Would I buy this photograph?

A while back I watched a Creative Live Seminar with Canon Explorer of Light Award Recipient, Clay Blackmore. I didn’t get to watch too closely, but I enjoyed a Master Class with him in Italy a few years ago, so this was really review. I went back and reviewed my work since then and was pleased to see that most of my portrait since that time have turned out great! Thanks, Clay and David Ziser!

When you are photographing people, ask yourself, “Would I buy this photograph if it were me?” If I want to have a successful photography business, I must create images people want to pay for! Knowing how to light people and pose them to make them look good is extremely important.

There are two basic poses to remember: feminine and basic. Explained in very simplistic terms, the feminine pose turns the body at about 45° to the camera, drops the shoulder farthest away from the camera and has the female subject tip her head toward the higher shoulder. The light should cross the front of the body rather than come straight at it which will emphasize curves and details in clothing. This pose is excellent for women with thin to normal size bodies and youth to middle age. The basic pose works for men, and heavier and/or elderly women. The reason is the light is directed straight at the front of the body, showing less details or curves than the feminine pose. The head should be straight with body (like the line a tie creates) rather than tipped, especially in men.

Then there are three camera positions: front, 2/3s, and profile. If you turn your subject to create these different camera positions instead of moving your camera, remember that your lighting will need to move with them to keep the same lighting pattern. (It may be easier to move your camera, if your background is suitable from the different angles.)

I learned about different lighting patterns in Advanced Studio Lighting when I was working on my bachelor’s degree in photography, but don’t be afraid to learn and explore on your own. A great book I got, after attending a seminar by the authors at WPPI convention several years ago, is The Portrait – Understanding Portrait Photography by Glenn Rand and Tim Meyer. (It was really much more helpful than the textbooks used in my classes.)

Now all you need to do is practice. I suggest you find a statue or large stuffed figure you can practice on. They don’t get tired or angry by being photographed over and over. Start there and when you feel confident enough, move to real people. Clay Blackmore said it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to be good, and 100,000 hours to be a master! Unless you have LOTS of time, you may want to leave your important photos to a professional.  

Would you be interested in a photography class about how to light and pose people well? If so, use the contact form below to be added to a mailing list that I will contact when I schedule my next class.