PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY – YOUR COMMENTS NEEDED!

 A few months ago I planned an experimental “Photo Shoot” with two very cooperative models – my grandchildren!  From over 800 photographs and several hours of shooting, eating, and laughing…lots of laughing, I finally narrowed my selection down to the following five.  I know, 5-10 shots out of more than 800!!  I’ve really got to improve that ratio.

In processing these shots, I found myself realizing how difficult it is to really produce high quality portraits!  My hat is off to you who are portrait photographers. 

Some of the issues I faced were:

  • Background Clutter.  I think an outdoor photo shoot is especially difficult because the background will change with each pose.  Several of my shots were ruined because of excessive background clutter.  I must be more attentive to everything that will appear in the shot.
  • Facial Expression.  I managed to capture some expressiveness, but many times it appeared forced or staged.  I must create ways that will extract a natural facial expression from ny subject.
  • Photography Props.  I didn’t have any props that would add to the scenes.  I must learn to incorporate the right props that would enhance the photo without detracting from the subject.
  • Photo Editing.  Portraits are completely different from landscapes when it comes to editing.  I must continue to learn better editing techniques.

Now, I would like to invite you to examine and comment.

LL

LL

With a healthy exchange of comments, we can all learn better options for portrait photography – even if we find ourselves only grabbing that candid shot of a loved one!

So, that’s it!  My first “Photo Shoot!”

Thanks for stopping by.  I do hope you’ll offer a comment.  Even if you don’t have anything technical to inject, as a casual observer you must know if you would be happy with these shots…or sad .

A giant “THANK YOU” goes out to Marissa (I know you’ll be reading this) for having the patience and humor to endure the comedy of a bungling photographer!! 

Advertisements

~ by photographyfree4all on November 1, 2010.

53 Responses to “PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY – YOUR COMMENTS NEEDED!”

  1. Quite irrelevant really, but I just thought it a coincidence that I posted something using the tag: Random Thoughts – one I’ve never used before, and find I’m next to you in the list of blogs! (Don’t look too closely at the photo!

    Andy

    Like

  2. I think you’re way too hard on yourself! These are all fine portraits. I like the carvings on the tree behind your granddaughter–adds interest and is not too busy.
    I’m not a pro, but have heard it helps to use white construction paper or foamcore to reflect more light on the face. The only shot that could use a little more light is the last one.

    Also, the expressions don’t look forced at all to me.

    Like

  3. I think the first and last shots of the sequence are the best. in regards to what you pointed out:

    background clutter – backgrounds can be chosen selectively (as the two best ones demonstrate), or you can try to put more distance between the subject and the background. don’t forget to keep your aperture as wide open as possible

    facial expression – I thought you actually did pretty darned good with this one, but it will get easier as you get more comfortable with setting up shots. your ease translates into the ease of the person you’re shooting

    props – to put it mildly, I don’t think anyone really needs props. you used the tree quite well as a prop. to put it less mildly, I find props really cheesy unless its something meaningful to your subject

    editing – again, you’re getting pretty good results out of the camera. there’s a lot to be said for getting clean, natural portraits, straight from the cam, that don’t need to be edited. the last shot has amazing clarity and sharpness in the eyes, and that absolutely makes the photo

    keep practicing is really the only thing you need to move forward

    Like

  4. I think the last one is the best. The other look a bit flat and I think the last one comes alive because the lighting is softer. Was there a window on the side?

    Like

  5. I really love the last photo.. I don’t know, what makes it so great: lighting, colors, or its simplicity.. and i think, first one is amazing too, if to add some brightness a bit. But you challenged me. Now I want to try to make a portrait. i wonder how much time I will spend : ))) I know, it’s a not a sport. Let’s call it a healthy curiosity : ))

    Like

  6. I think these portraits look beautiful. Love the feather headband, btw. I’ve been thinking about portrait photography, too, lately, because I took a lot of them at a wedding I was at last weekend. Because I really didn’t know what I was doing, I had to edit a lot, but it was worth it. I like the way they ended up–even so.

    Thanks for sharing these.
    🙂

    Like

  7. I don’t know much about photography other than point and shoot. I think these pistures are great. I don’t see any background clutter nor do the expressions seem force. I would be happy with these photos if I had hired you to photograph my granddaughter.

    Like

  8. You just never know, do you? I’m glad you stopped by – anyway. I did take a quick look at tyour blog…just to see what kind of company I was keeping in the Random Thoughts category. 🙂

    Like

  9. Oops! I may have misspoken, Ms. pearl! I’m pretty happy with these shots. It’s the other 795 that caused me to wonder. 🙂 Thank you for your comment about the tree carvings! I wondered about that as a distraction, but decided I liked the pose too well to omit the shot! I’m really glad you came in with this comment! I do appreciate your perspective.

    Like

  10. John, I have to tell you how much I appreciate the time you always take to offer your expertise! This is a very detailed comment that I will save and implement into future shots! I was glad to hear your position on props! It seems I always see them used in nearly every portrait photographer’s website. It seemed it was almost expected, but I never knew what would be “right” for the shot! I was afraid of detracting from the subject my throwing in some prop. I agree with your idea that, if it’s important – try it. If not, forget it. Thanks for stopping by and giving all of us some great information!

    Like

  11. I loved the third one, and the last one….very beautiful. You captured the essence of youth, and sweetness in the one with the tree. Very wise choice, to pick that tree. And the last one, reminded me, of her far away thoughts. Her true love…whatever!! Good job, I also thank you for those tips, as I myself, want to learn how to pose people, to inspire them etc. To get that perfect portrait……

    I bet your walls are full of the photos you take. I know, my printing bill is up, just because I love to print them as well…….By the way, Costco, has an awesome way to print on canvas. Truly photo portrait quality. One of those would look great blown up!!

    Like

  12. Thanks for stopping by, cwilk! I hope you’ll leave another comment because I wondered what you meant by “flat.” Are you talking about the lighting? Or, something else? And, what could I have done to eliminate that flatness? All the shots were taken outside with natural light – no windows. I really appreciate your comment – I hope you’ll offer a follow up.

    Like

  13. I think the last photo captured such a natural expression, it seems almost captivating. As far as time is concerned – it absolutely flew by with this shoot! It’s so much fun that the time just seems to evaporate. Thanks for stopping by, Dragonfly! I hope you’ll come back often and continue to contribute with your comments.

    Like

  14. First, just thank you for your kind comment Heather! At first, portrait photography seems so pressure packed – especially weddings!! I mean, you don’t get a second shot with a wedding. I was nervous at the beginning of this shoot – even though it was my granddaughter. But after a while, we all relaxed and really had some fun! I hope you’ll stop back ofetn, Heather!

    Like

  15. I’m so glad you left this comment, Miss Betty! I hope you always feel comfortable adding your comments, because I really believe everyone has something they can add! Your comment is exactly what I’m looking for – what would the “non-photographer” say about these shots. Even a “ponit and shoot” photographer is still a photographer. Thanks for stopping by today!

    Like

  16. Steve, I really like all of them. To me the lighting and pose, etc. are all that they should be. However, just one teensy little thing that bothers me, and only in the first photo. That little blemish on her chin could be easily been taken care of with one touch of the healing tool. It doesn’t seeme to be a distraction in the other images, just in the first. I do hope you don’t take my criticism the wrong way, as I know that it is your daughter. If she was a professional model she probably would like it removed. Gosh, I hope I am not putting my foot further into my mouth. But otherwise, I really, really do think you did a great job. Much better than I could ever done.

    Bob

    P.S. I hope I don’t get letters. 🙂

    Like

  17. Standard disclaimer: It is very rare that I do portrait work of people. But some things I’ve learned from dragonflies that also help with people…

    First, big kudos to your granddaughter for her patience.

    By what I can see on my end, images 1, 2, & 4 look to be on the cold side. Increasing color temperature may help.

    It seemed to be hit or miss as to whether or not the EXIF data was present. On the one that I saw, you were shooting at f6.3. Your background clutter can disappear or at least soften a bit if you open up on aperture.

    Focal length was also really close–30mm on the one I looked at. With the multiplier for the crop factor it moves up to close to 50mm. Back “in the day” at least in the Canon FD series, the 135mm was the classic portrait lens. If you go longer it both compresses facial features a little but more importantly gives you the ability to move back and allow your subject to be less cramped.

    All were pretty good. 3 and 5 are the best of the set. A couple may have been helped by some fill flash.

    Now get back in there and make some more images.

    Like

  18. I loved all of them!! Your granddaughter is beautiful and you are blessed to have such a model. My grandson is only eight months old and I’m afraid he refuses to model. However, when I pick up my camera he will look at me now and hold still for about three seconds. lol When he hears me coming he probably thinks “Oh no! Here comes Granny and that stupid camera.” God bless you and keep the posts coming.

    Like

  19. They say we all learn from our mistakes and you have certainly been able to identify all the pitfalls! So, you are well on your way!

    One issue I see that you haven’t addressed is a lack of sharp focus on the eyes (images 1-4). In a portrait, the eyes are KEY and need to be tack sharp (I know, I know, there ARE exceptions to this but since your examples show the model facing the camera, here there is no exception). Image one also shows a somewhat fake expression (have you heard about ‘smiling with your eyes?’ Well, here, she may be smiling but her eyes show a bit of hesitation). Image 2 is better but her mouth is the sharpest focus area. Image 3 is obviously flashed and again, no sharp focus. Image 4 is also out of focus (looks to me like your model was moving a bit).

    The last image is GOOD. Eyes in focus, soft lighting, nice background and good expression. All I can offer is good portrait photography requires PRACTICE. You have to be able to engage your subject and anticipate. Also, sloooow down. 800 images over several hours is TOO MANY. Spend more time setting up the shot and less time just clicking away.

    Like

  20. awww I like them grandpa 😀

    Like

  21. Hi, Bob! Don’t worry about getting your foot in your mouth with me. I know you mean well! I’m glad you wrote a comment about your take on the shots! I think with portraits, editing can be so much more personal than with landscapes. I mean, I have no problem removing an electrical wire from an otherwise beautiful landscape. But when it comes to people, I guess it’s a personal preference. I wonder how some professionals would handle that issue. Do nothing? Ask? I don’t know. For me, the beauty mark is what distinguishes her as my granddaughter! It makes her special to me. But, I can’t say that I know how she feels about it. I’ve never asked her. Maybe she thinks it worked for Cindy Crawford, it’ll work for me too! Either way, don’t worry about your comment. It was taken with only the best thoughts in mind! Thanks for stopping by today, Bob!

    Like

  22. Jim, very good feedback in my opinion. I do not take lightly the fact that you have taken the time to analyze each shot and give me some very constructive ideas for improvement. I was reviewing my shot information because I didn’t remember firing my flash. But, the third shot is definitely flashed. But, I can’t remember what my thought process was at the time. I was also very surprised to see my focal length to be so close on that particular shot! Not sure what I was trying. I will say that on the other shots, my aperture setting was more open – usually 4.5 or 5.6. I do remember making every attempt to throw the backgrounds out of focus.

    I really apprecite all of your suggestions here, Jim. You have given me so much to digest. Then I am going to take your advice and get back out there and shoot some more. Thanks!

    Like

  23. She was a great model, Gwyn! Here’s the greatest part – she’s excited to go back out there and let me try again!! I have to chuckle when I read about your grandson. I have one like that as well – 2 year old!! It’s a real challenge to get anything worthy of printing from her. Thanks for stopping by today! I really appreciate your comment!

    Like

  24. This is another great comment from you, Milkay! I will be making several trips to this comment for reference! The focus is something I worked on in editing a little, but just couldn’t recover enough to gain the clarity I would have liked. I can definitely see what you’re referring to, though. I have to say, I am amazed at the help I’m getting from you as well as others. I can’t thank you enough for the time you’ve spent going over the shots! Thank you!! I’ll be shooting Marissa again, soon. I’ll be working hard on the eyes and the smile. I like what you’ve said here.

    The number of shots was divided between Marissa and her brother, Zach. I’ll probably put some of his shots up next week. And, I had an entire set of beach shots that just didn’t work! But I have to admit, I was taking shots most of the time hoping to capture any candid shot that might emerge. I think that may also account for the blur – slight movement. The next time I may do a little more planning and utilize more planned shots and less candid shots! Although, you should really see some of the candid ones, pretty priceless for me. Not so much for Marissa, though! 🙂

    Like

  25. Now that’s what really counts folks!! “Mo” is a little nickname I gave to Marissa when she was toddling around with me in Colorado! It’s just stuck with her through all these years! It’s pretty special! Thanks sweetie! Let’s do it again, soon!!

    Like

  26. The second one and the last photo are the best ones, natural looking, IMHO. They are all good. A photographer instructor I once had, told me not to use tree trunks for a backdrop to something so beautiful, such as your granddaughter. This was his advice in our class when someone did something similar. This was his opinion.

    Like

  27. yes I agree 🙂 very soon!

    Like

  28. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this comment, Elena! I love all the things you see when you look at each photograph! I think that’s so great! I have to admit, I’m having to purchase new frames almost weekly! I’m running out of shelve space. 🙂 Thanks for the Costco tip, too! I’ll check it out.

    Like

  29. Thanks for sharing your comments, Martina! I wondered about the tree because it’s a pretty famous tree in the circle of Orange. I thought the writing on the tree might be a little distracting. But, I’ll definitely keep in mind what your instructor said. I always take heed when someone gives me advice. I so appreciate it and always take it to heart. Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a time when I go against a rule in an attempt to create something special. It all just depends on what I’m seeing at the time, I guess. Thanks for stopping by!

    Like

  30. divine…..congratulations…..you have captured the five different
    emotions in a very fine moments and the model also has done fine work…
    love all…

    Like

  31. Before reading comments on this post my immediate response was that I preferred the first and last shot: No disturbing background, good expression and contact to the model and fine natural light. But Tracy is right, there is a lack of sharp focus in the first one, so it is the last one that is my favorite (says an absolutely no-expreienced amateur portrait-photographer!)

    Like

  32. I think they’re all great (except perhaps for #1). 3,4 and 5 work best for me. I don’t find the background off-putting in #3 and actually adds to the photo. It’s also different from standard photos and is perhaps the most natural (and warmest emotionally) of the shots. The hat is cute in #4.

    For me, a good portrait tells a story. The most interesting stories for me are #3 and #5. You should do this more often.

    Like

  33. I think you’ve made a very good first effort. I agree with others regarding the tree – one prop idea would be to give the model a pocket knife as if she were carving her own initials in the tree. Sometimes models can bring their own props – for example, for a beach shoot I asked a model to wear the kind of dress she would wear to a club, and shoes with high heels, then she carried the shoes as if she had just left a party to walk on the beach.
    Regarding portrait editing, I found Mark Galer’s Photoshop Elements Maximum Performance to have some nice tips. All of the techniques work in the full version of Photoshop. And if you are using Photoshop, remember that you can always create duplicate layers to blur a distracting background, then erase selectively to keep the subject sharp.
    Nice work!

    Like

  34. Thank you for sharing this comment, Truels! Most of the shots I chose not to use here were eliminated because of one of the issues I stated in my post. Even here, what I thought to be busy backgrounds were cropped out. When I photograph landscapes, I seem to notice everything within the frame – including backgrounds. But in my first attempt at portrait photography, I seem to have become enamoured with the subject and less attentive to the remainder of the composition. Again, I think shooting outside simply complicated that flaw even more. The focus on the eyes is my main concern, too. I realize that is the most crucial psrt of the portrait. All-in-all, I’m satisfied with these shots for my first time. Only because I know how determined I am to improve! I’m glad you stopped by, Truels! Your comment is filed away to help me remember the details for my next shoot! Thanks!

    Like

  35. Thanks for stopping by and leaving this comment. I hope you’ll drop by again, soon.

    Like

  36. Thank you for the encouragement, Pete! I think your last paragraph is something that will help me in my next portrait venture…it should always tell a story. That’s good to remember. I do have somewhat differing opinions about the tree in the background. Some like it. While others are cautious. I liked the hat, as well. (It’s actually my hat that I happened to have with me that day! But, it worked!) I was most pleased with #5! I believe the story in that shot could be mystery…what are her thoughts at that very moment! I think Elena mentioned a similar observation in her comment. Hey, thanks for stopping by and helping me out with this post, Pete!

    Like

  37. Hi Scott! I really appreciate your kind words of encouragement! I like your prop ideas. Even though I put some planning inot this first shoot, I have so many more ideas now – thanks to you and others who’ve helped with their comments. I actually like both of the prop examples you mentioned in your comment. I’ll remember those for future use. I’ll also check out the editing information you’ve provided. A big thanks for that!!

    I’m so glad you stopped by and shared this comment, Scott. It really adds to what I’m learning from all of these comments.

    Like

  38. I can’t say portrait photography is a genre it interests me to enter, but I do appreciate good portraits, and I ‘d say you’ve done a nice job, here!
    The first and last work best for me imho, as a lot of people seem to have said before me.
    In the first you’ve captured a beautiful expression in the eyes. Also, the composition is, I’d say, the best out of all : The angle is perfect with the hair framing the face in just the right way, and the bokeh is beutiful!
    In the last you’ve captured a very sincere expression.
    Also, I like the fourth : The hat works very well, and you’ve managed to bring out a lovely texture in the skin.
    I can only give my opinion, since I don’t have any advice!
    Excellent work!

    Like

  39. These all look good to me. I have some experience at this but am no expert. As mentioned elsewhere, shallow depth of field is your friend…as long as it’s not too shallow! Get those eyes tack sharp and you’re well on the way.

    One other thing I haven’t seen mentioned…there is one big advantage to shooting & editing using RAW images when doing outdoor portraits, which is white balance control. If you are struggling to get skin tones looking correct, you can tweak the color temp. however you want in editing if you are working with a RAW file. I have a little neutral gray card I hold up in front of the subject and take a reference photo of it. Later I can use a tool in Adobe Lightroom to click on that card and the software will adjust to the proper white balance for those lighting conditions. It works amazingly well to keep those skin tones looking good. (You can also set custom white balances in the camera itself, but I’ve found the reference photo method easier for myself.)

    Keep up the good work!

    Like

  40. Great shots! I really enjoyed this post, b/c 1. I dig your photography and 2. it’s so constructive to read others’ comments. It’s helpful for me in my photography endeavors as well! Thanks for inspiring conversation about portrait photography!

    Like

  41. I like the last shot best, but think they all bring out some aspect of your granddaughter’s personality. She’s beautiful, by the way. 🙂

    I’m afraid I have little to offer in terms of a critique as portrait photography isn’t something I have much interest in (except for photographing my own granddaughters!). I did try a portrait photography assignment back in September. It was fun, a challenge, and came out okay but mostly it taught me that it just isn’t something I want to do on a regular basis. If you want to see it:

    http://bogsofohio.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/the-queen-of-the-mums/

    Like

  42. The last one is my favorite! I think you did great. Trying to learn shoots myself. A friend told me to do close-up, full length, and half length. It worked pretty good to get a variety.

    🙂

    I think I took 800 pics this weekend! Took forever to edit. LOL.

    Like

  43. Your comment is very much appreciated, Kai! Thank you for detailing what you liked about the first and last shots! I was hoping many photographers would comment as to how I could improve each shot. And might I say, several have given so many helpful comments! Those comments make me eager to go out there and try again. But your comment is also exactly what I was looking to receive. A comment detailing exactly what worked for you! They may not work for everyone, but for you they did. You’re the only one who commented about the hair framing the face – and I have to say, I hadn’t really noticed that until you mentioned it! Every set of eyes will notice something different that strikes their attention! That’s what I love about this type of a forum! We can all learn through the posts and everyone’s comments! Thanks for contributing to that process, Kai!! I’m so glad you stopped by today.

    Like

  44. Hi Charles. I’m so glad you stopped by today and contributed to this discussion with your comment! I have never shot using the RAW format, so of course I’m a bit hesitant. But, I do thing you may be on to something with the white balance issue. I have heard that you can correct many tiny details in RAW, even more than Jpeg. White balance is something that needs additional attention from me as far as learning and experimenting – probably even more when I’m shooting portraits. Yours is another comment to add to my memory for my next portrait shoot. BTW, I really enjoy your photography!

    Like

  45. That is exactly what I was hoping for when I started this blog 6 months ago, Erin! I’m glad you chimed in with your comment about picking up the tips from the other comments. It’s really a great way to learn! I lived in Colorado for 8 Years – Colorado Springs. Loved the state! Loved the Boulder area! Thanks for stopping by!

    Like

  46. Hi Robin! I checked out your portrait blog post and found it to be interesting and helpful all rolled into one! What an amazing subject! You did hit the jackpot that day, didn’t you? I’m so glad you stopped by today and offered your comment about these particular photos. I’m really glad to get your honest opinion. You mentioned your granddaughters – I’ve found myself using many of the ideas I’ve learned here to photograph my family! Even though I’m in agreement with you about the portrait side of photography – I don’t really think it’s what I would want to do all the time. I have to say, I did enjoy this set! Thanks for sharing your comments here, Robin!

    Like

  47. Thank you for sharing this comment, Angelia! I have to agree with you on that last shot! Honestly when I first downloaded these shots, I had to stop when I saw the expression of this particular capture!! It seems so genuine to me. And as it turnes out, the eys happened to be the best in this one as well. Sounds like a perfect formula for enlarging and framing, doesn’t it? I’m really glad you stopped by today! A always appreciate your comments!

    Like

  48. One more thing, Angelia – I have several different poses like you suggested. But unfortunately, they were done in by various problematic areas – expression, lighting/shadows, backgrounds, etc. I thought it was odd that I only had close-ups to post. Oh well, you take what you can get – I guess.

    Like

  49. I know you’re ready! Just think how much better I’ll be this time… 🙂

    Like

  50. Just my 2 cents …
    No 2 and 5 are my winners 🙂 No1 and 4 the eyes are a bit out of focus, as a matter of fact the whole image is out of focus. No 3 is ok, but too ordinary 🙂 Am working on my people shooting also 🙂

    Like

  51. I’m glad you stopped by today and shared this comment, Anna! I think it’s a difficult thing – photographing people. There are so many elements that have to be perfect. I’m not sure I would want to do it for a living, but I sure would love to be a little better at it so I could produce an acceptable portrait. Who knows? I like #5 the best!

    Like

  52. Number 5 is my favorite.
    I would say to use your surroundings as props. Bridges, stone walls or archways, trees … those all make beautiful accents to outside portrait photography. I’ve done portraits in a studio and I always thought the props were overused. I like outside portraits better. Time of day is a big influence too ~ dusk seems to make for warm lighting and there aren’t as many harsh shadows.
    To make the background less distracting just adjust your aperture so it will blur out. And be aware of trees “growing” out of the subject’s head – lol.
    Putting your subject off center and focusing in on different body parts is fun – hands, feet, or even shooting them from behind like walking away from you are all fun additions to a portrait shoot.
    And don’t expect your good shots to come at the beginning, after you and your subject warm up you’ll both be more loose and their facial expressions will become less forced.
    These look like you’re off to a good start! I look forward to seeing more!

    Like

  53. Thanks for sharing this comment, Linz! Wow! This is simply packed with information, tips, and suggestions!! I can’t thank you enough. I love all your ideas here, which is fantastic because I’m doing another shoot with Marissa later this month. And, I have a shoot with an infant – that should really be interesting!! I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement! This is a great comment!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: