posing

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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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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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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wedding photography – light, lighting, posing & direction  – making the decisions

The title of this article is quite ambitious. To cover all of that, it would be a 50,000 word book. But in editing this wedding at the moment, I noticed this photograph, and I love the look of it. So in the context of that one single image, let’s look how it all came together. While the photograph itself isn’t complicated, a lot of quick decisions went into making this image work … and easy to edit. A number of things had to be considered, but instead of being overwhelmed by juggling all the decisions and thought-processes simultaneously, there’s a way to break it all down to simple elements which will help the photo session come together naturally.

Now even if you’re not that interested in wedding photography per se, hang in for a while, for the thinking here is applicable to just about any other field of photography …

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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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how to pose normal, everyday people for portraits

When you work with models, or subjects who are used to presenting themselves to the camera or an audience, it is much easier for the photographer to pose them. The challenge though is how to pose people who aren’t used to pose in front of the camera. Then it is up to the photographer to guide them, and give clear instruction how they should pose for the camera. The question just came up in the Tangents forum – how to pose everyday normal people.

The photograph above is of me as I was showing a model at the After Dark photography workshops how I wanted her to pose. Now you may well say that I was showing a model how to pose, and not an inexperienced subject … and some may even say that I am hardly ‘everyday’ or ‘normal’. However that may be, this image neatly underlines my advice on posing.

You need to be able to show your subjects how you want them to pose.

If you’re working with subjects who aren’t used to the camera, then you absolutely need to be able to show them what you want them to do – how to position their feet, their hands, their body and head. Just vaguely pointing, with vague verbal instructions just won’t get you as far as physically showing them.

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random found available light as portrait lighting

With the recent trip to California for the workshops, I was also 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, finding interesting spots and then figuring out how I might adapt my flash setup. I had 4 speedlights with me and 2 softboxes and a slew of the new PocketWizards.

The first series of photos of Bethany however, 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 saw 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.

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wedding portraits: finding something to bounce your flash off

One of the frequent questions that come up, is what to do when there is nothing to bounce your flash off.  When working indoors and there are bounce-able surfaces around me, my first instinct is to use on-camera bounce flash. It is easy to use, and the results can look surprisingly good, especially if you consider the minimal effort that went into it. No extra gear to carry around and set up. But when there is nothing to bounce flash off, you have to adapt your technique …

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