Do you master the headshot? If I'm out on a photo-job or documenting an event, I always find it very useful to take home an interesting (tight) headshot of the people involved.
One of the big bonuses with a headshot is that you can create a VERY quick portrait of someone that is almost always interesting. Most of the times I do them with available light and with the cheapest pro-lens around: the 50mm1.8. My favorite.
a few pointers:
- focus on the nearest eye
- shoot with your aperture wide open (smallest f-number)
- get in very close; use the closest focal distance as lead
- don’t crop on the hair-line, nor the chin
- get the lightsource (sun) behind your subject or shoot in the shadow
- overexpose 1/3 to 2/3 stops (when matrix-metering)
as a general rule:
- shoot RAW
- maximise your contrasts
- practice (x1000)
I’ve been traveling Europe extensively over the last weeks to see different (cycling) Proteams for the next SHIMANO-campaign that will appear in international cycling-magazines in the near future. This time of year all teams have their traditional training-camps (mostly in Europe) where they get to know the new team-mates, check out new gear, let their press-pics be taken,… and train for the new season. I’m photographing the riders in a studio-setup that I drag around with me. Luckily I have an assistant to carry the load with me from hotel to hotel.
Meeting riders and teams like this is great. Mostly there is no stress involved and it allows you to get to know each other a little bit. During racing-season too many people want too many things from the riders and I always try to keep a low profile then and try not to ‘want’ something from the riders. When making portraits at the start of the race I make it a point to take that picture within 10 seconds.
These are my self-imposed rules when taking portraits at the start of a race:
1/ ALWAYS ask the rider if it’s ok to take a picture; if the rider says ‘no’ I thank him and leave him be (this seldom happens)
2/ NEVER tell riders how to pose or ask them to take their helmet/glasses of
3/ be (technically) ready before you ask to take a picture
4/ take 1 picture
5/ if something went (technically) wrong, DO NOT ask for a second picture (better luck next time)
6/ THANK the rider and wish him a good ride
7/ do all of the above in less then 10 seconds
code word here: respect
I feel very privileged to be able to do what I do now. I spend about 10 to 15 minutes with each rider I have to portray for the campaign. After 1 or 2 shots I always show the riders the shot (on the back of my camera); so they get confident in my capabilities (as a photographer) + they can check if their hair (or other things…) is in place.
I make sure I get the campaign-shots in a few minutes time. Riders appreciate the fact I work fast; they’re not models by nature… and like (almost) everybody else; they hate being in front of the camera. I can relate to that feeling. I try to make the shoot as pleasant and efficient as possible. THAT is my job. If I can make them walk off the set and they didn’t mind the shoot that much; I know I succeeded.
When presented with the opportunity I also try to go along a training-ride with the team. When with Team FdJ a few days ago, I made these nice shots of their TT-training that day. Luckily I drove along on a sunny winter-day in the Provence (France). Lucky me.
Do you, as a photographer, have the same problem?
I have plenty of pictures of the people around me. But when asked; I haven’t got a decent one of myself. At parties and social events, at home or on holidays, I’m usually the one taking the pictures ’cause you do it so well’.
And the thing is; almost everybody needs pictures of themselves for their avatars or websites or…
The only (relatively) decent pictures I have of myself, are the ones taken by fellow photographers while out on one of our photo-safaris or somewhere at a workshop. But there’s a way to get your portrait more easely: Do It Yourself! …as in the best punk tradition.
AND; there’s much you can learn by taking/making your own portrait.
When I think of a new light-plan, or want to test some new gear; I pretty quickly want to try it out. I’ve bored my wife, children and even the cat to death with these testshoots. Their interest in the tieniest of light/aperture/shutter variations… well; let’s just say they couldn’t care less. Bless them.
- What do you need?
1/ Besides your camera and yourself, having a decent tripod is important… You’re able to frame your picture the same way every shot. Every variation you try will also be more visible/detectable that way. And if you want to experiment with long exposures: no problemo.
2/ Space: almost every room (or garden, or field,…) fits! The tiniest of rooms can throw the biggest of challenges at you. Welcome them. Just try and make a decent picture in your bathroom. It’s good practice for when you’re out on a real shoot and are confronted with closet-sized offices where you have to portray the CEO… believe me: it will happen.
3/ Time: take lot’s of it. don’t be happy too quickly; see where you can improve and do it. Try to mimic the style of a photographer you admire and do it step by step; what’s the composition? what lenses does he/she use? what kinda light is at play? where’s the focus? how is the colour being used? …
The nice thing is; you get to see menus in your camera you wouldn’t otherwise go into. You can learn new ways of doing things (how do I focus myself?). You realize how difficult posing can be. But above all: it’s fun! Now GO PLAY!
….and show me what you did yourself via the comments.
(TV &) Video is the medium I’ve been working in for almost 20 years. In case you’re wondering: I started pretty young… And doing something for a long time makes you less wonderstruck about what you are actually doing (video-directing in my case).
That was the case for me too and it made me step into professional photography a good 2 years ago. I wanted to be creatively challenged again. Not even a year into my parallel career a meteor struck the video-world: Nikon released a video-capable DSLR, the D90 and a little later came the mother of HDSLRs to date: the Canon 5DII. I hadn’t been that excited ever since I started in the video-business.
A few months back I got commissioned to make 4 video-trailers for a new studio-show for a local TV-station. I worked with ad-agency Absoluut for this. We work together a lot, whether for my photography or my video-directing. There was a (very) limited budget; so we had to shoot everything in 1 day, with a crew of… 2.
I contacted my go-to cameraman for these kinda jobs Pieter (the one holding the camera) and off we went. We soon decided to go with the 5DII as camera (instead of a DigiBeta or XDcam HD). Reason: the cinematic qualities of the big-sensored 5D and therefore it’s shallow depth-of-field capabilities.
For those interested to know more about HDSLR’s I strongly urge you to visit Philip Bloom’s Blog.
The first trailer looks something like this (and has a cyclist in there for some reason…):
The concept was simple: everyday actions were to be filmed in an abstract manner and about 25 seconds into the trailer, studio-lights were to come on, showing the action was actually taking place in the TV-stations studio.
To get the maximum effect we went for the minimal approach. The whole atmosphere in this video is achieved by doing 2 things.
1/ minimizing the depth of field by using big-apertured prime lenses (Zeiss in this case); usually shooting in the neighbourhood of f2.
For the lighting the backlight was always the main light and the side/front-light served as a fill (if used at all). Also the backlight was perfect for ‘the rain’ to show. That effect was entirely achieved with 1 typical plant-sprayer (as you can see at the end of the clip)… cheap and easy!
here’s another clip we shot that day:
Cycling. When you live in my part of the world you hardly have a choice; there’s no escaping it! The northren part of Belgium (Flanders) is simply cycle-mad. EVERY event that involves cycling is BIG. There’s no ‘small’ in cycling here.
A pro-rider is the hardest working athlete in the world. If he’s not racing he’s getting those miles in by training, getting massaged, recovering, dieting or sleeping. As a portrait photographer (and video-director) I’m fascinated by this. Fascinated by these individuals who compell themselves to do this. And I, in turn, am compelled to get closer to them. Close enough to try and make an interesting picture anyway… 10 seconds max and then leave them be; to do what they have to do; race.
My main focus is on road-racing. The peleton kicks off early march here and hardly stops riding untill early october. And then there’s this other kind of cycling-madness that kicks in; cyclocross! This year I decided that I’d get a little closer to these mud-loving-cyclists as well. I discovered a world that my camera simply couldn’t resist.
The first cyclocross-race I attended this season was the one in Overijse. I approached it the same way I did roadraces. I mounted my favorite location softbox (the Westcott Apollo 28″x28″) on my Manfrotto679B-monopod (via an 026 umbrella swivel) and went on my way with my assistant to go make some portraits before the race started. Strobist style.
Once the race started I didn’t need soft light for the action-shots, so I decided to use the hard light of my nikon-speedlights and got rid of the softbox. With the flashes still on a monopod my assistant was easely able to light/follow the fast passing riders. Crowds stand very close to the circuit in cyclocross and by using the monopod (as a boom) we were also easely able to let the flashes go over the crowds’ heads and closer to the riders where necessary.
I knew that for the next races I wanted to freeze the action of cyclocross with 2 flashes (1 main light + 1 backlight = crosslighting… sorry for the intended pun / couldn’t help myself), but then I would need 2 assistants to hold them up… Also I wanted to try and do this as a one-man-operation. Inspiration on how to do this came a little later.
At the WorldCup race in Hoogerheide (Netherlands) I met up with fellow cycling-photographer Balint Hamvas. His action pictures of cyclocross are family to what I was doing at the time and he also uses strobist-techniques to achieve this. He had a very ingenious, yet simple, way of positioning his 2 flashes around the circuit with Gorrilapods. After that I started lighting my action shots with my flashes mounted on Manfrotto-clamps that were equiped with ballheads and flashshoes. These clamps allowed me to hang/stand/attatch the flashes to almost anything around the circuit while I could still position them accurately (and relatively safely too, although riders do get pretty close to the barriers at times…).
Life can be simple.
Free tip: when shooting in rain/snow/mud; simply cover your flash with a (see thru) plastic bag. Cheap and effective; because it let’s you use (your) IR triggering system whilst protecting your gear.
Here you can see the entire Cyclocross Project.
Note: this blogpost (my first ever) is also used on the Manfrotto School of Xcellence website: go see it there.