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14 Recipes for Amazing Portraits a


by Gina Milicia

Written by: Gina Milicia Publisher: Darren Rowse Producer: Jasmin Tragas Copywriter: Belinda Weaver Graphic Design: Naomi Creek Quick Reference Cookbook: 14 Recipes for Amazing Portraits Version 1.1 ŠCopyright 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 SHOT: Downlighting the body shot_________ 26

About the Author____________________ 4

THE BEGINNING_______________5 THE RECIPES__________________6

THE SHOT: Tungsten lights with special effects___ 30 THE SHOT: Fun with water_____________________ 34

THE SHOT: Daylight inside – by a window_________ 7

THE SHOT: Outside with a two-light setup_______ 38

THE SHOT: Daylight outside – open shade_______ 10

THE SHOT: Using shutter speed to create mood__ 41

THE SHOT: Daylight outside – in direct light______ 14

THE SHOT: Creating film noir___________________ 44

THE SHOT: The three-frame quick shot__________ 17

THE SHOT: Advanced fill flash 1_________________ 47

THE SHOT: Beauty lighting with a fill flash_______ 20

THE SHOT: Advanced fill flash 2_________________ 51

THE SHOT: Cloudy daylight plus fill flash_________ 23

THE END___________________ 55

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 25-year career as a photographer has resulted in a portfolio that boasts the “Who’s Who” in the fashion, entertainment and corporate world.

During my first two years as a professional photographer my income was low. When my accountant saw my total income he burst out, “Are you kidding me? How does anyone live on that pitiful amount? Why don’t you go back to teaching?” I sacked him after that meeting. In an attempt to make ends meet during those early years, I took on a part-time job as second chef in an Italian restaurant. Tony, the head chef, took me under his wing and taught me how to cook. It was a popular restaurant. We had to work

quickly and under pressure and it proved to be an excellent training ground for my career as a celebrity photographer. I also learnt that there are lots of different ways to make the same dish. How you combine ingredients, your cooking style and your presentation all contribute to your dishes’ signature style. As I became more confident in the kitchen, I started to experiment and develop a few signature dishes of my own. Photography is exactly the same.

Once you learn how different lighting styles work together and you gain confidence in your work, you can experiment and develop your own signature style. In my first book, Portraits – Making the Shot – I explained some of the tricks and techniques of my portrait photography. In this book I’ve given you many of my favorite photographic recipes. Remember, there are many ways to shoot a great portrait. How you light, pose and frame your shots will become part of your own signature style.

The Beginning

The Recipes

Gary Sweet ©2011 Movie Network Channels. ©2011 Boilermaker-Burberry Entertainment Pty Ltd – used with permission.

The Shot Daylight inside – by a window

The Way This portrait was taken at the end of a long shoot. It was just really an afterthought and I knew Gary was keen to finish up. When I asked if he minded giving me just one more shot, I had already tested my settings on an assistant. Because of that preparation, it was a two-minute shoot and gave me one of my favorite shots of the year. It became the prototype for a new style of portrait and simple go-to lighting technique. This little corner of my studio is now my favorite place to shoot.

The Light

The Style

Light conditions: Daylight

There isn’t really much to say about this pose as it’s quite a close up headshot. I wanted Gary to look strong and powerful so the shot focuses on his eyes. Getting the right amount of catch light from the window was important and I shot from about eye level so that when you look at this photo if feels like Gary is looking right at you.

I have some large frosted windows in one corner of my warehouse studio. I had noticed the soft light shining through at certain times of the day and thought it would be a nice change from the studio lighting we’d been using all day. The frosted windows gave me a really soft light down one side of Gary’s face, with a beautiful fall off on the other side. The huge windows also reflect a lot of light into his eyes (known as catch light).

Daylight, through a window, is great for up close headshots and this is now one of my favorite places to shoot. 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.

Recipes | Daylight inside – by a window


The Gear

The Settings

The Takeaways

• Canon 5D Mk II

• ISO is set to 100

• N  otice the light around you and experiment at different times so you know exactly what the results will be.

• Canon 85mm IS L series lens • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

• Lens focus length is 85mm • A  perture is F1.2 @ 1/40th of a second To create a longer depth of field, where the dreamy look starts further from your sitter’s eyes, increase your aperture to F2.8 or even F4. You will need a slower shutter speed to allow enough light in, so you might want to shoot at a faster ISO.

• Have a go-to scenario you can do with your eyes closed, under pressure. • Always take your light readings and test your settings on a stand-in model. • To get the 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.

Recipes | Daylight inside – by a window


The Shot

Tegan Steele

Daylight outside – open shade

The Way Open shade on a bright, sunny day is probably the most beautiful light in the world. It provides you with a really simple lighting technique that bounces light into your sitter’s eyes. I stumbled across this dockside location quite a while ago, and added it to my visual diary. I’ve always wanted to come back and shoot here.

The Light Light conditions: Bright, sunny daylight This was shot in the middle of the day when the sun was brightest. The brightness of the sunshine creates stunning catch up lights in the model’s eyes but positioning her in full shade (called open shade) means she is perfectly and evenly lit.

When you are shooting in open shade on a bright, sunny day, the difference between the light readings from the area that is sunlit and the area that is shaded will be approximately 3 F-stops (on your aperture selection). This difference means that if you have a plain, light colored background (such as sand on a beach), you won’t get any detail and it could look boring, or like a studio shot. If you’re using an open shade scenario, choose a darker background to give yourself the latitude for over-exposing. This was such a great location I was tempted to shoot this with the background in greater focus, with a sharper depth of field and aperture of F5.6. But creating beautiful skin tone is really important, so I adjusted my aperture (F-stop) reading to be approximately ½ – 1 stop over my ambient reading. It worked out well and I like the way the dreamy background almost matches her bikini. 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.

The Style Your sitter needs to be at the very edge of a covered area with solid shade (also called open shade) so that the available light bounces onto them. Pergolas are perfect but you could have them under any covered area that opens out into bright daylight. If you have a great location but you don’t have a pergola or shaded area handy, make one! You can create this same effect with two volunteers holding up a piece of board.

Recipes | Daylight outside – open shade


The Gear

The Settings

The Takeaways

• Canon 1 DS Mk II

• ISO set to 100

• C  anon 70-200mm IS L series lens

• Lens focus length is 175mm

• If you can see spots of sunlight on your hand when you hold it up, you don’t have open shade. If you can’t find any open shade you might have to use a fill flash or bounce board.

• 2 x light stands • 2 x Manfrotto superclamps • 1 x shade board • 2 x shot bags • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

• A  perture is F2.8 @ 1/1250th of a second

• Use a tripod and make sure your vertices are square before you start shooting. It’s easy to get carried away with light and poses and not notice that the structures in the background are actually on an angle. • Don’t get distracted by a beautiful background. Remember that your sitter is the star and you want them to stand out! • Take some extra shots of the background because they are often useful for textures or portfolio pieces.

Recipes | Daylight outside – open shade


Mallory Janson, Brooklyn Bridge, New York Sept 10, 2011

The Shot Daylight outside – in direct light

The Way

The real star of this shoot was the Brooklyn Bridge. I broke my rule about using a tripod but achieved my dream of shooting this location.

I have always wanted to shoot on the Brooklyn Bridge. I love it as a location, and it’s one of the coolest shoots I’ve ever done. Everything came together and I am still delighted with the outcome. This is obviously a public location but more than that, it was the day before the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack. The city was in complete lockdown with roadblocks and police everywhere, ramping up the degree of difficulty to maximum.

The Style Because the location is the real star of this shot, the positioning centers on finding the most beautiful situation. 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.

The Light Light conditions: Daylight (light cloud cover) 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’re after a downlighting effect as they can be quite flattering, enhancing your sitter’s body shape and muscles. You may want to use a reflector of some description to combat any hard shadows on their face.

We shot this quite early in the morning, about 9am – 10am and it was not only much cooler, the light was much softer. While it looks like we had clear blue skies, we actually had some light cloud cover, which gave us almost perfect light conditions (as the cloud cover acts like a giant softbox).

I wanted to shoot quickly and efficiently so I broke my rule about using a tripod. I shot at 1/1600th of a second, which is a very fast shutter speed, so there would be no camera shake. I also positioned myself low, on the ground, to recreate the stability of a tripod as much as possible. Shooting from a low position will also make your sitter look taller and leaner, which is very flattering.

Recipes | Daylight outside – in direct light


The Gear

The Settings

The Takeaways

• Canon 5D Mk II

• ISO set to 400

• C  anon 300mm F5.6 IS L series lens

• Lens focus length is 70mm

• If you want to use specific equipment but you don’t want to pay any excess baggage, look at hiring it locally.

I chose to use a long lens and shoot wide open to capture the beautiful background in soft focus.

• A  perture is F4 @ 1/1600th of a second If I shot this again I might choose 100 ISO and shoot at a lower shutter speed.

• Shoot early in the morning for a softer light. You’ll also avoid the heat! • If you’re shooting on location, visit a day or two earlier and have a good look around for the best spot. Visit at the same time you will be shooting so you can get your settings right. • Avoid public places if you can!

Recipes | Daylight outside – in direct light


This shot of Gus the Boxer and Rambo was part of the Gus the Boxer calendar, which we did as a charity fundraiser for the Lort Smith Animal Hospital.

The Shot The three-frame quick shot

The Way This is a great example of a shot that’s going to happen really quickly. This is usually the case when you are working with animals and children over a certain age, because they won’t stay still for very long. Your goal with any shoot is to get useable shots from the first frame and that means being prepared. Set the shot up and get someone else to sit in for you, work out your settings and away you go!

The Light

The Style

Light conditions: Daylight (heavy cloud cover)

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).

If you look outside and see heavy clouds on the horizon, grab your camera! Cloudy days give you flat, even lighting to shoot in so you can capture details in your highlights and details in your shadows. You also have the opportunity to add contrast in post-production, adding some fill flash to give it some pop or underexposing your background to add drama. I’ve included a recipe that covers this kind of dramatic exposure.

Ideally I would set an aperture of F2.8 to really throw the background out of focus but the depth of field would have been too narrow. So I deliberately chose an aperture that was a little bit higher to ensure both dogs were in focus.

Recipes | The three-frame quick shot


The Gear

The Settings

The Takeaways

• Canon 1 DS Mk II

• ISO set to 100

• C  anon 70-200mm IS L series lens

• Lens focus length is 165mm

• K  eep it simple. Try to find a scenario where daylight will work because if you start getting complicated, you’ll end up disappointed.

I chose to use a long lens and shoot wide open to capture the beautiful background in soft focus.

• A  perture is F4.5 @ 1/800th of a second If I shot this again I might choose 100 ISO and shoot at a lower shutter speed.

• Be prepared to get the shot in five frames or fewer. That means doing your homework, setting up the shot and being ready at all times. • If you have extra people on your set, don’t be afraid to own the shoot. Once you let other people start directing, your sitters will start looking in different directions and you’ll never get the shot.

Recipes | The three-frame quick shot


The Shot

Lisa McCune – courtesy of Woman’s Day/ACP Magazines.

Beauty lighting with a fill flash

The Way This was shot for a popular Australian women’s magazine – Woman’s Day. I often shoot these kinds of profile stories where the brief is simply to get beautiful shots to go with the article. Lisa was working on a theatre production and didn’t have long for the shoot so I had to find a location in the middle of the Melbourne CBD.

The Light

The Style

Light conditions: Bright daylight

Most people are a little awkward without something to do. They feel isolated and vulnerable and by leaning them against a wall, they feel supported. It sounds strange but it’s absolutely true.

My first priority was to find a location with beautiful lighting. Following my process from the introduction to this section, I took my initial readings based on Lisa’s skin tone in the ambient light.

You’ll also notice that by tilting her head back slightly, the mood of the shot changes. Run through a series of small changes Once you get your sitter into position take some frames with their chin tilting up, chin tilting down, facing front on to camera, facing ¾ to camera, open mouthed smile, closed mouth smile, zooming in close, zooming out. There is nothing tricky about this shot, except for the logistics of being on a crowded city street. You might think people will crowd around but generally speaking, people are considerate and understanding. Even so, make sure you’re still aware of what’s happening in the background.

As you can see, the initial frame is a nice shot. She looks beautiful but the skin tone is a little dull. I knew the flash would add a more balanced light that would brighten her up and match the background. Recipes | Beauty lighting with a fill flash


The Gear

The Settings

The Takeaways

• Canon 1 DS Mk II

• ISO set to 100

• T ake readings and a frame using the ambient light then decide if you need fill flash.

• C  anon 70-200mm IS L series lens • 2 x Pocket Wizard flash triggers • 1x grid spot • 1 x Bowens Mobil A2 • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

• Lens focus length is 200mm I chose to use a long lens and shoot wide open to capture the beautiful background in soft focus. If I had shot this at 70mm, the background would have been sharper. I took this ambient reading first • Aperture is F5 @ 1/100th of a second

• Once you get someone into place, try small position changes to capture different moods. • 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.

I took this reading once I’d introduced the flash • Aperture is F5.6 @ 1/125th of a second

Recipes | Beauty lighting with a fill flash


The Shot

Dan O’Connor

Cloudy daylight plus fill flash

The Way This whole shot was an afterthought and the conditions weren’t ideal. There was thick cloud cover and it was autumn in Melbourne, so even the middle of the day is quite dark. I had noticed this laneway just outside the studio and I really wanted to use it. The light was really flat but once I introduced my beauty dish and grid spot, it turned out to be ideal shooting conditions.

The Light Light conditions: Daylight (heavy cloud cover) 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. When you’re adding hard lighting, like the beauty dish with grid spot we used here, it’s almost like having a spotlight on your sitter. The best position for the light is on a 40°/45° angle to your sitter, so that the light wraps around them rather than creating hard shadows on their face.

Introducing some hard lighting, like a grid spot, lifts the shot in two ways: 1. Y  ou are adding contrast and brightness to your skin tones in the area affected by the light. The grid spot shines light onto his face and around his body then falls away. 2. Y  ou are adding a bit of drama and interest by under-exposing your background.

The Style I love shooting in long, narrow areas, especially for single portraits. I like the way the lines guide you through and back into the shot. I wanted this portrait to be strong and confident so I’ve positioned him front and center, legs slightly apart. Recipes | Cloudy daylight plus fill flash


The Gear

The Settings

• Canon 1 DS Mk III

• ISO set to 100

• Canon 70-200mm IS L series lens • 1 x grid spot on beauty dish • 1 x 580 EX speed light • 2 x Pocket Wizards

• Lens focus length is 165mm • A  perture is F2.8 @ 1/125th of a second

The Takeaways • K  eep your eye out for narrow spaces you can use, especially ones with interesting backgrounds. • Allow time for some “afterthought” shots. When the pressure is off, you might just get the shot of the day! • Always experiment with your lighting and settings on a stand-in model, rather than on your sitter. And never test new equipment on a shoot! • Don’t be too heavy handed with the lighting. Over-lighting will completely change the shot.

Recipes | Cloudy daylight plus fill flash


Image courtesy Australia’s Got Talent, Channel Seven.

The Shot Downlighting the body shot

The Way There are a few tricks you can use to make muscle definition more pronounced.

The Light

1. If your sitter is quite pale, a nice spray tan will help (although a spray tan can go horribly wrong and is much harder to correct when it does).

Downlighting is the process of using a hard light source and directing the light from above the body.

2. A good make-up artist will be able to create the appearance of more definition. 3. Then you have downlighting. Australian singer Peter Andre (once famous for his six pack abs) showed me how downlighting could turn a great body into an unbelievable body. He was at the peak of his singing career and had his abdominals on permanent display. The girls went crazy for him! I had never heard of downlighting before but Peter sent me instructions on exactly how he wanted his body lit for the shoot.

Light conditions: Bright daylight

You’re shooting from above so aim your grid lighting downwards so it lights your sitter’s face and abdominal region and creates hard shadows underneath the chin and pecs and abs muscles. This method of lighting will also introduce hard shadows into their face, so I used a flash to light his face at the same time. You could create this effect using the midday sun and a reflector positioned so that your sitter’s face is nicely lit. I chose this forest location because he’s a professional woodchopper but when we arrived I realized there were going to be a number of challenges. 1. We had to look for some open shade so that he wouldn’t be dappled with spots of sunlight. Dappled light, with spots of shade and light, can look pretty to the naked eye but it can also leave your sitter with spots of sunlight

all over their body. You won’t notice it at the time and those spots are almost impossible to edit out in postproduction. 2. M  y Canon can only sync the flash at 1/250th of a second, which meant I had to shoot at an aperture of F11 to let more light in. The knock-on effect of the higher aperture was having the forest background in much sharper detail than I wanted it to be. If I were just using the available daylight, without a flash, I’d select an aperture of F2.8 (wide open) to capture my sitter in sharp detail and leave everything else out of focus. Recipes | Downlighting the body shot


If you are shooting against a green background make sure it is sunlit or backlit. The color green photographs so densely it can almost look black. To ensure the background didn’t take over, I deliberately under-exposed the background (by lighting him more heavily) so that the green leafiness was darker than it would otherwise be. My first book, Portraits, Making the Shot, explains how to find the right skin tone exposure against difficult backgrounds and it’s worth a read.

The Style This shoot uses the classic contrapposto pose to give him a lean waist and a V-shape up to his shoulders. If your sitter’s body is the real star of the shoot, you can give their muscles a boost by getting your sitter to: • Do a quick set of push-ups and sit-ups to get the blood flowing into their muscles. This will make them a fraction bigger for a few frames. • Exhale and hold their breath (to clench their abdominals) in the shoot pose. You might need a few frames to let them practice relaxing their face at the same time as it can be a bit like trying to rub your belly and tap your head simultaneously.

Recipes | Downlighting the body shot


The Gear

The Settings

• Canon 1 DS Mk II

• ISO is set to 100

• Canon 70-200mm IS L series lens • 2 x Pocket Wizard flash triggers • 1 x grid spot and beauty dish • 1 x light stand • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

• Lens focus length is 200mm I took this ambient reading first • Aperture is F8 @ 1/100th of a second I took this reading once I’d introduced the flash • Aperture is F11 @ 1/100th of a second

The Takeaways • Y  our sitter should be the hero of the shot so try to avoid a busy background. You can under-expose the background by adjusting your aperture and increasing the brightness of your flash. If your ambient reading on your sitter is F8 then introducing flash to make the readings a stop brighter (F11) will underexpose your background by 1 F-stop. • If you’re using your flash on a bright sunny day you will need to select a larger aperture setting, which means that your shot will be sharp all the way through. • Ask your sitter to do a few push-ups and situps just before you shoot. The burst of activity will pump blood into their muscles, helping to give them the appearance of more definition.

Recipes | Downlighting the body shot


Marny Kennedy, Harrison Gilbertson, Taylor Glockner – courtesy Circa Media Pty Ltd, Movie Network Channel.

The Shot Tungsten lights with special effects

The Way This shot was a Foxtel® cover advertising a children’s detective show. I wanted to give it a cinematic look with an edgy, spooky feel. Tungsten lighting is a continuous style of lighting still used on film and television sets. The real advantage of shooting tungsten is its speed. You can just keep on shooting rather than waiting for your light flashes to recycle.

Keep your eye out for old movie lights and tungsten-style lighting because it’s actually a really great way to learn lighting techniques. Once you understand the principles of lighting with tungsten, flash is exactly the same (except it’s more powerful).

Rembrandt was a master of Chiaroscuro.

The Light Light conditions: Indoors I’ve used a lighting style called Chiaroscuro, which is an Italian term meaning ‘lightdark’. It refers to the contrast between the light and dark areas and it was used throughout the Renaissance period. I used three redhead tungsten lights and positioned one on the floor behind them to backlight the shot and give it a sense of drama. Backlighting also helped to highlight the smoke we had drifting through the shot.

I positioned the other two lights to the side of the shot to create this beautiful, ¾ light effect with the light dropping off at the side of their faces. I also needed a screen (scrim) to filter and soften the light, so the contrast wasn’t too drastic. If you don’t want to buy a screen, you can use sailing cloth to make your own. A small screen and a desk lamp can create some nice, soft lighting for a oneperson portrait. Recipes | Tungsten lights with special effects


The Style Because of the rather elaborate setup we did a lot of pre-shooting to make sure we knew how the smoke would work out. Then while the three actors were getting their hair and make-up done, I had three people stand in for me to make sure all the settings were right. I’ve started by putting them into the classic contrapposto, and then I let them relax into it. The contrapposto is one of my usual starting poses because it’s very flattering to almost every body shape. The most famous contrapposto pose is Michelangelo’s David, which is held up as the example of the perfect male body. This is a good example of why it’s important to remain focused on your subject. The guy on the right hand side was originally standing up but when he sat down between frames, I realized it was a much better position.

Recipes | Tungsten lights with special effects


The Gear

The Settings

• Canon 1 DS Mk III

• ISO is set to 400

• Canon 70-200mm IS L series lens • 2 x redhead tungsten lights • 1 x scrim with frame 3m x 2m • 1 x light stand • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

• Lens focus length is 125mm I took this ambient reading without lights • Aperture is F2.8 @ 1/8th of a second I took this reading once I’d introduced the lights • Aperture is F4 @ 1/15th of a second

The Takeaways • T his is a more advanced shot simply because of the extra lighting and equipment it uses. It’s the kind of shot you definitely need to plan and practice using your smoke machine. • This is a great style of lighting because of the continuous and soft light you get. Tungsten lighting allows you to learn how light works and how it hits your subject. Everyone should learn tungsten lighting before they move to flash. • T his is a classic pose with a classic lighting style. . . This style of lighting works for headshots, children and corporate shoots. It’s simple and beautiful. • A wind machine – or hair dryer – can create some movement in an otherwise static pose.

Recipes | Tungsten lights with special effects


Todd McKenney

The Shot Fun with water

The Way I love projects that don’t have a particular brief because they give me the scope to be a little more adventurous. When Todd said he just wanted “some cool shots” I knew I could have a little more fun. This shoot also let me bring in my A-team with my favorite stylist Lou Petch and make-up artist Fotini Hatzis. I love to work with these guys because they are very good at what they do and we all work really well together. Part of that is having similar personalities but we also know which job we’re there to do. That combination makes the shoot so much easier.

The Light Light conditions: Indoors with some ambient window light The first step is to take an ambient reading of the available daylight so you can see what your shot looks like just in daylight.

The ambient reading for this shot is F2.8 at 100 ISO at 1/30th of a second, which is quite a soft light. Had I started shooting with these settings, the shutter speed wouldn’t have been fast enough to freeze the motion of the water, which is what I wanted. To freeze the little balls of water as they hit him, I had to use a flash. Once you introduce water into your shoot, you need to make sure there is no plug-in equipment. I wanted to make sure everyone on set went home at the end of the shoot so all the equipment ran off batteries that day. To add some contrast and drama, I aimed a grid spot at his shoulder and side of his head and then used a soft box to fill his face from the same side. To make sure his face was almost evenly lit, with a nice fall off down the side, I used a silver reflector to bounce light back in and fill the other side of his face. I adjusted the aperture to F3.2, which is ¾ of a stop more, to allow less light into the camera. I then increased the shutter speed to 1/60th sec to freeze the motion of the water and create a darker background. Recipes | Fun with water


The Style Todd was a great sport about this shot. He was going to get wet and it was a freezing day. I positioned Todd in a baby’s swimming pool, with someone on a ladder ready to pour water over him. The moment you start pouring the water over someone you will ruin the hair and make-up. To give myself more frames I got my assistant to pour the water on to the back of his shoulder rather than directly onto his head.

The Gear

The Settings

• Canon 1 DS Mk III

• ISO is set to 100

• Canon 70-200mm IS L series lens • 2 x Pocket Wizard flash triggers • 1 x large softbox • 1  x Elinchrom Ranger battery pack • 2 x light stands

• Lens focus length is 155mm I took this ambient reading without lights • Aperture is F2.8 @ 1/30th of a second I took this reading once I’d introduced the flash • Aperture is F3.2 @ 1/60th of a second

The Takeaways • P lanning is crucial to a shoot like this. Have a checklist and make sure you have everything you need • My best work has been the result of a great team effort. Work with great stylists, make-up artists and assistants who share your creative vision. • Models, make up artists and stylists are also trying to build up their portfolio so approach students and offer to put a shoot together to showcase your skills.

• 1 x reflector with grid spot • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

Recipes | Fun with water


Peter Moon, Australian comedian and actor.

The Shot Outside with a two-light setup

The Way This is a great portrait style if the background is just as important as your sitter. This was a promotional shot for Peter’s new TV series, which centered on a family living in this house. So the house was a big part of the shot. My own portrait style is to give the backgrounds an out of focus, dreamy quality but for this shot, the house was a feature of the shot so I needed it sharp. I wanted the image to be saturated with color with a really suburban feel to it.

The Light Light conditions: Bright daylight To make sure Peter stood out against the background, which is in bright sunshine, I had to introduce flash. Once you start shooting with flash outside, that amount of light limits how fast and how wide open you can shoot. I took an ambient reading of the whole image and had an aperture of F11 with a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. I then adjusted my lighting until the meter reading was F16 @ 1/125th of a second (or one stop brighter than the background).

If you don’t want your background to be sharp and saturated, like this shot is, you can use a neutral density filter that will reduce your aperture (and your exposure to the light) by two stops. They’re really handy if you have a bright, sunny day and you don’t want to capture everything in supersharp focus.

The Style Peter is a very funny comedian and generally speaking, comedians are funniest when you give them the freedom to be funny. I positioned Peter in open shade so that he was evenly lit, at the very front of the shot, and then let him do his thing. To add to the comic effect I shot from a low position, using my tripod to make sure the angles were as square as possible. You see how geometric this house is, so if my angles were off, the shot would have looked wrong.

Recipes | Outside with a two-light setup


The Gear

The Settings

• Canon 1 DS Mk II

• ISO is set to 100

• C  anon 24-105mm IS L series lens • 2 x Pocket Wizard flash triggers • 1 x grid spot and beauty dish • 1 x light stand • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

• Lens focus length is 24mm I took this ambient reading without lights • Aperture is F11 @ 1/125th of a second I took this reading once I’d introduced the lights • Aperture is F16 @ 1/125th of a second

The Takeaways • U  se a tripod to ensure your lines are straight. A slightly off center shot can make the viewer feel a little seasick. • A wider lens will give you a slightly distorted view, which can make the shot a bit funkier. • Double check your sitter’s position against the background. It’s easy to get so distracted that you don’t notice the plant or light post that now looks like it’s ‘growing’ out of your sitter’s head.

Recipes | Outside with a two-light setup


The Shot

Alex Dimitriades – image courtesy Nine Network Australia.

Using shutter speed to create mood

The Way This shot was done for the first season of the Australian television series, Underbelly. We had to cover all the promotional shots for an entire year of publicity, so a lot of different lighting scenarios had to be created as quickly as possible. This was another afterthought shot done in a “spare five minutes”. All my lights were being used elsewhere on set and I was keeping my eye on two shoots happening at the same time. I noticed some grey doors and I thought I could create a darker, more somber shot.

The Light Light conditions: Indoors I wanted the background to be dark enough to look black, which meant I had to get rid of any other light in the shot, increase the shutter speed and aim my light on him. I used a very narrow grid spot, shining the light from slightly above him and into his face and eyes. The light from a grid spot drops off really quickly which allowed me to create a chiseled look without creating too many hard shadows.

Had I increased the angle of light to 90 degrees, the shadow from his nose would have been too hard. As it is, the grid spot really lights up his eyes, which gives them a pretty intense look that makes the shot. You can achieve this light effect with a speed light, which is much cheaper, but don’t forget to keep your eyes open for second-hand bargains. I bought my first Mobil lighting kit as an ex-hire unit so it was significantly cheaper. All I had to do was get the batteries reconditioned.

The Style As a general rule you shouldn’t crop into someone but I love this look. I think it adds to the drama of the shot. When it comes to cropping, some general rules are that it’s ok to crop from above – into their head – but never from below. If you crop into someone’s chin they will just look strange. Because the eyes are the key to this shot, I’ve positioned them slightly off center to add some more drama.

Recipes | Using shutter speed to create mood


The Gear

The Settings

• Canon 1 DS Mk II

• ISO is set to 100

• Canon 70-200mm IS L series lens • 2 x Pocket Wizard flash triggers • 1 x grid spot • 1 x Bowens Mobil A2 • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

• Lens focus length is 170mm I took this ambient reading without lights • Aperture is F2.8 @ 1/15th of a second I took this reading once I’d introduced the lights • Aperture is F5.6 @ 1/125th of a second

The Takeaways • T he grid spot gives you a really focused light. The light is strongest in the center then it drops off gradually. Aim the grid spot at his eyes so the center is hitting his eyes. • Give your sitter a scenario they can play out in their head. It will help them focus and they’ll give you more. • Play around with positioning your sitter when you’re cropping in post-production. I ended up cropping it slightly off center to make it a little more interesting.

Recipes | Using shutter speed to create mood


Grant Bowler – image courtesy Nine Network Australia

The Shot Creating film noir

The Way This was one shot taken as part of a day-long publicity shoot for a new television drama. Our studio was a grungy warehouse and we had to create a range of different looking shots in the limited space available. We also had quite limited time. I found this stairwell and used just one light. This is a simple shot that could have been overcomplicated but because I was under pressure, I kept it simple. I think it’s the simplicity that makes this shot work so nicely.

Film noir (French for black film) The film noir style began in the 1930s. Films of this style used a low key (darkly lit) black and white style of lighting and often portrayed dark themes such as gangster and crime fiction. Typical film noir scenes were often shot in darkly lit alleyways, smoky rooms, or wet streets with neon lights.

The Light Light conditions: Indoors I wanted to highlight each step without showing much detail and the ambient light was almost enough. By introducing some flash and a softbox, brightening the readings by another two F-stops, I was able to create some soft light on the side of his face and create a little bit of light spill onto the wall. If I had introduced a harder light source, like a grid spot, the stairs would have been much darker with no detail at all.

The Style This is one of the classic sitting poses and could be on any chair. Leaning forward with hands clasped is a favorite pose of mine, especially for men. A slightly angled body is more flattering so I usually shoot men and women on an angle. You will notice that this shot is almost straight on and that’s for two reasons. He had really dark trousers so I knew his crotch wouldn’t be highlighted and I knew I would be cropping through his hands.

Recipes | Creating film noir


The Gear

The Settings

• Canon 1 DS Mk II

• ISO is set to 100

• Canon 70-200mm IS L series lens • 2 x Pocket Wizard flash triggers • 1 x Bowens Mobil A2 • 1 x large softbox • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

• Lens focus length is 70mm I took this ambient reading without lights • Aperture is F2.8 @ 1/8th of a second I took this reading once I’d introduced the lights • Aperture is F2.8 @ 1/30th of a second

The Takeaways • F ilm noir movies are a great place to find ideas about photo shoots and setups. They are moody and atmospheric and give you a really dramatic shot. • If you have a limited set, use your imagination to find space you can use. • Position your light at a 45 degree angle to your sitter so you create moody light. • Don’t be afraid to keep it simple. You don’t need to add lots of lights and props to make a shot great.

Recipes | Creating film noir


Shaynna Blaze

The Shot Advanced fill flash 1

The Way My original idea for this shot was to have Shaynna sitting on a beautifully ornate chair. The chair and the designer dress were going to contrast with the roughness of the pier behind her.

This was one of my first test frames. I felt it was a bit flat and that the pier detracted from Shaynna, the star of the shoot. I decided to introduce some backlighting and get that dress moving so that it contrasted with the dramatic winter sky. This is one of my go-to poses when I’m working with amazing dresses, so it didn’t take long to put together.

It was a great idea, until I saw her in the dress. This dress is so fantastic that I knew I had to shoot her standing up.

The Light Light conditions: Sunset (light cloud cover) When I took the ambient reading, I felt it was right for the dramatic mood I wanted to create so I wanted to introduce only enough fill flash to match ambient readings. The fill flash brightens her skin tone without making her look like a startled rabbit caught in a spotlight. My first book, Portraits, Making the Shot, explains balancing flash with daylight in more detail.

Backlighting is a beautiful way to light someone and by positioning the light directly behind her, I have given her a sweet angelic glow. If you are backlighting in this way, you will need to smooth your sitter’s hair as the light will show every stray hair giving them a fuzzy halo.

The softbox, positioned off to her side and slightly above, gives her beautiful catch lights while creating a slight downlighting effect that is really flattering. This shot probably doesn’t need to be backlit as I could just have used the setting sun with one side light. That would have given the shot a slightly more dramatic effect. Recipes | Advanced fill flash 1


Beware of flare Flare occurs when direct light hits your lens. It can create a beautiful effect or ruin your shot, so you need to check your images as you shoot. To prevent flare: • Change the angle of your camera • Hide the source of the light by moving the light, or your sitter • Get someone to cast a shadow over your lens

The Style I wanted this pose to be heroic and proud so I got Shaynna to stand with her legs slightly apart, her hands on her hips with her elbows pointing backwards and her chest out. This a classic superhero pose. Standing ¾ to camera, rather than straight on, is a really flattering position for men and women and it gave us a little more room to show off the dress. Once I got her into the position, there was very little movement and the only changes we made were to the flick of the dress. To enhance the heroic feel of the shot, I positioned myself quite low to the ground. Shooting from a lower position can also give your sitter some extra height, which not many people will turn down!

Recipes | Advanced fill flash 1


The Gear

The Settings

• Canon 1 DS Mk III

• ISO is set to 100

• Canon 70-200mm IS L series lens • 2 x Pocket Wizard flash triggers • 1 x small softbox • 1  x Elinchrom Ranger battery pack • 2 x light stands • 1 x reflector with grid • 1 x Manfrotto tripod

• Lens focus length is 110mm I took this ambient reading without lights • Aperture is F5.6 @ 1/250th of a second I took this reading once I’d introduced the lights • Aperture is F 5.6 @ 1/250th of a second

The Takeaways • O  nce I had the look of the shot, I didn’t deviate. There was no need to go through different poses and locations. The result is that I’ve created one shot that is really memorable, rather than five shots that are just average. • This was shot in winter so we also made sure we kept her warm while we tested the flick of the dress.

Shutter speed is quite fast because I needed to freeze the motion of the dress.

Recipes | Advanced fill flash 1


Kasia Zachwieja/J’aton

The Shot Advanced fill flash 2

The Way This shot was photographed at sunset in the middle of an Australian winter, so it was about 46°F (8°C). We were on the roof of a Melbourne skyscraper and there was a freezing cold wind chilling us all to the bone. This is the kind of shot you need to plan out and think of in advance. Sunset usually happens quickly and once the light starts to go you don’t have time to get it wrong. I shot directly to card because the light was dropping so quickly I had no time to check exposure on a laptop.

Kasia without fill flash. Her skin tone is too dark and shot looks flat.

The Light Light conditions: Sunset This shot uses a combination of lighting styles. I’m predominantly using daylight with a boost of fill flash from a very large softbox. The trick is to drop in just enough fill flash to warm up the skin tones without making your sitter look like a rabbit caught in the headlights. On this shoot I had the luxury of two assistants so was happy to use the Mobil A2R battery flash kit. In hindsight I could have got exactly the same result with a Speedlight and softbox but the coverage may not have been as great. I find the smaller softboxes fall off around the waist area and I wanted her whole body to be lit. Recipes | Advanced fill flash 2


The Style I wanted my model to stand on the ledge of the rooftop but she was too scared. Sure, we were at the very top of one of Melbourne’s tallest buildings and sure, it was windy, but the drop to the next platform was really only about 48ft (15m) down. Ok. So maybe it was a little bit dangerous. That didn’t stop me though and I balanced on the opposing ledge to get as much length as possible. As part of my preparation, I realized we’d need to make a platform to give her some height. I made sure we had lots of milk crates, a wooden board for her to stand on and some dark grey plastic to cover it all up. We also had some balloons and you’ll notice that there are a lot more balloons in the final shot. To get that many balloons up a narrow stairwell to a small rooftop would have been too difficult so we boosted the numbers in post-production. One of the constant challenges of this shot, apart from the fading light, was keeping my model warm. It was really cold so we kept her all rugged up until the moment I was ready to shoot and only shot a few frames at a time.

Recipes | Advanced fill flash 2


The Gear

The Settings

• Canon 1 DS Mk II

• ISO is set to 100

• Canon 70-200mm IS L series lens • 2 x Pocket Wizard flash triggers • 1 x multi-dome large softbox • 1 x Mobil A2R battery pack • 1 x light stand • 1 x reflector • 1 x Manfrotto tripod • Milk crates

• Lens focus length is 78mm I took this ambient reading without lights • Aperture is F8 @ 1/60th of a second I took this reading once I’d introduced the lights • Aperture is F6.3 @ 1/60th of a second

The Takeaways • A  lways check your lighting first. Only add fill flash if it will improve the shot. You might have enough light if you just rotated your sitter’s position. • When starting to add flash in, start at the lowest setting and build it up from there. You are of course doing this during your pre-shoot. • If you are shooting in colder weather, be considerate of how your sitter will feel. Their skin will show the cold so keep them warm between frames.

As a general rule I will match the amount of flash to ambient reading exactly or over-expose 1/3 – 1 F-stop (extra to add more light), depending on lighting conditions and the model.

• Wooden board • Grey plastic • Balloons

Recipes | Advanced fill flash 2


“By being yourself, you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before.” ― Edwin Elliot I ended up working at the Italian restaurant for 2 years, honing my skills as a pasta cook. On day one I could barely boil water. Trying to remember all the recipes and techniques was extremely frustrating. I made mistakes, burnt dishes and on many occasions, I considered giving up and going home. Learning a new skill is really difficult and I was experiencing similar frustrations in my day job as a photographer. We all want to achieve excellence immediately. When it gets too hard we think about giving up. This book is the kick-start to get you going. It is my hope that after reading this book you will have the necessary skills to create awesome images.

The next part is up to you. Get out there and shoot every day. Creating your own style is what sets you apart from everyone else and the more hours you clock up, the more your style will evolve. The world does not need another Cartier Bresson, Liebowitz or “insert your favorite photographer here”. The world is screaming out for you. The technical stuff is the easy part. Anyone can learn how to take a technically correct image. The good stuff will happen when you start feeling confident, when you start to experiment and venture out of the safe zone.

When you can inject your own personality into your photos, they will start to be exciting. There is only one you. No one else sees or thinks exactly like you do. Take what you need from these recipes to make them your own. Borrow from other photographers, artists, and film makers. Remember that inspiration is everywhere. May you always find beautiful light and amazing locations.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe

The End

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Portraits recipes ebook  
Portraits recipes ebook