For the first assignment of the Digital Photographic Practice module I needed to shoot something I enjoy and feel comfortable with, since I’m pursuing portrait and fashion photography, I chose people. I originally planned to shoot with a model on a tfp basis, after a last minute cancellation, I managed to find a 9 year old boy who has done modelling before, his 2 year old sister was really hard work, but I enjoyed the shoot being challenging and Toby and Henriett did so well! Thank you for their mum Rachel too for being superb assistant.
I was aiming to produce a sequence of them separately and together from head shots to full body length images.
Before I started doing this module, I already had a workflow which I developed with help from different online tutorials, YouTube videos, pretty much the same as I found in the first project, a sequence of actions.
- Preparation the day before, recharging batteries, formatting memory cards, packing my camera bag.
- Setting up lights and camera settings before the subject arrives, making sure I’m shooting in RAW format.
- Greeting, choosing outfits and styling.
- Importing images into Adobe Lightroom, renaming files and organising them into relevant folders in one step.
- Review images, delete out of focus, blurry, excessively under or over exposed images.
- Review images again, flag the one I like the best.
- Editing in Lightroom or/and Photoshop.
- Final selection depending the purpose of the images, for this assignment between 6 and 12 images
- Final edits.
Step 1 – Preparation
This step really should include the planning of the shoot in terms of a mood board put together on Pinterest for example, to have an idea what sort of shoot I want to do thinking about styling, colours and choice of lighting, however this time it wasn’t a fashion type of shoot, only planned to work around them depending the outfits they brought and couple different backgrounds as well as type of lights. The photography company where I work as an apprentice, they were kind and recommended me these kids to work with as I was pretty tight on schedule, also I could use their studio. I haven’t used their studio lights much before so this was great extra practice for me too.
To prepare myself, I put the batteries on charger the day before to make sure they are all charged up, collected all my memory cards as they tend to lie on my desk and I never know If I actually have all my images on the PC, even though it’s the first thing I usually do when I get home, but you never know… So I double checked that the cards are safe to format and I put them in the SD card holder, also placed one into my camera along with a fully charged battery and placed it back to my bag. I cleaned my lenses from dust and organised my camera bag.
Step 2 – Setting up
I arrived almost an hour earlier to the studio to make sure I can familiarise myself with all the equipment and make sure everything is working, all the battery packs were charged thankfully so I just attached them to the lights. I’ve chosen a 150 cm octagonal softbox to use with a light beige backdrop and a 75 cm one to use on a darker background to create moody images.
Step 3 – Before the shoot
They arrived a bit earlier which wasn’t an issue as I already set up everything. I asked them to lay out everything they brought, I chose an outfit for Toby and Henriett, I started shooting with Toby while Henriett was getting ready. I tested my lights with the actual subject to make sure I have a perfect exposure, I sat Toby down on a small stool and I started shooting.
Step 4 – Shooting
I was shooting with my Canon 5D mk iii with Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens on F8, ISO 200 and shutter speed of 1/125. My settings remained the same, I only needed to adjust the light by simply pushing it closer or further away from the subject.
I started with Toby sitting straight ahead, I grabbed another stool and I sat down too exactly the way I wanted him to sit down so he could mirror me, looking straight in the camera, the 150 cm octabox was just next to me almost square to the subject but higher then eye level. I asked him to look away where I’m showing him to look, telling funny things to make him smile a bit more. I asked him to turn to one side but bring his face back towards the camera and repeated the steps above. Then I asked him to turn back straight to the camera and cross his arms. I showed him some expressions what I want to see from him, simply just being a cool dude, but I kept shooting between poses and eventually I even got better expressions. We kept talking about school, animals, pets and his sister and he became more confident and very relaxed in front of the camera.
Then I moved him to the darker background with the smaller light above his head around a metre away from him and approx 45 degrees to his left. I needed to play a bit more with this smaller light source where to place it as the light was being so direct, there wasn’t much leeway as you would expect with a bigger light source of course. I started shooting the same way as on the lighter background and adjusting his position slightly each time. I forgot to shoot full body on the lighter backdrop, I’m happy that I did it on the dark one at least.
Then little princess Henriett was next, she was a lot harder to work with, she couldn’t sit still for a second nor looking in the camera or just be in that position I showed her. Needed lots of patience and constantly moving the light around with her but I managed to get some good expressions of her too. Toby helped a lot keeping her smiling, captured lots of fun moments between the two of them too. They changed outfit and I repeated the process.
Step 5 – Importing
I opened Adobe Lightroom and started importing the images. I have the 1:1 previews switched on which lengthens the import process but when I’m going through images, it will load a lot quicker speeding up my workflow. I changed the files names adding with my subjects’ name but I also kept the original file numbers at the end. Lightroom adds my metadata settings automatically as it has been set up as a preset before adding all my contact and website details to every image. I created a new folder within Lightroom in 2017 folder, starting with the date of shooting and then the names.
Step 6 – Review images
I flipped through all images and deleted the blurry ones, I had a couple slightly out of focus ones and also got rid of those where they blinked. I didn’t have any over- or underexposed images as I’ve been only using softboxes, I made sure I had the correct exposure before the shoot and I didn’t change it, which makes a change compare to shooting with natural light as it changes constantly and you have to adapt quickly.
Step 7 – First selection
I went through all the images again, this time using the P key to “pick” the images I like, these will appear as flagged images in Lightroom, so I can easily separate them from the others, picking the best out of similar expressions. This is the selection I want to work with and probably would go to the client.
Step 8 – Editing
I usually edit a larger amount of images to show the client as you can see above, but I went further and selected only the 12 images I needed for this assignment to speed up the process. As I went through the images again, first I cropped them if needed depending on a composition. I tend to shoot the way it’s cropped in camera the right way but with kids it’s pretty difficult to achive that while they jumping around, also for different size prints the images need to be cropped. Next I check the exposure, take down the vibrance and add some saturation to eliminate red skin. Taking down vibrance also gives a subtle look, takes away from oversaturated colours then adding some saturation keeps people look healthy looking. I only did minimum retouching on skin by opening the images in Photoshop, eliminating spots and scars and enhanced the eyes a little. Depending on the subject, the image and what I am trying to achieve, I either open them in Photoshop from Lightroom as a copy, or just edit them in Lightroom.
Step 9 – Final selection, specifically for the assignment
As I mentioned above, I did this step straight after my initial selection to save time, this is usually the step when the client chooses their images.
Step 10 – Final edits
I went through the images again checking for fine details.
Step 11 – Export
Exported into a separate folder I created for assignments, I created a template “OCA web” resizing the long edge to 1000 pixel, setting resolution to 72 DPI so the images taking less space but still good size to view them, also much quicker to do when the setting are already saved.
The final images
I settled with a selection images paired up, as I was shooting them, the first image is always the starting point, I tried to pose them in a certain way, the second was entirely up to them. As a result, the first ones were always more serious and the second ones evolved into something more relaxed and fun as I was carry on shooting. I equally like both for different reasons, looking at them as a photographer I often find myself picking the more serious ones as they look more arty and less like a snapshot, but for a parent point of view, the second ones are absolute winners, big smiles and relaxed faces are moms’ favorites.
What I need to improve on
I found this method is working well for me but I realised I’m so guilty not saving the images into a separate and safe location, I even have an external hard drive which I promised myself I will keep close to my PC and set up a system to synchronise with Lightroom so I won’t forget about backing up my images. I also keep forgetting adding keywords to my photographs, while it’s not so bad with portraits as I know straight away from the folders name who’s in it, it’s difficult with images I’ve taken on holiday, on location somewhere in different cities where the subject varies all the time. I need to make a habit uploading them to my website to keep it fresh and updated all the time. I have a huge archive of images as I have not been deleting the ones I have never touched thinking someday I might need them which is also silly as I didn’t do anything with them in the first place.
Feedback and reflection
After the tutor’s feedback, I reassessed the tones and colour tempratures, I also swapped some of the images to create a gallery which works better overall, here are the original assignment images:
He also suggested to insert screenshots of the process to illustrate my work even further, and pointed out the importance of image sizes for web and print, as I have been exporting too large sizes for web, and 72 DPI is plenty. I have now have the master copies (RAW images) on my computer as well as on an external hard drive, I am also looking to find a way to save them to a cloud server to have them backed up in a non-physical way.
My tutor gave some great examples of portraiture, Loretta Lux’s child portraits could be surrealistic drawing/painting as well as a photograph. Her style consists reduced shadows and pastel tones, but with the unrealistic/realistic backgrounds, the whole image tells a different story, it is not easy to tell whether the subject been placed onto an artificial background in Photoshop for example, or it is the real background but made almost imaginary with the editing process.
I know that exercises and further research is missing in terms of blog entries, I have been trying to get on with those but I’m still struggling with 6-7 day work weeks, I tried my best but it’s still very frustrating, feeling like I’m not getting full potential out of the course because of lacking proper research.