Friday, August 16, 2013

A Beautiful Portrait Shoot & Thank You For The Birthday Wishes

Good Morning Everybody,

Thank YouFirst of all I want to thank everyone for their kind thoughts wishes on my birthday this past Wednesday.  The birthday wishes came in from around the world and I read each and everyone of them so once again, thank you for your kind thoughts.  It was much appreciated. Thanks again.  -David

A Beautiful High School Senior Portrait Session

I got the opportunity to photograph one of my clients yesterday evening. I actually photographed mom and dad's wedding years ago and have been photographing their family ever since.  Their oldest daughter Molly is about to graduate from high school and her mom asked me to photograph her for her high school senior portraits. I was thrilled - heck, I've been watching Molly grow up since she was a child.

The weather was perfect, the temperature was in the mid-70s, clouds were filling the blue sky, and everything seemed perfect for the portrait shoot at Ault Park. We arrived around 5:30 p.m.  For this time of the year in this part of the Midwest the light is really beautiful and it gives us plenty of time to work into that "sweet light" period shortly before sunset.

Uh OH!  We were hit with a big surprise upon arriving at the park.  There were a gazillion people there.  I had never seen the park that crowded!  What was going on???!!! Turns out it was a special Ault Park dance night and they were expecting hundreds upon hundreds of people to show up over the next hour or two.


The crowds just might crimp my style for Molly's shoot but what are you going to do?  You still have to come back with the shots, right - no excuses!!!  In today's post I want to share with you how fabulously well Molly’s session progressed.  I really believe I captured some my prettiest portraits ever!  Having a super cute girl like Molly to photograph sure made the session a breeze.

Above is a glimpse of the park just as we were beginning the portrait session - lots of people everywhere and more on the way!  I decided to walk around the park, do the best I could, keeping in mind, that I had Photoshop and Lightroom in my back pocket and could easily remove any of the distracting park attendees from some of my images.

Anyway, we begin the photography up around the fountain area you see in the image above. The dance party was taking place at the top of the fountain so we were somewhat removed enough from the larger crowd on the upper level of the pavilion. As I said the weather was perfect and the sun was co-operating by ducking behind the scattered clouds every now and then giving me the soft illumination I wanted.

LaDawn was standing by as my assistant with my off camera lighting set up – a Canon 600 EX-RT speedlite -  to supply the directional illumination as needed. Since we were in a fairly sunny part of the park I thought I would begin my photography by having Molly backlit and have LaDawn position herself for the nice loop lighting that I like on my portraits. I also did not shoot through my Zumbrella in this case because I needed the full output from my zoomed (to 80mm) flash.  Here are a couple of images from the beginning of the session.



We then continued moving through other areas of the park – there must've been five other photographers working the park that late afternoon.  Nevertheless,  we did find some great locations that offered a wonderful variety of looks and feels. In all but one case, I used my off camera flash – the Canon 600 EX-RT speedlites shooting through my Zumbrella.  That combo just gives me such beautiful light on the subject.

Because we’re still in the middle of summer, the park offers  fabulous locations for portraits. There's always some place in the park that is in full bloom and full of rich colors. I love to take advantage of the beautiful variety this park offers.

When shooting in colorful areas like this, there are two things I really try to accomplish. Number one, place the subject in the shade, then add the off-camera flash, and shoot away. The off-camera flash creates that beautiful dimensional lighting on the subject that just seems to make them pop from the background.


The next thing I try to do, particularly in yesterday’s situation, is to backlight the subject as so I can really highlight her hair .  With Molly’s face in the shadows, it’s easy to add the dimensional lighting with the off-camera flash. Check out the two examples below.



ControllerFor most of the images I was able to use just one speed-light but, when I was working in the more direct sunlight and shooting through the Zumbrella I had to increase my power by using two speed-lights. It was so easy to work with the Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter on camera to easily adjust the remote speedlights to get just the light output I needed.

Another thing that is important to note is that I kept the camera on “manual” for all my exposures and I also shot the strobes on “manual” as well. Over all my years in this profession, every time I try the automatic settings I never do quite achieve the consistency in the results that I want. But with the camera and flashes all on “manual” I can easily control the light output with the camera controller.  This let’s me easily put the light densities exactly where I want them in my scene.

As you'll see in the next couple of photographs, I also like to use repeating elements in my composition. The fence in the next image gives a nice feeling of depth to the scene and easily leads the viewer’s eye directly to the subject.


I the following image it’s the long row of trees serve this purpose perfectly for my final composition.


We next headed to my favorite location in the park and, as expected it was in full bloom. The problem working in this area is that the subject receives a lot of front light and the background can sometimes go too dark. I was easily able to add light to the subject with my Canon 600 EX-RT speedlites powered through the Zumbrella to get the dimensional lighting I wanted on the subject.

To open up the shadows in the background I used Lightroom 5  to accomplish the finished result. I simply used the the green slide in the color channels pallet and pushed up the “luminosity” up by a few points. Using the green channel only let’s me brighten the greens throughout the whole scene when faced with this lighting situation.


In the post processing I also do a couple tweaks on the exposure and always push up the shadow density.  The other correction I made to each of these photographs is the new Radial filter.  Boy, as a portrait photographer, I love how that new feature in Lightroom 5 can really “focus” the viewer’s attention onto the subject.

Anyway, the session went fabulous! Molly was a great subject to photograph with her sparkling personality and a beautiful smile.  LaDawn nailed the lighting perfectly and that makes a difference to capturing great images. A great ending to a beautiful high school senior shoot.  By the way, I’m photographing the entire family on Monday same time, same place ;~)  Stay tuned, I'll share a few of those images with you next week.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. Enjoy the photographs, enjoy the weekend, and I'll see you again next week.

Adios, David

1 comment:

  1. Awesome job on this high school. Your lighting is spot on and your posing is good as well. You did a really good job on this portrait.

    High School Photos