographer, Peter Hurley.

The use of negative space.

Model: Andy Mizerek

 

Framing Your Subject

You can also make your portraits more interesting by framing your subject, whether it is by using the nook of a tree, an arch of a doorway or even some faux leaves, as I have done in the image below.

Framing my subject’s face using vines.

Model: Kathryn Hopkins

 

Orientation

Sometimes the orientation of an image can make all the difference. Once upon a time, a very wise mentor once taught me, “What’s the first thing you do after you take a picture…? You turn the camera 90 degrees.” Basically meaning, if you take a landscape-oriented image to turn the camera and take the same image portrait-oriented directly after or vice-versa.

Here my model is tall and I captured much more of the scene in the image portrait-oriented.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

This tip works well with ANY type of photograph that you capture as you may find after returning to your computer or laptop to process your images that an image worked better vertically than horizontally or vice-versa..

In this image, I was able to crop in closer to focus more on the model and her expression than on the scene.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

DEPTH OF FIELD

 

Shallow Depth of Field

  • Move Closer. The closer you are to your subject when you shoot, the shallower the depth of field. If you want more of the image to be in focus, you’ll want to put more distance between you and the subject.

I got in close as at 70mm I could using a 70-200mm lens.

Model: Katie Buell

 

  • Large Aperture. There’s a reason for the attraction to a lens that has a large aperture (low number).  A larger aperture will allow for a shallower depth of field whereas a smaller aperture will put more into focus. I used an aperture of F/2 on the image below.

I used an aperture of F/2 here.

Model: Andy Mizerek

 

BACKGROUND

A background can make or break your image. Put your subject in front of a super busy scene and it takes the focus off of your subject – not to mention, it can sometimes create mergers. Your background should not have a bunch of distractions and should help focus attention on your subject. Other factors of a good background are that it helps give context to your subject and the scene and it can aid in telling a story in your image without saying a word.

 

Give Context

A good background will help give context and meaning to a portrait. A perfect example of what I mean by context is an environmental portrait. Photographing someone in their natural environment adds context and impact to an image.

The subject appears to be taking a break from working for an environmental portrait.

Model: Andy Mizerek

 

Tells a Story

An interesting portrait will also tell a story without a companion writer having to write a word. I love creating sets that tell stories, such as in the image below. I wanted to create the feel of capturing an artist in the midst of a high note as she was singing, so I lent my microphone, microphone stand, headphones and a pop filter for the set and I put her on a bright blue background for impact. Your eye is instantly attracted to the bold blue color and then the subject dressed in a contrasting bright white.

The addition of props and a bold background lend to the interest of this image.

Model: Maria Iodice

 

General Background Choices

 

  • Outdoor/Interior Choices. An indoor or outdoor location background can be a wonderful choice and can give context to editorial, fashion and environmental portrait work, however, sometimes the background can be a bit busy and distracting causing the need for some type of faux background.

An outdoor background in the busy Times Square area.

Model: Lisette Melendez

 

  • Seamless Paper. If you are looking a clean, crisp and simple background, seamless is definitely the way to go. Savage seamless paper alone comes in around 69 colors to choose from, making it an optimal choice if you are looking for a specific color. You can buy a 9-foot wide, 12-yard roll of Savage Pure White Seamless Paper for around $45.00 at Adorama.

Savage Smoke Gray seamless paper

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

My Auto Poles with Interfit Chain System for Seamless Paper

 

Seamless paper requires a few additional pieces for support than other backgrounds and these different pieces can be pricey unless you put your kit together yourself like I did. My kit consists of two (2) Manfrotto Auto Poles at $114.99 each, an Interfit Wall Bracket Kit at $79.25 which you can attach to your wall or to a couple of Auto Poles and a four (4) of Manfrotto 035 Super Clamps w/o Studs at $26.88 each.

Manfrotto Auto Pole

Image Courtesy of Adorama website.

 

Interfit Wall Bracket Kit

Image courtesy of Adorama website.

 

My Manfrotto 035 Super Clamps

 

  • Vinyl.  Another classic and preferred choice for photographers is vinyl. It gets a great reputation because it hangs flat whereas muslin tends to wrinkle easily and seamless tends to crinkle and get dirty more easily. Vinyl is easy to clean and takes up very little space to store as it can be stored straight up and down in a corner.

My versatile 6-foot roll of vinyl -black on one side and white on the other.

 

  • Portable. Portable backgrounds can be a great choice as they are versatile, convenient due to collapsibility and inexpensive. You can use them in the studio or take them with you on location. A 6-foot portable background can fold up into a circle as small as 24 inches. They typically have a border so may not be a great choice for a full-length shot, but they work perfectly for headshots, portraits and three-quarter body shots.

Portable Collapsible Background

 

The Savage Black & White 60”x72” Collapsible Background shown above is available at Adorama for $127.50.

 

  • Muslin. Muslin can be an excellent choice to shoot with since it’s not reflective at all, folds as small as you need and can be hung from a portable background support and costs a fraction of some of the other choices. This all-cotton option is a classic choice for these reasons. Imagine, before cameras, how the old masters’ portrait paintings sometimes had a drape of material in the background. They knew it worked then. We know it works now.

Collaged image by Dawn M. Wayand – original image pieces courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

  • Canvas. Canvas backdrops come in a variety of sizes, colors and designs. They are a good choice because they can be reused over and over again but they can also be a bit heavy to set up. You can use a canvas backdrop multiple times without your image looking the same by changing up your foreground elements and your subject’s wardrobe and accessories. Canvas backdrops, however, can be one of the most expensive choices of all of the choices I’ve listed but can be one of the most creative as well. A very small sample of canvas backdrops available at Adorama below include (clockwise from top left): Arctic Blue, Black, Seville and Classic Rembrandt.

Collaged image by Dawn M. Wayand – original image pieces courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

  • Floordrops. Floor drops are often used together with back drops to recreate a scene. They typically come in designs such as wood floors, brick walls, metal panels or tile as shown below. A rubber floor drop also makes for a great backdrop when going for a more edgy feel to an image. It’s simple enough to still keep the focus on your subject. A small sample of floor drops below include (clockwise from top-left): Industrial Grunge, Mosaic Pavers, Worn Planks and Red Brick.

Collaged image by Dawn M. Wayand – original image pieces courtesy of the Adorama website.

 

  • Other Creative Backgrounds. I’m all for thinking outside the box and making my backgrounds as interesting as possible. Some other great creative choices for backgrounds include materials such as wallpaper, sequin fabric and designer art paper which makes for a great headshot background that you can get at your local art store for between $4-10 each piece (as shown below), among numerous other options. Put your creative thinking cap on and figure out some other interesting backgrounds that might work for you.

Just a few of the creative art papers I’ve collected over time for headshot opportunities.

 

Here I used a black crocodile art paper as a background to add a little texture to this beauty shot.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

COMPOSITION AND BACKGROUND CAN BE EVERYTHING…

As you can see, how you compose your image can make all the difference between a humdrum photo and a much more stunning portrait. It’s also important to choose your background wisely. There are so many options out there. If you choose an outdoor or interior background, be sure that your subject IS the subject of the image and that the background doesn’t take the show. Composition, depth of field and background are just a few elements to the Art of Portraiture. Stay tuned for the next article, The Art of Portraiture: Light.

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Creativity & Awareness: Learning to See Before the Capture

Creativity & Awareness: Learning to See Before the Capture

“You don’t take a photograph – you make it”   – Ansel Adams

 

Seeing is the very essence of photography as much so as the light that is needed for a photograph to exist. It’s a consistent and continuous mental activity that we do everyday as we go to school, go to work, go out for a night on the town, traveling and so forth.


While this image has been digitally enhanced, there are several elements of composition here lending to an interesting image.

The Adirondacks, Upstate New York

 

Remember when you were younger, the game of “Punch Bug” that you might have played with a friend or family member(s) where you called out “punch bug” and the color, whenever you saw a Volkswagen Beetle? You then begin to notice Beetles a lot more often after making it a practice to find them in the game. Perhaps you buy a new car and it’s not until you own the drive the car that you notice how many other people are on the road drive the same type of car. It’s only when you practice looking for something or when you are involved in or with a certain thing that you start to see it everywhere when you never really noticed that thing before. This is a form of “awareness” as you become more aware of something because you’ve been exposed to it in some way.

When you become more aware of your surroundings, the more photographic opportunities will arise for you. Below are various elements and techniques to help you train your eye to create more interesting images.

 

THE ART OF COMPOSITION

 

Lines

I never really formally studied art until I was 33 years old, living in St. Petersburg and attending Eckerd College after having already acquired a bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies. I decided to major in Visual Arts and in the very first class I took, I spent the entire semester working with lines. The first exercise I had was to use sharpie only and create faces using a certain number of straight and curved lines.

By week 5, the faces became more character-like as I was released more and more from line restrictions.

 

As the semester progressed, the exercises built upon the exercise from before until I had gone from being a realistic artist to an abstract artist. It was a terrific exercise to creativity. While that was drawing and painting, photographing has a use for lines as well in the form of the S-Curve, leading lines and patterns.

 

The S-Curve

Some of you may somehow find an image of a winding road through a scene to be very interesting to look at and there is a pretty good reason for this. It’s generally called an S-Curve and it helps to take a viewer’s eyes throughout an image from bottom to top and left to right (and vice-versa).

The S-Curve of the flowerbed here takes your eyes from the bottom of the image to the top.

Toronto, Canada

 

Leading Lines

Leading lines help to connect the foreground to the background of an image and they also create a sense of depth and dimension, bringing the viewer into the image. They give a sense of an infinite beyond. Some good examples of a leading lines are straight roadways and paths or even a river or creek.

The leading line of the path here creates a sense of infinite distance.

Madrid, Spain

The little creek connects the foreground to the background here.

Near Mont Tremblant, Canada

 

Patterns

Patterns give way to be an interesting element to photograph. Symmetry and repetitive things in an image are good examples of types of patterns to try to capture. In the image below, not only is there a sort of C-Curve in this image taking the viewers eyes from one side to the other, but there is a repetition of shadows, windows and arches that pulls attention into the image.

Also a good example of a leading line, there’s several repetitive aspects in this image.

Sevilla, Spain

 

Complementary Colors for a Pop Factor

If you remember the color wheel in grade school and learning about primary, secondary and tertiary colors as well as complimentary colors. Balance and harmony of an image not to mention a nice pop can be created using color contrast, which is why the use of complementary colors can be effective in composition.

 

The use of red and green complementary colors.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

 

Orange and blue…

The use of orange and blue complementary colors.

Munich, Germany

 

and purple and yellow…

The use of purple and yellow complementary colors.

New York Botanical Gardens Annual Orchid Show

 

Texture

Another element of composition that makes for an interesting capture is the element of texture. Photographing fur, wool or even in the case below, the macro capture of a flower petal conveying the feeling of a velvet-like touch appeals to a viewer’s sense of touch.

The detail conveys a velvet-like feel of the petal stimulating a viewer’s sense of touch.

New York Botanical Gardens Annual Orchid Show

 

Negative Space

Negative space is the area surrounding your main subject with your main subject known as “positive space”. Negative space is a natural relief for a viewer’s eyes to rest and prevents your image from appearing too cluttered.

I like using negative space in my headshots and portraits (and here, a self-portrait…)

 

Negative space also places more emphasis and bring the viewer’s attention more clearly to the main subject of your image.


The negative space of the sky, though textured, brings the viewers attention to the main subject, this statue.

Iwo Jima Monument, Arlington, Virginia

 

Close Crop

The opposite of negative space really is cropping in close, used mainly to eliminate distractions around a main subject, but also to capture detail and/or for artistic purposes. It also works well when your subject is stuck in broad daylight.

Capturing a tight crop of a tiger in harsh daylight works.

Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Florida

 

Motion

An interesting way of grabbing a viewer’s attention is through a capture of motion. In the image below I focused on the center guitarist’s face, allowing the movement to show throughout the rest of the image, which brings the image to life.

Amongst the crowd watching a mariachi band I capture motion to bring my image to life.

Madrid, Spain

 

Light & Shadows

Light and shadows are what make up photography, after all, the word photography literally means “to draw with light”. Light and shadows can create patterns on surfaces, which we’ve already determined is appeasing to the viewer’s eye. It can also create lightest and darkest areas of an image whereas the lightest part of an image generally will attract a viewer’s eye before anything else.

Here we not only have repetition with the columns, but the

light and shadows cast patterns on the wall and ground.

Sevilla, Spain

 

As you can see here, the brightest part of this image draws your eye inward first

Central Park, New York

 

RULE OF THIRDS AND POINTS OF IMPACT

Almost all of us has heard of the Rule of Thirds. Using an off-center composition has been known to be more appeasing to the viewer’s eye. This composition also tends to appears more natural when taking in an image rather than an image with a subject dead center.

The boat falls on the top left intersecting point of the grid.

Niagara Falls, Canada

 

The Rule of Thirds is when you divide your frame into a grid of three equal rows and three equal columns = nine equal sections total with the object being to place your main subject on one of the four guidelines, preferably at one of the four intersection points.

 

FRAMING

Another useful tool in creating a more creative capture is the use of framing your your subject. You can do this using a crook in the arm of a tree, a windowpane an arch of a doorway and so on and so forth – you get the picture. Framing your subject helps to bring focus on your subject, much like literally putting your image in a photo frame.

I used the curving arm of a tree to frame the serene lake with its beaming sunlight cast upon it.

Near the Adirondacks in Upstate New York at Fall

 

Here I used an arch in the foreground to frame the gentleman relaxing on the stone wall in the background.

Malaga, Spain

 

PERSPECTIVES AND ANGLES

Someone once taught me, “If you want to make your photography better than 80% of other photography out there in the world, change your perspective.” This was probably some of the best advice I had ever heard. If you just stand there, put the camera to your eye and take the image, anyone can do that and your images may appear to be more snapshot-like. We don’t want just snapshots – we want interesting and captivating images!

I kneeled down to capture the tulips at a level of their own height.

Battery Park City in the Spring.

 

Move about a scene and try different levels: get up on the wall or bench and shoot down. Lie on the ground and shoot your subject from below (a “bug’s eye view”). Or get at the subject’s level for a more realistic impact, which works especially well for photographing animals and children.


Shooting from above.

Madrid, Spain

 

I entitled the image above, “I Am Here” as the pants and shoes are dusty and worn. Most people know that I am a traveller and this was my expression of my journeys. While you can lay down and shoot upward, in the image below, I placed my camera lens up on the ground and shot the tulips from a bug’s eye view.

Shooting from below.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

 

CREATIVE LENS USE

Sometimes you can get more creative with your images just by lens choice. A wide angle or fisheye lens is a fun lens to capture a little bit of distortion in your images, giving them a bit more powerful grip on the viewer. In the image below I had borrowed a Canon 7D Mark II Camera used a Canon EF8-15mm F/4L Fisheye Zoom Lens to capture the children running through the Fall leaves.

Timing and a fun lens made this image a bit more dynamic.

Storm King Art Center, Upstate New York

 

TIMING

Other times it can come down to the perfect moment. Sometimes life just happens before you and you get lucky enough to pull your camera to your face, set your settings and capture the moment before it disappears forever. There is also the trick of anticipating the moment. Oftentimes this works well with photographing sports as well as animals. I once sat at the window of a polar bear exhibit at a zoo for almost an hour studying the swimming pattern of the polar bear – trying to figure out how I was not only going to capture the image, but to do so in a way getting the image as sharp as possible and without glare. The image didn’t turn out half bad minus the abundance of breathing bubbles, but there is certainly something to be said about predicting the actions of your subject.

As I walked past this alleyway, I saw this duo and rushed quickly to take the shot as knew it was a fleeting moment.

Malaga, Spain

 

Whether it’s your lucky moment, like for me in the image above, or if you sit perched and waiting for the perfect moment to happen, such as what I did in the image below – timing can be everything to creating a beautiful image.

For this image I actually sat and waited for someone to walk through

the archway and found this to be an authentic shot of daily life in Sevilla.

Sevilla, Spain

 

EXERCISES TO HELP TRAIN THE EYE

There are many ways to develop a better awareness of photographic opportunities around you using the composition elements and techniques above as guidance for end results. A few starter exercises could be:

  1. Study the works of the Masters and how they used composition, color, light, etc. for inspiration in your own photographs.
  2. Lock yourself in a room and commit to taking 100-150 photos of various things in a room. You will definitely find that you are looking at something a different way for the first time after this exercise.
  3. Commit to photographing only objects of one color or monochromatic only.

 

There are many books with 365 Projects that can also be a great tool to help you train your eye, but if nothing else, the more you get out and shoot, the more practice you’ll have in finding creative ways to shoot even the most ordinary of an object.

 

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP!

You’ve probably been told to get it right in camera in the first place and quit thinking about post-production. Yes, post-production can enhance an image and can sometimes also create a whole new image depending on your skill but the bottom line is that you need to have a strong image to begin with, so practicing with the goal of a creative capture in camera is the best way to do just that.

 

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Shooting The Model Portfolio Part II: The Shoot

Shooting The Model Portfolio Part II: The Shoot

Alright! Everyone has arrived. They have been briefed on the photo shoot ideas, goals and the wardrobe. The model is now in the chair getting his/her initial hair and makeup ready for the first set. In the first article, How to Plan a Model Portfolio Shoot, I went over all the preparations on my checklist that I perform whether it’s over the course of a few weeks or a few days. In the last article, Shooting the Model Portfolio: Part I, I covered everything I do the morning of a photo shoot. In this article, I’m going to tell you my checklist of what I look for during my shoot – as I am shooting.

Initial makeup being completed by my makeup artist, Gil Aldrin.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

While hair and makeup are in process, my photo assistant(s) and I are putting together the sets and as we do so, I go over any lighting setups that I want to use for a particular set, and why, as I try to also educate my assistants throughout the course of a TFP model portfolio photo shoot as well.

On one of the fun sets I’ve shot, my assistant Yann,

steps in to help me determine lighting placement.

 

About an hour to an hour and a half later, depending on the detail of the hair and makeup I want, we are ready to shoot. Let’s go!

 

DURING THE PHOTO SHOOT

As a studio photographer, you are in control of everything during a shoot. From hair and makeup direction to having the last say on wardrobe placement and from set design and its lighting to actually shooting the images, there is plenty that I look for so as to not spend a lot of time in post-production fixing things that could have easily been avoided. Then there are those preventable mistakes that are so big the image is unsalvageable. Below is a checklist of many of the things I look for within my frame before pressing the shutter button.

 

The Model’s Hair/Makeup

Your model’s appearance is the point of the portfolio shoot. Analyzing every part of him/her prior to pressing the shutter is a must. I have a checklist of things that I’ve learned to look for before taking a shot. Some of these things are hard to prevent, but I do my best to avoid additional work in post.

 

Hair. Stray hair is difficult to avoid but not only do I look for unruly hairs, I usually have my hair/makeup artist constantly check during the shoot to make sure the hair is as it was originally styled. The big thing for me is making sure the hair is as I originally envisioned it to look.

Here we were outdoors and I loved how the wind naturally whisped through her hair.

Model/Actress: Valery Lessard

 

Makeup. I usually try to include a swatch of colors for my makeup artist that I’m interested in seeing for a set so I check to make sure the end result was also as I envisioned. I look for eyelashes out of place and when using face jewels, that they are placed as I wanted. Does the makeup work with the design of the hair?

On this nautical set, we were aiming for everything some tone of purple.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

The Model’s Wardrobe

 

Wrinkles. Wrinkles are an easy fix during a photoshoot, but kind of pain to work with in post-production. Be sure to press any wardrobe prior to the photo shoot and keep it guarded! There are products out there to take some wrinkles out in a pinch without an iron, but major wrinkles need to be ironed.

Missed ironing the dress before the shoot!

Model: Katie Buell

 

Tags. Scarves have these (as seen below) as do any wardrobe piece. They can be easy to miss but it’s good to do a quick once-over with each wardrobe change to make sure no tags are showing.

A missed tag on the scarf around her head blended in, yet it didn’t. Rookie mistake.

Model: Maria Iodice

 

Loose Strings. I once shot an entire set on one of my first few fashion portrait shoots and did not notice there was a stray clothing string on her sleeve until I was working on the images in post-production. It’s also good to do an initial once-over for loose strings stuck to the clothing.

Always check for random clothing strings attached to clothing, hair or shoes.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

Clothing Fit. Does the wardrobe fit and hang right? On occasion wardrobe pieces might be a bit too big on a model and that’s where those nifty spring clamps, also called “A-Clamps”, come in handy. If the clothing is too big, just clamp the wardrobe piece wherever needed but out of the camera’s view.

Everything fit in this case and the scarf was draped as we wanted around her arms.

Model: Karen Ramos

 

Unintentional Bracelets.  This is a biggie. Models are known for coming onto a set with their hair tied up ready to be styled. They take the hair band off and put it on their wrist, and because it blended so well with her skin, you miss it, shoot a series of stunning images with the rubber band looking like a bracelet. In the case of the image below, the model was wearing a Hindu bracelet, which photographs as a rubber band on her wrist. Another rookie mistake. Be sure to check wrists to make sure only the intended wrist wear is present.

A missed bracelet looks like a rubberband in this image.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

Posing the Model

 

Dynamic Feet. I always try to make sure the model’s feet are not both posed facing the same direction. When you pose a model to have each foot in a different direction, up on the toe, one lifted slightly higher than the other, etc., the image seems to have a little more energy – it’s more dynamic.

Here I posed the model with one shoe on the rung of the stool and one on a toe on the floor.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma

 

Angles. The goal of many fashion photographers with beautiful, tall models is to angle their bodies to create geometric triangles. This is also something that creates a more powerful, dynamic looking image. I typically try to make a triangle with one, if not both arms, but if with both arms, not at the same level because it looks too sumo-wrestler-like. I will have her place one hand near her stomach and the other on her hip so that they an uneven. Triangles can be made with legs as well.

I made sure to include at least one triangle using the arm closest to the camera.

Model: Shoko Fujita

 

Neck. It’s also necessary when shooting anyone, to expose the neck by elongating it as shown in the image above. Failure to do so can sometimes lead to a short or “no-neck” model in the image. With the wrong lighting, the chin may blend in with the neck. In addition, elongating the neck also helps anyone with a slight double-chin.

 

Head Angle. It’s usually a good idea to angle the head of a model or actor for headshots, even if it is very slightly.

Here I had her tilt her head a little bit combined with a slight lean back.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

Chin. Another big one is what I generally joke in the studio calling it the “chicken head”, number one, because it slightly resembles such and number two, it relaxes the model and we all end up having a good laugh. I have my model elongate their neck, pull their chin out and then pull it down. This helps to define the jawline.

Elongate the neck, chin out and down.

Model/Actress: Celeste Smith

 

Hands. Hands can be tricky. Nine times out of ten, your model or subject will have very stiff hands in an image. What to do with the hands! For men, it’s a bit easier because we typically portray them as the strong type and their hands should show the same, but a very “light beard grab” works well (as shown below). For ladies, I have them run their fingers through and down their hair lightly or down their body lightly.

The “light beard grab” help define the jawline of this model.

Model: James Karl Campbell

 

Facial Expression. Facial expression is really key and can really make or break a photo. This can also be a tricky thing to get right, especially getting what you want from the eyes. Sometimes you may get a model with a “deer in headlights” look, but an amazing thing I try to go for is to get a powerful stare, a look with meaning and lips slightly parted, such as in the image below.

The powerful stare with meaning gets the vote here.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

The Frame Around the Model

What’s around your model can also be important and can sometimes cause a problem if it’s not caught right away.

 

Background/Foreground. A good part of the time when we’re photographing a subject or model, we want the focus to be only on the subject or model and not really on the background or foreground. In those cases, we would decide on depth of field to keep the focus on the subject of the image. In the image below, I needed to show the context of where my model was at, dressed up in his sharp suit, so I created a semi-shallower depth field so that you could still tell the context, but only the model was in focus.

I wanted to do a city shot with the background slightly out of focus for this model’s portfolio image.

Model: Andy Mizerek

 

Avoid Mergers. A “merger” is when something is directly in front of or behind your subject – one overlapping the other or when that element touches the side of a frame. One common example that comes to mind is when you photograph someone with a dead tree in the background and you have tree branches coming out of your subject’s head! Try to avoid those as much as possible.

 

Add Props. Props are those ingredients in the image that I’m always cooking up. Since I work in a home studio environment, I use a lot of my own things as props such as my guitars, flowers from my coffee table, my coffee table itself and the list is endless. Since I love giving my models characters to become, in the image below, I made my model a singer using my existing microphone from my own use, but adding more credibility to the image by putting it on a stand and buying a pop filter and headphones to make her look as though I am capturing her in high key at a recording studio. Blue seamless lends to the picture popping with color.

I like to create various creative sets using props I either own or buy.

Model: Maria Iodice

 

Capture!

That’s about it! At this point it’s time to shoot: whether you’re a slower, methodical shooter, like me, or you are a speed shooter popping off multiple images as your strobe recycling time allows – these steps have proven to help me create some pretty amazing photos for my models, as in the examples of my work and end result shown below.

Gelled backlighting, a little fog and a creative photographer takes the cake here.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

And one of the resulting images from this shoot set…

Final image after post-production.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

 

RINSE AND REPEAT

I typically like to shoot several different sets in one shoot so I’ll rinse and repeat the steps below for every set.

 

Change Up Sets or Locations. Sometimes you will be moving from studio to location or from location to studio or from location to location. You may be working completely in the studio and need to change up your set design.

 

Change Up Lighting Setups and Modifiers, as Needed. As the sets change, your lighting setups and modifiers may change too. I like to have variety in my lighting styles for a model portfolio shoot so that every image has a different mood/feel.

 

Change Up Hair / Makeup. I keep my hair/makeup guy on set for the entire shoot for not only touch-ups, but changeups too.

 

Change Up Wardrobe. I keep a rack ready for wardrobe and it’s typically fully stocked with my Model Closet wardrobe as well as essentials that I personally invest in for shooting – then reselling. For model portfolio work only, I’ve found it’s just a lot of easier for me to create ideas and concepts when I have a little bit of control over wardrobe. Plus, newer models get excited about what they will be wearing and I notice they get more confident when using clothes other than their own because it tends to make them feel like it’s more of a fashion shoot than just a portfolio shoot.

 

THAT’S A WRAP!

So these are my steps when shooting a model portfolio. You may find these great steps, you may have more steps or you may find some of these steps do not apply to your situation or style of shooting. In the next and last installment of this series, I will go over all the steps I go through after a model portfolio shoot, so stay tuned!

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Getting More Creative With Professional Self-Portraits

Getting More Creative With Professional Self-Portraits

Self-portraits have been a form of portraying oneself that goes very far back in time through not only photography, but sculpture and paintings as well. It has only been recently that it has morphed into an arms-length version called a “selfie”. The more classic version of a self-portrait, allows endless possibilities of how you tell your own story. In general, a self-portrait should be a reflection of you, your ideas, your tastes, your interests and your personality. How you communicate these things is where the fun begins.

A simple pensive self-portrait.

 

Why Self-Portraits?

 

It fuels creativity. When you have all the time in the world to create a portrait without the pressure inconveniencing someone else’s time to create it, and no boundaries set by a subject other than yourself the possibilities are endless with how creative you can get with your self-portraits. The less pressures that inhibit you, the more creative you can become.

 

Perspective In Front of the Camera. Self-portraits gives you a sense of feeling of what it’s like to be in front of a camera – rather than behind it – making you more aware of how your subjects feel in front of your lens.

Self-portraits give you perspective in front of the camera.

Behind the scenes image courtesy of Gil Aldrin

 

Giving Direction and Posing. This form of photography can also help you learn how to direct your next subject or model as oftentimes you need to mimic the pose to translate to the subject/model what you want them to do.

Giving direction for posing.

Behind the scenes image courtesy of Rachel Endoso

 

Self-expression.   Self portraits are also a good form of personal self-expression. Yes, we can put a personal touch on a portrait of someone else, but using yourself as a subject adds a whole new level personal expression.

 

Ideas & Experimentation.  It’s difficult to find friends and family who are patient enough to sit for you when you are only beginning learn lighting techniques or you want to experiment with a new idea. I resorted to using a mannequin when learning lighting but I found that using myself as a subject also worked and improved my photography tenfold.

 

You Can’t Find a Model. You know what they often say, “you can only depend on yourself…”. Sometimes you fall short of time and end up without a model and sometimes your model is late or just doesn’t show up at all. No one is more available than you.

 

Coming Up With Ideas

Inspiration for self-portraits is all around you, you just have to open your eyes, be aware and seek it out. It’s also important to reach deep within for inspiration that is unique to only you. Some things that can be considered to inspire ideas are:

 

Hobbies

You are a photographer, so there is a theme right there! Let your hobby be expressed in your self-portrait through the use of locations and props. For example, as a photographer, be sure to include your camera as a prop for a self-portrait.

A quick self-portrait of me in my home studio using a remote.

 

Profession

What you do for a living can also be expressed in a self-portrait. It is usually successfully portrayed only if it is something you love and enjoy doing for a living. For some, your hobby and your profession might be one in the same. In my case, while photography has only more recently become a profession for me, my long-time career has always been as a paralegal. For this, I might shoot a self-portrait of myself researching and writing in a library or maybe just a classic headshot in front of law books.

 

Location

Tripods will always be your best friend when shooting self-portraits. They are mandatory. They are also a portable tool to take with you to shoot yourself on location. Including your favorite hangouts and/or quiet spots in your self-portraits can sometimes add to the ambiance of the photograph and reflect part of your personality.

My favorite graffiti location.

 

Physical Abilities

Play sports or a musical instrument? Including something you are able to do in your self-portrait is a great way to convey your personal interests and extracurricular activities.

I don’t play enough, but when I have time, I love to play guitar.

 

Your Actual Physical Features

If there’s a part of you that you favor more than the rest or perhaps have been the topic of others’ conversations (in my case, it’s my long hair), focusing on this can make for an interesting self-portrait.

I consider my long hair one of my prominent features.

 

Wardrobe

If you a fashionable person, photographing yourself in your best rags can also reflect your tastes – especially in fashion.

 

Objects of Your Affection

We’re taught as portrait photographers that the best way to get a great personal image of a disinterested teenager is to include an object of their affection in the picture. You are no different. For me, not much comes before my cat and my guitars.

My other dream, as a rockstar.

 

Theme

Like any photoshoot, sometimes it is good to conjure up a theme and let it go from there. Have a favorite color? Create a monochromatic image using only that color around you. Maybe you are into cosplay? Dress up in your favorite costume, find a good location, set up your tripod, grab your remote and shoot. If you can create a theme for a party, you can certainly create and shoot a theme for you.

 

Capturing “You”

 

The Classic Headshot. We’ve already discussed how to create a classic headshot in my last article, 4 Ways to Create a Professional Self-Portrait (Not a “Selfie”) – Part I, so we’ll move onto other fun ways to get more creative with your professional self-portrait.

Here is a classic headshot I took as a self-portrait using the Lightroom capture button.

 

Your Reflection. You’ve probably tried this before in your own bathroom, in museums where there are mirrors present or even in Chicago at “The Bean” statue, but since you are a photographer, using a mirror to shoot your reflection showcases you engaging in your personal hobby or profession.

Shooting yourself in front of a mirror is an easy way to create a self-portrait.

Just make sure you don’t have your flash on and watch your borders!

 

A good tip for a better self-portrait using a mirror: be mindful of your background. Check out every inch of your frame before taking the shot to make sure anything unwanted is not in the image. Also, if desired, be sure to flip your camera’s logo in post. 🙂

 

A creative tip: place a mirror behind you to add a repeating effect.

 

Without a Face. Shoot only part of you – instead of all of you – and I don’t mean a headshot only. I’m sure you’ve seen images of expectant mothers that creative photographers shoot that include only the chest and down to emphasize the beauty in a mother’s body during pregnancy. We might not all be able to be pregnant right now (if at all) so try shooting only your feet, only your waist-down or only your neck to waist.

Most people know I am a world traveler and love this image entitled “I am here” taken in Madrid, Spain.

 

Location! Location! Location! Switch it up and take your shoot outdoors, to a garden, to a zoo, to a library – anywhere but the plain four walls of your home.

Under train tracks right down the street from my apartment.

 

Capture Your Dark Side. Create a silhouette of yourself by using backlighting without any front or side lighting.

Here I’ve created a quick silhouette example in the studio using red background paper.

 

Get a Move On! Incorporate motion into your self-portrait. Dance around, shadowbox – get into a groove and set your camera’s shutter speed on a slightly slower speed to capture a range of motion.

While I can’t say that I can really dance anymore, this self-portrait of me twirling in song did turn out pretty cool.

 

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Own Shadow. Your shadow in the morning and midday sun can make for an interesting, unique image. Shadows can also elongate your body depending on the position of the sun.

Shot around 3pm.

Behind the scenes image courtesy of Gil Aldrin

 

Work Your Angles. Shoot yourself from different angles. Set your tripod low and shoot up. Stick your camera on a lightstand via your tripod ballhead and position it up above you and shoot down on yourself.


Shot from below. I love the shadows on one of my favorite shooting backgrounds in my neighborhood.

 

I secured my camera to a light stand and used a remote to shoot from above.

 

Creating a Mirage. So this may take a little bit of Photoshop skills, but combining two images into a double exposure can make for a pretty spectacular image. Here, I took the initial profile image in this article and combined it with an image of one of two of my favorite flowers – cherry blossoms.


Here I combined a self-portrait with one of two of my favorite flowers – the cherry blossom.

 

Create Enough of You to Go Around. A fun self-portrait to create, which also takes a little bit of Photoshopping skills, is to composite several images of you together to create a “multiple-you” image. Here, I took advantage of my most used space in my home (aka. my “woman cave”) and created four separate images leaving the tripod in the exact same place for each shot. Each image was of things I pretty much do daily, creating a pretty accurate representation of me.

Here is a composite image of everything I like to do in my woman-cave.

 

The Honest Truth. Capture yourself doing an everyday task around the house or outdoors. You don’t even have to be looking at the camera. In this image, I captured a natural image of myself on my front doorstep in the industrial area of the SE Bronx.


Just be yourself.

 

Equipment Needed for Self-Portraiture

The Basics

 

  • Camera (DSLR preferred). I prefer a DSLR camera because I can generate RAW images to work with, I can tether to a computer or laptop, I have a lot more lens choices and because if I shot with film – this project could get very expensive! I have a few suggestions on DSLR cameras in my article: Building the Home Studio Part 1: Space and Essential Shooting Gear.

 

  • Tripod. A tripod is a must for self-portraits otherwise you will be very limited by using any available level surfaces. Imagine, if you had a tripod (with a ballhead), you have a choice of all available surfaces plus a decent height and just about any angle. I have several suggestions for choosing the right tripods in my article: Tripods: Choosing the Right Support for Your Investment.

A tripod is pretty much vital to creating a self-portrait.

 

  • Camera Remote. It just makes things much more simpler than running back and forth to the camera to set the timer over and over again…

A simple remote for my Nikon D750.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

 

  • Light Source. A light source can consist of available light, a speedlight, a continuous light, a monolight or strobe. You can really get by with any of these, though you can create an endless variety of results and achieve them much faster with the use of some sort of flash light source (speedlight/monolight/strobe) due to positioning, brightness and modifier used.

 

To start, a speedlight can work just fine. This is my old Nikon SB-700 Speedlight.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

The Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight is a good choice for a monolight.

 

  • Light Stand(s). If you are using any light source other than available light, you’ll need light stands for your lights. Don’t skimp on these. They are what are supporting your $300-500 flash or $500-3,000 monolight or strobe. I have a few recommendations for light stands in my article: Building the Home Studio Part 2: Continuous Lights and Light Stands.

Light stand(s) and sandbag(s) for support.

 

The Superstar Setup

 

  • Laptop or Desktop. The bare essentials are completely fine for creating self-portraits, but you’ll eventually need a laptop or computer to edit those images. One or the other is also key if you plan to tether while you shoot. I do have an old 27” iMac but if you are considering going the iMac route (which I highly recommend for any graphics or photography-related use), don’t skimp here – like I did, or you’ll be sorry – like I am. If you can’t afford what you really want – wait and save for it, otherwise you’ll be stuck with a computer that doesn’t run fast enough or have enough memory for your needs. For photography-related work – especially if you shoot RAW (which you should!), be sure to choose an iMac with the latest processor (currently the Intel Core i7), at least 1TB of memory, but more if you can swing it, and at least 8GB of RAM. My heart is currently set on upgrading to the Apple 27″ iMac with Retina 5K Display, 5120×2880, Intel Core i7 Quad-Core 4.0GHz, 16GB RAM, 3TB Fusion Drive + 128GB Flash, AMD Radeon M295X which is currently available at Adorama for $2,900.

My iMac and my Dell 17” XPS Inspiron laptop.

 

  • Tethering Cable. If you choose to use a computer and tether, you’ll need a good tethering cable – one that does not lose connection a lot or fall out of your camera port more times than the number of frames you’ve shot thus far. The Tether Tools Starter Kit is a pretty useful and reliable tool for tethering.

Tether Tools makes a great line of custom tether cords.

Image courtesy of Tether Tools

 

I wrote a pretty lengthy article on tethering a little while back called: Preview While You Shoot: The What, Why, When, Who and How on Tethered Shooting that you might find useful on this topic.

 

  • Adobe Lightroom or Other Tether-N-Edit Software. Using software that allows you to tether so that you can review and edit your images as you shoot on the big screen saves a lot of time and incorrect assumptions that might happen if you rely only on the LCD screen on the back of your camera. Adobe Lightroom is probably one of the best all-inclusive tools out there for both tethering and editing and is the first tool I use before exporting it for fine tuning to anything else, if even needed. If you plan to use it for tethering, be sure to check to see if your camera is compatible for tethering to the software first. If for anything, it is “magic” and easy to use for organizing and editing your images during and after a shoot. You can get in on the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which includes both Adobe Lightroom AND Adobe Photoshop for one low annual price of $119 and you will always be up to date on the version you use.

There are several programs available out there for tethering, some of which also allow you to edit in post.

 

  • Adobe Photoshop. You may need Adobe Photoshop to do some finer adjustments or to just do some completely creative edits to your images. Again, you can get in on the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which includes both Adobe Lightroom AND Adobe Photoshop for one low annual price of $119 and you will always be up to date on the version you use.

 

Other Stuff

The number of things you can use to help create your self-portrait is endless, but here are a few obvious choices.

 

  • Background. Whether it’s seamless, your living room, your backyard or down the street in the park, you will need some sort of non-distracting background to put yourself in front of.

I sometimes use creative art papers for backgrounds.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

  • Unique Wardrobe. What you’re wearing, or not, can sometimes be the center of the intention for the image.

It helps to have some unique pieces in your closet.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

  • Props. Adding in a wig, facial hair, a baseball bat, baton, bicycle, car or other prop can only lend to telling the viewer more about you and things that interest you.

Just a small fraction of the props I’ve collected over the last few years.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

  • Additional Light Sources and Stands. You can do a lot with one light source but your options can open up even more with added monolights, strobes or speedlights to create multiple light setups.

 

  • Patience. If you are aiming for things like your eyes to be perfectly sharp, you will be shooting the same shot, let’s just say… A LOT, before you get it just right.

 

Creating a Picture Perfect You

Creating a self-portrait, whether for business purposes and/or for fun can be a great release of self-expression and showcasing the real (or not so real) you. Creating self-portraits of ANY kind will take a lot of time and practice, even for a skilled photographer. The images in this article took a great deal of time and effort to create. Whatever you do, don’t get frustrated if you are shooting and not getting exactly what you want. Number one, your frustration show in your images and number two, it will happen – just keep shooting and shooting and shooting until you get exactly what you are looking for. Using some of the ideas and tools above, you can come up with an endless number of ways to reinvent yourself digitally, and most ideas without the need for heavy photo editing.

 

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments