2001, Ben Clay, All Rights Reserved
In order to demonstrate the
basics of outdoor portraiture, we brought a local model and our photography
crew to a beautiful nearby beach. Careful planning and the right equipment
allowed us to achieve stunning results. Being equipped with a range
of lenses for your camera enables you to achieve the exact cropping
and background you want. A telephoto lens is particularly useful for
outdoor portraits because it has a longer focal length than a standard
or wide lens, allowing you to minimize your background. It also prevents
the distorted perspective that can happen with a shorter lens.
To illustrate this, we first shot our model with a standard 80mm lens
on a Contax 645 medium format camera.
Our result demonstrates a perspective and an angle of view similar to
that of the human eye, with both the model and the background in sharp
focus (Image 1). As you can see, the large pilings diminish rapidly
in size while the model is relatively small in the frame.
To change the look of the shot,
we replaced the standard 80mm lens with a 350mm telephoto lens. Putting
on a longer lens acts like a telescope in that it magnifies your subject
and makes it appear much closer. This brings attention to your subject
while eliminating much of the background. Because this lens is so powerful,
we had to move away from our model to create a greater distance between
her and the camera. To reflect a warm light into the shadowed areas of
the model, our stylist positioned a Photoflex 422 Soft Gold Litedisc just
below the camera's field of view (Image 2). This filled in the shadows
with a warm, even light.
The result looked good, but
the highlights were still too bright. To knock down the highlights in
the model's hair, our assistants held a Photoflex 772x772 translucent
Litepanel over the model's head to diffuse the bright afternoon
sun. The result shows an evenly lit shot with a warm summery feel to it
(Images 3 and 4).
For our second location, our
stylist changed the model's outfit and we re-positioned her with
the ocean and sand behind her (Image 5). This initial shot shows the results
using a standard 80mm lens with direct sunlight. Notice how the light
is dramatic, yet provides too much contrast on our model (Image 6).
To reduce the extreme highlights and fill in the shadows, we replicated
our previous setup using the Litepanel overhead for diffusion and the
soft gold reflector to fill in the shadows. We were able to reduce the
amount of background and come in tighter on the model, by switching back
to the 350mm lens and backing up 20' or so (Image 7).
You can clearly see the difference
this makes in these two shots. The first, shot at f/4, shows a very soft,
almost abstract background (Image 8). The second, shot at f/11, makes
the background more recognizable (Image 9). Which you choose will depend
on your subject and background. This lesson will be posted in the free
public section of the Web Photo School at: www.webphotoschool.com
You will be able to enlarge the photos from thumbnails. If you would like
to continue your digital step by step education lessons on editing, printing,
and e-mailing your photos it will be on the private section of the Web
Photo School. Shutterbug has negotiated with WPS to offer our readers
a special 33 percent discount rate of $30 per year. To enroll at this
discount just go to: http://shutterbug.webphotoschool.com and fill out
the Shutterbug questionnaire which will help us to publish lessons for
you in the future.
Changing Your Background
By adjusting your f/stop, you can easily change the look of the background.
The higher the f/stop (f/11-f/22), the more the background will remain
in focus. Conversely, a smaller f/stop (f/2.8-f/5.6) will throw the background
more out of focus. Remember that in order to render a good exposure, the
shutter speed must be adjusted to accommodate for your f/stop. As with
many SLR cameras, the Contax 645 can be set to an Aperture Priority mode.
This allows you to choose the f/stop you want and the camera will automatically
adjust the shutter speed for the correct exposure. Note: When using Aperture
Priority it is important to use the spot metering mode for the best exposure
for your subject. To do this, focus on a middle-toned area of your subject
(here we focused on the model's denim jeans) then press and keep
the shutter halfway down to lock the shutter speed. Next, choose the cropping
you want and press the shutter the rest of the way down.
1. When shooting film on location, it is always a good idea to use a Polaroid
back to check for composition and exposure. It also shows the model, stylist,
and Art Director how the shot looks before committing it to film. Once
everyone is able to view this preview, adjustments can be made to the
lighting, posing, clothing, background, and so on. Once these details
are finalized, the photographer can then focus on the interaction with
the model (Images 10 and 11). 2. A makeup artist, or stylist, can make
a tremendous difference in the final outcome of a shot. While you are
busy focusing on the model's expressions and positioning, the stylist
concentrates on the details: hair, makeup, clothing, props, etc. (Image
12). Our stylist purchased clothing and props, handled all pre-shoot preparation
and was with us on location to attend to details throughout the shoot.
If you can afford to use one, we highly recommend it.