One of the main reasons I choose to shoot portraits is to delve deeper into the subject and uncover the real personality of someone in a still shot. I find there is something intriguing about people’s minds and through my photography, I want to get a pure and honest portrait of that person.
Timing The Shot
To capture moments that present an honest portrait, pressing the shutter at the right moment is everything. In a few recent projects, timing has been central to creating the narrative. I particularly love portraits where the subject isn’t aware of when exactly I am going to take the shot. To get the perfect shot, I obviously don’t direct the subject before, but instead try and capture them truly unguarded for a natural feel.
When working with a subject in the studio, I take a similar approach, trying not to direct the subject too much, or if possible, not at all. I prefer to get them comfortable in the first instance, then I study and observe them. I may ask them to move their hand or head slightly, and sometimes, there is small talk to help get their mind away from the camera. Sometimes, conversations can get deep, especially if I know the subject well. It is at these moments when I like to capture their portrait.
Helping me to capture such emotion is the Eye AF feature on my Sony Alpha 7 III. I like to shoot with the aperture wide open, as I know that with Eye AF, I can concentrate on communicating with the subject, knowing that when I fire the shutter, the eye will be pin-sharp.
Ideas and Locations
Ideas are everywhere. It may be a bit of a cliché, but you never know when it’s going to hit you. I usually like simple locations and backgrounds, and I’ve shot a lot of my work against a white background in my studio. I like the simplicity of a plain white or black background as it allows me, and the viewer, to really focus on the subject and read the emotions on their face without distraction.
Though, shooting on location can help reveal more of a story and make it less ambiguous. One such shot is a portrait of Anastasia. I shot it using the Alpha 7R IV and I love the colours, the sharpness and everything else that is going on in the scene. But what amazes me the most is the lighting. There are two types of light in this photo; a yellow backlight from the streetlight and the three front lights are in fact from smartphone led lights. The main light on this photo is a smartphone LED from two meters away. The Sony Alpha 7R IV has enough dynamic range that, even in these low light conditions, I was able to capture this portrait and emotion seamlessly.
Lights and Camera Kit
Usually when lighting a subject, I tend to keep things simple so that the lighting doesn’t get in the way. I will work with just one or two lights – with the main light being a big soft light source from a deep umbrella or softbox, and the second being the key light on the subjects’ face. It is a similar story on location where I try and use as much ambient light as possible, with just a small light to illuminate the subjects face.
I generally shoot with my Alpha 7 III, though I do also use an Alpha 7R IV from time to time for certain projects. And, I always pair my cameras with prime lenses. Currently I use the Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm f/1.8 ZA, FE 28mm f/2, FE 85mm f/1.8 and the FE 90mm Macro G OSS lenses. If I had to choose just one though, it would be the 55mm lens – I find this lens tends to work best for me and my style of portraiture. AdviceFor those wanting to take fine art or editorial portraiture, the best advice I can give is to be yourself and explore your own ideas. Being yourself can be the hardest part, but with patience and hard work, everything will come together in time.