My approach to the portrait shoot last week – how to my way!

This is work in progress…

Click HERE to go to the post on last week’s shoot.

The image of Paul above is straight out of the camera shot in RAW format (no camera manipulation). RAW images can tend to look a little dull. I wanted to add warmth to this image so I increased the temperature a touch. I then increased the fill light and brightness; the exposure was spot on in camera and how I wanted it. With all my portraits I tend to lighten the eyes and increase the saturation and sharpness. I then reduced the clarity on Paul’s forehead and increased the brightness of Paul’s necklace and areas of the lining to his hood. Oh, yes, how could I forget, I increased the saturation of his tattoo! Later in June I will add here a tutorial with examples/screen shots from Adobe Lightroom  so you can see exactly how I approached this.

Shot with Canon’s 5D mkii and Canon’s amazing 50mm f1.4 prime in low, natural, light on ISO 200


MY VISION – first and foremost before I raise my camera to my eye I have a vision in my mind’s eye as to how I want an image to look – this is for me the most important thing…if I do not know where I am going how can I get there! Sure along the journey will be compromise, discovery, adjustment, a change of mind and much more but for me that is, very much, part of the excitement!

I wanted drama in both of the following images – so interms of how light and dark would play a part in them was important for me. I knew I wanted the ambient light to be moody/dark but with a little detail and I wanted my subject to be illuminated relatively well. This would result in the viewer’s eye being drawn to Paul first (the human eye is naturally drawn to light in an image) then to the interesting detail in the building to the left of the image and back again in a continuous circular motion.  It would also help to render the image, with what I feel, is an oil painting quality – a bit of a hallmark of my ‘Best Image’ portfolio.

Image A

Image B

MY APPROACH –  Ambient first then artificial! I set up my ambient light just how I want it before I even consider involving artificial light. I like to keep it one step at a time so I can see exactly what I get. On this ocassion I wanted the viewer’s eye to be drawn to Paul, my subject, but then for there eye to be pulled over to the left of the image to discover the building with its interesting detail. However, I wanted Paul and his location to be the main area of attention so it was about reducing the ambient light everywhere else.

After setting my camera to Manual I dial up a shutter speed of 1/200 (more on this rationale later). I usually start with 1/200 because I know I can’t go any faster than that otherwise my artificial light (speedlight(s)) will be out of sync with the shutter/mirror in the camera (again, more on this later). Also, with 1/200 shutter I know I have room to reduce the shutter speed before I start to increase the risk of camera shake – I like the flexibility of handheld. A fast shutter also pretty much garantees I can freeze the moment if that is what I am after when shooting a moving target. Next I dial up my aperture in the lens (size of hole to allow light through to the camera’s sensor) – for a background that is darker than my subject I start around f16, which also means most of the image will be in focus as the depth of focus is greater – great when shooting a moving target travelling across the line of plane. I take my first shot then check what I have in the LED monitor. If there is too little detail/information in the background/building then I want to get more light into the shoot – I do this by reducing the shutter and/or aperture. In this case I went to f12, fire off another image then increased the shutter speed to 160….at this point I was satisfied with my ambient light.

Now for the artificial light set up….

In the image below you can see where I positioned my speedlight (flashgun). This was to light Paul from the left  as he was already being lit from the right by the evening sun entering the building.

Image B as shot in camera

I actually favour the composition in this image. However my car can be seen in the shot and I was too involved/lazy to move it, so this is definately an image and location to be revisited!


In the next series  of images we moved to the back fo the building where there was more light and I shot through my Canon 50mm prime fast lens for some nice naturally lit images.

2 thoughts on “My approach to the portrait shoot last week – how to my way!

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