Need help with portraiture

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Whittyphoto, Aug 7, 2007.

  1. Whittyphoto

    Whittyphoto TPF Noob!

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    A few friends have asked me to take their senior pictures soon. I've taken two photography classes at the high school level, but I'm still inexperienced. I'll be using a Nikon D40x which I'm still familiarizing myself with. Basically, I'm really worried because senior pictures are very important and I don't feel equipped for the job. One thing I noticed when I got my senior pictures taken that made a very big difference between my photos and my friends' photos was that my photographer used reflectors for outdoor portraits. Since I don't have access to an indoor set-up, I know that most of the photos I take will have to be outdoors, but I don't have a reflector. Any advice on making one of my own, or types of lighting to look for so that it's not a problem? Any advice on makeshift equipment, posing, lighting, etc. would be greatly appreciated. I want to make sure my friends have quality photos that don't look like some amateur took them (even though that may be the case!).
     
  2. alrey

    alrey TPF Noob!

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    I've not used reflectors either, but one of the cheapest and easiest suggestions I've seen while perusing the forums is to get a couple of the big windshield reflector things - the kind people put in their car windshields to keep them from getting too hot - and use those to reflect your light source.

    I don't know how well this technique actually works, but the obvious benefit is that even if it is an utter failure, you're only out $5 :)
     
  3. Whittyphoto

    Whittyphoto TPF Noob!

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    Thanks, I actually had a friend suggest that too but I was skeptical. I plan to take a "test model" (AKA my helpless boyfriend) out and practice some techniques before taking the senior pictures, so I'll see if it works. Logically, it makes sense!


    I also need some advice as far as camera settings. I'd really prefer not to shoot in manual mode if possible since I am still getting familiar with my camera, but control of depth of field is important to me...
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    Does your friend know and understand this? It might be best to tell them that this is too important and that they should hire a pro. You can always get other shots of them another time, if you like.

    As for reflectors, you can find fold up reflectors is photo shots but windshield blockers can work well. Maybe go to a craft store and get a big sheet of white foam core board (or just poster board paper).

    Shooting in manual in not necessary. If you want to control the DOF, then I'd suggest using aperture priority mode. You choose the aperture and the camera gives you the shutter speed for a 'normal' exposure. If you want to change the exposure, use EC (exposure compensation). Watch your shutter speed though, don't go too low (to avoid camera shake/blur).

    If shooting outdoors, try to avoid direct sun...especially mid-day sun. The dark shadows are not nice. You will want to have some fill light. This is where a reflector comes in handy but you could also use flash. The built-in flash is small and not very powerful, but it may be better than nothing.

    You have a good idea about practicing on your boyfriend. The more practice the better.
     
  5. AdamZx3

    AdamZx3 TPF Noob!

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    I have tried a few methods myself, being a starving student :) , heres a few options and my opinions on them:


    #1
    I have used the silver car reflectors and they work relatively well...providing you can keep them somewhat taught so you can "aim" the reflected light, when I tried it first mine was flapping all over the place...an assistant is needed with this one. If you use this one make sure its a shiny silver, like foil..not the silver dyed fabric, I don't think that will give you enough light.

    #2
    White foamcore board will work for a softer reflection but won't be as strong as the shiny materials, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what you need. You can get a large one at the art store or a regular size one from wallmart that might do for headshots.

    #3, my favorite :)
    Buy an emergency blanket from the sporting goods store, If your lucky they have one with a silver side and one with a gold side! Go to home depot/lowes and buy some 3/4" pvc plastic pipe and 90deg elbows to construct a square frame then tape the blanket on the top first with duct tape and stretch to the bottom and tape...now you have a large reflector for full length portraits! You can scale this down for smaller ones as well.

    You could also roll the material around the tube and tape, sort of like putting a tent pole through the tent loop slot (bad description!) that way you can actually break down the frame to store it or travel.

    #4 is buying a reflector, you can get a decent 30" 5+1 for around 30 bucks, I ended up buying a photoflex gold/white reflector and am pleased with the quality, I use that for most of my work....or tinkering rather lol.

    Edit* Another thing I took for granted and found out rather quickly on my first portrait was trying to pose and unexperienced model, they didn't know what to do after 3 poses and really neither did I. I took a trip to the bookstore and found books that went in depth to posing, also free info is on the net as well....for me this is my biggest challenge so far in portraiture.

    Hope this helps
     
  6. three_eyed_otter

    three_eyed_otter TPF Noob!

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    http://groups.msn.com/Asktheoleproaboutphotography/joezeltsman.msnw?pgmarket=en-us

    Here is a wonderful link that a few bigwigs around the forum have suggested. I think you should go ahead and shoot your friends photos--a trip back home to the computer and you and your friends will be able to tell what sucks and what doesn't. Additionally, we live in the digital age and whose to say you have to get right in a single photo shoot (i.e., delete and save). I mean, isn't the school year 10 months long?

    have a good one
    3Eo
     
  7. little_earthquakes

    little_earthquakes TPF Noob!

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    Oh wow this thread was incredibly helpful. I had a lot of these same questions. Thanks!
     
  8. bellacat

    bellacat TPF Noob!

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    this is a great thread and the info is so helpful. you guys rock!
     
  9. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I am not a bigwig :p

    That link will tell you what works and what doesn't in the classical portrait sense. It is not how you want to model seniors most of the time, but it helps debug something that may not look quite right. An excellent thing to learn but I so far have yet to be in a situation where I need to apply such a strict pose.

    Also $10 gets you some lovely reflectors 4 in one (white silver gold black) from ebay which fold up well. Still need an assistant to hold though, either that or tripod and self time the camera and run over and pickup the reflector.
     
  10. photogincollege

    photogincollege TPF Noob!

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    also if using reflectors try not to put them so the light is being reflected directly back, maybe to the side, something like this.
    (subject here)

    \_______/
    Camera
    thats two reflectors seperated by underscores (with spaces it doesnt work).
    You get the general idea ha ha.
     
  11. JenR

    JenR TPF Noob!

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    There are tons and tons of examples of senior portraits on the Internet. Do some Google-ing and really study your favorites. Do they use hard or soft light? Where is it coming from? How is the subject posed? You can get a lot of good ideas that way.

    Good luck!! :)
     
  12. three_eyed_otter

    three_eyed_otter TPF Noob!

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    Heavy Hitter?

    have a good one
    3Eo
     

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