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Old 05-06-2004, 04:13 PM
Laura Shelley Laura Shelley is offline
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Taking reference photos

Can anyone provide me with some photography tips? I need some help to succeed in taking good reference photos with predictable results for portrait commissions.

I've got a 20-year-old Canon A1 equipped with a 35-105 zoom and a couple of other lenses. Although I took photography classes years ago and know a little about f-stops and so on, I don't have much experience, and not much luck overall. If this camera doesn't work out for me (it was a gift from the original owner) then I may have to spend some bucks on a digital SLR and a portrait lens. I am short on bucks, so I want to give this camera a good try first.

I do not own photo lights, nor do I know much about using them. Therefore, I would like to shoot under natural light. I was planning to shoot indoors by a window or in outdoor shade, with a piece of white foamcore to bounce light into the shadows if necessary. Does this sound reasonable? I don't have a bounce flash, but could possibly get one if necessary.
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Old 05-06-2004, 04:33 PM
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Re: Taking reference photos

Your plan sounds good to me. (I miss my SLR!) Just remember to bracket, take lots of pics and I'm sure you will end up with something you can use for a reference.
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Old 05-06-2004, 04:56 PM
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Re: Taking reference photos

I wish I knew the trics. For my last commission I took my digital camera and took almost 200 pictures while chatting to the children I was photographing. There were 150 pictures of kids pulling faces, 45 pictures that were blurry and 5 that were good to work from.............ok, so I am a bad photographer....
Next weekend I have to photograph a 3 year old and a 9 year old............god help me. Haven't got a clue how - will probably end up photographing them seperately again as they will never sit still at the same time.
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Old 05-06-2004, 05:48 PM
Laura Shelley Laura Shelley is offline
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Re: Taking reference photos

I've been researching my head off on photographing children! I've heard a couple of tricks that sound reasonable.

Have the mother sit behind you and read a book to them to keep them interested and looking up. Lie on your stomach or sit on the floor to get down to eye level with children. Get them involved with a toy or some play activity to get natural poses and expressions.

Well, I'm going to see if I can find a good book on the subject!
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Old 05-06-2004, 07:03 PM
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Re: Taking reference photos

I was a portrait photographer for ten years and mostly worked with children. The trick is to let the children do what comes natural to them. Never use the "S" (smile) word unless you want the teeth clinched together looking somewhat like this smiley . Anything that requires concentration on their part always produces a classic portrait. Examples: reading a book, putting pennies in a classy looking penny bank, pulling a petal (one at a time) off a flower, asking them to smell a flower, you get the idea. Make sure you use timeless props... a classic teddy bear beats a Barney everythime. Allow yourself to accept interactive shots making sure that you capture the mask of the face. A child doesn't have to be looking at the camera grinning to get positive results. If the parent wants the child interacting with (looking at) the camera simply let them do their thing as mentioned and clamly call their name... they'll look everytime. If you want a smile as they look... fake a sneeze or come up with something that works for you.

When it comes to taking good reference photos there are several do's and don'ts.

DON'T: use an on camera flash (washes out and flattens subject... not to mention those black outline shadows)
DON'T: ask them to smile
DON'T: shot with a wide angle lens (wide angle lens distort the subject)(50 mm is close to what our eye sees in 35mm format)

DO: use natural light whenever possible (Window light is great)
DO: use a reflector (can be a piece of white cardboard) when using window light (or one modeling light) to kick reflected light in on shadow side of subject.
DO: when using a modeling light (can be a flash) make sure it is above the subject and usually at about a 45 degree angle from the subject (there are many lighting diagrams that would produce some great results but I wanted to keep it simple at this point).
DO: use the appropriate focal length lens (80-135mm is best for portraits)
DO: (when shooting outdoors in natural light) make sure you shoot in even light making sure there is not a mix of hot light and shadows on the face. A great portrait trick outdoors is to place the subject in a shaded area and reflect light in (from sunlight) on the subject with a piece of cardboard covered with aluminum foil... creates great directional lighting.
DO: take more photos than you think you need... different angles and distances


Here's a thread I started in the figure forum that might prove helpful...
Tips for working from photos. (Contains Nudity)

I know I'll think of some more tips as soon as I hit the submit this button ...

Rosic
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Last edited by Rosic : 05-06-2004 at 07:19 PM.
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Old 05-06-2004, 07:12 PM
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Re: Taking reference photos

Rosic!! This is SOOO helpful. I am dreading my weekend photoshoot a bit and will try to learn this by heart .............(sorry no teethy smile )
Oh, I hope those kids will interact.......you never know. With my last commission none of the photos of the kids together were good, so I chose two photos of them seperately and joined them in the portrait. It's a compromise, but better than nothing.

If you have more............why not write an article? Or just post it here - I am an eager listener.
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Old 05-06-2004, 07:24 PM
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Re: Taking reference photos

Quote:
Originally Posted by soap
Rosic!! This is SOOO helpful. I am dreading my weekend photoshoot a bit and will try to learn this by heart .............(sorry no teethy smile )

If you have more............why not write an article? Or just post it here - I am an eager listener.
I am planning to put together an article on something like this soon. Tips for taking photos and tips on working from photos. Just need the time !

Sophie... Don't hesitate to PM me when you are doing one of these photo sessions and I'd be more than happy to share some ideas for you. I think the main thing I miss about my photography business is the kids.
Bernie
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Old 05-06-2004, 08:44 PM
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Re: Taking reference photos

Rosic, those are absolutely wonderful tips! Thanks so much for taking the time! I hope you have time to put that article together. I know I'll learn a lot from it.
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Old 05-06-2004, 10:40 PM
Laura Shelley Laura Shelley is offline
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Re: Taking reference photos

Excellent! What great ideas these are, Rosic--thank you for posting them. I'm feeling more confident already.
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Old 05-07-2004, 06:54 AM
ILARIA ILARIA is offline
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Re: Taking reference photos

thank you Rosic for the great tips, I'll definetely try the foil
From my own experience: I try to make the child pose as if he was posing for me painting. I wait for him/her to settle in the pose, get that slightly bored look, or meditative, or cheeky (maybe I take some photos at this stage but just to adjust the camera sttings) then take the real reference photos! And only a few: if my mind is set before I take the pictures then it's me leading the portrait and making decision rather than the fate...
I like to paint a portrait rather than copying a casual snapshot.
For this more formal approach I recently started using a tripod, which allows me less freedom but I can look directly at the subject and not only through the lens. I do not always succeed in my purposes but since I started sticking to this approach my portraits got better.
And no teeths! The hardest part is to convince the parents that if the child doesn't smile in the portrait it doesn't mean that they are not happy children therefore they are not good parents...
Good luck to all
Ilaria
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Old 05-07-2004, 08:54 AM
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Re: Taking reference photos

Just thought of something guys...
You know those windshield sun reflectors that you put in your car to help keep it cooler in the summer... they make great reflectors for your photos and they fold up easily. All you need is a clamp and tripod (if you don't have a helper) to kick in the beautiful light.
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Old 05-07-2004, 10:33 AM
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Re: Taking reference photos

Great advise Rosic! I too used to make my living as a photog...
Without being to technical, their is one thing I'd like to ad that may help someone avoid a pitfall...

When taking pictures in low light situations it is critical to understand "depth-of_field" and "shutter speed". Take the window lighting situation for example... unless it is fairly bright window light, you will be forced to "open your lens" or use a slow shutter speed in order to obtain a correct exposure.

When you open your lens, what you are doing is changing your cameras f-stop setting to a smaller number to allow more light to pass through the opening (iris) in the lens. This action makes the lens opening larger. The trade off here is that your "depth of field" will be reduced... which means the plane of focus becomes shallow. This becomes especially critical if you're photographing two or more subjects... One subject might be in focus and the other, out of focus. Depending on how low the lighting situation this can ruin a single subject as well... it's possible for his/her face plane to be focused and her ears and clothing to be out of focus.

This brings me to my next point... "shutter speed". To compensate for low lighting one might also choose to use a slow shutter speed to obtain a correct exposure. One of the pitfalls with this situation is that when photographing children they tend to move alot, which will result in a blurred subject... even if you use a tripod. The photographer has to be steady and the subject relatively still.

When using a camera on auto, the camera makes these two critical decisions for you, and you might not even be aware that the camera is struggling to compensate for low light and the result could be blurry images.

Sorry to sound so technical, but I don't know how else to explain my point. The bottom line is to shoot in "bright" shade or fairly bright window light if you are not using strobes or bright artificial lighting. If you have a choice shoot in the brighter (not harsh) areas.

In ideal situations, you'll normally want your shutter speed at a 60th of a second or faster. Also, try to keep your f-stop at f8 or higher.

Just to add a technique to the discussion... If you find yourself with only bright sunlight, have someone hold a white sheet between the sun and your subject... the diffused lighting from this situation is very pleasing. Their is professional diffusion material that you can buy, but a sheet works just as well.

Sorry to put you all to sleep.
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Old 05-07-2004, 11:00 AM
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Marcy Perrier Marcy Perrier is offline
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Re: Taking reference photos

Rosic and JCoop, you are both to be thanked by us all in your excellent advise. I will add this to my own methods (which I thought were good until I read yours LOL) Thanks a million for your time spent to help us all.
Marcy
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Old 05-07-2004, 12:07 PM
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Re: Taking reference photos

Joel... Excellent points and you explained them so they are easily understandable.
Bern
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Old 05-07-2004, 01:31 PM
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Re: Taking reference photos

Thanks for the additional advice Rosic and Joel! I for one used to love my old (30 year or so ) SLR camera but ever since I got myself a digital camera (Canon A70) I don't use the old one anymore. As long as I don't use the flash (hate the effects) and set my camera to semi-auto/manual (I can set for the light situations and the camera adapts) the results are fine. The good thing with a digi cam is that you have a little 'what you see is what you get' screen. Whenever the photos have too much dark shadows or lack contrast, I just adapt in Photoshop. After all, I'll paint from then, so the photos don't have to be perfect. All I need is sharp pictures, and most difficult of all........good poses and expressions.
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