In learning to shoot studio portraits you must celebrate your mistakes as well as the victories. I was fortunate to have access to a beautiful model, Miranda, for my first attempt at studio shooting. The following is a group of shots from that day.
First issue to overcome is lack of experience working with a live subject and lack of experience of the model. Suddenly having a live person in front of you, waiting for your direction, can be daunting if you lack experience. Also having the ability to calm them down, make them feel comfortable in their skin and getting them to a place where they feel daring is an art. For me, its about capturing the essence of the person I am shooting. You’ve got to dig for that. Subjects don’t just show up and start throwing that kind of thing at the camera.
This was Miranda’s first shoot. I’ve gotta tell you, she worked hard and did an excellent job. She’s a very deep, intense person. But she’s not a natural extrovert. I can see from the shots that I took that she worked hard figuring out what to do as a model and then graced me with her inner beauty. That was hard. Allowing the camera to experience your vulnerability and not closing off. Not something everyone can do. She did great exposing her true self. It was awesome to watch. I really appreciated that from her.
For Miranda, it was important to let her see the shots as we were shooting. It let her make on-the-spot changes which built her confidence. Music is important. I will be equipping the studio with an IHome iPod speaker so we have a continual flow of music to build the mood. I noticed that by joking and letting her have fun with the shoot removed her nervousness.
As we moved on, I was nervous. That caused me to rush the shots. I didn’t spend the time I needed to check and adjust the lights & camera settings. I tried to ‘quick-fix’ problems as they arose, instead of effectively trouble-shooting them. Was having trouble with the low-light, I just threw the ISO to 1600, it’s highest setting. That resulted in the red which showed up in nearly every shot. Next time I will test-shoot before I get started with the model, so they don’t get restless. From the reading I’ve done since the shoot, I need a somewhat lower ISO & to figure out how to read and adjust light metering. To be honest, I don’t have a good understanding of my camera, so it wouldn’t shoot auto-focus in low light on the settings I had chosen. It was hard to see if the shot was focused in manual. I should have stopped, taken a break and got comfortable before going on. That always increases problem-solving skills.
The other issue I struggled with is the studio is not set up right, but I planned on that. I figured the best way to know what I really needed was to do the shoot and see what problems came up. I need multi-socket extension cords for each side of the room. My studio is in an old house. There are only 2 outlets, one on each side, with 2 sockets each. I was having to cross power cords all over the room, which restricted movement. I found that I need a clear space between myself & my subject. This freedom of movement clears my mind and give me the chance to remember all the things I am trying to remember.
One of the biggest problems I’m having is not enough feedback on the shots taken. Aside from the ISO settings being wrong, I wish I could get opinions on composition. Am I the only one that struggles with objectivity on something I’ve shot? I can’t tell if the shots are ‘properly’ composed. I know that composition is not my strong suit. That is why feedback would be helpful.
I did get some feedback on one of the shots from an amazing photographer. He said that the image lacked depth. He was talking about using color separation to add depth and drama. I will work to achieve just that on my next shoot. He discussed lighting the background first. Using a 45` vertical & 30` horizontal set of lights, then setting a custom white balance. I didn’t know how to do that, so I just googled it. Now I know, sweet!
From there he suggested an ISO of 800 with the lens stopped down to 2.8-3.5. Take some test shots to verify color rendering. Once the color is correct, experiment with model placement for dramatic effect. He also said if the shadow on her face is too hard, to use the speed-lite for fill.
This is some excellent feedback. Feel free to leave some as well.
(*Note: For most of them I did minimal touch ups, more cosmetic than anything. If I photoshop every picture I’m never going to learn how to shoot great photos, I’ll just be great with photoshop. I don’t want to do that. There were a few that were unusable without processing, I’m sure you can tell which ones. The background was black, the scarf was black and Miranda’s hair is a dark brunette.)
So, I leave you with the remnants of what I consider a highly successful shoot. Success being measured by lessons learned.