I recently finished a senior portrait session for this lovely young woman. You may remember her from a dance-themed shoot we collaborated on back in January of this year (link).
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not really interested in pursuing head shots, senior, infant or family photos; there are plenty of talented photographers out there who have the drive, charisma and networking skills to make a career out of it–I’m not one of them. I do, however, believe in using our gifts and talents to help out family and close friends and that is the only time I take on jobs like this. I always enjoy it when I do it, mostly because it means something to me since I know and love the people I’m working with (as opposed to working for strangers).
The above images are my two favorite shots from my session with Natalie. In the photograph on the left I happened to notice the window at the right time when the morning sun was coming through to illuminate the interior of the structure and create that lovely, dramatic backlighting. I really like how the sunlight on her nose and cheek emphasizes her facial features and profile. I spent a few hurried moments figuring out my exposure, her pose, and capturing a few frames before the sun moved and all the drama and life was sucked out of the scene. I remember scrolling through the images in Lightroom after the shoot and watching the light slowly go from warm, dramatic and vibrant to cold, flat and colorless while the highlights slowly left her nose and cheeck. That goes to show how good photography is just as much about the moment as it is about the subject, equipment and skill of the photographer. I love it when everything comes together.
The image on the right is another example of several things coming together at the right time. I often despise these kinds of shots (that is, a model posing in front of a wall) because I’ve seen several photographers whose portfolios were comprised of image after image of different women standing against different walls… it’s formulaic and tired. I suppose this one isn’t much different in that respect but I’m okay with having the odd cliché thrown in there if it has other things going on for it and it’s not relying on the formula itself. Also, given the fact that the goal of the shoot was to provide senior pictures for the family, I think this is certainly appropriate.
There are several things which make this second image work for me: First of all, her pose and expression are nice, and completely unscripted. I literally said, “stand over there” and that’s how she stood. That, for me, means that her posture was something natural for her; something that is part of her personality. This makes the “moment” all the more authentic for me, knowing that it was the model projecting herself rather than me projecting a character or expectation onto her. Second, the background is interesting and works well with the wardrobe. Her jacket and shirt are “loud” enough to keep the viewer’s focus on her despite the potentially busy and distracting background. A solid color would not have worked against a background with that much detail but the striped jacket held its own. The result is bold, vibrant and youthful. I also chose her location (in relation to the wall) and my camera angle carefully so that the metal coils at the top created two implied lines on either side of her head which also help to bring the viewer’s eye to her. Finally, I had my wife pointing my speedlight (fitted with a small portable softbox) directly at Natalie’s face to further add emphasis and create some nice dramatic shadows (we were in open shade so it looked quite flat without the artificial light). All of these elements coming together make this a shot that I’m pleased with, even if it’s not terribly creative or unique.
Well, as usual, I’ve probably gone well beyond the attention span of most people with this post but I really do benefit a lot from processing and reflecting on my art after-the-fact. Hopefully one or two other souls might find it interesting or educational as well.
Both images shot with Canon 5D Mk. III
Left Image: Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens. ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1,000 sec.
Right Image: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. ISO 100, f/6.3, 1/200 sec. Canon 600ex-rt spedlight with Lumiquest Softbox II modifier).
Processed in Adobe Lightroom 4.4