THE PERFECT VALENTINE
By Gary Bernstein
This is the Valentines Day column. And we've spent a lot of time this past year talking about a variety of different photography techniques including a lot of detail on glamour photography. This column is a different approach however. It's about producing a Valentines Portrait of the kids. And I can't think of a more wonderful present. It beats the heck out of chocolates. And naturally, the techniques discussed here are as applicable for photographs of younger children as they are for shots of your better half!
I made these images about two months ago. And although I always shoot in both color and black and white, I loved the black and white images best--and so did the parents when it came time to place their order.
These are photographs of a brother and sister...and in fact I was actually commissioned to make a family portrait to be shot in the family's living room. My assistants were setting up the lighting, and the kids were dressed first, so while waiting for mom and dad to change, I asked the kids to come outside where I shot this series of natural light images. I know that natural light is your favorite source because you don't need to bring your own lighting. And although I brought an abundance of studio electronic flash power with me for the family portrait--it's my favorite as well--and for the exact same reason: Available light is simple, fast and easy (if you know what you're doing)!
Let's start with the wardrobe. If you want images to be printed and displayed large-format in the home, it's not really a matter of whether you're shooting film or digital, or whether you're shooting 35mm or 8x10; it's simply a matter of the overall look and the results. It's about the feeling and the emotion in the images. Bottom Line: You need to produce images that holds the viewers attention--regardless of whether it's a portrait or a commercial shot. And, indeed, three of these black and whites were ordered as 40-inchers on canvas for the client. What I love about the formality of the clothing in these shots is that it gives an incredibly elegant air to the images. And while elegant images may be hung in a casual environment as well, the opposite isn't always true.
talk about the background...
Talk to your subjects. "Lift you chin...now, just tip your head slightly to your right..." Let the subject know that you intend to shoot a lot of film (or images)...that all that's important to you is getting a ton of great shots. Inspire confidence. Good lighting and composition is the start. You have to keep shooting to keep improving. We have a joke in the martial arts when we're teaching white belts..."I'll perfect this technique if it takes me all day." Success in photography is like the martial arts. It's a journey--not a destination. One more thing…Notice that in the two-shot, I back up the daughter slightly so the son (who receives split lighting in that image) receives the same exposure as the daughter. Is this too technical for you? Let me know if it is.
By the way...you can learn a ton of great photo techniques by checking out the new ZugaPhoto.TV DVD "How to Take Great Pictures" Zugaphoto -- How to DVD. I appear on the DVD along with never-before-seen shows from many of the world's best pro photographers (along with their portfolios)--and it covers everything from portraits and party pictures to sports photos and travel pictures. And while I'm at it, a lot of you have written commenting that these columns and the DVD have inspired you to turn from amateur/hobbyist to semi-pro and in some cases professional. And you've asked for advice in how to better sell your images. So some quick tips on turning pro (or at least how to start making some money from your images)...
Let's start with improving your photography--that's number one. You must hone your skills. And now, it's easier now than ever before to make money from your photographs because of the Internet. There are a lot of services out there that allow you to post your images on line...but not too many that combine that with a single software solution for pricing as well (and that's truly user friendly so you can change it when you need to). I suggest you take a hard look at More Photos http://www.morephotos.com. I have worked with the More Photos system for nearly 4 years...and absolutely nothing tops it. So check it out.
Well, that's it for this issue. And happy shooting. Gary Bernstein