I do a lot of trial and error when I set up my lights for a studio shoot. This article details a three light setup, and features a hilarious model.
Last night, I photographed a hippie sitting on a stool grinding rocks. They’re actually, most of them, classified “Semi-Precious Gems.” I gave up on a Halloween party that I got a last minute invite to because I have a shoot scheduled today for a cute kid, and I wanted to be awake for it.
The way the night went, I figured I should set up the lights then instead of when I woke up. I’m probably not awake yet. I’ve scheduled this post for 10 am and it was almost 2 am by the time I was finished writing it.
I’m bad at waking up.
After an hour I think I had the lighting structure, position and ratios set up.
All images are taken at f/5.6, 100 ISO, 1/200 sec. I like to include some depth of field when photographing closer up, and though you may not see the effects in the following images, it would be apparent if I were photographing the hippie and not the whole stool. Maybe I’ll show you at the end.
First shot is fill light alone, he’s my master light that tells the others what to do. All it does for the image is fill in some shadows so the image isn’t so contrasted. It’s directly over my head, pointing straight into the image. Softbox on a boom arm. I looked at my histogram on the back of the camera to decide if it was at a good power and even with a solid black backdrop there wasn’t any clipping.
Don’t worry, I’ll give you a side-by-side for the images at the end of the article so you can see the changes between each one easier.
Oh, all images are straight out of camera, too. I haven’t retouched them in any way, other than to convert them to jpg with Camera Raw. The banner image is touched up.
Next image includes the key light, the closest and most (apparently) powerful light in the image. This one is about 45° up and right of the subject (facing the photographer.) It’s a little above my strobe’s minimum power (same with the fill.) I wish I had more space and could separate the subject from the background a bit more, limiting this light’s effect on the background. It’s also firing through a softbox.
The third image includes the background light. A speedlight with a snoot (it focuses the light into a circle shape.) This one helps separate the subject from the background, and helps the eye find focus in the image. In the side-by-side at the end of the article, you can see my progress in deciding what power to have this at. Ultimately, I liked it at a reduced power, giving a subtle effect on the background. The last image is my favourite, and the settings used for the banner image on this post.
Here’s the edited hippie from the banner image where you can see some depth of field. The rocks in front are not as sharp as he is, even though I added a great deal of sharpening in Camera Raw. This, like the splash of backlight, helps the eye find focus in the image. It’s subtle, but it’s there.
It’s always tough to decide on what to wear for portraits, add a group to the equation and there are a lot of questions about how to match. Here’s a sure-fire method to easily select your next photo outfits.
Cover image from HGTV.com
I was just in a conversation with a client about clothing options for family portraits, and she admitted that her initial plan may have been a little tacky. It may have been because of the grimace on my face. My emotions are silently on my sleeve. I can’t help it.
Her plan was to do jeans and black tops. That’s, like, super matchy-matchy. I don’t even think the Brady Bunch was that corny. Sorry for my brisk opinion, but if you like the khakis-and-white-shirts-on-the-beach photo, then you go for it. I’ll even photograph it, but I will prod your ribs the whole time.
If I had it my way, every family photograph would be more than just the family and their faces. It would be a pleasant mix of colours in an appropriate background (studio or location) that is fun to look at as a piece of art, before getting closer and acknowledging the family, their interactions, emotions and activity. If you want to avoid the bland, lifeless look but are afraid of mixing things up, then I hope this article helps you out.
One of the most useful tools I have when planning sessions and outfits is a book on interior design — it has hundreds of colour palettes in it. There it is, there’s the secret. Colour palettes are the bomb. Take that knowledge bomb over to Pinterest or even a Google images search and you will have an endless list of possibilities for colour combinations. Stick around here for a few more tips, though.
How to Pick and Use a Clothing Colour Palette
Consider your surroundings: If you are going to be photographed in a studio, what is the background colour? If you have a choice, what colour matches your walls best, or wherever you might like to have the portrait? Assume it’s on your wall: What colour palette contains the colour of your wall? Your background colour would be one of the other base colours in that palette, one of the less alarming ones that still stands out from the wall. Your clothing would then be a mix of the other colours in the palette.
If you are being photographed outdoors, what are the surrounding colours? Are they predominantly environmental? Then find a palette that matches the season, like the autumn colours in this image that I found simply by searching “Autumn Colour Palette.” Like before, your clothing colours are a mix of the other colours in the palette.
How Much of Each Colour to Mix: There are a few different ideas that I have seen in imagery online. For me, I like; when accents are kept to accessories like scarves, hats, bracelets, shoes and the like, and act to connect each person together; when the base colours are reserved mostly for the backdrop and maybe a large clothing item (shirt, sweater or pants) and the mid tones are predominantly the clothing colours.
In this session (by another talented photographer,) I feel that the girl’s yellow pants are the only accent in the image and they demand too much attention. Otherwise, the colours were well balanced and it’s a wonderful session.
Here’s a copy of an email I used to send out to clients with some more information on selecting clothing…
This is just some information that I’ve compiled from a few different sites about dressing for a photo shoot, and also an image of a colour palette for autumn.
The websites I’ve used are at the bottom, if you want to go digging yourself, but I’ve summarized what I think are the most useful points in this email.
Looking forward to our session!
– Avoid too much detail in the clothing, like busy patterns. Keep it simple, it’s about you, not your clothes!
– Have a look through your closet before you go shopping for new clothes. Comfortable is a very good look for photos!
– Fitted clothing is much more appealing than baggy
– Bring a few outfits, and accessorize! Sunglasses, jewelry, watches, different shoes and the sort help make a simple shoot classy!
– Vivid colours are best, watch out for the washed-out cottons
– Simple geometric patterns are great, but thin, tight or small patterns tend to confuse the eye — especially in digital photos!
– Avoid logos, unless you like the advertisement look!
Everyone says you need a great photograph these days, here are some reasons that may convince you.
There are many professions that seem obviously in need of a professional headshot, but not all of us are capitalizing directly on our faces or appearances. Why in the world might a tradesman in a factory or a high school teacher with a secure income need a fancy picture for a website? For these people, the typical uses of a headshot may be unimportant, unless they are unhappy with their positions and decide to go job searching. Instead, one needs to look deeper to the personal benefits of viewing a confident photograph of oneself.
1. Utility: A professionally produced image shows that you care about your appearance. If you are concerned with how the world views you and take every step to put your best foot forward, people are more likely to expect that of you in other aspects of your life and work.
As our society moves to online resources to make us more efficient and cost effective, so does the hiring process. Websites like LinkedIn are essentially job-hunting and networking platforms and public resumes. For certain professions, these websites and how you appear on them is very important. If you were a hiring manager with an application from someone who couldn’t be bothered with posting a profile picture or completing an online profile, how effective of a hire do you think they would be? Wouldn’t you instead remember the people who had more complete profiles?
If you were a real-estate salesperson, you would want your potential clients to see a confident, charming smile so that they can start to like and trust you immediately. Few people buy from those they don’t like or trust.
2. Having someone take the time to capture you with your best, most comfortable, relaxed and confident expression is a small investment with a huge return.
People will see your picture and make a judgement. It’s like a micro-first-impression. Like before, people will not only notice the quality of the image, but the quality of your expression and the care in your eyes. If you are looking to do business with people, or sell yourself as a good match to a new organization or potential spouse or death metal band or flying circus, then you need to be present in the photograph. As a professional, it is my goal to make you relaxed, present, and to recognize and capture that fleeting moment of perfection.
3. Personal Motivation: All that other stuff has been written time and time again about personal portraits, but I want you to concentrate for a moment on how an image makes you feel. If you have a confident image that you can wake up to every day, then you can set your sights easier as a confident person.
No one wants to be considered vane or narcissistic, but we can fight against those vices so strongly that we act in demoralizing ways! Yes, you deserve to have a beautiful portrait, and yes, you can feel good about yourself!
Get the best image you possibly can. As a person dissatisfied with every image of themselves, “good enough” has to do for me. I like to ask a friend and have them pick their favourite of the images that I think are “good enough.” We’re often more critical of ourselves than our friends, and having the third party can help us make a decision.
Get the kind of image that when you look at it you say: “That’s me. Today, that’s me. That confident, intelligent, happy, go-getting, unstoppable force. That’s me.” Ultimately, you want an image that gives you pride. Something that shows the best version of yourself, the person that you can aspire to every day.
Thank you to all my friends who have acted as guinea pigs for my projects, allowed me to use their photographs and helped support my business. I really appreciate it!
I’ve developed quite the collection of portrait studio gear over the last couple years, and I’m getting itchy to start using it to develop the stunning images that my clients deserve. Corporate headshots, or high quality imagery for anyone with a LinkedIn or other social media profile, seems like the way to go. Starting off, anyway.
I’m still working out the kinks of a convenient, efficient and quick workflow with a portable, small-space-capable studio, so late one night (OK, it was early one morning, to be technical) I attempted to get through a self portrait in the span of 1 hour.
Imagining myself as the client: “I want this stranger in and out of my home as quickly as possible so I can get back to watching Game of Thrones in sweats. The images better be good, fast, and I want to review them before he leaves.”
Knowing this as the photographer, I have a breakdown similar to this:
Set up photo gear: 15 minutes
Backdrop stands and backdrop
Light stands (up to 4, but probably just 1 or 2 with only an hour on the clock)
Lights, levels and positioning
Camera settings (custom white balance and other basics)
Photograph the subject: 15 minutes
Review images, select and pay: 15 minutes
Pack up: 15 minutes
That’s a very tight schedule. My plan is to tell the client to free up 2 hours for the session, while my goal would be 1 hour. Under promise, over deliver!
I accomplished my timeline well enough, and even had time to spare. I changed a filter halfway through which messed up my white balance, and didn’t bother correcting it. I assumed I might do it in Photoshop later, but no matter what I did the results were not where I wanted them. The photograph below was taken on a different occasion under similar circumstances, where I took the time to set everything up correctly.
The botched photograph had more professional attire, but that is still one of my favourite shirts. I let my friends write and draw on it with one of those fancy clothing markers. It went as expected: lewd jokes that I can’t wear in public. They’ve all but faded now, and are not visible in the photograph.
Last week I had been concentrating on making a Pinterest board that is useful to anyone planning on having family portraits (or otherwise,) and of course I got distracted and made a few other posts to my social media pages. There are some adorable photographs from my efforts in befriending animals that visit my yard for seeds, a video share from Chase Jarvis (Creative Live) interviewing a famous photographer about storytelling images and a simple call for comment on an idea to help the homeless.
A Resource for Planning Family Portraits
I want to help people get the most out of photography, even if they don’t think I am the photographer for them, so I started a board on Pinterest that will serve as a collection of ideas and inspiration when planning portrait sessions.
The first and second articles that I shared were more colour palettes and clothing suggestions than anything. They are great for getting an idea of what it means to match colours together and how the amount of certain tones should be controlled.
The fourth and final article about portrait clothing from last week was a list of “don’t”s. I’m not a huge fan of “do not” lists, because I don’t think anyone should compromise their character entirely for a photo shoot, but the list has some ideas as to why you may not do certain things. However, if you really want something, go ahead and tell this list “Phooey!”
Later in the week, while “enjoying” shopping for makeup, I added an article about planning the location for your portraits. It’s a short article, a list of the decisions a family made for their yearly portraits. It goes to show that inspiration can be found just about anywhere.
My Struggles in Befriending the Forest Critters
I live in a house that is backed up onto an island of forest and wetland. Squirrels, birds and other critters often chase across my backyard looking for food. For the last two years, around spring time, I have attempted to attract more to the yard and get close enough to photograph them.
I made a few posts on my Facebook page about my progress, but here are the best images so far:
The chipmunk is by far the most trusting of me so far, but I think I’ll have a good closeup of a chickadee soon.
Capturing Storytelling Images
A storytelling image is one that has content more than a subject and an expression. Their actions or their placement suggests something about them. We learn more about them and their situation from looking at the photograph. The image tells us a story.
Chase Jarvis (a photographer) from Creative Live (people helping creative people with creative stuff and business and stuff) spoke with Joe McNally (another famous photographer) about his method in capturing storytelling images. See the video below for his sage advice on getting images with content:
Is Giving the Homeless a Mobile Home a Good Idea?
OK, not like, a big motorhome or anything. A compact, cozy semi-circle that you can tow behind your bicycle.
This article shows the construction behind a creation by a man named Paul Elkins. It’s a fairly rudimentary project as far as construction efforts are concerned, and can be completed for about $150. Now, for the “I have a bug-out bag in case the whole world goes sideways and I have to get out of the city really fast” lunatic inside me, this thing is awesome. WAY better than sleeping in a tent through rain and cold.
I see something different for this, though. What if someone were to gift a micro-trailer to a less fortunate person, someone without a consistent roof to begin with? It’s a simple DIY project that might be completed on a weekend for quality time with the kids, but you could provide someone with a level of value that I could not even comprehend.
So what are your thoughts? Is this a terrible idea for helping our homeless?