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10/22/2007 02:17:04 PM · #1
Fellow DPCers,
I did a shoot for senior portraits for two of my friends two weekends ago. We have a reshoot scheduled this coming weekend, as the first did not go very well. Photos can be found here.
There are two major problems I have identified.

1) Misfocusing
I mostly used manual focus, but auto didn't seem to get the results any better. For one thing, it was dark (especially towards the end). But even before it got dark, it was just hard to tell (in the viewfinder) when I had achieved focus. The diopter seemed properly adjusted. There was not enough light for me to stop down significantly. Does anyone have ideas for focusing techniques?

2) Expressions
It seems like, in all the photos that are in focus, my subjects expressions are less than ideal (though not necessarily bad). I realize that this is something that is largely learned through experience, but I guess I'm looking for tips in communicating with subjects, helping them feel comfortable, etc.

I'm no pro, but I do know what I'm doing. I have done this before and never with so much trouble. It does get a lot more difficult with two subjects in the frame. Next time, we will start earlier (more light).
Thank you in advance for any and all responses!
Luke
10/22/2007 02:39:28 PM · #2
Well like you said starting earlier is key. Also this might be a given but when it's getting darker and I'm on autofocus I try to find the lightest spot or a spot where it goes from like to dark to focus on, it seems easier that way. Idealy that would be the eyes but sometimes I have to use a wrinkle in a shirt or something.

The whole banter thing is what I have trouble with. I shoot senior portraits in a studio and they just aren't my thing I have learned. My seniors however are forced to come because we have a contract with the school and half of them seem to be rather miserable there... the ones that actually want to have their photo taken are always a lot easier and it's good to just talk about school and their hobbies and the like.

Biggest thing I learned at my job is about head tilting. You gotta direct them where to go or else they will look awkward. For instance I think image 1167 where the brunette gal is hugging her knees would have been better with her head tilted towards her knees a little to avoid it pulling in that other direction and making her neck wrinkle. Also work with 45 degree angles. So instead of shooting her completely sideways, have her legs pointed more towards you at the 45.

I dunno. All in all I think you got some cute ones there and the expressions are good. Did you reschedule the shoot because you weren't happy or did they?
10/22/2007 03:02:32 PM · #3
Well I looked at the photos and I didn't see much of a problem. I always use auto-focus. I like to start my portrait sessions in the morning around 8am becasue I fell that gives me the best natural light.

Edit to add: With my model shoots I talk to them in between the shots. Get to know them a little and make jokes with them. I also try and capture shots when I know they are not paying attention. Sometimes those are the best.

Message edited by author 2007-10-22 15:33:25.
10/22/2007 03:26:05 PM · #4
Did you try using autofocus? I usually try it, then if it's having trouble locking on, I'll switch to manual.

I think the photos look pretty good. I'm no expert (not even close), but from everything I've read, it's best to make your subjects feel comfortable. Maybe that means taking longer for the shoot and have some conversation in between shots or have try some really bizarre poses to loosen them up. It seems like they have the Derek Zoolander syndrome ("one look!"). Maybe if they were more relaxed, the smiles would come more naturally.

I really like the 2 towards the end where you have them sitting in the grass. It looks like you were probably running out of light at that point, but I would try to get some more of those next time.
10/22/2007 04:42:06 PM · #5
Originally posted by dunnewold:


2) Expressions
It seems like, in all the photos that are in focus, my subjects expressions are less than ideal (though not necessarily bad). I realize that this is something that is largely learned through experience, but I guess I'm looking for tips in communicating with subjects, helping them feel comfortable, etc.


How much of the time of the shoot were you talking to them ? Do you talk when you have your head behind the camera ? Do you talk while shooting, or just point a camera at them and ask them to smile ?

The subject's expression is a direct reflection of the energy that comes from you. It's up to you to create, change and control those expressions and emotions, one way or another. Mostly you do that with your voice, your body language and your attention.

The most common failing I see is people who talk to a subject, then divert their attention to the camera, fiddle with settings etc, then hold up the camera to hide their face and then don't say much of anything any more. The portrait subjects look slightly nervous, or stiff or just unsure. A camera is a disconcerting thing to look at if it all suddenly went quiet. More so with big lenses as they are basically a mirror you are looking to, seeing your reflection coming back.

Worse still is the photographer who starts muttering 'no, that isn't working, lets try this' or 'hmm, I don't like that, lets try this angle/ pose' etc. All that serves to do is make the subject feel even less comfortable - they know the pictures aren't working - and that negative feedback is coming from the photographer, if they realise it or not.

So if you want positive, happy, upbeat expressions - you need to be that way. If you want quiet, introspective expressions, that has to come from you too. High energy, quiet energy, unsure, nervous, bored, engaged, connected - all from you.

Message edited by author 2007-10-22 16:44:33.
10/22/2007 05:59:49 PM · #6
WOW!
I logged on expecting I'd just be bumping this to get a post!
Thanks so much to all of you for your critiques, advice, and time!

I'll be more conscious of head-tilts and body angles. I'll try to talk more. I'll try to get some candids. I'll be positive. I'll interact more. I'll remember that Casey liked the ones in the grass (and this time they will be in focus. I took over a dozen like those, but they aren't on pbase because they are way out of focus.) I'll try to direct the mood with my own actions. Did I get everything?

to answer escapetooz: I rescheduled because I was unhappy with the photos. I know they could also tell it wasn't my best work. I did make sure that they were alright with a reshoot, and they both wanted to do it.

Thanks Again!
If anyone else has input, go right ahead!
Luke
10/22/2007 06:05:44 PM · #7
Some rules if you need them:

//www.focusingonflorida.com/Documents/Benji_RulesOfPortraiture.pdf
10/22/2007 06:09:52 PM · #8
I learned something recently that seemed to work for me - having the camera on a tripod (at least some of the time) and using a remote release (again, not for every shot, but occasionally).

It allowed me to set everything up, then relax and chat for a moment, pressing the shutter release without even looking at the camera, but concentrating on eye contact with my subject instead.
I got some lovely, natural expressions that way.
10/22/2007 06:25:59 PM · #9
Use Auto focus - it works - you have good lenses and a good body, trust them to do what they were designed to do. If you're shooting 1.8 handheld then there might be issues that are user -induced as the DOF is razor thin, but 2.8 or better should be no problem.

Pick your focus points manually (i use the joystick for this, but the wheel works too - see your custom functions to change this) and put one over an eye - try not to focus and recompose as it can and will mess up the focus accuracy.

For every pose shoot 4 images - full length, 3/4 or half, head/shoulder and tight. yeah, it's a lot of images but you get a lot of variety that way. remember to do some vert and horiz in each outfit as well.

try to shoot wide open - the subject is the person, rarely the BG, so keep the distractions to a minumum. Rememeber rule of thirds and leading lines (arms, trees, etc) and pose to create triangles when you have 3 or more people.
10/22/2007 06:28:29 PM · #10
Originally posted by Beetle:

I learned something recently that seemed to work for me - having the camera on a tripod (at least some of the time) and using a remote release (again, not for every shot, but occasionally).

It allowed me to set everything up, then relax and chat for a moment, pressing the shutter release without even looking at the camera, but concentrating on eye contact with my subject instead.
I got some lovely, natural expressions that way.


I don't think I personally would work well this way. I move around a lot, and every shot I've taken with my camera on a tri-pod always turns out looking really posed. I think it's easier for the model/subject to look into the camera if they know you are looking through the lens at them.

Just a personal thought, and I'm not saying it's bad, but I've found it doesn't work for me.

Message edited by author 2007-10-22 18:29:47.
10/22/2007 06:48:00 PM · #11
Originally posted by Beetle:

I learned something recently that seemed to work for me - having the camera on a tripod (at least some of the time) and using a remote release (again, not for every shot, but occasionally).

It allowed me to set everything up, then relax and chat for a moment, pressing the shutter release without even looking at the camera, but concentrating on eye contact with my subject instead.
I got some lovely, natural expressions that way.


I used to shoot that way a lot and still do on occasion. It certainly works well if you have a hard time talking from behind a camera. Another thing you can do when handholding is set everything up then pop your head out from behind the camera and smile - doing something unexpected like that can create interesting reactions - just shoot while you do it.

10/22/2007 06:50:22 PM · #12
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

Use Auto focus - it works - you have good lenses and a good body, trust them to do what they were designed to do. If you're shooting 1.8 handheld then there might be issues that are user -induced as the DOF is razor thin, but 2.8 or better should be no problem.

Pick your focus points manually (i use the joystick for this, but the wheel works too - see your custom functions to change this) and put one over an eye - try not to focus and recompose as it can and will mess up the focus accuracy.


I shoot 1.4 and 1.8 primes, wide open all the time, handheld, using auto focus on the camera. I'll range down to about f2.8 if I want more in focus, but usually not much beyond that. It does help to have a lot of focus points to choose from though. Certainly I can't focus and recompose with that sort of depth of field - I move the focus points around constantly while shooting, keeping one over the eye that I want in focus.

I also have the camera set up with focus on the '*' button, so the act of focusing and the act of shooting are independent, which helps if you do want to focus/ recompose at all (at slightly deeper depths of field)
10/22/2007 06:53:49 PM · #13
Like I said.....it only worked for the occasional shot. I mostly found myself moving around too much too.
On the other hand there were certain times where it worked well... at one point, the young lady was settled in a rocking chair with her cat in her lap, both looking very comfortable, and THAT was one of those perfect moments where I plonked the camera onto the tripod and made a point of concentrating on her.

Moments like those helped our interaction, and I'll plan to try that again next time when it feels like a suitable situation.
10/22/2007 07:00:51 PM · #14
Originally posted by rex:

Some rules if you need them:

//www.focusingonflorida.com/Documents/Benji_RulesOfPortraiture.pdf


There's a lot of good info on there! Bumping for others to see it.

10/22/2007 07:16:42 PM · #15
Originally posted by dwterry:

Originally posted by rex:

Some rules if you need them:

//www.focusingonflorida.com/Documents/Benji_RulesOfPortraiture.pdf


There's a lot of good info on there! Bumping for others to see it.
Thanks I guess I better let you know this is where I got it:

//photocamel.com/forum/tutorials/16516-rules-good-portraiture.html

Thanks to the user Benji
10/22/2007 07:49:59 PM · #16
Originally posted by rex:

Thanks I guess I better let you know this is where I got it:

//photocamel.com/forum/tutorials/16516-rules-good-portraiture.html

Thanks to the user Benji


Thanks. I signed up just now ... just so I could find out what the heck he meant by 1-3-2 and 1-2-2 posing! :-)

By the way, just as a side note, Benji mentions Don Blair in his PDF. I had the honor of taking a class and sitting with Don Blair prior to his passing awhile back. I found that he was not only an artist when it came to photography, but had a very comfortable personality that made it easy for his subjects to sit with him. Something I know I am lacking and am working towards.


10/22/2007 08:08:03 PM · #17
Originally posted by Gordon:



The subject's expression is a direct reflection of the energy that comes from you. It's up to you to create, change and control those expressions and emotions, one way or another. Mostly you do that with your voice, your body language and your attention.

The most common failing I see is people who talk to a subject, then divert their attention to the camera, fiddle with settings etc, then hold up the camera to hide their face and then don't say much of anything any more. The portrait subjects look slightly nervous, or stiff or just unsure. A camera is a disconcerting thing to look at if it all suddenly went quiet. More so with big lenses as they are basically a mirror you are looking to, seeing your reflection coming back.

Worse still is the photographer who starts muttering 'no, that isn't working, lets try this' or 'hmm, I don't like that, lets try this angle/ pose' etc. All that serves to do is make the subject feel even less comfortable - they know the pictures aren't working - and that negative feedback is coming from the photographer, if they realise it or not.

So if you want positive, happy, upbeat expressions - you need to be that way. If you want quiet, introspective expressions, that has to come from you too. High energy, quiet energy, unsure, nervous, bored, engaged, connected - all from you.


Ya know... I pretty much agree with everything ya said there. This is probably the most difficult part of being a portrait photographer, particularly if you are inexperienced or introverted.
10/23/2007 12:08:40 AM · #18
Again I'm overwhelmed by great responses. Thanks, everyone! I know I'm not the only one learning from this thread!
I'll have to write this stuff down all on one piece of paper and study a bit :)
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