How to Create Portraits with DramaJuni 8, 2009
by Christina Dickson
You have promised yourself that your next portrait shoot would be “next level” for your abilities. You want a set of portraits that could be considered fine art, and perfect for gallery enlargements. You want to capture your subject well, but you also want to grow in your abilities as a creative photographer.
Fortunately, fate would grant you both opportunities.
You have a booking for portraits with an outgoing, dramatic, painter and beautician. It ends up being a rainy day, so the shoot will prove to test your creative expertise indoors without anything but your camera and an on camera flash. When you arrive at her studio apartment, you are relieved: there is light to go around. After a greeting and some small talk you quickly take stock of what you have:
Large bay windows that gently wraps the light around skin, and reflects in gorgeous catch-lights and a moveable chair. Perfect.
You know exactly what you are going to do.
You clear the space in front of the window and position the chair toward it. “Okay, let’s get some shots with you facing the window first.” Your subject sits straight up in the chair first and you take a few test shots. Your settings:
Manual Mode: Enabling you to get advanced exposure with highlights and shadows
Shallow depth of field [2.8]: Throwing the window frame out of focus and isolating the eyes and face
Moderate shutter speed [200/s]: To capture just enough of plenty light
Fill flash: To fill in on the face with shots away from the window
You have your model relax into the chair. She leans back easily. She is facing the window limiting the room you have before her. Once again, you remember how much you are aiming for creative shots. You analyze your angles in action, determined to try something new.
“I’m going to get right in front of you here,” you begin and move some hair from your model’s eyes. “Lets have you look up at me right here…” Once she looks up, the light reflects in her eyes with luminous catch-lights.
“Gorgeous!” You exclaim, unable to mask your excitement. You show your model the image. She breathes deep. “Oh, I love it!”
Shot one. Oh yeah.
After a few more shots, you change things up. “Let’s have the window behind you this time. And we’ll go for full body.” You use a smaller chair this time, but don’t want to do a “normal” sitting pose. “Are you game for a little different?” Your model grins and nods. “Let’s do it.” You have her sit with her legs over the arm’s edge, and for extra slimming, coach her to cross one leg over the other. You arrange her arms in triangles, creating an elegant casual feel.
For this shot, you need a bit of fill flash – but not too much. You want to create some drama with the highlights and shadows. You flash the light up to the ceiling to gently cascade on your model without filling too much. To emphasize the dramatic mood, you have your model look down to the ground.
“Okay, here we go!”
It takes a few more test shots than before, but once again, you come out with the image you dreamed about. The lighting is exquisite. The pose perfect. The mood dramatic. And the contrast to die for.
Best of all, your client is just as happy with the image as you are.
After the shoot, you get a check, and load your gear back in the car. The rain continues to fall gently outside and you smile.
Who knew that a rainy day would facilitate with the perfect image of window light drama?