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Perfect Portraits-and-Processing Photography Workshop | September 11, 2016

Perfect Portraits & Processing Photography Workshop Students

Weddings, engagements, family portraits, birthday parties…all require working with people and understanding the dynamics of portrait photography.

After a morning of teaching the natural light class, we were back at the Aperture Academy headquarters the next day—-this time practicing portrait photography coupled with some basic editing in Lightroom. I had three returning students who were eager to practice some more, and five others all looking to capitalize on their portrait and editing skills.

Our day started similarly to the natural light class, reviewing the basics and discussing the importance of having a good foundation. After diving a bit into having the proper lenses for shooting portraits, we were all ready to head outside and photograph our model, Holga.

Once outside, we immediately practiced what we preached and used our telephoto lenses to isolate and bring forth a background. With the telephoto lens, the students were able to achieve optimal blur in the background as avoid some of the unflattering office building awnings.

My favorite part of the shoot came when I let the students come up with their own solutions. We approached a vine overhang that was not the most interesting, but provided some nice shade. It was in the middle of the parking lot so there were plenty of distractions that we needed to be aware of in the background.

I asked the students to jump in and position the model based off what they had learned. Right away, a couple students took the lead and made sure there was no direct lighting falling on our model. After a couple of tries, the students were able to position Holga with nice even lighting against a leafy background.

We continued to explore the area around the office buildings and found some interesting spots. The classic row of trees across the street provided great leading lines as well as framing around our model. Also, the walkway behind the trees was a perfect area to practice focusing on a moving target. We eventually wrapped the shoot with our traditional group shot and headed back inside to download our photos.

When we returned from our lunch break, the photos were ready to be processed in Lightroom. Lightroom does not start off as the most intuitive photo editing program, so we went over the basic structure first. I emphasized that importing photos correctly is important, because Lightroom does not store your images, but rather just makes a connection to the originals located on your hard drive. Having said that, that connection can easily be broken if files or folders are constantly being moved, so having a system for storing your albums would help a lot.

After, we began working with some basic editing features of Lightroom: white balance, exposure, contrast, etc., I explained how a majority of the time, we rarely need to adjust the exposure, as it is assumed we got it correct in camera. If there needs to be adjustments to certain parts of the picture, i.e., the model’s hair is too bright, we can always make selective adjustments in both the highlights and shadows.

The same concept applies for color and saturation. Instead of raising our saturation, which can also give skin a very unappealing orange tone, we can simply use our color adjustment sliders in the HSL section, muting and amplifying one color at a time with complete control.

After the basic edits, we ended with some masking and selective editing. Lightroom is not my program of choice for extensive selective editing. That title would be given to Photoshop; but Lightroom does have its merits in selective editing.

Using the adjustment brush, it is pretty simple to apply a mask to the area we want to affect, and even use some presets to soften skin or whiten teeth. The spot removal tool is excellent as well for quickly removing blemishes.

At the end of the day, the students learned how to export their edits from Lightroom and hopefully left with the desire to keep photographing and editing. After all, there is nothing like making a good photograph you capture even better!

Until next time,

Scott, Mary, and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team

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