Eve Black 311.
(photo credit: Tom Langford)
Tom Langford is a commercial photographer, professional retoucher, and a website
I shoot many different types of photography - products, models, architecture,
food and portraits. While each category requires specific techniques and presents
different challenges to be creatively overcome, portraiture can be
Many people feel uncomfortable in front of a
camera so your most important skill is to help them relax and feel at ease. If
they don’t have an enjoyable experience no amount of photographic technique can
flatter a tense and self-conscious sitter.
It’s important for you to feel
relaxed and confident too. Long pauses while you fuss with your equipment are
not to be recommended, so prepare well in advance. Check the important settings
on your camera; check the battery is charged; have a stand-in pose and work out
any problems with the lighting and background. And then double-check everything
again.A studio portrait
I remember a session shooting
a recording artist in London. To ensure a comfortable atmosphere I booked a
large studio in Holborn Studios, complete with it’s own parking, restaurant and
room service. I arrived early with my assistant and set up the lighting, tested
all of the equipment, and was completely prepared and relaxed well before my
client arrived. When she entered the studio we made her feel at home, brought
coffee, laughed and chatted about this and that – it was quite some time before
we got around to starting to shoot and by then she felt at ease and ready to
have some fun.
When I showed her the initial test shots she was delighted.
The session was a success because we created the right atmosphere for it to
work.A home portrait
I took this portrait recently
of Eve Black, Life Coach and Voice-over artist. For a short session you don’t
need to use a studio and I took this in my living room.
Eve wanted a dark
background so I simply taped a black sheet to the wall. For this shot I used
flash lighting because it gives reliable, repeatable results and is easy to move
around and adjust. I used the classic combination of a soft box and reflector to
light the face, plus some bounced flash to top-light the hair and
A soft box is a special diffuser that turns the harsh light
from a direct flash into a rectangular glow that resembles soft light from a
window, in this case 80 x 60cm. I placed this about three meters in front of her
face and a little above eye level. A large horizontal white reflector was
supported above her lap to gently bounce light up into the face. A second flash
on a high stand was pointed at the ceiling. This bounced light down onto the
hair and shoulders to help separate them from the background.
was used in manual mode with the aperture adjusted so the preview on the back
screen looked bright enough. The shutter speed was set to the “flash sync
speed”. There was no need to use a tripod since the flash lasts only about a
750th of second so I could handhold the camera.
Most importantly Eve felt at
ease with the confidence in which I conducted the session in these informal
surroundings. After a few test shots we knew we had a great portrait that she
could use on her websites and promotional material.
lighting was used for both these portraits but it’s just as easy to use table
lamps, available light, or natural light to create great portraits too.
I hope you
never have the misfortune of taking the portrait of a self-conscious and tense
sitter. If you do, you’ll know how excruciatingly accurate that old saying can
be: “The camera never lies."Send me your picture
If you would like to
develop your photography skills, send me a picture and I will share some
constructive feedback in one of my future articles. Send one picture only, at a
reduced size to [email protected]
Don’t know how to send a reduced
size photo by email? See my Brief Guide to Picasa:
www.langford.co.il/courses/PicasaGuide.html Tom Langford is a commercial
photographer, website designer, and professional retoucher. He teaches
photography courses for beginners and advanced. Details of his next courses and
field trips at: http://www.langford.co.il/courses Eve Black, Life Coach: