Monday, 19 January 2015

Portrait Photography

It came as a surprise when my daughter casually asked me on a sunny Sunday if I would like to go out and take a few photos of her for a project she is working on.

Yeah why not” I said, certainly be a change from my normal sports photography, so off I trundled to my digital room to get my gear.
Then it dawned on me, I don’t really have many lenses that are suitable for portraiture. I don’t’ even have a fleckie, can you imagine running down a side line of a soccer or rugby pitch holding a fleckie while yelling out “smile”
The best I came out with was my trusty 50mm Canon prime lens. A lens I have spent very little time with but picked it up second hand for next to nothing. My Friend calls it the “Plastic Fantastic”
I also grabbed my 28-300mm, This has travelled too many destinations. It’s heavily used in media circles and I know that a fellow journalist friend swears by it when he goes after “celebs”.
So I decided to grab both and after coating ourselves with sunblock, and waiting almost a decade for my daughter to sort her hair out!!!, off we went to the local village.

As we were driving to our destination a series of questions cropped up around the subject or portraits
1)Do we focus on the natural look or go for the staged look?

My daughter suggested the natural look
2) Should I worry about the light or let this be part of the scene?

The sun can be your fiend; it just means I might have to pay special attention to my white balance and  metering choice.
3) Do I go face, half or full shot of the subject?

My daughter suggested we did all and see what we liked.
4) What is it I’m looking to portray in my image, sensual, moody, serene?,

Well my daughter can be moody but she has a lovely fun side so I might have to play a few tricks ;)

so after concluding our discussion we decided to just go with the flow.
Our local village, Howick is full old colonial late 18 early 19th century buildings so after a short stroll down a few side street we found a nice old building tucked away providing us with balance of shade and light.

I took a few basic shots to start with just to get a feel for the location and checked my histogram for the exposure distribution. I soon noticed having the subject wearing a white top, the building having a white exterior I decided to dial down my exposure by 1 stop, So a few quick re-shoots and I was happy with the new exposure distribution.
All shots were taken in Camera RAW, and then processed using ACR 8.7. I opted to leave Lightroom out of the processing stage and just focus on slight cropping and convert to Jpeg for web.

So what lessons did we learn?   Having the correct pose.
F5 1/250 80mm ISO200 Spot metering, B/W -1 Exposure
My first shot was in black and white and generally turned out ok.  We both thought that the pose could have been better.  By having the arm around the pole would have perhaps added a bit more feeling so something to remember next time.
The sun streaked across the dress and did not infiltrate the face which meant the detail was held well across the skin so no sign of any major pixel blow out across the midtones.
The second image we targeted a close-up. 
F5.6 1/50 135mm ISO200 Spot Metering, -1 Exposure
Again made sure the sun didn’t cause too much blow out across the face. The depth of field was set to low so the detail behind didn’t detract from the subject.  I called the pose “contemplation” my daughter called it something else!!

The last shot we went full body. I actually like this one out of all of the ones we took. I think the pose was good, and the subject looks relaxed.
F8 1/25 90mm ISO200 Eval Metering, AWB

The only thing I would consider is perhaps a slight crop to the right so that the subject  is perhaps more central, and maybe the depth of field could have been slightly less.
As always I have included all the camera settings used for reference. Over all it was a good to exercise, and something we are both keen to again soon.

So tips,
Make sure you use the light well, pre shoot prior will help establish your exposure readings and white balance.

Posing think about how the subject is standing, try to get them relaxed. If it’s just the face then it doesn’t really matter.
Location certainly helps depending on what you are trying to portray, but try to pick something that compliments the subject and doesn’t over power it or conflicts. After all it is about the subject.

Depth of field important, if you have detail behind the subject make sure you are using shallow depth of field otherwise it can detract.
Focus on the eyes if doing facials; consider using spot metering with a single point focus.
And always tell your subject they look beautiful.