There's always two sides of taking a great picture. One is the technical execution: understanding how your camera works and using the correct settings to get the proper exposure, feel, and focus. The other can come more naturally: understanding how to position yourself in relation to the subject and really getting that outstanding composition. Both skill sets are equally important, especially in portrait photography, and on Saturday morning, DeAnna Roberts and I helped a group of eager students practice just that.
We started with our in-class session. Most students were pretty new to their cameras, so it was a great refresher on camera settings. We focused on how to use aperture priority and why aperture is so important when it comes to getting that nice blurry background, and then moved on to using exposure compensation. After our run through of lens choices and some examples of good composition, we headed out and began to practice what we'd learned.
Since our model called in sick, DeAnna graciously offered to fill in (she was a natural). There were a lot of questions right off the bat on proper focus, which DeAnna and I fielded with enthusiasm. We explained the difference between knowing how the camera is focusing verses what the camera is focusing on, the focus mode verses the area mode. When the students got it down, we moved on to lighting. Right away, everyone picked up on the fact that front lighting in the sun was not very flattering. It caused squinting and was very harsh. Side lighting was just as bad with the amount of shadows it casted. But back lighting caused no shadows or squinting. It was perfect aside from slight exposure issues. This is where exposure compensation came in. When the camera sees a bright background overpowering a subject, it will more likely than not underexpose that subject, so we needed to correct that manually.
DeAnna and I also decided to give the students a shot at positioning and lighting on their own. We headed to an area with a vine overhang surrounded by office windows. With limited amount of "pretty" space to work with, the students had to position the subject so that the lighting was flattering, and the background wasn't distracting. They did a great job directing, and eventually using their telephoto lens to bring forward a leafy pillar in the distance as their entire background.
Before we knew it, the session was coming to an end. We took our group shot before some of the students took off, and then DeAnna and I stayed to answer any additional questions. Needless to say, a lot of information was absorbed that day, and I can't wait to see how the students continue to put their skills to use in the future!
Until next time,
Mary, DeAnna, and the rest of the Aperture Academy team!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.
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