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02-08-2011, 06:34 PM   #1
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Portraits on a budget

Ok, so as posted in another thread, I volunteered to do my churches member directory. I am not sure what lens would be best for this. These will not be glamor shots by any means, your typical church, elbow up portraits. I have a few lenses already, but not sure if I should invest in a good prime. (I plan on getting one eventually, but should this be a reason to get it sooner.) I have two older pentax primes, but I would eventually like to upgrade to a AF prime.
So far I have..
Pentax Kit 18-55mm f3.5-5.6
Tamron 10-24mm f3.5-4.5
Tamron 18-200mm f3.5-6.3
Pentax 50mm f2
Sears 50mm f2

Also, in a situation like this, I dont want to spend much money, should I jsut get a cheap backdrop and drape it over something? or is there a better idea out there?

I am doing this for free, but at the same time, I dont want to come off as not being professional, since hopefully this favor may end up in some future jobs from other members...

Any ideas?

02-08-2011, 07:08 PM   #2
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The kit lens or either 50mm should work fine for portraits in a controlled situation. Getting your lighting, exposure, backdrops and posing sorted out in advance will do more to make the finished photos look professional than the lens.

Decide how you want to set up the portraits ahead of time and practice with a model (family member, volunteer, etc.) until you are comfortable with it. Your lighting will probably have to work for people with and without glasses.

If the church ever hosts stage productions or seasonal performances they may even have some backdrops or tablecloths around that you can borrow or repurpose. Using curtains or architectural features in the church could also work as a backdrop.

There are lots of ways to improvise portrait backdrops. I once helped out a newspaper photographer who kept a square meter of velvet and a collapsible rod in his bag and grabbed volunteers on location to hold it if he needed to do a headshot on the fly and there wasn't a better background available.
02-08-2011, 07:30 PM   #3
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I would use one of your 50's or the 18-55. Membership photos are not normally pixel-peeped.

Shoot at maybe f5.6 with the primes or f8 with the kit, but have the people far enough in front of the background so that gets some blur.

If you are concerned about flash reflections in glasses, just have the people raise the ear pieces slightly to tilt the glasses downward.
02-08-2011, 07:31 PM   #4
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Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by Steinback Quote
Decide how you want to set up the portraits ahead of time and practice with a model (family member, volunteer, etc.) until you are comfortable with it. Your lighting will probably have to work for people with and without glasses.

If the church ever hosts stage productions or seasonal performances they may even have some backdrops or tablecloths around that you can borrow or repurpose. Using curtains or architectural features in the church could also work as a backdrop.
Yeah, we may have a backdrop. Our church is not really a "church" its not in a building I would call a "church" I guess is what i mean. There are nothing but white drywall walls, except for the stage which is bright red. lol. Not the best color for portraits.
Im sure i can come up with something.

My other question is, since i have never done a "portrait". I only have a Sigma 530 Super for light. Should I put that on another tripod and get a wireless receiver? or just try to work with it on the camera?

02-08-2011, 07:53 PM   #5
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Having your flash off camera is definitely a plus. You wouldn't need to get a wireless receiver/transmitter unless it's something you want to invest in eventually anyway. You can pick up a hot shoe extension cable fairly cheap. Also, if you have white ceilings you can try bouncing off the ceiling for a softer light.
02-08-2011, 08:47 PM   #6
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Wirelessly trigger your flash diffused (if possible) at camera top left or top right.
Looks like you won't need to spend any money if you have a decent backdrop and a diffuser (like an umbrella on a stand). If you have low white ceilings and walls in any particular room you may not even need a diffuser.
02-09-2011, 02:13 AM   #7
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Pentax K20D
S-M-C Takumar 35/2


How's a $90 lens and a $10 flash for budget portraiture?

The backdrop is just a white wall (with a little vignette added in Lightroom). The light is just an old 1980s flash fired into a white shoot-through umbrella positioned high and to my right. I used Flash Waves, but there are all sorts of remote triggering options out there.

The easiest, cheapest, and best thing you can do (in my opinion) to improve your output on this is to get some diffuse off-camera light. It doesn't have to be flash, and it doesn't have to be an umbrella. The more ingenuous among us have been known to work wonders with a shop work light through something like a suspended white bedsheet.

If you're going to fire that flash straight at them from atop your camera you may as well just send them all down to the DMV to have their pictures taken.

If you're going to manual focus, make sure you're good at it and make sure you focus on the eyes.

Above all else, set up and practice this beforehand. Give yourself time to review the results at home on your computer before you decide you're happy with it. We all know stuff that looks alright on the LCD can look like crap on the computer, and vice-versa sometimes.
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