Photography News | Issue 53 | photographynews.co.uk
6. Use on-camera flash
8. Cut up the subject
And one you can do in Photoshop
One of the first things that improves flash-lit portraits is getting the flash off the camera. Whether you’re using your camera’s pop-up flash or an accessory flashgun mounted in the hotshoe, if a burst of light is emitted straight at the subject it causes hard lighting, a crisp shadow on anything behind the subject, and often red-eye as the flash reflects from the back of the subject’s eyes. Using accessory flashguns you canusuallybounce the light to get a softer and more diffused look. But given the right subject and situation, unmodified direct flash can work really well. The hard shadows it creates and the harsh light can look edgy, which is why you’ll find lots of similar shots used in fashion photography, where it’s used to add realism and grit. In the example picture an accessory flashgun was used, with the camera held vertically, so the shadow appears to the side of the subject. I also added strong vignette in Lightroom to give it a spotlight look; similar to that you’d get using a snoot attachment on the flash.
Above On-camera flash is not liked by many photographers, but it give a bright, contrasty result.
Above The best joiners are usually shot with the technique in mind so there is plenty of picture choice when it comes to editing.
7. Embrace the clutter
Does a good portrait need to be made solely in camera? Of course not. And a great example is creating a photo joiner. Photo joiners involve splitting the subject across multiple frames, either by shooting separate images of them, or by splitting a single image up in Photoshop. It’s a style that can help make sense of an awkward composition, but looks great in its own right, too. The first method is the purist’s choice, often inspired by the Polaroid joiners of David Hockney; you keep altering the framing to record all of the subject and their surroundings, not worrying too much about
For formal portraits you would naturally try to remove as many distractions around the subject as possible; you’d use a clean background too, and you certainly wouldn’t have anything between you and the person you’re shooting. The more you remove, the more you’ll tend to make the subject clearer as the focal point.
Handled in the right way, though, clutter will add character, narrative and depth to a picture. Now, you still don’t want anything touching the subject, or even too close to their position, but if you can find some foreground elements and shoot with them out of focus, it will add to the story, as well as making the subject seem even clearer and sharper.
In the example image below, a very wide aperture was used to knock the items on the restaurant table out of focus, while focusing on the subject keeps them sharp. The eye contact makes it a funny and intimate moment. Have the subject looking away from the camera and the same set-up will look as though they’re being observed in secret.
perfectly overlapping shots, but making sure you don’t leave any part uncovered. Shoot in a semi-automatic mode like aperture- or shutter- priority and you’ll get a nice mix of brightness in the exposures, adding to the patchwork look. Finally, you can either print the images and make a physical collage from them, or load them all into Photoshop, make a blank canvas, and add the images as separate layers, moving them around on the virtual canvas there. The second method is simpler, but arguably lacks the artistic endeavour and ultimate creativity of the first. Just take a single image, and then cut it up into bits in Photoshop. Once you have the original cut up, you can make a new, blank file, and add the cut-up parts as layers, using the Move tool to reposition them.
Above Using nicely out-of-focus foreground to direct the viewer to the subject is a good technique to try.
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