Monday, October 12, 2009

It just takes two hours…or, how to build a portfolio

There is no better way to improve as a photographer than by actually shooting pictures! Sure, you have to know how to turn your camera on, and what all the knobs and buttons do, and have some elementary understanding of exposure—but that’s really it! If you are like me and want to be a better people photographer, the fastest way to learn is by photographing people! [No way, really?]


[Bridget grabbed this chain attached to a steel door and we had a cool shot! After finding a good angle, I set my camera to 1/100 and f/3.2 which underexposed the shot by about 1 stop according to the camera’s meter. By underexposing the background the contrasty shadows and saturation increase, as does the drama of the final image. Now since she would also be underexposed at these settings (which would not be desirable here), I set up a bare strobe on a stand about 10 feet from her to camera right (look at the shadow from the chain to get an idea of where the light was coming from). To expose her properly I employed the “chimping” technique, aka shooting without a light meter. Take a test shot, look at the LCD on the camera, adjust the power of the strobe or the distance to the model, and repeat as necessary until it looks good…]

There are about 100,000 people in NYC looking to have their picture taken. People who want to get started in modeling, bands, actors, business people in need of headshots, people who just like making creative images, and so on. This is usually done on a trade basis, called TFP (time for prints) or TFCD (time for images on a CD). Find someone and get to it!




[For the above two shots we’re working in regular old sunlight. It was just one of those great days with bright sunlight but clouds everywhere. No direct sunlight to be found. Direct sun equals harsh shadows everywhere and blown highlights. When the sun is behind clouds the sky turns into one giant softbox! These are the absolute best days to shoot with natural light. Point the camera, set your exposure, and click!]

So, we ended up shooting for a little less than two hours and went through a bunch of different looks, locations, and lighting scenarios. I got to practice natural light shooting and got to experiment with mixing in flash here and there. Do this enough and you will start to know your equipment like the back of your hand, and will be able to “get it right the first time” more often and with less guesswork. All you need is an idea or two, someone cool to pose for you, and the desire to become a better photographer.


[With all the beautiful diffuse sunlight everywhere, making the main exposure on this shot was easy. I say main because there are actually two light sources in this picture. Sun is the main light, and is lighting the entire front of her body, the street, basically everything in the shot. There is some type of ledge above us that is blocking the light coming from behind Bridget and we need some separation there. So I put a strobe behind her by about 20 degrees and camera right (so behind her left side) and set it on a low power to give some “rim light,” which is the light you see on the left side of her hair and on her left elbow and the back of her right forearm. Subtle yes, but it’s the little things that make an image like this pop!]

[So where do I find someone who needs a photographer?] Use that thing called google: there are sites all over for this type of thing! Or ask a friend, a family member, or coworker—you’ll be surprised by who will say yes!

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