Yesterday, I took a crack at portrait photography. I am more familiar with the family style live-action indoor/outdoor photo shoots. But recently, I came across a photography blog with lots of practical lighting tips for studio shots. Since everything recommended was handy, I grabbed an unwilling participant and started shooting. For this experiment, I am using a Nikon D5300 with Wifi and an AF-S DX NIKKOR 35 mm f/1.8G fixed zoom lens with auto focus with my gear on a tripod
Only my mother was willing to play with me but, she was not that willing. It quickly became obvious that she hoped the experience would be brief.
Because the stool I had her sitting on initially was too high and she was complaining of back pain anyway, I switch her off of it and onto an adjustable studio chair with a backrest. At this point, I did not know how long it would take for me to get the shots that I wanted and she was already using every opportunity and facial expression she could manage to express her discomfort. Those shots did not make the cut … but now that I am sharing, I wish that I saved a few for posterity and retribution, maybe.
I have fluorescent and incandescent overhead lights in my basement and situated myself so that they were behind me and the camera. They softly illuminated the area where I chose to place my model, who was beginning to look bereft … she even did her hair for this, how did I lose her so quickly?!
Against the wall, I placed a dark navy blue fabric for the backdrop. In his article, the blogger used black fabric for his shots and since I could not find my stash of black fabric, navy blue was close enough. Now I have to share an important observation about this backdrop as recommended and used by the blogger … his was wrinkled and so was mine. Iron it beforehand if you have time. You think that you can edit it out post production and I’m sure many can but for me, it’s easier to pull out the iron. I found the wrinkles to be distracting and editing them out of photos instead of focusing on my subject was annoying.
To my model’s left, I placed a studio pot-light so that it would illuminate the backdrop and not her. This turned out to be too much lighting for the space and a bit too harsh. So, I improvised and got a much shorter grow light that I had handy and put it on the floor a few feet beside her. I also switched out the bulb to an incandescent 40 watt and lit up the wall behind her.
I did not want to stage a more complicated scene because I noticed that my model’s interest slipped drastically when switching out her chair. She looked scared, as if I was setting her up for the firing squad and acted like she didn’t know what to do. There was no reason to be nervous but the look of fear and discomfort on her face was rattling me. I wondered how unsettled professional photographers get when they have unruly strangers in their studio and just cringed.
When it got to the point where she and I were no longer synchronized and I was getting more shots with her eyes closed than I could stand, I released her. I knew that I had enough to work with and settled into post production mode with some cool apps that I had on my phone for editing. Syncing my camera and phone is a snap with the D5300 and I deleted the pictures that I didn’t want to ever see again and played with the rest.
I’m still trying to figure out how to paint her eyes a little bluer in the first photo below but they upgraded a coloring app that I have and I don’t know how to work it any more. Keeping up with the technology is daunting when you’re in the middle of a project and they decide to surprise you with an upgrade.