As we head into the month of May, I’m already thinking about the end of the school year–– daydreaming about what summer excursions await me. With that, there will be plenty of photographs taken of friends and family. Whether it’s a selfie, a candid, or a family portrait, portrait photography happens all around us. On a warm Sunday afternoon, I took a group of eager students through the ins and outs of how to capture moments of the people we most love in natural light.
We started off with an in-class review focusing on the exposure triangle, specifically on prioritizing aperture to control our depth of field. Along with exposure, we discussed composition, lens choice, and focusing. Afterwards, we headed out into the sun where we first started with some headshots of our model, Andon, in direct sunlight. There is a common misconception of how sunlight equals nice lighting. While that is somewhat true, sunlight can be quite harsh during midday and lead to unflattering shadows of the face if positioned incorrectly. The students noticed right away that side lighting really causes these harsh shadows, while front lighting causes the model to squint. Backlighting was the best option to get even skin tones. We went over how to adjust exposure compensation if the camera underexposes a backlit subject and how to eliminate lens flares or haze. Next, we moved on to indirect light. Shade can be a wonderful source of indirect light when photographing on a sunny day. We positioned Andon against the building and let the angle of the wall coupled with the shallow depth of field to form some leading lines.
When we finished our lighting session, we moved to a more open area around the office building, and I let the students experiment and position Andon themselves. I reminded them to find the right light first, and then think about positioning so the background would be ideal as well. When posing Andon, we worked on shifting body weight and sitting down to get into a more relaxed position. Then we tried different angles, getting low for a more dramatic look versus a higher angle while doing an extreme close up. I tagged Andon out to demonstrate the importance of tightening the jawline when photographing headshots as well as shifting weight and leaning forward versus backward.
We ended the class with a quick tutorial of getting moving subjects in focus: switching between the focus modes: AF-S/One Shot or AF-C/AI Servo. It took a couple of runs with Andon strolling down the pathway, but everyone was able to get a series of images where he was completely sharp. We headed back inside after we took our group photo and before I knew it, the students were off—hopefully on their way to practice the skills learned throughout the class.
Until next time,
Mary and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!
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