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Paul

Need some Portraiture Help. I'm over my head, I think.

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Ok, so being the capable photographer I am, I have agreed to a nice little paying gig to do a Senior Portrait Shoot. Now this is new to me so I need a little advice. Looking for some advice about poses, backgrounds, lighting etc. We are going to try for some outdoor and some indoor. Probably mostly head shots but want some full body shots with sceneray in the back ground. Any tips or hints you guys wish to spare. If you don't wish to spread any huge trade secrets I understand so if you want to email me you can. I will be shooting with a 17-85, and my 100-400. And will be picking up a Flash in the next few days, as soon as I decide between the 430 and the 580.

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Congrats and good luck. My only advice would be to get a good book. Also, look at some pros examples for poses. I'm sure if you check online, you'll find galleries from portait photographers, which will give you some very good ideas for posing. The outdoor shots should be a breeze, considering you get out early or late in the day and keep the subject out of the shadows. Personally, I wouldn't be real anxious to tackle indoor shots without a multi light setup, nice backdrops and props.

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I have the set up that Mike mentions - multiple lights, backdrops, etc. A few basic rules as far as positioning will allow you to take acceptable photos. I don't do a lot of portrait photography with just a camera mounted strobe, but nice work can be done with that as well. Steve does quite a bit with this and can probably help the most with that aspect.

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Paul I wish I could help. Unfortunately there are so many things that go into doing good senior photos that it would be almost impossible to cover them all here. Just some issues to ponder.

I find that the outdoor shots are more difficult to execute because of lighting issues and dealing with sun and all the other variables. Speedlights are OK for this type of work but only having one will limit what type of creative work you can do. You can get good shots, it just is harder to get some of the looks that seem popular these days.

Do you want harsh lighting, soft lighting, fill lighting, ambient light on background or darker background, and on and on. So many variables and most likely little time and equipment. What about Custom WB and color correction card for getting the correct skin tones and colors both indoors and out. Sure you will shoot RAW and correct in post but how do you get correct colors? I've found results are so much better when you get it right in the camera that I rarely rely on post to correct more than just the occasional mistake on my part, and they do happen!

Indoors do you have access to additional lights and a studio set up? If not you are going to have be very creative to replicate the studio look. Again one flash setups are a bit tougher to pull off. Do you have colored backgrounds? What type of clothing and color is it? Backgrounds to compliment that, and on and on. Will you use natural light complimented by artificial?

There is a reason that senior photographers charge what they charge. A large investment in lights and studio equipment. Can you do it with your equipment? Yes but it will be difficult at best.

Lenses, on the wide end many photographers use many different options, I love the 17-40. On the portrait side virtually every portrait photographer I know uses a 70-200/2.8. Backgrounds, backgrounds, backgrounds and the ability to manipulate them with DOF. The 70-200 does so many beautiful things with portraits.

Poses are as varied as the subject. I always spend time talking about what the subject wants out of the photographs, what style are they looking for. That in a large part determines what lighting to use, clothing to wear, locations to shoot and what you do in studio.

I mention much of this not to discourage but to understand the complexity of what goes into this type of photography. I personally turned down a lot of senior work until I had worked up enough equipment and knowledge to use it to get the results I was happy with. I now only do sports related work and work together with a photographer who specializes in the studio and location work.

I prefer to carry three flashes, 3 strobes, a power source to operate them, diffusers, umbrellas, light stands, light meter, diffusion panels, a couple of camera bodies with various lenses and an assistant if I can pull it off. Can you do it with less...yes you can. Can you pull off these shots with one light, yes again with limited options and a good plan of how you want to light your subject.

PP work for senior work is also a whole process of its own, so many different looks and ways to manipulate. Softening techniques, eye brighting, catch lights, grunge styles, and again on and on.

Spend some time researching some of the work out there and you will get ideas that should help you. The most important thing is working with the subject and getting an idea what they want from the shoot. Good luck Paul.

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PP work for senior work is also a whole process of its own, so many different looks and ways to manipulate. Softening techniques, eye brighting, catch lights, grunge styles, and again on and on.

Not to mention the cosmetic work of getting rid of zits, blemishes etc. Dan, thanks for giving a more complete answer than I. I started, and realized that it would have to be at least as long as yours to even outline it!

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Ken, as you are aware there are just so many aspects with the senior photo market. I don't do any beyond sports styles but work with someone who does and man there is so much more than meets the eye.

It is so hard to try and answer and or give an idea of how to pull it all off just because, well its complicated.

If you are looking for just some one flash photos on location with basic poses and lighting you may be able to pull something together. I try to remember these photos will be used in a year book for all to see and hanging in a clients house for years.

I just wish I could give an easy answer. Sorry Paul.

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That's exactly why, when people ask me to take there family pictures and senior pictures I emphatically say NO THANK YOU.

Too hard to please everyone. Isn't that what it all boils down to.

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Paul,

Here's a simple shot that I've used many times and the clients seem to like it:

CL1.jpg

JS1.jpg

Neither of these photos have been edited yet. In the second, his head should have been tilted straight up or slightly away from the building. Both taken with a 17-40L and a 550 EX Speedlite, at -2/3 ec.

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Well, I have access to some lights from my buddy who does video work for the Discovery Channel and National Geographic and only uses the stuff once a month or so so that is no problem. I have a large muslim cloth which I need to dye yet, haven't decided what color yet but probably something light in color leaning towards yellow,blue,greenish. This particular client will be fairly easy to please so I am not to worried about end results. PP is not a problem either, I have been working on blemish controll for the last month or two on my photoshop cs3 lesson plan booka and CD. (all on computer so no actuall reading just reading the moniter then try the lessons.)

I spent the afternoon today at Barnes and Nobles looking at several different books that discusss poseing and lighting. I have realized that I will be working with mostly natural light and some flash fill. That is another thing I'll need to work on. I have not owned a flash since I switched from Film SLR to digital SLR, should be pretty much the same I suppose. I will probably fashion some reflectors out of cardboard and tin foil. (Saw this done at my Engagement pic session in a studio, worked well).

Props will be my only down side, but since the kid does no sports, hasn't got a car, no hobbys really, I will just use what is laying around. There is a railroad museum in Fargo that is very well lit in the day and has mucho scenery to work with so that may be my props. Also the Warehouse district has some cool old buildings for backgrounds that I think will be fun as well.

I have 3o days to cram as much info in my thick skull as a I can. Thanks everyone for the replys, it adds lots of dimensions to think about.

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White foam board make a nice soft reflector and you don't have to "manufacture" it. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! Willing models to practice on?

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Back in the film days, my daughter was happy to let me practice on her. However, when it came time for her real senior photos, she insisted on us paying the big bucks for a different photographer. whistle However, I did tackle it for one season, along with a few weddings and small children. I detested weddings, due to the lack of cooperation and frayed nerves. I didn't mind the seniors. When it was just one on one, they cooperated very well. I did have a downtown studio setup with a few different colored backgrounds, a few props and strobes with umbrellas. You should definitely have a few different colored backgrounds. It's not like the good ol' days when we had our photos taken in our suit and tie. grin Nowadays, they seem to want to have at least a few changes of clothes, and one background probably won't cut it. I believe that modern photographers charge a certain sitting fee which inludes x number of clothes changes and anymore than that, there is an extra charge.

Would I ever do something like this again? Nope. Although, nowadays it would be easier with the use of digital. If I was going to go back into any type of studio photography, it would be a pet portait studio. I get along easier with animals. wink

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If I was going to go back into any type of studio photography, it would be a pet portait studio. I get along easier with animals.

Amen with that comment. I am not too far away from the start of that buisness also.

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Good advice so far, Paul. I just got back from a Twin Cities wedding (note the time of this post), so my brain is a little fried.

I specialize in outdoor portraiture. I don't want or need a studio. It feels like clutter to me. Not bashing any studio photog, because it's a vital part of photography and done well it's stunning.

But I'm an outside portrait type of dude. The whole point of doing a portrait outside instead of in a studio is to include part of the environment in the shot. I've done senior portraits along the shores of Lake Superior, in the BWCAW and in the woods near Bemidji, to name just a few locations. In most cases, it's best to see if the outdoor client has a special outdoor place that has significance for them.

And whether you do it indoors or outdoors, grab a good friend or family member and work with them first. That way you'll be able to work out any bugs in your setup/approach in private. It just won't do to fumble around too much with settings when a client's waiting for things to get going.

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