There are many elements to creating perfect portraits, both the technical and the creative. On a cloud covered Sunday, Ajay and I met up with a group of photographers on a mission to improve their portrait taking skills.
As with most of our Aperture Academy Workshops, we had a wide range of photographers joining us for the day’s portrait taking adventure. Abilities range from the beginner to the more advance amateur.
During our orientation, Ajay and I get to meet everyone and learn about their skill level, as well as what they hope to learn during our time together. After we get to know everyone, I go over a brief presentation about those important foundational basics. Covering the technical and creative, plus some tips on lens selection and preparing for a portrait shoot.
After the classroom portion we all made our way outside with our 2 fabulous models. Ajay and I put up a plain grey backdrop outside, which provided amazing results without expensive lighting. We simply used natural light to achieve some stunning images. Our male model Quentin started with the backdrop, while I took our female model, Haley to the courtyard area. Today, the cloud cover was providing an amazing soft light. I like to call it natures soft-box, as the light is perfectly diffused by the clouds. Creating a nice even light, with no harsh shadows.
I worked with my students to achieve a background free of clutter. This proved to be challenging, as the courtyard area has a lot of distractions. We worked on finding the right position for model, as well as the best position to stand while shooting. Most often this means slowing down and paying closer attention to what’s going on in the frame.
The outdoor grey backdrop proved to be a lot of fun with Quentin, as he worked his most animated faces and in your face rarrrr hands. We liked it so much, we all decided to mimic his signature hands in our group shot.
After everyone was able to photograph both background areas and models, we made our way across the street to some very cool rows of trees. Sticky close by, we worked both models among the picturesque trees. It was hard to tell that we were right next to a busy North First street. It’s really amazing what you can do with a shallow depth of field and a few trees. One of our goals after class is to have our student’s start looking at the unexpected, and previously overlooked areas to shoot portraits.
After a full morning of shooting, we sent our pupils off to grab some lunch. Meanwhile we uploaded their images on to our iMac workstations, in preparation for our post-processing portion.
I covered the basic workflow for processing a portrait in Adobe Lightroom 5. Covering everything from white balance adjustments, to the individual color adjustments of the HSL area, which is one of my favorites. I also covered the selective adjustments available, via the adjustment brush. We brightened the eyes, softened the skin, and whitened the teeth. The image transformation with a little post processing is truly amazing.
After the working on some of their favorite images, I saved one image from each student and we looked at them together on the big screen. They were all so good, it was hard to find fault. The feedback and critique was very positive and a learning experience for all. Our day really seemed to fly by and it was already time to say goodbye to all of our fantastic students.
Until next time,
Ajay, Ellie 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.