One of the most classic and timeless portrait looks involves using the sun to backlight your subject and create a dramatic background. It is also an excellent way to develop your lighting skills and to learn how to balance ambient and artificial light, and this awesome video tutorial will show you everything you need to know to create them yourself.
Coming to you from Ashley Boring with Westcott Lightning, this great video tutorial will show you how to create backlit portraits. Even if this sort of look is not one you would personally use, it is a really beneficial way to improve your lighting skills by learning how to balance ambient and artificial light. Because you will often have a bright sky behind your subject in these situations, you have to expose for the sky in order to avoid blowing out the highlights. As a consequence, this will underexpose your subject. Adding some artificial light on your subject can bring the exposure back into balance and will give you better image quality than you would get if you just pulled up the shadows in post, even . Check out the video above for the full rundown from Boring.
All it takes is this simple composition tip to take your portraits to a new level. In this video and article, I’ll be demonstrating this tip and how you can use it in post-production to completely transform your photographs.
Before we begin, be sure to download the exercise file here and follow along as I edit.
What Is the Tip?
The tip is quite simple. Look for the brightest part of your image and place your subjects there. I have two reasons for doing this. First, your eyes are naturally drawn to bright areas. Second, it opens up the ability to edit your lighting in post-production while still looking natural. Let’s begin with applying this technique in camera.
The Technique in Camera
I began with a test shot of my couple underneath the trees in this beautiful scene. Upon taking the image, the first thing I noticed was the open sky right in the middle of the frame.
Our eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest spot in an image, and it can be a major distraction if our subjects are placed away from it. Our goal is to bring the attention to the couple, so instead, I placed them right over that patch of open sky. Notice in the second image, our attention is drawn right to the couple.
In this next example of this technique, I simply placed my couple right in front of the sun. The natural vignetting around the rest of the scene and the simplicity of the background draws the attention right to them.
Here, my model is standing next to a large open doorway where a ton of natural light is pouring in. My assistant diffused the light with a large scrim, and the bright, soft light made the model pop from the darker background.
Emphasizing the Effect in Post
Here, you’ll see just how powerful this simple tip can be. I began by applying the Modern > Soft Light preset from VF Presets.
Then, I simply added a radial filter to darken the image around the subject. This instantly pulls more focus to the couple. When we place our subjects in the brightest part of the frame, darkening the rest of the image essentially acts as a natural vignette. Notice that our adjustments look completely natural. It even creates an effect that our couple was lit by a soft-box rather than the natural daylight that we used.
The same principle goes for our couple at the beach. A simple radial burn emphasizes the natural vignette and pulls more attention right where we want it.
For the portrait of our model, I used a different approach. Rather than a radial filter, I started by lowering the entire exposure. Then, I used “Dodge Highlights” from the Retouching Toolkit to brush light back on the model. This brush selectively lifts the highlights and leaves the shadows, keeping a very natural appearance as we brighten up our subject.
The last step is to add in the subtle radial burn and the image is complete. Check out the before and after.
I hope you enjoyed this article/video! Give this technique a try next time you’re out on a portrait shoot and see how your image can be completely transformed. All you have to do is look out for the brightest place in your image and place your subject there. Then, enjoy the amazing flexibility to manipulate the lighting once you take your photos into post.
If you enjoy watching portraits taken then this video will be a rare treat for you. One photographer takes an 8×10 large format camera on a number of portrait shoots of strangers and acquaintances.
Film photography is a polarizing topic in our industry, with some revering it as the roots of the craft and a worthy experience, while others chalk it up as merely its history. Whatever your stance, film photography does have something about it. It’s something I believe every photographer should at least try, if nothing else but as an exercise to round out your understanding of how photography has progressed. One particular area of film photography you may be hard-pushed to try, however, is large format.
Large format cameras are cumbersome, slow, expensive, and require a lot of know-how and experience to use effectively. I am currently in possession of a smaller camera than the one in this video, but large format all the same. I am shooting with it in a few days and the amount of preparation I have done just to ensure my shot is properly exposed and in focus is unusual, but also enjoyable.
Have you ever shot with a large format camera? Can you share any of your images? I’d love to see some.
One of my favorite engagement photography techniques is getting up close to the subjects with a wide-angle lens. The resulting images feel alive and immersive. In this article and video, I’ll be demonstrating the difference a wide-angle and a telephoto lens can make when capturing action.
In order to get the right composition, I photographed my couple from quite far away.
Check out the shots. I love the depth created by the long focal length. However, I notice the lack of foreground and the entire image feels far away. It’s difficult to feel the excitement in the images. Let’s switch it up by trying the same shot with the wide-angle lens.
Getting In the Action
The 24mm and 35mm primes are perfect lenses for this technique. If not, a good wide-angle zoom will work.
To get a similar composition, I had to move up close to my subjects. Already, the scene looks dramatically better.
I directed Ravena to lead Jacob in order to create a sense of direction in the movement as well as depth. Be sure to exercise caution as shooting with a wide lens will require you to walk backwards with your subjects.
Here are the images using the wide-angle lens.
Using the “Dutch Angle”
The “Dutch Angle” is a technique that’s often overused or cliche. however, I believe it has its place in composition. A slight tilt to the photo helps create an organic and spontaneous feeling. This helps emphasize the feeling of action when photographing your couple.
Check out the images I got using the “Dutch Angle.”
Check out the final image compared to where we first began. The difference is massive. The final images with the wide lens feel so much more in-the-moment and spontaneous. The wider view of the background also helps immerse us more into the action.
I hope you enjoyed this article/video. Next time you’re photographing a couple, give this technique a try! See the difference when you capture your portraits with a wide-angle lens.
About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Jirsa’s work on Instagram.
Some of the earliest photographic portraits taken in America were recently discovered in an unheated shed on Long Island. The historically significant find contains photographs from some of the first experiments with the daguerreotype process.
The daguerreotype process — which is one of the first commercially viable photographic processes — was introduced in 1839 by French inventor Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. As the complete description of the process became available later that year, many raced to be the first to produce marketable photographs.
Henry Fitz Jr., born in 1808 and died in 1863, along with partners Alexander Wolcott and John Johnson were the ones to win that race. It was Fitz Jr.’s family portraits, consisting of 22 daguerreotype pieces, that were found in the long-forgotten collection that is now considered a historical photographic treasure.
Fitz Jr. was a New York City telescope maker who also helped develop what would become the first patented camera in America. In 1840, he sat for some of the earliest successful photographic portraits taken in America. Only a handful of these portraits from this period have survived.
“Imagine a world with no ability to capture a photographic portrait,” says Wes Cowan, Vice-Chair of Hindman Auctions. “Once you wrap your head around that, the Fitz portrait is a window into the beginnings of a technology that would forever change the world and how we see ourselves in it.”
The photographic find is significant because, as the auction house claims, “any scholar interested in the history of photography in America has heard of Fitz and knows that he sat for some of the earliest portraits taken.”
The collection — which also contains additional portraits of his family members — survived as it was passed through the family of Fitz Jr.’s son George Wells Fitz. Although it was only revealed to the world now, the collection has been known since the 1930s, when another son, Harry Fitz, donated a group of early daguerreotypes to the Smithsonian Institution.
Among the donated photos was a portrait of their father, which the Fitz family claimed was the earliest self-portrait of a living human. Harry urged the institute to contact Geroge to acquire additional historically important family property but nothing came of it. This meant that the archive lay forgotten for nearly eight decades until it was discovered in early 2020 in preparation for the sale of the property.
“As one of the earliest surviving photographic portraits in America, the Fitz profile, is of course incredibly important,” says Grant Romer, a photo historian and Curator Emeritus of the George Eastman Museum.
Romer also calls for the collection to be preserved because it “represents an extraordinary opportunity for scholars to understand the first few months of the development of a technology and art that would change the world.”
In a similar vein, a self-portrait, taken in 1839 by American photographer Robert Cornelius, has been recognized as one of the world’s first self-portraits, while daguerreotype by French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey has been hailed as one of the first to capture animals.
The Fitz collection, including the portrait, will be auctioned on November 15, 2021, with the full listing information available on the Hindman website.
Photographing a couple from up close can drastically change the way your image feels. Getting up close with a wide angle lens creates a sense of action and aliveness that draws the viewer in.
Today, I’ll be photographing Jacob and Ravena using the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2 and the RF 70-200mm f/2.8 on the Canon EOS R5 to show you the differences in storytelling between both of these lenses. This is one of my favorite techniques when photographing engagements, so let’s dive into how to put it into action.
From Far Away With a Telephoto Lens
To get my composition, I had to be quite far away, and I instructed Jacob and Ravena to walk in my direction.
I love the depth from the focal length and aperture. However, these images just feel too far away. I don’t feel the excitement in these images. Let’s switch it up by using the wide angle lens instead.
Up Close With a Wide Lens
A 24mm or 35mm prime is perfect for this technique. If not, a good wide angle zoom will do the trick.
To get the same composition, I got up close to Jacob and Ravena. The scene already looks better.
I asked Ravena to lead Jacob to create depth and direction in the movement. I recommend using Face Detect if your camera includes that feature to help with staying in focus.
Here are some of the images with the wide angle lens.
The Dutch Angle can be cliché and overused, but if used properly, it can help emphasize the organic and spontaneous feeling we’re trying to achieve here. The slight slant to the photos helps make the image feel like it was captured on a whim and emphasizes the sense of authenticity.
Here are the final images using the Dutch Angle.
Check out our final shot compared to where we first started. Notice how much more alive the image feels. That’s the power of a wide angle lens.
Next time you’re with a couple, try out this technique and see for yourself the massive difference in how the image captures the action when you’re up close with a wide angle lens! For a full course on photographing couples, check out Engagement Photography 101, available on SLR Lounge Premium. In addition, check out Visual Flow for intuitive lighting-based presets such as the Modern Pack, which we used for our final images. Thanks for joining us this week, and we’ll see you next time!
Hailed as one of the world’s greatest portrait photographers, Platon has captured the likings of world leaders, actors, musicians, and human rights victims. What does it take to capture the world’s most recognizable images? I spoke to Platon himself to find out.
Culture Is Inspiration
Platon thinks that creative people have to be like sponges. We are all drawn to different types of inspiration. He always thinks of inspiration as fuel in a gas tank. If you don’t absorb lots of good stuff over the years, then your gas tank is empty, and you can’t go anywhere. For Platon, inspiration comes from culture. Although Platon is known as a photographer, he doesn’t look at other photographs anymore. Most of his inspiration comes from architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier are his two absolute heroes. Le Corbusier has inspired Platon’s color and form. Sculptors like Rodin further inspired Platon’s work. Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker has great similarities with Platon’s work. The hands are prominent, as are the legs. The wide angle distortion that he uses sometimes adds further similarity to Rodin’s sculptures. The monumentalism in Platon’s work is a direct page from Rodin’s book. Other sculptors such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth have also inspired Platon. Although Moore and Hepworth are more abstract, there is still a degree of monumentalism in their work. Applied to people, Platon seeks monumentalism in his subjects. It is common to see people as mountains in Platon’s work.
Van Gogh is another source of inspiration for Platon. There is a lust for texture color and form. When Van Gogh draws someone’s hand, you really understand the form of it. There are contrast levels that describe form. His black and white pen and ink drawings are prime examples of that.
Picasso has also heavily influenced Platon’s portraits. Although Picasso’s portraits are very abstract, you still get their power, their spirit coming through.
When I’m photographing someone, it’s not about aesthetics. Far from it. What is important is to capture their spirit, their soul.
The Beatles also inspired Platon, so much so he named his son Jude after “Hey Jude.” What really is amazing about The Beatles is how they would always change and push themselves to enjoy something different that’s new. We all get trapped in our own fear of change. Sometimes, you have to destroy what you created in the first place to move forward. Miles Davis is inspiring to Platon, particularly, the way he always pushed for change in his work. He was not afraid to destroy and move forward with his work.
Frank Sinatra had the capacity to tell a story in two minutes. Frank Sinatra’s Capitol songs do that best. You really feel how Sinatra tells an epic film in just a short song. In terms of photography, Platon has to tell stories with his work, especially when he is dealing with human rights issues. It’s far from a pretty picture, and sometimes, it’s not pretty at all. It’s a powerful story about humanity: abuse of power, someone rising above adversity. Those are powerful stories. They are stories of the human condition.
The way Sinatra takes a song you listen to for entertainment and transforms it into a story about life struggle, heartache, being lonely, or feeling the joy of life. Can you take that out of the song and put it in a photograph?
Culture comes from everywhere. If you’re a really good photographer, you have to be like an investigator. Books, films, exhibitions, music, everything, it’s all good for inspiration.
In conversation with Platon, he hasn’t described a single photographer that he looks at. He believes that if you only look at photography, you are looking at 1% of everything that is out there. By looking someplace else, you in fact become more original in your work. Don’t just look at other photographers, because then you’re just copying. Be more authentic with your work by having multiple influences.
At the end of the day, Platon says that photography should be close to your heart. The closer it is, the more powerful it is.
A Great Portrait Is Not About Aesthetics, It’s About the Story It Tells and Change It Brings
A portrait always tells a story. There is a story going on when you’re photographing someone. A lot of photographers get freaked out by the nerdy side of photography. They forget that their job is to capture history in front of their camera. There’s something going on, and your job is to document it, freeze time.
When we look back at 20th-century history, we often look at photographs. It was photographs that helped end the Vietnam war. The educated people on how horrendous the war was. It was only thanks to brave war photographers that the world saw how awful it actually was, it helped educate the world on the horrors of war.
Photography helps cure society’s amnesia.
Photography can be important if you believe is it important. Platon says to himself every time he picks up a camera: this will be an important moment. If he feels invested at that moment, chances are his subject will also feel invested and feel his passion and commitment. They will work together to create something that means a lot to both of them. If it means something to them, chances are it will mean something to the audience who sees the image too. Platon says that when you approach photography in this way, it gets very interesting.
People know that I photographed important people, famous people. It is relatively easy to take an important picture of someone who is important. What is interesting is when he turns his lens to someone who was robbed of power, who nobody knows, who was neglected and abused. Can you make an important picture of that person?
If you really care and believe that photography is a transformative tool, then that picture of a human rights victim can become more important than any picture of a famous person. It dealing with an issue or a story of our time. For Platon, photography is interesting when it is being used to drive change.
Your Job Is Not to Judge, Your Job Is to Be Curious
There is no method to dealing with anyone. If you want to be authentic with someone you have to be curious and less judgmental, even if it is someone you disagree with, even if they’ve done things that you know are wrong in history. There is no point in taking a picture of them if you’re not curious.
Everyone is jumping to judgments about each other, especially on social media. We stopped asking questions about each other. As a photographer, my job is to put aside my judgment and capture them. It is not my job to make someone look good or bad. I’m not in a position to judge. My job is to describe what it is to meet that person. It is their legacy that will judge, its history that will judge.
Platon photographed Harvey Weinstein. That picture used to represent bad-boy Hollywood swagger. As time went on and we discovered his abuses of power, the meaning of that picture changed. The picture is the same: it’s him, he looks like a gangster in it. What changed is what we know about him as a human being. If a picture is good, we can read all of those things in him at the same time.
Platon’s image of Putin is no different. He was told that Putin likes that picture because it shows him as a strong leader who wants Russia at the table of global power. Putin supporters like that picture too. Yet, his opponents, such as Platon’s colleagues in the human rights moments, also find that picture interesting. To them, it shows everything that is wrong with power and authority in Russia. That picture has become the banner for demonstrations across Russia. People would adopt that picture: the LGBTQ+ community would put a rainbow on that image. There are hundreds of versions of that picture — so many that the picture is apparently banned in demonstrations. What makes that image for both sides is that it is him.
When you’re photographing someone, you have to be very curious and capture them on film. It is not my position to say that this is a good person or a bad person. History does that for us.
Finding Magical Human Moments in the Most Inhumane Situations
What is that magical moment? You can describe it. Everyone knows what it is. It’s not a photography thing. When you’re with someone that you care for deeply. Have you experienced a moment when something magical happens? Perhaps they’ll touch you with their little finger across the table. When you smell someone’s perfume that you have a feeling for, that does something to your humanity. It’s your senses connecting to your heart. It’s very powerful stuff. It’s what we live for. Platon’s job is to find these moments of human connection. His senses are so open that he is able to pick up the slightest hint of such a moment. Every person knows what those human moments of connection are. If a picture Platon took resonates with you, it is simply because you recognize the connection that he found.
It might be a moment of chill, his image of Al-Qadhdhāfī taps into his defiance and monstrosity. He was a monster of his time, and he tapped into that menace. When you look at it, you can’t feel anything but a disturbance of human values. A corruption of human values.
However, the image of Remy Essam is different. He was the singer of the revolution who sang positive, unifying songs every day. Remy came to Platon after he was tortured by the failing government who felt threatened by him. He was tasered by them until his back caught fire. When Platon saw the marks, he burst into tears. He said” “the marks on your back are horrible, I’m sorry about them. People should never be hurt in this way.” Remy responded by saying that he wears these marks with pride, he wears them as evidence that he stood for change. Platon photographed Remy in an unusual way. Remy stands showing his marks while also holding his guitar, not as an instrument but as a weapon. That picture became like a poster in the revolution. Everyone understood the price of change.
Applied to today, how prepared are we to make sacrifices to bring change? Speaking of the environment, there are people lecturing each other on climate change. Do we know where the conflict minerals in our phones come from? We are not asking these questions on a mainstream scale, yet we are all accusing and canceling each other because of a decade-old social media post. Meanwhile, there are horrific abuses going on right now. People talk about slavery and BLM. Platon has been to places where slavery exists; he saw it first-hand. His job is not to lecture people on what’s wrong or bad, his job is to raise awareness.
Peter Dench talks to French photographer Pauline Petit about her graphic and meticulously crafted black & white portraits, awarded second place and the public’s choice award in the Faces themed EISA Maestro 2021 photo contest
The saying goes, if you’re trilingual you speak three languages, bilingual two languages, one language, you’re English and I am very, very English. I have tried to learn; hundreds of hours of Rosetta Stone Russian, scores of meals with German, Spanish and Italian friends; not much has stuck. Being English, I do of course expect everyone else in the world to speak it. French photographer and artist Pauline Petit doesn’t.
I did study French at school. I could tell her my name and ask her what’s on the table or through the window, that’s about it. I still watched hours of her YouTube videos, her energy is infectious. I mention all this in case something gets lost in Google translation.
I am confident Pauline was born in 1986 and lives in Doudeville, a small town in Normandy, France. Doudeville is the flax capital of the region where an annual linen festival takes place in June during the season of the blue flowers.
If that sounds like a storybook setting, you’d be right. After working four years at the local tourist office explaining flax to tourists, Pauline wrote and illustrated three books about Linette, a little girl who was born with flax growing on her head instead of hair.
‘When I was young, I dreamed of being an artist, a singer, a painter, a writer. I was already creative. As an only girl, I spent a lot of time alone and had to take care of myself. So I created little universes with my toys. Later, I wanted to become an interior designer but I failed the entrance exam to the art school.
So I gave up on the idea of being an artist, and then I started taking pictures,’ explains Pauline. Her first camera was a Fujifilm bridge model, given by her mother in 2004. ‘Then in 2013, I lost everything! My job, my partner, my self-confidence and since I had nothing to lose, I embarked on an entrepreneurship as a professional photographer. Over time, the photos took more and more place in my life. I didn’t decide to be a photographer. Photography imposed itself on me.’
Pauline started with landscape photography (too scared to work with people) then developed her business by adding wedding photography, family and baby portraits. Her confidence progressed enough to become a trainer in photography and launch the YouTube channel Apprendre La Photo De Portrait (Learn Portrait Photo) before falling in love with portraiture and refining her now inimitable style.
Her series, The Graphic Portrait and Figures de Style are inspired by the world of childhood and youthful illustration. The aesthetic is humorous and kooky – like nothing I’ve seen before. ‘You can’t see it, but I’m really shy and to hide my shyness, I make people laugh.
It’s a strategy like any other and then there are so many sad and dramatic images on TV, in the newspapers and even in photo contests. I’m sick of seeing serious pictures. I think the world needs to be positive to get better so I want to create happy images!’ Pauline’s images are happy, accessible and challenging: there are faces of a black Lisa Simpson, chapeaux puzzle, Minion, a René Magritte style and a Wikipedia-inspired face.
In a third series, Woman Who Collects Men, Pauline wanted to express an injustice encountered by being a woman in photography. ‘It’s difficult to be an artist- photographer, but I think it’s even more difficult to be a female artist-photographer. For example, one day someone said to me: “Your work is very original, for a woman.”
I wished to express this injustice by offering a counterbalance to the stereotype of the male photographer photographing women. I decided to place myself in the opposite position, of a woman photographer photographing men.’ The men in the collection are shot in profile to accentuate differences – shapes of faces, noses, mouth, skin textures etc.
Uniforms, hats, accessories and hairstyles are applied to create a representation of man through the ages: Gentleman, Firefighter, Biker, King, Sailor, Soldier and Commander of the Royal Air Force. Pauline paints each face black to make the look homogeneous.
‘Finally, I post-process faces in the style of fashion photographers: smooth skin, perfect features, impeccable hairstyles, techniques generally reserved for the beauty retouching of women. I post-process all my photos in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and use split frequency and dodge and burn techniques.
I work with a zoom of 300 to 500% and spend about ten hours per photo. I am a perfectionist and if I listened to myself, I would spend even more time!’ she reveals. Pauline sketches ideas for her portraits then buys or creates the necessary accessories. She does the make-up and hair. After the prep, each portrait sitting in her Normandy studio lasts around 15 minutes producing 10-20 photos using a Nikon D750 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.
An Elinchrom flash is positioned on the face of the model with a beauty bowl. A second flash is positioned behind the model to obtain an even background. A flash meter is used to calculate an overexposure of +1.3 EV. ‘Regarding the choice of black & white, people often ask me, why? And I answer them: because I always did colour before and I needed to mark a break, to evolve, to move on.’
Often the model is Pauline. The Graphic Portrait series are self-portraits, achieving the Public’s Choice Award and 2nd Place overall at the 2021 Expert Imaging and Sound Association Maestro Awards competition, themed Faces. ‘I really want my work as a photographer to be recognised.
It’s a goal, a dream for me. So, I take part in a lot of competitions, I contact a lot of magazines and I work a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot! The recognition of my work makes me feel good. It gives me confidence. It’s my little revenge for having missed my studies as an interior designer!’
New photo series, Hat Heads, featuring characters with atypical hats, and My Beloved Owner, 16:9 cinematographic format portraits featuring women and their dog, have been added to Pauline’s collection. Her first artist’s book is gaining momentum. Pauline’s universe is passionate and childlike, humorous and graphic, rigorous and precise. ‘My life hasn’t always been easy but in recent years, I have had the chance to live a dream with photography.’ And it’s dream photography that translates into all languages.
About Pauline Petit
Pauline Petit started as a social photographer and is a trainer in photography. Since 2019, her personal photographic work has focused on creating quirky and humorous black & white portraits.
Pauline Petit was born in 1986. She comes from Normandy in France where she lives and works in her studio, called Studio 22. Ever since she was a child, Pauline has been interested in pursuing artistic careers. That’s why she wrote and illustrated a collection of children’s books, before becoming a professional photographer in 2007.
In 2019, Pauline developed a multidisciplinary approach to her personal work, combining illustration and painting with photography. She produces humorous scenes with an aesthetic that’s influenced strongly by graphic design.
This series, The Graphic Portrait, comprises several dozen tightly framed monochrome portraits presented in square format on a white background. It features imaginary, humorous, and surprising characters who challenge and question us, while making both children and adults laugh.
It’s designed to be simple and accessible, so it can be appreciated by everyone. Pauline’s inspirations come from children’s literature and her love of painting and drawing. Presenting a universe that is both childish and light, but also rigorous and precise, she has intelligently combined these two passions to produce images that are halfway between photography and drawing.
Along with all the makeup and hairstyling, she creates the various accessories herself, and then takes the photographs and post-processes them in her studio. And a little reveal: the eight images presented here are all self-portraits. A great example of everything that can be created from a single face! See pauline-petit.fr, Instagram: @paulinepetitphotographie
Normally in portraiture, you get a high level of control over the lighting, but in some scenarios (weddings, for example), you will have to think, light, and shoot on your feet. This excellent video tutorial will show you several ways to shoot nighttime portraits with a variety of different techniques and for a range of different creative looks.
Coming to you from David Bergman with Adorama TV, this helpful video tutorial will show a few different ways to shoot nighttime portraits. While you might have full control of the lighting in a standard portrait shoot, more time-sensitive events like weddings and events require you to be quick and to often improvise, and that will often mean you will need to learn to produce workable results with a speedlight or some other method. One thing that made my life quite a bit easier in weddings work was using the Westcott Rapid Box series, a line of modifiers made specifically for speedlights and designed to be deployed and used quickly and easily. They are great to toss in your bag for weddings or on-location shoots and can greatly improve your image quality. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Bergman.
Hi, this is photographer Jay P. Morgan from The Slanted Lens. In this article and video, we’re going to take a look at how to set up a simple corporate portrait in a tight space.
It’s about working professionals like dentists, doctors, lawyers, etc. This is a great way to make money, for a bread and butter income for a lot of people. Let’s take a look at how we set it up, the equipment we need, some tips, and what we charge.
Setting it Up
My example shoot was done in a dentist’s office in a very tight space. I went in thinking that we would do an environmental-type portrait, but they said they just wanted a neutral portrait. We could do white, that would be fine, but I looked at the wall and thought, “This is not a bad color.”
I said, “Let’s see what it looks like to just shoot against that wall, I can always put my white up if I need to.”
The only place I could get enough space to be able to shoot was from across the desk with the subject standing up against the desk. I’m going to shoot against the wall behind them. And I’m going to light in that little space right there.
I use a 90mm lens because I just like that look on people’s faces with an 85mm or 90mm. I have both of those, but I use the 90mm very often. I’m going to go to like f/6.3 with my aperture at 160th of a second. It kind of kills all the ambient in the room, but it gives me a little bit of depth of field.
I don’t like shooting a portrait of someone’s face on a 90mm at f/2.8 because there’s just not enough focus. Their eye will be in focus but their ear will not be in focus, especially on a full-frame sensor. I want a little deeper depth of field, so I’m going to go to f/6.3.
Let’s talk about how we lit this. I rarely ever use more than two heads. I’m going to set one up with a large source, then I’m going to put a head in the background and use that just to give me a little bit of rim light in their hair. Then last of all, I’ll put in a reflector.
I use that Sunbounce for my reflector — you can use anything, of course, but the Sunbounce is nice because I will sometimes put it horizontally, which allows me to bring it forward and bounce the light back into their face from the key, but also wrap it around a little bit to the side of their head as well.
Because this is a corporate portrait, I don’t want it to be too dark or moody. I want the shadows to be pretty open. I’m going to push that card in very close and it’s going to open up the shadows on the side of their faces.
It’s a very simple two-light setup. I have a key light, a rim light, and a reflector to fill in the shadows. And we’re really ready to shoot at this point.
One thing I like to bring with me in this kind of situation is a small white/black card — you have a white side and a black side. I’ll use that to reflect a little bit of light under the chin. If someone’s a little older, perhaps I’ll put that in just to open up the light under their chin.
In the case of our dentist, I wanted to kill the light on his white shirt, so I’ll toss that card in and use the black side towards my subject. And I’ll use it as a flag to cut the light off from his shirt.
So there’s a look at how we lit this up. A simple two-light setup using the wall as our background.
Here are some of the images.
Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned in doing this thing over the years.
1. Wagon Bring a wagon. Have an equipment list, put everything in your wagon, and tow everything up. It makes it really easy because I can roll everything in one trip. Then shoot and put it all back in the wagon and head right out. That’s the idea, get in, shoot quick and go.
2. Bring a small step stool, a collapsing step stool. Those things are just so nice to have with you. Because you’re going to be in a situation where you want to get up higher sometimes. Or maybe your talent needs to be up higher. But just a collapsible folding step stool.
3. Now working with your people, there are a couple of things you should know. First off, look and make sure your talent’s hair is in place. Don’t be afraid if they just have some hair that is way out of control. You want to tame those down a little bit. It kind of helps you with the retouching later.
4. Also, for the men, look at their ties. If their tie is too loose, tighten it up. If their tie is tied in a single Windsor, it’s not going to fill the shirt like it should. Have them tie it into a double Windsor. That will fill the tie and fill up the collar of the shirt and look a lot nicer. It makes it easier when you’re retouching.
5. You also want to make sure that your person’s accessories are ok. Look at the things that they’re wearing like the jewelry and the earrings and just make sure that they’re comfortable with those things. Do they want to show them in the image? If they do, that’s fine, but just make sure. They may say, “Oh no, I wouldn’t want that on.”
6. I think it’s super important that you dress nicely when you do something like this. You should look professional. You should look like this means something to you and it just gives a much better impression to the clients you’re working for, so don’t show up in a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
Put on a pair of pants, a nice collared shirt, a sweater, or something so that you look good and it makes them feel like you’re a professional. That’s really important to do.
7. And the last tip, bring that pop-up reflector, that black/white reflector, because you can throw that up and get a shot on a black background or a white background. That will help you have some background choices.
I try to do environmental portraits as much as I can. I just let the background fall way out of focus. But a lot of times people just want something simple. And they want them all to be the same so everyone in the office has the same shot that you put up on their website. They can use it in mailers they send out.
So that’s a little easier: just put your subject against a white or a dark background. I prefer white. as dark is a little heavy for this kind of portraiture. I think it’s better with a lighter background like this kind of tan color that we used from the office wall.
You just have to be resourceful. We’re looking around going, “Yeah, that wall, I’m thinking that is going to be great. I’ll just shoot against that wall.” I got a spot where the receptionist was working the entire time we were shooting. She was there answering the phone, but that was just the space we had. It was a very tight office.
What to Charge
Now let’s talk about what to charge. You know, if I’m doing headshots for a company, and I do these periodically, I’m going to charge somewhere in the $2,000 range for my time. And then, $2,000 to $3,500 depending on the company. I’m going to charge somewhere between $300 and $500 for my assistant.
I’m then going to charge for a makeup person in that same category of $300 to $500. And then we’re going to charge for each retouched image somewhere around $75 an image. That’s just kind of a general rule on what we charge.
In this case, however, I wasn’t there all day. It was just a short shoot where I’m going to come in and shoot and leave. I would not generally use an assistant — I would try to shoot this on my own, which means I’m going to try to get this in the $300 to $500 range.
Probably the most I’m going to be able to charge if I’m going to shoot a single person is $300. That’s not a bad deal. But if I’m going to shoot a group of people like three or four people, and I’m going to be there for a couple of hours, then $500 at the least.
Quick Shoot: $300-$500 Single Person Shoot: $300-$500 Quick Group Shot: $300-$500
If I’m going over two and a half hours then I’m going to charge significantly more like $1,200 for half a day and $2,000 to $2,500 for that full day.
So there’s a quick look at what to charge when you’re doing these kinds of commercial portraits. I think it’s a great market to look at, these kinds of working professionals. They all need pictures for advertising and for their website. There are so many things they need these for. It’s a great place to go out and to look and to market to. Because they do need photography on a very regular basis.
I hope you learned something from this and got some great tips and tricks. Now go out and light your own portraits and make some money in that commercial photography world in the corporate or professional portraits. Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.
About the author: Jay P. Morgan is a commercial photographer with over two decades of experience in the industry. He teaches photography through his company, The Slanted Lens, which runs a popular YouTube channel. This article was also published here.
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