BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Posts Tagged ‘Portraits

Books for Your Library: ‘Seen Behind the Scene’

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Photo books are a great addition to any library. As photographers, we are constantly searching for new ideas and are always interested in seeing concepts-done-well. Here’s a suggestion to add to your library …

Mary Ellen Mark has the ideal job for those who love both still photography and movies. Since the 1960s, she has worked on more than 100 film sets as a special stills photographer, making thousands of documentary photographs of life behind the scenes rather than the posed and polished photographs used for marketing.
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Her book, “Seen Behind the Scene,” is a collection of the best of those images. Her photography has taken her to the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” She has also photographed behind the set of “Tootsie,” “Gandhi,” and “Showgirls.”

She continues to work documenting life behind the scenes. She has worked on “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” and worked on “Moulin Rouge.”

Her work also documents the rising power of “celebrity.” In her early career, she had full access to actors on the set. Now, with actors surrounded by an entourage of publicists, agents and assistants and a schedule that is airtight, her portrait work has become increasingly more difficult.

Enjoy the Everyday with Photography

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For all of you wandering about your home looking for photographic subjects take note: Trying photographing the everyday things in your life in a new way. Photographic subjects are everywhere. It just takes a little time and a lot of imagination to cull them out and make them shine.

Here are a few tips to help you out when there’s “nothing to shoot:”

  • Look to the Lawn: If you have a lawn, especially a landscaped one, then you may not have to go any further than your own property. Since spring has sprung in many places, now is a great opportunity to get outside and shoot. Flowers, insects, and decorative lawn ornaments make for nice subjects. Try different things, too. Trying getting close or shooting from different levels. Try arranging small compositions. Be creative!

    Try photographing flowers in black-and-white so you can focus on texture. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Try photographing flowers in black-and-white so you can focus on texture. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • Four-legged Friends: Pets always make good subjects. Sometimes they can be a little difficult but if you just sit down, eventually they will lose interest in you and your camera and go back to doing what they do best.

    Newton, my into everything Schnoodle, stops for a quick pose before destroying a tulip. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Newton, my into everything Schnoodle, stops for a quick pose before destroying a tulip. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • Clothing: Clothes? Sure. Why not? There are plenty of people who make a GOOD living photographing clothes and fashion so why not practice fashion photography yourself? If you have a willing model, it’s even better but you can still photograph clothing without a person. Try playing with lights and colors.

    Try photographing all types of clothes and accesories. Another tip: Hats make interesting subjects. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Try photographing all types of clothes and accesories. Another tip: Hats make interesting subjects. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • Musical Instruments: Have a piano or guitar around the house? If so, get creative and photograph someone playing. Better yet, make the instrument the subject and try to arrange it in creative ways.
  • Figurines: Still life images of figurines is especially interesting if you own a macro lens. Get close and make little portraits out of your little collectibles.

    Focus on the small things ... a figurine makes for an interesting photo. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Focus on the small things ... a figurine makes for an interesting photo. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • In the Kitchen: Look for items laying around in the kitchen. Try food photography or product photography. Try arranging little scenes and see what happens.

No matter what you may thing, there’s always an opportunity to hone your photographic skills and make images. It just takes a little creativity and some time. You never know … you might have some wall art just waiting.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Sports Photography Isn’t Always About the Action

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Sports photography seems to be one of the more frequent topics I am asked about and for good reason. Many parents have children who participate in athletics and being active parents, they want to capture their child’s activities in photographs.

While lacking much action, this photo would be acceptable to hang on any wall or e-mail to relatives. Without the proper gear, sports photography - especially capturing action - is tough. So, work within the limits of your gear. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

While lacking much action, this photo would be acceptable to hang on any wall or e-mail to relatives. Without the proper gear, sports photography - especially capturing action - is tough. So, work within the limits of your gear. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Unfortunately, these parents lack the photographic equipment (a basic sports photography setup for pros would set you back more than $10,000 not to mention the experience and training it takes to make good sports images) so these parent/photographers become discouraged because the images they have are not the Sports Illustrated-quality images they envisioned.

Sometimes the quiet moments of sports helps express emotion without the action. This photo was taken at a track & field event in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Sometimes the quiet moments of sports helps express emotion without the action. This photo was taken at a track & field event in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

There are some options. First, I guess you could buy the equipment, enroll in some classes and start working hard to become good at sports photography. The second option is to hire a photographer to photograph your child’s sporting events – it’s not cheap, but you should get some high-quality results or, finally, you can do yourself but within the limits of your current gear.

If you lack a telephoto lens and a camera that will capture images at a high frames-per-second rate (above 5 fps would be best) there are still things you can do to help capture images worthy of hanging on the walls or e-mailing relatives.

Predicting Action
First, you can attempt to predict the action. If you know where the subject is going to be you can prefocus on that area and make an image when the player/subject enters the frame. It takes a lot of trial-and-error but it is possible. If you’re using a DSLR or an extremely high-end point-and-shoot camera, this may be a good technique to try.

Waiting for Breaks in the Action
You can make good images during breaks in the action. For instance, when the coach is talking to players, during a water break or when there’s a timeout. Let me advise this, however. If a player is injured, it’s common courtesy among photographers to put down the camera.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Candid Moments Can Make Lasting Memories

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There are times when all the posing in the world just doesn’t make a photo pop. You try every trick in the book and nada – it just ain’t working.
So, what do you do? Wait.

I had tried several things to get a good image of this New Mexico JROTC group but nothing worked. So, I just moved away from them - they were too busy paying attention to me - and just waited. When I no longer held their attention, they went about being themselves and it shows through their facial expressions. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

I had tried several things to get a good image of this New Mexico JROTC group but nothing worked. So, I just moved away from them - they were too busy paying attention to me - and just waited. When I no longer held their attention, they went about being themselves and it shows through their facial expressions. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Patience seems to be one of the hardest things to teach new photographers. Most of them want to shoot, shoot, shoot and shoot some more (spray-and-pray is what we call it). Unfortunately, when the camera is constantly clicking, the subject or subjects get more tense and less likely to allow their true selves to shine through.

If you can’t get a posed photograph to work, there’s nothing wrong with just letting the subject go back to doing whatever it is they were doing before and you – the photographer – sitting there with the camera ready to capture a candid moment.

Candid photos does not mean bad photos. It just means that the subject wasn’t posed and just being themselves. Candid images can be made well and can add more depth to an image than any posed photograph ever could.

Here’s some tips on capturing good candid photos

Stay out of the way – just blend into the environment and let the subjects do what they do naturally.

Be ready – just because you SEEM relaxed and inattentive doesn’t mean you are. Be ready to capture the image when it happens.

Use the largest aperture setting you have available – a larger aperture setting reduces the depth-of-field and causes the background, which may distract from the subject, to blur keeping the focus on the subject.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Photographers You Should Know: Dorothea Lange

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'Migrant Mother, Florence Owens Thompson.' (Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, via U.S. National Archives)

'Migrant Mother, Florence Owens Thompson.' (Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, via U.S. National Archives)

Information for this article came from the Oakland Museum of California.

Photographer Dorothea Lange was a major influence in the development of modern documentary photography. Her touching and poignant photographs of people during the American Great Depression for the Farm Security Administration shaped the way people viewed the hardships and struggles of American farmers and migrant workers.

Lange’s photographs showed her compassion for her subjects and her ability to capture the essence of the subject.

Lange began in the 1920s as a commercial portrait photographer in San Francisco. Some of her earliest documentary work was of Native Americans made on her trips to the American Southwest with her first husband, painter Maynard Dixon.

Lange’s Great Depression photos show the struggles of migrant workers who were leaving the American Midwest Dust Bowl, and moving to California to find work and start a new life.

During World War II, Lange began documenting Japanese Americans who were sent to internment camps, and women and minorities working in wartime industries.

Photographers You Should Know: Edward S. Curtis

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Information for this article was received from the Smithsonian Institution.

Edward S. Curtis is one of the most widely recognized, and sometimes criticized, photographers of American Native people. For more than three decades, he traveled the American West and Alaska photographing Native Americans.
Born February 16, 1868, in Wisconsin, Curtis took an interest in photography – then an emerging medium – at an early age. He built his first camera when he was a teenager and by the age of 19, he owned part interest in a photography studio in Seattle, where his family had moved.

‘Sioux Chiefs.’ (Photo Credit: Edward S. Curtis via the Smithsonian Institution)

‘Sioux Chiefs.’ (Photo Credit: Edward S. Curtis via the Smithsonian Institution)

In his twenties, Curtis began photographing Native American in the Puget Sound area as they dug for clams and mussels. One of his earliest photographs of Native Americans was of Princess Angeline, the daughter of Sealth, the Suquamish chief after whom Seattle was named.

In 1899, at the age of 31, Curtis became the official photographer of the Harriman Expedition into Alaska. After this, he began his 30-year quest of documenting Native Americans in the United States.

Curtis funded his expeditions personally – acquiring a tremendous amount of debt – and by soliciting funds for his work. Some of his donors included President Theodore Roosevelt and railroad tycoon John Pierpont Morgan.

Curtis documented nearly 80 Native American tribes and made nearly 40,000 photographs and 10,000 recording of Native American speech and music. Like most scholars of his time, Curtis believed the Native American culture would be lost as Native Americans were brought into the mainstream culture. He wanted to create both an artistic and academic volume of work before the cultures “vanished.”

Curtis died in 1952 and the bulk of his work was forgotten. During the 1960s and 1970s, however, his work was “rediscovered” and is now recognized as one of the “most significant records of Native culture ever produced.”

Equipment Profiles: Nikon’s AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D lens

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Nikon’s AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D lens is the perfect portrait lens for any serious photography hobbyist. This lens provides very sharp images in a lightweight, well-constructed design.

Nikon's AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D lens. (Photo Credit: Nikon USA)

Nikon's AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D lens. (Photo Credit: Nikon USA)

Who Needs This Lens?
This lens needs to be in the bag of every serious amateur photographer. This lens will allow you more creative freedom to explore photography with its fixed and super-fast f/1.8 maximum aperture. The focal range on this lens is perfect for portrait work.

Where Will I Use This Lens?
The wide aperture setting will really allow beginning photographers and advanced hobbyist the ability to achieve a shallow depth-of-field, thus giving portraits a professional look. Furthermore, with its f/1.8 maximum aperture, photographers are able to shoot quality images in low-light situations. The lens is also perfect for indoor sports photography, especially capturing images at basketball games.

By the Numbers
Lens: Nikon’s AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D
Minimum Focus Distance: 2.8 feet
Focusing: Auto and manual focus.
Weight: 13.2 ounces
Price: About $450 US

Photographers You Should Know: Hans Namuth

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Information for this article was received from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

German-born photographer Hans Namuth specialized in making portraits of famous artists, writers, architects and other creative types. His is most noted for his portraits of painter Jackson Pollock.
Namuth began his photographic career while serving as an assistant to fellow German Georg Reisner, whom Namuth met while living in Paris, France. Paris was booming with German expatriate community in Paris and Namuth was well-known among the expats.

Jackson Pollok. (Photo Credit: Hans Namuth from the National Portrait Gallery)

Jackson Pollock. (Photo Credit: Hans Namuth from the National Portrait Gallery)

Namuth traveled with Reisner in 1935 to the Spanish island of Mojorca where Reisner had a photography studio. After returning to Paris in the autumn, Namuth and Reisner maintained a studio and supported themselves by working as photojournalists. In 1936, Namuth and Reisner received an assignment to photograph the Spanish Civil War.

In 1941, Namuth traveled to the United States and joined the U.S. military. After the war, his main priorities were to raise a family and enjoy photography as a hobby. He met a teacher, Alexey Brodovitch who inspired Namuth to pursue photography as a career.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he photographed such people as Oscar Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Allen Tate and, of course, Jackson Pollock.

Namuth died October 30, 1990 due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Links to some of his images can be found at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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Photo Critique 4: ‘Barb,’ by Jona M.

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I love critiquing photos. It’s the best way to learn and get new ideas for photo shoots. Today, we’re going to critique an image made by Jona, a former student of mine in Miami, Florida.

'Barb," by Jona M. of Miami, Florida

'Barb,' by Jona M. of Miami, Florida

General Overview:
Jona, as usual, when you put your mind to doing something, you do it well. This is a nice image and it’s good to see you flex your creativity. The staging on this shot is very nice and I’m glad you decided to do something a little more stylish – the hair over the eyes – than just a simple, head-on shot.
Again, this is a nice image due to its simplicity. You use a simple theme and let your creativity shine through without forcing the image.
Great job.

Improvements
There are a few improvements I would like to suggest. First, I’m not sure I like the graduated background. I would like to see the image with a solid background, especially the blue. If you are going to use a graduated background, work on the vignetting in the right corners so the brown stays relatively consistent. Also, there’s some vignetting going on in the left corners with the blue. If the vignetting is intentional, perhaps a little more would make it look so, versus now, which makes it look accidental.

Second, you need to work with the model on facial expression. I’m not particularly happy with the way the lips formed in this image. Don’t be afraid to tell the model what message you would like to convey in the image so she knows what to do. Give her a theme and see what she comes up with.

Third, spend some time in Adobe Photoshop and clean up some of the fly-away hair. Then, retouch the skin so it’s a little more smooth and consistent. Finally, there’s a hotspot on the right shoulder that you should try to tone down just a little bit.

As usual, you did a great job overall. Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing some more images from you.
Thanks for the submission, good luck and keep shooting!

If you would like to submit a photo for critique, e-mail us at submissions@brickhousephotoschool.com.

Written by jeremyparce

February 21, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Photo Tips: The Two-Minute Portrait

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The words, “smile and say cheese!” usually does not mark the beginning of a great portrait. As a beginning/novice photographer, you probably want to make portraits that “look professional” but lack the information on how to do so.
It’s simple if you follow some very basic steps. Here are some tips that will have you making great portraits in less time than you would think.

Step 1: Get the right background

If you want to highlight the subject, don’t allow the background to compete with the subject for the viewer’s attention. Busy, noisy and loud backgrounds distract from the subject unless you’re very experienced and have a great lighting setup and even then it’s a crapshoot.
Keep the background simple. Backgrounds with solid, neutral colors work best. A white wall is ideal but any solid color works.

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Step 2: Get Good Lighting
Unless you’re using a shoe-mounted flash or other pro-quality lighting, find a strong source of natural light. A portrait near a window where there is a good quantity of light is ideal or go outside where natural light is plentiful.
Remember, the sun should be to the side of your subject. If the subject is looking directly into the sun his/her eyes will squint and if the sun is behind the subject, you’ll get an underexposure.
The popup flash on your camera will probably ruin a good portrait with cast shadows so try to avoid using the popup flash.
If you are using a shoe-mounted flash, then try bouncing the flash instead of shooting with the flash pointed directly at the subject.

Step 3: Get Vertical
Horizontally aligned portraits don’t really allow you to utilize your frame the best. Shoot vertical instead so you get more up-and-down room. Even better, shoot the portrait both horizontally and vertically and see for yourself which photo looks better.

Step 4: Get the Right Emotion
Portrait subjects don’t always have to smile. Believe it or not, that’s a tough habit to break for some photographers. Don’t get me wrong, smiling is OK but try to make it less forced. A nice, natural smile will outshine a “Say Cheese!” photo anytime.

Step 5: Get Close
Try to fill the frame with your subject. Try getting close and then work you way back.

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Bonus Tip:
Don’t forget to try the images in both color AND black and white. B&W will help really well if you want to focus more on the subject than the color of clothing or background colors. Plus, B&W gives an image a nice, “classy” feel.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 20, 2009 at 3:15 am