Natural Light Portrait Photography | Trevor Christensen | Skillshare

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Natural Light Portrait Photography

teacher avatar Trevor Christensen

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (1h 3m)
    • 1. 01 Intro

    • 2. 02 Gear

    • 3. 03 Goals

    • 4. 04 Starting The Shoot

    • 5. 05 Thinking About Light

    • 6. 06 Things I Think About As I Shoot

    • 7. 07 Editing

    • 8. 08 Last Thing

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About This Class

This class is all about making simple, authentic portraits using natural light (and natural charm). We go over gear, image editing and interacting with subjects.


Meet Your Teacher

Hi! I'm Trevor Christensen, a photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, California. I specialize in portrait and documentary work. I love teaching photography-because learning a new skill is always empowering.

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1. 01 Intro: Hi, my name is Trevor Christiansen. I'm a photographer and teacher based in Utah. I've been working professionally since 2013, and I specialize in portrait and documentary photography. I've taught a photo conferences and California and Utah. And I've had to work published in the BBC BuzzFeed and The Washington Post. Photo mojo picture day is all about exploring genuine, authentic portraiture in a typical portrait setting. I made this video because I had so many photographers show up to have their portrait taken who told me that they just wanted to see how I work. In this video, I'll explain everything from editing, what equipment I use and why to how I approach helping subjects feel comfortable and open during shoots. All the photos you see taken today were made during one day of shooting. I photograph 23 people in total for 15 minutes each. Now, you don't have to adhere to that sort of schedule. But I chose these artificial parameters to illustrate that you can make varied, interesting and beautiful work in a short amount of time. This video will explain everything I do and show how you can do the same. I'm not a fashion photographer or someone who's interested in making people look different than they actually do. My goals are for someone to look at their portrait and love what they see. Not notice that I'm hiding some perceived flaws. I think everyone is beautiful and interesting. And I just see that I'm here to document that. I'm always trying to make images that feel sincere and honest. That's my priority. And that's how I feel like I've made a successful image. This video assumes you have a basic understanding of photography equipment. I won't go into detail about how aperture works, or what shutter speed does, or any of the really, really basic components of photography. This video is for people who feel pretty comfortable with the camera, but want to take their portrait photography to the next level. The best way to clean everything you can from this course is to get up there and shoot as much as possible. The best way to learn is by doing, doing, doing. So once you've watched this video a few times, I want to see your work hashtag photo mojo to share it. So without further ado, it's time to dive in. Let's talk about gear. 2. 02 Gear: The reality is that if you can't shoot a good photo on an iPhone, knows show room full of gear can save you. A good photographer can make a great photo with any camera anywhere. But that good photo on an iPhone will probably look like it was shot on an iPhone and maybe that's not the look you want. So what is gear for? Gears for accomplishing a goal? That's how you should think about and understand gear. Is a bigger camera better than a smaller one? Well, I don't know. When I shoot with my medium format camera, I tend to get more stairs because to the average person, Mamma Mia is an exotic and mysterious animal. When I'm in situations where I want to be respected and treated like a serious photographer who was not to be trifled with. I don't mind pulling this guy out when I'm in a situation where I don't really want to stand out or be noticed. A smaller, less attention grabbing camera is what I'm going to reach for. One more thing. If you're anything like me, you're always going to cover it something more for your camera bag. I know I do. Usually after I get that next thing I've been coveting, I'm happy for about a month. And then I just start to think about the next great piece of gear I wish I could have. It's just a continuous cycle. What's important is that you not let yourself feel like you can't make great work with what you have right now. It doesn't matter what's in your bag, your craft and your vision are what make your work yours. And you've already got that in spades. For the bulk of my client work, I use my Nikon D sub and 50s. Don't worry about brand or model of your camera. Almost anything that nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, or any other professional camera manufacturer makes is likely pretty great. Just use whatever meets your needs best. And until Nikon starts paying me to say otherwise, there's nothing particularly special about these cameras. They're just good professional bodies that focus quickly, have a high resolution sensor. And because I hold all my tension in my back, It's important to me that these cameras are light enough that I can carry two all day without too much fatigue. I like to use two cameras for a few reasons. The first is that two cameras allows me to easily switch between two different lenses, more on that later. The second reason is that I'm always taking a few backup photos with my second camera. This is in case anything Catastrophic were to happen with my first camera, I would have images from the second. I've never had to use this backup policy, but it's always good to be prepared. When I shoot portraits, I keep a 35 millimeter lens and a 50 millimeter lens on my two camera bodies, I typically use my 50 millimeter for most of my vertical portraits. The 50 millimeter focal length is such a nice classic look. If you close one eye and compare what you're seeing to the 50 millimeter lens. You'll notice that the focal length of that lens is what most matches how our IC in some ways it's a lens that doesn't stand out or ask for attention. I love how when you shoot with a 50, there's minimal distortion when you get up close. I use my 35 millimeter lens for portraits where I want to include more of the environment in the frame. The 35 millimeter lens is a classic documentary photography focal length. Compared to the 50, it's generally more suited for depicting place in your photos. I don't use it for my closer vertical portraits as often because I don't like the distortion that the 35 millimeter lens has when compared to the 50 millimeter lens. Both of these lenses are the F1 0.8 versions, not the F1 0.4 versions. I would almost always rather shoot F1 0.8 lenses for one reason, when you compare the focusing speed of an F1 0.8 lens to an F1 point for lens, the one-point a lens will achieve focus twice as quickly. This means that if I'm taking pictures of someone laughing quickly and they move their head back, the time between my finger telling my camera to focus on the guy's eye and the time it takes for the lens to track that subjects I will take twice as long when I'm using a 50 millimeter 1 for when compared to the 51.8. I shoot events and behind the scenes photography in a documentary style. Even my portraits have a bit of that documentary behind the scenes look. So I put a premium on being able to document moments that are happening quickly. So it's worth it to me to have lenses that focus twice as fast. Now there's always a trade-off because I'm shooting 1.8 instead of 1.4. I don't have access to that last bit of depth of field or that last bit of light. But so far, I've never shot a photo at 1.8 and thought, Damn it. This photo would be so much better if it had been shot at 1.4. So this is an example of me ensuring the gear I use meets my needs. You might not be worried about focusing speed. So lenses that are slower to achieve focus may be worth it for the advantages they have. It's really all about your gear, meeting your needs. You generally see two kinds of stands on a photography set, light stands and C stands. C stands get their name from the fact that their legs make a C when folded out. A C stand can do everything a light stand can do, but a light stand can't do everything as C stand can do. C stands are sturdier and made to do more heavy duty tasks than most light stands are capable of. This C stand has an arm that I hang paper on. I'm using the C stands instead of light stands because it's easier to switch out these paper backdrops since they're not being hung between two light stands. I also knew that I would be taking photos that showed more of the environment in the frame. So I chose to use SI stands because I like the aesthetic that C stands have. Most of the photos I shoot for photo image or picture, they utilize paper backdrops to set the tone of the portrait. I love these little paper backdrops that the perfect resource for me for a few reasons, when I'm doing a day of shooting Craig headshots for clients, they make it so easy to quickly adapt my color to their outfit. If someone walks in wearing a blue sweater or a red shirt, I can easily and quickly choose a backdrop that complements their outfit. Alternatively, I also love the visual joke, a pairing them with the same color as their backdrop. I think it's great to be able to offer clients a choice of backdrop color. I also like the flexibility that comes with these smaller 26 inch backdrops. They pack well, and they're much easier to move than a 10 foot roll is because these backdrops are so cheap. I can also try out lots of colors without too much worry that I'm spending money. And when I do find a color that I like, I can always buy that color in a larger role. These small backdrops are basically little taste test for me. I loved his little jobs. Sometimes the light and whatever studio you're working in is going to be too harsh. Direct light is great, but you don't always want your subject drowning and shadows. When that happens, the easiest way to mitigate the harshness of those shadows is to add some fill light. A fill light is when you grab a reflector to bounce some light onto whatever is in shadow, don't worry, we'll talk more about fill light and the light section. To quickly be able to use fill light to fill in shadows of my subjects. I keep a piece of white foam core mounted on a stand handy. That way when I want to fill in those shadows, I can just grab the stand, move it closer to my subject and keep working. Alternatively, if I'm shooting in a room with too much ambient light and I want less light on a particular side of my subject's face. I can put a piece of black foam core on that side of my subject that I want and shadow. The black foam core will block some of the ambient light and give me more deep shadows. I find when a subject isn't moving around much, they start to sink into a static place. So to keep their energy up, I try to move subjects around. Having multiple pieces of furniture that a subject can sit on is an easy tool to have on hand. When I see that someone is starting to lose a little energy, I can have them switch what they're sitting on. Stools and chairs also encouraged different postures. Stools for subjects to sit up and chairs tend to be more relaxed. I'm always interested in fostering a space where subjects can naturally inhabit their environment. So it's useful to have options for my subjects. So let me have you point your knees that way. So they're like directly that way. Yeah. Hold that. These photos were taken at whitespace studios in Lehi, Utah. I used the space because it's a central location to where my clients are located. They have space for people who are waiting to have their picture taken. And I like how the space photographs. This studio is a natural lights studio, meaning I'm only using window light to illuminate my photos. I'm using natural light because it's simplifies my process. And large lights can be another stumbling block to creating a comfortable space for your subjects. We're going to talk more about how I think about light that this studio has in the thinking about light section. 3. 03 Goals: Hi, The invalid. And do examples before you choose your gear, your camera at your location, and anything else, you need to know what your goals are. We're going to talk about what your goals are and what your subjects goals are invalid. Is there anything that you're going to use these for that I should be thinking about professional stuff. It's like maybe kinda of a professional photo and I should be good. Yeah. Yeah. But you know, I like to like to serve clients come to me to solve one problem over and over again. What's the problem? They need good photos. That's painting the situation with a bit of a broad brush, but it's a good place to start when I'm talking to someone about shooting their portrait. The first question I have for them is, what are you going to use this photo for? The answer to that question helps me understand what I can do to best help them. I like to deliver a variety of work. So just because someone says they need a head shot that can be used in a corporate setting, doesn't mean I'm not going to try to deliver something more funky along with that formal image. But understanding what your client's needs are is a critical part of doing good work for them. So dig deep into what your client is looking for. Ask them where they think they'll use this photo, what they're looking for in a portrait and maybe most importantly, why they're reaching out to you to do the portrait. I go into every shoot with two basic goals. I want to solve my client's problem and I want to be happy with the work I made. I made sure I solve my client's problem by understanding what their goals are for the shoot. I make sure I'm satisfied with the work I'm making by being prepared to make work That's interesting, varied, and compelling for my client. I leave issued happy when I know that I've made interesting work, captured some genuine emotions. And most of all, when I finish a shoot and my subject says, Hey, that wasn't so bad. Having your picture taken can be such a vulnerable experience. So when subjects say that they feel pretty good after a shoot, it's music to my ears. 4. 04 Starting The Shoot: So we're now at the beginning of your shoe. Your spaces all ready to go, batteries are charged and your memory cards are minty fresh. You're just about to go meet your client and it's time to talk about the beginning of your portrait session. The first thing to do is introduce yourself. I start out sessions by saying, Hi, my name's Trevor. It's so good to meet you. Come on in and sit down. I introduce myself in a confident way because I want to set the tone for my subject and then, uh, give them a little guidance for what I want them to do, which is just sit with me. My goal is to project the feeling that I'm feeling good and I'm excited to take their picture like confident excitement lets them know that they're in good hands. I'm going to do a great job and I'm going to help them. That's your goal for an intro, especially because you've got to think. Let's do it. Let's do like three on black and then do pay. Because like black is very, your subject walks in the room. There are little timid. Clearly they spent a little extra time on their hair and outfit. Almost everyone you photograph, unless they're blessed with a boundless supply of self-esteem, is likely a little nervous when they show up for their shoe. So how do you fix that? Each shoot these photos were pulled from only lasted 15 minutes. But in these photos, everyone's still looks comfortable and at ease. Which means that to get photos of people looking and feeling relaxed and comfortable, I have to be able to very quickly help someone feel good. This is how I do that. So let's talk about nerves, specifically, your nerves, how you feel sets the tone for your client. The first thing you can do to help someone not be nervous is to be a calm, confident presence to address the idea of being nervous before a shoot, I want to tell a story about my own experience taking pictures in a really stressful setting. I've worked with a couple of big clients and had to adhere to some stressful deadlines. But the most nervous I've ever been came from a project that was my own idea. And this story is about that. A few years ago I had the idea that I would do a portrait project that at least for me, was a little bit different. Anyone who has shot a portrait before knows that when you're taking someone's picture, they usually start out in a pretty uneasy place. As portrait photographers, most of what we do is try to help subjects relax and feel comfortable in front of the camera. They're usually down here and I'm up here and I'm trying to bring them up to me where I am. So the idea for the project was that instead of trying to help them come up to here with me where I am, I'd felt down to their level and meet them in their vulnerability. I decided that the vulnerable thing I would do would be to give up my clothing. I said, I'll photograph subjects who were wearing clothes while I'm nude. And I called the project nude portraits. Project got a lot of attention online and pretty soon I had people contacting me saying they wanted me to take their picture while I was nude for the project. Suddenly I found myself in the situation where I was showing up at strangers homes, meeting them for the first time, talking about the project for about ten minutes to make sure they knew what they were getting into. And then I would leave and come back naked to take their picture. Now this was an incredibly stressful and vulnerable experience for me. I know this might seem kind of surprising, but I'm not actually a naked guy. I don't really look for chances to get naked, and I'm not even interested in nudity in my photography that match. So this project for me, it was a really big stretch. It was very stressful and very vulnerable. I remember sitting in my car during shoots, having to psych myself up all the while questioning what I'd gotten myself into early in the life of that project, all my subjects tended to be pretty uncomfortable and generally stressed out. I assume that this was because I was a random guy they didn't know and inviting the over to your house so I can get in a good and then take your picture isn't inherently awkward proposition. But after a while I started noticing that subjects seem to not be as uncomfortable as they used to be. They would still be a little surprised at the beginning, but their initial shock would fade away. What I realized was happening is that I was getting more comfortable taking pictures while I was naked. The big breakthrough I made from nude portraits was realizing that even though I was being so vulnerable, I was showing up to someone's house for 45 minutes or maybe an hour to shoot portraits of a complete stranger. I was still in control of the room despite the vulnerability I was trying to give, I realized this. My energy is what sets the tone for the room. And subjects always looked to me to know how to feel. What was happening is that I was getting more comfortable in the process subjects for subconsciously feeding off that. So what this means for you is that you set the tone of the room, control the room. If you want your subject to be big and loud and take up all the space, you need to do that too. And if you want a quiet subject and you want thoughtful photos, you need to enact those same feelings and that energy. People. They're really just looking for you to know how to feel. You don't even know it, and they don't even know it, but you control the room. One last thing about new portraits. I did about 50 shoots for that project before I retired that, how did I get to the place where I could be comfortable in naked in front of a stranger? The answer is simple. I did it a lot. Eventually the things that were scary and vulnerable became familiar. And if you're in a place where photographing portraits is still scary, I promised that you can get through those fears just like I did. It just takes practice, dedication, and time. When clients can feel that you're relaxed, they'll feel it too. In the meantime, faking your confidence actually works. Psyche myself up in my car as I got ready to do a new shoot was really the only way I got through that project. If you show up telling yourself that you're just going to knock it out of the park. People will sense that. After I've met my subject and we sat down, I like to talk a little. I do this before ever taking their picture. There are three main reasons I don't go and shooting right away. The first reason is simply that I want to get to know the person in front of me. I'm a curious person and I just love talking to people and hearing about their lives. The second reason goes back to dealing with nervous clients. Talking calms people down. I'll shoot the breeze. I'll ask them about their morning. I'll tell them about my day or initial conversation gives us the chance to share with each other and connect. The process of learning who the person is sitting in front of me is a big part of calming subjects down. As we talk. I'm helping them adjust to me and their environment. The third reason goes back to the way I like to pose people. I'm always seeking a natural pose, which means that I'm always watching for how my subjects are inhabiting their body. As people talk, they begin to forget their nerves and inhabit their bodies in a relaxed natural way. This is a really big deal. You can watch someone who's being asked a question, forget about their nervous tension as they begin to think and talk as this is happening. I'm keeping an eye on their body language. My still life photography is very naturalistic. I'm always looking for cues from them that tell me how to pose them. I'm always looking for how my end subjects and habit their body. I want to find out if they talk with their hands. I want to know if they sit up straight or if they slouch. And when they sit on a stool, did they pick up one leg or do they lean with forward with their legs spread? These small details are always being unintentionally communicated by people. Everyone is always dropping clues about how they're feeling through their bodies. Talking gives you the chance to listen, not only with your ears but with your eyes. So when I'm talking to a subject from connecting with them as humans, I'm helping them feel at ease and I'm watching for how they inhabit their bodies. Send up a tiny bit. One of the first things I tell people when they take their picture is feel your feelings. Which sounds like for the therapy, she felt like well, what feel your feelings means to me as mostly like, don't hide a smile. I feel like actually smiling. And the reverse is true. Like don't feel like you have to smile. I cannot like feeling Smiley or whatever. You know what I mean? Just like you can, you can emote whatever feeling you're feeling right now. So don't stress too much about that. Okay? So there are two things I tell people when I'm about to take their picture. The first is feel your feelings. What feel your feelings means is that if my subject is smiling or frowning, I don't want them to suppress that. I want them to let it out. Subjects come in with the idea that they need to help me and they want to help me by hiding their emotions. So I'm saying the best way they can help me is to be themselves. No cheese, no artifice. It's okay not to smile if you're not feeling a genuine smile. And I also don't want them to cover up that smile. If they're actually smiling, feel your feelings. And we're going to talk more about how subjects want to help you and how to deprogrammed them later on. The second thing I tell clients when I take their picture is don't do anything that makes you uncomfortable. I want my subjects to know that they can say this pose doesn't really work for me. I want that feedback from them instead of them getting their teeth and just doing something that doesn't feel right. With these two bits of instruction. All I'm really asking is for them to be themselves. Now that we've got a subject in our midst, let's pause a second and talk about light. 5. 05 Thinking About Light: So this is an overview of the three types of lighting I used during these shoots. And now obviously these aren't the only ways to lie to face, but these are the solutions I must frequently find myself going to rembrandt lighting, named after the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt von Rhine, refers to lighting which has half of the face illuminated while the other half of the subjects face is in shadow, say for a little light on their cheek. This is my go-to light because I love how shadows shape a person's face. To me. This look communicates mystery and intrigue and makes a person look interesting. Like you want to know more about them. It's sophisticated, contemporary, but still professional. Have your subject turn their head until they're facing a window head on. Now that you've got even light shining all across their face, see how there aren't very many deep shadows, as opposed to the Rembrandt lighting. Like Rembrandt lighting, having your subject face the window carries a sophisticated flare because there are less shadows. It's a little bit less mysterious. Again, it's a contemporary look, but can be used for almost any context. Your subjects might need a photo for. To get a backlit halo effect. Have your subject turned away from the window and play something directly behind them. Make sure that whatever is behind them is narrow enough that light shines in from both sides. In this case, I used my reflector stand with a black foam core as my backdrop. Now one type of light is inherently better or worse than any other. What you're looking for is a lot of variety when you deliver photos to subjects. So that's why I'll have my subjects move around and try new things. How you light your subjects is also how your personal style is going to come into play. The choices you make will reflect your taste and how you choose to direct people. If you'd like to show openness and warmth, you might like different than you would if you were looking to show mystery and intrigue. If you're just starting out in photography, the best thing you can do is try lots and lots of different styles, like people in many ways. And when you're looking at your photos from that shoot, you'll know what you like the most. Let's explore fill light as it applies to a studio space and your subjects body and face. Look at these two photos of Corrina that were both shot and the same settings in the exact same way in Lightroom, look at the difference between the shadow and her face from the photo on the left to the photo on the right. What you're seeing is the effects of fill light in action. Fill light is when you bounce light off the surface, usually the one that's white or gold onto your subject. We talked earlier about the standard use to hold my fill light. Here it is an action. You can see I take my first shot, decide I want a little more fill and move it closer to Karina's phase. Utilize fill light all throughout these sessions. When I see that I want some of the harshness of my light mitigated. It's a quick way to make images that are a little less dramatic. The amount of light that's reflected onto the shadows of your subject is determined by how close your reflector is to your subject. So farther out is less fill and closer as more fill. Some photographers use gold, silver, or even mirrors for their fill light. I don't tend to resort to those options because I like my fill to be a little softer, but it's good to know those are options. Look, I'm trying to achieve is what determines where I'll shew. These photos were taken in whitespace studios in Lehi, Utah. This studio is a natural lights studio, meaning I'm only using window light to illuminate my photos. I'm going the natural light direction because I like having a setup that's as easy as possible when I'm taking someone's portrait. I also chose this location because the space has life. It's easy to work with throughout the day. During the whole day, I have nice soft light to use, and in the afternoon I have hard light as that becomes available. The studio has two rooms, a bright one that's all white and a dark one that's mostly deep brown hues. I like shooting in dark spaces because they don't provide uninvited reflections. If you take photos in a space with white walls or on a wife floor, the whole space fills in those shadows. It's basically one big filler. It reflector bouncing light from every angle. This means that the deep shadows I love to play with are mostly mitigated. Here I am a foot away from a window in a dark room. And here I am a foot away from a window in a white room. All the settings on my camera are the same. And look at the difference in the shadows in my face, the whitespace is naturally filling in those shadows in a much heavier way then the dark room is. Now whitespaces aren't always bad and neither is fill light. But I like to control where I add fill light and from what direction it comes from. Whitespaces like this don't allow for that, which is why I tried to avoid it. If you're in a pinch and want that darker look, but only have a room with lots of white surfaces and are adding fill. You can do what's called adding negative film. This is when you use something to block all of that reflected light from hitting your subject. In this case, I use black foam core of mounted on a stand. Incidentally, this is why I often wear all black during my shoe. I don't want my clothes to bounce any light onto my subject. Even a white t-shirt can bounce fill light onto my subject's face. The space you choose will dictate the work you produce. And it's important to think seriously about where you'll shoot. But don't get too caught up on those details. A good photo can be made anywhere. 6. 06 Things I Think About As I Shoot: So by now you've got your camera out. You know your subjects name and where they were born and how their morning when. This section is all about what I'm thinking about when I'm deep in a shoot. Photography is like exercise. You don't jump into a marathon without some warm ups. When I first start making images, I start with my warm up shots. These are the images that I could make in my sleep and photos. I know it'll be useful to my clients. The three warm ups I do, our profile, facing the camera and looking off into the distance. I usually run through them pretty quickly. After I'm done, I feel more in the zone and ready to make images that are about my subject. Like I mentioned when I talked about telling subjects to feel their feelings. A lot of portrait photography is teaching your subjects how you want them to act and helping them. Unlearned, weird habits they've picked up. Subjects want to help you. They want to do a good job in front of the camera, but their idea of what a good job is is different than what my idea of a good job is. Let's talk about their camera Buster. You're chatting with the subject. Their posture is relaxed and loose and everyone is having a great time. You see something you like about the way they're holding themselves. So you reach for your camera. By the time your camera is up to your eye, your subject has completely given up the natural way they were inhabiting their body and as stiff as a board. That's camera posture. The same thing happens with the person's face. There'll be exhibiting the warm glow of humanity. And by the time my camera reaches my eye, like low is gone and they've adopted a face. They only have when the cameras in the room, That's camera phase. Now, there's nothing wrong with the habit your subject is exhibiting. It's not their fault, they're doing this. In fact, it's almost certainly a subconscious act. So while we're not blaming our subjects for their habits, we are going to teach them how to act, how we want. That's what feeling your feelings is all about. It's me saying, Hey, you can be you during the shoot. You don't have to cover up what your face is saying. Like I mentioned in the section about talking to clients. When I'm talking to clients, I'm helping them relax and noticing how they inhabit their bodies when they're not thinking about themselves. Once I find them in a posture, I'm interested in documenting. I'll tell them, I love how you're resting your head in your hand like that. Hold still. And then I'll raise my camera up to my eye and take their picture. It's critically important that you tell them what you want and then grab your camera. If I grabbed my camera and then tell them to keep that pose, they might already have seen me reaching for my camera and will already be in there camera posture. You have to stop your subject from enacting the posture even before they started. You have to call out specifically what they're doing you that you love and reassure them that the person they're being right now is the person you want to photograph, not the person who they think they need to be when a camera's on. This is you teaching your subject to be a great subject? You're teaching them that you want them to be themselves. The easiest way to make someone neurotically concentrate on their breathing is to say, don't think about your breathing. The easiest way to get into a person's head is to say, act natural. For some reason, the act of bringing attention to ourselves is so alarming that we stop being able to function as normal. No one can act unnatural when commanded to. It's a command that ensures failure. So when I want to make a natural feeling photo of someone, I have to start out by tricking them into feeling comfortable. I have to help them forget about their nerves. We've talked about this already a little. The way I help them be themselves is by talking. I share stories, I ask questions, I listen and I give. We just talked about how when I'm talking to a subject, I'll wait until they're inhabiting their bodies and then stop them as they do something that I want to see more of. You can use this action again and again. It's a move I use throughout my shoots. If I feel like my subject is sinking back into that stiff posture, I'll simply put my camera down and talk to them again. When they see that my camera isn't in hand, they'll soon relax their posture and inhabit their body once more. Once they've adopted that natural posture, I'll tell them not to move and starts shooting again. Here I'm taking a photo of Jamie. I think I'm finished, so I tell them, that's it. Suddenly he's got this big smile on his face because I've just told him that were done shooting. So he psyched to go home, except Jamie is a pretty reserved guy in front of the camera and I've been trying to get a good photo of him all day. As soon as I see him smiling like that, I think hold up, we're not done anymore. Watch the same thing happened with Eliana. Watch me put my camera down and suddenly her face goes from serious to smiling. Then I see her smile and I'm thinking, Oh, okay, that's where that relaxed look IS. And shoot some more. As I call out that she's feeling her feelings, she starts to laugh. It helps to reassure and remind subjects that you actually want them to be themselves in front of your camera. You can drop in and out on subjects like that, give them breaks, make them think they're done and see what they do. If they're suddenly open to a whole new world of expression, don't be afraid to say, Wait, Where was that the whole time. Give me more of that. Again, you're teaching your subjects to be a great subject using positive reinforcement. I'm always looking out for what will create a moment with the subject. After I have my camera settings dialed in, my studio is arranged to my liking and my subject is settling into the shoot. My thoughts go to how do I create a moment between my subject and I? With a short shoots like this, I often find myself adhering to a basic plan. I start out by talking a little, then I'll have my subject face the window and look out. Then I'll have them look right into the camera. After that, I'll zoom out and take a photo that includes more of the environment. Then I'll make a change to that background and start over again. The moments I'm trying to trigger our unplanned They happen between the rough schedule I've just outlined. I've noticed that when I say something like relax your face to a subject who seems to be holding tension in their face. They'll start to laugh a little. It's like they're reacting to being called out. Suddenly they're thinking, Hey, yeah, I was holding my mouth and that weird way, why was I doing that? When that happens and I sense they're experiencing genuine surprise. I'll quickly make sure I'm photographing their reaction to being called out. Every person you photograph is different. Everyone has their own speed and their own rhythm. Some subjects want you to take the wheel and tell them everything you want from them. Other subjects come in, ready to party and naturally take the room over. I love both kinds of subjects. Subjects who want you to drive tend to be all about doing a good job for you. They're working hard to do the right thing and be easy to work with. Subjects who come in and naturally jump in the driver's seat are awesome. I love that push and pull between us. Allison is someone who has a really big personality and her natural impulse is to start dancing when she sees a camera. I'm 100% not going to stop her from doing that. I like photographing Allison because she gives me what she wants to give. And in turn, I make sure that I make images of her that I want to make. It's okay to be led by a subject, and it's okay to lead a subject, but skills are necessary and both paths lead to good images. The next time you're taking pictures, ask yourself, am I leading the shoot or am I being led square back to me again Up a little little more? I like to call out what I'm saying. I do it during almost every shoot. What I mean is instead of keeping what I'm thinking to myself, I tell my subject what I'm singing. Really what I'm doing is just asking them. And this shot of Tia, I tell her that I can see these tiny smiles coming across her face. You can see like tiny smiles coming across here. I'm throwing it out there to see what she says. And does he look at that you don't need to fight that. Jennifer, she reacts and suddenly I've gone from a very serious posture to her laughing. If I sense tension in a subject's face, I'll simply ask, Hey, are you tense? You look stressed and my subject is tense. It starts the conversation. It's the first step in helping them relax. Calling out what you're seeing is also a great way to start conversations with subjects. I'll tell them something that I'm seeing in the image that I like. It's as simple as a facial feature are saying I like the background or just comment on their general presence in the room on trying to do is start the conversation and chin up a tiny bit. And your heads a little tilted. So just like, yeah, good. Yeah. To help subjects relieve tension. I'll put my camera down and have them breathe with me a few times. I'll have them close their eyes and take a big breath in and out. Watch how cherish his eyes are darting around and she can't quite sit still. I can see that she's tense. So I tell her to take a deep breath and close her eyes. Now watch how still she's become. Her eyes are darting around anymore. She's not nervously giggling. All it took was a deep breath and she's a more relaxed person. When I give clients posing direction, I start out with really general directions first, I don't typically like to be hyper specific when I'm asking someone to pose because I want them to pose how they wouldn't accurately. So let me have you point your knees that way. So they're like directly that way. I'll start with general directions like lean up against that wall or strike a more defensive posture. Good. Yeah. So just just look out the window like that way. If that direction isn't enough, then I'll go in and give them more specific instruction. I always start out with global feedback and then get local if they need it. When I give subjects direction, I like to divide their bodies into a few segments. I start heads, shoulders, hips, and toes. I'll say keep your hips and shoulders where they are and turn your head towards me or point your toes that way and turn your head towards the handbook and me. Keep them. Keep your nose piece. Yeah. Because looking at yeah, good and relax your face. Good. Giving subjects too many unclear directions is disorienting. People love specificity. I'm always working with them to know exactly what I want from them. The thing is, I'm looking for them to tell me how they want to pose. Remember when I'm not taking their photo. I'm watching to see how they inhabit their bodies. I'm looking to understand how they hold themselves when they're not hyper-aware of a camera, the way they sit and stand and how they hold themselves when they're just being as where I'm taking my cuz those cues inform how you'll help them exist in your images as much as possible. Let your subjects tell you how they want to pose, not the other way around. Even though these shoots were only 15 minutes long, I still took breaks with subjects. These breaks for so that I could connect with them again and check in with myself to give me a chance to mentally take stock of what photos I had made and my photos I still wanted to make. Another reason to take a break is to give your subjects a second to relax and see if they need to be helped to inhabit their body again, breaks her way to take stock of how they're doing and see if they need help naturally posing their bodies the way you want them to. As I start to talk to my subject again, I'll pay special attention to their face. If I see their face for lags when I put my camera down, I know they've been giving me their camera phase. If I see during a break that a subject's face is in a place that I like, I'll positively reinforced them and say, feel your face right now, it looks really good and natural. And I want you to hold this while I take your photo. Again, we're helping them unlearned the bad habits they've picked up and teaching them to act how we want them to. So these breaks are a good way to hit the reset button and check in to see how our subjects are doing. 7. 07 Editing: Okay, You killed it in your shoot and your subject is eagerly awaiting their images. Now you're ready to start editing. Let's get into it. So I chose this photo of Allison because I think it's kind of a weird frame, really. Your eye goes towards her face, which is in the bottom portion of the frame. There's the paper and the background that sort of framing her. And then there's not really anything going on. But I thought it would be kind of interesting to explore what you could do with a photo like this. The first thing I'll do is just make sure it's level. So I think one of the things you can do with an image like this is just make it really long. I tend to adhere to typical cropping ratios. There's no reason you have to do that, especially because most photos end up online where they're either going to be cropped to whatever format they're going on, or it just doesn't matter as much to have a photo that's a perfect eight by 10 or two-by-three. But I end up liking the standard and challenge of having to make a photo that works within a certain ratio. So I'm going to choose 1609 for my long crop. And I'm going to crop in on Alice and a little bit. Now the focal point is still her face, but he unused space and the top of the frame isn't being wasted. And now the frame is just a little bit tighter. That's one crop that I think you could do with a photo like this. Another crop that I think is interesting is a four by five crop. And what I'm gonna do here is I'm just going to tighten my frame so much that part of the C stand is cut out and part of the bar is cut out. Now the photo was gone from feeling very horizontal to feeling very vertical. And this is an image that I could deliver to a client and know that you could put some text and the top portion of it and still have their subjects face B in the bottom and unobstructed by text. So here, the three crops we did, I don't feel like there's one that I like better or worse than any other. I think the crop on the far right is definitely the most punchy crop and the one that has the most attention. But there's not one that is necessarily the right way. That's really like sticking out in my eyes. It's really a question of what you're trying to give your client. Now, if it were me, I would probably just do a light crop and stick to the photo on the left. I assume that my client would know what they want to do with the photo when they're done. But it's nice to be able to see that this photo can be cropped in many different ways and still retain its value. This photo has a lot of elements in it because the reflector stand an unused piece of foam core, a window, and of course Rena with the backdrop. My first thought is if I just wanna do a wide crop, I really just want to tighten the frame a little bit just to get this little piece of window sill out of the frame because I think that's a little distracting. But I still want to keep as much width in the photo as possible. If I wanted to crop it tighter, I would probably not keep a two to three ratio. I would go four by five to keep the full height of the photo, but just to eliminate a little bit of the width. So what I'm cropping for is I'm just looking for clean edges. So I don't like this window sill sort of being in the frame. I want that to be a little cleaner, so I'm just moving my frame all the way over until there's just a nice line that's sort of runs parallel with the frame. I like this little element right here. I think it's an interesting piece that takes up space. I like this shape right here from my reflector. Those are the things that I'm thinking about when I'm cropping a frame like this, it's still nice and wide, but you don't have any of those distracting elements. And now if I do a square crop and really looking at honing in on who this photo is about. And it's really just an image of Marina. So I'm eliminating the window sill on the left and the reflector stand on the right and getting it as tight as possible so that I can put her in as close to the center as possible. Now it's a tiny bit off putting to have arena be on the left side of the frame and pointing her head towards the left. So that's not necessarily an ideal position for her. The only other option is to crop her like that, which leaves that window sill on the frame. And I'm not quite wild about that, although it is pretty interesting. So these are the four crops we just did with Marina. You can see that they each do something a little different than the last. I think just glancing at it, my favorite crop is the four by five crop on the top right. It still wide enough that it shows the scene and what's going on and has some kinda fun elements in each corner. It's not so wide that it's maybe a little bit distracting from Purina. Neither of the square crops really appealed to me that much, but I still think they're interesting and effective at what they do. The thing I like about this photo setups is the way the paper exists in the frame is it sort of creates a frame. Within a frame. There's the first border, which is the border that the paper creates, and then the second border, which is the border of the frame. So I think it's just a kind of fun image within an image effect. So this photo, I want to emphasize that image within an image. So I'm going to crop this frame down. There's nothing particularly complicated going on. All I'm doing is eliminating some distracting elements from the bottom of the frame and then any unused space and the top of the frame. So here's a before and after. You can see that the image that's been cropped on the left, there's just a little bit tighter and it really hones in on the idea that I'm trying to portray in that image versus the image on the right, which is a little bit looser and a little bit distracting towards the bottom of the frame, and doesn't really have any useful elements at the top of the frame. So this image of Ted, I think is already pretty effective. The crop is pretty good and this is straight out of camera and it doesn't really feel like you need to do much more. But I want to show that you can make an image more impactful by really eliminating everything you don't need and just concentrating on what is important in the frame. So I'm selecting a four by five crop because I think that's going to be a more impactful ratio. And I'm really just going to eliminate everything I don't need from this photo. I like this because I don't really need the top of his head and I don't need to know what he's wearing. It's really just all about his eyes and his smile. That's what really sticks out to me and seems like an important element to focus on in this photo. And when you compare this image to the image that hasn't been cropped, you really can't see that you can have much more impact on an image, but just tightening in on someone's face. You really just getting rid of all the inessential elements in a frame. So this is a photo that I think is pretty highly probable. I can see a few different ways that this photo can go. So the first crop I'm gonna do is just a two-by-three. And I'm really just going to lean in to what the camera frame is already suggesting, which is vertical shot of Austin. What I'm trying to do in this crop is just make sure that the entire frame is filled with elements. So I don't want to crop out the C stand. I don't want to crop out Austin's foot and I want to leave some space on the crop in the top right to have there be some balance there. The next crop I wanna do is a four by five crop. This crop is a little bit tighter and I'm really just trying to hone in on Austin's body language and his expression. And this is the second crop that I think works for this image. The last crop I'm going to do is a square crop. Things I'm concerned about in this image or his face and his hands. Everything else just needs to be either smoothly in or smoothly out of the frame. So I've completely cropped out the bricks on the right and the paper on the left is in the frame enough that I like how it balances with the light and the right side of the frame. Now, this crop, I think works for something like Instagram. Because when you're looking at a photo on Instagram, you want it to be as punchy and emotional as possible. Since most people who are looking at Instagram are looking at Instagram on their phone. They don't really have a lot of screen real estate. So if I compare the image on the right, that's square to the image on the left or the center image, the one on the right is just gonna be a lot more impactful when you're looking at it on a small screen of a smartphone. I don't think that there's a crop that's better or worse out of these three, I just think they do different things. The crop on the metal and the crop on the left are more about the studio and the behind the scenes aspect of the frame. And the crop on the right is a lot more photo that's about Austin. It really hones in on his emotion and his body language. This is another photo that I think is highly probable. I can see a few different ways that I could crop it right off the bat. The first crop is just making sure that it's aligned and doing really what my initial shot was suggesting I do, which is just a tall vertical photo. I like how vertical it feels. Everything is really moving up and down. A lot of this is because the paper backdrop in the background is just this long sheet of blue, which is then connected by the blue of his genes. The next crop is just honing in, cropping in where his hands end and then leaving some space at the top for his head. The last crop I decided to crop through the middle of his hands and leave some space at the top of his head. Here the three crops side-by-side. My personal favorite is the one on the far left. I like how tall and vertical it is, and I think it makes him seem proud and like an interesting figure. The one in the middle and on the right still work for me, but I do miss that suggested scale and height that the one on the left has. Something I always do when I crop is, I make sure to darken my screen and Lightroom. You do that by pressing the L button twice. I do this because when you darken the screen, it doesn't show you what you're cropping out as you're cropping. So here's a photo of ashley that I'm going to just tighten in C. You can't see the background as much cropping without being able to see what you're cropping out really helps you understand what you're doing to an image. If I were to do that same crop, but press L again so that room is only just fading out. What's in the background versus completely getting rid of it. It would be a lot harder for me to visualize it. So it's just a simple shortcut that I always use. When I opened up an image to edit, the first question I ask myself is, does this edit make their face look good? If a client's face looks good, the rest of the image can be fixed pretty easily. I want their face to be well exposed. I don't want highlights to be blown out and I don't want shadows to be too dark. I just want everything to look correct. The face is where I start on my editing. My general rule of thumb when it comes to editing is, I don't want my editing to stand out. I want someone to look at my photo and say that's a great photo, not That's a really great edit on that photo. So when I edit, I try not to edit in a way that really draws attention to the edit. To me that means I don't like to go overboard on my editing. Lightroom arranges the editing tools and the way they suggest you use them start from the top and go to the bottom. This is an example of an image that I think works well because there are really three distinct colors that all work well with each other because green is skin, her clothing, and then the background. We were able to choose this background color that matched her clothing because we had all these backdrop colors on hand, which is something I talked about earlier in this video, which is just a really nice thing to have for people who are coming in for these types of quick headshots. The first thing I noticed when I look at this photo is her skin as a tiny bit too bright for me Overall, this photo is pretty much ready to go. It just needs a little bit of fine tuning. There aren't really that many things that I Like need to be done on this photo. If you look at a before and after of these images, I've really only made some small adjustments. I darken the photo a little bit and added some more contrast. And that's really all I did, that affects it. But you can see that it does make the photo better. It's just about that fine tuning process. In this photo, I really liked the hard light that was coming in through the window. I had to make sure to expose it so I didn't lose any of my highlights, particularly in his face and in the white part of the window sill on the left. So the first thing I'm gonna do is just crop this photo. All I'm really looking to do with this crop is just clean up the edges a bit. In this case, that means making sure that there's nothing really going on right here. That's the part of the image that I don't want someone to be thinking about. So I like having the pain of the window sill would be lining up with the edge of the frame. And then I want just enough of Callen and the right side to show that there was someone filming this but not be too much about him. So now that I have a crop I like, I'm going to start editing with clerk's face in mind. And I think it's pretty good, but it's still needs to be a little bit brighter. I like my face is to be bright, but I don't want them to be blown out so often what I'll do is I'll brighten something up and then actually use that highlights tool to make sure that the brightest part of that image isn't too bright. So it kinda takes that top 10 or 20 percent part of the image and brings it down a little bit. It's still preserves that inherent bright feeling. I also liked my photos to feel really sharp, so I'm just going to add some sharpening right now to give me an idea of how it will look. So now that I've made my global edits, which are edits that apply to the entire frame. I'm going to start thinking about any sort of local edits I wanna do. Looking at this photo quickly, I can see it's a little bit dark on the right side and a little bit bright on the left side. So I'm going to make a brush that just lowers those highlights a little bit. Now, when you're doing a local edit, you can press O and it will show you what part you've edited, and that'll show that in red. Now I can see that my edit is a little bit overboard and it starts to not feel natural. So I'm just going to undo those settings a little bit. And a quick before and after it looks like this. And I want my edits to make a difference, but I always want them to be subtle, so I don't want my brush to ever stand out. Now on the right side of the frame, I'm going to make a graduated filter, which just brightens that side a little bit. And again, you can always see what you're doing by pressing the O button. And you'll see what part of the image that filters affecting and what part of that image the filter isn't affecting. So here are the two photos of Clark side-by-side. You can see that all I've done is made a few changes, but I think the photo on the left really stands out in a way that the photo on the right doesn't quite. So in this portrait of Allison, I'm going to start out by again just making sure her face looks right and then I'll go from there. So I've just done my initial edits really quick and I'll have really done is just made her face a little bit brighter. Sometimes I like to use the split toning control to add a little bit of a sort of color wash. What split toning does is it washes the color over your image. I tend to use it really sparingly, but I do like that little bit of flavor it can add to an image. I really only made a small change with that split toning. You can see in this before and after. But I think it adds a nice, interesting tone to it. Now this is a photo that has bright areas on her hair and her forehead and nose and cheeks, but it's still reads kind of dark and we tend to read magenta as a sort of darker color. So I like adding that purple magenta sheen over this image to kind of emphasize that dark field. And you can see the before and after. I've really just done a few things, brightened it a little bit, and added a little bit of glow with the highlights. And of course put a little bit of a magenta Xin. You can see on that image, really, my editing is just about tweaking things a tiny bit. Because when you shoot your photo correctly, when you worry about your light and your backdrop, and making sure your client has a great expression. Editing is really just that last little bit. It's like seasoning. You don't want to overly season your food, you just want to add that last little bit of flavor. So here's a photo that I'm going to edit in black and white. Again, the first thing I look for is, how does the skin look? How does the face look? How is it exposed? I'm really focusing on his cheeks, his eyes, his overall face. Something I really look for when I'm editing a face is how bright or the whites and how dark or the darks. And I really like that contrast. So I'm really interested in bringing out the contrast between the brightest part of his cheek and the darker parts that fade away. You can see that in this image there's a lot of contrast to play with. And I really like that in my photography and especially my black and white photography. Something I'm looking for in the highlights too, is making sure that nothing is blown out. I don't want anything to ever be pure white. That tends to be a sign of a poorly exposed image. I'm just looking for highlights that are bright but not overexposed and darks that are shadowy and moody, but again, aren't drowning in those blacks that are pure black. And because your eye is attracted to the brightest part of an image, there's a lot of attention that's being drawn to his forehead. So I'm going to make a brush and just slightly, slightly make that area a little bit darker. Again, by pressing O, I can see where that brush affected my image. And if I need to, I can go in and clean up the parts of the photo that I don't want that brush to be affecting. And here you have a pretty typical black and white edit for me. 8. 08 Last Thing: Photography is an iterative process. Every shoot takes you one step closer to understanding the images you want to be making. Pay attention to the photos that you make that you love. Study them. Ask yourself, what about those images speaks to you? Understand your motivations and why you're drawn to what you're drawn to. Listen to what your heart is telling you about the photos you're excited about and lean into those images. This is how you'll find and hone your personal style. The images that you're most excited about should be your compass. The feeling that those photos evoke in US should be what you're always trying to put out into the world. Explorer, create. And don't be afraid to try things that seem scary or new. That's what we're all doing. Thank your credit. And I can put that in and post.