When lighting a portrait remember to keep it simple. Consider the use of one light and modifier at first. This is considered your main light and set the power according to your preference and vision. Take a few test shots to determine if the light matches your vision and adjust accordingly. The use of the histogram on camera may be of use to determine proper exposure. Since this image was shot outdoors, Instead of adjusting the power of the flash I simply moved it away from the subject. A second light can then be added to “fill” the shadows. This light is usually set to lower power than your main light. More lights can be added but I rarely find it necessary to use more than two or three lights and a reflector at most for portraits.
In the example below the image was shot outdoors with camera and flash’s in manual mode for total control over the lighting.The main light set to 100% power. The second light used as a fill only set to 20% and distance of flash to subject both adjusted. Both lights were used with white umbrella modifiers for a softer light. Although umbrellas tend to “spill” light and not my first choice for indoor or studio lighting they tend to work fine for outdoor use since “spilling” of light isn’t as much of a concern outdoors. For indoor use I do prefer using light boxes with grids for more control of the direction of the lights and therefor less spilling.
In Post production the image was converted to black and white to place more emphasis on the subject and avoid distraction of the background.
When composing an image, the addition of geometric patterns or basic shapes such as lines, circles, squares and triangles can add structure and organization within that photograph. It can help the photographer convey an idea or feeling to the viewer. The overall purpose of this is simple, to keep the viewers eye within the frame of the image. The viewer may perceive only a “pleasing image” without ever knowing or asking why.
There is a psychology behind the use of geometric patters in art and how the human mind perceives each of these shapes. Geometric shapes have been used in all types of art throughout the centuries and photography is no exception. The human mind perceives squares and rectangles to suggest conformity. Circles suggest completeness, triangles represent tension and lines represent movement. Be aware there are variations of these shapes such as vertical versus horizontal lines versus diagonal with each representing something different but the basic idea is the same. The goal being to engage the viewer.
There are two basic forms of geometry in photography, true and perceived. A true form would be the rectangular window or doorway on a house. A perceived triangle could be three people in an image that when connected by an imaginary line form a triangle. Which form is used weather perceived or true depends on the opportunity presented to the photographer at the time.
This is one of the techniques used in composition. Examples of other techniques used include the use of opposing colors and perspective Again, depending on the subject, intent and overall goal of the message to be conveyed by the photographer will determine the technique used.
The above image shows an example of use of a few geometric shapes within an image. Also note the the image is in black and white to place emphasis on the shapes rather then the color version which may distract the viewers attention from the basic geometric shapes.
Long exposure photography involves using slow shutter speeds to capture moving elements within an image. It helps to have a stationary object within the frame to complement this effect. To achieve this a tripod is necessary. If using a DSLR consider using the mirror lock up function and a wireless or wired shutter release cable to eliminate any camera shake. The image to the right was shot at night using a 10 stop neutral density filter since the moon was fairly bright behind the thin cloud layer in the sky. The camera was set to ISO of 200, manual focus, and camera manual mode used. I set the aperture to f16 for a large depth of field and also to cut down the amount of light entering the camera for a longer exposure. I took a few test shots using different shutter speeds until I was happy with the final exposure. The final image was obtained using a 30 second exposure. This shutter speed was long enough to capture movement in the clouds and water for a soft, surreal effect I was trying to achieve. In post processing, it was converted to black and white and slight adjustments to contrast was made. Noise can be an issue when shooting long exposures and some noise reduction was implemented in post processing as well.
Keeping the eyes sharp is essential when shooting portraiture. Next time you look at a photograph of someone pay attention to what part of the photo your eyes are first drawn to. Chances are it’s their eyes. It’s normal for us to make eye contact with people in our every day life. This process is also subconsciously replicated when we look at images of people.
To get the eyes in sharp focus make sure that both eyes are on the same plane. This means the lens of the camera should be center and level with the subjects eyes. When shooting wide open between f 1.4- 2.8 for a shallow depth of field (ie: blurred background), focus on the eye closest to you if the eyes are off plane. I’ll often try to shoot as wide as possible since I favor this look. My 35mm prime lens opens to f 1.8 and I find while blurring the background I have enough depth of field to keep both eyes in sharp focus even if the camera is slightly off plane. Anything less than f1.8 can be difficult to work with. The goal here is to be able to see detail in the subjects iris.
If using a telephoto lens (ie: 70-200mm) remember to keep you shutter speeds at least equal to the focal length being used. So if your shooting at 200mm’s you want to keep your shutter speed at least 1/200 sec. Anything less will pick up camera shake in the image and loose detail. To play it safe, I will shoot at least 1/250 sec preferably higher if I have enough light.
Shadows anywhere on the face can be a distraction in the final print. Good lighting is essential. Consider using a reflector or strobe to overpower shadows. If shooting outdoors on a sunny day such as the example image above a reflector is often my first choice. Use of a tripod will help with sharpness but limit your mobility.
Keep the eyes sharp and shadows out of your portraits. Look for good light and if you cant find it make your own. A little practice and you’ll be on your way to shooting great portrait photographs.
Reflections can transform an ordinary image into something a little more artistic. Ant reflective surfaces like water ,glass and mirrors can be used. The initial observation by the viewer can be confusing at first look. This confusion draws the viewer to look at an image longer to decipher the image. This process of captivating the viewers attention and drawing them into your photo can make for a successful photograph.