New to portraiture!
Hey everyone! I come primarily from a landscape and sort of abstract street background and haven't had much practice with formal portraiture. I've played with portraits in the past but just never was able to get results I've enjoyed with 35mm. So a few months ago, I invested in a Mamiya RB67 and a Yashica D to try and teach myself some basic portraiture.
I don't really believe in formal/studio portraits, so everything is lit naturally and pretty much taken off the cuff. I'm a little apprehensive with directing my subjects thus far, but I think that'll change once I get more experience. I'd love to know your thoughts, everyone!
Dad by Ki Choquette, on Flickr
Happy Birthday (10/24/2012) by Ki Choquette, on Flickr
Practice, practice, pratice is the advise I give to those starting portraiture. The subjects move, speak to you, must be approached.
They must be scheduled too. Natural lighting is not always compatible with real worls schedules, so it drives you to some level of articificail lighting, either via passive modifiers of ambient light, or powered continuous light or strobes.
It looks like you're off to a good start, but I'd definitely invest in some kind of portable folding reflector if you're going to keep doing natural-light portraits. The last one there with the young blond man could really use some sparkle from a fill light to open up his face and particularly his eyes. If you have a flash (something manual like a Vivitar 283/285 would be more than adequate for the cameras you're using), I'd learn to use fill-flash as well. Typically you'd set the fill flash to one stop less than the ambient light (ie if your meter reads f11@ 1/60th, you'd set the flash to f8). If you have a flash, post what kind it is and we (the APUG collective) can provide input on how to accomplish this with your flash.
Hi, I don't think that a different camera is going to be the answer. It possibly could be if what you want is a lower shooting angle (via waist-level finder), but you could have also done that with a tripod mounted 35mm camera. So be careful not to fool yourself about these things.
Originally Posted by kchoquette
Without making this into a novel, I would personally pick out a couple of places to photograph them, where both the background and the light will work out, and start out there. I generally like for someone to be facing into the light, and for the background to be somewhat darker. But there are alternative ways to do everything, so whatever works, works.
I think the most important thing is to interact with the subject, which is more difficult to do when your eye is glued to the camera, or when you are thinking about technical things. So I would suggest to put the camera onto a stand of some sort, and have it preset (you can periodically check the framing and focus). Now you're free to talk with them, make them feel comfortable, and to give directions (don't let them look bad on-camera). Almost certainly this will feel awkward for you - you don't have your camera to hide behind - but I think you'll get better, more "honest" portraits. When the awkwardness eventually wears off, you'll know that you have developed a new skill.
Of course there are other ways to work. Some shooters prefer to let the subject do their own thing while they simply follow and document. (Often this is because they don't know what else to do, I think.) If you are doing this for pay, you may not have time to wait for things to accidentally fall into place. But, like I said before, whatever works, works.
Thanks for the criticism, everyone! As for the reflectors, is there any possible way to use one with some sort of harness or tripod mount? I'm kind of a stickler for the most minimalistic kind of setup I can get and having an assistant is not something I'd want to waste time with.
I know I have somewhat of an unorthodox approach, but I think that just comes with the territory of being a young/modern photographer. At least I'm not using disposable cameras for that horrible, undeveloped, CVS look like most of my contemporaries!
Well, you can get reflectors that you can hand-hold yourself, if your camera is on a tripod. Or you can get a "magic arm" (a flexible or hinged/ball-jointed arm with clamps on both ends) that will hold on to your tripod leg with one clamp and the reflector with the other.
You could probably get a very simple strobe setup (light weight light stand, manual flash, simple diffuser/soft box) that will attach to you RB via a PC sync cable. That will restrict ease of movement a bit, but it would give you that extra bit of fill without needing an assistant. You have enough as it is lugging around that RB!
Also, check out the strobist. I'm a young guy too that never had any formal photography training (that actually just got a RB67 to do more portraiture too funny enough!). I found that site extremely informative. Obviously he is doing digital photography, but the theory, gear and practice is general enough to translate to film.
Thanks for that site! I definitely will look into it. I'm pretty apprehensive about adding stuff to my rig that will make it less mobile, since that's kind of an important part to it, but I'm sure it would come in handy. Again, my goal is to have most of my portraiture be slightly journalistic in nature.
Thanks so much for the advice, everyone! I think I need to find a different lab for my 120 stuff! :D