The Aperture Academy Natural Light Portrait Workshop is a great kick-off photography workshop for people interested in learning how to get to know their nifty DSLR cameras better. Not only do you get to learn the basic of using a DSLR, you also learn compositional techniques for posing people. More importantly, you learn how to manipulate natural or ambient light of a given scene to create beautiful, professional portraits.
Each workshop starts out in the classroom, where we make introductions and share skill levels in photography. We then go over basic settings and compositional techniques to practice for the rest of the workshop. The first thing we learn is that there is an exposure triangle in photography – three elements that work together in looking for the right exposure. They are aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Aperture is the first element we focus on because, well, we decide what the “focus” actually is. Aperture is the f/stop number that dictates the depth of field. This means that a small f/stop number (f/1.2, f/1.8, f/2,8, f/4) is used when we want to isolate our subject and have their background go out of focus. A bigger f/stop number (f/8, f/11, f/22) is what we use when we want our subject and their surroundings to be in focus. After we decide on aperture, we decide on our ISO (especially if we are shooting in “Aperture Priority Mode/Aperture Value Mode” which chooses our shutter for us). The ISO is the sensor in the camera that is sensitive to light – how the camera absorbs light. If the scene has a lot of light (i.e., sunny day at noon), we typically use a lower ISO number (100, 200, 400). If it is a dimly light area (i.e., in a hallway), we choose a higher ISO number (800, 1000, 1600). The only thing to pay attention to with ISO is that the higher the number, the more digital grain/noise will be in your image.
We got our cameras ready to go with an all around setting f/4 with an ISO of 400-640 and our exposure compensation at 0.0. We have two models that we learn have natural organic shapes in their bodies – a thing to consider when posing them. We consider it because the backgrounds have symmetry and having our models mimic that symmetry can produce an aesthetically pleasing image. We walk around the Pruneyard complex, finding areas where our model can pose, with different sets of issues to consider – harsh lighting, bad/noisy background, or angles that flatter our models. We learn that direct sunlight is a no-no – we either pose our models with the sun at their backs to create a soft, even light on their faces with a nice rim light on their hair, in open shade where the light is naturally even, or using our 5-in-1 reflectors to modify the light.
Exposure compensation comes into play when we want to control our shutter on aperture priority mode – we add or take away light. When backlighting a subject, we raise the exposure compensation to add light so that the model’s face is well exposed and the background becomes brighter.
All through out our shooting, we make sure to try different compositional techniques to make our images more interesting. We follow the rule of thirds, try the Dutch angle, as well as look for an S Curve in our model’s bodies. We also try to use leading lines to help viewers navigate through the image.
It was a lovely sunny day to go out and learn some photography! Don’t forget – if you are interested in trying different lenses or camera bodies out, www.borrowlenses.com is a great venue to do so. As long as you practice your heart out, you’ll see your images improve and reach professional quality!
Thank you and Happy Snapping from Danielle, Ellie and the entire Aperture Academy Team!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.