Plastic People 4: Studio Portraits and my single biggest rule inPhotography.
In the last blog post, I got a little off topic on the subjects of portraits, and my brain took a turn towards meet and greets. The reason, I suspect, is that’s the hardest environment to achieve “instant intimacy”, what I call the ability to connect spiritually with your subject quickly.
In a studio — and I remind you I do very little of this work — it’s a bit easier. The client comes in, you can sit and talk. Offer a cup of tea or coffee. Discover a little about them.
I recently had a formal portrait session with a woman who needed a decent head shot for LinkedIn. She was referred to me by Paul, my trainer (who I haven’t seen in FOREVER and my ass is getting as fat as Kim Kardashians).
Anyway, I had no idea what to expect when she walked through the door.
In walked a beauty. And, despite what she said, she was very easy to photograph.
Most call people who are easily captured in photos “photogenic”. I think that’s silly — I think people who are easily photographed are comfortable. They like themselves. They are happy with how they look.
That’s not to say they aren’t trying to lose a few pounds, or maybe have fleshy arms, or a zit/ wrinkle.
In another case, it doesn’t mean their entire left side of their face isn’t plastic from the car accident a few years back.
It just means they are happy. And, when they smile — it shows.
So in walks my beauty. I got to know her. Her goal was simple: to join a flight team on private jets. Basically, to make a second career as a luxury flight attendent.
So we did a series of photos, all with a traditional background. On a whim, for one, I grabbed my roller board, and posed her, gripping the handle.
I have the list of photos she liked from the shoot — the one’s I’ll be touching up. I suspect one of those with the roller board (while not a traditioinal head shot) will be on the list. I’ll let you know. (It was.)
Why do I think that? Like me, as soon as she grabbed the suitcase, she looked natural.
She looked like a luxury jet flight attendent. She looked like someone that should be on your jet.
I tend to like a high key style in traditional photos — I just do. High key is a white background, backlit. It’s my go to backer, despite trying to get away from it — I just always seem to like it. I put the flight attendent against a high key, white backer, then switched to gray. Ewwww. It just wasn’t working for me.
Lighting is (obviously) key in portraiture, and you read a million opinions on how a portrait should be lit. Butterfly lighting, high key, 2/3, everyone has an opinion about how a portrait should be lit. I tend to like BRIGHT photos, maybe even a bit over exposed, especially on someone over the age of 10. Why? It’s a natural wrinkle and flaw reducer: get light into the folds and bags of skin, and they just disappear. Just don’t over do it: there is a trend of blown out portrait images.
While thinking about this topic, I’ve thumbed through portraits I’ve taken. And I came across my holiday photos, another story. What happens when it’s a couple? Or a family? You see a little of the family relationship with the GWB photo in the previous post, but usually, you’re not shooting with the former President of the United States as a prop! And, you guessed it, as the photographer you have to pay attention to the interaction between the subjects in the photo. A simple change in posing means the world. Just taking a moment and adjusting how they are posed can mean the difference between a warm photo, and a cold one.
Here’s an example from the holiday card shoot in Phoenix:
This couple is one of many — we were hired by this country club to photograph the residents and help them produce holiday cards. It was hugely successful! And this (greenscreen) photo is fine. They look pleasant, happy. But a little stiff.
It’s amazing what a simple touch can do. A lot warmer feel, isn’t it?
This next photo looks like it was taken in a studio, but it was actually taken at Eagles Stadium during a cheerleader meet and greet we do every year. Kids are so easy! As long as they aren’t hungry, they have none of the hangups of an adult. They don’t care if they look fat, thin, or old. They just be.
A prop and a whistle can make a world of difference.
Of course you have to pay attention to the basics of portraiture. No one cares if you capture the greatest spirit in the world if you have crappy lighting or technical problems. But the focus on all portraits should be the human.
I guess that’s what triggered this rant, isn’t it? The photo of Kim Kardashian’s sister that looked exactly like she was a store dummy. And, all those photos in US Magazine simply showing people looking bad.
You know my single biggest rule of photography? If it’s a photo that makes someone look bad, delete it.
US Magazine, you should be deleted.
This rant is concluded.