I was in Zingst teaching fashion photography workshops and each day after I was finished I shot personal images. Some were fashion images but these were portraits, which I almost never do.
I define “portraits” as a corporate photo or for someone’s press release (Boring). Now I do shoot a lot of headshots but mostly for a beauty client or for the cover of a model’s comp card, but I do not consider them a portrait. A portrait is what “Real People” go & get at a portrait studio.
When Emiliano, my lead assistant in Europe, & I scouted the area, I found a great location to shoot, and immediately knew I wanted to shoot here. The location was a National Forest about 2-3 miles (3-4 kilometers) out of Zingst. It had a lot of what I look for in a location: beauty, a variety of different looking backgrounds within a few hundred feet (50 – 100 meters) easy to get to, easy to move gear from the vans to where I wanted to shoot, and totally free of people… well until we showed up.
20+ years ago Zingst was part of East Germany and lived under Communist control. What impressed me was how the community leaders in Zingst have been able to change their mindset from Communism to Capitalism and do a really good job of it. The East German General of the region is now a major player in tourism and has done a great job of promoting the area. He, and others, have been able to convert their small village into a thriving tourist center.
This is even more amazing with the fact that NO ONE drives through Zingst by accident. It is not on the way to anywhere, you have to (Really!!!) want to go there. I left the house in Milan at 10 am and I arrived at the hotel, 800 miles (1280 KM) later, in Zingst at 10:20 pm.
So I decided I wanted to photograph the community leaders that were prominent in the development & running of the annual Zingst Photo Festival. The first man I shot with was Heinz Teufel:
My crew set up the gear, I then put Heinz in the shadow of a large tree (This so I would not need to be concerned with direct sunlight on his face) then I adjusted my camera’s shutter speed & f stop to have the ambient light be darker than the strobe and adjusted the strobe power to where I liked the subject exposure (To get pleasing skin tones). For these images we used either 50 or 100 watt seconds of power, not very much really considering it was mid afternoon. This is one reason I use the Lumedyne system, small, very lightweight for the power and truly efficient, meaning a lot of light for the “Watt Seconds” used. And at those settings the pack recycled in almost real time <0.5 second.
Just in case you do not think the strobe is doing much, look at this photo,
which is the same lighting set up and same camera settings, just 30 images apart and the strobe did not fire. The difference is stark.
The same lighting set up was used for Klaus:
and again you can see the change the strobe light does for you.
All of the people I photographed were illuminated using this same set up except for 2. One of which was a man who had a long face.
If you light anyone with a long thin face, using sidelight will only make them look like their face is longer & thinner than it is to start with. You also want to avoid shooting them straight on, try and angle the face. So I used a 30” x 30” FourSquare travel softbox with a grid and boomed it out & over his head.
We also used a “Windkiller, read about this below. In this image you can see the same shot without the strobe.
On the same day I was shooting with a woman,
and I wanted to put a large reflreflector under her chin.
So I used the same set up, I just changed the camera direction so the background would look different and added the Sunbounce Pro underneath her. The shot below clearly shows the Windkiller.
Remember my statement above: “Or how to quickly shoot an environmental portrait”? None of these portraits took longer than 30 minutes, starting from the time we pulled up and parked to when we were back in the cars and leaving. On the days we shot with 2 people, it might have added 5-8 minutes.
By this time in the week, clouds, wind and cold weather had covered the village so we used a few tricks to allow our “Subjects” to stay warm as long as we could. I do this by having everyone stay in their coats up until the last minute. The crew would set up the gear, I would have a crew member stand in for the initial lighting set up, then I would have our main person step in. We also used an additional piece of gear from Sunbounce, a “Windkiller” and you can see it in several set ups. Without having a big sail, as in a full sized solid fabric reflector, the Windkiller reduces the wind by 70-80% but is easier to hold.
To help you know what the finished image will look like, make a custom “user set” as part of Canon’s “Picture Styles”. (I feel certain Nikon and others also offer this, if not buy a Canon.) You take one of the custom sets and tweak it to how you like the image to look like AFTER you have made adjustments in Photoshop. On a Canon camera, you adjust the contrast, saturation, sharpness, color etc. and save it. Then you change the Picture Style setting to your custom set & the camera’s LCD screen will show you something close to what your final finished image will look like. I do not use this because I already
(Click photo to enlarge)
know what it is going to look like even before I touch the camera. I do this to show a client because most people, not just clients, just can’t pre-visualize anything.
VERY IMPORTANT!!! When shooting RAW, this setting does NOT change anything in the RAW file. When shooting in JPEG, it does change the JPEG permanently, so be sure you like this or you might have a lot of unusable images. My suggestion: Shoot in RAW mode only or RAW + JPEG. This way you are covered. Even when I shoot weddings (Rare & normally for model friends) I shoot RAW. Is this a pain? Oh you bet. If I shot a “Normal” wedding would I shoot in RAW? I doubt it, but it would depend on the shooting environment (A lot of strong back lit scenes or ultra high contrast light and narrow time frame.) Now as a high end advertising photographer, I shoot in RAW only.
Even my snapshots are shot in RAW. Example: Before I went to Zingst, I was in Lenno, Italy on Lake Como. My friend ask me if I wanted to go to Bellagio for breakfast? Well yeah! So I grabbed a coat, my silk wild rag, my 5D MKIII along with a 16-35 Series II lens and we got into the boat and scooted across the lake in about 10 minutes. Lake Como is a very narrow lake but also very deep, at it’s deepest it is over 1400 feet. Now this day was just miserable, cold, high humidity, some wind and solid overcast. But I just wanted to shoot snapshots because I knew that nothing I shot would be worth having. But because I ONLY shoot RAW, and because I know how to use the Adobe Camera RAW Converter, when I got back I just tried to tweak a few images in the hopes I could get something worth looking at. Now keep in mind that nothing was done to these photos within Photoshop other than cropping to size and adding my copyright. 100% of the transformation was done in ACRC (Adobe Camera RAW Converter). I doubt I could do this with an 8 bit JPEG without getting a serious banding issue.
I will be holding another workshop in Como in September just before Photokina. Go here for general information, but no dates as yet. I only have 2-3 days left for “One on One” workshops, the rest are already booked.
You may want to think about coming early to Italy, spend a few days to get over jet lag, take the workshop then fly to Cologne, Germany and visit Photokina, which is by far the world’s largest camera show. It is once every other year and in 2010, over the 6 day event, there were 180,000 visitors. It is massive, if you have ever been to the New York Photo Expo, it would not fill just one floor in one of the buildings at Photokina, which is 7 buildings, 4 of which have 2 floors. Just for a sense of scale Canon & Panasonic will completely fill one floor.
Sunbounce: Reflectors, Windkillers, boomsticks & sandbags
Lumedyne battery powered strobe pack & head
Lightware Direct FourSquare 30” x 30” travel softbox with a Lighttools 40 degree grid
Microsync wireless strobe sync system
Canon 5D MKIII with a Canon 200mm f2 IS lens with Zagg protective skin
Gitzo carbon fiber tripod with a Slik ball head
A winner of ASMP’s Best of 2011 Award