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Portraiture is and has been a work of art for centuries. And lighting has always been one of the key elements to produce flattering, tasteful and beautiful portraits. With the advent of technological devices like continuous lighting and studio strobes, the art of portraiture has reached new heights, allowing the photographer the have full control over how the most important aspect of photography - light - fell on the subject. Now portraits can be taken in studios, with backdrops and props, without needing to be on location and at the mercy of mother nature. Besides, natural lighting may be predictable, but mother nature is not. Unfortunately for the hobbyist or serious amateur, these studio setups are beyond reach, and sometimes if you rely on mother nature, you can get extremely great results.
Which is why the Aperture Academy helps dozens of budding professionals on a given weekend with our Natural Light Portrait Workshop. Understanding lighting, even in its simplest form, can help the photographer capture their subjects in any lighting situation in any place, period. And on hand to teach the techniques and dispel the myths were Professional Photographers Ellie Stone and Scott Donschikowski. You see its not that you need all the expensive gear and lighting setups (even though they are really nice to have). All that equipment would be for nothing if you didn't have even just a basic understanding of how light works and how works in relation to your subject.
Like every Aperture Academy workshop, Ellie and Scott begin with a round of introductions to get a better feel for the skills of the class and the individual. In the Gallery we begin an impromptu slideshow, to show off some of the amazing work produced in this class. Visually, Scott and Ellie begin to point out the basics of working with the available light at your scene, starting with camera settings, placement of the subject, the background, and finally how everything should come together to make a great looking image that tells a story. Who wants to start shooting?
On hand for the day, we have two models, Chance, a highschooler, dressed for what would likely be his "senior portrait," and Courtney, an adorable pre-teen girl with youth and spunk. First off, Ellie and Scott split up the group and have Chance and Courtney model in two separate spaces. They take turns with each model learning about the practical skills like composition and camera settings. Learning how to pose the model is one important aspect, but another one also learning how to pose yourself as the photographer. Many times a better shot can be had by simply moving yourself, up, down, left, right, forward and backward. Sometimes the best thing to do to increase your own movement is to learn using a fixed lens like a 50mm or 35mm. Then as the photographer you are forced to move to improve the shot.
Ellie and Scott lead the group around the Pruneyard, posing the models in different and challenging lighting situations and locations, all to teach about the proper settings for each one. When should you use a reflector, diffuser? How should you position your subject? Where should you change the composition to favor the good light? All these questions answered by simply moving our models into those challenging situations and having our students physically see the light and use the camera settings to get what they want. All in all it was a great day for portraiture, a little bit of clouds, a little bit of sun, and a lot of fun teaching two fantastic and eager groups of portrait photographers!
Until next time,
Scott, 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.