Light the Portrait workshop part two.                                              

 

 

 

The second of my two day off-camera lighting workshop is now over and I am pretty sure I have converted a few more photographers to using off-camera flash indoors and out.

The session we just finished was all outside. I would have been happier with a warm, sunny day that had deep shadows and harsh light, but what we got was a cold, slight overcast day instead. Oh well, at the end of the last session I told everyone (yes, our model too) to come prepared for a cold wet day.  As it was, the rain came at night with a wind that dried things out by morning, so all we had to contend with was a cool October, and fortunately, windless day.

Whether one is shooting under a bright sun or overcast conditions, the goal should be to balance both the ambient and the light from the flash. The subject shouldn’t look like a deer-in-the-headlights and the background shouldn’t be unusually under or over exposed.

I began by discussing TTL flash and how to set up and use high-speed sync. Then progressed to demonstrating manual flash lighting. I will say that TTL is wonderful for fast moving events and high-speed sync allows the photographer amazing control over ambient light.

Our first location was in the middle of a field where I had set up a backdrop and two flashes. The 15X15 foot backdrop was a well-used old painter’s tarp that I had found when sorting through the garbage at a house vacated by some tenants who snuck out during the night to avoid paying rent. A drag for the landlord, but an excellent find for me.

Painted backdrops are expensive, especially if they are large and seamless. However, for budget conscious photographers I suggest purchasing a painter’s cloth from the local hardware store and dying it grey. All those that want to be creative need to do is work on the dyed cloth with some spray paint or a large sponge dipped in paint. Instead of spending the extra cash on a seamless cloth, one just employs the cloning tool on the seams in post-processing.

After using different light modifiers at the backdrop location we moved to the edge of the meadow with it’s colourful background of fall leaves. Then we all carefully climbed down into the deep shadowed creek for some photos. After that our model, Sarah wanted to pose against a discarded Cadillac resting in the field. That Caddy was caked up to its bumper in mud from a spring flood that washed out the bridge and almost damaged the studio. From there we posed our model against an old rail fence and finished with a setup using flash and reflectors in a large open barn.

I know that between the very active day and all the handouts I gave those in attendance everyone was dealing with a bit of information overload. Hopefully they will review their notes and remember how we set up the pictures they have on their memory cards. After a few days and a bit of practice everything will come into focus. Pun intended.

Lighting The Portrait Workshop

Class Participants

Bart&Sarah&wind Machine

Sarah

French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire once said, “A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound?”

Last weekend I led an interactive studio session with students that covered off-camera lighting for portrait photography. My goal was to leave participants with enough knowledge and skills, that with additional practice and experimentation, they would be able to produce pleasing and creative portraits of friends, family, and clients.

Learning to take better portraits, or as I emphasized in my workshop, portraits that flatter the subject and which shouldn’t just be a flat documentary of a person, involves understanding lighting techniques and posing.

In this one-day course participants experienced several aspects of portraiture including directing both male and female subjects, as well as an introduction to light modifiers and their application.

My teaching experience has now expanded to over three decades. That experience has taught me (yep, I have learned lots too) that, rather than acting like a star or celebrity standing on a stage demonstrating what I know, I can be much more effective standing by their side leading photographers as a participant into new territory.

My job was to present information on the subject at hand and keeping things going. I’ll admit that wasn’t hard with last Sunday’s group. I stood back and could see what progressed from a spark to a wildfire as each photographer started getting the concepts and began excitedly making the kind of portraits future clients would definitely pay for.

Building bridges between what those photographers already knew and what had eluded them regarding portrait lighting was fun for them and, of course, for me and I enjoyed their enlivened interaction and creativity.

As with most of my current workshops this was held in a well-equipped studio filled with an assortment of lighting gear, complete with a drawer full of wireless senders for participants to use. There are soft boxes, umbrellas, diffusion screens, reflectors and a great selection of wall-mounted backdrops.

All equipment and setups I employed for this workshop could easily be added to any photographer’s kit without a large outlay of cash and could be used in a basement studio.

As the day progressed I included an assignment for participants to make a “business” style portrait of each other. That added to the fun and gave our overworked model some respite. My intention was to get photographers thinking about being creative and complimentary in their directing, posing and lighting.

Our model came made-up and ready to be photographed, whereas the rest of us, well, we intended to be behind the camera, not in front of it. So this was a perfect way to get photographers thinking about how that not so willing portrait client might feel.

By now regular readers know that I really like quotes. So I’ll end with this one by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson that fits the mindset I hoped to impress on participants. He said, “Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life offers itself to you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.”

I always enjoy and respond to comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Leading an Outdoor Lighting Photography Workshop

Adding light  Bailea & Flash  Big lenses  Participants  Sarah lighting Bailea  Model in the meadow  Hide from the wind  Flash & Reflector  Low angle shot  Didya get it

I always enjoy the enlivened interaction that happens when a student of photography makes the decision to participate. During a workshop my job is to present information on the subject, and keep things going. I don’t like to be a demonstrator on stage and rarely pick up a camera during the workshops I lead. That is left to the participants.

Those are the words I used when I was discussing the first of two workshops I am leading this spring on the use of off-camera lighting. The first two-day workshop was about lighting in a studio and was held in a well-equipped photography location where I introduced how different lighting tools are used for portrait photography.

I have now finished the first of a two-session outdoor lighting workshop where the participants were surprised when faced with using many of those same lighting tools outside.

This workshop was about using light out-of-doors and I think returning participants were struck with how straight forward lighting is inside compared to outside. In the studio one synchronizes the camera’s shutterspeed to the studio flash and uses the aperture to determine the exposure of the light reflecting off a subject. However, out-of-doors a photographer is faced with additional variables and must balance the natural ambient light with an off-camera flash, and when using flash effectively it is more about creating and controlling shadows than filling them.

The weather was not willing to co-operate very much. It had rained all night and although the day brightened up some, a cold breeze from fresh snow in the mountains made us shiver when it wandered through our workshop space every now and then. Nonetheless, crappy weather or sunny days, it’s all about adding light, so in spite of the cool damp weather, the ten participating photographers and our intrepid model, Bailea, defiantly (maybe hopefully is a better word) stepped out of the warm studio and into the constantly changing light of day.

In this lighting workshop we dealt with the key aspects of outdoor portrait photography, such as understanding exposure, how photographers would learn to control depth of field, and to gain off-camera flash techniques that would transform their outdoor portraits into something special. And, as with my last workshop, there was excitement as participants got down to business and weren’t at all shy about getting shoulder to shoulder in a process of experimenting with and exploring outdoor lighting.

I had off-camera wireless flash setups in three locations, a large barn, a meadow beside a turn of the century horse buggy, and in the long grass where an old abandoned Cadillac rested. The photographers put each location to good use, and now I am looking forward to the next session. The few images I have seen so far are excellent and I am certain spending another day helping and watching each photographer’s progress is going to be a lot of fun.

Comments? I do like all comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

 

 

Photographing models at a Strobist meet.

Stephanie4 Molly 2 Monica 1 Stephanie 2 Molly Monica3 Stephani 3

Last Sunday I joined six other photographers and three models at photographer, Dave Monsees’, rural studio for what Dave organized and referred to as a Strobist work session.

The rustic studio, nestled beside a stream in a picturesque treed valley, is a short ten-minute drive from city center to the rural community of Cherry Creek, British Columbia. I had heard about it from other photographers and was looking forward to his Strobist session so I could check the studio out, and, of course, spend the afternoon with like-minded photographers. Now what could be better than that?

This Strobist get-together was the third held in my area that I have been fortunate enough to attend, and as with the first two, it had its own uniqueness.

Some of the participants had experience using off-camera lighting and got right to the business of arranging lights and posing our three models for the day, Molly Lampreau, Stephanie Johannesen, and Monica Nicklas.  I had agreed to begin with a mini lesson and to be available to answer questions for those invitees that were just beginning to enhance their portrait photography with artificial light, and with a few minutes of instruction and a bit of prompting before long everyone was in the act of portrait photography.

The word, Strobist, and gatherings like the one I was invited to have become popular because of American photographer, David Hobby’s, Strobist.com lighting blog that promotes off-camera lighting techniques among photographic enthusiasts, with an emphasis on the practical knowledge rather than just the gear. Those that think our meets in Kamloops are unique should try searching Stobist meet on the Internet. There will be page after page featuring Strobist meets all over the world.

My regular readers know that I rarely make a photograph of people, indoors or out, without using a flash. So getting together with other photographers, experienced or not, that like to use off-camera light for their portrait work is fun. The studio was jam packed with lighting equipment set up with wireless camera connection. There were two different backdrop set-ups and we had our choice of several larger studio type lights in the larger space, and some smaller hotshoe flashes on stands in the more intimate space. There were also lots of light modifiers, softboxes, umbrellas, snoots, barn doors, and so on for us to employ.

How a person in a portrait appears does have a lot to do with how the subject(s) are posed, but I think light and how it is applied is just as important. Using flash, on or off camera, to modify light gives a photographer more control than just using the sun, or relying on a high ISO.

In addition photographers always need to explore and experiment to learn how to balance the background, or ambient light, with flash, and get-togethers like a Strobist meet are perfect for practicing off-camera lighting in a studio, with willing subjects without the pressure of actual clients, and watching other photographers work is always fun.

I was in a hurry to download my images from that day and began sorting, editing and optimizing as soon as I got home. As I opened PhotoShop and began, I thought of a quote by American supermodel Tyra Banks that fit the day of photography from beginning to end, “There are three key things for good photography: The camera, lighting, and…PhotoShop”.  In my opinion there might be a few more important things for good photography, but to a model the final picture is everything.

I appreciate you comments.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com