model photography, Photography, Portrait, portrait photography

Portrait Retrospective: Part 1

I find myself in the midst of a bout of nostalgia. Reasons for it are obvious to me but beyond the scope of this blog so we will just cut right to the chase. I have a fondness for portraits. My initial motivation for getting involved in photographer was of two parts; an interest in the black and white photography as practiced by Ralph Gibson and others, and an interest in portraiture as practiced by Irving Penn and others. I make no claim that I’ve quite gotten to where I’d like in either milieu. However, I have come farther than when I started.

Recently, I re-processed some portraits from several years back and that started an entire thing so that now I’ve gone back about ten years and re-processed some of the older portraits I’ve taken knowing what I know now.

Of course, this exercise is concerned only with processing. The mistakes in lighting, exposure, and posing are…indelible. You can’t really save a photograph from mistakes of that nature. So, limited in scope but still of interest, to me at least.

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Wrinkled shirt…how you vex me.

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My choice of color palette has become more sedate.

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Originally most of this set was black and white.

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After this walk down memory lane, that will take up a few posts here, I’m thinking of capping things off with some very recent portrait work. Though by then my interest may have careened off on an unexpected trajectory.

Feel free to leave a comment or ask me (nearly) anything if you have a mind to!

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Black and White, Color, Photography, Portrait, portrait photography

A Quick Portrait Session, Rustic Fun

The last few days have been rather busy. Nothing to complain about there. One of the highlights of that busy-ness was a quick and fun portrait session. Fall colors are not quite in full effect but the session was successful nonetheless. The young man I was to photograph was full of personality. Like most little ones it took a minute to warm up to this stranger with the weird contraption trying to get him to smile, but he was a trooper.

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The outdoor setting was a good compliment to his classic denim wardrobe. The addition of a favorite toy helped elicit a little more emotion and interaction. Unpredictability when photographing the little ones is alway an adventure, but a rewarding one.

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The challenge of being true to a child’s personality should never be taken lightly. When done well it produces a lasting testament and cherished memory. Delivering photos like these to appreciative parents is one of the best things about my photography.

TECHNICAL: Fujifilm XT-2 & XF 56mm f/1.2

Black and White, Photography, Portrait

Black & White Portraits

The portrait is fairly central to the idea of photography itself. It didn’t take long for the early photographic pioneers to turn their lenses toward their fellow men and woman in an attempt to capture something of the essential nature of the human spirit.

In any portrait, the goal is to form a connection between the subject, removed as they are, and the viewer through the medium of the print. The photographer is the bridge between the two, spanning the gap through technical and artistic prowess. Or so it is hoped.

Black & White Portraits

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Black and White, Color, depth of field, Editorial, Fine Art Photography, Photography, Portrait, Product Shots

Photographer: Never Stop Learning

It is 2017 and in these times it benefits a photographer, no matter what their particular niche is, to have a least a basic understanding of the skills and mindset necessary to undertake various types of photography. Being familiar with the skill-sets necessary for the various types of photography from portraiture, to street photography, to product photography does mean trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. The truth is that photography as a discipline often involves needing access to techniques that cross the various photographic disciplines.

I consider myself a fine art photographer, but understand that this incorporates many of the skills of the portrait photographer and the product photographer. There is a lot I can learn from being familiar and studying the lighting techniques of both. Doing so doesn’t dilute my aim, it only makes me a more capable photographer. Photographers are fortunate in that they can learn from a wide variety of artistic disciplines.

Product Photography

The product photographer must be a master of light. In order to present the product in the most effective and engaging way she must know what it takes to light in a way that seems natural, while also evoking a specific mood or atmosphere. What I as a photographer can take away from the tool bag of the portrait photographer is how I can manipulate light to draw attention to or away from elements of my image, and how different types of lighting can change the message of the photograph.

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Often the success of product photography lies in the ability to effectively use lighting equipment. Photography is dependent on the efficient use of equipment even at it’s most basic level; using your camera. Using lighting equipment, from the speedlights that most people have seen (wedding photographers, sports photographers, and paparazzi often come to mind), to larger and more powerful studio strobes, can seem daunting. Lighting ratios, power outputs, and all the rest can seem esoteric and mysterious causing many people to shy away from learning these skills. Such an unfortunate thing when artificial lighting can be such a powerful tool in your arsenal!

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Portrait Photography

It might seem that portrait photographers have it easier, but they really don’t. In dealing with photographing people there are a lot of different factors to consider;

  • Photographing the subject in a way that is technically efficient
  • Creating a photographic portrait that is emotionally engaging
  • Posing the subject in a manner that is natural (for them) and visually not awkward or tense
  • Crafting a portrait that is true to the subject
  • Attention to details that can ruin a portrait; hair/clothing out of place, poor background, etc.

This of course is in addition to the considerations of lighting even when shooting in natural light as a poorly or incorrectly lit portrait can mean failure, even if every other aspect of the shot is perfect.

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What I as a photographer can learn from the portrait photographer is an attention to detail, knowing how to make sure everything in the photography from the lighting to the posing to the photographer deciding where to stand work toward a harmonious whole. The success of the portrait photographer lies in balancing technical skill with the psychological skill of knowing both what the subject wants and what the viewer will find pleasing.

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Furthermore…

These are of course not the only two types of photographers that you can learn something from. There are landscape photographers, street photographers, architectural photographers, lifestyle photographers, the list goes on a while. And that’s a very good thing!

Some of these other disciplines deserve their own articles, but I want to leave you with the recommendation that you look at lots of styles of photography and even better try lots of different styles of photography. You might surprise yourself with how the skills you learn can be applied elsewhere.

Artsy, Fine Art Photography, Photography, Portrait

The Boxer

I do like an enthusiastic portrait subject. Playful, mercurial, easily bored; pretty much sums up the gamut of what you encounter photographing children. This was a session of a boy and his mother. In all a successful sitting but these in particular were my favorites as the young man ran through a full range of expressive gesticulations and pulled faces. A lot of fun!

THE BOXER

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NEXT UP: SOMETHING WITH STILL LIFE…MAYBE

Black and White, Color, depth of field, Fine Art Photography, Photography, Portrait

End of the year, first of the year, portraits

 

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Portrait photography can be a deeply rewarding experience for both the photographer and the portrait sitter. For the photographer it gives an opportunity to try to marry technical aspects of photography with the artistic attempt to capture the personality of the sitter.

I’ve always had a fondness for portrait photography, much to the chagrin of my loved ones.

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I didn’t want this post to devolve into another love letter to Fuji’s cameras and lenses…suffice to say they are well-suited.

The included images are a mix of some captured just before the end of 2016 and a few weeks into 2017. My ease with the X-Pro2 and X-T2 has increased in just that short period, but practice does make perfect.

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A lot more portraits to come this year along with everything else. Until then I hope you are happily engaged in what you love.

Artsy, Everyday Life, Fine Art Photography, Photography, Portrait

Imagery Hodge-Podge

A few of the first images of 2017. Do you want to hear an interesting observation I’ve made? The right tool can affect how you work.

All of these images were shot with a rangefinder-style camera. I do feel like it is not only my personal style/preference to shoot in a more “journalistic” style, but that this type of camera almost demands it, or at least puts one in the frame of mind that facilitates it. I would doubtless have shot these same types of images with a dSLR, but the discreet nature of the rangefinder (and the stealthy silence of the electronic shutter) does make it easier to put people at ease and still the urge to perform for the camera. It is an advancement of why I enjoyed shooting with point-and-shoots a lot last year (the Fujifilm X10 & X30), but with greater technical capability.

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Face of an Angel
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Cards on the Table
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Laying Track
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Free-Flowing Cups

I’m not a gear head, but I have to remark on how much I’m enjoying  Fuji’s XF35mm f/2 R WR lens. As a “normal” lens I find it is pretty much living on my X-Pro2. With my preference for primes it’s a part of my “portrait trinity” along with the 90mm f/2.8 R LM WR, and 56mm f/1.2. Speaking of portraits, this is something I plan to focus more on this year both professionally and personally.

How is 2017 treating you and your photography this year?

Black and White, Color, depth of field, Fine Art Photography, flower photography, Flowers, Photography, Portrait

Year’s End and X Marks the Spot

For the last blog post of 2016 there are some major changes to mention; I have officially set aside my Canon gear which I have shot with for over a decade in favor of Fuji’s X-system. If you move about the internet in photographic circles you have likely heard this story and its sentiments expressed…often.

Yes, a major consideration was size and weight, the Fuji system is compact, and this will be a boon to landscape and street photography. The Fujifilm X10 and X30 were my first forays into Fuji’s X-system and went a long way toward my decision.

The design of the Fujifilm X-pro2 and XT-2 is supremely suited to my style of shooting. The X-pro 2 seems to me to be the perennial street camera; discreet, controls that are easily accessed without moving the camera from the eye, and fantastic image quality.

The X-trans sensor in the X-Pro2 and XT-2 continues to impress me. Additionally the lenses that Fujifilm is producing to be used with these cameras is stellar. I currently have the 35mm f2 R WR, 23mm f2 R WR, 56mm f1.2 R, 90mm f2 R LM WR, and 16-55mm f2.8 R LM WR. I favor the primes obviously, and skew toward the weather resistant (to complement the weather resistant bodies). The characteristics of all these lenses has really impressed me.

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Fujifilm X-Pro2/35mm f2
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Fujifilm X-Pro2/35mm f2

As many before me have said the out-of-camera jpgs from the X-Trans sensor are pretty remarkable. Here’s a comparison side-by-side with an image processed from the RAW file.

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Fujifilm X-T2 – Left: SOOC jpg (Classic Chrome film simulation) Right: Processed from RAW jpg

While the second image is tweaked more in line with my personal style, that SOOC jpg is pretty darn nice too.

Changing systems has meant some adapting to the way I shoot and process, but nothing unexpected and I am supremely confident in this system going forward.

Going to round out this post with a few more images from my first three weeks with the X-system. I hope the new year finds you all happy and happily engaged in your endeavors.

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 / 16-55mm f2.8 R LM WR
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Fujifilm X-Pro2 / 16-55mm f2.8 R LM WR
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Fujifilm X-Pro2 / 35mm f2 R WR
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Fujifilm X-T2 / 16-55mm f2.8 R LM WR