My First Lesson in Portrait Photography

#30 in the Judging a Photograph Series

My first lesson in Portrait Photography on Falcondale Life blog. A camera club workshop session in low key photography gives tips on what makes a good portrait including pose and the details of lighting.

I have come to realise that portrait photography is outside of my comfort zone. As I’ve said before, I don’t find building a rapport with the subject a very easy thing to do and this one third of the battle. The next part of the battle is knowing what makes a good pose for the subject. If you search Pinterest for portrait posing advice you will find a baffling array of diagrams. I can’t commit them to memory so that’s a poor start.

The last part of the battle in getting a great portrait is good lighting. Bright lights and a white background is known as high key. As long as the light is even, it is an easy place to take photos. Low key is the name for dark background photography and there are a few extra challenges here. A while ago, at my camera club we had a practical evening where I learned a few tricks in portrait lighting. In truth it was not my very first lesson in portraiture, but it was one of the most memorable. A visiting model volunteered to pose for us in exchange for copies of the photos. Here is the resulting portrait and the critique which I learned from the workshop session and the competition judging.

My first lesson in Portrait Photography on Falcondale Life blog. A camera club workshop session in low key photography gives tips on what makes a good portrait including pose and the details of lighting.

Good points of the Portrait

  1. He’s facing straight on, which is particularly suitable for a male portrait.
  2. His eyes have a catch-light in them (i.e. a dot of light reflected from the light source).
  3. His irises are above centre within his eyes so a curve of white is visible below them (we call them “canoes”).
  4. The light on his face is dominant on one side.
  5. The darker side of his face has a triangle of light falling on it, near the nose (you will see this lighting used on actors’ faces in every movie or TV drama).
  6. The shape of his head is picked out by a secondary light, so his whole head is separated from the background (notice his hair and ear in particular).

Bad points of the Portrait

  1. Deep creases in his shirt give the impression of poor posture.
  2. It still needs a little more light on his hair.

A camera club workshop session in low key photography gives tips on what makes a good portrait including pose and the details of lighting. Before and after Lightroom portrait editing.

Even though I took the shot I can’t take all the credit for it as I did not set up the all-important lighting. However it was hugely under-exposed so I used all my skills to revive the image in Lightroom. I did learn a lot about how to look critically at portraits. Since the workshop I particularly like spotting this triangle of light on actors’ cheeks when watch a movie.

What do you notice about this portrait? Let me know in the comments!

The Judging a Photograph series has now reached its 30th blog post. Read the previous post in the series by clicking here. This round number seems to me like the perfect time to pause the series and write about photography from other angles. Subscribe to this blog by email and never miss a post.

Photalife

 

4 Comments

  1. 1st October 2017 / 3:12 pm

    I am not the best portrait photographer, give me a landscape any day! Love what you have done here though, it makes for a dramatic shot! (:

    • 1st October 2017 / 10:45 pm

      Thanks – I don’t think I could repeat it!

  2. 1st October 2017 / 11:43 am

    I have no comfort with lighting, I’d much rather use natural light

    Thank you for linking up

    • 1st October 2017 / 10:48 pm

      Studio lighting is a very challenging skill. I’m not keen either!

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