essential elements of portrait photography : lighting and posing techniques to make everyone look

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Essential Elements of Portrait PhotographyLighting and Posing Techniques to Make Everyone Look Their Best
Bill Israelson
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS
PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY
Amherst mediA, inc. BuffAlo, nY
Copyright © 2015 by Bill Israelson. All rights reserved. All photographs by the author unless otherwise noted.
Published by: Amherst Media, Inc. P.O. Box 586 Buffalo, N.Y. 14226 Fax: 716-874-4508 www.AmherstMedia.com
Publisher: Craig Alesse Senior Editor/Production Manager: Michelle Perkins Editors: Barbara A. Lynch-Johnt, Harvey Goldstein, Beth Alesse Editorial Assistance from: Carey A. Miller, Sally Jarzab, John S. Loder Associate Publisher: Kate Neaverth Business Manager: Adam Richards Warehouse and Fulfillment Manager: Roger Singo
ISBN-13: 978-1-60895-751-4 Library of Congress Control Number: 2014933303 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise, without prior written consent from the publisher.
Notice of Disclaimer: The information contained in this book is based on the author’s experience and opinions. The author and publisher will not be held liable for the use or misuse of the information in this book.
Dedication This book is dedicated to my loving family—my wife Katherine and beloved sons Christopher, Jeffrey, and Steven.
Acknowledgments I wish to thank all those who appear in this book. Without you, the book would be far less interesting! A sincere thank you also goes out to my wife Katherine, who supported the development of this book by coordinating the logistics and administration of the photographic shoots. I am grateful for her never-ending patience.
The “Three Amigos,” circa 1994.
Check out Amherst Media’s blogs at: http://portrait-photographer.blogspot.com/ http://weddingphotographer-amherstmedia.blogspot.com/
babe
Author Biography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 The Goal of This Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Obstacles to Good Photography . . . . . . . . . 9 Learning to See the Light . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Exposure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Posing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 I’ll Fix It in Photoshop . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Photography Is Art—But It Involves Technical Know-How . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
1. Equipment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 What Equipment Do I Need? . . . . . . . . . . 14 The Basic Portrait Photography Kit . . . . . . 15 DSLR Body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 tech tip: Digital Sensors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Lens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 tech tip: Aperture and F-Stops. . . . . . . . . . 22 Flashgun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Loupe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 tech tip: Ambient, Incident, and Reflected Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Tripod . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Light Meter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 All That in One Small Bag! . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Mobile Equipment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Scrims . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Portable Battery Pack and Strobe. . . . . . 28 Reflectors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Studio Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Light Meter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Strobes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Softboxes and Umbrellas . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Contents
4 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY
Reflectors and Flags . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Backdrops . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Stands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Advanced Studio Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . 32
2. Photographing People . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Idealize the Subject . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 What You “See” Is What You Get . . . . . . . 37 Posing: Keep It Simple. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Posing Women. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Posing Men . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Posing Children and Families. . . . . . . . . 40 Glamour and Fashion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
3. A Simple Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Key Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Fill Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Rim Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Step 1: Carefully Evaluate Light Sources . . 49 Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Step 2: Compose the Image in Your Mind . . 56 Step 3: Position and Pose Your Client . . . . 59 Step 4: Measure Light Sources and Set Camera Controls. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 tech tip: White Balance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Step 5: Position and Set Power to Light Sources. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 tech tip: ISO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 Step 6: Take an Exposure, then View the LCD and Histogram . . . . . . . . . . 66 The LCD: Seeing Is Believing . . . . . . . . 66 tech tip: Histogram. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 The Histogram: Seeing Is Verifying . . . . 69
4. Outdoor Portraits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 The Person Is the Central Object of Your Photograph . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 The Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 tech tip: Lens, Aperture, and Depth of Field (DOF) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Close Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Distant Background. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Panoramic Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
Diminishing Line and the Horizon . . . . 77 Sunlight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 Bright and Sunny Sky Techniques . . . . . 80 Using On-Camera Flashgun. . . . . . . . . . 83 Using Off-Camera Flash (Mobile Strobes) . 83 Shady Areas Under a Bright Sun . . . . . . 84 Overcast and Cloudy Sky Techniques . . . 86 tech tip: RAW versus JPEG . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Beach Photography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
5. Studio Portraits. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 The Studio as a Workspace. . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 Incident Light Meters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 Lens Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 Strobes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98 tech tip: Focal Plane Shutter and Flash Synchronization . . . . . . . . . . . 100 Softboxes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Feathering the Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Umbrellas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Grids . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 Reflectors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 Flags . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 Backdrops and Props . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 tech tip: Light Ratios. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
Camera Support . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104 Light Ratios. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104 Portrait Styles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 Short Lighting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 Broad Lighting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 High Key. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 Mid Key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 Low Key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110 tech tip: Inverse Square Law . . . . . . . . . . 110
6. Indoor Portraits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114 Reflecting Light Off the Ceiling . . . . . . . 115 Using a Window as the Key Light . . . . . . 116
7. Practice, Practice, Practice . . . . . 120 Now You Are Ready! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120 Follow the Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120 Review Your Work with a Critical Eye . . . 123 Editing the Digital Image . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 Attend Workshops and Photography Seminars by Great Photographers . . 124 A Short List of the Photographers Whom I Admire Most . . . . . . . . . . . 124
Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
Author Biography Bill Israelson is a portrait and wedding photographer based in the Panama
City/Destin Florida area. He operates a state-of-the-art studio and is happy to
go the distance, work as hard as he can, and do whatever it takes to satisfy his
customers.
As a young teen in the ’70s, Bill used his dad’s Minolta SRT-101 35mm SLR,
which soon became his go-to camera for high-school yearbook work and
taking photos of friends. His photography journey had begun, and Bill had been
“bitten.” Since then, photography has been his strongest interest. Throughout
the 1980s and ’90s, Bill employed a Pentax ME Super 35mm SLR with a variety
of Tamron lenses to photograph family, friends, and events. After years of pro-
ducing thousands of negatives, Bill went digital—and professional—in 2006.
Bill currently conducts photography workshops ranging from the funda-
mentals to advanced lighting techniques. Rarely is he seen without a camera
strapped to his shoulder. He is the real deal—an enthusiast, perfectionist, and,
above all, a passionate photographer.
Look for Bill’s work at www.williamisraelson.com.
Author photo courtesy of Katherine
Israelson.
6 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY
The Goal of This Book The goal of this book is to help you greatly increase the quality and beauty of your photog- raphy. The book covers the essential elements of portrait photography—from common mistakes to the needed equipment, we lay a foundation of how to use the tools of the trade. We then get into a discussion about the point of portrait
photography and the art and skill of photo- graphing people to ensure that they look their very best. Perhaps the most important idea in the entire text is the process. Conducting a successful portrait photo shoot, no matter the location, is based on a repeatable and reliable process that increases the quality of the images and creates a well-conducted experience for
Introduction

An example of a beautiful mid-key portrait taken in the studio.
INTRODUCTION 7
One-light-source portrait.
backdrop. The falloff from the
light source lit the backdrop
sufficiently.
the subject, yielding excellent
lent bokeh. Note the way the
subject “pops” off of the page.
8 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY
the photographer and subject. The unique and important issues of photographing people in the studio, outdoors, and indoors on-location are examined in detail with example photographs and descriptions of how the images were produced. Frequently, I am asked by other photogra- phers to demonstrate how to use a particular camera control or tackle a specific photographic problem. Sometimes the question concerns the setting of camera controls in a particular kind
of situation such as bright sunlight or setting strobes in a studio environment. I am always glad to assist and provide advice on what I know works for me. This book contains many of those questions and answers. Technical jargon has been minimized. This book is not an attempt to impress the reader with complicated ideas or complex technical information. Quite the opposite—the information in these pages is presented as a straight-forward, one-on-one dis- cussion on using proven portrait photography
(left) In this portrait we see the use of a rim light (hair accentuation) and a close background.
(right) A great pianist photographed in my studio. Since the subject is male, the image was shot straight-on. The keyboard was the
perfect prop.
INTRODUCTION 9
techniques to quickly make huge improvements in your image capture. As you turn the pages of this book, you’ll encounter Tech Tips. Don’t be put off by the term “tech tip”—these sections, like the balance of the book, have been written to be easily un- derstood and enjoyed. Each Tech Tip presents insights that support or build on information presented in the text. The major points covered in the book can be learned even if you decide to bypass the Tech Tip text. It is my sincere hope that you will enjoy the content of this book and that the tips and tech- niques presented will help make a significant increase in your knowledge and skill and prepare you to be a better portrait photographer.
Obstacles to Good Photography Learning to See the Light. The biggest obsta- cle to creating a great portrait is learning to see the light that surrounds your subject. I cannot emphasize this point enough. You’re proba- bly thinking, “C’mon Bill, we have heard that one before.” Yes, I know. I…

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