portrait photography

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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photography composition: working toward the final image

When I first immersed myself in photography way way back, it took me a while to realize that what I see in a magazine or book, isn’t necessarily the first image. Those incredible images that can inspire us, (or even make us just want to give up photography), most often are not fully-formed masterpieces. Most often, the photograph that we as the viewer are presented with, are but one of a series. One photograph that stood out, or where the elements in the photograph were controlled by the photographer. And even with the work of hardcore photo-journalists, what we see, have been “controlled” and “adjusted”, even if only in terms of lens choice and composition.

With that realization, I felt less intimidated by the great photographs that I saw. They had become more accessible in a way, and more attainable to me as a new photographer.

Photographs with impact or appeal could come to be because of serendipity or foresight and careful planning by the photographer. Quite often it’s just recognizing the potential of a scene, and working with it to finesse the elements, such as the composition or lighting or, with portraits, the pose.

So it is with this photograph of Jessica Joy, taken just before we started the photo-shoot mentioned in the article, colored gels with flash photography. The final result shown here, is a little bit of everything – a wonderful subject, an opportunity, and then over the course of several photographs, finessing it.

While I really like this image, and think of this as the final image that I want to present, it didn’t just “happen” as the first and only image. There was an entire sequence leading up to it. It is this first recognition of a potentially good photograph, and then the thought-process in the sequence, that I want to show here.

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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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home studio portrait lighting setup in limited space (model – Kaylex)

The photos in this article were shot with a fairly simple lighting setup in my dining room area. The main light to my left (model’s right) is the Westcott Bruce Dorn Strip Bank (18″x42″) (B&H). The flashgun was a Quantum T2, but a speedlight would’ve worked just as well. In this small a space, you don’t need huge amounts of light.

I used another Quantum T2 to light up the grey seamless background. I had the Quantum 12×12 softbox on this one, and feathered it to give me uneven light on the backdrop. I also had a snooted Nikon SB-800 as a hair light in most shots.

For some images, shot at f/1.4 the power was turned away down on the Q-flash – all the way down to 1/32 and 1/64 just to ensure that kiss of light.

Here’s a pull-back shot to show you just how unglamorous and cramped it looked. Yet the portraits looked great.

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