Black and White Portraiture is and always will be timeless. I recently came upon an article on Fstoppers about Black and White portraiture from John Schell, a lifestyle photographer based in San Diego, California. His images were breathtaking and his advice insightful. I asked John if he could share his knowledge with our members.
Here is John’s 5 tips.
There is an old quote which states, “if you want to shoot fashion, shoot in color, but if you want to shoot emotion, shoot in black and white.” I don’t know who first said it, but I tend to agree. I do love myself a good black and white portrait. There is something special about black and white imagery which has the ability to cut through all the baggage and display both the inner beauty and turmoil which can be so easily hidden away by color photography.
That’s not to say emotion and/or mood cannot be captured with a color photograph. Given the chance, however, when looking at two portraits side by side, nine times out of ten, the black and white portrait will hit me in a place where the color photograph just cannot reach.
When I first started shooting fashion, I was all about color and pop. The work I followed was very representative of the outdoor strobed look; vibrant, bright colors, deep skin tones, and an unlimited depth of field all set against deep blue skies. It’s an almost timeless, classic style and one that I believe, when done properly, is more a work of art than a simple photograph. My attempts to emulate (copy) it fell short and, despite my best efforts, I eventually decided to put my strobes away and piece by piece, sold all of my Stobist equipment.
In shooting natural light, I discovered, somewhat by accident, a love of black and white portraiture. These are my basics.
Step One: My Optimal Setup
What is needed almost more than anything is to find a location where your subject’s face is brightly lit, and the falloff of light starting about the ears or back of the head is pretty abrupt. What works best for me when shooting natural light portraits is to place the subject in an area of open shade, trying to find a place where they are surrounded on at least three sides. Place your subject in the shade and as close to the line of light as possible. (see diagram) Bonus point are given if you can find a place where your subject is in the shade, you are standing in the sunlight, and there is something large and reflective immediately behind you like a building or a light colored fence.
Step Two: Shoot the Eyes
The key to a successful portrait is, in my opinion, the subject’s eyes. Deep and meaningful, fun and playful, dark and mysterious, no matter what the mood,in the eyes is where you will find it. This why, I feel that regardless of what you’re trying to capture in your portrait session, even if the intent is to keep them closed, I always aim for my subject’s eyes.
Step Three: Camera Settings
My camera settings are simple. Using a fast lens, I try to shoot as close to wide open as possible – usually an aperture of somewhere between f/1.4 and f/2.2, maybe f/3.2 if the situation calls for it. Shutter speed is set to the situation and ISO is usually locked in on 400 or so.
Step Four: Model Posing
This part is really simple. Like I said earlier, if want to capture outstanding images of anyone, a great place to start is with the eyes. Focus on the eyes, make sure they are sharp. Make sure that if you’re using a shallow depth of field, that at least the rest of the subjects face be in focus. Posing should be natural, moody. Ask your subject questions. Ask them to move. Ask them to think about a time when they were happiest or when they were saddest. Ask them to think about their favorite person, or someone whom they cannot stand. The connection between you and your subject is key. In addition, there really shouldn’t be any distractions within the frame. If you are taking a portrait, take a portrait – nothing else.
Step Five: Post Processing
As I said earlier about the technical aspects of the camera, the same can be said for the post processing aspects. I am constantly learning new things and discovering my own way of doing things. As such, I am certain there are retouchers who will tell me that what I am doing is wrong, wrong, wrong. And they’re probably (definitely) right. I’m not going to get into any of that. My post processing is fairly simple; adjust exposure, convert to black and white, deepen the blacks and/or shadows via a tone curve (or sliders in Lightroom), perhaps add a bit of a fade, and then sharpen. After that (or before, whichever) you can retouch away any blemishes, even out any skin discolorations, and you’re good to go. If you want take it a few steps further, you could dodge and burn the image to make it really pop. The key here is to get most of it right in camera.
The overall goal here is not to make something so technically perfect that it becomes a workshop in itself or a tribute to your technical ability. You want to capture mood, the drama, and the emotion. The eyes of your subject will tell a story; your job as a portrait photographer is to remove any obstacles which may prevent them from doing so.
John Schell is a Southern California based lifestyle and commercial photographer and staff writer for Fstoppers.com. In addition to his photography work, he is also a social media consultant, an educator, and an avid (and unashamed) Instagrammer.
You can follow his artwork through these channels:
The snow is melting, the birds are chirping and the crocuses are starting to push up through the ground. It’s the first signs of spring and for those who are nature enthusiasts now is the time to gear up for flower photography. However, before you snap the shutter there are a few things you should keep in mind. We asked Adoramapix member, Kathleen Clemons for some advice. Her flower photographer will inspire you.
Harsh, direct sunlight is the worst light you can use for flower photography. It creates washed out colors, a loss of texture, and strong shadows which chop up the petal lines of your flowers. Soft, even lighting is the best type for flowers, overcast days are wonderful for flower photography.
Move in closer! This eliminates anything in the background that could detract from your flower. Try filling the frame with your subject. Start shooting wide and move in closer and closer. You’ll be amazed at what you will see. Shoot many variations of your subjects, gradually moving in closer and closer, with more and more of the flower filling the frame.
Learn to see the distractions that pull your eye away from your subject, and eliminate or minimize them. Change your angle of view, move in closer, or use a larger aperture to blur elements that distract. Most of my flower photos are shot with large apertures to reduce depth of field and simplify the subject. Using a selective focus lens like a Lensbaby is a great way to draw attention to one area of your composition.
As with all photography, beautiful and successful flower images begin with learning to see. This means really looking at your subject, from all possible angles. Examine the flower from the side. Notice the lines of the stem, stamen, the curve and texture of the petals. Now look from the top. Notice any grains of pollen clinging to the center or spilling onto the petals. Lay down on your stomach and look up to see the underside of the flower. Sometimes this is the most beautiful part of a flower, and often overlooked. Really study your subject and shoot it from different angles, choose the best point of view. When you think you are finished with a subject, ask yourself, “Did I work it?” If not, you aren’t finished!
Thank you Kathleen for sharing your advice with us. If you would like to see more of Kathleen’s work you can check her sites out here:
This week we want to turn the spotlight on our mini photo books. We offer 6 x 4.5 and our most popular size is 6×6. Recently, I talked to Paul and Sylvia of Paul and Sylvia Photgoraphy and Design about the mini books. Paul and Sylvia are amazing wedding photographers out of Toronto, Canada.
Sylvia dropped us a note saying, “I just wanted to let you know that we just delivered some albums to our clients and created a perfect 6×6 parent book through you. We absolutely loved it and so did they. ”
The 6×6 wedding photo books are the perfect keepsake for parents after the wedding day is over. The parents’ wedding photo books are typically smaller versions of the original wedding photo book. They can be exact replicas of the bride and groom’s album or they can be customized to include any collection of favorite wedding photos and memories. Also, when you log into your account on your photo books landing page you can click the links to copy the book to different sizes.
The books may be small but they feature the same quality elements of our big photo books including lay flat pages and rich vibrant colors printed on archival photo paper.
These mini wedding photo books make the perfect thank you gift after the wedding and can easily be stowed and carried along when your parents want to show off their amazing kids on their wedding day.
A baby goes through so many physical and developmental changes during their first year. As a photographer, I work with clients who hire me to record these milestones with my “Baby’s First Year” package. I shoot on location not in a studio so what I capture at a client’s home are moments any parent with a camera can strive to capture too. Here are creative ideas on what to aim for during the baby’s first 365 days.
What shots do I have on my checklist for these major milestones?1. Newborn
For me a newborn session takes place within the first 10 days after the baby’s birth. During those first days, the baby is usually very sleepy and in a milk-drunken state. Take full advantage of this wistful time to capture a dreaming, sleepy portrait and consider using props such as cute hats, diaper coverings or au natural. I frequently use a feeding pillow and cover it with clean blankets that I supply. I never use a flash during this session because that can startle a sleepy baby. I look for a window with a lot of light streaming through. I love to capture details such as the baby’s sweet lips, their tiny hand gripping the mother and/or father’s finger to show comparison, eyelashes, the back of the head where their hair swirls and of course, their tiny toes. For sure I compose a lot of photos with the parents together and separately. It’s particularly important for me to capture the father holding the baby. And remember, at this stage a newborn does not have strong neck muscles so it is critical to always support it properly in all shots.2. Four to Six Months
By the time a baby is three or four months old, they have gained a lot of weight and have better neck and head strength, but not always. Be sure to determine how strong the baby is based on the parent’s input. At this age, the baby is often able to lift their head when placed on their tummy which makes for a great shot. They are able or nearly able to roll over. They love to play with their hands and toes and smile a whole lot more. This is the perfect time to capture bright open eyes, big smiles, crinkled noses and chubby cheeks. At three or four months they are not quite ready to sit up so I don’t attempt to photograph them in that full upright position unless they have proper support.3. Six to Eight Months
Now that they can sit upright for short periods of time you can place them in very fun poses. Their personality is really shining through and their first teeth (typically bottom two) are starting to poke through. They are gaining more control over their hands and feet and can start picking up small objects on their own. This is the perfect time to capture them propped in a basket that has good side support (always keeping an assistant or parent within range) or sitting on a blanket outside on the grass. As they get closer to 7 and 8 months old they are beginning to crawl. I love to crouch down and snap photos at eye level.4. Twelve Months
If the parents are planning a first birthday party my goal is to schedule our twelve-month session to coincide with that momentous event. My photo checklist includes group shots with extended family, details of the décor and gifts and any shot that shows the ethnic or traditional details of the family. Oftentimes there are great opportunities to capture messy faces as the baby tries to feed themselves and unwrap gifts. If the parents allow the baby to smash their birthday cake I definitely have to capture that. And of course, at this stage the baby is so close to taking their first steps. My first of three daughters started walking just before she turned 10 months. But my other two daughters didn’t walk until 13 and 14 months of age. So be prepared to capture those first steps and attempts, which make for some amazing shots. One of my favorite shots is when the baby hugs the parent’s leg – it’s such a fleeting, precious moment in time.
In addition to this checklist be sure to capture the full story during each stage from different angles and perspectives. For instance when the baby starts crawling try to angle your shots from above and eye level to freeze that moment from the baby’s and parents perspective.The baby’s first year will be filled with many firsts. Be prepared to capture them at regular intervals. A good reminder is to coincide these milestones with their regular first year check ups. Those doctor appointments can serve as your reminder to snap away and capture a year of amazing memories.
Tina Case is an Adoramapix Ambassador and a writer and photographer out of the San Francisco-San Jose Bay area. She co-writes for the photography blog Moms Who Click where she shares photographer tips, tricks and interviews. Tina shares her parenting stories and more on Yahoo! where she is a featured “Parenting Guru.” Check more of her photos at Tina Case Photography | Facebook | Instagram.
The guests are gone, the dancing is over and the flowers have been dried . Your wedding was beautiful and amazing but you still have one job left, that’s preserving your wedding day images. So what do you do now with all those photos? For some of our DIY brides, they may have hundred of beautiful images sitting on a media storage device such as a cd, usb stick or even on a website. When making a wedding photo book with hundreds sometimes thousands of photos to choose from, it may be a daunting task to make a photo book.
Thanks to our fabulous DIY bride and groom, Adam and Lindsay, and their amazing photographer, Wendy McElmon of Wendy McElmon Photography, they have made a wedding photo book that can be cherished for generations.
Lindsay was kind enough to give us a sneak peek into the making of her photo book.