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The use of natural light in portraiture can produce some wonderfully pleasing results. However, it's not always the direct light that can be utilized, but shaded areas can be a photographer's best ally, particularly in the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead.
On this bright and sunny Saturday in June, Aperture Academy instructor Ellie Stone was on hand to teach a group of enthusiastic photographers about this very topic. On tap for the day's agenda: techniques for utilizing available light in order to effectively create compelling portraits, and how to get your subject to relax and pose them in attractive ways.
Ellie began the workshop activities with introductions. Getting to know everyone's skill level and expectation is vital, especially since all our workshops are tailored to each individual. She went over some brief refreshers on aperture and depth of field, which are imperative for portrait photography. Directly following her slideshow presentation, the group headed outside for the excitement and fun of the tactile portion of the workshop.
It turned out on this day that Mother Nature provided one of the most challenging of lighting conditions: bright sun. Unlike landscape photography, where we can shoot during the best light situations, with portrait photography oftentimes we are forced to take portraits or photograph a wedding during mid day. Learning how to deal with an unfortunate lighting scenario can help a photographer feel confident, knowing they can make simple adjustments to achieve a great shot.
Class began right outside the Aperture Academy gallery doors. A simple wrought iron railing became the first of many backgrounds. Right from the start, Ellie started to challenge the students with the task of moving themselves around the subject to eliminate background clutter. She assisted with camera settings and explained why ISO and shutter speed are so important. If one has a beautiful model, posed in an attractive way, under the best lighting conditions, it's all for naught if the camera's settings are incorrect.
The group made their way around the Pruneyard shopping center, stopping often to take advantage of the changing light and differing architecture. At every corner there was a new photographic challenge and great opportunity for the students to learn something new. They dealt with backlight, high contrast, and even a dark hallway. They also learned how just a basic green shrub can provide an interesting and flattering background. With all that, they were also learning how to read the light, and things like how moving a model's face ever so slightly can create a dramatically different affect.
While the gang continued making their way around the picturesque shopping center, which seemed to have an endless supply of backdrops and different lighting options, the three-hour class seemed to fly by. All too soon it became time to set up for a group shot of the class, so everyone would have a memento of their day and their Aperture Academy experience. Following the last photo of the workshop, Ellie answered some final questions and thanked everyone for their participation in what was a fun and informative day!
Until next time,
Ellie and the rest of the Aperture Academy team!
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.