It was a chilly Saturday morning when I took seven Aperture Academy students into the world of portrait photography. We started off reviewing basic camera knowledge. After all, a strong foundation is essential in all types of photography.
After going over the exposure triangle, questions were raised about photographing in aperture priority mode verses manual, and how exposure compensation would come into play. Shooting in aperture priority is normal for most portrait photographers—-it lets us pick our aperture, but the camera will then match the shutter speed for perfect exposure. It’s a win-win. We control our depth of field, and exposure is one less thing to worry about while we are interacting with our models.
Once we headed outdoors to photograph our model Kayla, the students were able to concentrate on finding optimal lighting and backgrounds. The sun was barely peeking through the clouds, but it was enough to cause some unwanted shadows on the face. It wasn’t long before the students concluded that back lighting was the only form of direct light that didn’t cause shadows or squinting. However, when we backlit our model, the background was a very unflattering office building. So, we next looked for a background without compromising our lighting.
I showed the students how you can use a very small section of the area as the entire background of your image if you have a telephoto lens with you. The telephoto lens not only amplifies blur, but it compresses the image—-allowing a photographer to isolate areas and avoid distractions in the background.
We moved onto posing next and how to keep the model moving: shifting weight, fixing clothes, flipping hair, etc. I also stepped in for Kayla a bit just to demonstrate the importance of keeping the jawline tight when doing head shots. Kayla didn’t seem to have this problem, but I explained to my students that when a person laughs, they naturally throw their head back. When the head goes back, it really flattens out the neck and chin area, giving little separation and resulting in a very unflattering pose.
After practicing a lot with directing the model and composing the image, we ended with capturing some movement. We set our cameras to AF-C or AI Servo, telling our lens to continuously focus rather than lock. Kayla strutted down the walkway for us as my students snapped away. At the end of the day, we got a variety of shots that showed great technique and composition. Now, it is up to my students to continue to practice those techniques!
Until next time,
Mary, and the rest of the Aperture Academy team!
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