As continuous warm weather approaches, so do opportunities for outings at the beach, in the woods, or just traveling in general. Whatever summer excursion awaits, there will be plenty of photographs taken of friends and family. Portrait photography happens all around us, more often than we can count.
How many are merely random snapshots? How much more rich would the memories be if they were really a series of well thought-out photos, moments chosen, and made, by the photographer?
At Aperture Academy on a beautiful Saturday morning, I had a great time helping a group of eager students understand that, in order to get a great portrait, it is much more thought and chosen moments than random snaps.
We started our Natural Light Portrait Workshop off with an in-class review focusing on exposure, using priority settings and exposure compensation, and lens choices. After the indoor session, the students and I headed out into the sun, and we accessed lighting right away.
There is a common misconception that sun equals nice lighting. While that is somewhat true, direct sunlight can be quite an adversary for portrait photography... it can be quite harsh and lead to unflattering shadows of the face if positioned incorrectly. The students noticed right away that side lighting really causes such harsh shadows, while front lighting causes the model to squint. So, in the harsh sun, the most viable option is to backlight the model.
After working on the lighting choices, we addressed backgrounds and how, with the correct angle and optimal lens, you can make any location work quite well. So, we focused on a couple areas within the office complex that really posed a challenge, making for an excellent exercise with the principle.
We worked with using the camera’s low dynamic range to achieve a completely black background. All it took was a wall that was in shadow behind the subject; although our eyes could see that it was a wall to a building, the camera saw it as pure black. Next, I threw the students into a not-so-ideal situation, where they had little space to work with and had to consider the position of the sun, too. I wanted to see how they would tackle the scene. With some guidance, they found the perfect position that accommodated for perfect lighting and perfect background.
We next moved on to framing the subject and utilizing leading lines and using the natural elements around us. Slowly building on what already knew about lighting and composition, they were able to get some great images.
It was amazing to see the growth the students had in such a short amount of time! Their composition was getting better, they started taking initiative on getting different angles, and they began independently directing our model, Kayla.
As our time together neared a close, we enjoyed a quick tutorial of how to get moving subjects in focus: switching between the focus modes, and the difference between focus mode verses area mode. It took a couple of runs with Kayla strutting down the pathway, but everyone was able to get a series of images where she was completely sharp.
We were having such a good time that, before I knew it, the students were off and headed out, but hopefully they were all on their ways to practice the skills learned throughout the class!
Until next time,
Mary, and the rest of the Aperture Academy team!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.
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