Since 2016, I've ventured into various genres and sub-genres within the realm of photography. Learning photography from the very beginning in March, 2016, I was inspired early on by the work of Kosten, Ryan Millier and 1st as they would be the first accounts I would discover from my new days on Instagram. Over the summer of 2016, I spent most of my days photographing landscapes and city elements and trying to make both myself and those who see my work, think of design in a different way.
When I first started off on Instagram as a portfolio to display my new hobby, I also realized the power of instant gratification and those who cheer on my overly-saturated and purple skies, and following the basic structures of popular feature accounts. As time went on, I realized that I enjoyed soft portraits and simple landscapes that utilized a single undeniable principle - simplicity.
Anyways, enough with the backstory, let's get into how I photograph. I will cover the gear I use, the settings, the time of day and weather conditions, and lastly, my preferred way to tilt the camera.
I keep it light. Listen, we're not hunting zombies, in combat or a mountain survival situation. If you're taking photos of people, you don't need to look like you're about to invade Russia. I carry my camera, and that's it!
Currently, I photograph with a Sony A7, with a 28mm f/2 Sony lens. I also have a 50mm 1.8 Sony, but I prefer or more realistic focal point than too narrow (Yes, I want the 35mm).
My settings depend on the weather, light and time of day, but I have a golden rule that applies to nearly all day shooting situations. When I photograph a portrait that utilizes some form of composition, either on the left, or the right of the subject, I don't photograph ay my lowest aperture setting (f/2), but move it up to 2.8 or 3. Because of the slight increase of the aperture, it helps make the subject sharp, and eliminates the possibility of those awful blown-out highlights. I always think to myself, I'd rather have an entirely sharp subject with a slightly clarified background, than blurry body features.
Of course, the exposure and shutter speed matters as well, so once you figured out the aperture that makes your subject or image sharp, you adjust the shutter speed to tighten it up. On a bright sunny day, I typically photograph with an 1000-2000 shutter speed, 50-100 ISO and f2.8-3 for portraits - landscapes 5.6-9ish.
Get Your Settings Right
When I'm looking at a subject through the viewfinder, based on my creative direction, I want to adjust the shutter speed and exposure to show my subject in the most realistic light possible. In the end, it's better to be under-exposed than over-exposed, and increasing shadows in post-production creates the natural look you're looking for. No highlight bleeds around the body, and no over-exposed facial bone features. Everything is already soft, so the only skin touch-ups you will mostly encounter are spot checks.
Alex, what're you talking about?
Okay, so to break this down, I'll use a 2000 shutter speed, f/2.8 and 50 ISO and demonstrate with the following image:
You might be able to see, that Miranda is exposed in the direct sunlight. Typically I wouldn't shoot a photograph, unless the light is somewhere behind my subject, but with the right amount of light peaking from the city-scape, Miranda avoids over-exposed features. This image in particular is the main reason I prefer golden hour (late evenings), over bright afternoons.
Below, I have another great example where harsh light was a factor:
As you can see, her face is too exposed, due to the harsh light on that side of her body. This portrait was shot at ISO 50, 28mm, f/2.8, but 500 shutter speed. This is much slower than I typically shoot, which is why I compensated with my own method.
I have the image sharp with my current aperture of 2.8, but need to tighten the shutter speed and ISO being as low as my camera allows me, so that means shutter speed is the remaining factor. Looking through my viewfinder, I bumped it up to my typical low setting of 800, and this is the result a few seconds apart:
Now, there are only two separate photo areas where light was both on our side (orange garage door photo), and an enemy (two images above). Being knowledgable of your light and camera settings can make an blotchy, unnecessarily bright image, be more controlled with the proper settings.
I love to add angles to a lot of my portraits to add depth. I believe that you can make a portrait 10-times better if you simply put something in the image. From the image below, I didn't apply much of this methodology:
Even though part of Miranda's leg is there, we all know it's her knee and her hands are cut off. And to be honest, this photo just looks weird. When incorporating body parts as a form of creating this depth, I have a 50-percent rule - try to utilize a body part(s) 50-percent or more. I applied my method to the below image:
While having Miranda's full arm in the image to compensate for only part of her leg, I was able to create the depth I'm looking for, while also drawing a more subtle appeal to her hand with a funny gesture that you'd only notice if you were looking throughout the image.
the more you practice with your camera, rather than learning post-production, can make the world of difference in how you progress as a people's photographer. If you take the right RAW image, the post-production process becomes easier. I hope to write a sequel to this post incorporating my Lightroom process.
Until then, be inspired.