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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    SiCkPuPPy's Avatar

    How to get the most out of my gear for portrait photos

    Hi people,
    I got an old D3100 that I mostly shoot pictures of cars and some nature shots.
    But I work with a stunningly beautiful girl that yesterday came into my office, and since I just came in from shooting a car at work my photo-bag was laying open in the desk, and for a person totally ignorant about what gear is good gear she was impressed with my photo-gear and started to ask about what I was shooting..
    To make a long story short, it ended up with her asking if I by any chance wanted to shoot her.. I would be "the boss", she would dress up the way I asked her and she would take instructions on posing..

    I was totally shocked by this, because I've been wanting for years to get to learn to shoot portraits, but I'm too shy to ask anyone to model for me since I got no experience in shooting portraits..
    But I manned up and said yes, so now I'm panicing, looking at tutorials on youtube and reading up both in here and other places on how to get somewhat decent photos. I mean, with this beauty of a girl I must be a totally useless photographer if I cant get a couple good shots, but then again I would love it if it wasnt totally by luck..

    So, my hear.. And no, I dont have the money right now to upgrade, so I need to do the best out of the gear I allready have..

    I actually got two D3100 bodies
    Lenses: I got a 18-105mm kit-lens from Nikon, a superwide 10-20mm sigma(I have the gear at work so I cant remember the exact info on them now), and the one I'm counting on a Nikon 50mm f1.4 "nifty-fifty" without stabilizer.
    I have no lighting equipment, so I'll need to shoot outside with natural light or somewhere inside with the lights that are installed there.

    I got loads of questions, but I'm afraid that I'm not focusing on the right ones.. Therefore I'll just leave a few concrete questions, and I hope you guys can leave some tips and tricks for me to pick up on my first shoot.

    * What should I ask her to wear? I would off course love her to wear some sexy(since she brought it up as an alternative), but I think I would wait for the second or maybe third shoot with that one.. Would jeans and a nice top be a nice starterpack? Or a dress? It's winter here, but I dont want her to wear thick clothes that hides her curves..
    * What lens should I use? Should I try to be safe with the kit-lens or should I only use the 50mm?
    * What aperture? I've seen some videos on youtube and I see that many shoots at lowest possible aperture, like 1,4 and 1,8. Is that a good rule of thumb, to shoot at the lowest possible aperture, and have the focus point on the eyes?
    * Should I take the pictures from eye-hight or should I "go low"? Or maybe somewhere in between? I sort of like using a tripod when shooting nature and car shots, but I guess a tripod may restrict the movement and dynamic in the shoot, am I right?
    * Any enviroments that would be a nice first-shoot location? I need to find somewhere we can be kind of private without people bombing the shots, and since I live in Norway and the winter is here(but not the snow yet), the nature is just sad lookin' right now.. But that may be a good contrast to the beautiful model..?

    Finally, if you wondered.. Yes I'm stupidly in love with this girl, but I would never ever have the guts to ask her to do anything at all with me in a million years, she's not just in a higher league, she's just.. yeah.. So the fact that I managed to say yes to do this shoot is such an achievement for me, so I just need to think about the technicality about the shoot so I dont ruin the whole session.


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  2. #2
    Senior Member
    kevy73's Avatar

    Re: How to get the most out of my gear for portrait photos

    Howdy... as someone who photographs people week in week out, I am happy to try and give a few tips...

    Firstly - stop overthinking everything. Relax, enjoy the moment.

    Your questions below with my replies.

    * What should I ask her to wear? I would off course love her to wear some sexy(since she brought it up as an alternative), but I think I would wait for the second or maybe third shoot with that one.. Would jeans and a nice top be a nice starterpack? Or a dress? It's winter here, but I dont want her to wear thick clothes that hides her curves..
    A: As much as you are excited and nervous for the shoot, she will likely be too. Tell her to wear something she is comfortable in. Don't go big bold logo's, you want the images to be about her, not the clothes she is wearing. If it is winter and cold, have her dress appropriately... You don't want images of her in the snow in a skimpy bikini, it will just look strange.

    * What lens should I use? Should I try to be safe with the kit-lens or should I only use the 50mm?
    A: Again - what are you comfortable with? You don't want to be fumbling around and chimping your camera like mad if you are playing with gear you aren't comfortable with. Nothing will kill her confidence (and yours for that matter) than not being comfortable with your gear. Your subject needs to trust you and your ability. Umming and ahhing and taking a 1000 images because you just cant nail the focus because you aren't used to your gear will kill that trust in seconds.

    * What aperture? I've seen some videos on youtube and I see that many shoots at lowest possible aperture, like 1,4 and 1,8. Is that a good rule of thumb, to shoot at the lowest possible aperture, and have the focus point on the eyes?
    A: Me personally - bear in mind I have over 20 years experience doing this - I shoot as wide open as I can generally.
    Tips for the best subject separation from the background and bokeh... 1) shoot as long as you can - ie 50mm is better than 10mm, 105 is better again, but your aperture will let you down there a little. 2) Shoot as wide open as you can - ie, the LOWEST aperture setting you have... 1.4, 1.8 etc. Focus on the eye. 3) Be as close to your subject as you can to compose how you want the image to look. 4) Have the background height as far back from the model as you can (within reason) This will help blur out the background and give good separation.

    * Should I take the pictures from eye-hight or should I "go low"? Or maybe somewhere in between? I sort of like using a tripod when shooting nature and car shots, but I guess a tripod may restrict the movement and dynamic in the shoot, am I right?
    A: Change it up - don't over think it. I am a tall guy so I tend to bend my knees so my camera is at the same height as their head for some shots, higher for others and lower for others... it all depends on your background... if you have a clear horizon, don't cut that through her head... get down lower or up higher... height of your shot is purely based on the pose and what /where you are.

    * Any enviroments that would be a nice first-shoot location? I need to find somewhere we can be kind of private without people bombing the shots, and since I live in Norway and the winter is here(but not the snow yet), the nature is just sad lookin' right now.. But that may be a good contrast to the beautiful model..?
    A: You are both going to be nervous and the more people you have around you might compound that nervousness and self consciousness. I would try and find a nice park. If the trees are sad and brown, then going back to the first question of clothing, have her wear something comfortable, but that will contrast with the background... don't have her in a brown jumper if the background is brown...

    If you want any example pics from my advice above let me know...

    My other goto tips.

    Sun behind the subject - ALWAYS - I never have a model or couple or subject looking into the sun, it just doesn't work. That said, if you have a super overcast day, you can do whatever as the sun isn't really a factor.
    If I have some dapple shade from trees, I get the model to stand so the shadow of her head is in a patch of sun on the ground - this means that her hair will have awesome catch lights.

    You need to be confident with your directions. If you um and ah, hesitate etc, you will lose her trust. Pose like you know what you are talking about - even if it looks crap once you have done it, take the pic, tell her it looked amazing and move on to the next pose.

    Chimp your camera once or twice, but not too much. It comes down to a confidence thing.

    Pose her and then YOU move around a bit.. higher, lower, to the side... move in for a tighter crop, move out for a wider shot... tell her she is doing great... tell her she looks amazing... have some looking at the camera, some away... tiler her head up slightly, head down and to to the side a bit...

    Biggest advise is actually LOOK at the light on her face... if you see big shadows from her nose or eyebrows, you haven't posed her right... get her to turn one way or the other to get the sun behind her more so her face gets even lighting.
    Thanks/Like SiCkPuPPy, Marilynne Thanks/liked this post
    Best Answers SiCkPuPPy voted best answer for this post
     
    Webpage: Kevin McGinn - Click Me! | Facebook - Like Me! | Instagram - Follow Me!

    Cameras Lens - Zooms Lens - Primes / Macro Lighting
    2 x D5 14-24mm f2.8G ED 35mm f1.4G 2 x SB900
    2 x D4 24-70mm f2.8G ED 50mm f1.4G 3 x Ice Lights
    1 x Hasselblad H5D 70-200mm f2.8G ED 85mm f1.4G 2 x Godox AD600BM
    200 mm f2.0G ED VRII 1 x Godox V1
    Sigma 150 f2.8 EX DG

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Bikerbrent's Avatar

    Re: How to get the most out of my gear for portrait photos

    Great advice Kevy73! I learned a lot myself.
    Thanks/Like SiCkPuPPy Thanks/liked this post
     
    Brent: Poway, CA
    D7200, D200, F100
    Tokina 12-24mm
    Nikon 18-200mm
    Tokina 28-70mm f2.6-2.8
    Nikon 80-200mm f2.8
    Sigma 150-600mm
    Nikon 50 AF f1.8
    Tokina 100mm f2.8 Macro
    Nikon SB800

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    SiCkPuPPy's Avatar

    Re: How to get the most out of my gear for portrait photos

    Quote Originally Posted by kevy73 View Post
    Howdy....
    Hey, thank you very much!
    And people ask me why I still hang on forums, this is exactly why!
    You're a true hero to me, I will read your answer a few times before we get to the shoot, and everything you write makes totally sense.
    Again, thank you so so much
    Thanks/Like kevy73 Thanks/liked this post
     

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    kevy73's Avatar

    Re: How to get the most out of my gear for portrait photos

    Quote Originally Posted by SiCkPuPPy View Post
    Hey, thank you very much!
    And people ask me why I still hang on forums, this is exactly why!
    You're a true hero to me, I will read your answer a few times before we get to the shoot, and everything you write makes totally sense.
    Again, thank you so so much
    Welcome if you have any more questions or want to go over anything - just ask.
    Thanks/Like SiCkPuPPy Thanks/liked this post
     
    Webpage: Kevin McGinn - Click Me! | Facebook - Like Me! | Instagram - Follow Me!

    Cameras Lens - Zooms Lens - Primes / Macro Lighting
    2 x D5 14-24mm f2.8G ED 35mm f1.4G 2 x SB900
    2 x D4 24-70mm f2.8G ED 50mm f1.4G 3 x Ice Lights
    1 x Hasselblad H5D 70-200mm f2.8G ED 85mm f1.4G 2 x Godox AD600BM
    200 mm f2.0G ED VRII 1 x Godox V1
    Sigma 150 f2.8 EX DG

  6. #6
    Staff
    Admin
    hark's Avatar

    Re: How to get the most out of my gear for portrait photos

    I'm only going to comment on your lens question. If you look through posts by @kevy73 you will see he is an outstanding wedding photographer who knows how to use gear.

    Since you are using a DX body, the crop factor will definitely play into the focal length used. Typically we hear between 85mm to 135mm are good focal lengths for portraits (head & shoulders and/or headshots). But that is based on an FX body. Due to the crop factor of a DX body, you'd have to stand further back to get the same size image within your viewfinder as you'd see on an FX body.

    So for head & shoulders or headshots, my suggestion is no shorter than 50mm - longer is okay providing you have room especially if you are indoors. While the f/1.4 aperture of your 50mm sounds tempting to use, don't do it without practicing and really understanding how it works. This is because you'd be working with such a shallow depth of field, many parts of her body might not be in focus especially when shooting somewhat close. The lens itself is fine, but you should stop down to at least f/4 or f/5.6 to make sure most of her face is in focus.

    Your 18-105mm zoom is also an option for head & shoulders or headshots as long as you stay at 50mm or longer. When you stand close to someone and shoot at a wide focal length, you will distort your subject's face making the nose appear longer and the head slightly misshapen. For full body shots typically 35mm is good - but again you are on a DX body which means stand back a little further. The thing with wide angle lenses (or your 10-20mm zoom) is the edges of the frame get 'stretched' or distorted due to the really wide focal lengths. So personally I will suggest not even using your 10-20mm lens.

    If you are outdoors and have a lot of room between you and your subject, shooting at the long end of your 18-105mm will be nice even for full body shots. When you use a long lens, there is more compression to the image. That means noses don't look distorted. And it means backgrounds can yield more pleasing bokeh providing there is a large distance between your subject and the background.

    When shooting outdoors, keep watch of the highlights (bright parts of her face) and the shadows. If part of her face is lit by the sun while another part of her face is in shade (or even if her face is covered with dappled light from under trees), the light and dark parts of her face will be accentuated. And that isn't flattering. Either position her with the sun behind her (watch out for lens flare and make sure you use a lens hood at all times), or position her in an area where her face is completely shaded. If the sun is behind you and is bright, she will be looking into it and will probably squint.

    Focus on the eye closest to the camera.

    Oh...and I know you mentioned sexy clothing. If the time comes to photograph her while she's not wearing a lot of clothing, a bare arm, leg, or foot that is closer to the camera than the rest of her body can appear larger and out of proportion to the rest of her body when shot with a wide angle lens. And this has to do with the distortion of wide angle focal lengths. No one wants to see what appears to be a fat arm on a skimpy clad beautiful lady. Treat her with respect - obviously try not to ogle her during times she might not be wearing too much.

    If you are shooting indoors with available light, do you have a tripod to use just in case your shutter speed isn't overly fast? Good luck and relax. You've got this!
    Last edited by hark; Yesterday at 02:17 AM.
    Thanks/Like SiCkPuPPy, kevy73 Thanks/liked this post
     
    Cindy - D750, D500, D7200
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