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Our Natural Light Portrait workshops took place on June 8, 2013. Alicia and I had two sessions that day – a morning session and afternoon session. That didn’t save anyone from the extreme summer heat - though it was refreshing to others coming from warmer places like Sacramento and cooler places like San Francisco. It was the perfect day, however, to experience different natural light settings all around the Pruneyard shopping complex.
Each workshop begins with the traditional introduction of each student where we learn the reasons behind them taking the class. Most of the students had kids or clients wherein they wanted to learn how to interact and get their subjects to display the emotions and poses that would be fun and professional. There is a 30-minute presentation where Alicia and I go over the basics of using the functions in your DSLR as well as the plans for the workshop. After the refresher on the exposure triangle which shows how to use aperture, ISO and shutter speed, we go out and start the route with our models - Hannah and Tyler Fawn for the morning class and Chris and Mia for the afternoon class.
With each group, we began by opening our apertures very wide, starting around openings of f/1.8, f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4. We placed our models in areas where the sun was behind their heads – giving them a soft even light on their faces and a rim light acting as a halo around their heads. We kept our cameras on Aperture Priority so that all we had to worry about was 1) setting our aperture or f-stop to control how much of the scene we want in focus and 2) setting our ISO between 640-800 to control how sensitive our sensor was in absorbing light – the shutter is automatically dictated by these settings when on A/Av mode.
Alicia and I made sure to look for places where the models had a simple background or a repeating one (bars on railings, bricks on columns, bushes with the same leaves/flowers, etc) in open shade. Open shade means areas where there is full shade provided by buildings, trees, etc. The best backgrounds are simple and not distracting – no trees or lampposts poking out of our subject’s heads! As we progressed through the complex, Alicia discussed posing techniques – how to move an arm or head slightly to get a better photo. It was great to show how it was different posing men and women – women more dainty and men more strong in stature.
We showed the students how to use lighting situations that were not ideal – dark hallways or yucky artificial orange light temperature electrical rooms. This was so they knew how to utilize their cameras to best of their ability – especially in dimly lit situations like at home, at night, or in restaurants. They were asked to bump up their ISO as HIGH AS POSSIBLE so they could use full effect of a dimly lit situation. We went into this, however, explaining that once you push your ISO past 1600, there is digital noise (green and magenta pixelation) that tends to ruin the photograph. It is more about pushing the ISO to whatever is acceptable in poorly lit situations.
Another neat trick we explained to the students was how to use the reflector, a commonplace tool amongst photographers. We recommended the 5-in-1 that has 5 sides – a gold side, a silver side, a white side, a black side (to take away light), and a diffuser. We demonstrated the power of reflecting light to fill in shadows and how it makes a difference in our photos.
After several stops, we ended the session with a fun group photo. Even in the summer heat, it was easy to have fun and get absorbed in learning how to shoot portrait photography.
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.