The best part of the photographic industry has little to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft. It's actually a very industry. We all go to the same rubber chicken dinners, retirement parties, convention and often workshops. I had completely forgotten about my past relationship with Hernan Rodriguez, until he reminded me.
In my early Rangefinder days, Bill Hurter, then Editor-in-Chief of RF, worked a lot with Hernan on content, print judging, just about anything Bill ever needed help with. There's one of the first characteristics of great photographers, they give back to the industry and that's exactly the way Hernan lives his life.
This guest post is part of a Daily Double. The podcast with Hernan airs at the same time as his guest post and it's all thanks to Tamron USA! They not only make some great glass, but they believe in helping photographers raise the bar on their skill set and education!
Hernan and Tamron USA, both need to be on your radar. Check out the Tamron site for lots of great information and updates on workshops around the country. Keep tabs on what Hernan's working on by visiting his site and follow him on Facebook. Skip Cohen
Many times we are caught up on the extreme. High defenition, (HDR), mega-pixels, and technology. We sometimes consider the success of an image is by its razor sharp quality. Sometimes this is can be characterized as a "style".
Photography styles are many times determined by social influences such as music, fashion, technology and many other trends.Thus as photographers, we begin to emulate such styles. I personally believe though that the true honest characteristics of the "Classic" , whether art or photography will always transcend time. This is why images from some of the greats such as Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts and Irving Penn are still relevant today, even after many decades. I speak of an era when mega-pixels were not even part of the equation. The true soul of the subject was the essence of their images whether it was a portrait or a fashion editorial shot. Sometimes the call of the day is a shallow image.
By this I am referring to the depth of field. Early on in my career, most of my work was shooting commercial head shots. The only thing the agents wanted to see on an 8x10 print were emotion and expression. . Everything else in the image was just to hint at something. Clothing, color and background were added just to add or subdue a particular mood. This particular style of shooting can also characterize a photographer. I begin with the eyes
and decided how much of the subject I want to convey to my viewer.
When shooting shallow, I find myself assuming most often three different approaches. Firstly, if I am shooting outdoors under direct sunlight, I will use large scrims and diffusers to cut the light. This approach allows me to shoot any time of the day as some clients don't care about the perfect light we sometimes seek. It's essentially creating a studio outdoors. As the conditions in this scenerio are quite bright, background selection is as important as the subject. I usually seek for a background that is subdued with some brighter spots that can be used to separate my subject and add interest. This also creates a well balanced portrait.
I also use my Tamron VC 70-200mm to compress my background. In short, I let my lens do the work. It pulls all the planes of focus forward at the same plane as my subject, bringing the background out of focus pushing the focus onto my subject. Compression. I also will often use almost the maximum zoom of 200mm and maybe less. I find pulling the lens barrow slightly back at 180mm, will not push my lens elements to the max. I also place a silver or white reflector under the subject to add sparkle to the eyes.
In this scenerio I will shoot wide open at F2.8 or F4. I find shooting at F2.8 keeps only the eyes on focus with everything else falling off. Using this approach is a bit more critical as any slight movement from the subject will throw one eye out of focus. I try to keep my subject facing me directly to keep both eyes on the same plane. I might also use center focus on my setting and focus in the spot above the nose and center between both eyes. I also will shoot at burst mode as there will be a few misses on focus. If i shoot my subject 3/4 view, I will push back to F4 to keep both eyes focused.
My second approach which is also outdoors will be in open shade, and not just any open shade. Light has direction and quality, and can vary depending on the placement of your subject. I usually place my subject where the sun is blocked by the edge of a rooftop, trees, or any overhang. This spot is usually the brightest spot in the open shade scene and will have a direct quality of light that can be used to illuminate your subject which also is a soft quality. I then use a white board or reflector under my subject to open the shadows a bit and add brightness to the eyes. This is also important if the floor is of dark nature. I am usually shooting in the ballpark of 1/60th of a second at f4 in this type of scenario.
The Vibration Compensation of my Tamron 70-200 will allow me to go tripod free at slow shutter speeds. I have recorded hand held at 1/30 of a second with amazing sharpness. I might also start my session using an ISO of 200 to allow me some range if I need to use slow speeds.
This exact approach I used for a cover of Scott Kelby's Photoshop User Magazine.
Note: Since I quite often shoot many strobes on a subject, I find shooting these two approaches will allow more freedom to interact with my subject, which at the end of the day is the main priority.
My last approach in the great call to "shallow" is using continuous lights. I use Wescott's TD6 Spiderlites and their studio LED Skylux which has a dimmable control. These are both daylight balanced. These lights work well as they are less intrusive because they do not flash. I also shoot many bursts as I am interacting with my subject and I don't have to wait for recycle times. I really find using the continuous approach to be quite magical. Why? Because I can sometimes drag my shutter speed really low to allow the natural light in a scene to "burn - in" interest in my portrait.
Stray light from a window can highlight my subject as an accent light, or the light bouncing off walls can also add depth and dimension to my scene. I just simply do a custom white balance by taking a shot of an 18 percent grey card for accurate skin tones. Again, my Tamron VC is the key to shooting these images which I use for the Vibration Compensation and for compression. I can also pull in for tight shots to capture expression and pull back to 70mm allowing the scene to be part of the narrative. When shooting with continuous lights, I will usually shoot at F4. Again, the eyes is what I want to capture. When shooting at F4, once I capture the expressions I am after, the plane of the face is in focus, and the compression will begin from the ears back. The effect is almost painterly. I sometimes use Rosco Pale Bastard amber gels to add warmth to the highlights. In occasions when I find a subject with captivating eyes,
I will shoot wide open at F2.8 and loose focus on everything else. I always have a round silver reflector on hand to add those very important reflections on the eyes.
At the end of the day what have I done? Figuratively speaking, I have created "Shallow Images", and only in relation to "depth of field". I have created images that are story-telling, captivating and alluring. Seeing things from the shallow side can also evolve your photography to new depths.