Big News!

OAKVILLE, 24 November 2014—After many months of preparation, Michael Willems has tonight released his sixth and latest e-book, “Powerful Portrait Photography: Making Portraits That Tell 1001 Words”.

This book is available for immediate download now from http://learning.photography.

If you, like most of us, are attached to people, you will find enormous satisfaction in shooting their portraits. But only if you do it well. This all-new e-book takes you through the jungle of terms, shooting techniques, lighting schematics, posing techniques, and types of portrait and for each one, outlines in a logical fashion what it is you need to do to perfect your technique. From equipment to psychology, award-winning photographer and educator Michael Willems leads you through it one step at a time.

This extensive and richly illustrated e-book is $19.95 plus applicable taxes: it comes as a PDF file conveniently optimized for freely viewing on your iPad or other tablets, computer, small cell phones and similar platforms.

The Table of Contents shows that the subjects will teach you everything from technical needs and lighting schematics to psychology and special tools and techniques:

The book is available for immediate order and download.

But Wait! There’s More! The set of all six of Michael’s books is now also available at $79.95, a $40 discount over the regular price of $120. What better Christmas present for yourself or a loved one? Or even better: get them now so you can shoot great portraits during the upcoming festive season.  Head to http://learning.photography/ now to order your downloads or DVDs.

 

A small, important detail

The catch light in someone’s eyes are essential: no catch lights, no portrait. And that catch light needs to be not in the centre, as when you use a pop-up flash (can you spell “deer in the headlights”?), but in the upper left corner, or the upper right corner, of the eye (in the “10 o’clock position” or in the “2 o’clock position”). Like here:

If you do not have a catch light showing in at least one eye, the subject lacks that little “sparkle of life”, and looks strangely lifeless.

Your catch light usually comes from your main light source, whatever it is. And “whatever it is” is important, because it affects the picture.

Take, for instance, a beauty dish, which like an umbrella gives you a circular catch light (albeit with a slight dot in the middle):

A reflected umbrella would be a white circle with a big black blob in the centre (the flash). That looks odd, which is why I prefer to shoot through an umbrella.Whatevery you do, make sure

Or take a softbox, which, like a window when you use available light, results in a square catch light:

The moral is: in portraits, ensure that there is a catch light, that it looks good, and that it is somewhere in the upper half of the eye. Preferably, if you can., in both eyes.

Portraits are fun, and yes, there is a lot to be learned.

 


TIP: Have you thought of a training gift certificate for a private custom lesson with me as a gift for this coming season? A gift which is not only fun, but leads to your loved one making better family photos. And you’re done with shopping immediately. So everyone’s a winner. Go to http://learning.photography to order your gift certificate now.

 

Gelling!

In yesterday’s shoot with Vanessa Scott in Timmins, Ontario, I used gels to recreate the sunlight that was fast fading below the hills. All shot with Canon’s amazing 85mm f/1.2 len.

(1/200th, f/4, ISO100)

Vanessa looks like she is in that light, because I put a CTO (Colour Temperature Orange) gel by Honlphoto on the main flash, like so:

You will see also that I am using a second flash, fitted with a grid, for the hair light. Two flashes driven by Pocketwizards—that’s all.

One more from this amazingly versatile young woman:

1/60, f/5, ISO100 — I had to adjust for fading light


Again, the flash allows me to offset the subject against the background, which I keep dark. Without the flash, I would lose the nice colour and I would have to make everything, including that background, very bright.

And that’s how the cookie crumbles.

 

Fit for purpose

Portraits need to be fit for purpose.

Take this picture. A résumé picture:

I have shot this model clothed, nude, in studios, outdoors, traveling: every picture is different.

A resume picture needs to be professional (the jacket, the hairdo); show beauty in the case of a woman (the overall make-up, the low cut, the eye shadow), but not excessively so; be perhaps a little sexy (the white top) but not overly so (the necklace, the businesslike jacket again). The expression should be friendly but neutral. Yes, some thinking goes into this.

As it should go into every portrait you make. Always ask:

  • What is the photo for.
  • Whom is it for?
  • What are they expecting?
  • What is the person being pictured expecting?
  • What are you expecting?
  • What demands does this put on the photo?
  • What problems need to be solved? What needs to be de-emphasized?
  • What do you want to emphasize?

If you ask yourself these questions, you will come up with answers all by yourself. Answers about clothing, setting, light, expression, and so on.

But if you do not ask, you will not come up with answers; or worse, you will come up with the wrong answers.

For those of you who are interested, after the “more” break, two civilized nudes from the very same shoot as the photo above:

Continue reading

A simple, but effective, trick

A simple trick, used by photographers the world over, is this. Can you see what we did in this shot from two days ago, a portrait of Liz Medori?

Yup, we used a fan. A simple cheap fan; I usually use an industrial fan from a home supplies store. That fan makes the hair do its wild sexiness thing, which you will see in many model photos.

And the good news: You need to know no technique for this. Even if you are a total beginner, nothing stops you from aiming a fan at your long-haired subject.

What else did I do in that photo? We had a make-up artist, Melissa T. We lit the model with one overhead softbox straight in front of her, plus one hair light aimed at us, for shampooey goodness™, plus one background light with a purplish gel aimed at the background. And I shot with a 70-200mm lens at the typical studio setting of 200 ISO, 1/125th second, f/8.

But even if you do not know what that means; go for it with the fan!

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NOTE:  As usual, this content is brought to you free of charge. As are all the other blog posts (the entire four-year searchable archive); the articles; and things like the free book chapter from my latest book – the entire chapter on Exposure (go to http://www.michaelwillems.ca/e-Books.html and click on “download sample). Yes, in addition I sell e-books and training and photography sessions, but this content is provided free of charge.

Since this is a business, though, let me ask you to so something in return: please send this post to three friends who may be interested. That way even more people benefit from this advice and these free lessons.

Fair deal?