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Case Study - Vivec on Portraiture Photography

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    Posted: 21 February 2010 at 11:11
Welcome to another one of our excellent series on portraiture Photography. Vivec has put together an excellent article, highlighted with some stunning images. Another welcome addition to our knowledge base. Many thanks Vivec!


Vivec on Portraiture Photography

I have always been making photos, but started to get more serious about two years ago when I bought an A700 (what a great camera!). I started out doing mostly nature and photograph wildlife, like eagles and bears. Since about 1 1/2 year I have doing a lot of studio photography, where I seem to gravitate towards to beauty and fashion photography. In contrast to nature photography it can be very satisfying to be in full control of the lights and try to create a beautiful and interesting photo.

Starting out in studio photography can be quite a hurdle: not only gear wise, but also to build up connections with the people you need: makeup artists, clothing designers, models, hair stylists, etc. I am fortunate enough to be part of SPA: this is a community of photographers, models, MUA's, and fashion designers that share a large studio space with a lot of available gear, clothing, props, etc. Most of the photos below are taken at the SPA studio or during SPA organized events. If you are starting, I would highly recommend trying to get involved in your local photography community -- I have learned a lot by seeing how others work as well as from doing local workshops.

Gear wise, I almost always use my A900 and the Zeiss 85mm F1.4 lens which is just great for portrait and fashion photography. Even though it is a fantastic combo, I think an A700 or other APS-C with a 50mm F1.4 would do just as well for all of the photos below. With respect to studio lights I worked mostly with the SPA studio Alienbee lights and modifiers. These lights are great value and work quite well. I am currently slowly buying my own Elinchrom lights and modifiers which have a better build and consistency but are also more expensive.

I am not a pro, and do this in my spare time for the fun (at the moment). Nevertheless, I strive to create professional level images and it is continuing to be a very fun learning process. It is a bit humbling to show the following photos knowing how many amazing photographers are out there, but I hope you enjoy them anyway and I will try to share some of the things I have learned with detailed descriptions how I arrived at the final photo.

Ok, let's start


Model: Brielle Larson, MUA: Sheila Birashk.

A900 + Zeiss 85mm, F16 1/200s iso100, Vivitar 285hv, reflector.

Here, I had the opportunity to work with a professional model, Brielle, and had two assistents (Thanks Spencer and Brett!). It was a sunny day at the beach and Brielle brought a great evening dress where the blue worked great with the blue sky.

To get this deep and saturated look, I first manually exposed for the sunlit sky which was F16 at 1/200s and ISO 200 (yes, the sunny 16 rule really works ). I used 1/200s shutterspeed as it is the highest shutterspeed that still works with flash lights (ie. the x-sync speed). I then underexposed it by 1 stop by lowering the iso to 100 to get a more dramatic sky. The sun is behind Brielle and without extra light, we would just see a silhouette. ie.:

The perfect solution is to have big monolight: one might easily need a powerful 500+ Ws lamp to 'overpower' the sun in such situation. Unfortunately, I didn't have such portable power at that time, so I used a large reflector held by Brett (on the right side) to reflect a lot of sun light back at Brielle. This still wouldn't put enough light on Brielle's face so Spencer (on the left side) held a portable flash at full power through an umbrella directed at her face. Next, I composed for a two-page spread given a sense of space and freedom. I worked with Brielle to fine tune the pose, where her right arm aligns nicely with the leg angle. In retrospect, I wished I had more lights to light her right side more which is now a bit too dark in my opinion.


Model: Brielle Larson, MUA: Sheila Birashk.

A900 + Zeiss 85mm, F8 1/200s iso100, Alienbee 800, Vagabond power pack, Beautydish

Here is another shot with Brielle where I tried to convey a feel of the girl next door, with a dreamy feel to it. This photo was actually taken during a bright sunny day. I first exposed again for the ambient and underexposed that about 2 stops (lowering the iso and F stop) to get a more dramatic look. I used one monolight with a beauty dish high up in a 45 angle pointed downward to Brielle at about 5 feet distance (as close as I could to limit the light to here face and not light too much of the pole or background). I just turned up the light until her face was properly exposed. I then worked with her to have her look up a bit to get nice highlights of the beauty dish in her eyes, and to get this dreamy look. Here is a crop of the eyes:

People have different styles but I generally micro manage the pose where I ask the model to for example raise the chin a bit, turn the eyes a bit etc. until I get the look I am looking for. The large viewfinder of the A900 surely helps here! Often I try to direct without looking through the viewfinder which is good for establishing a good connection to a model -- it can be uncomfortable if the photographer is continuously staring through the lens and not given enough feedback.

Model:Alice Elizabeth, Hair: Deviathan, Lunaversoul Jewelry, MUA: Cara Aeschliman, Director: Art of When

A900 + 135mm F2.8 STF, F2.8 (T4.5) 1/160s iso200.

I included this shot because it was taken with the 135mm STF lens and I know what gear heads we are at Dyxum This is also a natural light shot. The sun was very bright so we took this one in the shadow where the light was perfectly soft but I used an extra white reflector on the ground to put a bit more light on her. I positioned her fairly close to a windowed wall to get an interesting background. Since the lens is shot wide open we get a nice out-of-focus background and I had to carefully focus on the eyes with this limited depth of field. Again, I worked quite a bit on getting the right pose, lifting the chin a bit, directing the eyes, and ensuring both eyes are well visible, etc. until she had this dreamy look.

One thing I learned more and more is to take your time. Once you set up a shoot and have a great model posed, it really pays off to not just go and shoot a ton of photos. It is much better to relax and look carefully for the right look, and posing carefully before lifting the camera to your eyes. This gives a better connection with a model and makes you pay attention to the details. It is also much nicer in post to have just a few good photos than a ton of photos you still need to sort out.

Model: Jennie, Hair: Deviathan, Clothing: Cotton Candie, Lunaversoul jewelry, MUA: Cara Aeschliman, Director: Art of When

A900 + Zeiss 85mm F1.4, F4 1/200s iso200, Elinchrom Quadra to-go set + umbrella.

This was during a SPA organized cooperative event, with a great clothing designer and makeup. As apparent, this makes a huge difference in the quality of the photo: if at all possible, try to work with a good makeup artist, hair stylist and clothing designer. It was already dusk and I found this nice background with red ivy leaves. I lighted Jennie with my portable Quadra light reflected in an umbrella (A powerful flash and umbrella would have worked too). I used F4 in order to throw the background out of focus while still keeping both eyes in focus. At first, I had her too close to the background which didn't work that well as it also lighted the background too much which reduced the impact (in my opinion):

So, I had her move away from the wall such that my light didn't light the wall so much anymore. We worked on fine tuning her pose here slowly turning her head such that the lace is just in the middle of her face. In post processing I used a lightroom preset 'antique light' with a desaturation such that the red is still showing in her lips and the leaves.

Model: Erin

A900 + Zeiss 85mm F1.4, F8 1/160s iso200, Alienbee 800 + Large softbox, Westcott tri-flector, Alienbee 400 + barndoors and red gel, white board.

This is a great beauty setup. Above the camera, I set up a large softbox high up and angled 45 degree down onto the models face (~5 feet distance). The tri-flector is setup underneath it such that the model can see the softbox reflection in all three parts. This gives very telling highlights in the eyes:

but it also gives a nice even lighting on the whole face while having more subtle hair light from the softbox. To bring out the hair coloring better, I gelled a barndoor. This light was setup on the right in the back, 6 feet up and angled down. The barndoors were such that exactly part of her hair was lighted and also part of the black background (to give it a deep reddish look). Next, I worked hard to get this pose which is actually quite uncomfortable for the model as the shoulder is angled far in front of her face. After that we worked a bit to get this 'intense' and stylish look.

Model: Kimberley, Director: Art of When.

A900 + Zeiss 85mm F1.4, F8 1/160s iso100, Elinchrom BXri 500 + 17" beautydish, Elinchrom Quadra with wide reflectors, large reflector.

This was again a SPA organized event with a hairdresser competition. Of course, the hair is the main subject here and we need to be careful not to have the model engage too much with the viewer (as in the previous example). Here I used three lights: one slightly on the right, 6ft up beauty dish, about 5ft from the model. Underneath it a reflector to get some fill underneath eyes and chin (a triflector would have been even better here). On the left was a light with a wide reflector to fill in the shadows a bit where I was careful to still keep the contrast nice (about 1 stop between main and fill). In the back there is one light that is directly pointed to the model. I used a wide reflector with some thin white cloth over it (to diffuse the light). This light gives the rim light on the model to better separate from the background. Here is photo of the setup:

(no, it is not me in the background). Note I also used a small step to shoot from a higher perspective than the model.

All right, that is it. I hope you enjoyed More of my work can be found at: www.daanvisuals.com/fashion

Special thanks goes out to When who organizes the SPA studio.


Edited by rovhazman - 08 November 2013 at 23:07
*** Sony A850 * A700 * Minolta 5D and other stuff ***

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