Tuesday, 30 June 2009

On the road

Photography: tips for natural looking portraits

Portrait photography is an art that requires a number of skills. The photographer has to pay attention to the lighting and must be able to put the subject at ease. Portrait photography often takes place in the controlled environment of a studio. Yet some of the greatest and most natural looking portraits are achieved when the subject is photographed in a more natural setting.

Capturing a world leader addressing an audience, an actor playing a role or a pianist at the keyboard provide some of the most powerful and natural looking portraits.

A studio generally gives the photographer a choice of backgrounds and lighting options. Many photographers do not have access to this luxury and have to make do with more natural settings for their portrait photography. Selecting an appropriate background or setting may be the first step towards giving the portrait a natural look and feel. Photographing an artist in a art studio defines the artist in the resulting portrait. Capturing the picture while the artist is at work will produce the most telling results.

Professional models are usually quite comfortable posing in front of the camera, but other subjects do not feel the same way. They tend to feel and look quite self conscious when posing for a picture. It is up to the photographer to engage the subject in conversation in a way that will make her feel relaxed and at home. Young children make excellent subjects for portrait photography. They respond to objects such as balloons and to rewards of sweets at the end of the shoot. A photographer that has a little of the comedian inside may be able to break the ice more easily, but taking an interest in the subject and listening to what they have to say could produce the right atmosphere.

A good portrait can be achieved either outdoors or indoors. Outdoor photography means relinquishing some control of the lighting, but natural lighting and shade can be very effective in producing good results. Using a medium telephoto lens and blurring the background by using a wide aperture is very effective way to create an effective portrait. Couple this with a little back lighting produces a soft effect.

Children can be photographed under almost any lighting conditions. For adults, softer lighting options are more flattering. A diffuser should be used to break up the light. Alternatively, bounce the flash against a white ceiling or screen to produce produce a soft and balanced effect.

The effective use of light is one of the keys to produce natural looking results. A light or flash should never be pointed directly into the subject's face. A diffused light slightly to the one side is effective, but it may be necessary to provide additional fill-in light and possibly even some back lighting. Good use of lighting will help to avoid flat portraits with dark shadows on the face. Harsh shadows from a flash or a direct light are always to be avoided.

Using a medium telephoto lens is generally my preferred option. It allows for a close-up without over-emphasising the features. It is also simpler for a subject to feel relaxed and at home when the photographer is at a greater distance.

When the photographer devotes some time to engage with the subject can help to achieve a more relaxed and natural looking portrait. This coupled with the right lighting should produce good results.

Photography: how to take beautiful maternity portraits

The glowing beauty of a pregnant woman is a rare and wonderful sight. Most doctors confirm that the most wonderful part of their work is delivering a new baby, and an expectant mother has that air of expectancy and serenity surrounding her.

A typical woman experiences a pregnancy only a few times in her life, and it is usually during the first pregnancy that the opportunities for taking beautiful maternity portraits abound. When there are already other children, the opportunities somehow diminish! Seize the moment and capture this wonderful event while it is taking place. Taking maternity portraits is a great pleasure for the photographer and the portraits will be treasured forever.

The best maternity portraits can be shot with the mother either nude or wearing a light see through night dress. Pictures may be repeated at various times through the pregnancy documenting the growth of the baby and the ever changing curves of the woman's body.

Lighting is important in creating the right effect. Evening or night shots by candle-light without a flash are very effective. A single flash bounced off a white ceiling or wall or a diffused reflected light will produce the desired soft effect. Back lighting with a little fill in light to the front is very effective, highlighting the pregnant curves. Avoid harsh direct lighting as this hardens the picture.

Photographing in colour using pastel shades with some drapes as a background can be very effective. Black and white or sepia adds a very romantic feel to the pictures.

Pay some attention to the composition of the picture. Arrange furniture and other items in the background to suggest a feminine bedroom. Try to avoid her standing and facing the camera directly in the centre of the screen. Side views, or with the subject facing slightly towards your right or left are very effective. Leave more space in the frame to the front of the woman than behind her - try to follow the rule of thirds.

Make the subject feel at ease by engaging her in conversation, and complimenting her beauty. All women respond well to compliments and this will help to make her feel more comfortable. She may feel more at ease if she knows that the pictures are to remain private.

Arrange the photos with the subject in advance. She will want to look at her best and have time to prepare. Take a variety of shots from various angles using a variety of lighting conditions.
These beautiful maternity pictures will be yours and hers to treasure for many years into the future.

Thursday, 04 June 2009

Highveld scene in Pretoria

A scene appealed because of the light and the cloud formations. In the background is the Ghost House featured in the previous post.