Ali, Ted and I met at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens for an engagement portrait session a few days ago. The weather has not turned too hot yet, but the sun was still fairly high in the sky (it wasn’t yet sweet light time) and Ted remarked on that as we were shooting. “I thought the sun would be too high and we’d have to wait for it to drop a bit.” And he’d be correct were it not for the great tree cover in the gardens. There are so many places to hide from the sun and use it for a back light that we were able to get a lot of great shots and still get them off to enjoy the rest of the their evening (which included a baseball game for Ted). Portraits do not have to be difficult, painful or even long.
These are a few of my favorite images from the shoot. There were a lot of them, but I’ll post my favorites here and I will let them speak for themselves.
It’s like the sunset lasted for an hour and a half. Everything was simply gold.
Engagement portrait photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Location: Phoenix Botanical Gardens, Phoenix, Arizona
This is my second post of portrait sessions from Shanghai, China. You will see, we are in a different spot for every photo session and all of them are very unique, as are the photos themselves. I try not to follow too much of a pattern when shooting sessions. I want them all to have their own unique flair…
Karen Liu, mother of three great kids and an aspiring photographer, booked a photo session as a learning experience. So, we shot a little less and spent a lot of time learning. I took her through my thought process for shooting and lighting on the street with both natural light and additive flash lighting. We also talked about compositional choices and selecting the appropriate camera settings. All things I will be teaching in my upcoming free workshop at CreativeLIVE on December 6-8, 2012. We got to the market in Shanghai, China early enough to avoid the throngs of shoppers and pedestrians that make this place a purely claustrophobic experience during the business hours. This also gave us great light, since the market is a canyon of traditional Chinese style buildings (I say that with absolutely no understanding of “Chinese architectural styles” but when you look at the images you will understand what I mean).
In this first shot, we had 360 degrees of choices for the shot, but one gave us the best lighting for a complete existing light portrait. Notice that the strongest instance of sun is coming from behind the kids which gives us the rim light coming from behind them. Behind me is a large building with a light wall which is reflecting indirect light onto the kids, so, we have beautiful soft light coming forward on them. So in an instance like this one, all that is required is the correct exposure at the camera. No additional light is needed to get a nice shot.
As we got further and further into the morning, it got more and more crowded. I love crowds for portraits, because you get all sorts of additional people in the shot. If you wait for the “right” person, you get get juxtapositions. I love this one. Karen (mom) also loves this street photography style work, so I suspect she will love this one as well.
We stopped for a Chinese snack after the shoot. I am not this good at chopsticks!!!
This is one of my favorites from the session because I identify with it! My kids hang on me whenever I am shooting and they are around. I am sure any of you parents out there with small children experience the same situation. I think they do it because they know you are not paying attention to them. Hanging on you seems to force the attention their direction.
Incidentally, I have the same problem when I am traveling with adults. I get to taking photos and all my attention becomes focused on the shot. So my wife and all the other adults with me tend to get annoyed with my lack of attention. So, if you have a photographer in your life… just know that they still love you, even when they seem to be ignoring you. Want their attention? Take the camera out of their hand.
Location: Shanghai, China
Slideshow Music by Nancy Falkow, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music
Subject: Photographer Karen Liu
We photographed this Prom Portrait Session in downtown Chandler, Arizona.
Music by Roy Ashen “Never”, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music
I spent the afternoon photographing a few seniors going to prom on Saturday. I photograph a lot of senior portraits, but the last time I shot Prom Photos, was in college. I photographed a prom as the “official” prom photographer with the back drops and lights and such. I always though those kind of prom portraits were the worst. Everyone gets the same photo and they are all very lame. So this was a fun way to do prom portraits. If I were in high school, I would get my prom portraits done on location like this. They’re so much cooler.
So here are a few of my favorites from the portrait shoot.
See the entire set here. Contact the studio for a key code.
Photography: Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Subject: Senior Prom Portraits
Location: Downtown, Chandler, Arizona
We started this engagement portrait shoot at Shelby’s parents home in Phoenix, Arizona and ended it in the desert as sunset. Shelby’s parents home is in the shadow of the mountain about two and a half hours before the sun sets, so there is a lot of great open shade around the home, which makes for fantastic images. The color and texture of the stones is quite nice to work with as well. And of course, Shelby and Nick are a good looking and cool couple, so it was a pretty nice afternoon.
The night after the engagement shoot, I posted one of the images from the shoot on my Facebook Page. The shot is below. Shelby just happen to have a card board cutout of Jacob, from the Twilight Movie series in her trunk. I remember trying to watch one of those movies on a 14 hour flight home from a wedding in Hong Kong and it was so bad, so poorly acted, that I shut the movie off and did nothing for two hours rather than watch that movie. It was a lot of fun and the shot makes me laugh, every time I look at it.
We had a lot of laughs while we were making the shot. And if there is one thing that is extremely important at an engagement portrait session, it is having a lot of good laughs. It certainly makes my job more entertaining, and the by-product is that the photos look better too.
So, here is the first photo I posted, the night of the engagement shoot.
There were so many great shots from the afternoon. I have posted a few of my very favorite shots below.
This was one of the earlier shots in the day. The huge windows behind them make for some fantastic back light and the stair case made for a great angular element to hold the top of the photo together. For those of you interested in the lighting on this shot, there is a shoot through translucent umbrella above, forward of and to the right of the Nick. This light is giving the couple some volume by side lighting them, but we are not too dramatic, because it is at a 45 degree angle on them and it is a shoot through umbrella which softens the light a bit because the direction of the light is less defined. The light was simply a 580EXII Canon Flash attached to a Radio Popper. My camera is also sporting a 580EX flash with a Radio Popper transmitter and the flash is pounding up into the ceiling to give a little fill light throughout the room. And then, of course, the window lights are providing shape of the stare case, and a little hair light for the couple.The shutter speed is at 125th of a second and the ISO is at 400. This allows me to get a good blast from the ambient light outside and the aperture is at 2.8, which gives me that soft look in the background. I am shooting on a fixed 85mm lens. The 85mm 1.8 is not a very expensive lens, but it takes a beautiful image. I love that little lens.
I love the reflection in the pool and the blue set against the yellow blooms of the desert trees.
Of all the images at the house, this has to be my favorite. The stone and the tree are fantastic and the tree frames the couple very nicely in the bottom left corner of the photo. You have to love the color in this one.
I just love the expressions on this one. Oh, and the composition.
Just behind their home, on the side of the mountain is an outcropping of rocks that was quite difficult to photograph. Once we got them up to the rocks, I had to take position on the top of a wall to get the right angle on the shot, but how can you not love this one. I was so happy with the image composition and then, Shelby put he elbow up on Nick’s shoulder and that made the photo! I told her to keep that pose and “never stop!” I think those were my actual words. Way to go with this one Shelby. Way to go.
I enjoy the quality of the light after the sun has gone down for about 15 minutes or so. There really isn’t a better light. I used to capture this kind of light on film, but I had to use a tripod, I was often shooting a 4×5 camera (those old accordion looking cameras with the dark cloths over the photographer’s head) and the exposures were 30 seconds and of landscapes. I am so happy with digital cameras today. 6400 ISO? No problem. I could enjoy shooting an entire photo shoot AFTER sunset! It really is the best light ever.
Sweet light. Sweet kiss. Sweet shot.
It was a rainy day with strong winds all day and a bit cold for Phoenix, AZ in January, but we altered our planned photo shoot a little in the concept and went out shooting. Piano rock star, Kevin Burdick, was the subject. We decided to take the umbrellas, but when we got to our location, we had a break in the clouds, but not the wind. So we went with the umbrellas anyway. Kevin get very tired trying to hold the umbrellas up against the wind, it really was quite strong.
The photos were shot with the Canon 1D Mark IV.
Now on to some tips and tricks:
First, the sun is off to the right of the photo and slightly behind Kevin. Which means that if we took the photo without additional lights, he would be too dark. Remember, we are competing with some bright clouds in the background, so we have to control the ambient exposure to match. We could use a big reflector, or we could use a flash. It was just Kevin and myself, no assistant, so we chose a flash unit. A Canon 580EX II is mounted on a pole about 12 feet off to my right to avoid the on camera flash flattening effect. Because it is off camera, I had to connect it via wireless slave. I am using the pocket wizard TT1 and TT5 system. This allows the camera to communicate with the flash via radio signal, but unlike typical radio slave systems, that only transmit the fire signal, the TT1 / TT5 system allows the camera to communicate metering solutions etc to the flash for TTL auto exposures. The TT1/TT5 system also allows me to sync my flash at incredibly high shutter speeds via radio slave, and in order to get the ambient exposure right with the correct depth of field, I need to expose the image at f 5.0 at between 1/1600 and 1/2000 of a second. A typical flash slave system will only allow syncing with a flash at 1/250 of a second. So the Pocket Wizard TT1 / TT5 system is critical to the success of this photograph. When I need the light, but also need the shutter speed, I don’t have to compromise.
The flash is set to provide a bust of light which is about one and a half stops lower than the brightness of the sun. This allows the sun to remain the dominant light source. You can see that the sun is still creating its signature crest of light on the far right side of Kevin’s face, but it is not blown out. The near side of his face, though lit well, is still the shadow side. This combination of lights provides a good contour to his face. I am getting a studio lit look out on location with three lights.
“Three lights,” you ask, “but you have just mentioned the two?”
Light One: The sun. This is the strongest light on the set. It is the light coming from the side and slightly behind, giving me that crest of light on his face and hands, and acting as a hair light. It is also providing the nice bright crests on the clouds and the mountains.
Light Two: The Canon Flash. This is a direct light on Kevin’s face which is filling in the shadow not to match, but fall short of the power of the sun (light one). This gives us a great vivid exposure on Kevin’s face, without flattening the contours of the face because it is not on camera, but off camera and coming at the subject from the same side of the frame as the sun, so direction of the shadows still make sense.
Light Three: God’s Soft Box, the Northern Sky. The northern sky (because in North America, the sun is always in the southern sky) is a giant soft reflector of the sun’s light. That bounced light from the northern sky is filling in all the deep shadows on my subject and on the mountains and the clouds. Without the reflection of the norther sky, the shadows in the photo would be very dark. Now, I cannot position God’s soft box on a moment by moment basis, it is in a fixed position, but there are some things I can do. I can choose the time of day to shoot, so that either the northwest or the northeast sky is my active soft box and I can position my subject such that he faces the northern sky, and I can choose the proper location for shooting the photograph so that my subject can face away from the sun, toward the northern sky.
I always know where the sun is and is going to be. My iPhone, though not a good phone, has a great sun position app which tells me the exact position of the sun at any hour of any day well into the future. So, when I scout a location, I know where the sun will be a 3 PM on Jan 12, 2030 and can plan my photo shoot accordingly. I need to know this, because I want to get the best shot with the least amount of equipment possible.
The green toned photo above is what happens when the sun changes brightness on you in the middle of the shoot. The original shot is a bit off in exposure, but with some fancy photoshop work using two different develops of the same RAW file, I was able to pull of a very cool shot and and control exactly how dark I wanted the background and the subject. I love the drama of the image.
Note: Although the rest of these photographs have undergone a major amount of burning and dodging they have not been “retouched much at all. I am not all that interested in major retouching, but burning and dodging, which I did very skillfully in the darkroom, is still a very key part of the beauty of my images. Although now, I have such precise control offer my burns that almost anything is possible. I often will slim down a subject or remove a belly with only burning and dodging. I will post my article on Burning and Dodging here on the blog in the near future. It ran in Professional Photographer Magazine in January 2010. If you have a copy, take a look.
This next set of photos, we moved the position of the light from my right side to my left. Some people on my facebook posts have said it looks almost like he is being photographed against a backdrop, because he is popping out of the photo so much. This is what happens when you move your second light to a less natural position. Instead of the light coming from the same side as the sun’s light, it is coming from the other side, which subtly sets Kevin at odds with the shadows in the background. Ergo, he jumps out of the photo because he is no longer blending in to the light. Your mind sees him as different than the photo, even if your consciousness can not figure out why. Study the photo carefully and see the shadows on Kevin, then the shadows on the mountains and clouds.
Anytime you want something to pop out of your photo, you have to make it different than everything else in the photo. Most of the time, people use a bight color to do this. More subtle is using a different texture of perhaps a different pattern, etc. Notice, he is also wearing a tomato shirt. That helps him stand out in every photo. But the lighting is the real key to creating that extreme difference that is still subtle enough to make one question their perception.
Now for the rest of the photo shoot. When he is far away from the camera we obviously can’t light him with a flash, so a little dodging in the post production fixes the shadow of the face. Fortunately, distant shots like these don’t require as much lighting, because they are more about composition. Besides, we still have our two lights working for us: light one and three.
Before we went out for our location shoot, we also did a few shots in the studio. Kevin is great for expression. I posted a set of these expressions in a previous post, but here are a few larger shots I loved from the session.
You may be wondering what I did to the photos here. What photoshop action did I use? The coloring effect is done completely in Adobe Lightroom with the click of a button. It is one of many presets I have created for toning my images. This one reminds me of an old 1970s photograph of my mom and dad in horn rimed glasses and a few of the kids up in the mountains. The color is faded and the paper is yellowed and some of the silvers are oxidizing. It is a nice effect, but who wants to wait 30 years for that. Anyway, most people make these color presets with the color balance changes, but that sometimes messes up the photo itself. Making presets correctly is important. I am finishing up a second set of presets, which will be available for purchase by WPPI 2010 in Las Vegas (where I will be teaching a master class on Lightroom and if you are coming, I will teach you how to make this preset). The first set of presets is called the Essential Lightroom Preset Collection, which is a set of work-flow centered presets to get you through the editing process quickly. This new set is called the Top Secret Collection, which is a set of effect presets to compliment the Essential Collection. This effect in particular is mostly based in the split toning panel of the develop section in Lightroom. There are some other settings in Saturation, Vibrance and Clarity etc that help to make it look just right, but the bulk of the effect is there in the split toning.
By the way, if you are going to be at WPPI and want to take my master class, but can’t get in because it is full, email [email protected] and ask to be placed on the waiting list. If there are enough people on the waiting list, they will open another class. And more importantly, they will book me in a platform class next year, which they should have done this year. So if you are going to WPPI, email and ask to be placed on the waiting list.
And finally, a nice black and white at 1600 ISO. This Canon 1D Mark IV is incredible in the higher ISOs. I can’t say enough good things about that ISO. I turned off the flash slaves and simply used the modeling lights, raised the ISO with impunity and shot. With this camera, I will never fear the ISO. Never.
We shot Sarah and Macey’s portraits in downtown Gilbert, AZ. They are great friends, so we were able to get individual portraits as well as some cool shots of them together. They are not high school seniors yet, but who says you have to be a high school senior to get some cool portraits done?
Here are a few of my favorite shots from the portrait session:
The wind was picking up toward sunset, but rather than fight it, I went with it and it provided some added energy to the shots.
Once night falls, street lights and off camera flash are the only way to go. Here we are using the Canon 580EXII with a Pocket Wizard TT1 and TT5 TTL radio slave which allow us to send the advanced TTL exposure information to the flash via radio signals.
I think this photo sums up Sarah’s personality.