Saturday, March 10, 2012

Portrait Categories

In light of the fact I gave my students a walk on the first day of extended ed class ... (uggghhh, clears throat) I thought I would post a brief note on types of portraits.

Constructionist is when you put subjects together mostly to get an emotional response. The classic idea is the family portrait, but this concept is HEAVILY used in advertising. The perfect example is the Marlboro Man. This one for "Boating" is a great example.

Environmental, the style I am most partial to, involves putting people in their environment. Senior portraits and newspaper photos are examples of environmental portraits. The emphasis is on placing the subject in their surroundings to give context.

Candid is the most widely known portrait style. Trouble is, it's also the most abused and poorly done. Candid portraits are photos taken of a subject without their knowledge or their being posed. They are also the most difficult to execute. One of my favorite is called "The Kiss at Hotel D'Ville" by Doisneau. Candids are also rock concert images. This one is popular on Pinterest currently.

The last category is Creative. Creative involves manipulating an image to get a desired result or fantastical effect. In normal terms ... It's Photoshopped! But the results can be some pretty amazing work. One of my favorite things to do is to do what I call a composite image of shots.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Making Your Photography Better by Going Back to Basics

The last few weeks have been murder on me. I had to send my camera body back to the shop. I can't stand it. I feel like a crack junkie looking for his next score in an Amish community. But it has given me a lot of time to think about the essentials of photography and why it is so important to occasionally go back to the basics.

A few months ago, someone approached me about how to get bette

r as a photographer. I was flattered and after the initial shock of wondering why they were asking me, I thought about how I
had started with a basic point and shoot camera. I handed her a $10 compact point and shoot 1 MP key chain camera from Walgreens. I said, "Here, work on your composition and get to know the camera." I think that went over like a lead balloon.
The point I was trying to make was that it is not about the settings I could show you on her camera, rather, it was about getting to know how a camera functions and then seeing how to frame your subject. I keep going back to these two points over and over in my own work. I constantly am asking my self, "How did you frame that, did you get the depth of field and focus you wanted, what IS the subject of this photo?"

Let's start with composition, because you don't even have to have a camera to compose a photo, just a subject and something to record the image. For some odd reason our eyes are drawn to certain areas of a work of art. Usually, the upper right 3rd of anything. That's the rule of thirds.

There is something spiritual about it. And I don't say that all hippie-ish. God is made up of the holy trinity (3 pieces), 3 is a number of balance, etc. The rule of thirds splits an image into 3 sections vertically and horizontally with the intersections being the "sweet spots" of an image. It's a big tic-tac-toe board. The intersection in the upper right is the most pleasing. I've rarely gone wrong placing the closest eye of my subject in that intersection. Sometimes it is not possible, but when it is, it looks great.

This also has to do with pe
rspective, or the angle you take a picture. Children should have their image taken at their height. It looks better. Perspective adds drama. It gives a sense of falling or looking up or the expanse of the sky.

So far, we haven't even talked about technical settings for a camera. We've talked about composition. From a technical perspective, a camera takes light through a lens or opening and focuses it on a plane for recording.

A lot of people like to talk about depth of field or DOF. DOF is the blur you get in a background and a good portion of it is controlled by the aperture of your camera. What a lot of people don't understand is that's only half the story. You can get good depth of field with a larger aperture. What, how is that possible?

Here's the other half they aren't telling you. The closer you get to a subject and focus the more blurry the background will become. Take any point and shoot or snapshot camera and get really close to your subject. Click. What happens to the background? Blurred ... huh, how did that happen. Optics. Point and shoot cameras are about one step up from a pinhole camera. They don't have an aperture per se. But when you understand that the closer you get to a subject, the blurrier the background will get, it opens up a huge door.

I took this this morning with my very limited point and shoot camera. My cat allowed me to get close and the tree blurred. One or two steps back and the tree would have been in focus. My cat was kind enough to let me get about a foot from her.

My camera's lens is 36mm-108mm and f2.8-4.8. Not stellar by any stretch. Rather common. But using the settings that it comes with gives me options.

Using what you have is also essential. As I stated, the point and shoot doesn't offer me the ability to change lenses. Or does it?

We got to go to Galveston this summer. Usually, it's a trip my wife, mother in law and nieces and daughter take. I was pressed into service. I wasn't going to take an expensive camera to the beach. I took an old point and shoot.

I had been reading about being able to take a door peep hole and hold it in front of the camera and get a fish-eye effect. I bought a $5 peephole at Home Depot and instantly doubled my choice of lenses. I figured I needed a good polarizing filter as well, so I found an old pair of plastic sunglasses from Marshall for $6 and I had a polarizing filter.

It turned out what I was doing was using my resources to get an effect you have to pay high dollar for in camera shops. For less than $15 I had 2 lenses (peephole and the built in lens) and a filter. It wasn't so much that I was a super genius as it was knowing how a camera functions and what makes a good picture.

Enjoy the holidays.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

For the New Photographer

I found these on Digital Photography School and thought I would re-post.

  1. What you see is not what you get.
  2. To get what you see you need to understand light. That takes a lot time, effort and patience.
  3. The best asset a photographer needs is anticipation and readiness to capture a moment.
  4. There is time and place for all gear.
  5. Some of the best photographs you see are not accidental. They are the end result of careful thinking and planning.
  6. Overcoming the inertia of using a DSLR is not enough. Always remember to keep learning and try for improvement.
  7. Possessing a DSLR doesn’t warrant you to be in manual mode always. Importance should be given to capturing the moment. Explore your creativity only if the situation permits.
  8. Even if you don’t realize it, most of the photographs you see online are post processed. Take time to master some techniques. It will pay off in the long run.
  9. Be gracious about your success rate. Only a few among the many photographs you have clicked will be useful.
  10. Costly gear does not necessarily equate to better photographs. Know your existing gear like the back of your hand.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Up and Coming

I've really been working hard to do a couple of things lately. First, building my portfolio of bridal portraits and second, getting ready to start teaching.

Bridal portraits are fun for me. And I really don't want to do the typical bridal stuff. One of the reasons my step-daughter "hired" me to do her senior pics was because I was different than the typical senior photographer. And I really appreciated that compliment. I told her I wasn't going to charge her because of that!

I think what makes any portrait great is that it's not typical. But that's also the hardest thing to do. I think Olan Mills revolutionized family portraiture, but at the same time, they really got us used to the mass produced-church-directory-photographer-in-the-box portraits. You just get tired of "sit on the stool, dad over here, mom right there holding junior." But again, that's the hardest thing to do is be creative, ESPECIALLY for someone like me who isn't an artist, isn't in tune with the artistic side, isn't at ALL interested in going to Starbucks drinking coffee then hanging out at the G3ni0us B@r at the @pple St0re.

So what kind of bridals am I looking at in the future? Goth! Yep, I had no idea that there are some people who don't want to wear a white wedding dress and would rather wear something like a vampiress getup to get married in. WONDERFUL! Love it!

And I'm also getting ready to start teaching photography. I'm excited and a little terrified. My wife is the teacher. She's phenomenal! Read her amazingly awesome blog. But I need to get out and start sharing. I truly believe in sharing in education. I also believe that as we get more advanced we should teach. I've been paired with some AMAZING photographers to develop a certification program in photography through extended education. What and honor. Scary! Surprising! I'm excited to teach my first class.

So what's on the horizon.


I've really been moved to do portraits for segments of the population who do not ever get to have a picture.

I'm a believer in Help Portrait a project to provide free portraits to the disadvantage. Always in December. I want to do something similar to this during the year. I have a special package for those who fit one of these characteristics.

  • On WIC
  • orphaned
  • on free and reduced lunch/breakfast
  • single mom with multiple (2+ kids)
  • I waive my sitting fee ($100) and they get a free CD with re-touched photos.
See you next time.