Top Tips Session – A relaxed portrait photography evening
This week we held a club internal evening session in the hall, dedicated to coaching some of the skills required for a successful evening of portrait photography, under the skilful and enthusiastic direction of Joe F. This session was a follow-on to the previous studio night run by Joe on the evening of March 16 2022. The club blog of that previous evening is available on our website, showing some of the range of studio strobes, large soft-boxes and collapsible backgrounds Joe previously provided.
This session had a very stripped down setup consisting of a simple continuously ‘on’ fixed light source in front of the subject, and a single rectangular battery operated LED fitting low behind the subject providing an element of rim lighting. The front light had a small diffuser fitting (about the size of a small dinner plate) and positioned about 45 degrees away from the camera viewpoint, and about 45 degrees above the face of the subject. A simple Rembrandt lighting setup. All of the lighting equipment was again provided by Joe.
Joe set up his camera and zoom lens on a tripod, with the camera output connected into the club projector, allowing display of each picture immediately after shooting. The camera also provided a live-view image between shots, so the audience could always see the camera’s viewpoint. Fitted to the camera was a remote trigger device with a wireless link to a small handheld button allowing shots to be taken without the delay that can occur when peering into a viewfinder. The setup allowed for the instant capture of very candid portraits without the strain that can afflict subjects who are waiting for the shutter to fire. Modern cameras which are always ready for the next shot also help to keep the session flowing.
Joe talked about this setup being useful to avoid both the photographer and the subject being distracted by the technicalities of the equipment, allowing full focus on the interaction between the two. This will usually result in more natural expressions being recorded. Joe is a master at talking to his subject throughout the session, both to distract them from the process and to engage with them to change position or pose, and to bring out emotional expressions during the shoot. He describes this process of interactions as ‘flow’. The more relaxed the flow, the more successful the session he told us. Joe is looking for fleeting expressions during the time with each subject, and will trigger shots instantly even when away from the camera.
The evening continued with most club members present taking turns to operate the remote release button with Joe in the hot-seat. Throughout these periods Joe kept up his dialogue to encourage these often shy shooters to look for that critical moment to fire the shutter or to see the need to change the subjects’ pose. Joe explained the need to encourage sitters to move towards more flattering poses, without ever getting to the point where his directions intrude too strongly into the relationship. Suggest and encourage using neutral directions, rather than direct instructions which may make the sitter self-conscious.
Even from the sitters chair Joe entertained us and distracted us from the technical process to concentrate on the flow of the session. Some members also took turns as the sitter, thus experiencing both sides of those relationships in a portrait session. Some sample images from the evening are included in this blog.
Once again, we must thank Joe for this entertaining and informative evening of tips, encouragement and learning, delivered with his usual enthusiasm and skill.