Perfecting the art of portraiture
morpeth camera club
On January 17, Morpeth Camera Club’s guest speaker was Simon Drew on Portraiture.
Simon, from Loud and Flashy studio in Ashington, discussed portrait photography and gave a practical demonstration of lighting techniques.
He said some photographers may not be comfortable with portraiture. They may have been disappointed when taking portraits of family members. Feeling under pressure to succeed, they can make simple mistakes and end up not putting into practice what they know.
He showed examples of his studio work, including dramatic dancers lit three ways to create pools of light, Pitman Painters actors amid shades of dark and light, softly lit babies, blurred bokeh effect portraits created from Christmas lights, thoughtfully arranged family groups, face-painted models and many more.
He pointed out how easily mistakes can be made with bad use of lighting, such as unwanted shadows under noses and elongated chins. Getting too close can create facial distortions, giving the subject a rounded ‘selfie’ look. In his opinion, it is better to stand back a little and use a longer focal length to achieve a more streamlined effect. With children, it is preferable to get in close and choose a lower point of view to achieve more interesting results.
It is vital to choose a single focal point, sharp eye detail being a must. With the use of a shallow depth of field, sharp features with a softer background can be captured. Group photography requires a larger depth of field so that everything is sharp and has a crisper outline.
With lighting, harsh shadows can or cannot work so one must always be aware of the light source. Harsh light accentuates cheekbones, but by bouncing off light from the ceiling there is an overall softer effect.
It is also important to shoot from the right angle — with girls, shoot from above to create a softer jaw line, with men, shoot from below eye level to create stronger features.
Simon said it is not always necessary to use expensive lighting, one good source is less complicated, does not intimidate children and relaxes the model. Portrait photography does not have to take place in a studio, it is available to anyone, anywhere.
While this was not a practical evening, members were invited to have a go at portraits. With his model Jasmine, Simon guided members through shutter speed and light source, explaining the benefits of Loop, butterfly and Rembrandt lighting, which are the most frequently used methods to ensure the subject is well lit.
He concluded that, to get the most out of portraiture it is invaluable that a photographer talks to the model, gains a connection and builds up a rapport.
Simon provided an interesting and informative evening, which gave an insight into the world of the professional portrait photographer.
Glyn Trueman thanked Simon for his excellent presentation, after which coffee was enjoyed.