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Posted by Instructor Ellie Stone
Whether it's portraits or landscape, as a photographer, we are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. The weather can be unpredictable in the fall and winter in California, but this unpredictability can often times give us the most amazing shooting conditions.
This was the case for our Natural Light Portrait Workshop on our perfectly overcast Saturday in December. Overcast skies provide a softer and more even light. I like to call it nature's diffusor.
Our workshop got underway at 8:00am, which proved to be a bit early for some. I myself am a morning person, so my high energy level got everybody going, and excited about learning new skills!
Kristen and I got underway with introductions, telling a bit about ourselves, but more importantly, learning about all our lovely students. After introductions I went over some foundation skills for shooting, including Aperture and it's importance in portrait photography. After my presentation, we all headed outside for the fun and excitement of the "hands on" portion of our workshop.
Just a few steps outside the Aperture Academy gallery doors and we found two great backgrounds. Kristen and I had two lovely models, Hannah and Sarah. We posed them in different locations, although very close in proximity. This allowed everyone to practice and learn, without being in each other's way. Kristen had Hannah in front of a nice piece of architecture with a pleasing colored background.
I placed my model in front of an iron railing. Right off the bat I was challenging my students by having them have to pay very close attention to background clutter. There are many subtle things in the background that can become distracting, however, just by changing their position and or angle, we were able to eliminate these distracting elements.
All were getting comfortable with their cameras and the proper settings, so we moved on to an area that would give us some different background and posing options. The Prunyard shopping center is fantastically decorated for the holiday season, which is a big bonus for our class. Kristen took advantage of the beautiful big Christmas tree as a backdrop, while I took half of the group to some charming topiary plants.
Our model, Sarah, had a few shadows on her face, so I demonstrated the use of a reflector, to fill in the soft shadowing. I had the students take an image with, and without, so they would be able to see the in camera results of the reflector. They were amazed at how much better their images looked with the reflector, Sarah's face had a soft glow, that made her look even more radiant.
On the way to our next spot, I noticed a cool chair, and my creative juices started to flow; oh we could do some fun poses with that chair. On of the students quickly grabbed it and brought it into better light. Everyone had fun shooting two completely different lighting situations.
First off we had the dark hallway as our background, which did a superb job of isolating our subject, producing some really nice images. We then flipped the model around, introducing a strong backlit situation. Kristen and I showed all the students how to properly expose for this tricky situation.
We still had quite a bit of time left and many more cool shooting locations to explore, so we moved on. Our next location was just around the corner, a lovely dark grey stucco wall with horizontal lines. We also had some nice wooden pergola posts, wrapped with large wisteria vines.
As memory card were staring to fill, we proceeded around the shopping center to another fun location. This is the kind of spot that most would not even think of exploring as a shooting location. However, this location was a fun lesson in when to forego color and think of shooting in monochrome. The lights are so warm and artificial, that even when we cooled our white balance, our model still had a weird skin tone. When I changed their picture styles to monochrome, the results were pleasing and exciting.
The time was flying by and our class would be coming to an end soon, so Kristen and I took the group to one last spot.
Our last lesson was how to capture subjects who are not posed and cooperative. We had Hannah and Sarah stand side by side and then on the count of 3, jump high in the air. Raising iso's and increasing that shutter speed is how we made sure that everyone was capturing a sharp action shots.
The class definitely seemed to fly by, as it was now time to call it a day; the only thing left to do is capture a fun group photo. I set up the tripod and used my 10-second self-timer to capture a fantastic and fun image of our entire class.
It was a fun class, thanks to all who attended, and our great models. On behalf of myself, Kristen and the entire Aperture Academy team, thank you for another great workshop!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.