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Case Study - DaveK on Portraiture

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Frankman View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Frankman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Case Study - DaveK on Portraiture
    Posted: 21 February 2010 at 12:43
Another excellent article on Portraiture - this one from DaveK examines his approach to photographing people. Thanks to Dave for sharing his knowledge and Rich (Ricardovaste) for arranging this article with Dave. I hope you all enjoy it and learn a little more.
Frank


Hi all, Rich (Ricardovaste) asked me how I do my portraiture work. Although Iím no pro at all, Iíd like to share the way I do it. This will not be a technical piece, but a personal one.

Models:
I photograph mainly my kids, wife, family, friends. So, all models are individuals that I know well (some very well). I think that makes it a lot easier to shoot. They know me, so they are becoming faster and easier at ease.

This is Lucca, who had just eaten a sandwich with chocolate butter:



How I want to photograph them:
I always like to photograph them the way they are in real life. Iím happy when I capture their character well in a picture. I think thatís the hardest part.

This is Aniek, very shy when sheís being photographedÖ



Light:
I always shoot in natural light. Mostly outside. I try to catch the sun in the models eyes. So I mainly shoot the models with the sun in my back. I use a bouncer to reflect the sun on the shadow side of the face when I have the change, but since I almost always work alone, this occasions are rare

Gear:
I use the magnificent A700 with several lenses for portraits. The reason is that I like the possibility of the shallow DOF. These lenses have a very nice bokeh too. These are my favorite lenses by far for portraits :

Minolta 85 RS F/1.4
Beautiful bokeh, colors

Minolta 100mm /F2
Beautiful bokeh, colors

Zeiss 135 F/1.8
Awesome lens. Faster than the 85mm. Masterpiece

Minolta 200G F/2.8 (or 70200SSM @ 200mm)
I use this lens when I have to take some distance. Photographing kids may be easier this way, because I donít disturb them doing the things they are doing.

Shallow DOF:
I always use the lens wide open (I set the camera at ĎAíperture).The reason I like a shallow DOF in portraits is that the eyes automatically catch the attention when they are sharp, while the rest of the face (head) is not.Can it get shallower than this? Zoe wondering what is going on:



Technique:
I keep some things in mind:

How do I want to portray my model?
Happy, sad, smart (that kind of things). I talk to the models a lot while Iím shooting them. Correcting them, making them smile, let them think or talk about something sad.

What do I want to show in my picture?
The real person...

Is there something distracting in the background?
Because I shoot wide open itís not very important what it is in the background (it will be fade in the picture), but a lightspot (for instance a light bouncing window) can be very distracting

How is the light shining the face?
Is there not too much shadow in the face? For BW shadow is necessary.

Is the sun visible in the eyes (is a plus)?
I think itís nice to see the sun in the models eye. The same with softboxe(s) in a studio shoot. I personally dislike the light of a ringflash in the eyes of a model.

Focus on the eyes:
Unless you want to focus on something else ( on an earring maybe, or a smile) the safest focus spot is definitely one of the eyes. I almost immediately ditch a shot when the eye(s) is not very sharp. And shooting with a shallow DOF handheld, means also a lot of soft (on the eyes) photos, unless I hold my camera perfectly still (on the same spot) and the model doesnít move. When I focus from a side, I focus on the eye that is the most nearby. When I focus from the front, both eyes will be sharp.

Position of the camera:
I always try to get at the same height with my camera as they are with their face. Perhaps others have other experiences, but I do it that way. But there is a lot of room, playing with this angle (or to shoot from close by with a 16mm fisheye...) I sure must try that ones.

Background:
Although my lenses provide me a great blurry background shooting wide open, the model has to take some distance from the background. If the model is close to a wall (or something like that) then the background might get too much attention. Sometimes thatís on purpose, but mostly I like portraits to be isolated from their background.

Henrik is not always a very nice kid J



Post processing (Iím no master in PP):

Contrast:
I adjust the contrasts just a little bit, because heavier contrast mostly means more character. But females donít like this for obvious reasons. Sometimes I adjust the contrast heavy as in this portrait. Mark is a long time Stones fan, riding a Harley Davidson (Night Rider). I tried to show a friendly face together with a sometimes tough life.

Mark enjoys his life which has been hard to him



B&W Conversion:              
Some photos (like the one of Mark above) long for a contrast full BW conversion, mostly when there is a lot of shadow or light in the photo.

Sharpness:
I just sharpen a little bit

Cropping:
Cropping can make an average picture great. I canít explain what I do precisely, but I try to get a nice strong crop. If I donít crop, the I is exactly in the middle (like my wifeís picture and the picture of Storm)

This is no crop. Photo of Saskia (my wife) as close as I could get with the 135mm 1.8



This is a crop (and I rotated the picture a bit):




Shoot a lot of pictures during a shoot!
In this digital area you can shoot a lot. That is what I do, knowing there must be a nice shot between the loads of pictures I took.

This is Storm ( his name suits his characterÖ)



Thatís it folks! I hope little note helps you a little bit doing portraits. Good luck and happy shooting!

Dave


Edited by brettania - 20 April 2010 at 00:29
 



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dleccord View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dleccord Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2010 at 13:57
thansk
a700
17-50mm f2.8
18-70mm
50 f1.7
35-70 f4
70-210 f4

refs: superx2won(VGC90) dukeblue91 (A700)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Serdar A Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2010 at 17:08
Dave.

I also use my 50 and 85mm wide open (partly dictated by the environment I shoot in) with my A700. I have seen some people complain about getting only one eye in focus (i.e. the first picture above), but I personally like the effect.
-Serdar
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Post Options Post Options   Quote wimski99 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 April 2010 at 20:58
Hi Dave,

Thank you for sharing your view on portraiture with us! I hope that you don't mind that I a have a few remarks/questions:

Originally posted by DaveK DaveK wrote:


Shallow DOF:
I always use the lens wide open (I set the camera at ĎAíperture).The reason I like a shallow DOF in portraits is that the eyes automatically catch the attention when they are sharp, while the rest of the face (head) is not.

I agree on this when both eyes of the 'model' are in the DOF. Like with the portrait of Zoe (very well done BTW). When only one eye is in focus (like the portrait of Lucca) that makes me looking for 'more'.

Originally posted by DaveK DaveK wrote:


How do I want to portray my model?
Happy, sad, smart (that kind of things). I talk to the models a lot while Iím shooting them. Correcting them, making them smile, let them think or talk about something sad.

Obviously that will only work with older (+3) kids but it is a good tip. I will try that out soon!

Originally posted by DaveK DaveK wrote:


Is there something distracting in the background?
Because I shoot wide open itís not very important what it is in the background (it will be fade in the picture), but a lightspot (for instance a light bouncing window) can be very distracting

Another useful tip!

Originally posted by DaveK DaveK wrote:


Is the sun visible in the eyes (is a plus)?
I think itís nice to see the sun in the models eye. The same with softboxe(s) in a studio shoot. I personally dislike the light of a ringflits in the eyes of a model.

Maybe you want to substitute 'ringflits' with 'ringflash'

Another thank you and mods: more case-studies please!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote brettania Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 April 2010 at 00:30
Originally posted by wimski99 wimski99 wrote:


Maybe you want to substitute 'ringflits' with 'ringflash'


Change made.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote DaveK Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 April 2010 at 22:54
Thanks all for your compliments and corrections!

PS. I didn't have the time to be around much, but I try to post more pictures again.
Best regards, Dave
A7r & A7r3
Let's make a colorful world!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dave18 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 July 2010 at 08:15
thanks Dave K I'm thinking about doing some portrait work to supplement my landscape work and the techniques are very different. Your article has been very useful
I have taken a number of portraits using my min 28 - 135mm zoom at F4 and I get a nice shallow DOF with a blurred background and the face all in focus. Do you find that at F1.4 the DOF is too shallow for peoples tastes ie eyes may be in focus but parts of the face is now burred?
Ultimate sharpness is not always what people are looking for in a portrait unlike landscapes
thanks again

Dave
Sony A7RII, A900, A99 x2, A77II, A580, A200, ZA 135 1.8,tam 28-75 2.8, sig 35 art Tokina 11-16mm, Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM OS, sony 16-50 2.8 ssm http://www.cornwall-wedding-photographer.co.uk
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Muby Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 July 2010 at 08:33
Thanks DaveK - a lot of common sense advice that would hopefully help me out as well. Loved the B&W shot of Zoe - I need to try something in that lines with my kids (but it's going to be tough to have 2.5 years old twin boys to stay still...)
Beauty is in the EYE/FILM/SENSOR of the beholder!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Benoni Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 July 2010 at 08:56
Thanks for sharing your techniques Dave, hope to try them out!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote superx2won Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 July 2010 at 11:20
nice sharing.... we are in the same boat...

i like to use Minolta 135/2.8 & Minolta 35-105/3.5-4.5 lens when shooting with my kid and family.

These 2 lens is just excellent. i have the 85mm/1.4, but i seldom use due to AF is a bit slow.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote skm.sa100 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 July 2010 at 14:27
Thanks for sharing, DaveK. Some of these I'm familiar with, some I don't know and some I know but ignore!!
Especially planning the light. That's where I really need to focus. I rarely plan the light and just take shots as they happen. I'll try to remember that for future.
Another excellent portrait artist among us is (drumroll) aarif!!
Aarif, if you're around and notice this message, I would absolutely love if you could share some of your techniques.
Regards,
Sashi
More Dyxumer, less photographer.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote mambo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 July 2010 at 14:58
thanks for the perls of wisdom and providing some inspiration.

Charles
Charles M

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Post Options Post Options   Quote DaveK Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 August 2010 at 17:19

Thanks all for your nice words! Couldn't be around much, but I hope this will change soon. Very busy at work (and away for vacation).

Originally posted by Dave18 Dave18 wrote:

Do you find that at F1.4 the DOF is too shallow for peoples tastes ie eyes may be in focus but parts of the face is now burred?
Ultimate sharpness is not always what people are looking for in a portrait unlike landscapes
thanks again


I think that's a matter of taste (and style). I like to work with a very shallow DOF myself (85 1.4, 135 1.8) but others do it differently. Because I have a frontfocusproblem I have to send my A700 back for repair, but when it's back I love to do that style again.

thanks again folks! Here's one more:


Mark:

[

Best regards, Dave
A7r & A7r3
Let's make a colorful world!
Gallery
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