One of Saucy's readers emailed her and asked how she found so many glamorous places to take photos of Loopy and the rest of the Cheerios... she lamented that in her town, there weren't that many sweet spots to get a great shot.
Saucy decided it was time to spill the beans and share a few photo shoot secrets with you. This isn't a proper camera tutorial... there are some great technical ones and you can start by looking at other blogs and on You Tube. First, Saucy would recommend learning the basics about how to properly use your DSLR camera. So many of us have them but are limited by shooting in AUTO mode but there is so much more you can do with your camera, you just have to spend a few minutes every so often familiarizing yourself with its functions.
Today is about scouting a spot for a location shoot. If you want glamour... look no further:
This is where Saucy took Loopy for her most recent photo shoot. How very un-glamourous, indeed. Notice the portable washroom in the shot.
No, seriously. Take note of it. You don't want to find some great light and take beautiful pictures only to find later something so perfectly horrible it wrecks your shot.
This lesson is about finding the right light. This time of year (autumn) is delicious for warm, rosy sunsets. But you have to act fast - once the sun actually starts to set - "the golden hour" whittles away quickly. Make sure your camera battery is fully charged and your memory card is clear and ready to fill.
Head out a day or so before you plan to shoot, around the same time of day. Try for about an hour and half to an hour before sunset is scheduled. You might want to check the Weather Channel. Don't go out too many days in advance - the sunset time can change rapidly and so can the weather.
As you can see from the above photos, Saucy doesn't look too much at the background. What she's watching for is the quality of the light. She likes a nice warm sunset in an area where the light is slightly diffused, meaning it is not brightly shining on the face of her subject or casting unflattering shadows. (Actually, if you aren't shooting at sunset, then the next best time to shoot is mid afternoon on an overcast day, for those very reasons). Saucy noticed this area when the traffic was re-routed in her neighbourhood due to bridge construction.
Bridges, by the way, make excellent spots to shoot portraits. They offer lots of interesting walls and angles and such. There are usually some crazy textures and graffiti happening as well.
So let's not talk about staging (the use of costumes and props) the shot here, that's a discussion for another day. Here, Loopy wears a plain white shirt and her hair loose and natural for the purposes of our tutorial. This is one of the first shots that we took. Under the bridge, at sunset, when the construction crew had left for the day. Loopy leaned casually against one of the bridge posts and Saucy angled around so part of the chain link fence would also be in the background. This offers some cool texture, some interest and there is also some indirect light making its way into the shot.
Saucy moved Loopy over to the side of the road - literally. This is where the roadside is angled upwards to the overpass and the ground is covered with cement blocks. It's not glamourous of course but the light was very nice.
Check out the low light coming from the west - it is sunset after all. Loopy faces north west-ish and again, Saucy angles around to that her subject isn't looking straight into the camera too much.
Loopy has sort of been trained by this point to keep her eyes on the camera lens and look into it whilst Saucy moves about. If you have a less experienced model, tell them to try to "look through" the lens and assure them that you will do most of the work, it will put them at ease.
If this were a technical tutorial Saucy would surely discuss "bracketing" to ensure that you have the right exposure level. This lesson is about adjusting the eye level of the camera to get an interesting, flattering angle for your subject. Move in and out and around your model.
Basically, digital shots are free. Don't be shy... just rattle off as many as you can in say, ten to twenty minutes during the "golden hour" before sunset. You want to work quickly because you don't want a cranky subject. Keep moving and shooting.
Also, make sure that you shoot plenty of vertical (portrait) shots and horizontal (landscape) vantage points. You don't want to get home and realize you kept shooting the same frame over and over. It gets a little stagnant.
Saucy wants to assure you that with the right light and very little planning, you can get a great shot of someone. In fact, almost all of these shots have not been edited in Photoshop, not even cropped.
Except this one. With Loopy looking down and away like that, Saucy thought it might be nice to desaturate the colours in it a wee bit - not taking it all the way down to black and white, just a little less intense.
In art school, Saucy figured out during the first week that just by invoking the Rule of Thirds she sounded very informed. Very art-schooly. Basically the Rule of Thirds means that you visually - and in your imagination - divide your composition into three parts and then place your subject into it leaving one third or two thirds as negative space.
Negative space is a fancy art-schooly way of saying "where there is nothing happening"... like, a background. Or some concrete.
In some compositions it is easy to spot the use of thirds. Above it is a classic negative space background. Saucy digs how the concrete blocks recede to the background, offering a kind of cool perspective that isn't overly distracting from her beautiful subject.
In this shot, the Rule of Thirds is less obvious but still there. Loopy's face is one third and each of her shoulders make up the other two thirds, along with the background. With all that hair framing her face, the focus is on her expression and her eyes and mouth become the focal points.
And if you are in fact interested in a little post-production editing or enhancement, Saucy might only suggest using the burn tool with a nice soft brush and light exposure around the edges. Burned edges bring even more of the focus and attention towards the subject.
Also, when shooting portraits, framing is key. Don't be afraid of getting in nice and tight... and don't be afraid of losing the top of your subject's head. It sounds horrible, but it works. It gives portraits an intimate feeling.
And whenever, however you can, try to get the light to shine on the hair of your model without shining directly on the side of the face (again watching for the unflattering shadows). In the studio, a photographer would rig up a "hair light" to get this effect but the sun will do it for us if it is low enough and casting long rays.
When you have the basic shots taken, you can enhance them with some basic editing. First, crop out anything you find distracting or superfluous (this includes porta-potties).
Then, you can try to add some excitement by playing with the brightness and contrast. Here, the brightness was upped +67. This is often called a "blown out" effect, from back when photographers used film and accidentally over exposed the frame, "blowing out" the contrast of the image and reducing the fine detail. Blowing out your subject can be very flattering in some cases.
Here is the same image, but instead of adjusting the brightness up, it was reduced -25 and the edges were burned again with a large soft brush and a low exposure. This creates drama.
Same shot, completely different effects.
It's fashionable right now to isolate the eyes and play with their contrast and exposure alone. This can be done in your photo editing software either manually or you can download "actions" to get the effect. Sometimes Saucy likes it and sometimes she does not.
You be the judge... here are two identical shots. The first is unedited, the second has been edited with an eye-enhancing action. Which do you prefer?
Saucy sort of digs the original but it's definitely fun to play around.
Some of the best shots need no editing whatsoever...
... because some shots are just the perfect capture of a golden moment.
Now pick up that camera and get crack a 'lackin!