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01-01-2017, 12:36 PM   #1
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shooting portrait issues

this isn't a technical issue, so i'm not really asking for assistance with gear.
what i'm looking for is tips and techniques to make a very specific gender happy.
as i take more and more pics of people (i used to be a landscape photographer), i'm finding it consistently that if i take a picture of a male subject, regardless of his age, one pic/click and i'm happy, as is the subject.

yet, when i take pics of a female aged between teen-60ish, i can NEVER seem to get it right....EVER! case in point:
*takes picture*
subject: no, thats not my good side
*takes picture from the other side*
subject: no i'm not smiling
*takes picture with her smiling*
subject: no, i look fat
*takes picture with a higher angle*
subject: no, i look dark
*takes picture again with different setting
subject: no, i look old
*starts hating the process and quits

i'm finding taking picture of children, or older women (ie, my grandma) seems to photograph really well. even in post process, if i enhance the wrinkles, they dont mind it. yet teen to 60ish aged women im really hating to photograph due to their insecurities.

at the same time, i'm also hating taking pics of women in that age group due to the 'kardashian effect'. i'm not hating on make up, but it gets irritating when they all start contouring to enhance their cheek bones and start looking very similar to one another; ie - kardashians...

how are you folks not coming across this? i've seen some awesome portraits of women being represented perfectly that are also in that age group...what am i doing wrong? (aside from taking pics of professional models) is it, perhaps a cultural thing? i am from the south asian culture, thus a lot of my friends/family/network is usually from the asian continent

:S


EDIT: sorry for the rant. and i'm not trolling either. i'm genuinely curious about how you people are doing it differently.

also, happy new year!!!

01-01-2017, 01:08 PM - 4 Likes   #2
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I shoot young women almost exclusively. (Instagram link below). Most of them have various level of experience being photographed but most are not professional models nor close to that level. I do shoot some of those and there's a world of difference.

There's a lot more to shooting female subjects than male ones. Admittedly, I've shot far fewer men but here's what I've learned: women think about their appearance FAR more than men do. That may seem obvious to everyone, but the way and the level of detail which they notice about themselves far exceeds anything most men know, even those who've been married for years. You won't see it until you start doing serious photography that the girls will look at themselves and find everything wrong with them. You just need to talk to them more and find this stuff out. Learning more about makeup and their prep will help you understand their perspectives better.

One of the problems you have is that most women, unless they're some kind of model, are not used to the level of detail that an SLR with pro lighting affords. With the ubiquity of filters (h8), they're used to taking not so good resolution selfies of themselves and then filtering the heck out of them and getting these silky smooth things that don't look at all like reality. Some of them may forget what they actually look like. This is particularly prevalent in Asian sub/cultures (about half my models, I estimate, are Asian and I'm particularly well-versed in the cultures of the three nations of East Asia, Southeast not as much). Remember that these filters were born in the print clubs (arcade photo booths) of Japan and spread from there.

Part of this may be your clientele but there is a lot for you to learn. People think portraits are easy because they "do it" themselves: subject stands there doing whatever and someone snaps a cell phone photo. There's a lot more that goes into it all, especially in the editing. It takes me 15-25 minutes to edit each portrait photo I take and I nail my lighting pretty well. There's just a lot of little details you need to pay attention to in editing.

But what can you do in shoot? A lot of things. For one, look at others photos of women. Look at their poses and expressions. That helps you guide your subjects and pose them accordingly. You need to take a very hands on approach--give her feedback, correct her, don't be afraid to micromanage to an extent. And tell her what she's doing wrong and why it looks bad. That will help. Trust me, she won't be mad if you say "No, that pose makes your head look big" and have her move. She'll thank you for your honesty and attention to detail. Give her as much instruction as necessary and if she's not getting it, don't be afraid to ask "Can I move you?" BUT ASK! don't just touch without permission! And be gentle.

You'll need to spend some time thinking about what is feminine about poses and what is desirable. Every woman wants to look sexy. That's not to say everyone wants to have vixen level lingerie photos but, trust me, every girl wants to look at photos of herself and think "I look hot." This requires you to think about, objectively, what you like and what you find desirable in her. Find her best features. If she were your SO, how would you want her to look?

Sound creepy? Amazingly, portrait/model photography borders on that. I joke that the things that get said that are totally normal in photosessions would get you slapped in any other circumstance. You need to examine your subjects for flaws--look for hairs out of place, bra straps showing, etc. It seems strange at first but your subjects will really appreciate your attention to detail and trust you more.

Your ability to make good portraits will depend on your ability to connect with your model. She needs to trust you and feel comfortable around you. Being upbeat, jovial, etc. all helps. Click and make that chemistry with her. That is how you make good photographs when you're not shooting models with hundreds of hours of experience.

---------- Post added 01-01-17 at 02:17 PM ----------

Feel free to message me if you have questions or want more discussion!
01-01-2017, 02:09 PM   #3
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I've photographed a lot of women, and the best way to a flattering portrait is soft light. You can search for soft ambient light, or create it yourself with flash and light modifiers, but I really think it's possible to make everyone look beautiful without much post-processing.

The other half of this is direction. You're the photographer, the artist. If someone is particularly self-conscious (and especially if they're vocalising that), then you need to be able to provide some positive reinforcement to let them know that they're helping make progress towards that "mind's eye" image you have of them.

It also really depends on the model whether it makes sense to show them a flattering work-in-progress, or perhaps wait to show the photos until they're really complete.
01-01-2017, 02:33 PM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithedreamer Quote
It also really depends on the model whether it makes sense to show them a flattering work-in-progress, or perhaps wait to show the photos until they're really complete.
This is a good point. If it's someone who's been photographed a lot, she'll understand what will go into editing. If it's someone who never has been or hasn't seen a lot of edited photos, she won't and may be worried. But in my experience, what shows up on the LCD always looks ridiculously awesome and it's not until you get it on a big screen that disappointment sets in.

01-01-2017, 02:55 PM   #5
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Both of the above posters have great advice.

Make a request to your models to come to the shoot more or less "natural", just like you would presumably ask them to dress in a certain clothing style, etc. Explain to them before that any over-done makeup will get in the way of taking a good shot. *shrug* Good luck with that though...

Take more photos. My best shots always seem to come in the middle of mini-bursts of 2-3 images where you catch the person with their guard down enough to let the personality shine through. The more they get used to hearing the camera click and clack away and the being blinded by the flash pop the more they'll get used to it and relax.

As a general rule, I don't let the model see the images before I select and edit them. Everything in-camera is a rough draft, this isn't grade school math and I don't like to or need to show my work. I have no problem showing them final results from my portfolio but nothing from the current shoot.
01-01-2017, 11:30 PM   #6
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I also find the above statements true. Most of my portraits are of women. And yes you have to instruct them. Talk with them show them what you are trying to do from the pictures you have taken.

I actually love the instructing part because I turn to bond that way. One that I always say is how posing is uncomfortable based on my own experience when being photographed.

I remember once I was shooting a couple at an event. The guy was reluctant and just couldn't relax. He was afraid or didnt want to smile. So I told him that I know that it feels unnatural but he should try it anyway and hold it.

After that the next shot was bang on. I showed them the results and moved on. They came to look for me later on wanting more of their pictures taken.
01-01-2017, 11:54 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by hadi Quote

yet, when i take pics of a female aged between teen-60ish, i can NEVER seem to get it right....EVER! case in point:
*takes picture*
subject: no, thats not my good side
*takes picture from the other side*
subject: no i'm not smiling
*takes picture with her smiling*
subject: no, i look fat
*takes picture with a higher angle*
subject: no, i look dark
*takes picture again with different setting
subject: no, i look old
*starts hating the process and quits
What is the context for taking these photos? Have they asked you to take them? Are they models?

I got some good advice recently; don't show people the photos on the camera right after you take them. Often people don't like the way they look and will want you to retake it. If you think it's good, retake it, if you don't, then take some more.
01-02-2017, 08:55 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by leekil Quote
I got some good advice recently; don't show people the photos on the camera right after you take them. Often people don't like the way they look and will want you to retake it. If you think it's good, retake it, if you don't, then take some more.
More importantly, it disrupts the flow of the session. Both photographer and model need to be "in the groove" for good results. Shoot a batch or two and then look through the photos. Show her one that you like a lot. If you're stopping a bunch, that's not good.

For reference, I shot 7900 shutter activations at model location shoots this year. I have kept about 400 of these. Most poses are shot 5-8 times to make sure the focus is spot on and that she didn't flinch or blink, but this shows that most photos are not kept. Typical session runs about 60-100 clicks per hour and, of these, I look to keep 6. More is nice, but about six fully edited photos per hour is my target.

01-02-2017, 09:03 AM   #9
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Since you are in a fairly large population center, you should consider hiring professional models for a few shoots. They know how to pose to make your pictures as good as possible, and won't be especially shy about sitting in front of a camera.
As a learning tool, shooting with an experienced pro is about as good as it gets.
01-02-2017, 11:06 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by hadi Quote
i'm finding taking picture of children, or older women (ie, my grandma) seems to photograph really well. even in post process, if i enhance the wrinkles, they dont mind it. yet teen to 60ish aged women im really hating to photograph due to their insecurities.
Because many of 50-60ish women did not accept their changes yet. Your grandma did.
I love old lenses, plus editing a must. Supertak 50mm f1.4 is aged women friendly lens in my book. And light is important. The harsh light is the worst enemy for aged women.

As for teens, they are always not happy.
Probably, they also did not adapt to their changes. Frankly, many of them are really not pretty- yet.
01-02-2017, 11:22 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Since you are in a fairly large population center, you should consider hiring professional models for a few shoots. They know how to pose to make your pictures as good as possible, and won't be especially shy about sitting in front of a camera.
As a learning tool, shooting with an experienced pro is about as good as it gets.
Yes and no. With professional models, they take care of so many of the problems OP is facing (shooting with them is really effortless), I'm not sure he'd get as much out of it, as he would with the thread's previous suggestions. On the other hand, if the OP needs a confidence boost for themselves, then sure, it's a blast.
01-02-2017, 03:25 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithedreamer Quote
Yes and no. With professional models, they take care of so many of the problems OP is facing (shooting with them is really effortless), I'm not sure he'd get as much out of it, as he would with the thread's previous suggestions. On the other hand, if the OP needs a confidence boost for themselves, then sure, it's a blast.
That's like saying you couldn't learn anything about landscape photography by spending an afternoon shooting with Ansel Adams.

Working with a professional is NEVER a bad thing.
01-02-2017, 03:35 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
That's like saying you couldn't learn anything about landscape photography by spending an afternoon shooting with Ansel Adams.

Working with a professional is NEVER a bad thing.
I'm NOT saying you CAN'T learn anything by working with a professional model. I'm saying the original poster won't improve as much on his specific skills with working with amateurs when he's not working working with amateurs.
01-02-2017, 05:06 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithedreamer Quote
I'm NOT saying you CAN'T learn anything by working with a professional model. I'm saying the original poster won't improve as much on his specific skills with working with amateurs when he's not working working with amateurs.
He can fumble around with amateurs for years and not learn as much as he could working with a pro for an afternoon.

We can agree to disagree.
01-02-2017, 06:08 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithedreamer Quote
I'm NOT saying you CAN'T learn anything by working with a professional model. I'm saying the original poster won't improve as much on his specific skills with working with amateurs when he's not working working with amateurs.
QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
He can fumble around with amateurs for years and not learn as much as he could working with a pro for an afternoon.
I agree that working with some pros is a good exercise. You pick up a few tricks but they just kinda do their thing without your help and don't explain anything, so there's not as much interaction.

The best learning experience comes from working with the moderately experienced. People who need some help but aren't completely new and have no idea what to do.

Probably the best thing to do is find some reference photos and try to get your subjects to do those poses. Some poses, though, are deceptively hard and the girls won't be able to do them. You can, however, see what they do wrong in the process. While it won't make for great photographs, you will learn a lot studying the results afterwards.
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