Last Updated on 03/06/2017 by Chris Gampat
Working with a portrait subject in the studio first and foremost requires you to stop thinking about them necessarily as your subject and instead more as your collaborator. Now don’t get me wrong, you’re essentially going to be the conductor of the orchestra most of the time so to speak–but you need to think about people in a different way. You also don’t need the fanciest cameras, lighting, etc to make this work.
In fact, very soon we’ve got a special workshop dedicated to doing just this with Instax Wide film hosted at the Lomography Gallery Store in NYC. But if you’re interested in getting a sneak peak of what’s going to be taught, read on.
Make the Light Output as Big as Possible
You’re probably looking at this tip and wondering, “How the heck do I do this?” Well, it’s really simple. You can do it with a simple light modifier. Lots of softboxes can do this well but my preferred weapons of choice are octabanks and umbrellas. When the light output is covering a larger area overall, then it’s going to be softer in relation and location to your portrait subject.
If you don’t have an octabank or a umbrella, then you can bounce the light off of a wall. In our workshop, we’re going to go over this much more carefully and observe how it all works.
Shape the Light
Of course, besides making the light big you also need to shape it. Think of it this way:
- Octabanks are round
- Umbrellas are round
- Softboxes have a very specific shape
- Walls have almost no shape when they bounce output
Shaping the light will help you create the effect that you’re looking for. Here are some examples:
In our workshop, you’ll get to explore how these lighting scenarios all play out. Notice how they all have a different feel due to the lighting?
Mise En Scene
Another HUGE part of portraiture in a studio has to do with what filmmakers call Mise En Scene. This basically pertains to all the elements of the scene that help make it what it is. Take a look at this photo of Raiyan above. Notice how the background isn’t super distracting? Part of this is because he takes up most of the scene.
Now this is much different, notice how the use of leading lines lead you back to him?
Notice how this is more distracting though the depth of field does a good job of fixing it? We’ll show you how to work with this effectively in our workshop. You’ll see how backgrounds can actually be used as a story telling device at least in the case of environmental portraits.
Bringing all this back to lighting, when you combine it with effective lighting you can use it to help direct the eye where to look. For example, the mind can ignore darkness in the scene and instead just focus on colors.
People of All Shapes, Sizes and Colors: Posing a Subject
Everyone has their own shapes and colors. Then you have to consider things like a wardrobe. Remember how we said to use bigger and softer lighting? Softer lighting typically makes people look more flattering, but that’s also very subjective depending on the lighting and the mood you’re trying to render in the scene.
If you’re one of those people who likes shooting studio style outside, here’s an infographic that can help.
Making it Work With Any Camera
In our upcoming workshop, we’re going to show you how to put all these skills to use with the Lomography Lomo Instant Wide camera. This will be further proof that it works for everyone. We encourage you to sign up; everyone walks away with their own images, and you get two packs of film and a whole lot of education.
Head on over to the workshop page to see more.