Portraits… plus ça change.

A repeat post from 2015, showing that things do not change much…


I very often hear people who are a little ahead of themselves. They do paid portrait shoots before learning how to focus, that sort of thing. They do not want to learn formally, for instance from a course, or books, or seminars; and yet they expect the knowledge to come to them for free, somehow.

Wishful thinking, and you know it. So let me grab a few of these things by the horns. Starting with portraits. You are doing a studio portrait; you have a backdrop; but the rest is mystery. So your images end up:

  • Badly lit.
  • Under- or overexposed.
  • With a background that is sharp instead of blurred.
  • With the subject not separated from that background.
  • Out of focus.
  • With the background white, not coloured even though you use gels.

That is because you never learned the basics. But there is good news: studio portraits are simple. All you need to learn is:

  • Lighting. A main light, 45 degrees away from subject. A fill light, same on other side. Hair light, opposite main light. See diagram, from my new book:

  • Exposure. Set your camera to manual mode, 1/125 sec, f/8, 100 ISO.
  • Turn the flashes to half way (obviously  the flashes are on MANUAL too).
  • Now meter the main flash. Adjust main light until it reads f/8.
  • Same for hair light.
  • Fill light: meter this to f/4 (i.e. adjust this light until meter reads f/4 when it flashes).
  • Background light: same as main light, again.
  • White balance to “Flash”.
  • Focus using one focus spot. Focus on the eye using that one spot.
  • Use a lens longer than 50mm. I prefer my 70-200 or my 85mm prime.
  • Move subject from background as much as you can. Then you can gel the background light. If, whoever, much of the normal light falls on the background, you cannot gel. Test this by turning OFF the background light: the background should be dark.
  • Turn subject toward main light, then head slightly to you.

Like this:

That really is all. Click., You have a competent portrait.

What you must not do is pretend that no learning is necessary. Go find a course, go buy my e-books; read this free resource www.speedlighter.ca; take private training; sign up at Sheridan College; : whatever you can do, do it now.

It really is simple. But not as simple as “I just bought a camera and next week I am shooting a wedding”—and believe me, I have heard that very statement more than once.

 

Christmas. Balls.

I love teaching. And I feel generous—read this post until the end and see why, and see how you can benefit!

First, though, here’s a few snaps from Sunday’s Get Out And Shoot. Starting with a Christmas ball…:

This walk was in downtown Oakville:

So why am I happy?

One of my Sheridan College students just sent me an unsolicited student testimonial:

“Thank you for your wonderful teaching style. I have learned a lot from you as a photographer and have taught me many things and you have always responded to every question I had with knowledge. You make the class like Christmas day.”

I am honoured by this; it is exactly why I teach.

Incidentally, I also teach privately or in small groups. And for all my students, there’s now a 30% discount for any orders (for training or anything else) paid by Dec 31, 2018. To benefit from this, all you need to do is to use discount code Student2018 on http://learning.photography. Happy festive season!

Another family shoot

Here’s a few samples from another family shoot I just did, of a friend (an ex student) and his family:

Fall is a great time for these portraits—in spite of the cold.

A few notes on a shoot like this:

  • Lit by two Bowens studio flashes, powered by a big battery. No modifiers: it was windy and the umbrellas would have pulled the lights to the ground quickly.
  • I pointed the group away from the sun; else, they would have squinted.
  • I used the 85mm f/1.2 lens, set to f/8-11.
  • Avoid too much direct sunlioght on the subjects.
  • But do use that sunlight – as the “shampooey goodness” light (a.k.a. the hairlight).
  • You can do this without flash, of course. But I prefer the brighter subjects and the saturated colours. Matter of style!

To see what I mean: this is with flash:

…and this is without:

I encourage you all to have family portraits done. Because they last, and it’s the only time travel we do. You’ll be delighted later to have them, and the extra few hundred dollars are a small price compared to that.

 

 

A workshop

Here’s a proper version of that last shot, and a few more from this weekend’s Flash Photography workshop:

And an unsolicited student reference:

There you go! When there’s another workshop, I’ll let you know here, and I’ll give you the link here when I do the next Sheridan Flash Workshop!

(You know my books also, right? See here for information. I see the store is having temporary issues, so email me if you are interested: michael@mvwphoto.com – or check out Amazon).

 

Flash!

I taught a special flash workshop over the past two days, at Sheridan College. Seven students, great crowd.

Here, a few images:

Next, a one flash portrait. Yes, you can do some great stuff using just one flash. The flash was fitted with a Honl Photo grid – without that, it could not have worked. Fired by pocketwizards. This student looks like Queen Nefertiti, we decided:

Funny, aunt and niece, who, contrary to what you might think looking at this image, both have a great sense of humour:

And finally, me, by one of the students. A standard four light portrait:

About this portrait:

  • It uses a key light, a fill light two stops darker, a hair light, and a background light. Four flashes.
  • Key and fill were strobes; the others were speedlights.
  • They were all fired by pocketwizards.
  • The background was light grey. That makes it difficult, to add colour to it, so we used a considerable distance between me and the background. (The background needs to be dark before you can add colour to it).

And finally the easiest shot. Now I warn you, the sample below was shot from the back of my camera with my iPhone, and then further mangled by Facebook, so do not look at the quality. Look at the idea instead.

So simple. One flash, located behind the subject, aimed at the backround. And a part Harvey Weinstein lookalike in the foreground.