I had a phone call call this morning from a potential client who had found me via a web search. That doesn’t happen very often and when it does the calls are normally from people trying to sell me something rather than commission me to do some work for them. The very pleasant lady who had called asked me if I did ‘corporate head shots’ and when I replied that I do and that I have done lots of them over the years she asked why there were none on my website. Wow… she’s correct. There are no easy to find samples of one of the most basic and important parts of my professional work on any of my folio sites.
During the call I promised to stick fifty varied images into a gallery and send her the link. I also explained that head shots weren’t the sole preserve of the corporate world and that some other sectors used them well and that the gallery that I’d prepare would have teachers and actors and other professionals too. (more…)
This was a set of pictures shot on location as part of a “how to do it” technique piece for Photography Monthly magazine. The idea was simple – use flash to make something very cool from some sort of active sport. I was put in contact with the tier, Keegan Walker, through a young photographer that assists me from time to time on commercial shoots and we arranged to shoot at the skatepark near where they both live which is about ten miles from my own home.
I used a couple of Canon EOS5D MkII cameras with 16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L IS lenses as well as the excellent Elinchrom Ranger Quadra flash system supplemented by a couple of Canon 580exII Speedlights with Elinchrom Skyport receivers triggering them. There were plenty of clamps, gels and light modifiers in use too – including my rather lovely modified beauty dish and the equally great Chimera 24″ x 32″ soft box.
The sky at dusk is my favourite backdrop for all kinds of shoots and the May evening sky provided us with something special to work with. Keegan is pretty good at what he does and I had to ask him several times to actually get less height from the ramps so that my pictures looked better! Two hours on a nice evening messing around and shooting pictures is a pretty good way to make a living. The unfortunate part of this particular commission was that I had to write the words that described exactly what I had done and how I had done it. One day I will get around to reproducing the whole piece for you.
The text books will all tell you that there are a number of rules for composing a photograph (or a painting for that matter) and it isn’t a bad idea to follow these rules 90% of the time. Working on a newspaper has taught me that simple compositions often work the best and that there are several ways of keeping it simple. One of my favourites is to work with a small depth of field. The human eye will always be drawn to the subject that is in sharp focus with a simple out of focus background. Usually this will mean that the background doesn’t contribute to the image, but every so often an out of focus background forms a really important part of the image.
This picture of three year old boy at a nursery school learning about some creatures that had been brought into the school is a perfect illustration of how throwing the background out of focus gives an enormous boost to the composition and helps to tell the story of the image. The chameleon is in focus, but because the lens (180mm on a 70-200 f2.8 zoom) was wide open at f2.8 the boy becomes an interesting blur. The added 1.6x focal length multiplication brought no change in the depth of field but narrowed the angle down to a 35mm equivalent of 288mm. On this particularly sunny day that meant a shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second on 200 ISO.
Techniques are there to be used, altered, modified and adapted. This one should become really useful to you once you have mastered it. When you are struggling to make an interesting composition it’s always worth considering narrowing your depth of field.