How I plan photo shoots in Ryde
Scouting out the location ahead of time
Despite using this park many, many times I always scout out the location ahead of time. I look for where the light falls, what backgrounds might work and seasonal variations.
I also try to walk along the paths from different directions as the change of perspective allows me to see the area differently. It’s important that I reflect my non-models personality and create photos that are unique to them.
I’ve a plan to use the steps below for my next session here, so if you’ve not worked with me yet. I’m looking for someone who fits the bill.
What I think when I choose these locations
1. Light – where are the shadows, where is the sun setting and what shade can I find.
In the mood board above you can see deep shadows and dappled light. This is bad. It will create unflattering dark shadows under Aimee’s eyes and distracting patterns on the grass behind her.
2. Overhead shade – I will only photograph someone when I can guarantee flattering portraits. This means I only use areas that have top shade, so I look for branches over head or a roof of a building. Note, there is no proper covering in the images above, making this area challenging to photograph in.
3. Texture – my portraits are successful because I use simple backgrounds with texture, which is why I love using concrete, rustic walls and even pebble dashed houses! I force the main focus on Aimee’s beautiful face with uncomplicated composition.
Use some where quiet to start with
I always chat with my non-models straight away to gauge how they are feeling about the shoot. My first location is always a ‘warm up’ area. I pick somewhere quiet, away from other people and is easy to settle into. I want Aimee to feel confident about her session and we try out what works for her outfits and posture.
Testing the light
Below are the very first images I take. You can see how I test the light and ensure my exposure is accurate. Then I move Aimee to an area where there is less light flooding the top right of the frame. The goal is to use the sun light shinning on her hair with the off camera flash providing beautiful soft light on her face.
Within four frames I’ve tweaked Aimee’s posture to ensure a happy stance. Most people will face the camera straight on. There is tell-tale tension in the shoulders and a tautness around the jaw. This happens to everyone, it’s hard to meet a new person with a large, black camera in their hand asking you to look happy.
Here are my tips to get natural smiles in your portraits.
In the end I decided to use the mound behind Aimee to create a simpler portrait as they tree line was just too distracting.
Be flexible and change your plans
The park was busier than expected due to the lovely weather so I amended my plans immediately. If you look at my sketches and location pictures I’ve not yet put my plan into action. A quick trial in the areas along the walls show that the images aren’t going to work, the contrasty light make it too challenging. However, I do find one successful corner and it wasn’t one that I’d anticipated.
Why it works
The alcove protects Aimee from the deep shadows and my off camera flash bathes glowing light around her features. The wall to the right creates a shadow on Aimee’s cheeks forming depth to the image. The red brick and green ivy are complimentary colours and Aimee chose the perfect outfit – a tailored blazer that follows her body shape beautifully.
Looking at the plan again, I’ve thought ahead to when we change our outifts and when I can use natural light. I’ve timed this with the sun light dipping behind the trees. I know that Aimee will need a break from standing in front of the camera and changing the wardrobe provides a natural rest stop.
This is another way I ensure relaxed images and easy going sessions. I work quickly, with purpose and remember to make it fun.
The below images weren’t selected by Aimee or myself. They are a good example of how I can change where I stand to create a variety of images in a short space of time.
Light creates mood
These two images were taken within minutes of each other and the steps are 5 paces apart. Knowing how to use light and set the right mood is vital to successful images.
- On the left – a bright, fresh summery feel.
- One the right – cooler, moodier and more dramatic.
I started with the sun light behind Aimee. A reflector was on a stand bouncing light back onto Aimee. The lime green top is fantastic and helps the image feel full of summery goodness.
Further along the pathway the next steps receive a cooler, harsher light. So Aimee simply slips on her wonderful coat which helps the image feel moodier. The calm, direct eye contact is achieved because we’re an hour into our session and Aimee trusts me to create images she loves.
I’ve planned to use this location at the very point Aimee will start to enjoy herself, ensuring confident images in the best light source.
After the high of nailing the shot there’s a natural dip in energy. I explain this to my non-models and take a step back from snapping away. It’s tiring working in front of the camera and people often feel a bit ‘blah’ after a while.
To maintain excitement I inject a bit of movement into the pictures.
The first 3 images below don’t work. I need to switch it up a bit. Turning around to face the sun, remembering to keep it story behind the image ‘summer fun’ I ask Aimee to slip off her jacket and rock towards me. Expect to get a lot of missed shots here. One works, so I move on quickly. There’s a fine line between creating energy in photographs and making people feel stupid.
Use the last half hour wisely
The last half hour is the best time – the light is perfect and everyone is excited about the fabulous images that have been created. So I always push for that little extra. Take a look at the plan again. I’m back on track. The evening light is easy to work with and I can move quickly again.
A huge thank you to Aimee for meeting with me. I love these images and can’t wait to see you again in the Summer.
For more advice on natural portrait sessions or to book a natural portrait by an Isle of Wight photographer, get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.