Camera’s Don’t Take Great Pictures. People Do. An intro to portrait photography with Marcie Jessee www.jesseephotography.com
Camera Matters Myth #1 You need a fancy camera to take great shots. You have three basic camera options Point and Shoot Advanced point and shoot (you can change aperture and shutter speed) Dslr (you can change lenses)
6 1 QUIZ TIME! 3 7 4 2 5 8
Answers! All of these pictures were taken on a point and shoot camera. 1 3 2 8 6
Answers! All of these were taken on my Dslr with a 50 mm 1.4 lens. 4 7 5
Three Basics of GREAT Portraits ONE: Understand, master and LOVE light. TWO: Follow some basic rules of great composition THREE: Learn how to really strike a pose
LIGHT (don’t touch that flash) Turning off the flash will not automatically make your pictures better. You have to help your camera out by providing lots of natural light Become an observer of light: Start to notice when sunrise and sunset are (remember it changes with the seasons). Be aware of where the light falls during the day. Where the shadows are at different times of day. Notice the natural light inside your house – go the whole day with the lights off and the curtains open. Watch how light falls on the faces and clothing of the people you are taking pictures of. Learn to LOVE light.
Indoor Natural Light Photography Myth #2: When taking pictures indoors you need to use your flash to compensate for low-light conditions.
Tips for indoor photography Turn off all overhead lights – they will just add unpleasant shadows and highlights to portraits
Once the lights are off, open all the curtains and even the doors to let in as much light as possible. Now, where do you get the best light in your house? (remember, this will possibly change depending on the time of day as well)
Indoor Diffused Light When looking for the best light indoors you’ll want to find diffused light. In other words you don’t want them standing directly in a blast of light shining right through your window. Either place them right next to the light, or take pictures at a time of day when the light coming through your window is bright and non-direct.
There are many different looks you can achieve with indoor lighting, but one thing is KEY: Always place your subject with the majority of their face turned towards the light source.
You often don’t even need to move your subject, simply position yourself with the light behind you. This way when the person looks at the camera to smile they will automatically be facing the light.
Three pictures, again taken in the same location, but notice what a difference the light and shadows make.
You can achieve many different lighting effects with window or door light. The look can often be similar to what you would see in a studio with fancy lighting setups! Have your subject turn at different angles to the light. Notice the shadows on the face – some shadows can be a good thing and can add depth and interest to your photo.
Sit your subject parallel to the light source for great even light.
My all time favorite indoor lighting to achieve involves two light sources. One from behind and one in front. Here my son stands in the middle of our kitchen with the kitchen window and door light illuminating his face and the large window from the living room behind giving a lovely highlight to his hair and arm.
Utilize the light! If you know you will be doing an activity where you will be taking pictures, then MOVE to where the light is best first. Putting the highchair in the bedroom for their first solid foods? Totally worth it! Taking a picture of your new hair cut? Stand in the garage with the door open if you need to.
You can’t go wrong at sunset If you really want to nail your pictures wait for ideal light. This is usually one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. The light is golden, low in the sky, warm and soft. It is easily diffused by tall buildings and trees, and creates long shadows for open shade pictures.
Outdoor Diffused Light Diffused light is also called “open shade.” Outdoor diffused light could mean standing in the shade of a tree or building or standing outside when the direct light is low and blocked by a tree or building. Face your subject TOWARDS the light source for the best lighting on the face, and, if in the shade, towards the edge of the shade.
The power of diffused light
Notice the difference twelve inches and a different perspective can make.
My favorite Diffused Light Scenario
In this picture the light source was behind them, but it wasn’t technically a backlighting photo because there was also a light source in front of them. They were standing in a small patch of shade at 7 p.m. The low sky light was in front of them with the actual setting sun was coming from behind giving the lovely hair highlights.
Backlighting In backlit photos your subject is facing away from the main light source. This is often a tricky lighting situation because (unless you are shooting in manual or using a reflector) the persons face can come out underexposed.
While backlighting is a beautiful way to add interest and drama to a photo, it is also a great problem solver when taking pictures in less-than ideal circumstances. If you find yourself wanting to take a picture and the light isn’t quite right, simply have your subject face away from the sun and snap away.
Overcast Days Myth #3 The best weather conditions for pictures is on an overcast day.
Overcast days provide even light everywhere. You won’t have to worry about harsh shadows. The plus side is you can take pictures anywhere, anytime. The downside is you miss out on the beauty and interest that happens when you incorporate light into your pictures.
Overcast days are GREAT days to go out and take pictures of children playing. Kids aren’t always interested in standing in the shade and facing a certain way to have their picture taken just so mom has the best light possible Next time you have an overcast day take advantage of it and run to the playground, play soccer in the yard, ride bikes … capture all of those fun outdoor memories without having to worry about the light and shadows as your kids run around.
Remember! When taking pictures face the person towards the light source (exceptions being backlighting and overcast days) Watch for uneven light on the subject, especially their face Make sure you can see their eyelights – the eyes are the light of the person’s face. Bright eyes are an important element of a great portrait.
Avoid Dappled light (like your life depends on it!)
Avoid Direct Sunlight Direct sunlight, with the sun high in the sky (think high noon), or with the subject facing the sun, is not flattering. Notice the strong, harsh shadows and dark squinty eyes. The unflattering glare and the uneven light across the main subjects.
Composition The organization of all of the elements in your photograph.
Rule of thirds The rule of thirds is a compositional rule of thumb in visual arts such as painting, photography and design. The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would. (Wikipedia)
Perspective These two pictures were taken in the exact same location, within minutes of each other. In the first picture the photographer shot me straight on while crouching down to my level. When I took the picture I noticed the distracting background and titled my camera a bit downwards so the grass became my only background.
What a difference perspective makes…
Tired of the same old shot? Change your perspective by shooting from above or below your subject.
Placing your subject dead center in your frame is usually dead boring. In general try to avoid dead center positioning unless: 1) You are taking a close-up and your subject fills your frame. 2) You are photographing a “frame-within-a-frame” or 3) You have leading lines.
Leading lines draw the viewer in to your focal point and add interest and movement.
You can easily draw attention to your focal point by including a frame within your frame. Trees and architecture are usually the easiest ways to achieve this.
Space The story you are trying to tell will determine how you compose the shot. In the first picture I wanted to tell the whole story of the sweet child enjoying an afternoon at the duck pond. In the second picture what mattered most to me was capturing the authentic smile of this pre-teen. Decide what you are trying to showcase or say in your picture and then determine how much space to leave.
Be aware of your indoor backgrounds as well! Whether you need to change places, clean up the floor or try a different perspective, remember what a difference it makes to compose the WHOLE picture, not just the cute face
Watch the backgrounds. You never want to see an item in the background dissecting a person’s head or body part. Really look and SEE all of the elements of your picture and either move yourself or your subject if you need to. Nothing worse than a picture with a pole growing out of your head
Beware of chopping body parts! The general rule is never crop in so close that you lose body parts at the joints (think wrists, elbows, knees, waist and ankles).
Camera Tilts Tilting your camera can either create interest or create a problem – and it’s often a fine line. If you notice that you need to tilt your head when looking at the photo then it is Definitely a BAD tilt (#1). If there is a horizon line in the background it can often give the feel of motion, like your subject is about to fall off of the hill and out of the frame (#2). Tilting can be ok if there is still a strong horizontal line to the picture (#3), or if it s very slight (#4).
My posing tips: Always give the hands something to do. Always have the legs separated with one slightly in front of the other. Ask everyone to stand straight with their shoulders back when you have them ready. Always send one shoulder towards the back so it is at an angle to your camera. STOP before you shoot. Notice their clothing, hands and legs and make sure everything is posed and not left laying awkwardly.
Posing your subjects in a triangular shape is pleasing to the eye and is always a winner in family posing.
When posing families or groups make sure that no two heads are side-by-side on the same height level. Varying the height (by having some sit, stand or kneel) makes for a more pleasing and interesting portrait. Avoid pictures that look like nothing more than a group of people standing in two lines with a row of even heads.
Even with children too young to pose, you can still get a great variety of shots. You can lay them down, put them on their tummies or sit them up. Then, with those poses you can shoot straight on, from behind or from above. Varying the clothing and backgrounds adds even more variety!
Candid Photography Tips: Always be ready. Have your camera settings ready to go and don’t make a big deal out of it (for example, don’t try to tell them where to stand or to look a certain way). If you have a zoom, try standing back a bit so they will be more natural and play/interact without even noticing you. Set up candid moments that you want to capture – for example TELL your children you want to see them playing in the leaves and then go out and do it. Capture different angles – don’t just go for the full body shot or the face. Get their hands at work or their feet. Notice the details that capture what they are doing.
Just Photoshop It! I loathe that phrase. And the only people who say that are people who’ve probably never used photoshop before Photoshop is not a crutch for cruddy pictures. It is an enhancement tool for great photography. Sure, in a bind you can help an o.k. photo, but aim to take great photos! Spend more time behind the camera then you do in front of the computer! You can always wipe runny noses, and stray hairs BEFORE you take the picture. Notice something distracting in the background? Fix it before you take the picture.
Why Edit? #1 To enhance colors. Have you ever taken a picture of a beautiful landscape only to look at your photograph and be disappointed with the results? Editing photos allows you to take flat colors and bring life back into them. Notice the difference:
#2 To create something new. As you learn more about photoshop (or whatever editing program you use) you’ll find that it opens your creativity and allows you to occasionally have fun with your photos and create something different.
#3 To fix minor skin problems (flakes, acne, splotches, bruises and cuts)
#4 To turn a picture into a portrait. Aside from editing every photo I give to clients, I always choose my favorite pictures of my kids and edit them. Those are the ones that end up on the wall or in picture frames and grandparents gifts. The rest of the millions of photos I take of my family still get posted on the blog – but I could never (and wouldn’t want to) edit every single photo I take.
#5 To perfect the image for printing. I always get rid of color casts, adjust the levels slider and sharpen the images if they are going to be printed.
My little tips and tricks Have lip gloss handy. A little shine on the lips reflects light and adds lovely interest to a portrait Always have your camera ready. I even bring mine to Walmart on grocery day – and you would be surprised how many times I’m glad I have it. I don’t store mine away, it’s kept out where I can grab it in a flash. If you are taking pictures of children, ALWAYS take your most important/difficult picture first (ie. A group siblings picture before individual shots). Their attention spans are sooo short and you want to make sure to nail the difficult pictures first – they can be bribed individually later
Referral Program! For every one person you refer to Marcie Jessee Photography (for either pictures or a class) you receive $10 off any of my services (one time use).