How I plan photo shoots in Puckpool Park
The plan above was dismissed immediately for this session.
Parking madness on the streets by Springvale meant I had to use a different park entrance.
Which is a lucky accident. Being forced to think creatively meant I discovered overlooked corners of the park and injected a dynamic energy to the session.
How I start each session
Above are the very first images I took.
- Left – testing the light. The image is slightly underexposed because I know I am going to use off-camera flash.
- Middle – testing the light with flash.
- Right – forget the equipment, lighting and camera. I put all my energy into making Miriam feel confident.
I always start my sessions sitting down. It helps the model feel relaxed. I purposely crop the tree stump out of the picture. Simplicity and uncomplicated composition is my signature style.
The park has a walled garden. The cement wall is indistinguishable from any other street corner. But I chose it for our first location.
Because it is the perfect colour (or to be more precise, the same tone) as Miriam’s skin. I was also using off-camera flash which needed the same key tone to avoid looking too ‘flashy’.
As with this session, I set up the shot and asked Miriam to brave the cold for a fresh feel to her photographs. Knowing how to add a summery feel to bleak winter images is important to envisaging how you can create flattering photographs.
Matching wardrobe with locations
Miriam had sent over her outfit choices the week before so I knew she’d have items with textures (cashmere, lace, cable knits, fur). The cracked wall suited the knitted wrap and allowed Miriam’s skin to look gorgeous and fresh-faced.
Again the peeling paint was the same colour and tone as her outfit so the photograph looks stylised and coordinated, even though it was a chance opportunity.
I positioned Miriam under the crack to provide a natural vignette around her features. The horizontal line acts as a ‘box’ to frame her against the wall.
Miriam borrowed a hat from her friend and I’m so glad she did. Playing with props makes the session fun. I asked Miriam to look skywards for the photographs to ensure catch lights add a sparkle to her eyes.
I bought a prism off Amazon to add a different dimension to the photographs LINK.
Experimentation is key. I favoured resting the prism at the bottom of the frame because I add a gradient along the bottom in Photoshop in all my images. I wanted to add to an established process rather than compete with it.
I’d pre-visualised this image before I took it, so I was able to coach Miriam to offer a moodier expression than the our initial happy-go-lucky images.
This image doesn’t match the rest of the series so I only played with it once. Creating images Miriam wanted is more important than indulging my own exploration. Always put the model first and your sincerity will be reflected back in your portraits.
I’ve moved to natural lighting now. The flash is put away. Ambient light is the most beautiful and flattering light of all.
We can use my original plans now. Start at #15. The gobos or ‘go-betweens’ is the black side of the reflector. I’d left my black foam core in the car by mistake.
Look to the right of the frame in each picture. You can see the black material absorbs light and creates shadows along the cheek line. This is good. I want to create shadows to add form and dimension to the Miriam’s features.
Make it fun
I can’t lie. It was cold. It snowed the next day and Miriam is wearing a summer-time top. So how do we fake it?
Make it fun.
Natural light again. With a gobo to subtract light on the left (remember – shadows are our friends).
I’m absolutely confident with my camera settings.
So I pour my heart into building a rapport with Miriam.
I laugh. A lot. And this is reflected back at me through Miriam’s joy.
In this location I work quickly, fire my camera fluidly and then move on.
Spontaneity creates natural smiles. If you force the moment, the photographs will appear awkward.
This is one way I create natural smiles in photographs.
We’re almost at the end of our portrait session in Puckpool Park, Ryde.
Natural light again – it’s late afternoon and the perfect time to create natural portraits.
A reflect is perched on the wall below Miriam.
We’d started to attract interest from some passer-bys, so although I’d one more location to use.
I called it a day.
Thank you to Miriam and her friend for meeting with me on a bitterly cold day.
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