5 tips from a newbie in the studio




One of the pleasant surprises here in Sydney is that it has a very vibrant culture of Meetup groups. I thought Meetup, being a New York corporation would have very limited presence here. The opposite couldn’t have been more true. I’ve found groups that do photography, PHP development, WordPress, and more. It’s been easy to integrate with a set of like minded here.

I wanted to take as much time as I could to soak up the Meetup culture and be exposed to as many different types of photography as I could while I was down here. Portrait photography has always been the hardest for me to get experience. I don’t have access to a photo studio and all the various lighting equipment that’s required, yet.

Sometimes, a studio owner will use his or her venue as a location for a meet up to help those of us without become better photographers. It wasn’t an opportunity that comes along often for me, so I packed up my camera, hopped on my bike, and headed off to Lilyfield for the evening.  What did I learn that was different (and the same) from my first time?


1. Know your portrait vocabulary

The big take away for me at this meet up with an iPhone app called Posing App. It walks through for each gender as well as couples which positions flatter the subject. This is the part of photography that’s a lot like vocabulary. I just have to spend time with the app visually memorizing each of the poses so that I can use them on demand when in the field.

2. Every model is different

Each model comes with a different skill set and qualities that make them unique.  Different body types will require different lighting setups and poses.  Inexperienced models will need much more direction from you, the photographer than an experienced model.  Models with less experience are more likely to make mistakes in the details. Keep an extra special watch on lines and shadows in photographs. Ensure both are complementary.

3. Communicate with voice and action

I struggled in communicating with the model during my first portrait shoot. The instructor focused a lot on not only giving directions by voice but showing the model visually. We all got a good laugh as the instructor who is a large burly man taught us how to communicate with the model by imitating the poses he wanted her to do. Laughing aside, it was an extremely effective way for the photographer and model to get on the same page.

4. Shadows are as important as lights

The lighting setup was very similar to the last photo shoot. A radio transmitter plugs into the flash hot shoe to control all of the external lights. We simply programmed our cameras with the settings provided by the studio owner. That part was completely plug-and-play.

Lights and more importantly shadows were significantly important as they had dramatic effects on the dimensions of a model’s features. Shadows can be slimming but they can also make a model look anemic.

5. Small details matter

What I found interesting was that even small details significantly affect the outcome of the photo. One of the poses the instructor used had the model lift her front foot’s heel and point her knee toward the inside of her body. She then put her hand on the outer hip. If it was too high, the hand broke the flow of the entire photograph. If it was too low, the model appeared lifeless in the photograph.

Portrait photography is like any other worthwhile endeavor. It takes practice, practice and more practice.


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