Everyone, it seems today, is becoming more interested in portrait photography. Whether they've bought a shiny new camera, or are just dusting off one that's been sitting on the shelf, the advances in digital technology (as it pertains to camera devices) have skyrocketed in the last ten years, and so has the interest level in taking pictures. Portraits are fun, engaging, but also demanding, so it's no coincidence that this area is one that a lot of newcomers gravitate towards.
On a beautiful day in the South Bay area, fellow Aperture Academy instructor and professional photographer, Mary Cheung, and I, were able to bring our experience and knowledge to bear, to help a group of eight budding photographers in their pursuit of becoming more adept in portrait photography.
We started our Perfect Portraits and Processing workshop with some basics and walked everyone through the exposure triangle, lens choices, basic posing and composition, before getting outside with our lovely model for some practical experience.
We began by discussing the basics of choosing a shot and then placing our model in the best possible spot for some nice photos. Lens choice is everything, and the wider angles you choose, the more background you'll see in the photo. The more telephoto you go, the less ends up in the shot, and you can make any boring location with limited points of interest into a beautiful looking photo.
In the direct sunlight, we brought out diffusers to help soften the light from the harsh sun. In the shadows, we used reflectors to add drama. For more environment, we found a long row of trees to include in our compositions to help lead the viewer into the photo, while providing some repeating elements. And lastly, we worked on how to capture natural movement in our environment, to make the portraits less stiff and more fun.
After a short break, all the images were downloaded into Lightroom and the next phase began... editing. No photo is complete without editing, even something as simple as re-cropping, or more advanced like skin re-touching. But, no matter the technique, every completed image gets a little something, and so I enjoyed leading the group through de-mystifying Lightroom.
We talked about how to better make selections and re-organizing the photos before we began editing them. Once in the develop module, we spent time going over proper toning and coloring, using white balance and contrast adjustments. We used the myriad of local adjustment filters to perfect our model's skin, eyes and teeth. They were also shown how to properly sharpen an image and how to use presets to bring out better tonal rendition. We even moved over to Photoshop to work through some more advanced editing, like blemish removal, and then we had some fun with the liquefy tool.
After half a day of practical photo skills and post processing, we helped to create some amazing images. Hopefully the skills learned by our group in this short time will stick with them and help them to become perfect portrait takers in their own right.
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.