Things often fail to go according to plans, but if you really committed to your plans, you can see them through, eventually. I planned my portrait photo session sometime in the middle of November, but several times either my friend, who kindly agreed to be my model, or I had to put it off. Once I even had to cancel our photo session on our way to the location. (After dropping our children at school, my friend and I headed off to the location, discussing some aspects of the photo shoot, when I got a phone call from my son’s school and had to go back. ) When Christmas was only a week away, I started thinking that it might be a good idea to use a different model to complete the task. Anyway, there was no chance to find anyone else before Christmas, so I tried to use the last week of the school term.
It looked like the weather was still not on my side. It was very rainy on Monday and Tuesday. It quieten down a bit on Wednesday, but there was a school show for the parents that afternoon. Luckily, there was a break in the weather on Thursday and we both were relatively free in the morning.
My plan A was to take pictures outside, on my drive using reflected light (preferably, natural light). My plan B was to take pictures indoors, in my conservatory, adding some reflected flash light. However, I was unsure about using the flash since I had only one flashgun and after 20 flash exposures it needed to rest for 10 minutes. Although 20 frames are enough for the exercise, I really needed to produce a few good pictures for my friend.
I planned to take a series of head & shoulder, three quarters and full length pictures with my model against the brick wall, so I could get about 5-7 pictures for each type working on the pose or/and expression. There was not much time available and I didn’t fancy carrying a lot of gear (a reflector, 2 stands, camera, lens, flash, spare batteries) , so I was looking for a location near my house. Taking into an account that it could start raining any time, I decided to use a red brick wall in my drive. I thought it could be a good background for a city style portrait.
Although, it was a bit chilly, we still opted for the session outside. The sun was half hidden behind the roof of the opposite house. I set my reflector to get a bit softer light onto my friend. My first idea turned out to be half-baked since my friend and the wall were almost the same height. Also, there was another challenge since the sun was intermittent shining on the model. I needed to control the highlights constantly adjusting exposure. The only problem was that I kept my exposure down for far too long before changing it back. After a few shots, I decided to try the other side of my drive. The garage door was still in the shade, so was the garden fence. Trying to find a different location, I forgot about my idea of the sequence of the three types of portrait. Luckily, I remembered to change the orientation of my camera from vertical to horizontal and back and got some variety, at least.
At the end of photo session, my friend wanted to have a bit different portrait. Since there was no open shade in my drive, I took a few pictures by the opposite house. Luckily, there was no cars parked that morning.
It was an useful exercise. Although, I’d taken a lot of portraits outdoors, they were portraits of my family members (mostly my kids) and I was not expected to come up with anything fantastic. So, I was a bit out of my comfortable zone since there was a reasonable expectation from my friend to get several nice pictures. Also, I found it a bit difficult to be in charge of so many things at the same time: camera settings, positioning my reflector and posing. The latter were the most difficult. I tried to remember and use tips and tricks from workshops by Scott Kelby, Scott Robert Lim and other amazing photographers. Some of those thricks worked, some didn’t. I think there is a big difference to work with a professional model or take pictures of a friend who was just helping you. Also, having your own VAL (voice activated light stand) could make a huge difference. Still, it was a useful experience. I’ve found out what areas of an outdoors portrait photo shoot I need to concentrate on. (In the videos I’d watched, it looked so easy to take pictures in the park even on a sunny day.)