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Photography QnA: Studio, Still, & Personal Portraiture Photography

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Category: All About Photography : Photographic Field Techniques : Studio, Still, & Personal Portraiture Photography

Read about techniques for personal portraiture photography, tricks for still photography and studio photography techniques here.

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Photography Question 
Pamela A. Davis
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/3/2005
  71 .  How to Shoot Infant Feet
I have tried to shoot baby feet and never seem to get the lighting or background or something quite right. I have seen so many wonderful baby pics, and I have limited lighting resources. My niece is asking for photos of her daughter and 4-year-old son. Any suggestions on background and lighting? Thanks! Pam

6/6/2006 6:00:38 PM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Good Morning, Pam,
As far as background, you can use anything; satins are very nice and I keep them in several colors, including the baby pinks and blues. I have mom or dad hold the little feet in cupped hands, and as I go to expose, I have them release their thumbs as if the little feet are just laying in their hands.
As almost always when shooting standard portraits in studio, I set my Nikon D70 or the Fuji S2 to 200 f22 (the f stop may vary if using a fixed lens camera - but this works for most SLRs).
I use one light and lift it high and then have the light head pointing down until I have the desired light on the subject. The settings on your lights will depend on the power of the light head and your needs at the time.
Note: If you have tested your lights in the regular studio setting and are good to shoot your portraits, there should be no need to adjust the settings for this shot ... you should be fine.
More on all this in the Studio Photography threads 1-21.
I do hope this has helped,
Debby

6/7/2006 6:31:56 AM

stacey c. damon
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/12/2004
  Hi, Try putting the baby in front of a big window light source, your camera on a tripod and shoot with the available light there. It is soft and pretty to get those little toes. The background I always try to use something like the baby blanket or pretty white baby bedding with lace etc. I do shoot on location for these portraits and prefer to use familar things for the family. To add the brother to the picture use your wide angle on the feet with his face blurred a little in the background-or his hand touching the baby's feet still with his face a little out of focus...just some ideas. Keep backgrounds simple and light source soft. Good luck!

6/13/2006 4:20:24 PM

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Photography Question 
Rachel Hyde
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2004
  72 .  Large Group Photography
I have been asked to shoot the cast and crew photo for my daughter's 6th grade play of the "Wizard of Oz". It is a large group - about 120 kids. I shoot with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, and my lens is the 18-55. I'm looking for advice on lighting: What do I do with house lights? Spots? Stage lights? Do I need to bring in extra lighting?And do I need a wide-angle lens for this or a bracket flash? This is a whole new world for me but I welcome the opportunity to learn!

5/24/2006 5:22:14 PM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/14/2005
  Rachel,
It will be difficult to arrange that many kids to get them all framed in one shot. You might be able to arrange them in rows (1st sitting on stage, 2nd kneeling, 3rd sitting on chairs, 4th standing, 5th standing on chairs).
If you're in a theater with house lights, stage lights, etc. - that's great - turn them all on. You'll do a much better job lighting a group that large with the theater lights than with any camera-based flash.
Arrange the kids, and tell them to sit still and to be patient. I know that's asking a lot! ;-)
Back up far enough so that you can frame the group when your lens is zoomed to somewhere between 30mm and 55mm, rather than at the wide 18mm end. This will help avoid distortion where the kids on the ends of the rows look smaller than the kids in the middle.
Increase your ISO to 400. Put your camera in Av mode and move in close so that your frame is filled with just a couple of faces and no dark background. Adjust your aperture to the highest f-number that will give you a shutter speed of about 1/60th. Then switch to manual mode and set to that shutter speed and aperture. Back up to frame the shot and shoot.
Shoot a few shots at the selected settings, then shoot a couple at the shutter speeds one over and under the selected, and then at the apertures one over and under the selected.
This should give you something you can work with. Shooting several shots not only will help with getting the exposure correct, it will also increase your chances of getting a shot where most of the kids are looking ahead, not making dumb faces, etc.
Good luck,
Chris A. Vedros
www.cavphotos.com

5/25/2006 9:42:36 AM

Rachel Hyde
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2004
  Thanks Chris! The advice is much appreciated. I'm shooting the photo on June 3, I'll post and let you know how it goes. Thanks again!

Rachel

5/26/2006 3:46:19 AM

Slim Brady 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/1/2006
  you sunk my battleship!!

5/26/2006 5:07:52 PM

Bob Chance
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/19/2006
  Hi Racheal:

A couple other suggestions too. If you are posing the kids up on the stage and shooting from the center isle, you may want to bring a step ladder from which to position yourself on when shooting. Shooting large groups from a higher vantage point reduces the chance of any kids in the back rows being hidden by the ones in front of them.
Also, take a couple of test shots and check your white balance. Most stage lighting is going to be tungsten/halogen. If your camera model is capable, you may try using the custom white balance setting if the tungsten setting is still too warm.
One more thought. If you plan on selling pictures from this shoot, keep in mind that the digital format is not proportional to some of the more common photo sizes, like 8x10. Leave yourself room to crop, don't crop the shot too tight, or when you go to make a full 8x10, you may find you can't fit the whole group in that frame. So, leave yourself some room on the sides. Best of luck.

Bob

5/26/2006 6:46:53 PM

Rachel Hyde
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2004
  Thanks Bob! Great things to keep in mind!

Rachel

5/29/2006 6:52:58 AM

Sara L. Tanner
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/2/2003
  Rachel,
You might want to see what the school has. My high school had risers for our chorus. These would allow you to position the kids in several rows. Also the school may have bleachers outside which would allow you to use natural light.
Good luck,
Sara

5/30/2006 5:35:19 AM

Jody E. Ellis

member since: 7/4/2003
  Hi Rachel,
Along with the 'big' picture, you might want to think about taking small group pictures of the kid - i.e. the witches / the monkeys / the wizard behind his curtain etc. If you get to shoot at the dress rehearsal these photos look great as the mini-posters in the lobby and the parents love to see their kids close up. If some of the kids are serving as the crew for the show make sure they get photos too!
This assignment sounds like a lot of fun!
jody

5/30/2006 6:33:50 AM

Bob Kerr

member since: 5/11/2006
  Hi Rachael:
Have had great success with stiching a panorama shot with digital software backup from that supplied from Canon -Zoombrowser. Use a tripod and clickety-click you go accross your group. Take many shots each time you stop and if you use PhSh its a breeze. Good luck.
Bedford Bob

5/30/2006 9:22:37 AM

Robert  Weeks

member since: 1/12/2006
  Good answers for group shots. You probably will shoot at a rehersal thoughmaybe not. If you are lucky you will.

If planning on taking shots during performance, try to get there during rehersal to check light level in spot light vs non spot. Plan accordingly for manual. Most small schools have little lighting, you may need a tripod
for everything. Good luck, be sure you have enough memory.

5/30/2006 4:46:14 PM

Rachel Hyde
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2004
 
 
 
Thank you all for your helpful comments! Here is one of the group cropped down, but the three of the stage across are better, now I just have to learn how to stitch them together! I learned a lot doing this and already have an idea of what I would do differently next time. Any input on these photos would be appreciated, ways to improve them in PS, or the best way to go about stitching the three together. Thanks again!

Rachel

6/3/2006 1:27:47 PM

Rachel Hyde
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2004
 
 
  Wizard of Oz Cast and Crew 2006
Wizard of Oz Cast and Crew 2006
 
 
Here is the Cast and Crew photo.

6/3/2006 1:29:34 PM

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Photography Question 
Courtney newman

member since: 1/27/2006
  73 .  Portrait Photography: Lens, Flash
I'm planning a career in mainly children and family portraits. I have a Nikon D50 with the 28-80mm lens. I also bought the Tamron 28-300mm lens. I'm really wanting to know what other lenses I should have for portraits. I also bought the Sigma EF-500 DG Super NA-iTTL speedlight. Should I get a light meter for this?

5/18/2006 9:23:30 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  A separate flash/light meter is useful with studio strobes where you have to set flash exposure manually. The EF 500 DG Super is fully automatic, controlled by the camera's i-TTL metering. A separate meter would be useful only if you were to use the EF 500's full Manual output settings. For portraits, a prime lens with a wide maximum aperture to narrow the Depth of Field is desirable - 50 f/1.4 (or f/1.8) and 85 f/1.4 (or f/1.8) are good choices for the D50.

5/18/2006 2:52:23 PM

Amanda E. Radovic
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/16/2004
  Hi Courtney, did you want to do natural style portraiture or studio? If you are wanting to do 'Lifestyle' photography then you wont need a light meter as your camera should do a good enough job. You have your flash to fill and bounce where needed and providing you have enoough knowledge of lighting conditions and when to use flash and how much etc then a light meter would only be used occasionally. I have one and barely ever use it unless doing studio light readings to calculate light ratios.
I have a business as a kiddie/family photographer and find that my most used lenses are my 28-70mm f2.8 constant and my prime 50mm f1.4. Both lenses allow shooting in lower light conditions and allow me to be close enough to the children to interact. I find my 70-300mm useful sometimes for adult photography and for unco-operative kids. I can sit back and unobtrusively shoot them without them realising it. Although I don't use it that often it is indespensable. For children the focal length can be a bit shorter - no less than 50mm though as they have small features anyhow and therefore don't need the shortening effect of a mid tele - hence you can get away with a fast f1.4-2.0 cheaper standard lens for indoor window work and not have to pay the hefty outlay for a f2.8 constant lens. If you can afford it though then it is a real investment - I use mine every shoot.
Good luck

5/23/2006 5:48:55 AM

stacey c. damon
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/12/2004
 
 
 
AND....depending on how creative the family would like you to be...try a sima soft focus lens, or a lensababy. For the little ones running around in their natural enviorment, I love my 19-35mm wide angle lens...there is a little distortion but creativley it is fun, kids look great and my parents have bought alot of those images! Think outside the box when it comes to using your lenses...not every family wants that, but you never know who may buy that image! Have fun!!

5/23/2006 1:56:35 PM

stacey c. damon
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/12/2004
  AND....depending on how creative the family would like you to be...try a sima soft focus lens, or a lensababy. For the little ones running around in their natural enviorment, I love my 19-35mm wide angle lens...there is a little distortion but creativley it is fun, kids look great and my parents have bought alot of those images! Think outside the box when it comes to using your lenses...not every family wants that, but you never know who may buy that image! Have fun!!

5/23/2006 1:58:30 PM

Caroline M. Harris
BetterPhoto Member
carolineharrisphotography.com

member since: 4/29/2004
  Amanda
Can you tell me what a F2/8 constant lens is?

5/23/2006 8:47:13 PM

Marius Liebenberg
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/21/2005
  Hi Amanda

A constant F2.8 is referred to a zoom lens with a constant aperture throughout the entire zoom range. One example on such a lens is a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM. Normally the cheaper consumer lenses have a different widest aperture between the shortest and longest focal length for example 70-300mm f/4-5.6 where at 70mm f4 and at 300mm f5.6

Constant aperture lenses are usually more expensive like the Canon L range and well worth the money if you are serious about your photos. Hope this makes sense.

12/19/2006 2:39:08 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Courtney,
you will get quite a bit of help reading over the Portrait Photography threads as well, there are 21 threads attached.
wishing you the best in all your ventures,
Debby Tabb

12/19/2006 7:23:16 AM

Amanda E. Radovic
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/16/2004
  Yes - I do agree with Stacey, I have a lovely Tokina 12-24mm wide angle which really gives some fabulous creative results (great for the 'moving sky' effect'. Also great indoors in tight spaces, but be aware that the foreground is accentuated and looks larger - baby features can wind up looking really strange if you aren't careful. If you have the cash to grab a nice wide angle then you really can have some fun with it and it does break from the 'norm'. Great for landscapes too when you aren't 'working'.

12/19/2006 1:59:58 PM

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Photography Question 
Julio Yeste

member since: 4/4/2006
  74 .  Graduation Photos
Has anyone done this kind of work - graduation photography? How much is a good price? Thanks.

5/12/2006 1:34:34 PM

  Julio, I can not answer this question specifically, but any response moves it to the top again so hopefully someone will jump in here and help you with an answer.

I do know there is a Yahoo group for portrait photographers that is very helpful. I do not belong to the group anymore, but it's still open as far as I know. If interested you could contact them by emailing: portraiture101-owner@yahoogroups.com. Anyone interested should be able to get a message to the owner by that address. HTH

5/12/2006 3:11:29 PM

Julio Yeste

member since: 4/4/2006
  THANKS!!

5/12/2006 3:29:25 PM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Julio,
Graduation photography is big business and a lot of fun. I suggest you contact studios in your area to find out what they charge. Most places give prices on in-studio and on-location since this is a big request when it comes to grads. I charge $50 for the sitting fee... they get clothes changes, and I know that is very cheap. Call around and see what others are charging, or look at their Web sites and pricing.
Good luck,
Debby

5/13/2006 6:40:18 AM

Julio Yeste

member since: 4/4/2006
  Thanks. That's along the lines of what I was thinkiing.

5/13/2006 7:04:20 AM

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Photography Question 
Alison E. Copeland
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2005
  75 .  Light Therapy Box?
Has anyone experimented with a light therapy box for portrait lighting? I'm kind of a newbie, and I have a 1000W tungsten beast with a softbox. It's so hot, and not at all natural. I can fix the color cast on the computer or change the color temp on the camera, but the main problem is that I can't successfully mix it with what natural light I do have coming from the windows in my home studio. If I do, some parts of the image look too blue and some too red. What about other ways to make the best of natural ambient light?

4/27/2006 2:29:21 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Remember the old math rule, you can't mix apples and oranges? Well, that's essentially what you're doing. You can't combine two entirely different light sources - i.e., tungsten and daylight - in the same color shot without color shifting.
Soooooooooo, if your camera is set for tungsten, then you need to do something to your daylight source to lower its color temp from about 5500 Kelvin to 3200-3400 degrees kelvin (which is roughly the temp of your tungsten lighting). You could get some Roscoe Cinegel and cover the windows with it, OR bring your tungsten light up to 5500 degrees Kelvin by hanging a gel off of that.
The light therapy box you mentioned, for those who don't know, is simply a box with daylight flourescent tubes that people use to treat or avoid seasonal affective disorder. Remember, though, a fluorescent by any other name (or color) is still a fluorescent, and while it may simulate daylight, its true color temperature may not and it may produce different color casts as well, including blue-green, yellow-green, or some variation. So the answer is no, a light therapy box is not a substitute for a true tungsten-rated hot light, a strobe or anything of similar ilk.
Take it light.
Mark

4/27/2006 9:42:21 PM

Alison E. Copeland
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2005
  Thank you! So I need to get a gel for my light kit. Will do. I wish there was something I could do in my studio/bedroom to make the most of my light in there, like reflective paint, or some ceiling treatment. Have you heard of anything creative like that?

4/28/2006 5:33:18 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy. IMHO, Alison, I suggest you invest in something along the lines of a monolight strobe that puts out daylight, rather than using a tungsten light ... and for a few reasons. First, as a tungsten light is used and its filament burns, the color temperature changes and continues to cool toward lower values. That makes it increasingly difficult to accurately balance and correct for precise compensations.
Second, tungsten lights are pretty warm for people sitting for portraits. Unless you're trying to defrost them, strobes are much more comfortable for the subject.
Strobes also give you more bang for the lighting buck. You can either buy a monolight new or used, I own a number of Bowens monolights sold individually or in kits from bhphotovideo.com. These are great lights. One rated at 1000 watt seconds should solve your lighting problems.
BUT if you can't afford a new light, instead of using the window light as fill or gelling, try using a large sheet of white foamcore positioned opposite your main light to bounce fill light back into the subject. That way you should be at the same temperature, OR you can use the fill card to move light around where you need it, within limits, like how much output you've got, absorbency and reflectance of various materials in the room, etc.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Take care.

4/28/2006 9:54:35 AM

Paul Michko
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/23/2004
  I have used one for headshot portraits in b&w. It works fantastic for that since light temp is not a factor. Gives a nice soft glow.

5/4/2006 4:36:13 AM

Amanda Murray

member since: 10/24/2005
  Mark, thank you for including your "for those who don't know" portion of your response in your answer to this quesiton. I learn so much from reading these strands when those responding use clear explanations and give background information.

5/8/2006 8:51:45 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  My pleasure Amanda. Glad to do so.
Mark ;>)

5/8/2006 12:17:31 PM

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Photography Question 
Kirstie Goodman

member since: 4/7/2006
  76 .  Portrait Photography: The Basics!
I have several questions that I would like to ask...
1) What camera setting do you typically use to shoot portraits? Do you use Aperture Priority, Manual, Auto but in Portrait mode, Program... you get my drift. I will be shooting my 1-year-old mostly.
2) What is the typical lens that you use? Again, I know that this varies by photographer, but again just curious.
Thanks for all responses in advance.

4/22/2006 1:30:01 PM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Hi, Kirstie,
Well, the thing about portraits is usually you want to keep the subject in sharp focus and any distrations in the background blurred - this implies using a fast lens speed (a low f-stop number), which in turn means you would probably want to shoot in aperture priority mode so you can set the f-stop and let the camera worry about shutter speed. Of course, you just want to keep an eye on the shutter speed so it doesn't get too slow...
As for lens, this obviously depends a lot on your shooting style, but the most commonly used lens for "head and shoulder" type shots is the short telephoto. In the 35MM film world, this would be the 85MM to maybe 135MM lens (85 and 105 most common). In DSLR land, you should take into account the "crop factor" of the camera itself, so if you have, say, a Nikon DSLR with a 1.5 crop factor, then a 50MM lens effectively behaves like a 75MM lens, and could be just right.
The reason these focal lengths are popular is because they allow you to be a comfortable distance from the subject (about 6-8 feet, typically) and they offer a pleasing perspective as far as facial features are concerned. While you could certainly use a 400MM lens from 30 feet away, you may notice the face becomes too "flattened" looking. If you choose to use an 18MM lens but still fill the frame with the face, then you'd need to be pretty close and the nose would become exaggerated compared to the cheeks.
So, try a short telephoto. You can, of course, use a zoom, but if you use a prime (non-zoom) lens, you could probably get a faster lens to better decrease the depth of field I described above.

4/22/2006 3:00:56 PM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  So you want to shoot portraits:
The biggest mistake is using a lens that is too short. With a 35mm camera, the accepted minimum is 105mm. Longer will do just fine. Shorter is OK provided the photographer can overcome a tendency to work in too close. Allow me to explain:
Things close to the camera reproduce large and things far from the camera reproduce small. This effect is normal and to be expected but becomes exaggerated when a wide-angle (short focal length) lens is used, particularly for portraiture. The result is more of a caricature as the whole face becomes distorted, nose too big and ears too small.
The same effect, but less pronounced, happens when a 35mm camera equipped with a normal 50mm lens is used for portraiture. In this case, the nose is microscopically too large and ears a tiny bit too small. Most times, the subject examines the proofs and exclaims, "That’s not me, I don’t photograph well". This is because they are seeing themselves differently than they visualize – kind of like the first time you hear your own voice on a tape recorder. People, particularly women, spend a lot of time at the makeup mirror. This mirror view is their yardstick. To satisfy, and sell portraits, this is the perspective you must duplicate. With a 35mm camera, this perspective is best duplicated using a 105mm focal length lens or longer.
The 105mm is twice (2x) longer than normal lens and it forces the photographer to step back and get further away from the subject when composing the portrait. It is this extra subject-to-camera distance that does the trick. That is why most authorities recommend a 105mm for portraiture. Actually, if you force yourself to step back when using a short lens, you will avoid the error. Technically, the distance span nose to ears becomes less by ratio as the camera to subject distance increases. If you step back, the results yield a head size that is too small but with a more desirable prospective. One must then crop off the excess background to achieve a good looking portrait.
Note that the normal lens for a camera is about the diagonal measure of the film or chip. The diagonal measure of the 35mm frame is about 50mm as the frame is 24mm x 36mm. The 105mm lens is about 2 times this diagonal measure. For other formats, the 2x rule is a good one to know. Use a lens 2x greater than the diagonal measure of the film or chip for portraiture.
As to camera settings:
Always focus on the eyes. As for aperture, use one or two stops down from the largest opening. You want shallow depth-of-field, so use aperture priority. You want the ears just out of focus. Shutter speed falls where it must for accurate exposure.

4/23/2006 8:05:58 PM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Good morning, Kirstie,
I want to invite you to look up the Studio Photography thread - there are 20 parts but the first 4 alone will give you so much information on Portrait Photography. Here's the link:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=17534
Wishing you the best of luck,

4/24/2006 6:12:35 AM

Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member
robyngphotography.com

member since: 7/15/2005
  Alan and co - good info here - what happens though when you've a couple sitting together? Who do you focus on, using a shallow depth of field, so that the other is not out of focus? Or do you focus lock on the one's eyes, and then shift the camera to the other one to recompose the pic? Very often, if you're not concentrating, you tend to focus in the MIDDLE of the two of them, and then the whole dam thing is out of focus!! What would you say a good aperture would be - I have a F2.8-4.5 lens. THanks all.

4/24/2006 1:14:17 PM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  So you want to take a multiple subject portrait? Worried that your depth-of-field will not carry? OK, here are the countermeasures.

1. Depth-of-field extends 1/3 forward and 2/3 behind the point focused upon. Stated another way, the distant object is more likely to be sharp. The problem is the closer subject. Armed with this knowledge, how about requesting the farthest subject hold up a focus target (hand will do) midway between near and far and then move the target forward (towards the camera) a smidgen.
2. Or, stop down one click for more depth-of-field.
3. Or, step back, depth-of-field is a function of distance. A little smaller head size gets a lot more depth-of-field.
4. Or, use a shorter lens for more depth-of-field.

Odds are, you are worried about nothing.

When eating the watermelon and encountering the seeds just spit them out and keep on chomping.

4/24/2006 8:43:17 PM

Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member
robyngphotography.com

member since: 7/15/2005
  THanks Alan, but when taking more impromptu shots - especially of teenagers, who you don't really want looking at the camera, as they then pose with fake smiles (!) would you suggest focus lock on one and then re-compose.

4/24/2006 10:08:35 PM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Focus lock is OK!
Just set your focus point a little forward of the mid point between far and rear subject. Also, keep in mind that the subject plain is a curve. Take a look at the theater screen, next trip to the cinema. The curved screen maintains a uniform screen to lens distance otherwise the edges of the projected image would be further away from the projector than the center. Sometimes you can pose your subjects along a curved line. This is great advice for a group shot. Such an arrangement minimizes depth-of-field uncertainties.

I think you are worrying too much. Sometimes you got to just do it. Experience is the best teacher. You need to know I was a photo engineer 50+ years (now retired) and not a photographer. I did teach for many summers at the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) School in Wynona Indiana. I taught color print and process however, I sat in a lot on the great portrait teacher’s classes. My approach is mainly scientific. I think about the problems and I think I was a good teacher. Now I don’t have anyone to mentor so you guys are elected.

Photography is both an art and a science. The science is easy; the art requires special people like you. My motto is from Isaac Newton’s writings “If I can see further than other men, it’s because I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Alan Marcus
ammarcus@earthlink.net

4/24/2006 11:13:47 PM

Kirstie Goodman

member since: 4/7/2006
  Thanks to everyone for the resonses to this thread.
Alan-great tips and info exactly what I needed.
Debby-thanks for the link to the thread.I will definitely be checking it out.
Robyn-thanks for asking the questions I hadn't thought about.

And thanks again Alan for answering them.
I am sure none of us mind if you mentor us. In fact, thanks for doing so.

4/25/2006 4:38:42 AM

Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member
robyngphotography.com

member since: 7/15/2005
  Ditto Kirsties comments . Thanks for all the help, and Alan, we'll quite happily be mentored, so keep it coming! One more question, I'm thinking of investing in a Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS USM, (it seems there is NO substitute for good 'glass'.) Is this a lens I could use for portraiture and group pix, or would I stil need to swop lenses (bearing in mind I have the Sigma 17-70?) The IS really appeals to me, as I think my 'takes' are pretty much ok in that I often capture the moment/look/feeling/good angle, but then bugger it up with camera movement!! If it means that 9/10 are keepers, it also reduced the amount of time spent in PS?

4/25/2006 5:41:14 AM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Looking at your web site (your doing OK) I concluded your camera features a sensor with the following dimensions:
14.8mm H x 22.2mm L. 26.7mm Diagonal measure (correct me if I am wrong).

It is commonly accepted that the normal lens should closely match the diagonal measure. This gives a diagonal filed of view of 53°, said to match the human eye. I hate underhanded facts, like buying a 36 inch TV and finding out that number quoted the diagonal measure. If you set your zoom to 26.7mm you get the promised 53° diagonal field of view, more informative is the horizontal angle will be 45°.

For portraiture it is commonly accepted that you should use a lens twice the diagonal measure. Stated another way, to deliver an image that approximates what is considered the “bread-an-butter” prospective (sells best), use a lens (with your chip) no shorter than 55mm.

Both the Canon and the Sigma fulfill this requirement. For portraiture you don’t need a hard sharp lens. No harm, however, if the lens is razor sharp, software is available to solve all these issues. I can’t tell you how many time I wished for IS (image stability) when this technology wasn’t even a dream. You must mull over cost vs. need. Size and compactness is also an issue. Remember, the camera is just a tool. Don’t fall in love with the tools. A Pulitzer Prize photo was achieved by a press photographer with a brownie box camera purchased in desperation from a spectator when his elegant press camera ran out of film.

When selling photos, stick to the customary, when dreaming up art, follow your heart.

Alan Marcus

4/25/2006 10:04:27 AM

Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member
robyngphotography.com

member since: 7/15/2005
  Whew, thanks (I think!!) Alan - need to digest this :) I was considering the Canon with IS also because living in South Africa, I love the bush/birds and wildlife and was very disappointed with pix taken using my 28-300 Sigma. We were either hiking 5 hours a day through the bush, or 8 up in a Land Rover, and any tiny movement was magnified, as a result I lost some stunning pix, so I need to know that I won't be wasting my money, and I can use it indoors (weddings, kids concerts) and outdoors - wildlife etc. Your info is amazing. Thanks

4/25/2006 11:05:00 AM

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Photography Question 
Doug Hornung
doughornungphotography.com

member since: 2/22/2004
  77 .  Family Group Portrait
Hello everyone, here is another one of those "I've been asked to..." questions! I have been asked to do a family portrait of approximately 20 people indoors. Any tips or help that I can get would be very much appreciated. I will be using my Canon 1V HS with a 28-200 f/4.5 lens. I have rented two 800-watt studio lights and umbrellas. I also have a 20x10 muslin backdrop. My biggest concern is, of course, proper lighting. My experience with studio lights is extremely limited. I will hopefully get them the day before the shoot and work with them a bit before doing the sitting. Any advice on how I can achieve the best results would be very much appreciated. The shoot is this Saturday coming up. Thanks in advance.

4/9/2006 9:54:50 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  The trick in these deals is to usually balance the lighting. For that, you ought to have a flash meter. 20 people isn't really a big number. So, if you really want to use your muslin, hang that first in a place where you can get people 6-8 feet in front of it. (Closer may produce some harsh shadows).
Then throw some masking tape down on the floor to mark where you plan to position people (standing and/or sitting). Rig your lights, one at a time, measuring the output in various parts of 1/2 of the area you marked out. Then set the second light to work at the same f-stop and distance as the other. You can leave X marks for the stands and try and recall the height your lamp heads are set at. BTW, you don't want that lens set at less than 35mm. 50-100 would be better if you can get the distance and depth of field you need to the subjects. 28mm, forget it ... it's going to distort at the sides of the frame.
Then Saturday, set it up, remeasure the lighting to get the proper f-stop to work at the depth of field you want and rock and roll. Piece of cake ... yes?

4/9/2006 11:37:15 AM

Doug Hornung
doughornungphotography.com

member since: 2/22/2004
  Thanks, Mark, for the great advice. I guess I forgot to mention that I have a sekonic light meter and will be using it. With the space I have, I should be able to set the lens near 100mm. I was thinking of using a aperature of approx f/8. If I understand you correctly, I should then adjust the light output so that my light meter reads f/8 for a proper exposure across the entire area using both lights? Thanks again!

4/9/2006 2:48:01 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Well, f8.0 at 100mm should give you adequate depth of field. So, in that sense, if you've got people stacked, say, 2 deep, the folks in the front and back should be in focus. All you need to check with your meter is that all the zones, say you divide the space in front of the backdrop into four of them, should be getting about the same amount of light, whether it's f8.0, f 8.5 or f 11, or even 5.6 (which is pushing the depth of field envelope a bit).
And, you also want to make sure with your meter that you don't have any dead spots that aren't getting any light. Umbrellas can be tricky that way. BTW, set your umbrella on the flash head using the modeling light. (This may be old hat to you) but when the umbrella is at the proper distance from the flash head, you should just begin to see shadow from the modeling light falling on the inside edge of the umbrella with adequate illumination toward the inside or center. In other words, if you push the umbrella too far towards the lamphead you won't be getting sufficient light output from the rig and the illumination it provides will be uneven. That's a common mistake people make using umbrellas which are otherwise nice modifiers.
Some lights, for example my Bowens monolights, have what's called a "spill-kill" reflector that fits around the lamp head before you insert the umbrella. That reflector helps keep the light inside the umbrella to allow it to do it's job. Seewhatimean?
Take it light.
Mark

4/9/2006 5:37:31 PM

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Photography Question 
Justine Stevens
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Justine
Justine's Gallery

member since: 10/22/2005
  78 .  Wide-Angle for Large Group Shot?
I'm going to be shooting my family gathering in a few weeks and would like to know which lens would work best for large group portraits. It will be outdoors in afternoon.

4/1/2006 4:44:47 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  Well, Justine, you didn't say how big a group or which lenses you'd be using. If your wide-angle is a prime, I'd say use it, if it's not less than 28mm. Look for shade (unless it's overcast) and scout for a decent background. Me, I'd use aperture priority for depth of field, but it depends on how many you have in the picture.
I don't know how familiar you are with your camera or I might even suggest manual focus to fine-tune a little bit. For lighting, the later in the afternoon the better. Of course, I don't know where you live and how harsh the light will be or weather conditions.
OK, now we could even get into ISO settings and tripod. Well, the lower the ISO the better.
Take several pics, and tell everyone you are going to. It takes away from the photo-session tension and relaxes them to a certain degree.
All people who are wearing glasses should tip their heads down just a hair to avoid a bit of reflection or glare.
Ah well, best of luck - Sam.

4/1/2006 6:12:59 PM

  thanks for your tips samuel. I am still familarising myself with my camera which is a canon 350d. and yes am having trouble with overexposure need to learn to bracket. I live in australia and yes most of the time its pretty sunny. when I take my pictures they look really good on the camera its not until transfer to computer that I realise they're over exposed. what aperture priority would you suggest. the group will be about 20 but will be shot in england.

4/2/2006 6:36:54 AM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  f8 should be a place to start, but it would depend on the background and how much you want in focus. I've seen some beautiful gardens and estates, castles, fountains and rolling countrysides that would make for some great backgrounds. Then you'd be at f16 or maybe f22. If you can, you could set your lens to infinity for those kind of locations. My cameras don't have depth of field preview so it's live and learn.
hth,sam

4/2/2006 11:46:40 AM

  thank you again for your help samuel, I really appreciate it. By the way you have an absolutely beautiful gallery.

4/2/2006 10:17:53 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  your welcome justine.thank you for the compliment and best of luck on your trip to england.
sam

4/3/2006 10:17:31 AM

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Photography Question 
Scott L. Burnett

member since: 9/30/2005
  79 .  Prom Photography
I need some help with prom portraits. I haven't done many portraits. What kinds of settings (backgrounds) should I shoot in? What film should I use? I was thinking of going for late-day time to shoot nice lighting. I have no lighting equipment other than the sun and a built-in flash on my Rebel T2.

3/23/2006 8:29:44 AM

Angela K. Wittmer
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2003
  Most proms already have a backdrop made to go along with theme of the prom. Are you going indoors or outdoors? Are you the official photographer of the whole prom? Or are you taking candids of the couples before the prom starts? I did some prom shots the last few years, but they were before the actual event, and I did them outside by a golf course and in a park setting. Most proms have the "official" backdrop all couples are photographed by but it is inside. If this is the case, you will need more than the flash on your camera to get the shots that you want. Let us know all the specifics and we will be glad to help!

3/23/2006 9:06:07 AM

Scott L. Burnett

member since: 9/30/2005
  I am not going to the actual prom. I was just going to get together with one couple (they are my friends) and do some shots, probably outside.

3/23/2006 9:10:41 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/2/2002
  I'm doing the same thing for a senior ball in June, getting the couples together before they head off for some pics. Outdoor pics are great: use what is around naturally - trees, open fields for great blurred backgrounds, fences, gardens, whatever. Do you get to pick the location? I'm going to be limited to the yard at the house where they're meeting. In early evening like that, you shouldn't have to worry too much about not having light equipment - you should have good natural light. Keep the sun to your back, and if it's really sunny. put them in the shade to avoid harsh shadows.

3/23/2006 9:31:23 AM

Michael  C. Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/19/2005
  Hi there! Whatever you're planning to shoot, the biggest favor you can do yourself is to go to the location in advance, at the same time of day as your shoot will be, and sort out the problems beforehand.
Look out for distracting backgrounds, including unwanted glare (sometimes even traffic in the distance) and mark out specific spots to be shooting from. Write these down and number them. Plan as many shots in advance, make exposures of the space in advance, then look at the results.
You can do anything if you plan in advance. If you don't plan in advance, something is bound to go wrong.
I'd recommend taking light meter readings, either with the camera or a hand-held meter. Pick your lenses in advance for each shot.
"Luck favors the well-prepared".
Have fun!

- mcb

3/28/2006 4:49:44 PM

Scott L. Burnett

member since: 9/30/2005
  well it was my friends backyard, and I have been there before, but that is good advice. I will post the pictures in my gallery tomorrow, cause I am getting them developed today

3/29/2006 6:05:16 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/2/2002
  Cool, looking forward to seeing them. Post a note here when they're loaded so I know to check your gallery!

How do you feel it went?

3/29/2006 6:32:56 AM

Scott L. Burnett

member since: 9/30/2005
  well the girl was a little uncomfortable at first but I took a few funny shots and a couple candids and she loosened up a bit, but I think I took some good ones.

3/29/2006 7:49:11 AM

Scott L. Burnett

member since: 9/30/2005
  they are posted in my gallery, I hope you like them =)

3/29/2006 7:34:03 PM

Debbie Del Tejo
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/30/2005
  My only comment is that they look more like brother and sister....AND my own rule is NO hands FOLDED over the crotch area...this is my #1 nono. I liked the one of them having fun...it told more of a story and showed them having fun as opposed to just standing there. For a first time though you did good.

3/30/2006 6:11:42 AM

Scott L. Burnett

member since: 9/30/2005
  why is hands folder over the crotch area a #1 nono? I am not trying to justify this, I just want to learn.

3/30/2006 7:28:55 AM

Scott L. Burnett

member since: 9/30/2005
  also, what are some good alternatives to the hands folded over the crotch area?

3/30/2006 7:29:53 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/2/2002
  The small thumbnail pics dont them justice, the full size versions were nice! You did capture some nice expressions on their face, that's what I liked the best.

You can see they are a little uncomfortable (her especially, like you said) but all in all I think you did a nice job. I'm sure they'll be happy with them.

In Happy Day I would've like to see her do something different with her arms. Use the banister in some way. I like what he's doing in that one. I know when a subject isn't comfortable, it's hard to get them to cooperate... I'll go right over & demonstrate what I want to see from them if I have to, soemtimes that helps.

Hands over the crotch- well, it sort of brings attention there is all.

3/30/2006 9:36:37 AM

Michael  C. Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/19/2005
  Re reply from Denyse L., I agree that hands over the crotch draws attention to that area.

It also makes your subject look like little kids who have to go pee.

Re how to position arms and legs, that's a really good question. When I was starting out, I didn't know what to do with a model's hands, feet, arms, etc. but I found a book on, don't laugh, ballet, very helpful. You see, in ballet, the student is always told which foot has the weight on it, and which foot is free to move. Unless you're in mid-air, one of your feet can't move, because you're standing on it.

However: if you tell your model, "Put your right foot forward, turn it a bit like so, great, now put your weight on it and swing the other leg in behind it like this..." they'll grasp the idea very readily and I found, personally, that this puts the model at ease. It makes the "how do I pose" issue readily understandable; and you have to build a pose from the ground up.
Having taken tens of thousands of graduation portraits, wedding portraits, prom photos, etc I have learned that if the model's feet aren't comfortably and correctly placed, nothing else will work.
Look at good sculpture of the whole figure. Notice where the weight, or mass, is placed.
So the question with the hands becomes, really, what role do the hands play?

And in our own common experience, the hands express, point out, hold, caress, strengthen, etc. so it really matters what your subjects' hands are doing.

If I may borrow from the biography of Michelangelo, written by Irving Stone, it may help. Pope Julius II is inspecting a sketch of a proposed sculpture of himself for his tomb.
"Julius was pleased..then he stopped in front of the statue, looked perplexedly at his right hand, which was raised in a haughty, almost violent gesture.
"Buonorotti, does this hand intend to bless or to curse?
"Michelangelo had to improvise, for this was the Pope's favourite gesture while sitting on his throne..
"The right lifted, Holy Father, bids the Bolognese be obedient even though you are in Rome."
"And the left hand. What shall it hold?"
"A book?" asked Michelangelo.
"A book?" cried the Pope scornfully. "A sword! I am no scholar. A sword!"
"Michelangelo winced. 'Could the Holy Father perhaps be holding in his left hand th keys to the new St. Peter's?'
"Bravissimo! We must extract large sums from every church for the building, and the symbol of keys will help us."

True in 1475, true also in 2006.

Be a maniac about your own work with the camera. Be obsessive about the details. Every single dot on the photograph matters.

Keep shooting! And good luck.

- Michael

3/30/2006 11:27:01 AM

Debbie Del Tejo
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/30/2005
  Great answer Michael...BRAVO!!!

Also, engaging (ESPECIALLY WITH TEENS) about music, movies, tv shows etc...while preparing helps them relaz a bit. Don't forget to pay a complement to a woman about eyes, clothes, hair etc...she will immediatly FEEL better about herself and be a little more confident. I love to SELL my portraits before I even take them and the subject has not looked at the final result, and this can be done by building confidence and being really EXCITED with every single subject you photograph. FIND BEAUTY IN EVERYONE!!! And l;ike Michael said "BE A MANIAC ABOUT YOUR OWN WORK."

3/30/2006 11:35:32 AM

Scott L. Burnett

member since: 9/30/2005
  this is good

3/30/2006 7:43:35 PM

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Photography Question 
Paul O mahony

member since: 10/9/2004
  80 .  Group Photo Shoot Indoors
Hi there,
I own a FinePix 5500 and have been asked to photograph a group of kids. The shoot will be in a very bright room with fluorescent lighting. Do I need to use my built-in flash or not? White balance adjustment, use ISO 800 (my maximum)? I appreciate any response. Regards.

3/3/2006 11:12:45 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/14/2005
  The room may seem very bright to you, but chances are, without a fast lens you will need to use your flash. There are two ways you can try it. If you don't use flash, you would probably need to increase your ISO setting in order to get a shutter speed fast enough to prevent blur. A tripod would help keep the camera steady. If you do it without flash, you should set your white balance for fluorescent lighting. Otherwise, your pictures would likely have a green tint to them.
The other approach would be to use your flash. This will be easier, since you won't have to worry so much about camera shake or fidgeting subjects. You can leave your WB set to Auto or Daylight.
I would recommend using the flash. I think fluorescent lighting gives ugly results in general, and the wide variety of tubes out there means the fluorescent WB setting doesn't always work that well.

3/3/2006 1:16:10 PM

TBall 

member since: 4/20/2004
  Chris's response is right on with one additional reminder ... Window light may be an issue as well. You may get a few shots when the kids are close enough to the window to get decent exposure, but more likely the window light will backlight your subjects and darken their faces more. If you camera has a beach setting you may want to try it...with or without the flash. Don't expect every shot to be perfect, it's usually a tough setting! Have fun!

3/7/2006 6:32:56 AM

Dick Metcalf

member since: 8/23/2005
  I don't know how big the "group" is, but avoid flash if at all possible. The chances of getting even lighting with one flash is low. That camera probably has a raw setting. Kick up the ISO to where yiu can get a reasonable shutter speed , set your white balance to auto and shoot. You can easily correct for WB in the conversion process rather than worry about it in the camera (regardless of how ugly the flourescent green is)

3/9/2006 3:12:03 PM

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