posing

use light & lighting to add dramatic impact to your portraits

Simplifying your composition is generally a really good way to add impact to your photos – remove visual clutter, and draw the viewer’s eye to what’s essential. But there’s a converse challenge to this – when you have a location that isn’t necessarily that interesting , how do you add more impact? Light and Lighting is an obvious way to do this. Create impact and drama in how you add light to the scene, and light your subjects. A recent article discussed this in relation to off-camera flash: usting off-camera flash for that extra bit of drama – (model: Olena).

For the romantic wedding portraits of Grace and Joseph, we were landlocked to a few rooms inside the venue because of the snow storm outside. Then it becomes a challenge to come up with ideas and use nooks and crannies, and make it all count!

For the image at the top, we were in the room where they serve pre-dinner cocktail snacks and drinks. Nothing much there. But I came up with the idea of having Joseph sit on this table against this wall, and then adding Grace.

Posing tip: In terms of posing a couple, it is nearly always easier to start with one person, and then adding the other. Use the first person to anchor the pose. And I usually physically show them where to sit or stand or lean when I pose someone.

The pose works, now we just had to add dramatic light. Bounce flash would’ve flattened out everyone. Well lit, but too evenly lit. Off-camera flash with a gridded soft box would’ve worked like a charm as well – but as I most often do with the romantic portraits of a couple, I went with video light. This time around, I had more toys to play with, thanks to Ryan, the other photographer shooting alongside me, who had brought his video lights along as well.

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destination wedding photographer Aruba

photographing a couple – posing and composition

Re-editing and re-vamping photographs for my blog post of a destination wedding in Aruba, I found it enlightening to realize how much my style has progressed over years in post-processing too.

As part of destination wedding photography coverage, I offer extended photo sessions around the exotic locale after (or before) the wedding date. While we’re there, we may as well use the opportunity.

The photograph at the top was taken on the day after the wedding when we took a rented car and drove around the arid areas of the island – away from the touristy parts. There was a short rainstorm while we were driving, and the landscape looked really crisp. Offsetting the couple against this landscape just seemed like a great idea. I posed them into the light. I had various compositions of this, but liked the off-center image the most.

In this way, for any single setup, I always shoot wide & tight; vertical & horizontal; high & low viewpoints. This way I get a variety of images, and in the culling process later on, I can pick the few that work, or give me the most variety.

But there’s usually more than just one photograph …

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posing tip – check the wrists and hands

In posing, a good tip is to have the wrists and hands form a kind of S-curve instead of being straight. While this photograph works for me,  and I really like the composition and her direct gaze into the camera … I should’ve guided Anelisa to bend her left wrist (the hand closer to her cheek), a bit more. That would’ve made her gesture a touch more elegant in this photograph at the top.

Of course, in analyzing your photographs closely, there is (nearly) always something to pick up on how you could’ve improved the final image.

Here is another photograph in the sequence, where you’d be able to clearly see the difference a change in the pose would’ve made …

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available light photography: direction of light / posing into the light

A topic that I’ve given more and more attention to here on Tangents, is available light photography - but specifically the concept that it isn’t just a random way of taking photos, but that consideration has to be given to the direction of light. When you work with someone you want to take a portrait of, it is crucial that you pose someone in flattering light. This often means posing someone into the light, with the one shoulder toward the direction of light. This idea works for even the simplest of cameras.

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off-camera flash photography: short lighting and broad lighting

“Short Lighting” is when the side of the face turned away from the camera, is better lit than the side of the face closest to the camera. (top image)

“Broad Lighting” is when the side of the face closest to the camera, is better lit. (second image)

This has as much to do with the position of the light, as with how your subject is posed into the light. This is true for studio photography and off-camera flash on location, and for when you photograph a subject with just the available light. As shown in a previous article here, you can easily achieve short lighting with on-camera bounce flash. Of course, with studio photography you can finesse this to a great degree.

With on-location portraits, I aim towards getting short lighting on my subjects, because it is more dramatic, and more flattering. Look at the gradient of light on Anelisa’s cheek in the top photo. This kind of lighting really helps create a near 3-dimensional look to your image.

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lighting for on-location photo sessions – pick your battles

When doing a photo session with a couple on location, I mix up the lighting often. With some photo sessions I may:
- shoot available light only;
- or I may decide with a photo session to use direct on-camera flash,
with some sequences available light only; or
- with some photo sessions I use off-camera flash with a softbox,
with some sequences just the available light.

Even in varying the way I may use the available light and flash, I still aim to have a consistent look to it all. My specific style has to be apparent. Or perhaps, in the way that I work, my style becomes apparent. The one way that I help make things easier for myself, and remain consistent, is that in working with the available light; or working with the available light and flash (both on-camera and off-camera) … I pick my battles. I don’t try and make *everything* work. Rather, I specifically choose where I pose a couple, or what I have as the background.  All of this in relation to the existing light and my flash.

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taking photos in harsh sunlight

Taking photographs of people in harsh sunlight will always be one of the more daunting lighting situations we can find ourselves in. Without additional lighting, or the use of scrims, we have a few basic ways of dealing with the harsh sun:
- pose our subject into the light,
- pose our subject with their back to the sun, or
- just suck it up and accept that our photos will look bad.

Well, that last option isn’t really the way to go if we have any pride in our work as photographers. Which leaves us with the two other options …

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wedding photography – tips on posing – asymmetry

When working with a bride and groom for their portraits, there are a few ideas that I know will work. You have to have somewhere to start. Some fail-safe ideas for poses that allow you to at least get the essential images. From there on, I try to improvise a little, depending on the personalities of the couple, and also the place where we find ourselves, and the light. So opportunity does sway the portrait session a fair amount.

I prefer working this way, rather than applying a more mechanical “flow posing” technique. I feel that allowing opportunity and the couple themselves to guide the photo session to an extent – is a more natural way of working towards definitive portraits of the couple.

This does mean that you need to *look* at the couple, and how they appear within the camera’s frame … and then gently adjust their pose if necessary. At this point then, it becomes more about photographic composition. Now we need to look at balance and symmetry … and asymmetry.

One key tip that I rely on, is that while a symmetrical pose can be striking … the easiest way to break it up and get more variety, is to change the position of hands and feet. One hand lower than the other. A different level. The same for how you position feet – one foot on a different level than the other. Up / Down. Front / Back.

Here’s a sequence to show the thought-process …

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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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wedding photography – the romantic portraits – more than just, “and now, kiss”

More frequently than not, when looking at the work of other photographers, I see that the romantic portraits of the couple are just of them kissing. Having worked with a number of photographers over the years, I’ve also seen how the instruction “and now, kiss”, becomes reflexive. Pose the couple; have them look at each other … *snap* … and now kiss … *snap*. And then the photographer takes no other photos of the couple at that specific place. Yet, there are more (and perhaps even better) ways to show intimacy in the romantic portraits than just having the couple kiss …

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