I think we all like to take pictures. With the proliferation of digital cameras, not only in DSLR's, but in devices that everyone owns, photography is quietly being adopted by every member of our society. Personal Photography is becoming something everyone can do and afford at quality levels like never before. More and more people are getting into portrait photography to capture moments of friends and family. Spending a couple hours with Aperture Academy learning a few techniques to get the most out of a camera is a surefire way to take those portrait shots to the next level! We have a new addition to the family today! Mary Cheung is the newest addition to the Aperture Academy family of professional photographic instructors. She and I both helped welcome - and instruct - two sets of eager portrait shooters on a full day of natural light goodness!
Natural Light portraits are easiest way to utilize the least amount of equipment and get great results with the images. But there are a few techniques that make taking these pictures MUCH easier and fun. We start of the classes by going over a short slideshow of basic camera techniques. Aperture, ISO and shutter speed all relate to proper exposure and the ability to take a great image. We spend that time in class presenting those basics, i.e. "what aperture does" and how it affects the image, along with proper usage of ISO in different lighting situations. After that there's a short section about setting up the camera and why we use Aperture Priority to shoot our handheld images, followed by what happens if we want to overexpose or underexpose the final image in camera. Then we get into specific examples of composition and how to place the subject(s) in the frame. After our presentation, Mary and I helped our students get their cameras all setup and into the right modes for some practical shooting!
The light today could not have been better for portraits. An overcast day gently softens all the incoming light from the sun, and the clouds act as a giant diffuser which reduces shadows and makes exposing images a lot easier. With our lovely models in tow for both sessions, Mary and I took our group around the complex and put our subjects in locations which would be preferable for portraits. We carefully explain to the groups that by using longer focal lengths, we can compress the background and by adjusting our position - relative to the subject - we can hide nearly anything we don't want from being in the photo. Subject placement is just as important as the placement of the camera. We worked with the students on changing body position, raising or lowering the camera to provide a better vantage point to hide unsightly objects in the background. We spent time talking about model positioning, natural looks, and how you never ever say "Smile!" And finally we taught them how to use the histogram on the back of the camera to determine whether or not an image is properly exposed.
After the basics, we brought in some reflectors, to see what happens when you want to reduce shadows on a part of the face, or diffuse the sunlight light even more. Our students always had two different shooting areas to explore, two separate examples of portrait shooting to get the most out of the limited time available for the class. Mary and I could work in this way to offer differing opinions and answer specific questions relating to the examples we had setup for the class. After about two hours of shooting, we headed back to the studio, for a quick quirky group shot, and our classes had come to end. But the fun doesn't end there! Now everyone was eager to go home and try all of the new techniques they learned from us. We hope you all make some great images!
Until next time...Scott, 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.