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4.2 Strategies for Editorial Portraits

So that is a little bit on how I approach my portrait assignments. Now let's take a look at some of my recent portrait assignments. So here we have a pretty standard portrait assignment, a business portrait, downtown in the financial district. I'm not going to show every single image that I took. That will be a little redundant. As you can see here in this assignment, I took 177 portraits in total. But I've already worked through this section and made a selection of 30, which should give you a good enough idea and won't put you guys to sleep. So here we have the first frame. A lot of times, the subject comes into the room while I'm still setting up, and this is actually a kind of good technique. It kind of gets them interested in what you're doing, and you can talk about your gear a bit. Odds are, if they're a business lawyer of some sort, if they're interested in photography, this guy happened to have a camera, so we talked about that, and just start breaking the ice, and letting him calm down a bit. He's a very busy guy, on the go all day, so this is kind of to slow him down a bit. This assignment's gonna take, this assignment probably took 20 minutes of shooting, and you gotta just have him nice, calm and relaxed. For some reason he was just sorta standing there looking over the city and I just took that frame while he was sorta standing there. Kind of an awkward pose, but it was a nice attempt at sort of like a natural documentary portrait, I like to call it, but maybe a little bit too awkward of a pose but first frame, okay. Obviously I am gonna be using these windows here, and the background, sort of a shallow background, let it fall off a bit. I also, in this one, it's fully available light, just the light coming through here and same with this portrait. So, you can see here I've moved him over. It's a nice casual technique. I always have guys sort of lean or stand casually. They're gonna have to stand there for a few minutes, so I like a lot of my portraits to be a little less formal, informal like this. So here you can see I've now introduced a strobe flash. Would be coming from over here, bouncing off the roof, matched to the exposure on this side of his face here coming from the window, just to sort of balance it out and fill it out a bit. This also gives you the opportunity to bring a little more of the background in, pretty bright out there as you can see in this picture. The color's off a little bit, too. The color's a little different. Keep in mind, these are the raw unedited photos. So move in a little bit. And like we talked about, having them looking in different directions sort of changes the portrait. A little bit of a laugh. This guy was actually quite comfortable in front of the camera, which was nice. You can see here I'm still using the flash a little more subtly. At this point I'm going to move, so you can see the flash is a little harsher here. This is still raw photo but I had moved the flash to this top corner here and pointed it directly at him, and shot it without the soft box, so it's a lot more direct. And if you zoom the flash head in a bit on most Canon and Nikon, most standard flashes, you'll have the ability to change the head and zoom it in so it's more of a direct effect you can see here. These are a little overexposed, in the flash. And a lot of times when I'm shooting I'm still messing with the exposure, but it's nothing we can't deal with in post-processing. So here I've now moved him to this wall. I'm gonna be using this window to light him and create a bit different of a portrait with more of a neutral background. This again is one of his candid poses. He was just sort of standing like that, so I snapped a photo. When I go into the assignments I like to look for two different options just in the same room, just so we can move quickly, and get a different variety of shots. You can also look around in the hallways or surrounding area for a secondary setup, and sometimes a third if you have time. So, and just had him like that, pose him like that for a quick second. And like I said, he was naturally like this, so didn't have to do too much there. And then I asked him to stand out from the wall, which gives a separation with the depth of field falling off there, kind of a cool effect. And here is a good example of my prime lenses, and using my prime lenses to get this aesthetic. A little bit more vignetting in the corners and this side too, which isn't a bad thing for me. You can see, for the aperture here, is that f2.2, so that's pretty close to wide open, a pretty shallow depth of field. And you'll have to be careful, these aren't full sized raws, but you have to be careful here with focus. You can see here I nailed the focus in the eyes, but there's something, a lot of the time, maybe your focus will be set on the tie here and if you're shooting at this shallow of an aperture, then his face will be out of focus or sometimes you'll get his nose and his eyes will be too soft, so that's something you wanna be conscious of while you're shooting, for sure. And try a couple different. This guy was pretty kind of Mad Men-y, a business type, so it was nice to kinda get some get some personality here, kind of cool portrait. Here he looks business tycoon. And then I always want to try and go for another option, more of a candid option if possible. So, just asked if I could get some pictures of him sitting in his office working, and it took a little bit of encouragement, because he doesn't necessarily think his office is, the best, cleanest, coolest office, but just something, these aren't very successful compared to the portraits. Just to, you never know what you're going to get. So yeah, there we go, that's a raw take. That's thirty photos. We can quickly look through here at the edited photos. Photo Mechanic, for some reason, doesn't like SRGB photos and it always has trouble with the contrast. This seems a little over contrast, oversaturated, and this one seemed a little undersaturated but just have to work with just what we got. So, here we go. One photo color balanced out a little bit, I took some of the saturation down. Same here, gave a little more contrast in his face, burned his face in a bit. Same here, these ones might be a little darker than what they wanted. And starting to balance out here nicely, with the flash. And that's a nice clean photo there for them. Oops, saturation looks crazy on that one. Somewhere in between there, we have the proper saturation. And here too, the face is a little bright, but it's okay. Here we go, these are nice clean ones here. Color balanced a bit. This is the one I went with. Let's see here. His eyes are in focus, which is nice. Then working in his office. So yeah, there we go. How many is that? Nine photos, that's standard what I would send for a smaller portrait assignment for a newspaper. For a magazine they're probably gonna want to see a lot more than that. Sometimes they want to see your full raw take, but for a newspaper a 15 minute shoot not bad. Next, we went and visited this guy in his house. I think he was a realtor, just a general story on real estate in the city. Thankfully, he had a nice balcony, which created a nice background. It was starting to snow, so we were kinda getting a nice, cool, cloudy background there. So shot the flash here through a strobe head, sorry, through a shoot through umbrella. Nice from up top here. Nice even lighting. Something I like to do. So you can see here I'm changing position a little bit. A little bit lower. A little closer. This would be with a different zoom lens, you can see here we went to 130mm lens, from I believe, the last one was a 50, yep, 50. And then another lens choice here, wide-angle, a kinda different feel. This portrait's a little bit more about the city, where this would be more representative of a profile on him. So for instance, if the story was about his real estate career and whatnot, this would work. But if it's more about him working in downtown Toronto and that has to be an aspect of the photo, then obviously, a little bit more background's nice. And then it started to snow a bit. Let's see here. Oh yeah, it's in focus. It looked like it was a little out of focus, and caught on the snow. But no, that works nicely, it's okay. Try a different composition, look to the side. Look straight on. And try something else. Again, have him working in his house. Okay, photo there, that's kind of a nice more candid style photo. Him sitting here on the couch. You could probably look for details like this coming out of the floorboard, and if you have the option of not having a big blue thing in the background or maybe possibly fixing this blanket here could be helpful, but these are all things you do in hindsight. Or, for instance, change your cropping so all those things are kind of reduced. So yeah, here we go. Next little assignment there, how many do we got? 11, good variety, different angles, different lighting. Quick in and out portrait job as well, probably was there for about half an hour. So here we have another quite standard assignment, a portrait of an author. We met her at her publisher's boardroom. Quite visually boring, but luckily it has some clean walls. So here she's being interviewed by the reporter. You can snap a few photos at that point if you want, maybe get something candid, but generally it's kind of tough. Luckily these boardrooms usually have pretty clean walls, so here we can see I used a big blue wall to make kind of a visually interesting photo. I believe I would have had a flash popping in the background, to kind of fill in the face a bit, but still also relying on the window light. You can see in the highlights of the eyes, sort of photographers, how they use their lighting. So the highlight will obviously always be from the lighting source and I think this just looks like a big window to her side, so maybe she's sort of in a corner type of situation. No, sorry, this was a couple of years ago. I don't remember exactly but here I now stepped out of the boardroom with the zoom lens and used this blue wall as an abstract element. I moved to the side and framed her in the middle, so it's kind of interesting. Here again, nice light, clean photo, cool background. Again, nice light, clean photo. And again, trying for something different. This one probably isn't gonna make the cut for most photos but I kinda always like to take these style of photos just for fun, for myself. She was just sorta looking to the side and I was testing my light and here's a little bit more of an editorial style photo. Strong light source coming from the street, little bit of wind, little fun. Then her facing directly towards the light source, long zoom lens. What am I using, my 7200 at 150mm there, so zoomed in quite a bit. Cool little background, pretty straightforward portrait. And yeah, that's it. So where are we at here. In total, so in total nine photos. So, yeah, practice up on your jokes and be ready to have a great time on these assignments. Up next, we're gonna be talking about food and architecture photography.

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