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The Wallpaper Portrait

Discussion in 'People' started by Jim Strathearn, Nov 12, 2005.

  1. Some of you may remember that I asked for some advice on shooting what was described to me to be a fairly difficult portrait. That thread is here: https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=56550

    Well, I went over there yesterday to do the shoot and it almost turned out to be a rather comical event. And I mean that in a warm and friendly way. Here's the story:

    I get a call from a woman who is a friend of a friend and asks me to take a portrait of her so she can use it to have a painted portrait done. The spot she wants to be photographed is at the top of the stairs in a split foyer home in front of white wallpaper with inlaid white designs and she will be wearing black. (Hence my first thread...)

    I get to her home and walk in and the first thing I notice is at the top of the stairs where the wallpaper is, she has several decorator-type mirrors hanging on the wall.:Shocked: I mention that and she says that she forgot all about them. I then proceed to tell her that the camera will not capture the inlaid design of the wallpaper anyway and she is fine with that. It turns out that all she wanted was some photographs taken with a nice camera. Her friend is going to paint the portrait pro bono and evidently this woman has painted sitting presidents in the past. So, it was then up to me to decide how to do the shoot.

    The home is rather small and she has nice furniture everywhere. I decide to try shooting against a white wall where I have about four feet of clear space as a background. Well, I thought it was clear but during the shoot eventually noticed that I was including a wall outlet in some of the pics... ANYWAY, I try some natural light shots but the clouds are in and out making that rather difficult. I then use my SB800 as a remote and got what I thought was a nice shot, which I will post below. That was sitting. She then wants to have some done while standing with one foot on a step stool. She is an aspiring country western singer and said that she just got finished doing a music video and wanted to have some pics done with her in the outfit she wore for that. I was fine with that so we tried it. Well, trying to shoot someone standing and leaning forward with only four feet of clear space as a background doesn't work; at least it didn't for me. One of the biggest issues for me was a shadow from furniture that bothered me. I borrowed two more SB800's so I decided to use one to eliminate the shadow on the wall. Well, I couldn't get it to fire remotely consistently. To make matters worse, several of the shots suffered from severe motion blur. I was shooting at up to 1/125 and I honestly don't have a clue as to what was going on there. Perhaps she was getting tired and was wavering or something? To make a long story short, I am pretty much dissatisfied with the whole shoot and am under a time constraint for another commitment. I ask her if I could leave and come back later and she said that was fine.

    I go home, take care of some stuff then get out my SB800 manual to see what I was doing wrong. As you may have already guessed, I didn't set the standby delay for a long enough duration for the remote to stay awake so it could be ready to go when called upon. So, I gather up my stuff and head back. I now have had time to think about things and decided to shoot against a large window she has in her living room. This would give me the most room to position my equipment and I thought I could handle the back-lighting. (That's what I get for thinking!) :eek:  However, we both felt that the results were far more pleasing in the afternoon then in the morning. She ended up changing outfits a few times so we got some different poses, etc.

    What matters the most is that she was thrilled with the afternoon pics. Some of what I felt are the better ones are posted below. PLEASE be honestly brutal and C&C these for me. I know that trying to frame her in the window frame was probably doomed from the start. But if you could only see the other stuff! :wink:

    Thanks for listening and looking!

    This is one from the morning that I liked:
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    She liked the following ones:
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    She wants to use this one for the portrait: (Working with that gold shirt and collar was a chore!)
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    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  2. These look good you did a good job and the customer is happy.. a win win situation
  3. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    C&C - The Wallpaper Portrait

    Jim :

    I like the composition of the first more than the later ones, not being a person who likes the windowpane background, but I'll say with truth that she looks more joyous and animated in the later ones, especially the last one.

    As well, the line of the chin and neck was much superior in the last photo. For most women of a certain age, "under" or side shots are not flattering in this respect. You did keep from significantly shadowing her in that area in your shots, which would have made this issue more prominent.

    If you're really not pleased with the background lines in the later shots, I suppose that those could be PS'd, although I have no advice on how, given my small skills with that sort of thing.

    Good work with a difficult set of conditions.

    John P.

    P.S. If you don't mind, I titled my response using the "C&C" beginning and used the new icon from Paul (https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/announcement.php?f=93).
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  4. Thanks Mike! Birdies may be harder to pose, but if you don't get the shot you can just go home. This was almost too much like work! :wink: But she's happy so I'm pleased.
  5. Thanks John. I had read up on portraits before doing the shoot and the book I read mentioned not shooting woman from below eye level. Of course, I forgot everything I read once I was there!

    Thanks for the C&C. I don't mine the icon at all. In fact, I like it.
  6. Hi Jim,

    You did a good job. The last one the smile looks a bit forced. But they all look good. And if it is used for paintings then they got a good start photo to begin with.

  7. I like the more formal look of the first image the best but will say that you did well on all of them. It will be interesting to see which image she and the artist pick to memorialize this woman. My 2nd favorite is the last image and I think you did well controlling the look of the background. I feel that the background on images #2 and #3 is too light and the flash too readily apparent.
  8. Well,

    I read the whole story of the before and during of your portrait session: it's quite an entertaining read actually.:biggrin: I would personally have run out! :eek:  :smile:

    I am impressed with what you did, and I too prefer the 1st image (for its lighting), closely followed by the last (for its more relaxed pose). You did very good, not only photographically, but also from a people management standpoint: hat's off to you!
  9. Thanks Vince! She chose the last one for her portrait.
  10. Thanks Gordon. I was a bit nervous and didn't do a good job at keeping the background IN THE BACKGROUND! She loved the last one and is going to use it for her portrait. I think that the angle of the face, (not showing the double chin), did it.
  11. Thanks you Philippe. there were times when I spent too much time talking and trying to make her relax when I should have been watching the camera settings. But all in all, we were both satisfied. BTW, choosing the pose for the last shot was her idea.
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