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04-05-2009, 07:42 PM   #31
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jim Royal Quote
Well, the trick is to take that knowledge of what went wrong in the past and translate that into looking at a scene before you shoot in order to anticipate what will go wrong.

In the case of this photo, the light on your grandson's face is a soft glow coming generally from above. This kind of light is useful as a fill light as long as you have an additional light source off to one side providing more direction for the light. In this case, there is no such directional light to help sculpt his face. A second problem is that the light from above is creating shadows beneath his brows, darkening his eyes.

Under these conditions, I prefer to have another light source that I can put to one side (a flash or even a big piece of white cardboard to function as a reflector). If this is not available, what I look for is a roof overhang such as a canopy over a sidewalk restaurant. I then place the subject as deep into the shadow as possible. The idea is to get that soft light to come from the side rather than from directly above. There will be less light to work with this way, so you'll have to shoot with a higher ISO, but the direction of the light will be strongly from one side, and so will be more flattering and dramatic.
Right. The best time of day to shoot people pics is in mid morning or mid evening when light is comming in from the side at a 45 degree angle. If this aint possible then a reflector or fill flash will help. Don't give up on people photograpy. This is a nice picture of your grandson and do your research and keep on shooting. You will be just fine!

04-06-2009, 12:40 PM   #32
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rupert Quote
When I got home and downloaded, I was happy with some, but not with the majority. ...
Well, I would say for starters that THAT feeling is pretty common. I seem to recall Ansel Adams saying something like, if you take a couple photos a YEAR that you feel like keeping, you're doing pretty good.


QuoteQuote:
I will continue to learn and eventually get better, but the hard reality is that I am much better at shooting squirrels and birds than I am at people. This is one of my better ones, and yes, it has problems! Do you ever feel this way about your level of competence?
Sure. But let's look at your photo. I have a number of comments.

The photo isn't bad and you should not beat yourself up. It could be improved with a little targeted post-processing. You didn't say what you used to process the photo, but if it were me, in Adobe Lightroom, I'd probably boost the blacks setting +1 or +2, increase the clarity +10, perhaps goose vibrance a bit, and use the curve to lighten midtones or perhaps even use the adjustment brush to brighten the young man's face.


The easy technicalities A couple of simple technical points. Looks like the photo was taken late afternoon. If you can avoid it, this is usually a pretty bad time to try to take portraits outside. I try to drag portrait subjects out of bed early in the a.m. Shooting later in the afternoon, when the sun gets low again, can also work. If you must shoot midday, overcast days may be better than bright sunny days. It looks to me like you have part of the subject's face in shade and part in bright light - something you should try to avoid.

I note also that you shot at 170mm focal length, ISO 400 and f/6.3, and that you used your flash on this shot. At that focal length, my guess is that you were a good distance from the subject. On a bright day, did the flash do anything at all? I think I'd have skipped the flash and used a wider aperture - f/4 perhaps. Nothing inherently wrong with the focal length but it is a bit long. I stick to somewhere from, oh, 28mm to 100mm (on a K20D), depending on what I want to do. My 50 f/1.4 is my official "portrait" lens. Why? Because it's my fastest lens, but also because it lets me stay close enough to the subject to interact, to direct the subject, make the subject feel at ease, and close enough for flash to help. Finally, I do wonder why you shot at ISO 400. Don't know that it made a big difference to this photo, but if you're outside and the light's decent, you should be able to shoot at ISO 100 or 200. Want to do outdoor portraiture? The cliche instructions are: go early, use a roughly 70mm lens (on a K20D), shoot with a wide aperture, and keep the ISO down.

Were you shooting in Auto mode? (Looks like you were.) For portraits, I'd suggest switching to Av so you can set the aperture wide. (P mode works fine too on a K10D/K20D because you can get into effective aperture-priority mode by moving the rear e-dial.)


The hard stuff

Now I'll be honest: I don't think those the technical cliches are nearly as important as the more intangible elements of portraiture. The reason it's difficult to shoot people who KNOW that you're shooting them, is that most people get a bit nervous in front of the camera, much the way they get nervous when asked to speak in public, and the camera really picks that up. It's therefore terribly important for the photographer to be able to put subjects at ease - or more correctly, to be able to put subjects into a mood that's good for photography. (I say this because I've seen a couple GREAT portraits where the photographer seems to have deliberately made the subject angry just before the shot. Whatever works.) You need to know if you've got a smiler, a laugher, a tough guy, cool dude, dreamer, deep thinker, or curmudgeon, to name just a few of the possibilities. This may be a skill that can't be taught. I myself am not nearly as good at this as I want to be, and I've been working at it for a long time. I do best when I have a photogenic subject who meets me more than half way.

Did you use a tripod? When I shoot portraits, if at all possible, I use a tripod, not because it's technically so important, but because with the camera on a tripod, I can work in two steps. First, I make sure I've got the shot composed well, exposure right, focus, etc., and then second, I can put all of my attention into LOOKING at the subject, talking to the subject, waiting for what looks like the right instant to snap the shutter. A cable-release is also critical for this approach. Subjects also seem less threatened by a camera on a tripod than by a camera with somebody looking at them through the finder. Shooting with a tripod, I can look 'em in the eye myself, joke with them, not tell 'em when I'm going to trip the shutter - and then click that shutter when they give me the look I want. It's hard to do with group shots, because you have to worry about everybody's eyes being open. But with individuals, surprise can really be your friend.

The subject is clearly a very handsome young man, but his pose at the moment of capture, I think, is weak and not very interesting. His mouth is open in a way that isn't terribly attractive - lot of teeth. This may be a natural look for him, but if I had noticed this while shooting, I would have tried getting him either to smile or to close his mouth and not smile. You have to see this stuff while you're shooting. In order to really look at the subject, you have to be so completely comfortable with the technicalities of taking the photo that you don't have to waste any mental energy on them.

In the final analysis, the camera and your exposure settings are a trivial part of the job here - not unimportant, but pretty close. What matters most is either having a photogenic subject or - more often - interacting with your subject so that you put them at ease and make them as photogenic as possible. And finally, LOOKING for a moment when they smile spontaneously and naturally and clicking the shutter right at that instant.

It's not that hard to do decently, but it is really hard to do really well.

Will
04-08-2009, 02:56 PM   #33
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QuoteOriginally posted by rfortson Quote
Hey Rupert, glad you finally made it over here.

Your shot looks nice to me, but I agree, shooting people is hard. I don't have many suggestions, but creative use of the flash (off camera) or a reflector is always nice. If you have a bag lady, then you have someone to hold the reflector. You probably already have one, but if not, you can get a cheapie like a truck windshield shade for under $50. I have one that's silver on one side, gold on the other (for that "golden" light) and you can also take both metallic sides off and you're left with a opaque white diffuser, which is nice in harsh light.
Hope this helps!
Do you then use the diffuser between subject, and the sun ?




QuoteOriginally posted by Jim Royal Quote
Well, the trick is to take that knowledge of what went wrong in the past and translate that into looking at a scene before you shoot in order to anticipate what will go wrong.

In the case of this photo, the light on your grandson's face is a soft glow coming generally from above. This kind of light is useful as a fill light as long as you have an additional light source off to one side providing more direction for the light. In this case, there is no such directional light to help sculpt his face. A second problem is that the light from above is creating shadows beneath his brows, darkening his eyes.

Under these conditions, I prefer to have another light source that I can put to one side (a flash or even a big piece of white cardboard to function as a reflector). If this is not available, what I look for is a roof overhang such as a canopy over a sidewalk restaurant. I then place the subject as deep into the shadow as possible. The idea is to get that soft light to come from the side rather than from directly above. There will be less light to work with this way, so you'll have to shoot with a higher ISO, but the direction of the light will be strongly from one side, and so will be more flattering and dramatic.
Great tips.




Sometimes it can be a help to put the camera on a tripod, and then stand next to it with a remote. It can make the subjects more relaxed. But I understand where youíre coming from Rupert, I did a portrait session, and found it very difficult.
I posted some shots here, taken with Tri-x :
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-film-slr-discussion/33341-fullfilled-film-2.html
(bottom of the page)



QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
Rupert, I can only agree with other posters here, that portraiture is one of the more challenging subjects... I tend to prefer a controlled environment, especially with regards to light. Studio lighting makes things much easier.

Nevertheless the photograph you posted is a good one. You choose to place your subject in the shadow, to prevent excessive contrast.
Isnít it a good thing, to place the subject in the shade ?


QuoteOriginally posted by iced Quote
Hi Rupert, I ran across an interesting site that has ten tutorials on numerous topics dealing with portraits. There are some great information for the beginner to the pro. and the exciting part is it's FREE. There are ten tops and they are broke down in individual lessons. They range from posing, background, head and shoulders, lighting and other topics. Anyone interested, this is the site, enjoy Benji's Studio Lighting and Posing Tutorial I'm sure anyone interested in portraits will find this useful.
Thanks, will have a look at the link
04-11-2009, 05:33 AM   #34
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jonson PL Quote

Isnít it a good thing, to place the subject in the shade ?

Yes, it is a good thing - that's why I wrote it. The only problem is the brightly lit part on the right part of the face/upper body, which distracts from the main part of the portrait.

Ben

04-11-2009, 04:15 PM   #35
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jim R Quote
I'm usually"talked into" doing people pictures. I understand my limitations, decide I won't do it, and then cave in. Gee, I've got all this great equiptment, I've read a hundred books and I understand the basics, what 's so hard?
Some of the greatest sports coaches never played the game, and although I know what to do, I don't know how to do it properly. You are not alone. People (posed) are the most difficult subject to do. I'm with you, my hat's off to the pros. Thank goodness for the "endless roll of film" we have.
Very good point


QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
Yes, it is a good thing - that's why I wrote it. The only problem is the brightly lit part on the right part of the face/upper body, which distracts from the main part of the portrait.
Sorry, I misread



Edit :
some time ago, I noticed an interesting series of photos by Top Pro photographer, taken of movie stars, for Vanity Fair. (Among the photographers, were Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritts, etc).
"In its 25-year modern history, Vanity Fair has photographed some of the world’s most recognizable bodies (Lindsay, Scarlett, Gisele, Borat) on beaches from Malibu to Amagansett."

Here is one great shot, of the photogenic Hilary Swank :
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2008/08/sizzlers_portfolio200808?slide=1#globalNav
(Photographed in Malibu, California, by Norman Jean Roy for the March 2005 issue).
What is really most interesting, is the outtakes from Swank’s August 2006 beachy cover shoot. Many of these are very standard, almost close boring, though she is very pretty :
http://www.vanityfair.com/fame/features/2006/08/swank_outtakes200608

Shows that even Top Pros can struggle.


What holds me back the most, regarding portrait photography, is the amount of PP often involved. If you wanna be good at it, this has got to be an extensive part too.

Eric, who does some great Fashion photography, provided a view into the workflow he goes through :
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1036&thread=31263983

Last edited by Jonson PL; 04-12-2009 at 03:01 AM.
04-11-2009, 04:50 PM   #36
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Hi Rupert, nice to see you here:-).
I don't have any good advice on portrait photography because I do very little of it and when I do I'm more uncomfortable than my subjects but I'm with you on the number of keepers compared to the number of shots I've taken:-) .
04-12-2009, 05:15 PM   #37
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Didn't read through all the posts, but work on your lighting first. Either find ways to make natural light work for you, or learn about artificial lighting. Strobist is a good place to start.

Once the lighting is down, the last part (and most difficult, in my opinion) is creatively finding ways to make interesting frames and working with the subject to bring out personality. The latter is my biggest challenge right now because it is just so intangible.

04-16-2009, 11:15 PM   #38
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I shoot weddings and do senior portraiture, sometimes young ones and families. On the soft-skills side of portraiture, I can offer a few thoughts:
  1. It's not just about the picture, it's about the story you're trying to tell with it. What's the mood you're trying to capture?
  2. When shooting, think of what you want the photo to look like at the end, then work to make it happen.
  3. Always look at what's behind the subject, what's on the ground and sky above. Think whole picture.
  4. Never underestimate the power of people blinking at the wrong time. As we're shooting digital, it's easy to snap multiple shots to make sure you didn't catch a blinker, otherwise use the LCD and check, check, check.
  5. Check your subjects closely - clothing, body parts unintentionally hanging out, wayward hair, unflattering lumps, etc.
  6. The younger the subject, the more you have to worry about what's residing on the corners of their mouths or up their nose. Check and be prepared to take care of the problem.
  7. Smile and enjoy yourself - your mood will have an impact on your subject, which affects their mood, and ends up impacting your work - it's the circle of, umm... life.
  8. Patience... if you don't have it find it or learn it, and go with the flow. Better to bend with the wind than end up breaking wind.
  9. Study the human form - learn what looks good and what doesn't. For example: crossing arms works for some but for others it makes their arms look like hams. There are plenty of books on this, however looking at fashion magazines will work as well.
  10. Practice, rinse, repeat.
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