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Portrait Practice

Discussion in 'People' started by cajun angel, Apr 23, 2007.

  1. okay, the real portrait date is this coming Sunday. I've gone nuts trying to get this right! Now, I'm practicing here at home at Clix Pix's suggestion! This is my first attempt and please don't mind my daughter's posture. Just look at all the other technical stuff. Stuart has been so generous in his advice and I hope I've gotten something right on this. Of course I used my Gary Fong light sphere! So, here's Mariam, my first official guina pig?

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  2. Ottrott's Human

    Ottrott's Human

    May 21, 2006
    Hi Dianne,
    This is a big improvement over the last shot you sent me via PM. I would iron out the wrinkles in the backdrop before the real shoot. That's a must.......be very careful about not overlooking details. It's *all* about the details.

    If you are shooting subjects with glasses you have to watch that glare. That's a no-no for your finished product.

    The lighting looks nice and even with no hard shadows this time.:wink: The forehead is a bit hot though so watch your histogram and the highlight blinker after each shot and adjust your aperture as necessary. Your WB is greatly improved.

    Keep at it.....you're definitely making strides in the right direction.

    Good work!
  3. okay, I know some of the kids - the girls will most likely have makeup on. I think her head was tilted a little too high? I've got a week, so you better be prepared, teacher! LOL!:wink:
  4. icetraxx


    May 7, 2005
    Looking good. After my experience shooting the recital pictures about a month ago, you are doing the right thing practicing. I wish I would have had a little more time before my week long shoot. Oh well, I winged it and the results came out very well. Learned a lot in a short time.

    I attempted to get the wrinkles out of my 10x20 muslin. I had a little success but ended up moving my dancer out away from the backdrop about 4 feet. This allowed me to use DOF to remove the wrinkles. Another thing that I found, this may be correct and it may not be, was to keep the lens about eye level or just above.

    Good luck and keep practicing.


  5. Thanks Larry! Man, I need all the tips I can get and if I ever open my big mouth again to do something I know nothing about, somebody call the men in the little white suits! :wink: I think Mariam was about 4 ft from the muslin and my DOF may not have been what was needed. I'll be doing more practicing between today and Sunday. I'm thinking I had my lens just above her eyes - I was having some minor troubles with a new head on my tripod, so I can't be for sure! Despite a nightmare, I was happy they turned out as well as they did!
  6. Sharon


    Feb 18, 2006
    Hey, Dianne, I've been out of the loop for a few days, so I don't know what your going to be taking photos of. Daughter's friends? I'm not as qualified as others here, but I do have a little more experience with people than I do birds. So, just a couple things to watch for...I agree about the wrinkles. Do you have a steamer? That's the easiest way to get rid of them, because you can just leave it hanging and steam over them to get them out. If not, get a spray bottle that has a fine mist and spray slightly and just run your iron over the area will damp (while it's still hanging). Also, if you can move her farther away from the backdrop or use a wider aperature, that will soften the backdrop and cause if to blur out more.

    Be careful about "cutting off" parts of hands/fingers, etc. Really check that in the view finder before you take the shot.

    The light from the flash looks a little strong. I don't have a lightsphere, so I can't help you with how to use that. But, you could try dialing back your flash exposure a little and see if that helps with the hot spots. Do you have your flash pointed up? That would help also, if you didn't have it that way. This is an interesting link on how to make your own bounce card using the foam sheets you can get at any craft type store - http://www.abetterbouncecard.com/ I've used it with some success to give a nice soft light. It is probably the same type of concept as the Lightsphere, but since I don't own one, I'm not sure.

    You could also try removing the lightsphere completely and turning your flash around so it is pointed behind you and bouncing it off a wall or a large piece of foam core board to give a softer light with less harsh highlights.

    The glasses glare is tough, but if you can soften the light, you won't have as much trouble with it. Try getting her to tilt her head down slightly and see if that helps. Your other option is to take the lenses out of the frame. Sounds silly, but it works. You still have the frame of the glasses and no glare from the lenses. But, that's not always an option when time is short or people are afraid to remove them.

    Since I don't know what your shooting, I'm not sure if this is an option or not. But, do you have to use the flash? Can you get light from a window and use all natural light? It is much easier to do, if that is an option. And since you have a good tripod, you can use a low shutter speed if your subjects are sitting and get a good result. Again, you can use a large piece of foam core on the opposite side of your window to bounce some additional light on your subject from the other side. Just stand it up on a chair or something so the light is reflected toward the face. This is just a thought, if there is a window available.

    Hope some of this helps.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2007
  7. Ottrott's Human

    Ottrott's Human

    May 21, 2006
    Everyone is offering great advice and suggestions Dianne. One more, very important, thing that I should have mentioned in my original post, but that I didn't think about until later.....:confused:  .... was the framing of the image.

    You really should come in tighter for this kind of shot. That will eliminate problems such as cropping off fingers etc.....

    Here's an example I did a few weeks ago with natural light and a natural background. This is, I hope, a reasonably good example of the kind of composition you should be going for so.......get in closer!:wink:

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    Here is an even tighter portrait I did a few months back of my daughter. Notice the crop....it's okay to crop some of the top of the head for shots like this too. It's "artistic"!:wink:

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    The above was shot in front of a seemless black paper background which should be available for very little money at any reasonably well equipped photo shop.

    I think it's less distracting than muslins like the one you are using and you don't have to worry about wrinkles and such.
  8. Stu and others: These are excellent tips.

    Dianne: you keep posting 'em and we will get these great advices.

    You guys are truly great souls.
  9. I will 2nd Sam's reply.
  10. Thanks ya'll! I'm carefully writing everything down - making a list and will put them all to use during my remaining practice time. I really appreciate everything that ya'll have said and I'll do my best to get the hang of it. in fact....

    This morning when I went to see a photographer friend, he gave me a good suggestion about eye glasses - I hope I can type it out well enough for ya'll as he demonstrated with his own glasses the point he was trying to get across.

    Have the subject take his/her glasses off and put them back on but with the ear pieces in the hair just above the ear. This will give the glasses enough of a slant that the flash won't reflect making the glare. The trick is to not over do it. Anyway, I'm learning, taking notes, and hope to have something else to post tonight. I may not have a steamer by tonight, but I'll try to get as many points taken care of as I can! Thanks ya'll!

    It's having people like ya'll that make this forum sooooooo very special!
  11. Some good tips here.... If I remember correctly, though, this is to be a series of recital portraits, so in that case each child will be holding his/her musical instrument and that will be included as part of the portrait? This would then mean that Dianne can't crop in too closely and that she will have to be concerned about hands/fingers/elbows, etc....

    I like that tip about the glasses! Good one to remember...
  12. Sharon


    Feb 18, 2006
    Dianne, I thought of a couple more things. First, though, you are getting some fantastic advice! Stuart has added some more great information. And I agree about getting in closer and don't be afraid to cut off a little at the top of the head.

    Where are you taking these pictures? Do you have any option to use natural light? I'm not sure what lens you're using, but if you have the option of natural light, the 50mm 1.8 lens is a great lens for this type of shooting and you can't beat the cost. Here are a couple examples of taken of my son, inside the house, using the 50mm and window light only.



    One other thing to think about, in my first example, he is sitting in a big leather chair, which blocked the light from hitting the top of his head. With the chair being dark and his hair being dark you can see that it gets lost in the image. So, try to pull them away from the background as much as you can since your backdrop is dark. Like Stuart, I quite often crop in close and chop off part of the head.

    Also, before you go out and buy a steamer, try spraying a fine mist of water on the backdrop (in little sections at a time, where the wrinkles are) and holding your iron up to it to get the wrinkles out. Just keep moving the iron as you hold it up close to the backdrop.
  13. Well, let's see if I can clear things up a tiny bit.....
    We're gonna be shooting the recital portraits at my church. I'm planning on practice in the actual recital room and then in the hallway. The hallway has better lighting by far but I'm not sure the lighting will be nice enough. Some portraits may be in the sanctuary at the grand piano. On most of the portraits, the kids will all be holding either flutes or clarinets. The biggest issue I have is getting into my church long enough to try shooting in the hall, the recital room, and then in the sanctuary. To this point, I've been using my 18-200 VR but may have to go to the 50mm if all else fails.
  14. Chin down... straighten the back, slide the hands back on the legs to create nicer curves with the arms, of course that won't matter with the instruments... do you have any instruments or items resembling them with which to practice? Might help. And for the glasses, just turn the subject so they are facing away from the main light, if you have a reflector on the other side it should provide enough fill so that the face is still well lit.

    Here are a few pictures from my first studio shoot, that just happened to have an awkward instrument, the violin. Maybe these will give you some ideas?

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    View attachment 92176
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2007
  15. Ottrott's Human

    Ottrott's Human

    May 21, 2006
    Hi Connie!
    I either didn't realize this was a recital shoot or had just forgotten. Thanks for bringing this up.

    Still though....I don't feel the entire instrument needs to be in the shot and I think a primary issue with Dianne's posted photo is the framing.

    This is an example of a recital type shot with the closeness that I prefer:

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  16. Trish5


    Mar 31, 2005
    Hi Dianne,

    The first thing that jumps at me is the crop or lack of it. You must decide what kind of portrait you will be shooting. For this type of setup I would recommend chest up.

    make sure the backdrop is far enough away that it will be slightly blurred in the photo. I slightly blurred it in this crop


    Glasses...need to not have that glare

    Ears: since most of us don't have 2 of the same, if they are not hidden by hair, position so you shoot only one.

    Bare arms are distracting for this type of pose. Most of the attention should be drawn to the Eyes/face.

    Lighting looks pretty good. just watch your highlights.

    Here is a crop I did to show you approx what you should be filling your frame with.
    good Luck! You're on the right track!:smile:
  17. Billy Ng

    Billy Ng

    Jan 22, 2007
    Hartsdale, NY
    As was previously said .. chin down ... make the subject look more "up" at the lens than down at it, that opens up the eyes.

    Be careful of cropping too much ... remember, 8x10s are fairly square compared the camera's native 4x6 sensor, the last thing you want is a parent who wants an 8x10 and then you realize that if you crop the picture to 8x10, you cut off half a hand, or you cut the bell off a trumpet.

    I've got this incredible silhouette of a sax player in a tunnel in Central Park that I can't make a 5x7 or 8x10 of because I end up cropping off his head or removing a bit of his sax ... very frustrating.
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