Our Natural Light Portrait Class has quickly become one of the most popular workshops Aperture Academy has to offer. And who can argue? The availability of digital imaging to the masses has put an extremely high quality camera in the hands of nearly any budding hobbyist with nearly any budget. Learning how to get the most out of that device, whilst trying to photograph a family member, friend, or client, is the tricky part. Thats where we come in. The Natural Light class is also one of my favorite classes to teach, because its the results are instant, no matter the weather, time of day, experience, etc. We have a blast teaching how to help our students get that perfect shot, while dealing with the available light around them.
First its back to basics with a slideshow of camera concepts and example photos, after our usual ApCad style introductions of course. Ellie and I stress Aperture as the dominant control method for getting that perfect portrait shot. With wider apertures, we can blur out the backgrounds and have the viewer solely concentrate on the subject, which in this case today were Hannah, Courtney and Tyler-Fawn, an experienced trio who have helped model for us many times prior in these classes.
After the basics presentation, we headed outside and began to help the class get into their cameras, switching them all to Aperture Priority, to allow us to set the aperture and leave it, and have the camera decide the best shutter speed based on the quickly changing light. Ellie and I split the group in two, and rotated between the two models in the courtyard outside the gallery to get the class warmed up and comfortable with our models and their cameras. Portrait photography is best suited for overcast skies, the natural light is diffused by the clouds and casts nice even light on the face of the subject, allowing for the images to display all the subtleties of the skin, eyes, nose and mouth, without the harsh shadows and high contrast of direct sunlight. The beauty of this workshop taking place in the Pruneyard is that when the light becomes unfavorable outside, we can always go underneath an awning, or behind a high wall. The groundskeepers here do an amazing job keeping all the flora in place and in tip-top shape, and this provides a perfect backdrop for the bokeh in our images. If the light becomes to soft, Ellie and I bring out a reflecting disc, which was used quite a bit today to either fill in light on the shadowy part of the face, or restrict and diffuse the light altogether if it became to harsh. These 5-in-1 reflector discs are portrait photographers best friend. You have to hire (or bribe) an assistant to help you!
For the remainder of the 2 hours outside in the Pruneyard, Ellie and I led our students around a pre-planned route, to use the best features of the outdoor mall to our advantage. A pop of color here, a nice wall as a backdrop there, a reflection in a window, etc. All the while we taught our class about how to position the models using the features of our surroundings. We used props, sassy poses, interesting camera angles, grungy backgrounds, black and white picture styles, high key lighting, and all the while snapping pictures of them enjoying the day.
With all the fun winding down, its always customary to capture a group shot, and with a portrait class, what better pose to have everyone do, than over-the-top CHEESY ONES! So both classes got to experience their inner 80's and "Vogue" with us for our group shots to be posted here! After a couple snaps and a little practice, we got some pretty cool shots of everyone cheesing out. It was a lot of fun. And we hope to see all of you back soon!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.