3 simple portrait setups

As I said in my last blog, I will explain how I shot the photo shoot with my girlfriend. You can shoot portraits wherever. However, to get some professional looking ones, you need a couple things first. First, you will need a background. In this blog, I will go over three different backgrounds. I forgot to take pictures of my setup last week but in future blogs I will for these type of blogs.

1.      Bed Sheet.

You may not think of this right away but everyone has a bed sheet not being used (make sure it is clean first!). A bed sheet makes for a perfect background. That is what a muslin background is, just a giant one. What I do is find something to hold the bed sheet up such as a wardrobe or shelving. But what about wrinkles? Here is where the flash comes in. You set the flash up on the stand that comes with it. I am pretty sure all flashes come with it. You can also use a light stand if you have one available. What you want to do is set the flash right behind your model facing the bed sheet. This will make the wrinkles disappear due to the flash being bright. Your camera registers as this as just white since it is going to be bright (not intended to rhyme). You will have to play with the flash power to get the background looking just right.

If you are using a darker bed sheet such as black or blue you will have to try your best to make sure the bed sheet is smooth as possible.

2.      Flash behind the background

If you have muslin or a photographic background you can use this for the first setup and this setup as well. Instead of putting the flash in front of background you are going to put it behind the background. Now this will only work with a white background since you will be shooting through it. I used this setup in my photo shoot last week.

I took a PVC pipe and drilled a hole at each end. Then, I put the PVC pipe on top of my two light stands. This will hold up my background. For this setup, you will need some light stands or a background stand to do this since you need to shoot through. Next, you set the flash up like you did in the first setup. I had my model (girlfriend) stand right in front of it. This lets the light wrap around her and creates a very soft light. You can also have the model stand perpendicular to the background. This creates a very soft like and almost looks like the model is standing next to a window.

3.      White or cream wall

In this last setup, you don’t even need a bed sheet or background. You can just use a white or cream colored wall. Setup the flash like you did in the previous setups and place it right behind the model. This will be just like the first setup as the flash will be shooting into the wall. This will “blow out” the color and imperfections in the wall making it look like a white background.

From here, you can use any key light as you wish.  You can use a softbox, umbrella, or bare flash whatever style you are going for.

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4 mistakes new photographers make

I have been the photography editor for The Clarion Call (university newspaper) for 3 years now. Over those 3 years, I have noticed some mistakes that are reoccurring with student photographers. These mistakes are particularly seen in people just starting out in photography. I have seen these mistakes with my photographers but also from a lot of other photographers. Here are these mistakes and what you can do to learn from them.

1.      Rule of Thirds

If you do not know anything about photography, you probably may not have heard of The Rule of Thirds. This is one of the fundamental rules of photography. The Rule of Thirds is separating the frame with two horizontal and two vertical lines, creating a 3x3 grid. When shooting a subject, you want to put the subject on any of those lines. That’s why in most photos, the subject is often to the left or the right. It is aesthetically pleasing.

2.      Using flash and not ISO

Since I have students shooting events around campus, often events are in auditoriums or chapels. These places do not have the best lighting let alone lighting at all. When shooting in these conditions, I urge the photographers to crank up the ISO and turn off the flash. There is a great chance that you are not going to be in the front row or very close for that matter. With that being said, the flash will be useless. You will be lighting the crowd more than the subject(s) on stage. Plus, do not be that guy/girl who is being annoying and using flash.

3.      Gear Acquisition Syndrome

Gear Acquisition Syndrome also known as GAS, is a very serious condition where one needs the newest and best photography gear. I have and am currently suffering from this. How can you not want the newest lens or body!? However, it is all in your brain. If you are a photographer, you hear this all the time. You don’t need the best gear to create the best pictures. I recently read an article about the cameras the photographers of National Geographic use. One photographer used a Canon T5i. This camera is a high end consumer DSLR. You couldn’t tell which National Geographic photo was taken by a Canon 5D Mark III or a Canon T5i, no one could.

4.      Shutter Speed

Shooting for the university newspaper, requires sports photography. Numerous times I see photographers getting blurry action photos or the subjects are sharp and clean but the ball is a glob of blur. This is all due to a low shutter speed. When shooting sports photography, it is key to shoot at least 1/250 of a second or higher. This freezes almost all the action in the frame. There may be some sports that need to be higher than 1/250. I have also noticed some student photographers are shooting at f/10. You can easily open your shutter to f/4-5.6 to increase the shutter speed and get rid of motion blur.

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