A Small Step for Man, A Giant Leap for Photography

After finishing my photography class at a community college this spring, I have delved deeper and deeper into the realm of photography. I have done landscapes, urban scenes, wildlife, and people, but only recently begun doing portraits on a semi-professional basis.

I did my first session two weeks ago. I was contacted by a family that I knew personally and who were familiar with some of my work. (See this photo for one instance). They informed me that they needed class pictures of their children and would I do them. I immediately accepted the job and launched myself into preparing.

I started reading books and searching the internet to find information on how to take the best portraits. I made a mental list of all the equipment that I would need, poses that I would use, and lighting setups that I would be able to pull off with my limited resources. I also created some photo packages and communicated all the necessary information to the client.

Finally, it was time to start taking the pictures! I set up my equipment in the family’s basement, using a wood-paneled wall as a background. My camera was a Pentax K1000 35mm SLR with an 80-200mm zoom lens, and for lighting, I used a Pentax 611 autoflash on a tripod with hotshoe sync. I typically held the camera at a distance of 5-6 feet from the subject (the lens was set at the widest setting), and the flash was to my left and farther forward at about 5 feet to the subject. I used short distances in order to avoid flash shadow getting in the shot.




My first subject was the family’s youngest daughter. She needed a few directions, but she responded well and was very patient as I struggled to get everything set up and working correctly.









My next subject was a boy a little bit older and who had plenty of spunk. He was, nevertheless, a real  charmer. I had experience shooting him before, and he was just as innocent looking as the photo mentioned at the top. However, I chose the photo at right because it portrays a more serious side, which I felt had more impact.




I should mention here that I had some interesting difficulties with my flashgun. I had two instances where it either did not fire or fired late, ruining the shot. I also had times where it went off prematurely for no apparent reason. However, even with faulty equipment, I still did surprisingly well. Due to these problems and others, the picture at below right is unfortunately the only good picture of this boy in this setting.











This brings me to my last subject. As I was working in terms of youngest to oldest, this was the oldest person in the shoot and the only teenager. Being that he was a bit older, I decided to vary my technique. I moved the camera and flash farther back and rotated the flash on the tripod to bounce the light off the ceiling. The chair was taken away, and I had the boy kneel with on arm across his knees. This gave me the following result:


That part of the shoot finished, I took everyone outside to shoot some environment photos. I attached the flashgun above the lens via a bracket and used it as fill. One of the photos in this series had camera shake (due to the slow 1/60 sec sync speed and telephoto zoom) and another was slightly out of focus.











All right, now that I’ve gone over the shoot, I should discuss a few bloopers. One was an experiment that I had during the initial round where I turned off the flash and attached my camera to the tripod to enable longer exposures. This threw my color balance off due to the tungsten lights that were present (below left). Another problem I had was with a couple of group shots that I did to wrap up. The kids were positioned with their backs to the sun, which meant that the lens had to face into it (below right). The resulting lens flare seemed, to my mind, quite awful.