BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Posts Tagged ‘Portraits

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

Photo Critique 2: ‘Mauricio,’ by Daniel 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 Daniel, a former student of mine in Miami.

Mauricio, a portrait by Daniel of Miami, Florida

'Mauricio,' a portrait by Daniel of Miami, Florida

General Overview:
Daniel, you take great portraits and this is another example of your good work. You have a great eye for composition and lighting.

This is a nice portrait because, like Carla’s, of its relative simplicity. The viewer is drawn to the subject and you captured the subject’s mood very well. You did a great job showing emotion without using complex themes.
You can be very proud of this image.

Improvements
There are just a few things I would improve in this image. First, there are some hot spots on the nose, the right lower portion of the eye and the left upper corner of the eye. Those hotspots can easily be edited out of the image. Next, perhaps a little lighting under the subject would help give more definition between the chin and the neck. Also, I would use the healing brush (in Adobe Photoshop) and clean any areas of the skin that need a little touch up. Finally, I think I would have lit the hair just a little more to add some highlight and contrast.
If you would have used a low-powered light under the subject and a disc reflector above to bounce some light on the hair, the image would have looked better.

I like hard directional lighting and, as usual, you did an outstanding job.

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 19, 2009 at 12:57 am

Photo Lesson 1: Understanding Composition Part 1: Pre-Visualization

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Of all the topics to begin with, I think a lesson in composition will be our best starting point because it encompasses most – if not all – the other photographic topics we’ll discuss.

So, let’s start with a definition for composition. For our purposes, composition has a threefold meaning: 1. The arrangement of subject and background; 2. The interaction of the subject with the background; and 3. The method of photographically capturing the subject, background and the interactions between them.

As you can tell from the definition, composition is a fairly big deal when it comes to making images.

For the most part, the average person who uses a camera doesn’t really consider composition. These are snapshot takers who use a camera for events: birthdays, holidays, family reunions, etc.

But if you’re here, you probably want to go beyond the snapshots and start making images that have a purpose.

This site is intended for amateurs who want to start making better images, advanced hobbyists who need a refresher and for students who want to further study photography as an academic discipline. With that audience in mind, let’s begin.

Start With Pre-Visualization
As with most things, the first step is often the most important and I can think of no other way to begin than with pre-visualization.

Photography is an art, a science and a form of communication. As a form of communication it is important to determine the message you want to convey through a photograph.

Do you want a portrait that conveys an emotion? If so, what emotion? Do you want a landscape that shows depth or one that shows vastness? Do you want a sports photo that shows action or one that shows the emotion of the game?

Once you figure out WHAT message you want to convey, then it’s all a matter of composing it.

Experiment 1: Guess the Emotion

Pre-visualizing the image helps you determine how you're going to compose it. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Pre-visualizing the image helps you determine how you're going to compose it. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

What emotion was I attempting to convey in this photograph? Some people will say sadness, loneliness, or that she is anticipating an event. Well, all would be right. This photograph didn’t start out as a posed photo. I saw my friend Vero sitting on the ground and I thought that it would make a nice image.
Then I saw her expression. She was, as usual, in a relaxed, contemplative mood so I wanted to express her emotion photographically.

This is where composition begins. You conceive the idea and then you decide how to capture it.

What’s Next?
In the next lesson, we’ll discuss the next step in composition: Tool selection. Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 18, 2009 at 1:52 am

Valentine’s Day Flowers are a Double Treat

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If you were lucky enough to receive flowers for Valentine’s Day you’re in luck because you have a ready-to-go subject to photograph.

Flowers are the perfect photographic subject. Unlike people, the don’t whine, fidget about and you can move them just about anywhere you want.

Fresh out of ideas? Try these:

  • Close-ups: If you have a macro lens, flowers are a create subject to explore. Get close and exam individual petals or the stamens. Experiment with different aperture settings to see what look you like best.

    Experiment with different aperture values when using a macro lens to see what effect you like best. (Photo credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Experiment with different aperture values when using a macro lens to see what effect you like best. (Photo credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • Portraits: Put the flowers in the hands of a child or your loved one. Try photographs where the flowers are the subject and not just a prop.
  • Still Life: Photograph the arrangement as a whole or set up a whole prop where the flowers are the subject. Design the set around the flowers. Look for different colors to compliment the shoot. Wanna go bold? Shoot the flowers in black and white and study the texture.

Don’t let those flowers go to waste! Use them to explore color, texture and light. Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 17, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Photo Critique 1: ‘Charlie,’ by Carla B.

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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 from Carla, a friend of mine in Miami.

'Charlie,' a portrait by Carla in Miami, Florida.

'Charlie,' a portrait by Carla in Miami, Florida.

General Overview:
Carla, first I want to say that you did a great job on this portrait. Considering you only have about two years of experience, you do an outstanding job. I enjoy this portrait because of its relative simplicity. It’s focus is completely on the subject and you captured the subject’s personality quite well, I believe.

You can be very proud of this image.

Improvements
Overall, I would say there are just a few things I would improve in this image. First, the cast shadow coming from the collar to the t-shirt on the right side of the image. This cast shadow is coming from the right-side light source.

How to fix it? Another light on the left side would help or using a disc reflector to bounce some light and fill in that shadow.

Although I like hard directional lighting, this image might be made better by softening up the shadows on the face, especially the shadows coming from the nose, chin and lips. Again, I think a disc reflector bouncing some light back across the face would have made this image very, very sharp.

One more tip: The left ear is partially exposed. I think I would have burned it in just a little more.

Carla, great job overall. Playing with light is one of the best ways to make more interesting images and build a better portfolio.

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 17, 2009 at 12:26 am