In case you haven’t been able to tell based on my last few uploads, I took a number of Stranger Portraits at some political demonstrations this past week.
I followed this particular march to the State Capitol and I ran ahead to the plaza in front to be able to catch them as they came up the stairs. As the crowd funneled in I came across this guy. I was struck by his impeccable grooming (I mean, look at how tidy this guy’s hair is) and, of course, his mighty beard. I’ve been wanting to photograph someone with an impressive beard. In fact I’ve photographed a number of beards, but none of them really seemed to do it for me. Until this guy.
I approached him and introduced myself and held out my hand. He shook it and told me his name, but I don’t remember it. Generally I always carry a backpack that contains a notepad and pen, but on this occasion I didn’t have it on me. This is probably the first time in a year or longer that I didn’t have it on me. It won’t happen again.
I explained the Stranger Project and he happily agreed to be photographed. After I took a couple of shots I spoke with him a bit about why he was demonstrating. I’m hesitant to get into it because of the political nature and my reticence to touch upon it here in this forum. Lets just say that he is a firm believer in his cause. I asked him if he was from Utah and he answered that he was from California. I wanted to ask him what brought him here, but he indicated that he needed to get back to his friends.
Before he left I showed him one of the pics on the back of the camera and his response was, “Wow.”
Technical stuff: ISO 100, 50mm, f3.5, 1/500 second.
I seriously thought about editing the reflections out of his glasses; I’m clearly visible taking the photo, but decided against it because the view in the reflection is interesting; the view of the city in the valley below, the other people coming up the stairs, the crowd behind me. I think it really adds to the atmosphere of the photo itself.
What’s the best way to save photos for Facebook? For years I’ve always simply uploaded JPG images. I would do my edits in Photoshop, resize to 2048 on the long side, flatten the image, convert to sRGB, do any sharpening if needed and then save as JPG making sure to embed the color profile. It works OK, but the images really take a beating after Facebook gets done doing whatever they do with them.
After doing a little bit of reading around and experimenting I’ve found out the best method for preparing photos for Facebook. Presuming of course that you’re uploading them using the High Quality option.
Here’s what I do using Photoshop: First, after you’ve finished all of your post production edits, flatten the file; Layer > Flatten Image. Next, convert it to the correct profile for the web. In this case sRGB IEC61966-2.1; Edit > Convert to Profile. In the Advanced box that pops up, in the Destination area select RGB and in the drop-down make sure to select sRGB IEC61966-2.1. In the Conversion Options I’ve selected Relative Colormetric and left everything else as is. Then click OK. Once you’ve done this you won’t have to make the changes next time. You’ll just click Convert to Profile and then click OK.
Now do any sharpening you want to do if you do any at all. Once you’ve done that then click on File > Export > Export As. If needed change the Format to PNG under File Settings. Make sure that Transparency is checked. Change the width to 2048 and let height do whatever it’s going to do.
NOTE: I’m talking about images that are landscape oriented. I believe that for portrait oriented images you should set the width for 960.
Now, and I think this is important, in the Resample drop-down change it to Preserve Details. Leave Canvass Size alone. If you have copyright and contact info embedded in your metadata, go ahead and select that option. In Convert Color Space make sure that sRGB is selected. For Embed Color Profile, I always check that. Technically, newer browsers are going to treat any image that doesn’t contain an embedded color profile as sRGB IEC61966-2.1. That’s what they’re supposed to do. But I know that some browsers have had a problem with doing this. It’s generally not a huge deal unless the person viewing your image is doing so on a wide gamut monitor. Even then it may be unlikely that they will have a problem and someone using a wide gamut monitor is pretty likely to have taken measures to deal with browser weirdness. Either way, why not just check it and not worry about it.
Now just click Export All and save it to where ever you want to save it. That’s it. You’re done.
I know that some of you use different editing software than Photoshop, or perhaps you simply use Lightroom only. I’m not sure how you would replicate the above with anything else other than Photoshop so you may need to look into that.
Files treated like this will be noticeably better on Facebook than going the JPG route. For me, it’s the best way to save photos for Facebook.
The Hat, or rather, this hat isn’t really a hat. It’s a prop. A prop to be used in various photos.
Last summer my wife and I were perusing the Central California coast taking in some sun, surf and the occasional winery for some tasting. We stopped at a gas n go in Cambria and I cam across this hat among all the other stuff you find in such places. We both looked at the hat and simultaneously expressed how we absolutely needed to buy it. Not to actually wear, mind you. But as a photo prop. So I coughed up the $10.99 for the hat and away we went. As you can see, The Hat is truly awesome in the kitschy way that is unique to road side gas n go’s throughout various slices of Americana.
The photo above was done using a Yongnuo YN560-III Speedlite with an ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grid camera right. Yeah, yeah it’s a hat; The Hat, but I really dig this hat. I like the photo too. The Rogue Grid is one of those modifiers that aren’t really very versatile, but it’s way cool when you want that look; that hard light, heavy contrast look.
Anyway, after we bought The Hat we continued south with the hopes of finding some seaside location in which to shoot some pics with our newly acquired prop. We finally found a place just north of Cayucos. It required a short hike through a grassy area down to a small rocky beach. I took one of the Yongnuos and a stand with me. The mid-day, bright harsh sun–which a lot of photographers hate–was perfect for what I had in mind. Trust me, don’t be afraid of harsh mid-day sun.
As it turned out I couldn’t use my stand because of how windy it was, plus our location had some serious surf rolling in. So I had my son hold the light. I also used a 3 stop ND filter. Even then I still closed down the lens to f10 in order to push the background down to what I was wanting to do. My wife, being the trouper she is held on to The Hat and stood in the water and dealt with the stiff wind. Did I mention that the wind was pretty cold?
Yeah, there’s that.
We fired off a bunch of different shots; enough to where I had to let the little Yongnuo cool down for a bit. At first I was trying to get some full body shots, but the bare speedlight just wasn’t the right tool for that job, so I opted to get in close and use the light to fill in the shadows under the hat yet still retain the heavily contrasty hard light.
This is my favorite shot of the bunch:
This shot is almost exactly what I was trying for.
Of course I also took some shots without the hat during the same session. With this one I took some post processing funkiness liberties:
I was trying to catch a shot with some flying birds in the background and had my son running around with the light while I was positioning myself. If I remember correctly my wife wasn’t really in take a photo mode. She was just hanging out. The lighting is definitely wacky, but I like it OK. More importantly, I got my flying birds.
We’ve since employed The Hat in other shoots. This shot is in Idaho at a place called Crystal Mountain just outside of McCall. It’s much along the lines of the seaside hat pic above. This, too, was using the little speedlight camera right, but through a shoot through umbrella:
This one was shot with the D750 and I used a 3 stop ND filter so that I could open up to f2.5 for background separation. I particularly like this shot.
After this pic we headed down the mountain and ended up on the Salmon River. This one I did not use the ND filter. The canyon was socked in with smoke cutting a lot of the sun out. I did use the speedlight, though. Again it was shot through a white umbrella:
I think that The Hat works great here with the rustic nature of the surroundings.
This last pic is another hard light pic, shooting into a sunset. You guessed it, I used the speedlight again, but this time it was bare thus the hard light and contrasts:
I really like this shot. A lot of people wouldn’t, but I do this for myself. It looks like a country singer’s album. I will say that in hindsight I think that using a shoot through umbrella would have been better.
Side note, this pic was taken near the Snake River and it was a muggy buggy bastard. Mosquitos were so thick that I thought we would be carried away by the hungry little monsters. Trying to catch a shot between swatting them was a challenge.
Anyway, from the Central California coast to the Idaho wilderness to my basement studio, The Hat served me well last summer. This upcoming summer we have some more road trips on the docket and I have big plans for The Hat.
100 Strangers 5 of 100 is Ambyr. She’s an avid pro Second Amendment advocate. She was with an organization that was counter protesting the anti-gun marches.
I spotted her while she was busily organizing people for their march; talking with other organizers, overseeing the distribution of signs and shirts, and going over maps of the intended route which would lead to the State Capitol where both sides of the issue would gather.
I was a bit hesitant to approach her because she looked so busy. I could hardly imagine getting her to stand still for even a moment, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. With my card in hand I walked up to her and handed it to her and simply asked is I could take her photo and explained why. She smiled and said, “Sure, but it’s gotta be quick.”
The environment was completely chaotic and a little crazy with hundreds of people milling about. My choices for a background were pretty limited so I asked her to stand in front of a large truck that the organization she represented owned. Definitely not the best, but I think it was probably the best that the situation offered.
I took a few pics and asked her just a few questions; name etc.
After just a few moments I could see her eyes shifting around; she really wanted to get back to work, but she didn’t want to be rude. That was my impression. I thanked her with a handshake and she smiled and went back to work.
Like I said, for me, this was a really difficult situation and it really exemplified just why the 100 Strangers is such a good exercise for photographers. Though I’m mostly happy with how this turned out I definitely regretted not having my 85mm lens. I needed to get in close because of all that was going on and there is some perspective distortion. Another thing that I would like to mention is that it’s pretty obvious that Ambyr has experience in front of a camera. I would be willing to be good money on that. She absolutely knew how to engage the lens and she fell right in when I gave her some subtle direction; breath out of your mouth, please. Can you move your shoulder this way? Awesome. Now, can you push your face towards me just a bit? Bam. What normally would have taken several moments to explain she just jumped on and did it exactly how I needed it. Yeah, she has definitely done some modeling.
100 Strangers 4 of 100 is Linda. She’s an avid anti Second Amendment, anti gun rights advocate.
I could tell that in her mind she was treading into the belly of the beast and was a bit nervous, thus perhaps a bit overly defensive. After all, she had taken it upon herself to walk among a couple of thousand pro-gun activists with her sign declaring that NRA members are “murderers.” Hundreds of the pro-gun activists were openly carrying firearms.
The event was taking place at the State Capitol; a counter protest to the anti-gun protests taking place on the other side of the building.
After a while it appeared as though Linda realized that the belly of the beast was not so beastly after all. Many of the pro-gunners walked up to her and engaged in civil conversations.
I interrupted one of the conversations to ask her if I could take her pic. She looked a bit surprised, but I quickly explained the 100 Strangers concept and she happily agreed.
After I took this shot she went back to engaging with a particular man carrying an AR-15 over his shoulder. I listened in:
Linda: “We need to outlaw those kinds of guns to save lives. You don’t need it.”
Man: “So no one should own one of these”?
Linda: “Just government. To save lives.”
Man: “Do you know who the biggest mass murderer in history using firearms is?”
Linda: “No, but I’m sure you’re going to bring up some obscure serial killer or something from a hundred years ago. But humor me, who?”
Linda was taken aback by the statement and had no retort.
She looked around, “Is there a water fountain around here? I’m thirsty” The man pulled out a bottle of water from his backpack and offered it to her, but Linda said she doesn’t drink water from plastic bottles.
Linda, I really appreciate you letting me take your photo as you engaged those with whom you disagree. You are an amazing person.
Technical stuff: As you can imagine this was a pretty chaotic environment and nearly impossible to find a background that didn’t contain people. Luckily, Linda was standing close to a wall and I used that to my advantage. Because I used my 50mm I needed to back up a ways to avoid perspective distortion. So I took the photos from 8 feet or so away and cropped in. Since it was overcast, the lighting conditions were nearly perfect.
Technical asides: As you can imagine this was a pretty chaotic environment and nearly impossible to find a background that didn’t contain people. Luckily, Linda was standing close to a wall and I used that to my advantage. Because I used my 50mm I needed to back up a ways to avoid perspective distortion. So I took the photos from 8 feet or so away and cropped in. Since it was overcast, the lighting conditions were nearly perfect.
100 strangers 3 of 100 is Mariah who works at a local coffee shop slinging lattes. My wife and I go into this shop most every weekend because we like their lattes and because the people that own it and those whom they hire are just awesome people. A few weeks ago when we were having some coffees my wife pointed out Mariah and mentioned that I should ask her for a stranger photo. Agreed; Mariah is not only beautiful, but she also has a distinctly unique look about her.
The problem, though, is that this place is usually quite busy. However this past weekend we managed to come it at a time between rushes. I took advantage of the lull and asked Mariah if she would be willing to do a Stranger photo. She enthusiastically agreed.
Technical asides: I just recently purchased an 85mm lens and the shots I did with Mariah were the first people shots I’ve done with it. Thus far, I think I’m going to be quite happy with it.
Being midday the light was a bit problematic, so we found a shady spot on the side of the building in front of a wall covered with ivy. The ivy covered wall was fortuitous in that not only did it provide a serviceable background, but the color of the ivy tied in nicely with the color of Mariah’s eyes.
I took a total of 49 shots in about 6 minutes. It seems like a lot, but in situations like this I typically fire off 3 or 4 shot bursts. The reason I do that is you give yourself an opportunity to capture subtle expressions that you would otherwise miss.
I met Candice as I was walking out of my neighborhood grocery store. She’s astonishingly beautiful which caught my eye right away. She was canvassing for signatures for a local political cause and asked if I would be willing to sign the petition. I said I would be willing to give her my signature if she let me take her photo.
A short back story of Candice. She immigrated with her family a few years ago with her family from the Ivory Coast to the States.
Technical asides: I’ve taken to always having my camera with me when I go to this particular place as the veranda out front is almost ideal lighting during most times of the day. My goal would be to position the subject so that the background would be the length of the veranda as it would provide interesting leading lines, but at this time it was later in the day and there just wasn’t enough light for what I wanted directly under the veranda. So I had Candice step out from under it and used a bricked pillar as a background.
Candice happened to have a clipboard with white paper in it. I asked her to hold it up and angle it just right to throw a little extra light onto her face. It worked out well.
She is naturally photogenic so she didn’t need much direction from me. The first couple of shots she looked directly at the camera and gave me a big smile. I then asked her if she could slightly turn her head to one side and cut her eyes to me and “burn right through the lens with her eyes.”
Excellent. I then asked her to do me a favor. As if reading my mind she said, “You want me to not smile, right?”
In total, I shot six photos; all of them quite nice, but this one, the very last one, was my favorite.
The total time from when I first saw her to when I shook her hand and thanked her was about 4 or 5 minutes.
Over the years I’ve taken a lot of photos of strangers, but never anything like what is done in the 100 Strangers Project. In a nutshell, the idea behind 100 Strangers is to photograph 100 strangers. But it’s not as boring or as easy as it sounds. Like I said, I’ve taken quite a few photos of strangers but they consisted of mostly one-off types of shots in which I ask someone if I can take their pic, they say yes, and I pop off a few shots. I’ll mix these types of shots in with your run of the mill street photos because, as I’ve stated before, they result in different types of shots.
But with 100 Strangers it’s a bit of a different approach. The idea is to always get their permission, tell them that the photo is for a photo project called 100 Strangers and tell them what it’s about and then take the time and skill to take an actual, honest to God portrait. The hope is to better develop both technical and social skills. The social skills come in by the fact that you’re also required to get to know a little about each subject and then write about them when posting the photo.
I’ve only done one photo as of yet, and I can already tell that this project is going to greatly improve my skills; you start thinking about things like background and, of course, lighting along with composition; all while thinking on your feet and doing it rather quickly. I’m fairly adept at using flash, but based on what I’ve found on the 100 Strangers Flickr group I’m thinking that a reflector is probably going to be my go to lighting source. I purchased a Lastolite 30″ Sunfire/White reflector which I think will work out pretty good. It folds up quite small and will be easier to tote around than a speed light, stand and modifier.
Perusing through the 100 Strangers Flickr page you’ll see some pretty amazing work. Sure, there are some not so amazing photos, but man, there are a huge number of really great portraits.
Just recently I submitted my first Stranger, Pete:
I think it’s a good start. I didn’t use a reflector or any modifiers. The background was a bit of a challenge so I had to work around that a bit. I shot ETTR to give myself quite a bit of post production latitude. Still, the particular lens I used wasn’t ideal; Nikon 24-120 f4.0. For dedicated stranger shooting I’ll stick with my 50mm 1.8 as much as possible. But I am really wanting an 85mm prime as I think that would be just about ideal.
Anyway, I think this project is going to be fun and I’m really looking forward to continuing.
Staged portrait photography is something that seems to cause a lot of confusion. What exactly is staged portrait photography? I suppose in reality any portrait is going to be staged in the technical sense. Someone gazing directly into the camera at the direction of the photographer is, I suppose, being staged.
But when I talk about staged portrait photography I’m talking about something a little more than simple direction for posture or gaze. I’m talking about either integrating some sort of prop and/or directing something to look like a single moment captured from a larger event even though the event being represented is not actually taking place.
I’m not necessarily talking about something as elaborate as Ryan Schude’s amazing Tableaux Vivants which are basically photos containing several portraits and stories sliced from a larger chunk of life and frozen at the moment. His amazing photos can contain a cast of dozens in a single location and tell several different stories in a single frame. His work displays a complexity way beyond anything that I would even think about attempting. Though not portraiture in the classic sense, they are portraits all the same.
What I’m talking about is pretty basic stuff that can add interest. For example, this shot:
During a Krav Maga class in a public park I asked a couple of the instructors to ham it up a bit with something I had in mind. During the whole time, it was raining off and on with dark clouds rolling in and out. I thought that this would be a perfect time to do something to really accent the ominous clouds punctuated by the clear sky in the distance. Where we were standing was nearly dark as night, yet the the background was bright.
I had someone hold a single speed light camera left and asked these guys to pose for a shot; think kitschy surrealism. I was thinking it would be cool to try to make it look not quite real; maybe like something done in a studio or movie set so I popped off a few shots and liked this one the best. It really does look like something done on a set with a big background hanging on a wall.
No, it’s not overly elaborate by any means but it’s definitely staged, hence staged portrait photography.
Another staged photo. Again, I’m not talking way elaborate stuff here:
I wanted this to replicate shoot house training. A little bit of a challenge since I was doing this in my little basement with tiled floors, white walls and a low ceiling. I leaned a 4 foot x 7 foot piece of faux brick wall paneling against the wall as a backdrop, hung a shemagh scarf from a C-stand with a couple of clamps and put a speed light behind it with some yellow gel. Camera left, I placed another speed light pointing at the wall for some bounce light to fill in the shadows a bit.
I then handed my wife my cleared and safety checked Sig P320 and we went to work.
Again, though not overly elaborate, this is definitely a staged portrait.
I suppose that I would go so far as to say that any photograph that has any input from the photographer regarding placement, behavior or posing of a subject is staged.
Travel Photography vs Photography While Traveling. What is it that you do? Well, for me, it’s photography while traveling. I’m no “travel photographer.” I’m just a guy that likes to take photos and I especially love to do it while traveling with my family. I’m not talking about pulling out my phone and snapping off shots nearly indiscriminately. I like to put a little thought into it. I don’t mean creating some elaborate plan and setup, but just a little thought.
Travel photography is a discipline in and of itself and good travel photographers are an amazing lot; talented, observant and dedicated.
But you don’t have to adopt the approach of a dedicated travel photographer to make images while traveling that are taken to the next level beyond snapping pics of the family, Mt. Rushmore or whatever. Just put a little thought into it and, preferably, get those with whom you are traveling to get on board; especially if it’s family, and you can make pics that are a bit beyond “snapshots.”
In August of this summer we traveled to central Idaho where I was born and raised. We love going there to visit family and to take in the amazing scenery. One day we took one of our favorite drives going through the rugged wild country of the Salmon River. We drove through McCall, over the mountains and down onto the main Salmon River and finally to a little town called Riggins. Amazing, wild country. After driving over the mountains and landing on the river we wanted to find a spot on the river to soak our feet, eat a picnic and just hang out. Of course, me always traveling with a rudimentary lighting setup: a couple of speed lights, stand and umbrella, I set up a bare speed light on a stand got my wife to hold still for a bit.
I threw on a 3 stop neutral density filter so I could stop up to get some blurry background, popped off the flash to fill in the shadows a bit and got this. I love this shot because it really captures the whole day, the wild country and, well my wife. There’s always that.
A couple of weeks earlier we were in driving around on the central California coast; perusing the Pacific Coast Highway. We visited a wine tasting establishment in Cambria, California and met some amazing people and had a great visit. Think about it, driving around, hitting the wine tasting joints, meeting new and amazing people.
Because I almost always have my camera with me, I got this shot:
No, this isn’t some awesome composition. It’s noisy and not technically perfect. So what. It tells a story and captures a really great memory for me. I like it because it shows my wife and son having a great time. But for someone looking at who wasn’t even there, it still shows story which takes it to a level beyond a snap shot.
This photo, from the same trip is from the Sand Dunes near Pismo Beach, California.
Again, this isn’t technically perfect as I forgot to check my camera and needlessly shot it at ISO 640. But I definitely feel that this is a far better shot than just taking pics of this awesome place. Keep in mind that I’m talking travel/vacation pics. A good landscape photographer would have a hay day at this place. But for family travel, this is the kind of shot I’m talking about. I just asked my wife to “stand there, look there,” snap a pic and call it good.
The point in all of this is that just the most minimal of effort and forethought can, I think, lead to travel/vacation photos that are a bit above and beyond.