How did you get started in portraiture?
I'd love to hear people's different views on this, especially those who started with very little.
My situation is now that I have not much in the way of space or equipment - basically my camera is a Speed Graphic with the standard 135mm Graflex lens. I haven't got any lights, and there's no room in my home for a studio. I thought about getting a circular reflector to assist with daylight, but I'm not about to splash out on studio lights and the like.
But I find myself wanting to get into taking pictures of real people that are a little bit better than the average snapshot, and it's hard to know where to begin. It started when we had a visit from two sisters who came to us to collect some things they needed for an unfurnished house one of them was moving into (from Freecycle). After they'd gone, I kicked myself a bit because I realised that they would have made a wonderful portrait! There's a good chance they may be back, in which case I will try to be ready for them in some way.
So, how do you get someone to pose for you? And when they say 'yes' what do you do next?
I realise that rather than looking longingly at more equipment to help, I need to start from where I am with what I've got - hence the request for ideas.
What do you think?
PS The obvious is difficult - namely my fiancee isn't keen to pose for anything, so I don't want to push that one.
At the least, do get the circular reflector. It will help tremendously with balancing your shadows.
Surprisingly, far more people than we ever think are willing to sit to have their picture taken. You just have to ask, and ask nicely. Find ANYONE you can get, initially, even if it is your parents, your siblings, friends, or the town drunk, and practice on them. Having a portfolio that represents the kind of work you do is the best way to get other people to model for you.
Once you have a body of work to show people, so they can tell you're not a slobbering closet pornographer trying to con them, people will very willingly pose for you. If you are having a hard time getting sample subjects, I would recommend taking a portraiture seminar at a community center, art school or other university near where you live, to get access to multiple models.
If these two sisters visit again, ask them nicely. Put them near a window, then take out the camera! Try to make it about getting to know them a little better, and not about the camera. Though your Speed will generate some interest, and a little surprise when you take it out!
It would also help to find a willing model that you can photograph frequently. It really does help to make a lot of portraits, and get comfortable with the process, and to see results. You've got plenty of gear to make interesting portraits.
Simply ask people to pose. It's not much harder than that. You have a great camera to strike up a conversation. If the person seems interested after talking about your cool camera, ask. They can say yes or no.
Elderly people in nursing and assisted-care facilities are often lonely, intelligent, well-spoken, and have a lifetime of experiences to share to anyone who will listen. They are ignored by their families, their friends are often gone, and they would enjoy a visit, even from a young person with a camera who would engage them in conversation, nod appreciatively, and occasionally ask them to turn this way or that, and then take a photo. And their faces are marvelous. If you can make good portraits of the elderly, you can make good portraits of anyone.
Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote
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I find the edge of shadows is a great place for available light portraits. Archways, the edge of buidings and large trees all work great. Also as Suzanne said windows work great. Subjects are everywhere. You missed on these sisters but there is someone waiting around the next bend. People for the most part really enjoy being part of the experiance. just make sure you share your thoughts through or during the process of creating their portrait and share images with them afterwards. Most of all be flexibly in charge. Have a plan, even if it changes the confidence of some control remains and gives both you and the sitter a goal. Lastly really learn to look at light. Very important!. Either let the light dictate the pose or create light to match the pose but either way make an effort to understand how it is describing your portrait.
Stop trying to get into my mind, There is nothing there!
I believe there was an article in Black and White Photography recently (in the last year or so) regarding taking indoor portraits with not much invested in the way of lighting.
If I had been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better arrangement of the Universe.
Alfonso the Wise, 1221-1284