portraits

deconstructing a portrait photograph

My friend, Chuck Arlund, visited New York with his son Lachlan, for a few days. At the end of the trip, I had a short opportunity to photograph them. Since this is Chuck, whom I greatly admire, and his son (who is so used to a camera by now), I wanted to come up with something outside of the usual guaranteed way of working with a longer lens, and a simpler background. I wanted something a little out of the ordinary.

What I envisioned was some place in New York that was very busy, and then go to a slow shutter speed, and let everyone that is moving around them, turn into ghostly figures. The idea I had in mind, was with the two of them central in the image, and figures flowing around them on either side. I wanted that symmetry.

But as usually happens, real life limitations and opportunities kick in, and you end up with something slightly different than originally envisioned.

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creating Hollywood Glamor lighting with video lights

The old Hollywood masters such as George Hurrell, CS Bull and Laszlo Willinger had a dramatic way of lighting their portraits, with specific use of light and shade.

For my review of the Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights, I had Ulorin Vex as model. Her style and clothing are quite unique, and dramatic enough that these lights enhanced her look. I loved what we came up with.

In using these Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights (vendor) to specifically emulate Hollywood Glamor lighting, I called in another model, Elle Olins. Elle has that smoldering look to her that turned out to be perfect for this style of lighting.

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photographing in bright sunlight – find the shade!

Hard sunlight must be one of the most difficult lighting scenarios to work under. But with a bit of thought, we can work around it and still easily get photos that look great. It’s a topic that we’ve touched on a number of times on the Tangents blog, (see related articles at the end here). The simplest approach for me though, is where I can, is to just not deal with the hard sunlight. I find shade.

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composition for full-length portraits – step back instead of zooming wide

A comment in the article on a simple lighting setup for the family formal photos, asked why I recommended that a photographer should step back rather than zoom wide when photographing a group. The reason is that the perspective distortion that a wide-angle lens will give to your subject, is not all that flattering.

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finding that photo opportunity

November 24, 2011

finding that photo opportunity

We stumbled upon this opportunity for this portrait of Jessica, my infamous assistant with an attitude. The reception room for a wedding we were photographing had several large boxes of lights against the walls as a kind of light mural, with baubles inside that were lit up. And the back of each of these displays was a mirror …

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camera settings: 1/50 @ f8 @ 800 ISO … lens zoomed to 35mm;  available light

shooting promotional photos for a band

Anyone who knows me well is probably very aware that my first true love is music. I live my life to a music soundtrack. There’s always music playing. Not the radio, but music of my own choice. I love music … however, my sense of rhythm isn’t all that it should’ve been for me to be a natural muso. But still, I love music. All of which meant that one few non-negotiable rules for my daughter was that she had to take music lessons. So she plays bari sax in the high-school’s Jazz band, and she’s also been taking guitar lessons for a few years now with a guitar teacher, Gerard.

All of which brings us to this photo session – promotional photos of Gerard’s band. That is Gerard (right) and Ed (center : piano) and Joe (left : guitar). I met up this weekend with them in Hoboken. Perfect for the urban feel to the photos. Hanging out with them for a few hours coming up with ideas and places for photos, was great fun. The camaraderie between them will be familiar to anyone who has ever played in a band. You connect. That all too short time I played tenor sax in a rock band back in South Africa circa 1999, just before we emigrated to the USA, was one of the best times in my life. But I digress. It was cool to hang out with these three musicians for the afternoon.

Here are some of my favorite images, with some details  …

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Jessica, a portrait in Dublin

September 20, 2011

Jessica, a portrait in Dublin

Hovering somewhere between a snapshot and a candid portrait, I really like this photograph. We were hanging out in the Temple Bar area in Dublin, late late in the evening after the recent workshops in Dublin. When it started to rain, we took shelter under the canopy in front of one of the many pubs there. As Jessica took the first drag of the cigarette, I playfully lifted my camera as if to take a shot, and she reacted with this suitable sneer. And I like the result. I even think it is the kind of image that would’ve worked on an album cover by The Smiths or Morrissey. Just one of those timeless vignettes of life. A moment and gesture that draws you in for a second look.

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the next step – going beyond just posing people

With the recent post on a few guidelines on posing people, I wanted to add the reminder that when photographing people, our final destination isn’t just the posed photograph, but that we should try and capture something about our subject. Something about their personality, or showing some facet of who they are and their lives.

When photographing couples in particular, my accent is on photographing their relationship as well. In addition to the portraits of the couple, I want to show how they interact with each other – playfulness and intimacy. We need to create images which have emotional impact – images that have some resonance with their friends and family when they view them.

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directing & posing – using randomly found available light as portrait lighting

During a trip to California, I was keen to meet up with another favorite model, Bethany. We were allowed to shoot in a night-club on a Sunday afternoon when it was all quiet with no one there. It’s an interesting place to work with a beautiful model, and I had a multiple-flash setup ready to use.

However, the first series of photos of Bethany was shot with just the available light there. But first I had to recognize the light as being interesting light for a portrait. I had to “see” it first. As it happened, I only recognized that this might be useful light for a portrait when I did a few test shots while Bethany was having her hair and make-up done.

As photographers we should always be aware of the light, and how the interplay between light and shade affects our subject. And how the quality and color of light changes. Sadly though, I didn’t recognize that the light was interesting just by looking at this scene. I only saw it once the test images popped up on the back of the camera, and I went hmmm!

Here is a pull-back shot to show the light sources – the main light was simply that bare incandescent light-bulb which the make-up artist used to do Bethany’s make-up. Simple as that.

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portrait session – Steinway pianist

I had the opportunity recently of photographing Robert Wyatt, a pianist affiliated with Steinway, at the Steinway offices in New York. This photo was taken as we were set to leave after the photo session was already done. I was immediately drawn to the symmetry of the architecture and the lavish foyer below. The pose and framing was deliberately centered.

For this lighting setup, I quickly pulled out the Lastolite softbox again, and used it as a single light source. It was all that was needed for a simple portrait here. But earlier on, for the actual photo session with Robert, I used multiple off-camera speedlights and different light modifiers to get portraits with impact …

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