Beyond DSLR Basics: Composition and Lighting

 

Lesson Info

Shoot: Male Portrait

- [Julia] Barry is cool-looking dude, okay? That beautiful African-American skin. He's got a long narrow face, a very long narrow face. So, I might want a broad light him to make his face seem stronger, he's a guy. I don't want to put him in a feminine, hips back pose, that just wouldn't work, right? So, Barry, I'm going to have you stand up, dude, if you're okay with that. And some people get a little awkward standing so just be aware of people's feelings. Now, with Barry, I'm going to face him... Let's see, how am I going to face him? Toward the light or away? I think I'm going to keep you away from the light because what I want to do... So go ahead and face that way. Just follow me. There we go. Perfect. Now, just cross your arms. Perfect. So, now when I turn his face, his nose towards me, now, I've got this dramatic look and I've widened his face dramatically with the way I've positioned the light and the pose and camera angle, okay? If I shoot from down here, he's going to look re...

ally important, okay? Now, what I'm also doing with Barry is I'm going to have you put your weight on this foot, the foot closest to me. Yeah, more power stance. See that? With a guy, if I put his foot away from the camera strut... go for it, put your other hips that way and kind of bring your foot in, and put the hips that way. Yeah. He just looks girly, we don't want to make him look feminine. It's a feminine pose, the S-curve. Go ahead and switch back. What I'm trying to do is make him look more masculine, the C-curve, okay? So, women are S-curve, males are C-curve. When I put his weight towards the camera, cross his arms, and then tell him to kind of give me a little lean forward. Yeah, and just a little...like, "I'm cool." Yeah. Now, all of a sudden, I've created a C in him. Go ahead and drop that right shoulder just a touch, perfect. A little bit too much, a little bit too much. Perfect. And kind of roll the shoulders over, let's see what happens, perfect. That give him a more powerful stance look. Now, I'm not worried about what's going on down here because it's going to be a headshot, okay? So, deep breath. Power stance, there we go. See what happened when I told him to take a deep breath, everything kind of calmed down and he settled into the pose a little bit, we went... like you would normally stand waiting for a bus, okay? But you're kind of annoyed because the bus is late, right? Awesome. So, I'm going to take a shot because you look really cool, but you see how when I put the light on... when I'm shooting into the light side of his face, now all of a sudden, I've broadened his face out. Let me shoot this and then we'll show you the difference. I'm still at the same settings I was with Judith and I'm going to go ahead and shoot him from a little lower of a camera angle to get that power stance going on, okay? So, there's a shot with that broad light, that'll pop it up here, strong shadow side of his face. He looks very intense and a lot more authoritative. So, imagine if you exaggerate these camera angles how much more that could be, okay? So, now, Barry, I'm going to have you do the same thing, just turn around and face the light, perfect, and look at me this way, perfect. Now, he still has a strong powerful stance but notice, I've shot him with a short light situation, so it's a different look. His face looks thinner, do you see it? But by him leaning forward like that, now all of a sudden, I've made a very powerful strong masculine head shot of any old guy. I mean, he's really not old, but any old guy, you know, any person. It could be the youngest person in the group or the oldest, okay? It just depends. But now, I may not want to make him look that quite authoritative, you know, he's the CEO but he still wants to be friendly, right? You don't want to be intimidating. So, now, Barry, I'm just going to have you put your hands in your pockets, there we go. Nice. Go ahead and turn your body slightly towards me, awesome. But keep the weight even on your feet, perfect. Do you see the difference? Oh my goodness, what a change. Now, I just kind of want you to like, as if you're waiting for the bus, like you're leaning against something. Yeah, just kind of, like... As a matter of fact, let's do this on the wall. Go ahead and back up on the wall, and just kind of, like, lean against the wall like you're waiting for the bus. Yeah. Perfect. See how much more relaxed he just got, okay? We also have to consider that when I start moving that light, that light's going to bounce off that wall, because it's a white wall, right? I actually kind of liked it, it looks cool. So, go ahead and move your nose that way for me. That's too much, too much, subtle movements. Chin forward and down, perfect, just like that. Now, that's a cool good shot of him without being quite as authoritative, and when I bring my camera angle up like this... You're a good sport, Barry. You guys are all awesome sports. Perfect. Nice. Now, I've got a cool but more relaxed shot of him and the minute I get him to smile... I'm going to go ahead and open up my exposure just a touch on that, one more time, there we go. I'm also shooting... I dropped down to 1/6 to get more exposure, there we go. So, now, he's a lot more approachable, do you see that? So just by how you pose someone, how you light someone, the camera angle you choose, you can tell story and make an emotion, an impression, okay? Now, Barry, I'm going to go ahead and have you lean your right shoulder against the wall, like, you really are just like...I'm sorry, I should show you and not tell you. Yeah, that's exactly what I want to do. (inaudible) correctly, exactly. So, yeah, just kind of like, "Mmh, hanging out waiting for the bus," okay? Sweet. Perfect. Go ahead and put your weight on the right foot. So, what I want you...actually, no. Yeah, on the left foot and then go... that's what I want you to do, perfect. And sometimes you literally need to tell people what to do, like, go show them because they're so self-conscious and they don't want to do it wrong, but when you show them how to do it, they're, "Okay, I get it. I can do that." Okay? Perfect. Now, let's go ahead and put your hands in your pockets for me, awesome. Okay. Now, I have to be very careful of foreshortening here, do you see, like, his elbow and stuff? If he puts his elbow out like that, it's going to shorten up his elbow a lot. Do you see that? But I've also hidden so much of the right side of his body that he looks a little distorted, do you see that? So, if I go ahead and just kind of... instead of this part of your arm, this part of your shoulder is on the wall. Yeah, perfect. Subtle changes, see the difference? Huge. Now, all of a sudden, he looks like a normal body and not... you've got that red tag, I'm going to... It's okay. No, you're good. We are just going to kind of hide it. It's not completely hidden but that's okay. The problem too is you get really fussy, but I've also found that fussiness gives you an excuse to think. It really does. If you just fuss with things and go... and he's got his glasses in this pocket, which I probably would have taken out but that's okay. I'm just doing this for fun, awesome. I'm going to move farther away to get... you're so sweet to me, thank you, M. These guys...like, I really wish I had this much... Of course, he took them out of his pocket. It's okay, Barry, really. It is quite all right, awesome. But look at that natural smile, that was awesome. Love it, perfect. Beautiful. And now, where's the light? What are you supposed to look at to find the light? The shadow, exactly. That's what I wanted you to see, was the shadow. The shadow is kind of cool against the wall like that, okay? But now, I'm shooting at f1.6, which is really wide open. So, what is that going to do? Not only does it let a lot of light in, but it also creates an out-of-focus background, okay? Now, this aperture, it will generally kind of do that. You can see the wall's a little bit out of focus but because he's so close to the wall, the wall still is in focus somewhat. If I pulled him off the wall, all of a sudden that brick would go out of focus and we could get it real modeled and kind of cool-looking. So, again, a different effect but I like how relaxed he is against the wall. The wall helped him out a lot, okay? Some people just need something to lean on, so it's something to consider when you're shooting portraits, okay? Awesome job, Barry. Anything else you guys want to see? Did I forget anything? I think we're good. I think we're awesome. Do we have any questions? Yeah? - [Amelia] Since your shutter is at 640, I'm just wondering why you dropped the... - Aperture? - ...aperture to 1/6th instead of bringing it down to 320? You still have... - Excellent point, total habit. And I could have gone either way, I tend to be a very aperture sensitive shooter because I love shooting wide open, okay? I love the impact it gets. Now, it's more challenging to shoot wide open because you have to nail your focus, okay? I don't always recommend shooting wide open to start with. A better aperture for a beginner would have been a 2.8 or 3.5, okay? But because I love the look, I will shoot a whole group outside at f1.4, people think I'm crazy doing that but it's because I love that creamy look of a bokehed background, okay? And sometimes, just stylistically, I don't mind, especially if I'm doing a lifestyle shoot outside, if one person is slightly out of focus. You'll see me very often use my 200-millimeter lens at f2 with a family, with the parents in the background, and the kid in the foreground, and I'm focused solely on the child in the front, okay? But the only way to get that is to shoot...not the only way, but the best way with the best results is to shoot it very wide open and sometimes it'll be so... the plane of focus, like, you know, how when you shoot wide open, you just have a little plane of focus. It will be so tight that the child's hair will be out of focus in the background, but the eyes will be sharp and it's just a stylized and I love it, okay? It is very challenging to do. It takes a lot of practice. I mean, it took me years and many, many shots out of focus for me to master it. You make a great point, I wouldn't necessary start like that right away. F2.8, f3.5 might be a better road to go because, you're right, I could definitely lower my shutter speed and still maintain a high enough shutter speed to avoid shutter shake while, at the same time, nailing the focus, makes sense? - Yes. - Good question. Yes? - [Woman 1] And just to follow along on that, your choice of ISO at 320, we have someone asking, "Why not 200 or 400?" How do you approach that? - It's like, "Do I shoot at f1.4, f1.6?" Great. - So, it's the choice that you make? - It's just kind of a choice I make. These are different lights than what I shoot at home with continuous. On my continuous lens, I always shoot at 320, so it's kind of habit. Again, these are nuances that are artist-specific. You don't have to stick to the formula. Do you know what I mean? Like, when I shoot with strobes...we're going to do strobes, the very last segment tomorrow. So if you want to kind of take the next step with your art and actually control with studio strobes, I shoot it the lowest possible ISO I can, okay? Because that studio sharp, just intensive, you can see every single pore on someone's face kind of sharpness is so cool and it freezes action, and then I can blow those images up huge without any noise, okay? My outdoor work and my continuous light work, I tend to shoot more in that 320 to 400 to 600 ISO range, just depending. There are times when I'm shooting with my macro lens on a little baby's feet where my ISO is cranked to 1250 because I have to, to be able to get that macro shot with the lens I'm working with, okay? So, be flexible. You don't have to stick to a formula. All that matters is that you get a good exposure. All that matters is that you're controlling the factors that you want to control to create the artistic technique you want, bokeh, slow shutter speed, whatever that may be, okay? Use the lens you want to create the artistic effect you want, wider angle lens for more distortion and kind of a cool funky modern look, longer lens for compression and true realistic portrait and the out-of-focus background, makes sense? So, it just depends on your artistic choice. Yeah? - [Woman 2] Kind of like a branch off the triangle but how do you white balance? Do you Auto, Kelvin, or preset? - Very good question. I didn't really cover what I do for white balance, we kind of did it before we started here and that was that. Indoors, I use a target card... B, can you hand me my...Oh, there it is. Adam, it's up on the thing right there, perfect. Indoors with continuous lights or strobes...thanks. I use this photo vision target, okay? I do a custom white balance. When I learned custom white balance, it changed my life and honestly, it was only like two years ago, which is really sad. I've been shooting for almost 30 years and, like, obviously, white balance only came into effect with digital photography, but I've been shooting digital since 2006 and literally it was only two years ago that I learned how to custom white balance, which is really sad. But once I learned it, this is the only technique I use when I have a constant light source: strobe, indoor, constant light, that kind of thing. Now, when I'm shooting with true natural light, I will put it either in sun mode for full sun, cloudy or shade. I do not ever, ever, ever, ever, never ever use auto. Why? Why do you think that is? - [Woman 3] Because it averages it out. - Kind of, a good answer. - What was the answer? - She said it averages it out. That was a really good way...it's a very logical way of thinking about it. What your camera does is it measures the scene each time it shoots, and it will change the white balance based on what it thinks is right. So, while most images will look correct, each one is slightly different. So, what that means is every image in your set of images needs to be adjusted for white balance. Yes, she's like, "No wonder." I love that playful moment. That's awesome. So, if you shoot... I mean, I shouldn't say this because I want you to shoot everything right, but even if you shoot it on, like, everything on cloudy and it's the total wrong white balance, you can fix them all easily with syncing your editing so that you're applying the same white balance to all the images. Lighting conditions change outside, sunny one minute, cloudy the next, that will change your white balance. So, white balance in natural light is actually way harder than it is on these. I have two presets for my custom white balance set, one for my strobes and one for my continuous, and I never re-white balance because it's the same color temperature no matter whether I turned the lights on today or tomorrow, right? So, once I set my custom white balance, I'm done. So, nowadays, we rarely pull this thing out anymore because it's like, "Oh, yeah. We need D1 for that, D2 for that." So, that's the nice thing about having a controlled studio situation but outside, I will typically use sun, or cloud, or shade. It depends on the time of day. It depends on how the sun is behaving, and it depends on the weather. And sometimes, I'm sorry, but you're in the middle of shooting and a cloud comes over and changes the color temperature, you do not have time to go change your white balance. Like, you've got to get the shot. So that's the situation where in Adobe Camera Raw or whatever, I will evaluate each image and go, "Okay, yeah, the clouds came over at that point," or, "The sun started changing color temperature." I mean, you've seen it with sunsets, that color temperature changes in a heartbeat, like, it just goes whoa, you're like, "Oh," just shoot. But if you're a beginner, the magic is to shoot on one preset rather than auto and that will help you in the post-processing department, okay? Now, of course, you can custom white balance outside and that is useful and helpful but just be aware of changing color temperatures as the light changes. As the sun moves across the earth, the temperature changes whether you like it or not, on a constant basis, okay? Does that answer your questions for you? Okay. Any other questions? - One question is as you're talking about the different angles of light, angles of camera, the way you're moving your subject matters as you're creating these portraits, this is from Delia Beetle, "If you were shooting portraits outside of a studio in natural lighting, do you follow the same principles?" - Very good point, very good question. So, let's think about it for a second. Outside, the sun is 93 million miles away but it's a very large light source. So, it should be good, right? What makes it bad? The fact that it's 93 million miles away. So, bright sun creates those harsh shadows, right? Now, some commercial photographers have to shoot in the middle of a bright sunny day, so they will use modifiers or flashes outside to overpower the sun and influence things the way they want it to be done, okay? That's getting into really advanced lighting techniques. When I go shoot a portrait session, number one, I like to shoot when the sun is falling below the horizon. Why is that? Do we have a round object in here, like a ball? I will try this, imagine a sphere, okay? The earth's atmosphere goes around the earth, right? So, when the sun is up here, its rays are going through the shortest distance of atmosphere, right? The minute the sun starts to go over here, it's going through more distance of atmosphere to get to you, right? It's actually really good. I think I've got it. Thank you. So, when the sun is setting on the horizon, its got the most atmosphere to travel through, okay? That's why the sun gets to the golden hour, that's why it becomes softer and more diffused, because it has more atmosphere and scattering to occur before it hits you. That's why we love the golden hour so much, it's like putting one of these big old things on the sun, okay? That's often why, as well on a cloudy day, that acts like a big old Softbox, right? So, oftentimes, when I was beginning... my sister is a professional photographer too and she started two years before I did and I thought, "Well, if she could do it, I could do it too," you know, little sister syndrome. And so, she said to me, "Julia, shoot in cloudy conditions when you first start out, it's safe because you're not going to get super strong harsh shadows. The camera can see the values better of light," like, really, I think the human eye can see like, what is it? Several dozen stops of light whereas the camera can only see like 5 to 10, really? So, if you have extremes, something's going to get blown out or underexposed, right? You know how when you shoot in hot sun conditions and like backlight, the sky will just go white, that's because it's too bright. The camera can't handle it, okay? But the minute the sun begins to set down below the horizon, it all evens out, and what's happening is the light in the atmosphere is coming closer in stop range. It's not as broad of a scale of stops. It's more like this, so your camera can see it all That's why the golden hour all this light becomes, "Oh, it's so pretty," okay? So, with outdoor conditions, yes, it's similar. Everybody loves shooting in cloudy conditions because it's easy but as you grow more and more in what you're doing, you will learn to hate clouds because they're boring. There's nothing exciting about it. It's flat, boring light. It's easy to shoot in when you're first starting out, so I recommend starting that way. But as you grow in what you're doing, you're going to learn to be like, "It's cloudy, boring," okay? Now, what you can do in the clouds is influence the light by blocking it, okay? So, if you have a cloudy day, watch what happens. Overhead light, there's the sun. Ah, what have I done? I've created a direction of light by blocking it in a certain way, okay? So, what will happen is you'll start to look around your surroundings for trees that do this exact same thing. Tree edge...you know, how they always say, "Go to the edge of the light," that's true. So, if I'm, like, shooting...I need a helper. Come help me. What's your name, again, my dear? I know you, what's her name, again? - Amelia. - Amelia, that's right. Thank you, sweetie. Amelia's a regular. She's been here before. Okay, so just hold that over my head for a second, we'll do it together. Okay, so if you've got a tree outside somewhere, she's the trunk of the tree. Oh, pretty tree with all my branches, right? It's hard to show this but imagine just big open sky, okay? If I bring my subject in here, hopefully, you can see this, you'll see the light began to be directional on my face. Do you see it, is it showing? I can't tell. So, then I can position my subject as if this was my window or my Softbox, okay? So look for trees, overhanging things... Thank you, Amelia, very much. Look for trees... Oftentimes when I'm outside, I'll look for porches, like at a house, a front porch is brilliant. You just put someone right by the edge of the porch, and all of a sudden, you've got a big, old softbox right there, okay? So, learn to look for shadows to see the light, okay? The shadows of that tree hangs over is going to create a direction of light, make sense? So, when you're outside, it's actually...I find it actually harder to shoot outside than indoors because you can't control your light sources as much. So, this is why everybody loves outside because they're like, "Oh, it's easy. It's free. It's cheap. I just got to go outside in the golden hour and I'm good," right? It's actually much more challenging. I have so much respect for shooters who shoot outside and some of them are so talented and everybody likes to poopoo the natural light photographer. "Oh, natural light photographer? Oh, yeah, that's because they can't afford a studio." Oh, give me a break. Are you kidding? Those people are so talented. The fact that they can see conditions outside and know where the light is, is an incredible skill, so keep that in mind. It's actually more challenging to shoot outside than it is indoors, okay? Especially, because the situation's changing at all times. As time passes, the sun goes into a different position. As the weather occurs, light goes into a different position. Your objects, and geography, and buildings, and all that make a difference. I mean, if this is outside, think about this, this way, we're in an alleyway, okay? Dark building over here, bright wall over here, sun. You're like, "Oh, crap. I have no sun." What happens when that sun starts bouncing off that thing? "Oh, pretty light, ah," okay? Light bounces. So, sometimes all you have to do is get the sun to bounce off a building and all of a sudden, you've got a gorgeous reflector, reflected Softbox light all across a building. You probably only have a short amount of time to shoot it because it's going to go away soon but that's the skill of being outdoors, is looking for those conditions.

Julia has a great way of explaining even some of the most technical things so that you can understand them. This is a great class to get your feet wet and then use what you learned to start swimming. - Barry Miller, CreativeLive Student


Understanding how your camera functions is a start, but in order to capture the best images, you need to know more than what buttons to push.  Julia Kelleher will walk you through some likely beginner photographer scenarios to show how to work in multiple situations, compose your image and get the most from your subjects. Whether you purchased your camera to take photos of your children, your friends or even products you are hoping to sell, Julia will show you how to feel comfortable in any environment. In this class Julia will show you: 
  • Taking pictures of children: how to work with energetic subjects, what compositions are safest as well as poses and ideas to keep them engaged 
  • Taking pictures of groups: be it your friends, coworkers or clients- learn the best approaches for group photos so you can capture people looking their best 
  • Products: If you’re starting a business or selling your belongings online, a great picture goes a long way in helping a buyer choose your product 
  • Headshots or banner photos: learn techniques to get professional headshots or captivating banner photos for your social media or website 
  • How to work with natural light and control it in your favor, as well as inexpensive options to help improve your lighting quality 
 If you’re new to working with a professional camera, this class will give you the confidence to capture an image in any scenario with your expensive purchase. Make the most out of every situation by learning to compose, pose, direct and light your subjects.  

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!
  • So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!
  • What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....