Portraits – Multi-purpose

In our recent article of property or photo “props”, I suggested using an umbrella as a diffuser. I would like to explain that thought a little more in-depth for the sake of creativity and fun.

To use an umbrella as a diffuser it is necessary to keep it between your subject and the sun, but that does not mean it is not for you to use without being seen at the same time!

‘ “Woe!” you say?’ Allow me to elaborate.

Pose your subject as if they are walking along a sidewalk and turn back slightly to see what they heard behind them, to find you and your camera trained on them. Catch the edge of the umbrella and framing their face is the part which incorporates the tool to diffuse the light as a prop too. Great idea? I like it!

What about having some fun pretending that it is raining and your subject is dancing in the rain? Have them hold their umbrella up in the air as they look simultaneously into it and the falling rain.

Even still, another possibility is to use the umbrella as a background, letting the sun back-light the umbrella. This can light the edges of the face and hair for a wonderful time exposure. [NOTE: Since your subject is back-lit with the sun diffused by an umbrella, use a longer shutter speed to develop their face and not only the umbrella.]

These are a few ideas with which to start and some I hope will adapt in your own style.

There are many good ways of using your lighting tools as portrait props. Try new things, have fun and tell me about them! I love to hear what you are doing! We all can use a help now and again, even me. I am no one special just because I write a blog.

Enjoy!

Leaning Your Equipment

I have talked a lot about learning as much about my equipment as possible before investing in something new or additional for the studio. I almost did not take my own advise. Let me tell you a story.

I have become “lazy” in the digital part of photography by letting my camera suggest the proper exposure time for a photo. I usually shoot in manual mode with my Canon Rebel xTi, but I have only used half of the capabilities given to me in manual mode.

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Just yesterday as I was on an errand, I looked into the sky to see some of the most beautiful clouds back-lit by the sun. So I got my camera, made sure my settings were proper for shooting into the sun. Raising my camera to my eye and observing the metering, it showed that the photo would have been much to over-exposed for the style of shot I was seeking, so I forgot the meter and raised my shutter speed to 1/50 of a second. Then as the instinctive digital photographer I am, I looked at the LCD screen to see how the shot came out. *Fail Buzzer*

I have wanted to distance myself from these “fail-safe” practices by pursuing extensive education in film photography. I wanted to know what the conditions for a shot around me were as well as knowing how to manipulate the camera settings to get the best shot for style, exposure or journalism.

So I began asking myself, why I thought film would help me accomplish this goal. My answer came to this: “Film is 1 set quality of ISO per roll.” Thus the ISO cannot be easily changed without risking the exposed film.

Guess what? I can start this training by setting my digital camera ISO and refrain from changing it. This will give me only the options to change shutter speed and aperture to best suit my shooting preferences. While this will not keep me from watching the camera meter I can accomplish my goal in maintaining a certain ISO quality and working with more effective resources.

Keeping It All Straight

When I started actively building the paper existence of my photography studio I was asked a lot a questions by interested friends and acquaintances. They were not trying to pry or be rude by asking questions, but I often would find myself silent or stammering in an attempted reply to their questions.

I find it necessary to have a goal, or perhaps more accurately described as a mark on the horizon toward which I am moving. This keeps me moving consistently forward in one direction. Since I am one person, owner of one business, it works out very well.

I couch this topic a little in the aspect of a corporate vision. Hobbyists and parents, don’t be discouraged; this post is still directed for your benefit. By the way, please understand I do not intend to be condescending when I say “hobbyists” or “parents”. I am still a hobbyist myself in differing activities and I am the son of parents. I love and respect you both.

Parents, in my opinion you have a blessed and unique position to raise and teach your children according to your desires and standard.

Hobbyists, you too have a unique ability to spend time at your leisure doing the thing you love without the requirements of deadlines or financial pressure bearing on your expertise in the field of your hobby. The only difference between you and me is that I have the added stress of selling my expertise and photos, whereas you are free to enjoy and share both.

So parents and hobbyists, please enjoy as you read the hard learned lessons of a “working grunt”.

Vision: (It may be best to leave this broad definition to answer last while you answer the specific things below.)

Goal: (What do you want of your photography. Style? Signature work? Memory Keep-sake?)

Success: (What does success look like when you achieve a goal?)

  • Having something in hand to show off?
  • A party with your pictures displayed in slide show?
  • Decorating your house with your photography?

Focus: (What is important for you to remember as you pick-up your camera and adjust it for each shot?)

As you define these things, not only are you setting yourself up for success, but I find it so much easier for me to articulate my aspirations and desires to friends and acquaintances in answer to their questions.

Construction Zone – Part 2

As I continued thinking about the post “Construction Zone“, I realized that some of it may not have made sense. Safety is also a rather obvious subject in regards to “photo ops” inside a Construction Zones, but a time wherein we each would be wise to heed these reminders.

It is not my desire to list shots for you. Creativity has its place in your work as it does mine. However, I want to play the salesman and in a friendly way “demonstrate” to you that such a style of photo are great for portraits. Ready?

Construction Zones provide you with a unique opportunity to see a physical transition from  a natural landscape to intentionally designed architecture which into it has had many hours of labor and planning invested. Does this sound like a graduate, or engagement, perhaps a wedding? These also are relationships which are being constructed in individual people. This is to set the subject of you photography within a pictorial statement of what is happening in their life.

To illustrate setting your subject in a pictorial setting of their life happenings, I will find in my archives of photos a picture I set-up and took while in college. My college time was a time of testing and maturing, so within this picture you see a few statements such as I suggested for Construction Zones.

Now there is more to this photo than just the setting, but let us first address the surrounding settings. Since I am the subject in the photo above, the photo setting I was in reminds me of being isolated from distraction. This isolation for me was beneficial so that I could focus on course work but also provided an aspect of quiet reflection.

This quiet reflection is part of the maturing process I mentioned earlier. I was able to consider my motivations and match them against the standard for living a quiet and peaceable life. This is the other part of this photo. My actions in each pose speak to my attitudes because of my choice motivation. As I questioned my motivations and looking to understand where attitudes came from, the very foundation of my beliefs were settled, suitable for building.

This is the same purpose that your stock images taken from Construction Zones can serve as portrait backgrounds.

I will leave the rest to your fertile imagination!

Simplifying The Message

I find it difficult to discern the line between too much interest in a photo and too little. Let me give you some background about myself and some things which I have found helpful when I am on a photo shoot.

In college I was required to prepare and if called upon, give a public speech which was at-least 25 minutes in length and not to exceed 45 minutes. This can be a challenge! How does this apply to photography?

  • How do you gather enough interest or information for a photo (or to last 30 minutes)?
  • After putting together what I have, how do I put it in order?
  • Once a “dry run” is complete, how do I pare it down and still make sense?
  • What are the “key words and phrases” I must include?
  • How can I “beef” it up to be more than reading a script?

These are all very valid questions. Let me start by saying that in photography there hardly is ever a concern for “gathering interest”. I am grateful to have such beauty and splendor around with which to use as a back-drop!

The difficulty often comes when trying to put it all in order. Most of the time I take shots in neatly manicured gardens so that I do not have to set things in order. They already are in order! So, what about when I do not shoot photographs in a garden? I make sure of my subject (the person or object which the photo will display) and find a way to use the best available scenery as the back-drop.

Now to leave out the things that do not matter or take attention away from the subject. Getting closer to the subject or zooming closer in is a quick and easy solution, but do not be shy about moving around and changing the perspective of the shot to avoid specific things. Do be sure to keep your attention on the subject so that the shots do not come out with an odd feel because you were focused on not including “…that!…”

Our next to last question is even more subjective than the previous three, because this is part of your “style” as a photographer. I have seen many friends’ engagement photos and thought to myself, “I would have shot that different”, “I would have included this…” or “I would have excluded that!” That is just fine. Just because someone else would have done it another way does not mean that they are right, but shows the difference in style of photography. Remember: couples will usually ask for a portfolio of your work and it is your style that will grab their attention and get you the contract (providing of course prices are competitive and people skills are not horrible). The point is, price and people skill may be great, but if they do not like what they see in your portfolio, it probably will be a “no go.”

So whether you are shooting pictures of your adorable kids, or fascinated adventurer with a camera, remember; keep it simple and let your story be told!