Making the Shot
book by Gina Milicia
Written by: Gina Milicia www.ginamilicia.com Publisher: Darren Rowse www.digital-photography-school.com Producer: Jasmin Tragas www.wonderwebby.com Copywriter: Belinda Weaver www.copywritematters.com.au Graphic Design: Naomi Creek firstname.lastname@example.org Cover Photo (main): Kate Mac www.chadwickmodels.com/models/kate-mac Portraits – Making the Shot Version 1.1 ©Copyright 2013 Gina Milicia All photos and illustrations by the author, including those taken for credited media and publishing companies, unless otherwise noted. No photograph can be reproduced under any circumstance in any format including, but not exhaustive to, web, print, or electronic formats. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, without prior written consent from the publisher, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. You may store the pdf on your computer and backups. You may print one copy of this book for your own personal use. Disclaimer: The information contained in this book is based on the author’s experience, knowledge and opinions. The author and publisher will not be held liable for the use or misuse of the information in this book.
Contents Credits and copyright_________________ 2
THE GEAR__________________ 22
THE MOVES________________ 56
Thank you___________________________ 4
My first camera_____________________ 23
Note from Darren____________________ 5
Tips on buying second-hand_________ 24
About the Author____________________ 5
My gear____________________________ 25
Direction___________________________ 65 The poses__________________________ 68
THE BEGINNING_______________6 The Accidental Photographer_________ 8
THE RULES___________________10 1. Get your camera off auto__________ 11 2. Get naked. Shoot in RAW__________ 12 3. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket_______________________ 14 4. Less is more______________________ 15 5. Stop controlling and go with the flow_________________________ 16
THE THREE AMIGOS OF PHOTOGRAPHY_____________ 34 Step 1: Choose your ISO based on the available light_________ 36 Step 2: Decide how you want your shot to look_____________ 37 Step 3: Select your shutter speed_____ 39
THE LIGHTS__________________41 Understanding your camera’s light meter_________________________ 43
6. Trust is everything________________ 17
Understanding a hand-held light meter_________________________ 44
7. Take risks. Make mistakes__________ 18
Balancing daylight and flash_________ 45
8. Use a tripod______________________ 19
Shooting with flash off camera_______ 46
9. Frame your work in camera________ 20
Beautiful skin is only 1 stop away_____ 49
10. Use a hand-held light meter______ 21
Quick tips__________________________ 52
Things you should try to avoid________ 74 Dealing with difficult situations (and sitters)_________________________ 75 Hair and make-up tips_______________ 78 Styling tips for a portrait shoot_______ 79
THE END___________________ 82 Staying in touch_____________________ 84
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward A heartfelt thank you to the following people for helping make this book a reality:
Thanks for the inspiration and mentoring: Andy Tavares, Rodney Manning and David Simmonds.
Thanks to my brother Anthony who allowed me to permanently borrow his camera 25 years ago. I owe you one!
Jasmin Tragas Naomi Creek Belinda Weaver
My father Frank who always made me feel like my art mattered.
Toula Karayannis The genius who invented Nutella Alice Wilson Emma Newcombe Tegan Steele Fotini Hatzis Colette Werden Lou Petch Kate Mac
My mother Rosa for teaching me to treat everything you do like it’s a masterpiece. My children Bryana and Raph, my proudest creations.
A word from dPS Whenever we ask dPS readers what they point their cameras at and photograph the answer almost invariably is ‘people’. It’s no wonder really; whether they be family or friends, perhaps even strangers in the street, people are what life is all about. As a result we’ve been longing to publish a comprehensive guide to shooting portraits and I’ve been on the lookout for the right photographer/ writer for over a year now. When I met Gina Milicia I just knew she was the right person. As one of Australia’s leading portrait photographers she certainly knows what she’s on about – but what sold me most was her obvious love for people. I was photographed recently by Gina and was very impressed by the way she not only ‘shot’ me but also how we connected. We finished up with much more than brilliantly executed portraits – we created images with soul. I trust you’ll find ‘the Shot’ shows you how to formulate magnificent portraits too.
About the Author Gina Milicia is one of Australia’s leading photographers, specializing in fashion, lifestyle, celebrity portraits, corporate portraits and editorial. Known for her creativity, professionalism and unique ability to get the most out of the people she is photographing, Gina’s 25year career as a photographer has resulted in a portfolio that boasts the “Who’s Who” in the fashion, entertainment and corporate world.
There is a common perception that to be a great photographer you only have to understand the science behind the craft. Having been a professional photographer for 25 years, I don’t agree. After all, I get in my car every day and drive quite competently (although some would argue that) without understanding how the gears, brakes, suspension all work together so effortlessly. I’ve had the pleasure of photographing all kinds of people, from celebrities and corporate giants to everyday families. For me photography is more art than science.
A portrait is an opportunity to tell a story and if you only ever consider its technical construction, you might just miss the story. I’ve worked with and learned from the best in the industry but I spent the first few years of my photography career a little unsure about the relationship between shutter speed, aperture, ISO and focal length. To be quite honest, I still don’t know what some of the buttons on my camera do.
What I have learned is how to make people look good and most importantly for a portrait photographer, I know how to make people feel comfortable in front of the camera. This book shares my approach so you can bridge the gap between the science and the art of portrait photography.
Vince Colosimo/courtesy Nine Network. The Beginning
The Accidental Photographer Every day I get to photograph some of the world’s most famous and influential people but I didn’t set out to become a photographer. I wanted to be a sculptor. When high school finished, I took the ‘safe’ option and enrolled in a Bachelor of Education degree with ceramics and art history as my majors. If my ‘art thing’ didn’t pan out, I could always fall back on teaching. When I got to university I quickly realized that the sculpture and ceramics students were just not my people. They wore mohair clothes and had dreadlocked hair while I preferred leather jackets and blow waves (think Madonna circa 1985). The photography students looked more like my tribe so I decided to change my major to photography. I was heading overseas anyway and thought at the very least I might learn how to take decent travel pictures. Most of my first year photography classes may as well have been taught in Japanese because I didn’t have a clue what my lecturer was talking about. Shutter speeds, ISO and F-stops. What the hell did any of this have to do with photography and when do we start taking photos?
My lecturer was a master in Fine Art printing. We learned how to process negatives and produce beautiful fine art prints while the other, more practical, elements of photography were skimmed over.
Then everything changed In the final year, we had to gain some industry experience and I was recommended for a position as intern with a fashion/ celebrity photographer. I will never forget the first moment, 25 years ago, when I stepped into his studio. It was like a light turned on inside me and I knew. I knew this was what I wanted to do. Thanks to my lecturer, I could process and print photos but I was a useless assistant. I didn’t know how to set up lights, fold up reflectors or even load a camera so when the photographer went on location he hired ‘a real assistant’.
Comedian Red Symons/courtesy Nine Network. The Beginning | The Accidental Photographer
If you want to get ahead, be prepared to scrub a toilet My dad gave me some great advice when I started my first part-time job. He said, “When you have nothing to do, pick up a broom and sweep.” So while the photographer was off doing glamorous shoots with competent assistants, I spent my time alone in the studio. I took my dad’s advice. I swept, scrubbed, polished, dusted and vacuumed. On the last day of my internship the photographer took me aside. He was impressed by the work I had been doing without being asked. He loved the fact that I was so competent in the darkroom (one thing I did understand at university) and offered me a full-time job! I almost turned him down. I had the final year of my Bachelor of Education to complete plus two part-time jobs. Instead, he let me come in whenever I could spare the time. It was a really happening studio with a constant parade of television and music celebrities. I didn’t appreciate the opportunity I had been given until I noticed the regular stream of students desperate to work with him too.
Watch and learn Over the next 12 months I watched hundreds of shoots. My assisting skills never improved but I did learn how to shoot and how to direct. The photographer was a master at making people feel at ease. He treated everyone with respect and kindness. He would demonstrate poses rather than leaving his sitter to guess. He would talk and he would listen. I learned how to get the best out of people and the importance of making your sitter feel fantastic about themself. Armed with this knowledge, I started my own photography business. I bought all my equipment second-hand and spent the first few years shooting in daylight. I bought more equipment when I could afford it, learning as I went.
I am self-taught on a need to know basis I picked up tips from the guys in the camera stores. I rented studios with different types of photographers and I learned everything they wanted to teach me. It’s now been more than 25 years since I first stepped into a photography studio. I’m running a business that I’m incredibly proud of. I’ve photographed some of the world’s most powerful and famous people including royalty and heads of state, billionaires and A-list celebrities and been on location in some of the world’s most exotic places. The hard work has paid off and I still love every minute of it. So I’ve written the book I wish I had when I was starting out over 25 years ago. My aim is to break down the mystery surrounding your camera settings and gear, explaining it all in plain English. You can use these principles to jump straight into taking beautiful, insightful portraits. More than anything else, I want this book to inspire you and give you the confidence to realize that portrait photography isn’t as complicated or as hard as you think. When you stop getting weighed down by the technical side of photography, you can start creating really beautiful images.
The Beginning | The Accidental Photographer
Here are 10 rules my photography lives by:
1. Get your camera off auto I bought myself a coffee machine and it’s fantastic. I simply push a button to get a latte and the machine does the rest. The problem is that it’s not an amazing latte and it has nothing to do with the machine. You see, the default settings create a coffee that most people will like. Personally, I think the coffee is too weak and the milk is too frothy. It’s not until I adjusted the machine settings that I created my perfect coffee. Your camera is exactly the same. The preprogramed settings are an average of all the best ways to shoot a particular scene. While you’re getting the best average, it’s still just average. If you want a shot that reflects your own style, I recommend you start shooting in manual mode. The only time I use the camera programs is when I’m doing high-pressure events, like the races or awards nights, where there are lots of people and I might have to move quickly between inside and outside.
The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
2. Get naked. Shoot in RAW A RAW image file contains all the original data that the camera censor captured. A JPEG is a compressed file that only retains about half the data of a RAW file.
RAW captures more information. RAW gives your images more detail in shadows and highlights, better color saturation and makes you coffee in the morning.
Regardless of whether I’m shooting my cousin’s wedding or an A-list celeb cover shoot, I want to supply my clients with the best possible quality. To give myself the best chance to do that, I always shoot in RAW.
You will have to spend extra time in postproduction but I can tell you now the extra time is always worth it. If your camera doesn’t allow you to shoot RAW, don’t worry. You can still create amazing images. It might be a feature you consider in your next camera.
Alice in RAW
JPEG vs RAW I photographed my model, Alice, in both RAW and JPEG modes. If we compare the two files straight out of the camera they look identical. In fact, there is a loss of detail in the hair highlights that becomes more apparent in post-production.
Alice in JPEG
The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
When I use a file processing software to adjust these images we see that the RAW image lets me recover the over-exposed highlights by decreasing the exposure.
When doing the same with the JPEG image you can see the highlights donâ€™t recover any detail and the entire image takes on a dull grey tone. The only time I shoot in JPEG is for high profile events like awards ceremonies that have magazines and newspapers waiting (impatiently) for images they can publish. Even in these cases, I will set my camera to shoot in JPEG AND RAW so I always have the original files to work on later. If I had to pick one rule you should follow, it would be this one. Exceptional photography requires effort and the results speak for themselves!
The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
3. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket Nowadays, you can buy really big memory cards letting you store hundreds and hundreds of images. But what do you do if the memory card gets corrupted? Or you lose the card? Don’t assume it’s never going to happen to you because it might, and if it does it will probably be at the worst possible moment. I know because it happened to me. I had just finished a late night shoot and the magazine that hired me was holding up the printing press, waiting for my images. When I tried to download the memory card it was corrupt. I wanted to throw up. I think I did. I managed to retrieve most of the images but it took hours and a few years off my life. Always take a moment to check your images as you shoot. If you can’t download the images as you go, spread your shoot over multiple memory cards. If you do find yourself with a corrupted memory card, do not format it! Once you have stopped crying or throwing up, or both, find the most recommended data retrieval software and get to work. The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
4. Less is more Part 1: Lighting In my early days as a portrait photographer, I thought a great shot needed fifteen different lights, reflectors, wind machines and a few baby elephants. I didn’t have the confidence to rely on natural daylight or the simplicity of using only one light. It felt like cheating. In reality, a confident photographer doesn’t need much to create something beautiful.
Part 2: Posing I’ve written you a whole chapter on posing but generally speaking, less is always more. When I’m shooting I generally have just one pose in mind. Once I have my sitter positioned, I focus on their facial expressions. Rather than getting ten average shots in different poses go for one amazing shot.
Editorial shoot for actor Kyal Marsh. Each image varies pose and expression slightly.
The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
5. Stop controlling and go with the flow There are two ways to shoot portraits. The first way is to plan out every detail and direct to within an inch of your life. When you do this, youâ€™re creating your version of your sitter rather than capturing their version.
Have a starting point in mind, and some go-to poses to get the ball rolling, then step back and let the shoot evolve.
The second way, my preferred way, is to give your subject the opportunity to give you the shot rather than trying to drag it out of them. You will always have people who need more direction but if you take the time to focus on your sitter, especially in between shots, they will find the best position quite naturally.
Actor Guyton Grantley/courtesy Nine Network.
The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
6. Trust is everything Portrait photography is an opportunity to tell a story and getting your sitter to trust you is essential. Until they’re relaxed there will be an invisible barrier between you and you won’t get the shot. I’ve devoted an entire section to helping you get to that moment as quickly as possible. I’ve shared my tricks on posing, directing and dealing with difficult situations. Because you will have them! Remember, portrait photography is not about you. Your sitter is The Star and everyone else is the supporting cast – that includes you! The greatest compliment you can pay someone is to give them your full attention.
One shot really stands out in my memory and it captured my definition of beauty. A woman with a double mastectomy posed for me naked and fiercely proud of her body. She glowed with the light of confidence that I wish all women had. Sometimes I think my job is frivolous. After all, it’s not like I’m curing cancer. But there are moments like these when I realize I can share an important story, preserve a beautiful memory forever or make someone feel great about themself. That’s the privilege of portrait photography.
Cancer Survivor Bambi Gordon. www.bambigordon.com.au The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
7. Take risks. Make mistakes You’ll learn more about your own style when you spend time experimenting with your camera. Make sure you know what the key shots are and get those shots first. Then experiment. If you always shoot long, try shooting wide. If you always shoot from above, try shooting from below. If you always shoot with a particular softbox, try a grid spot. Or even better, go out and shoot when you’re not being paid. Take your camera out and start experimenting with different settings and shots. An excellent way to hone your skills is by being a volunteer photographer. Help a local charity, be a second shooter at a friend’s wedding or if you have kids, photograph their dance recital or sports day. Shooting a lot of different people in a short space of time is like sprint training. You have to work them out, build a rapport and get a great shot in less than five minutes. You’ll improve, quickly. This is a shot of me on location in Varanasi, India. This was a trip where I really started experimenting and shooting with wide angle lenses. Photo by Toula Karayannis.
The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
8. Use a tripod If I close my eyes when I listen to music I can hear it better. If I shoot with a tripod, I see more. Some photographers won’t agree with this rule but I believe a tripod removes a lot of distractions. I started shooting with a tripod because I couldn’t get my shots sharp enough in low light. I put the camera on a tripod and suddenly I could line up the shot and focus all my attention on my sitter. The only time I don’t use a tripod is for events. As you can probably imagine, it’s almost impossible to get great shots wandering through an A-list party with a tripod.
My favourite tripod on a location shoot I did in Port Melbourne, Victoria. The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
9. Frame your work in camera
A promo shoot I did for an Australian artist.
Do you take hundreds of frames in the hope of fluking one good image? When you find one you like, do you crop it because it actually works better as a headshot?
If you are shooting a full-length shot, allow 5-10 frames at the end to get a Âž version and perhaps even a tight headshot.
You should be aiming to get the perfect shot as you shoot. Plan your shot and frame your shots in your camera, not in post-production. If you arenâ€™t sure which shot will look best cover all bases as you shoot. The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
10. Use a hand-held light meter Most new SLRs have built-in light meters that work reasonably well in most conditions. If you put your cameraâ€™s light meter under pressure and ask it to take a reading in less conventional settings like the snow, a rock concert, or an extremely backlit location it will generally roll into the fetal position and cry for its momma. Your images will be either over-exposed or under-exposed depending on the metering system you have chosen. Once you introduce off camera lighting into your portraits, a hand-held light meter becomes an essential tool of the trade. It will give you the most accurate light reading with the least amount of fuss. I walk you through how to use both your cameraâ€™s light meter and a hand-held meter a bit later in the book. I also explain how to interpret the readings in different circumstances.
The Rules | 10 rules my photography lives by
“A photographer went to a socialite party in New York. As he entered the front door, the host said, ‘I love your pictures – they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera’. He said nothing until dinner was finished, then: ‘That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific stove’.” – Sam Haskins
My first camera Itâ€™s tempting to think that your gear makes you a photographer and thatâ€™s just not the case. My first 35mm film camera was a hand-me-down from my brother. Actually, I just borrowed it one day and never gave it back. My brother told me it was an amazing camera and lens but I really had no idea. It became my primary work camera and after a few years I decided to trade it in. The guy in the store told me it would have been more useful as a paperweight. I was devastated but I took some great photos with that camera proving that the gear does not the photographer make. Rather than buying brand new gear at the bottom of the range, buy second-hand. You can get some really professional camera equipment for the same investment. I used second-hand cameras for the first 10 years of my career.
The Gear | My first camera
Tips on buying second-hand Buying second-hand camera equipment is like buying a second-hand car. There are some key areas you should always look at and some questions you should always ask. • B e wary of buying online. Look for a reputable second-hand dealer where you’ll also get a warranty of some description. • T ake your own memory card and a friend who knows a little more about photography than you do. • T est the camera sensors. Take a photo of a white wall, or blue sky, with the aperture at the highest setting (22). If you see marks and scratches in your image, don’t buy the camera. est the camera focus. Take a photo of • T a newspaper or a close up of someone’s eye and see how well the camera focuses on the details. If you already have a lens, take it with you and try it out. • C heck the condition. If you’re buying a camera that ‘has hardly ever been used’ take note of the condition of the straps, and areas like the hot shoe and the shutter. Some parts of a camera are easy to clean up or paint, but these areas will also give the game away.
• C heck the actuations. This is the technical term for the number of shots the camera has taken. The camera’s shutter has a life expectancy of between 100,000 (entry level cameras) and 400,000 shots (pro cameras).
• Take your time. Download your photos at home if you can’t see them in the shop but don’t feel pressured into buying right then and there. You should be able to get three to five years use out of your camera, even a second-hand one. The Gear | Tips on buying second-hand
My gear Cameras Canon 1DS Mark III I use this camera for 80% of my shooting and it’s not unusual for me to shoot 2000 frames a day. My cameras get used and abused so they have to be durable. The Mark III is a pro-level camera so it’s more expensive and a lot heavier but it’s designed to survive heavy usage. Canon 5D Mark II I’ll favor the Mark II if I know I have to shoot with a high ISO (in very low light or on a night shoot). At 400 ISO this camera is amazing but I can push it to 800 or 1200 ISO and still get really beautiful shots.
The Gear | My gear
Lenses Canon L series F2.8 IS 70-200mm lens This is my workhorse and I use it for 70% of my shoots. I like to create a bokeh, or blurred dreamy, background and this lens does it beautifully. I like to work with zoom because it gives me more options when I’m shooting. The downside of using a zoom lens is that the zoom action sucks dust onto the sensor, so I need to get my sensor cleaned a few times each year. Canon F4 IS 24-105mm lens This is the lens I use for events, lifestyle and travel shoots. It’s another zoom lens and it shoots from 24mm, which is really wide and great for group shots, through to 105mm, which is a really good focal length for portraits.
Canon L series F1.2 85mm lens This is my all time favorite lens. It’s my special portrait lens. It’s heavy and slow to focus but when you get it right, the effect is so dreamy. I’m completely in love with it and have considered updating my Facebook status to “in a relationship with 85mm L”! Canon L series F2.8 24-70mm lens I call this lens ‘the forgotten lens’ because I never use it. It’s like when you go on vacation. You pack a suitcase full of clothes but you end up wearing the same few pieces over and over again. For me, this lens demonstrates how personal your choice of photography equipment is. A lot of photographers love this lens but I’ve never liked using it. It’s not that it’s not a good lens; we’ve just never gotten on.
Canon L series F2.8 16-35mm lens This is a nice ‘piece of glass’ (which is impressive photography slang for a lens) and a great lens for interiors and landscapes. That said, the lens is so large and cumbersome (especially once you put filters on it) that it spends most of its time hanging out in a dark corner of my camera bag with the 24-70mm lens.
Your lens will be your biggest investment. If you maintain your lens there is no reason why you couldn’t use it for 10 years. If you’re on a budget – only buy one lens but the best lens you can afford. If you want to try out different lenses look for a camera store that also does lens hire. The Gear | My gear
Tripods. You. Complete. Me A tripod is an extension of your camera and it can last you a lifetime. My Manfrotto tripod was a gift from my aunt in Sicily and I’ve been using it for 25 years. Another piece of equipment that I absolutely love! Before you buy a tripod, think about how and where you might use it. I have four tripods. I have a small, light tripod that I use when I travel; I’ve got a medium size tripod that I take on location; I’ve got a large, solid tripod that I use in the studio; and I’ve got a monopod, which I use when I’m shooting film/TV stills and live theatre. One of the biggest factors to consider is weight. Unless you already have an assistant, you’ll have to carry your own gear. With that effort in mind, you want a tripod that’s heavy enough to hold your camera steady while still being portable.
Flashes Then there is height. Buy a tripod that goes as high as possible. If you can, get a tripod with three tiers as well as an additional, extendable center column. And finally, tilt. You can buy the tripod as a single unit or buy the legs and head separately. I recommend testing out different heads for your tripod. You want a tripod that allows you to tilt your camera at different angles, quickly and easily.
Canon 580EX II This is the detachable flash I use both on and off camera and I like to use it for events. Adding extra light to the shot is essential when working indoors or in harsh lighting conditions outdoors. When you use this speed light in ‘through the lens’ (TTL) mode it works with your camera light meter, cleverly calculating how much fill flash you need based on the light meter readings. Much like your other programed settings, you’ll get an average of the readings so don’t be afraid to compensate if you want to achieve different looks. I often use a softbox when I use this flash. The softbox will reduce the amount of flash and help to soften the light.
The Gear | My gear
Portable lighting systems
I use these lights for shooting more advanced lighting styles. They are light, easy to use, reliable and quick so I don’t have to waste time waiting for the flash to recycle! More than that, the light source is really beautiful.
Pocket wizards are top of the line when it comes to remote triggers. They aren’t cheap but they’re worth every penny. While you save up, you can: 1. Buy a cheaper infrared trigger. Cheaper infrared triggers will still do the job of setting your flash off remotely but they are sensitive to bright sunlight and external factors such as alert lights on emergency vehicles and forklifts, etc., which means they can go off without warning.
I also like to attach these lights to a handle so there is nothing to knock over, nothing in my way, just beautiful light from above. Broncolor Mobil A2 This is the ’big daddy’ of portable lighting and great for shots where I need some extra grunt.
2. Use a sync cord. Sync cords are the cheapest way to use a remote flash trigger but they also introduce a potential safety hazard to your shoot. A sync cord is always handy to have in your kit, just in case your remote fails.
The biggest downside of this flash kit is the speed. The recycle time is slow. Really, really slow. I like to shoot my portraits quickly and I hate having to wait for my flash to recycle.
3. Hire them. Hiring equipment is one of the most cost-effective ways to access equipment you don’t use very often, or can’t afford just yet.
It’s also really heavy. I’ve been known to buy an extra seat on the plane because it’s cheaper than paying for excessive baggage!
One of my assistants, Jayme Saleem, holding the Elinchrom ranger with small softbox mounted on handle. The Gear | My gear
Portable lighting accessories Light stand This is like a tripod for your lights helping you to position your lights at the right height and angle. Your light stand is a one-off purchase although you might end up owning a few, for different situations. If you buy quality it should last you a lifetime but I recommend you look for second-hand bargains.
This image shows a flash attached to a light stand so you can position your flash.
The Gear | My gear
Bounce boards A bounce board (also called a reflector) will help you create more light by bouncing available light from any source onto your sitter. Different bounce boards will create different lighting effects: • A plain white bounce board will introduce soft light
You can buy double-sided bounce boards, with one gold and one silver side (for example) to double their use. You can also make your own bounce boards using white, silver or gold cardboard, or even aluminum foil and styrofoam!
• A silver bounce board introduces hard, cold light • A gold bounce board introduces hard, warm light • A black bounce board removes light. If the light is really flat, you can introduce more light to one side of the face OR use a black board to reduce light on one side.
Model Emma Newcombe. The Gear | My gear
Here you can see how the various reflectors will change the look and feel of a single shot.
Window light only
The Gear | My gear
Shot bags and umbrella diffusers While umbrella diffusers give you a relatively cheap and easy light shaper, Iâ€™m not a fan. For two reasons: 1. Umbrellas spread too much light around. This makes it difficult to selectively light certain areas, such as only the side of your sitterâ€™s face. An umbrella will also cause extra light to spill onto the background giving your shot an overly bright, flat look. 2. Umbrellas will catch the wind and end up on the ground. Or in the street. Or in your shot. If you want to avoid these heartbreaking mishaps always use shot bags to secure your equipment. A shot bag is simply a bag of loose weight designed to secure equipment. Cafes use them to secure their barriers and photographers use them to secure portable light stands and other equipment. Silver reflector
If you want to make cheap portable shot bags, try cutting the legs off an old pair of jeans and filling them with clean washed sand (available from most hardware stores).
The Gear | My gear
Laptops and tethering software
Softboxes go on the end of your lighting source to soften and diffuse the light. These are my preferred method of light shaping as they create an effect that most closely resembles daylight.
When I’m shooting in studio and on some location shoots, I like to shoot tethered which means I have a USB cable that runs from my camera to my laptop, downloading each frame automatically.
A softbox gives you more light control than an umbrella so you can light one side of a face and the light will gently fall off the other side.
When the details of your shot really matter, this technique will let you see your shots on a much larger screen. With this better view of your images you can work out what needs changing as you shoot.
Grid spots A grid spot will give you a hard focused narrow light making it easy to place light in certain spots. Positioning can be a little challenging and you can create hard shadows if your angle isn’t quite right.
Beauty dish A beauty dish gives you hard light with noticeable falloff, which is great for beauty shots (hence the name, genius!) and body shots.
My software of choice for shooting and converting RAW files as I shoot is Capture One. Canon vs everyone else You will notice that this book talks about Canon gear and settings. That’s simply because I know Canon cameras so I am confident about what they can do. The gear you choose is really very personal. There are probably five or six reputable SLR brands to choose from. You are considering a big investment so it’s well worth researching each brand and if you can, testing a few out. There is an incredibly generous and amazing community of photography bloggers who love to compare cameras. You can get loads of information about price and quality comparisons of many cameras. The Gear | My gear
The Three Amigos of Photography
Shutter Speed (Fast) Aperture (Strong)
Now it’s time to discuss the relationship between aperture, ISO and shutter speed. This is where a lot of people get confused about photography. This is exactly where I got confused during those early lectures on photography, but it’s really not that complicated. I promise.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”– Albert Einstein
The Three Amigos of Photography | Intro
Step 1: Choose your ISO based on the available light ISO is a rating that measures the sensitivity of the camera to light, so the less light there is the more sensitive your camera needs to be.
ISO Quick Guide
Use a lower ISO setting when you have bright light because you don’t need to allow as much time to let light into the camera. A low ISO setting is great for studio shots with lighting, or outside on a bright sunny day.
ISO of 400 is a good choice for overcast days, early mornings and early evenings.
Use a higher ISO setting in low light situations so that you allow more time to let light into the camera. Low light usually happens early in the morning, early evening, night, and when you’re indoors.
ISO of 100 is a good choice for a bright sunny day or for studio shots with added lighting.
ISO of 400+ is a good choice for night shoots or dimly lit interiors. Remember, the higher your ISO the grainer your image will be. I prefer my portraits to have minimal grain and so unless I’m shooting at night or it’s a studio session, I always try to shoot using 100 or 400 ISO. The graininess of your image is a personal preference and is part of what makes your style your own. If you love the look of a grainy image, do it!
The Three Amigos of Photography | Step 1
Step 2: Decide how you want your shot to look The next decision is how you want your background to look. Do you want a blurry background or a sharp background? The aperture determines the look of the shot so you simply choose the aperture setting to match! F2.8 (blurry background) and a very fast shutter speed (1/640th sec) F32 (sharp background) very, very slow shutter speed (1/5th sec)
When you are photographing one person, you can shoot as wide open as you like because it’s easy to focus on their eyes. The term wide open refers to shooting with a lower aperture setting, creating a shorter depth of field and a blurrier background. As soon as you introduce more people into the frame, you need to carefully consider your aperture and depth of field, because if they’re not on exactly the same focal plane someone will be out of focus.
How blurry the background is will also depend on how close you are to the subject and how long your lens is. A 200mm lens is going to give you a blurrier background than a 50mm lens because it magnifies the blur more. When you are composing your portrait, it’s important to always focus on the eyes.
The Three Amigos of Photography | Step 2
This series of shots shows you how F-stop (or aperture) relates to shutter speed while holding the ISO setting constant. I photographed my model in exactly the same position using my Canon 1DS Mk III’s in-built light meter, 70-200mm F2.8 L series lens at a focal length of 200mm. ISO was selected at 400 because it was a very dark overcast day. In image #1 you will notice that my F-stop is 2.8. Using my camera’s in-built meter I adjusted my shutter speed dial until my light meter indicated 0 (which indicates the correct exposure for the light and skin tone). I worked my way through all the F-stops simply selecting shutter speed based on the camera’s light meter indicator being at zero.
The Three Amigos of Photography | Step 2
Step 3: Select your shutter speed And finally, you select your shutter speed based on what your cameraâ€™s light meter tells you. To select the right shutter speed simply adjust the speed until your light meter pointer hits the middle zero.
Slower shutter speed allows more light, more movement
Faster shutter speed, less light, freezes motion
1sec* * 1/2 * * 1/4 * * 1/8 * * 1/15 * * 1/30 * * 1/60 * *1/125 * * 1/250 * * 1/500 * * 1/1000 * * 1/2000
The numbers in red represent 1 stop. I took a photo of my lens cap whilst it was spinning at different shutter speeds to illustrate the difference. Image 1 is at 1/30th sec (not fast enough to stop motion) Image 2 is shot at 1/125th sec (motion is stopped but there is still blur around the edges) Image 3 is shot at 1/500th sec (motion is stopped and image is sharp)
The Three Amigos of Photography | Step 3
But my image is all blurry There are a few reasons why your image may be blurry. 1. The shot is actually out of focus. The first thing you should check! 2. Motion blur occurs when the subject of portrait moves and the shutter couldn’t open and close fast enough to freeze the motion. To avoid motion blur I shoot with a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th of a second, but you might be able to shoot at 1/30th of a second. 3. Camera shake occurs when you move. I struggle to hold my 1DS Mk III and a 70-200mm steady because they are heavy. In fact, after carrying this big boy around all day I can barely lift it! This is one of the main reasons I don’t shoot under 1/60th of a second. To avoid camera shake use a tripod (or start working out). This is the perfect example of why a tripod is so useful and as a general rule, I always use a tripod when my shutter speed is under 1/125th of a second. If you’re shooting a scene that isn’t going to move, like a landscape, you can have a very slow shutter speed without the same complications.
This is a great example of the beautiful effects you can get in landscapes using a very slow shutter speed. This is an image I shot in Paris last year.
That’s it! Well it’s a great starting point. Once you feel more confident with these elements you may want to do some more research.
The Three Amigos of Photography | Step 3
Available light is an incredibly quick and efficient way of working and can give you some great lighting scenarios. But it does have its limitations when it comes to shooting portraits. If the background is backlit but there isn’t enough light hitting your sitter’s face their eyes will be almost black and their skin tone will be dull. Introducing some ‘fill flash’ will help you fill in and brighten skin tones without making your sitter look like a startled rabbit caught in a spotlight. The trick is in knowing when you do need more light, how much light to introduce and how to shape that light to give you the desired effect. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started using fill flash was using too much of it, too evenly. My images looked like studio shots that had the background added in post-production. There have also been times when I have automatically added fill flash to a shot and realized later (when it’s too late) that the shot would have looked better using the available light. You have to find the right balance. The next two sections walk you through some basics when using your camera’s light meter and a hand-held light meter before I share some of my tricks for getting your lighting just right.
Actor Lachy Hulme/courtesy Nine Network.
The Lights | Intro
Understanding your camera’s light meter If you’re using your camera’s light meter you will get a choice about which setting to use. Most cameras take light readings based on three different formulas. The one you choose depends on what you are photographing. There are basically three different light metering modes in SLR cameras. Each camera brand uses slightly different terminology for their camera metering systems. Because I used a Canon, I use the Canon terms but there are plenty of resources available to help you find out what your camera settings are called.
1. C enter weighted metering Center weighted metering measures the light from the whole scene but places more emphasis on the center. Hence the name – center weighted. Genius. This is a good mode to use for portraits as it reads the area around the center of the frame, right where your portrait subject will be. Centre weighted metering also compensates for brightly lit backgrounds.
2. Spot metering Spot metering takes a single reading from a small area in the center of the frame. This is a good mode if you need to get an accurate light reading from a small area on a brightly lit plane, like a backlit couple walking in the distance.
3. Matrix metering Matrix metering divides your image into segments and takes a reading based on the average of brightest to darkest. This is a good all rounder to choose and I use matrix metering as a starting point for my daylight shoots.
Who’s the boss? Like my coffee machine that made weak short blacks, your camera’s metering system has been programed to be an average of the overall scene. The good news is that you can override the way your camera takes light readings. Use the camera’s light meter as your starting point then adjust your settings to create the look you want to achieve.
The Lights | Understanding your camera’s light meter
Understanding a hand-held meter 1. Set your ISO (that you want to shoot at) on the light meter 2. Set your aperture/F-stop on the light meter 3. Set light meter to ambient 4. Hold light meter in front of your face and point sensor dome to camera 5. Press button to take reading 6. Readings will display:
a. Shutter speed b. F-stop reading
The reading of the light reflecting off your sitter is called an incident reading and it’s the most accurate reading you can get. The reading will give you the ’correct‘ skin tone but I don’t think this is necessarily the nicest skin tone. I explain that in more detail in the next section, so stay tuned! This example shows how to use a Minolta hand-held meter. There are plenty of different brands on the market and they all generally follow a very similar formula.
The Lights | Using a hand-held meter
Balancing daylight and flash “Balance is beautiful.”– Miyoko Ohno Taking a reading in ambient light is a crucial first step to every shot. Step 1. Take a light reading and then take a test frame using only the ambient light. Step 2. Ask yourself if the fill flash will add anything of value to the shot, or will it detract from it? If you just want to replicate natural daylight but make your sitter’s skin tones a bit brighter, simply match your fill flash to your ambient reading. You can also add anywhere between ¼ and ½ F-stop to your aperture setting. Each situation will be different and it’s a matter of experimenting to see if you like the results.
You need to shoot at the exposure that’s right for the skin tone reading. You are looking at the quality of light, the brightness of the skin tone and good catch light in your sitter’s eyes. The next section shares my tips on creating a beautiful, even skin tone. More often than not, everything you need is there and you simply need to adjust the position of your sitter or your equipment.
Choose your location wisely When choosing a spot to shoot you should always look for the best light possible. If you’re ever faced with a choice between awesome light with an average background or an amazing background with poor light – always pick awesome light. How to add more light You add light in a number of ways. A cheap and easy way of adding light is to use a bounce board to bounce the sunlight into your sitter’s face. Don’t get too close though, otherwise you can introduce too much light.
The Lights | Balancing Daylight and Flash
Shooting with flash off camera After taking the ambient reading, if you do decide to add some flash your light meter lets you take a reading of the flash hitting your sitter. This information is critical in setting up your shot so it’s worth taking your time over (before your sitter arrives though, right?).
Using a hand-held light meter with added flash 1. Adjust power setting of your flash. Start on lower setting of 1/16th or 1/8th power so you don’t add too much flash to begin with. An overcast day only needs 1/8th power as opposed to a sunny day that needs more flash. Introduce just enough flash to brighten up the skin tone by ½ – 1 stop. 2. S et the mode on the light meter depending on whether you’re using a remote trigger or a sync cord. 3. Fire your camera flash while aiming your light meter at your camera. 4. F or beautiful skin tones, your aperture (F-stop) reading should be approximately ½ – 1 stop over your ambient reading. There is more information about beautiful skin tones in the next section Beauty is only one stop away.
The Lights | Shooting with flash off camera
Shaping your flash This image just uses the flash without any light shapers. The additional flash really brings her eyes out but you can see the hard shadows created. When you add a light shaper you create a softer light. You still get the beautiful catch lights.
An umbrella is a good light shaper as itâ€™s quite generous and forgiving. On the downside, umbrellas will overlight your shot, spilling light onto the background. They are also tricky to use in windy weather Iâ€™ve had countless lights blown over while using these!
The Lights | Shooting with flash off camera
Flash with a small softbox.
Flash with a large softbox.
The Lights | Shooting with flash off camera
Beautiful skin is only 1 stop away Nobody is ever going to look at their portrait and say, “Wow I love how detailed my skin tone is! You can see every blemish, pore and imperfection. Thank you so much!” Your camera’s light meter takes an average of your sitter’s skin tone. The problem is that the correct metering for your sitter’s skin tone will also capture way too much detail. I believe that skin tone is possibly the most important element of a portrait but not everyone you photograph is going to have perfect skin tone. So you need to know how to compensate.
My secret is over-exposure I always over-expose my portraits by at least ½-1 of an F-stop (on the aperture setting) because I don’t want to capture every single detail across the face. It’s a lot more flattering and your portrait subject will thank you. If you love the look of skin that’s super saturated and detailed, then go for it! This is a personal preference that will become part of your signature style.
So what do I mean when I say that I expose my portraits by at least ½ to 1 F-stop? To over-expose your image, start by selecting your ISO and aperture settings before you adjust your shutter speed to be at 0 (Steps 1, 2 and 3 of the Three Amigos). Then decrease your shutter speed until your dial is positioned halfway between 0 and +1.
Correct exposure as shown in ‘in camera’ meter
Over-exposed by +1 as shown in ‘in camera’ meter
You can also over- (or under-) expose your image using your aperture setting. For example, if your camera meter reading is F5.6 @ 1/125th second, you will capture less detail if you shoot at 1/60th of second at 5.6. OR
The general idea is to keep your skin tone as bright as possible without losing the detail in the rest of the shot. You need to keep an eye on any area in the image that’s white or light in tone. Say for example you were photographing a blonde haired girl wearing a white t-shirt who was backlit. If I over-expose her skin tone by 1 F-stop it means her t-shirt and the parts of her hair lit by sun will be over-exposed. You will not see any detail in whites or highlights such as texture in fabric or detail in hair. The only way to compensate for this lighting imbalance is to shoot for the highlights and introduce fill flash to brighten up her skin tone. Beware! Check your images as you shoot, making sure you aren’t over-exposing too much. If you over-expose your shot by more than 2 F-stops, there are no postproduction tricks to save the shot. This is particularly applicable if you are shooting in JPEG. Another very good reason to shoot RAW!
You can keep the shutter speed at 1/125th and use an aperture of F4. The Lights | Beautiful skin is only 1 stop away
Let’s see it in action These shots were taken on an overcast day and my model Alice was standing in open shade.
This shot uses the camera light meter in matrix mode.
The same shot over-exposed by 1 F-stop.
The camera has given an average reading of all the areas in the shot. This shot is perfectly fine with nice detail in the eyes; detail in the highlights of her hair and a nice even skin tone.
The shot has a much brighter appearance without compromising the crucial factors such as tone in the highlight areas and detail in skin tones.
Now let’s see what happens if we over-expose by 1 F-stop. To do this we take our original settings of F4 @ 1/250 and increase our exposure by 1 F-stop. You can do this by: • Changing your aperture setting by 1 F-stop, from F4 to F2.8 OR • Adjusting your shutter speed stop from 1/250th of a second to 1/125th of a second The Lights | Beautiful skin is only 1 stop away
The next three images show the effects on eyes, skin tones and highlights when the image is over-exposed by 2 F-stops, then under-exposed by -1 F-stops and -2 F-stops.
Ambient light reading showing exposure -1. Highlights are no longer visible. Her skin tone looks dull and there isnâ€™t much detail visible in her eyes.
Ambient light reading showing exposure +2. Highlights are blown out and there is no sense of texture. There is still a nice amount of detail in the eyes but the blacks are starting to look grey and her skin tone is too bright leaving her looking washed out.
Ambient light reading showing exposure -2. Highlights are dull. Her skin tone looks very dull without much contrast at all and there is almost no detail visible in her eyes.
Quick tips Here are some quick tips to help you get the best shot in all kinds of scenarios.
Shooting close up Daylight, through a window, is great for up close headshots. The only time this type of light isn’t reliable is when it’s really dull and overcast. If the light is too flat you won’t get enough contrast across your sitter’s face. If the light is too bright you will have a lot of contrast, which can cause harsh shadows on the face. You can soften the light by sticking tracing paper to the window or hanging light, white fabric. To get your sitter’s eyes sharp while the rest of the photo takes on a dreamy quality, use a really short depth of field (a low F-stop) and focus right on the eyeball. When you have more than one sitter, unless you can direct them to keep their eyes on the same focal plane, I recommend you create a longer depth of field (by choosing a slower shutter speed and higher aperture).
I photographed veteran Australian actor Gary Sweet in my studio for The Movie Network. ©2011 Boilermaker-Burberry Entertainment Pty Ltd – used with permission.
Shooting in daylight The closer to midday you shoot (11am – 2pm), the harder the light becomes giving you more contrast in your shadows. Those shadows can be great if you want to enhance your sitter’s body shape and muscles but you may want to use a reflector of some description to combat any hard shadows on their face. Squinting is a common challenge when shooting in bright sunlight. You can help your sitter by letting them keep their eyes closed until you shoot and only shooting a frame or two at a time, or getting them to look at something dark just before you take the shot. If you can, position your sitter undercover as close as possible to the edge of the covered area. This will let the bright sunlight bounce into their eyes, creating beautiful catch light, without having the challenges of direct sunlight.
I photographed model Tegan Steel on location using a styrofoam board held in place by two light stands.
Right: Model Mallory Janson/Brooklyn Bridge – New York, Sept 10, 2011. malloryjansen.blogspot.com.au
Shooting on a cloudy or rainy day Overcast or rainy days used to cancel my shoots. In recent years I’ve realized that rain can create some very beautiful light, introducing highlights and reflections into an otherwise boring background.
A portrait doesn’t have to be obvious or have someone looking at the camera smiling. I photographed this image as I was leaving a café in the meat packing district of New York. My original intention was to only photograph the Madonna mural but I think the man with the umbrella really makes the shot.
Right: I took this photo on a trip to Madrid and it’s one of my favorites from 2012. When I look at this image I want to know all about them. Who are they? Where are they going? Are they sisters? Or friends?
You can buy raincoats for your camera and they are good to have in your kit bag if you think you’ll be out in the weather. You could do the same with a plastic bag. Cloudy days give you flat, even lighting to shoot in so you can capture details in your highlights and details in your shadows. The best way to tell if you have flat light is by looking for shadows. Hard light produces a lot of well-defined shadows whereas flat light gives you no shadow at all. Flat light can be great because it gives you detail in shadows and detail in highlights, but it can look a little dull.
Shooting on location Every location has some ugly corners so it pays to get on location before your shoot and find out where you need to be to capture the best view. As part of your preparation you should test your settings and your angles so when the shoot starts you’re good to go. Remember to always be respectful of other people’s property and their privacy, even when you’re in a public location. If you are in a café or restaurant let people know they will be in the background of your shot and make sure they don’t mind.
Shoot under eaves (such as those found in shopping strips) when it’s raining. The light will bounce in while you are covered and dry.
And if you want to use specific equipment but you don’t want to pay any excess baggage, look at hiring it locally. The Lights | Quick tips
Inspiration “Every artist was first an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson The first images I shot were the same clichéd images everyone does when they are starting out. It doesn’t really matter what you shoot when you start out. What’s important is that you experiment and learn from each shot to develop your own style. Record how your shot is planned along with any experimentation, then after the shoot reflect on the results – making notes about what worked, what didn’t work and what you might do differently next time.
I am inspired by art Particularly DaVinci’s Last Supper, Michelangelo’s David, and the art of Monet and Rodin.
The Last Supper, ca.1520, by Giampietrino (PD-Art).
A good portrait doesn’t have to be a look to camera and a smile, giving you the perfect opportunity to recreate some of your favorite images. When I get a brief from a client, I love to spend some time thinking about what kind of mood I can create to show them off in the best possible way.
Promotional shoot I did for Melbourne restaurant Fog pays homage to DaVinci’s Last Supper. The Moves | Inspiration
This was a promotional shoot for the Underbelly television series, also loosely based on last supper theme. Because the filming schedule was so tight, I had just 15 minutes to get this shot. They all came through the doors in character and it was just fantastic to shoot. Image courtesy Nine Network Australia. The Moves | Inspiration
I am inspired by movies Some of my favorite movies include… La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini Moulin Rouge & Romeo and Juliet by Baz Luhrmann Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese Reservoir Dogs by Quentin Tarantino The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola Unbearable Lightness of Being by Philip Kaufman Fight Club by David Fincher American Beauty by Sam Mendes
The opening scene in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs inspired this promotional shoot for Channel Nine’s The Footy Show. It had to be quick so I drew on one of my favorite go-to poses. This works for almost any group shot. Image courtesy Nine Network Australia.
Sin City by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder Two Women by Vittorio De Sica
The Moves | Inspiration
I am inspired by popular culture
I am inspired by other photographers Some of my favorites are: Herb Ritts Cindy Sherman Annie Leibowitz Henri Cartier Bresson Man Ray Yousuf Karsh Dan Winters Robert Mapplethorpe Helmut Newton Philippe Halsman Arnold Newman
I’ve always loved the classic image ‘Lunch atop a skyscraper’ and jumped at the chance to create a parody version for Channel Nine’s The Footy Show. Image courtesy Nine Network Australia.
Mark Seliger So what does it all mean for you?
The Moves | Inspiration
Organize your inspiration
Share the love
A visual diary lets you collate your ideas, designs, thoughts and inspiration. It could be a book or a journal, it could be a directory on your computer or it could be a wall in your home or studio.
Online sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Flickr give you the perfect forum to be inspired but they also let you inspire others by sharing your own work.
Whenever you see a theme, lighting or pose that you like, add it to your visual diary. Study the work of other photographers; look through magazines and newspapers and watch movies, always keeping your mind open to inspiration. Use your phone’s camera to store images of locations. Whenever I stumble across a location I think would be great to shoot, I take a shot and store the details for later reference. Spend time thinking about the styles and images you like, and don’t like, and why.
When you comment on the work of other photographers you open the door to expanding your professional network. Find mentors you can learn from and peers you can share with – and I don’t just mean online. Get offline and meet people. Sharing the love is good for everyone and the more you share, the more people will share with you.
Shoot other stuff… just because In the last few years I started taking my camera on holidays. I have always been loath to do this because a camera usually meant I was working. On a trip to Italy I shot from the heart, just for the love of it. I was not catering to any clients and had no agenda. I don’t think I’ve ever felt freer or happier in my life. I shot every single day but only when I felt like it. When the pressure is off and you have the time to be creative, you can experiment with different styles and locations. It’s in these moments that you might stumble across a particular light or setting that becomes part of your signature style. The images I took on that trip are incredibly special to me.
This bike image I took in Milan, Italy was the start of my obsession with photographing vintage bikes. The Moves | Inspiration
Images from LaCasa. www.lacasaristorante.com.au
Finallyâ€Ś What inspires you will ultimately become a part of your personal style. Right now, you may not know what your own style is. Thatâ€™s ok. Be patient and just keep shooting things that inspire you. Eventually all the quirky little things that are unique to you will start influencing your images.
The Moves | Inspiration
Preparation Regardless of why you are taking a portrait, whether it’s for a friend or a professional shot, you should always take a professional approach. Once your sitter arrives you need to give them your complete focus, so it’s really important you do as much preparation as possible before the shoot. It will make your life easier on the day and you’ll end up with much better shots. Trust me.
Before you shoot…
Test different settings
Get to know your sitter
Your pre-shoot is the time to experiment testing different apertures, shutter speeds, and camera angles.
Try to meet your sitter a week or so before the shoot. This gives you a great opportunity to break the ice and develop a rapport. Find out what they want to get out of the shoot, how they will be using the images and what inspires them. This is where a visual diary comes in handy because you can easily and quickly get their thoughts on poses and styles you are thinking of using in your shoot. You can also walk them through how the shoot will progress to get them familiar with the process. Get to know your location If you are shooting on location, make time to visit the location at the same time of day. You’ll see the available light and the best spots to shoot from. Take a friend to test your settings on or try using a styrofoam head on a light stand.
When your sitter arrives on set, they will already be feeling nervous and vulnerable. Subjecting them to 15 minutes of testing is a bad idea for two reasons: 1. If you are unsure about your settings, then testing under pressure will make you appear even more uncertain. Nothing evaporates good rapport quite like the suspicion that you don’t know what you’re doing. 2. Testing your lighting and settings under pressure may force you to make mistakes. When you’re prepared for your shoot, you will be able to position your sitter and be ready to start shooting within 3 frames. You might make small adjustments but the lighting and settings should be good to use.
Celebrity make-up artist Fotini Hatzis and I on location planning a photo shoot. The Moves | Preparation
All my best shots have been afterthoughts Once you’ve got the shot and your sitter feels like the hottest rock star in town, you’ve hi-fived each other and swapped superlatives, then you can experiment. Allow 15-20 mins at the end of the shoot to have a play. It’s in those moments, when you’re relaxed and your sitter is relaxed, that you might just produce the shot of the year.
This is my styrofoam mannequin, Wayne. I put him on a light stand to test exposure and background.
Here is the final image that Wayne was my stand in for. This image of Daniel Macpherson was taken using daylight from a large bank of frosted glass windows that were directly behind me. The image was shot at 1/30th of a second to allow some motion blur which gives the image a really nice feel. Canon 1DS Mk II 70-200mm IS L series Aperture set to F2.8 ISO 400
The Moves | Preparation
Direction “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius Step away from the clichés
You need to know how to pose
Whenever people give me directions about how to get from one place to another I listen very carefully. I give them my full attention right up until they actually start speaking at which point my mind switches off. I don’t know why. I just can’t listen to instructions. If, on the other hand, you were to show me a map and describe visual markers along the way I would not only understand, I would remember.
Practice posing to learn which positions will flatter a body and which shapes look good from different angles. Or be a model for another photographer and experience what it’s like to be directed by someone else.
The lesson here is that everyone learns differently. Some people listen, some people need to be shown, some people need to do it. You need to know that before you start giving directions to your sitter.
Then explain the pose in different ways. 1. Get in there and do the pose for them. Show them what you want. 2. Explain it to them at the same time. 3. Then get your sitter to do the pose before you start shooting. This is not only the quickest and most effective way to get your sitter into the pose, it helps you develop a rapport. Once your sitter knows how nice the pose looks on you (and realizes they won’t look foolish), they will be much happier to do what you’re asking.
If you’ve ever tried to give directions to someone through a mirror image you will know it usually ends up sounding something like this, “turn your head right….no right….I mean my right…. your other right”. Everyone ends up confused, including you. Using visual markers is much clearer. In the same scenario your directions would then be like this: “Turn your head to gaze outside the window. Now turn your head towards the blue wall and look to the sign in the corner of the room.” So much simpler! Give people positive feedback when they’re doing the right thing. It’s classic positive reinforcement but it works. Ignore the bad and praise the good. Talking to your sitter will keep them relaxed so they don’t worry about what you’re thinking behind the camera (because that’s exactly what they’re worrying about).
Once you have your sitter posed and you are back behind the camera, use visual cues rather than verbal cues. The Moves | Direction
“A photograph is just a tiny slice of a subject. A piece of them in a moment. It seems presumptuous to think you can get more than that.” – Annie Leibovitz Directing tricks One size does not fit all Your visual diary will help you identify the poses that you love. It’s also useful to have some go-to poses you can use to kick the shoot off and get your sitter into the mood. It’s really important to choose poses that fit your sitter. Trying to foist a particular style and attitude onto the shoot is a short cut to your sitter looking and feeling uncomfortable. Most great portrait photographers are masters at letting their sitter’s personality come through in their shots.
“You can’t hide your lying eyes.” – The Eagles Everything you think about is mirrored in your eyes. I actually notice this in the eyes of women more than men. Even if you’ve nailed the pose, the lighting, and the location, an insincere smile or eyes that lack emotion can ruin your shot. The Moves | Direction
How do you get your sitter to switch off? While you can’t actually stop your sitter from thinking, you can direct them to a better headspace to reduce any negative thought patterns. Go through a visualization technique, asking them to recount their favorite holiday or the happiest moment in their life. You’ll need to choose the right scenario for your sitter but this simple technique can give their eyes and expression just the right amount of sparkle. Ask your sitter to look away from the camera, and then back again after each frame. This is especially useful on a long shoot as it distracts your sitter long enough to give them fresh, thoughtful eyes for each shot. Make small variations on the pose to make it a little more interesting, such as asking your sitter to make their smile bigger or smaller.
Just keep talking Some people are easy and give you the shot really quickly. Other people are more wound up and need more work to relax. That’s your job. I talk continuously through my shoots. I tell stories and jokes and pile on praise and encouragement. Whatever it takes to keep my sitter relaxed and engaged. Keep your eyes open for the moment they drop the ‘pose face’. It usually happens between shots.
What to talk about during a shoot Even if we don’t like to admit it, everyone loves to talk about themself and you can use this to your advantage. Ask questions and let your sitter tell you their story. Your sitter will know if you’re being insincere so it’s important that you become genuinely interested in what they’re telling you. You might just learn something about them that proves to be useful for your shoot, for example what music they love.
Australian television host Livinia Nixon/image courtesy Nine Network Australia.
“If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.”– Turkish proverb The Moves | Direction
The poses When I was starting out as a portrait photographer, I began creating my visual diary and mimicking the scenes I loved. Some people will tell you that it’s wrong to copy but for centuries, every generation of artist has imitated the masters before them. Once they’ve mastered the technique they move on to develop their own style. Photography is no different. You don’t have to come up with a thousand new ways to pose someone. Use the ways that work for you and your sitter. Here are some of the most common poses you’ll see in portrait photography. Once you know them you will be able to look at almost any portrait and see how the sitter is positioned.
The contrapposto (or S) pose This is one of my go-to poses. It’s a great starting point for both men and women because it’s flattering for almost any body shape and doesn’t require any special props or locations. Contestants on project Runway Australia S1 and 2.
The Moves | The poses
Lean on me (or working the wall) This is a particularly good pose for people who are really awkward. Some people have a real awareness of their body and they will always look comfortable, but itâ€™s not as easy as that for others. Simply giving your sitter something to do, like leaning against the wall, can be enough to relax them.
Australian singer Kate Ceberano/image courtesy Nine Network Australia. Right: Reality TV contestant David Graham.
Work that chair Posing on and around a chair is tricky to do well because people can look squat and awkward. But like leaning against a wall, a chair can give your sitter something to do even if it’s just sitting. Start collecting props like chairs and stools in different styles, shapes, and sizes. Fabric and fake flowers are great for instant backgrounds. I have a growing collection of suitcases, which are an amazing prop, and a few vintage cameras for people to look down into. It’s also useful to have some clothes you can offer your sitter, just in case what they’re wearing isn’t quite right. You don’t have to keep an entire wardrobe on standby but it can be useful to have some basic white t-shirts, a good jacket, and some jewelry.
Media personality Eddie McGuire/ image courtesy Nine Network Australia.
The Moves | The poses
Get into the front seat
The old ‘over the shoulder’ pose
A car is another great prop. On a bright sunny day, the shade of a car will give you great light and again, your sitter will have something to do to help them relax.
When you flick through a celebrity gossip magazine it becomes clear that more than a few actresses have this as their red carpet go-to pose, repeating it over and over again.
I photographed actor Kym Valentine in her vintage Mercedes.
I photographed singer Jade Crave in my studio.
This won’t work for men and you shouldn’t overuse it.
I photographed media personality Suzie on location in Melbourne. Suzie Wilks/image courtesy Nine Network Australia.
The Moves | The poses
A leap of faith As with many of the other poses mentioned, if someone is awkward simply standing, giving them something to do can really bring the photo to life. Itâ€™s not always easy but you can introduce some life and movement into the person and their clothes by getting them to jump or leap.
Left: I photographed this model leaping in designer couture for fashion designer Helen Manuell. Right: A promo shoot I did for DJs curse The Machine.
Take it lying down You have to be a little careful with the lying down pose. It’s a very sexy pose and it won’t suit every sitter or situation.
What do you do with hands? Once you get someone into position then it’s time to work out the details, like what they should do with their hands. If you have someone sitting down, a great way to relax their hands (and distract them while you shoot) is to get them to pretend to twist a ring on the little finger. I photographed television personality Sonia Kruger on location in Melbourne.
The Moves | The poses
Things you should try to avoid When in the middle of a shoot there are so many things to keep track of. Here are some things you should always keep in your checklist of things to check as you go.
Are there creases in their clothes?
Does it look like there is something growing out of the back of their head?
Is there lint?
This caught me up on my first editorial shoot for a national magazine. I didn’t notice elements of the background were positioned really awkwardly until it was too late. Way too late.
Lapels that are up when they should be down, zippers down when they should be up.
I learnt a great trick from film and television stylists for removing lint and that’s to use gaffer tape or sticky tape wrapped inside out around your hand. I keep a roll in my car for last minute lint emergencies! Are there any missing limbs?
Is there hair across their face? It’s easy to get so caught up in the beautiful lighting, poses and expressions that you completely fail to notice the hair across one eye or sticking up to the side. Hair is very difficult to ‘fix in post production’ so I recommend you save yourself a lot of heartache and check the sitter’s hair as you shoot.
You might have tucked limbs underneath the body and while it seems ok when you look at it, when you take the shot it looks like they are suddenly missing an arm or leg.
Are they resting their head in their hands? If you have your sitter with their head in their hands (and it’s a tricky pose to get right) be careful that your sitter isn’t distorting their face by putting weight on their hands. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? The shots you see in magazines are often worked on by dozens of people including the photographers, assistants, stylists, and retouchers and they all spend hours getting the shot just right.
Are you foreshortening any limbs? Perspective is really important and you can make limbs look much bigger than they should be when you place them closer to the camera. Most people will not thank you for giving them massive hands.
The Moves | Things you should try to avoid
Dealing with difficult situations (and sitters) In case of emergency: break glass Difficult situations happen. You won’t avoid them altogether so it’s good to be prepared. In reality, you won’t ever be 100% ready so it’s useful to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are a few I’ve developed over the years to deal with difficult situations (and sitters).
Is it them? …. Or is it you? Before you begin your shoot you need to check your mood. Are you grumpy? Tired? Unenthusiastic? The energy you bring to the shoot is going to have a huge effect on your sitter. You should always walk into a shoot feeling confident, and preparation is critical. Take the necessary steps to ensure your lighting, location, poses, and camera settings are all worked out before your sitter arrives.
Assuming you have done everything possible to be prepared, there are a few common scenarios that may prove difficult.
What to do when… Your sitter is really nervous Even the most beautiful person in the world can feel vulnerable in front of the camera and a lot of people really hate having their photos taken. I have seen people visibly shaking, some people get facial twitches or perspire, some people won’t stop talking or they behave like jerks to cover up their nervousness.
Give your sitter the opportunity and time to ease into the shoot. Even though you are ready, it might take 15-20 frames before they relax. In time you will begin to recognize the exact frame when they start to let go. Be patient. Use this time to chat but keep shooting so they become desensitized to the sound of the shutter and the flash. Take them to a place they love. The mind is unable to differentiate between real or imagined so I often get my sitters to visualize and describe their ideal holiday destination.
Everyone has baggage. They might be having a flat day or it could be something deeper but you need to be sensitive to how people feel and never dismiss their fears.
The Moves | Dealing with difficult situations (and sitters)
You’re photographing children To the photographers who specialize in children’s photography – I salute you. Photographing children is not easy because the window of opportunity is very small. Children under five years of age don’t respond to traditional techniques and their natural intuition flags insincerity. Work quickly. Get to work as soon as the child walks in the door so you can take advantage of the shock of the new environment. I photographed this sweet little girl in the gorgeous Italian resort of Viareggio.
Never let the child know you are remotely interested in taking their picture. As soon as they figure that out, they may start misbehaving or posing for the camera. If I’m photographing a child who is 2-4 years old, and they start being difficult, I introduce them to the fairy that lives on my lens.
Her name is * insert name*
Can you see her?
This little trick has saved dozens of shoots when toddlers were being utter divas.
By the time children are 5-11 years old, they are usually awesome to work with. If I do have a diva, I know it’s just an attention-seeking ploy and I call their bluff. I tell them it’s ok to leave the set if they don’t want to do the shoot, and then I ignore them. Within five minutes, they have had enough of being left out and we can get back to work. This actually works on some models and celebrities too. Bribing, begging, and scolding never work and will actually make the situation worse. Between the ages of 13 and 16 everything sucks, including you. I’ve found a really low-key approach works best.
Left: I photographed these two gorgeous kids as part of a Valentine’s Day campaign for an advertising agency. The Moves | Dealing with difficult situations (and sitters)
You have a stage mom
Sometimes, there can be no survivors
I’ve met some beautiful moms and dads in my time. Supportive, generous, and respectful, they are a joy to have on set. Then there is the stage mom. They will try to tell you how to direct the shoot, or take photos with their own camera (setting off your flashes in the process) and generally direct all attention back to them. Their children are often on the end of some heartbreaking comments. When I spot a stage mom I immediately ban them from the set. I often direct them to a local café or make them wait in the car. Remember, it’s your shoot.
As in life, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. You will come across clients who you won’t be able to work with. Your energy might not match, your style might not suit. They might dislike themselves so much that nothing you do for them will ever be good enough. They might just be jerks. Whatever the reason, it’s not going to work. Ideally, you’ll realize during that first meeting. This is why meeting your sitter in person – or at least chatting to them over the phone – is so important. Those meetings have helped me recognize these clients and avoid them. Trust your instincts. If the work has already begun, I offer full refunds rather than persisting with a shoot that isn’t working. It’s not worth the stress, or the anguish.
The Moves | Dealing with difficult situations (and sitters)
Hair and make-up tips by Fotini Hatzis Professional hair and makeup artist www.Fotinihatzis.com
Doing make-up for professional photographs is a little different to everyday make-up. The importance of application, products and attention to detail define the end result.
Hair Freshly washed hair is usually too soft and silky for styling so I always advise my models to have their hair washed the night before a shoot. The natural oils produced will make the hair easier to mold, and keep the style better.
Apply your make-up in natural light Having good lighting is essential to great make-up. Natural light provides for less shadow and less opportunity for make-up mishaps, the most common being using a foundation that is too light or too dark for the skin tone.
Blending is key The camera will pick up obvious lines such as badly blended eye shadow or contouring so blending is one of the most important techniques a make-up artist can learn. Pay particular attention to blending your foundation around the hairline and chin and neck to avoid creating a mask effect. For male models, go over their ears with foundation to make sure you are blending all the areas that you are covering.
The secret of the highlighter To add a radiant glow, apply a highlighter or luminizer on the cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, the Cupidâ€™s bow and brow bone. Some gentle highlighting will also bring a soft sheer wash of color to the skin.
Body make-up Body make-up will give you an even finish from head to toe depending on what areas your model is baring. Applying body make-up also gives that extra finish to the skin tone and having a good base to begin with is important to the end result. I recommend Mac face & body foundation.
Bat those pretty eyelashes False eyelashes are the best way to brighten up those blues, glorify those greens or make those brown eyes pop out. They are the showstopper for the eyes and I use them in 95% of my work. I give fake lashes a more natural look by finishing them with a coat of mascara over the top.
Letâ€™s get into the mood Communicating the vision using a mood board is the easiest way for everyone involved in the shoot to have the direction they need. A mood board can help ensure that everyone is on the same page with color palette, styling, hair, make-up and direction. The Moves | Hair and make-up tips
Styling tips for a portrait shoot by Colette Werden
My top six styling tips for a portrait shoot are:
Personal stylist and image specialist www.facebook.com/Colette.Werden
Yves Saint Laurent said it best, “I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.” When it comes to styling for a portrait shoot, the clothing’s role is to bring the model to life. When your model’s clothes, hair and makeup are aligned with their personality, the portrait will capture their true essence and move it from mediocre to compelling. Remember, the camera lens will add a few kilograms to your model’s figure and every lump and bump will be highlighted if the fit and shape of the garments are compromised. Different body shapes need different styling techniques but most people will want a longer and leaner silhouette.
Shape and proportion
Women: Work towards highlighting an hourglass shape to create a softer, feminine silhouette. When it comes to proportion, the longer a woman’s legs look, the taller and leaner she’ll look. You ideally want to create the perception of ¼ torso, ¾ legs.
Necklines play a role in the perception of a long, lean figure and highlighting a person’s face. Avoid high necklines or accessories that cover most of the chest and neck.
Men: The fit of a garment across a man’s shoulders will determine how polished their outfit looks. Whether they are in a blazer, shirt or t-shirt, the stitching where the sleeves begin must sit on their shoulders. When the stitching line falls off their shoulders, it will make the top look like it’s too big for them. This tip is equally as important when styling women.
Horizontal necklines, like crew necks and boat necks, make shoulders look broader and busts larger. V-necks and scoop necks expose the décolletage and lengthen your model’s neck, creating the perception of approachability. These necklines are also good for women with larger breasts as they create a vertical line rather than width. If your model has an oval face, any collar style will work. Narrow point collars will help to thin and elongate a round face as well as soften a square angular face with a strong jaw line.
The Moves | Styling tips for a portrait shoot
Colors and pattern Some colors work beautifully in a portrait shoot to enhance the model’s personality and body shape. However, be mindful that what works in person looks completely different to the camera lens. It’s best to understand your model’s skin undertones and match colors to suit, especially around their face. The wrong colors will create dark or colored circles under your sitter’s eyes, mouth and chin, draining their natural color rather than illuminating it. Black and white are best avoided due to their high contrast. White is bright and having white as a base will force all other colors to be under-exposed. When black is the predominant value, more light will be needed to compensate for the black values which results in over-exposure of brighter colors.
Lengthening legs Cool blues, natural tones and pastels are easy on the eye and the camera lens too. You might be interested in researching the meaning of different colors, as many people believe that each color creates subconscious thoughts. Blue, for example, has a calming effect on the nervous system and is the color of communication. Research colors and their meanings and use these strategically to convey the model’s personality and intention. Fine patterns, stripes and herringbone prints create havoc for the camera lens. They cause what’s called a moire pattern and it looks like the pattern is ’swimming‘. Solid colors are best. However, if pattern is preferred, ensure the detailing is scattered far apart from each other. Also be mindful that horizontal stripes create width so reconsider using them on fuller, rounder, body shapes.
As mentioned above, the longer the legs, the taller and leaner a model’s body is perceived to be. The higher the waistline, the longer the legs appear so avoid low waist pants, hipster denim, and skirts that sit on the hips. You can maximize the lengthening effect by tucking a top into the waistband or ensuring it doesn’t hang too far below the waistband. If you are working with a longer style shirt, or tunic, use a waist belt to draw the eye back up (for a woman). If denim is appropriate choose a high-rise cut, avoid cuffing and any fading down the thigh. Solid, dark colors are best. Straight-legged denim is great for drawing a straight long line as the wider the leg, the shorter the legs will appear. Shoes are important too. For women, avoid straps around the ankle and opt for shoes that expose the dorsal (the top part of the foot). High heels are great for adding much needed length!
The Moves | Styling tips for a portrait shoot
Creating a slimmer stomach In general, dress the model in clothing that forces the eye to look up and down rather than side to side. When you do this the eye takes in more height than width, causing the model to appear thinner and taller. Stick with loose, flowing fabrics that do not hug the figure. Large blocks of solid color will draw the eye up and down rather than side to side.
If the model has a small waist, a belt or sash tied around the waistline will emphasize this narrowness and create a flattering slim silhouette. Stick with narrow belts over thick belts, and definitely avoid placing the belt around the hips as this draws a horizontal line around the widest part of the body. Avoid textured, heavy fabric around the midsection, and double breasted jackets as they create bulk. If you want extra help creating a shapely silhouette a body-shaper always does the trick!
Comfort is important When it comes to the overall look, ensure the modelâ€™s assets are highlighted, and their â€™problemâ€˜ areas are camouflaged. It will be hot underneath the lights, so where possible, avoid heavy fabrics and wool and choose light and breathable fabrics. In the case of the model bringing in their own selection of clothing, ensure the garments they bring are ones that they have attached positive feelings and memories to. You want the model to feel empowered in their clothing as this will flow into how freely they pose in front of the camera. Styling a photograph is an incredibly exciting experience. Remember to have fun, experiment and enjoy watching your model come to life in front of the camera!
The Moves | Styling tips for a portrait shoot
“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” – Imogen Cunningham
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
I’ve been a student of photography for almost 30 years and I hope I continue to learn for the next 30 years.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.
I have made a promise to myself. The day I stop being excited about the images I have photographed is the day I hang up my camera forever. I’m not there yet, not even close. In fact, I’m more excited about taking photographs today than I was 30 years ago. Learning a new skill can be challenging. It can also be frustrating. You will have moments when you wonder if it’s worth it. The quote opposite by Ira Glass is a beautiful reminder of why we should keep doing what we do.
Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass May you always see beautiful light and inspiring images.
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Published on Jan 4, 2015