The rest of my self portraits are posted elsewhere, but here’s day 13. At some stage I will re-post all of them here. Day 13 is “making do”. Sleep, shower, shave, etc, TV, sleep, repeat. What else is there to do?
For today’s portrait I use a prop. And the camera is set to f/16, 100 IUSO, 1/250 sec. The light is a single speedlight fitted with a Honl Photo 1/4″ speed grid. Took about 30 seconds to do this portrait. Now the rest of the day…
To emphasize what I wrote yesterday, look here. My grandparents, in 1928 in Tilburg, the Netherlands. In other words: just before they were to set sail to the Dutch East Indies, or “Ons Indië”, as they called it at the time: “Our India”.
They were headed to the city of Batavia, where they settled down, both teachers, and had a family, namely my father and his two younger sisters.
Batavia is now called Jakarta, and the entire family has long since passed away. None of them made it to a very old age, all dying in their 60s or early 70s, probably at least in part due to their experiences for a number of years in several of Batavia’s Japanese concentration camps, including the infamous Camp Tjideng “hell on earth”. The entire family survived, which was not all that common, but they were marked. They never talked about it much: the little I know, I heard from my father’s younger sister Chris.
43, 13, 11, 9
In the photo, they were of course unaware of what was to transpire. The line above shows their record in concentration camp Tjideng in April 1944: mother and three children. (A couple of months later, at age 14, my father was transported alone to the “men’s camp”.)
After the war, they were held in the camp by the British for “security purposes” – my father always resented this, almost as much as he resented the Japanese and in particular Emperor Hirohito, in whose name all this was carried out. Not being one to listen to authority, he escaped and walked back to Tjideng–not a very safe thing to do at the time. Shortly after they were eventually released, they were all put on a ship to The Netherlands (which my father had never seen, of course) and handed 25 Dutch guilders and told, basically, to get lost.
In any case, the photo.
First, of course old photos are an invaluable way to travel back in time, and they should be valued as such. Priceless. And they should be preserved (the above version is my restored version of the original, where I fixed scratches, fading, sun discolouration, and so on. If you have old photos, have me restore them.
Second, the actual portrait. A fabulous professional work. Perfectly lit (the technical terms are “Rembrandt Lighting” and “Broad Lighting”. Great expressions. And they are not standing there posed military style, smiling at the camera. They are looking out, to we know not what—their future in the East, perhaps? Or are they looking back at the first half of their lives? She seems more apprehensive than he, pensive, perhaps a little sad, even. He is more “bring it on”, but is holding back somewhat at the same time.
This is what a great portrait should do. So while I understand the liking for “stand there and smile”, it is also a great idea to consider some more artistic portraits, that bring out the subject’s personality. Posterity will be very grateful.
As for your 2017 resolutions, how about this one: Make this the time you finally perfect those skills you always wanted to hone! Skills that allow you to quickly and easily do pictures like the ones I took over the last couple of weeks. These include a few animal (and animal-plus-owner) pictures:
All those were made with the 85mm f/1.2 lens, and used a single speedlight in an umbrella.
But I also did an executive portrait, just yesterday:
Do you see the difference between the two above? For the first one, I did not want to show the outside (boring, homes). Easy, so the picture,like almost all my pictufes, was stright out of the camera.
For the second one, however, I did want to show the blue sky. So I exposed that one less (using the magic Outdoors Recipe–one of the things you will learn if you turn up). Both used flash, of course; fired by Pocketwizards and with their power set manually. The second one used much more flash power because I was using low ISO and small aperture to kill the outside light. I also had to, therefore, brighten the Apple logo in post-production.
I would almost call that last one an environmental portrait.
The next ones are certainly environmental portraits:
The one above used a 24-70mm lens and a speedlight with a Honl Photo 1/8″ grid. The one below, a 16-35mm wide angle lens and a speedlight with an umbrella:
What do they all have in common? Simplicity, good exposure, and a thorough knowledge of the technical necessities.
You can learn this too. Why not do it? I have several great opportunities coming up!
A few words about lighting. Today, two lighting types for you:
Broad lighting—you are mainly lighting the half of the face that is largest to you )turned toward you).
Short lighting—you are mainly lighting the half of the face that is smallest to you (turned away from you).
There are many other types of lighting (Split, Rembrandt, Butterfly, Loop, etc), and they merge into each other rather than being cleanly split (e.g. you could make the case that the second picture is really more Rembrandt Lighting); but these two will do for now.
The effect: Broad Lighting makes a face look broader. Short (or narrow, as I like to think of it as) Lighting makes the face look narrower.
A future new book will be about photographing people. One shot you need to learn is the standard headshot. And today, a tip for these headshots.
Look at this (unfinished) image of new lawyer Arvin (congratulations!), from a shoot last night:
And now look at the second (also unfinished) photo, taken a second later:
Both are fine – but the second photo is very different, isn’t it?
I have lit it differently, to create some modelling. Modelling means “showing that it has three dimensions”. The first face looks flat; the second one looks like an actual, three-dimensional, face. Lighter on our left, darker on our right. The lighting in the first photo might be more suitable for a beauty shot of a woman, perhaps – but it shows little depth.
I also added the hair light in the second picture – the “shampooey goodness™”.
But there’s more. I have also asked the subject to
drop his shoulder (the one on our right);
aim his head toward me, i.e. stick it out like a giraffe. That feels weird, but it looks good in photos (provided I am shooting almost straight one);
tilt the top of his head slightly to our left (opposite direction to the dropped shoulder).
This gives us a nice strong jaw line and a more personal look. Mission accomplished. Now I can go finish the pictures (crop, rotate, adjust exposure, fix small flaws, etc).
The moral of this post: both lighting and positioning (not “posing”) of your subject are of great importance when shooting a portrait. Learning portraits is this, as much as the technical bits.