Intro by Chamira Young
No matter how many years you've been in the game as a portrait artist, there's always something you can learn from your fellow photographers in the field. It's fascinating to see how they pose, interact with, and ultimately document their subjects' unique personalities. Being a photographer is a constant learning process!
In addition to the skillsets mentioned above, it's also extremely helpful to see the glass they used. In today's feature, photographer Michael Butler uses his 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens to take dramatic portraits of his subjects. Check out the post below as Michael describes his creative process. He gives valuable lessons we can all learn from. Also, click on the image to learn more about the lens Michael used.
We're all in this industry together, and it's for this reason we love featuring inspiration from the Tamron team. They're constantly offering the tools we need as photographers to make our work better than ever!
How to Take: Dramatic Portraits
Michael Butler reenters the world of portraiture with the Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens.
By Jenn Gidman
Images by Michael Butler
In his early days taking pictures in his native Memphis, Michael Butler concentrated on portrait photography. He fell away from that a bit as he refocused his efforts on street photography, taking pictures at local restaurants (he used to run a local blog), and destination photos, but he recently decided to get back into portraiture with the help of the Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens.
Although Michael typically used prime lenses for his early portrait work, he decided to try out the 70-180mm telephoto lens and immediately fell in love with it. “It’s so versatile—not only for my portraiture, but also for the street photography that I still do,” he says. “I can take it anywhere, because it’s compact, and it has macro ability, with a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4.6. That makes it very useful when I’m shooting portraits in my studio, which is pretty small.”
His approach to taking portraits remains the same as it always has, with his main goal being to tell a story. “When someone looks at one of my pictures, I want them to think about what my subject is doing, or what they may be thinking,” he says. “I also like a more dramatic portrait, rather than the brighter, airier ones you might see on Instagram. I embrace shadows, and to achieve the look I want, I’ve been using one large, continuous light source with a modifier on it. When I’m photographing men, I’ll usually place the light directly overhead, because I want more shadow in their faces. For the women, I’ll angle the light a bit to bring out more detail in their faces.”
Read on to see how Michael used his 70-180 for some recent portraits around his hometown in Tennessee.
I had just received the 70-180 lens, and this was my first-ever portrait taken with a continuous light source. I had seen another photo my buddy Dalton had taken of himself against a pink background, so I asked if I could use him as a model against that same background. It was hard to stay serious, because we’re friends and were laughing and joking around during the shoot, but I didn’t want him smiling in the photo. I wanted a more rugged, serious portrait of him—especially against that pink background, which I think made his ruggedness and masculinity stand out even more.
I used the same pink background for this black-and-white photo of my girlfriend (I shot both of these images the same day). She hates having her picture taken, but I convinced her to do it—I promised her I’d guide her the whole way. To pose her, I showed her a picture I love of Halle Berry, where Halle is framing her face with her hands like that, and she absolutely loved that look. It made it much easier having a pose she could reenact.
I had a shoot scheduled on this day, but it unfortunately got canceled at the last minute. I didn’t want to completely scrap my plans, so I contacted a model I knew on Facebook who lived right around the corner and asked her if she wanted to meet me and take some pictures. She showed up with this gorgeous mask, and I decided to use as my backdrop an abandoned warehouse in the area to contrast and complement the mask. It was an easy, natural shot, taken in ambient light, with her simply leaning up against the building.
Read the rest of the post here.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.