Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fall 2010 Outdoor Portraits using Natural Light

Portrait or Snapshot?

A snapshot is TAKEN. A portrait is MADE


Camera Settings-
  • Aperture Priority (AV) or Portrait Mode
    • Use a wide aperture (f/2.8-ish) to blur the background
  • Low ISO (100-200)
  • Shutter Speed
    • Fast enough to handhold & freeze the action (minimum 1/100)
  • Metering Mode: Spot Meter (on the skin)
  • White Balance
    • Use a gray card. white card, the palm of your hand, or a digital color checker at each location. This will simplify your post-processing life
  • AF Focus Points
    • use single point focus (instead of 'cluster' or letting the AF pick the focus point)
    • use the 'Focus & Recompose' method (½ press shutter to lock focus then recompose the shot)
    • ALWAYS focus on the eye(s)
  • To avoid lens distortion in portraits, use 50mm or greater focal length

  • Find the light!
    • Using a small mirror, look at yourself as you turn around 360-degrees
    • Use a golf ball, your fist, or your subject to find the right light
    • Look for north light
    • Look for open shade such as the side of a building
    • Look for a shady area under the trees (not dappled shade or deep shade)... look for the edge of the shade
    • Look for light reflecting from a wall, the ground, the side of a delivery truck up onto your subject's face (you can even use water to throw light up onto the face but be careful it's not too strong)
    • Look for open garages or other places with overhangs
  • Avoid midday/harsh sun (if possible)
    • Use a diffuser
  • Overcast days sometimes produces flat light.
    • May need a reflector to bounce light up onto the face so the eyes don't look 'dead'
  • Using a reflector to augment the light
    • White – creates low contrast, soft fill light w/o obliterating the ratio from light to dark )DIY: White posterboard or foamcore)
    • Matte Silver – creates more contrast than white but less than shiny silver. (DIY: cover foam core with the dull side of crumpled up aluminum foil OR use a auto windshield cover)
    • Shiny Silver – creates powerful, but neutral color fill. Throws light farther that white or matte silver (DIY: cover foamcore with shiny side of smooth aluminum foil)
    • Gold – creates powerful, warm light; can be good for skin tones
  • Mirror – good for providing a “kicker” or rim light from behind the subject. Don't bounce mirror light into your subject's face!! Throws light l-o-o-o-o-n-g distances.
  • For nice, blurry background stand far enough away from the background to get a nice blur (10 ft. is a good rule of thumb)
  • To create depth put something in front of AND behind your subject to create a foreground, middle ground (subject) & background
  • Eliminate distractions! Look for simple, uncluttered backgrounds.
  • If you have nothing but a busy/cluttered background alternatives are:
    • zoom in close & use the widest aperture possible to blur the background
    • change the angle (shoot from above, below, or just move around until you get a better, less cluttered background
  • Avoid mergers & intersections
    • power lines, trees, etc, intersecting subjects head
    • lines intersecting the neck (decapitation)
  • Light attracts, dark recedes
    • make the face the brightest area in the image
    • avoid placing a dark-haired subject on a dark background. (You want a separation between their hair & the background)
Clothing selection-
  • Viewer's eye will naturally be drawn to skin. For best results avoid shorts &/or sleeveless shirts to maintain emphasis on the face
  • Color of the clothing will reflect up on the face, particularly under the chin
  • Bold colors & patterns may draw attention away from the face.
  • When in doubt go:
    • dark
    • plain
    • with collar
    • long sleeves
    • long pants
  • “Hey” vs. “Cheese!
  • Shoot the awkward moments
  • Take the shot in the”after moment” or between shots... these are often informal, impromptu, & spontaneous
  • Fake laugh – best expression comes after the fake laugh when they lean forward
  • “Don't laugh”
  • For small children, introduce a prop (flower, balloon, teacup, or a tiny bit of wadded up sticky tape) to help focus their attention
  • Take a series of shots (use continuous shooting mode)
  • Take smiling, slight smile & no smile shots
  • Give them some cues (happy, sad, angry, surprised, puzzled, serious, etc). You might get a great expression OR you may get a natural looking smile/laugh because it's a silly exercise
  • Jump shot
  • Start with your “Go-To” poses. The tried-and-true. The money shots. Do these first just in case you subject gets tired or (in the case of children) they have a melt-down, temper tantrum, etc.
  • Take both pulled back & zoomed in for all the poses
  • Shoot the same pose from different angles (above, below, etc.)
  • General guidelines for Posing:
    • Crop between the joints, not at them
    • Leave space for subject to look into (don't crowd the frame too much)
    • No crotch shots or armpit shots (except for maybe high school seniors)
    • No locked joints. If it bends, bend it.
    • If there are two of them, make them different
      • for example: elbows at different heights &/or bent at different angles
    • Shooting from below will convey a sense of power (as will shooting straight on with shoulders squared)
    • Shooting from above will
      • reduce double chin
      • make the eyes appear larger & more open
      • produce a nice jawline
    • Miss American (or S-curve) pose... works well for thin women
      • Standing
      • Weight on back foot (no weight on the front foot)
      • Shift the hips
      • Feet should make a “V” with back foot at 45-degree angle & front foot with toes pointing toward the camera
      • Bend the from knee slightly toward the other leg
    • Lean forward pose (works well for overweight women):
      • Stand at a 45-degree angle (or more) to the camera
      • Weigh on the front foot
      • Lean forward (a little) from the waist
      • Elongate the neck
      • Shoot from an overhead angle
      • Don't press arms onto your sides
  • Posing Body Parts:
      • hand closest to the lens will appear larger
      • if hands are above the waist, direct the fingers upward & if below the waist, point them downward
      • Don't stack or clasp the hands - separate them & place them apart between the joints
      • Thumbs in the pocket looks better than a hand in the pocket
      • Watch out for 'flat' hands – the sides of the hands are more graceful, particularly on women
      • Female fingers should be long & elegant
      • Male's hand should be in a loose fist (like they're holding a small rock)
    • Feet:
      • Feet hip width apart gives a look of confidence & strength
      • Feet at different angles or heights gives better balance to depth
      • No straight arms!
      • No 90-degree elbows
      • With crossed arms, rest them lightly on the chest (otherwise they'll look fat)
      • No arms pressed against sides of body... space between the arms & sides will give the appearance of a waist
    • Head/Chin:
      • Head tipped back & to the “high” shoulder will feel fun & flirty & feminine
      • Head down toward the low shoulder can express power & looks more masculine
      • Head tipped slightly back will generally convey “attitude” (a good pose for senior guys)
    • Legs:
      • ship width apart conveys strength & confidence
    • Shoulders:
      • should be on different “planes” with one slightly higher/lower than the other
      • square shoulders convey confidence & strength – or confrontation
    • Joints:
      • If it bends, bend it.
      • Don't crop at the joints. (no amputations!) Crop between the joints.
    • Hips/Thighs/Butt:
      • Angle the hips to slenderize the body
      • Rotate at the waist & suck in the gut
      • Cross one leg in front of the other when standing (The I've-gotta-pee pose)
      • When sitting, don't put weight on both cheeks. Roll slightly forward toward the camera with the hip that's farthest away from the camera
Tips for shooting people with eyeglasses
  • Change the angle between the glasses, the light & the camera lens:
    • Light from one side & have the subject face the other way (not all the way profile, just a ¾ angle)
    • Raise the light
    • Raise the feet of the glasses (the part that goes behind the ears) ever so slightly to reduce glare. (It will feel 'weird' to the subject & they won't be able to see correctly thru their glasses.)
  • Watch for recessed cheek lines
  • Shoot one set with glasses & one set without. Photoshop in the frames (only).

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