5 Tips for Photographing People
Model : Dink
Photographer : Dave Kai Piper @ Ideasandimages.co.uk
Lighting Assistance : Matthew Maddock
With thanks and support from Sigma Imaging
Photographed during the Cambrian Photography show earlier this year.
This blog was originally for an article that Geoff Harris was putting together for Digital Camera Magazine in the UK. It has been expanded and filled out in to this blog. Geoff was writing about lighting and asked for some tips to do with portrait lighting. Below is what was sent over to the magazine + added parts.
5 Tips for photographing people
- Relax, breath deep and never panic.
- Simple is always best.
- Start slow, get some shots in the bank then play
- Portraiture is not about you or the camera, it is about your subject
- Never worry about the technical side
Portraiture for me is a thing that really gets me going. I love the nature & aspect of photographing people in such a direct way. If art is truly only art when it is nothing but art, a portrait is only a portrait when it is just that too, when there is no sale aspect, no added drama or story other than a person in front of a camera. That direct connection from sitter to viewer is something I love.
I had found out a few weeks before the shoot date who my subject was going to be and did a bit of research into who the Outlaws are and were. It was super clear that I had to meet this guy before the shoot and ensure I was super confident and on my A game. I was shooting in North Wales on behalf of Sigma and was gratefully driven up the day before (thank you Ray!) and treated to a great pub lunch before going over to the club house with Sarah Jones (who was running the Cambrian Photography Christmas show and the whole reason for the shoot). We spent a few moments chatting, looking around, looking at photographs and talking about a great many things. The first location that was scouted was a tattoo shop, but after heading over to the Club House, it dawned that this would be a far more fitting place and also, more comforting for Dink. When photographing anyone, from model to rock star to family or even a seasoned biker, it is good to remember that, being photographed is a pretty intense thing for many people. We never know what type of day they have had, or the things going on in their mind. Being aware that they might not like to be photographed today is a great place to start, be gentle and be kind, lots of compliments and be very confident. Starting shoots in familiar surroundings is always a winner, starting with little or no lighting and building up into a shoot is good too. This is just what we did.
We headed up stairs to the location we had scouted and looked at the day before, we kept the numbers of people around low and Matthew Maddock hand held the Profoto B1 light to let us shoot and move more quickly. I wanted to get all my three planned shots done inside 15 mins, I new the light settings I needed as I had checked them the day before, with my Lee Gradient ND filters it is super easy kill ambient light where I needed to create shadows. We also used a Westcott Icelight to highlight walls and details that were in the backgrounds. In many ways I set this up like a film shoot, selecting light styles that fit into the environment, or at least matched it. It is rare in photography world we talk about motivating a principle light, or mixing ND’s with additive light into ambient. In reality it is about using what you have in front of you to the best effect. A mix of the Flash, Ice Light and ambient light with the Filters was my tool box for this shoot.
We took about 5 frames by the pool table then headed down stairs to shoot the image with Dink with his arms crossed. Once again, this was shoot we had planned in, I dialed in the settings that I had taken the day before on my Fuji and took about 3 frames while Matthew held the light directly in line with my head and Dinks head. We used the smaller Profoto strip with the grid and the diffusion panels to help control the light. After checking the images, I pulled Dink forward an inch or two and shot another 3 frames.
The last shot we had planned was just something a little more natural, so we sat Dink down and shot a couple of frames of him just having a smoke & chilling on the chair with the 50mm. Keeping the light low was the fun bit with this shot to give that pub effect and fit the lighting into the scene.
We wrapped up with 3 mins to spare, had a quick whiskey and headed off to prep the studio for the second part of the shoot. Personally, I love to shoot quick and turning up with a plan in my head lets me do that. I try to have a base plan that I know will work then after grabbing that image I can let my mind run free. The second half of the studio was open to the people attending the Cambrian Photography Christmas show. I was doing a thing about one light set ups and touching on portraits & photographing people. The plan was to do to do two setups in the studio. The first being able to focus on the bike and Dink, with the latter being about the tattoos and more typical portrait shots. Going to the club house was great to see the other images they have up on the walls, this gave me a good starting point as to what Dink would like and what would work on the walls.
I really love this first image, it really reminds of of some old western shot, I love the little details like the way his foot rests and the hand on the bars. I really wanted to bring my big 200cm Light Green Octa, but it would have been to big for the studio space we had in the back of the shop. We got the light up nice and high with double diffusion panels on the small Bowens 500, modified on by a small softbox. To kill the extra reflections on the bike coming into camera we played about with the height of the light and placing an extra 0.6 soft ND Grad filter on the camera then spinning it to the right angle.
After shooting a number of other portraits looking at light placements, we shot some images of Dinks tattoos. The lighting requested by Dink was replicated by simply playing about with folding over and adding diffusion panels to the lower section of the light while pulling back the bigger diffusion panel to show the silver refection of the inside of the softbox create highlights in the eyes and filter the light up the body. We also turned Dink so that a very small but noticeable about of light would bounce back of the dark wall behind giving the soft faint fill light.
Camera set up –
Lighting test – Fuji X-Pro
Shoot Camera – Nikon D800
Teathering – Teathertools
Filters – Lee filters (0.9 Hard ND, 0.9 Soft ND, 0.6 Hard Tobacco, 0.6 Soft Tobacco)
Lighting – Profoto B1 + Stiplight + Grid / Bowens 500 Gemini + Small Sotfbox
Lens – Sigma 35mm Art, Sigma 50mm Art
Editing Process – check out my monochrome editing video here – https://vimeo.com/99858704