Seeking advice for DIY senior portraits

SVQuant

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Sep 20, 2015
Messages
3,059
Location
SF Bay Area, California, USA
Real Name
Sameer
I haven't been shooting actively recently, but really want to shoot my daughter's senior portraits. Seeking advice from people on tips, tricks and gear.

What I have: E-M1.1, E-M10.1, O45/1.8, O12-40/2.8. Am open to acquiring a new lens, but am biased towards adding some lighting gear (since I own none at all).

Also, I have exactly one month to deliver these. So less than that if I am not up to snuff and have to seek professional intervention at the end!

Would appreciate any and all help.

An example of my current skill level (SOOC jpeg):
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
Last edited:

tkbslc

Super Moderator
Joined
Feb 6, 2015
Messages
7,508
Location
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Looking at your gear list, 25mm f1.8 and 45mm f1.8 are great for outdoor portraits. Find some nice areas for outdoor portraits, pick a time of day (golden hour, etc) with pleasing lighting and go experiment. There are many coastal scenic areas or interesting urban settings in the Bay Area. I tend to favor a bit wider, even full body shots for senior portraits.

As for lighting, for outdoor portraits, often all you need is a reflector. You can get one of the folding huge circle ones for like $20 on ebay. If you can find a helper (wife, other kids) to help hold/aim it for you, it will be easier.
 

PakkyT

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Jun 20, 2015
Messages
2,771
Location
New England
Having done several high school senior portraits (two for my own kids and two for a friend's kid and her friend it is pretty easy really. Key thing is good lighting and giving them lots of choices to pick from. Your cameras and lenses are perfectly up to the task. As you mentioned, some sort of lighting gear will make it easy.

While I agree with @tkbslc that you could use a reflector two drawbacks are 1) as he mentioned you kind of need a second person to hold it for you (you could get a stand to hold it but that is more trouble than it is worth) and 2) You are limited where you can employ it as you need to be located somewhere where you can catch light with the reflector. If you are in a shady spot it can be hard to get a good reflection.

With a light source, you open yourself up to being able to shoot anywhere with your little artificial sun. On my four shoots it was a pretty simple setup. My old Olympus FL-50 flash on a light stand with an umbrella and then a cheapo radio trigger set (my FL-50 is a non-R type so no remote mode). If you don't have any external flash, you don't have to spend a lot of money. Any basic flash with manual flash power settings will work fine. For basic senior portraits you can shoot "through" the umbrella or shoot "reflective". While there are pros and cons for each for a basic senior portrait either will give good even lighting and when shot at a typical 45° to the left or right of the subject and slightly above them will give enough contrast lighting they will look great.

So as an example, here is a workable umbrella, stand, and flash holder...
https://www.adorama.com/we43cufk.html
The umbrella can be shot reflective or shoot through. Only $80 USD.

Then just add a flash. I am not up on the latest and greatest ones since I still use some old Oly models. Others can probably recommend some, but if you need a radio trigger, I have been using this one for years now and works great and a great price at only $18 USD...
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CO2WP0U?pf_rd_p=183f5289-9dc0-416f-942e-e8f213ef368b&pf_rd_r=18Z8TYKG3G47SNR2A3G7
The trigger does nothing more than fire the flash when you press the shutter button on your camera.

Two additional bits of advice.

Even in NO breeze, your umbrella stand will blow over and break your umbrella without something to weigh it down. Simple solution is to hang you camera bag off the bottom lock nut of the stand or your model's purse will often work. Otherwise bring some sand bags or something to set on top of the legs. I have used a small dumb-bell (3 or 5 pounder) that I kind of wedged into the legs).

And second, when shooting outside during the day with flash you may have to stop down your aperture to something like f4 to keep your shutter speed below the "flash sync" speed of your camera. If you want extra shallow DoF then you will instead need a several stop ND filter on your lens to darken it so you can use f2 or whatever and still shoot at 1/250 or slower. So a ND filter might need to be added to your shopping list. Not needed if you use a reflector.

Examples:

6320515721_8c4f7c4c0e_b.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
110611-16.09.32 by Patrick, on Flickr

22489866622_d07f37576e_c.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
Candidate for the Yearbook by Patrick, on Flickr

21628027172_89666f52fc_c.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
2015.09.22-15.58.01 by Patrick, on Flickr

20932482633_a20a4b9232_c.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
2015.09.19-17.43.46 by Patrick, on Flickr

EDITTED TO NOTE: The above are just examples I picked. I either don't know (in two cases) or don't remember (in the other two) which photos each actually picked for their yearbook photo.
 
Last edited:

SVQuant

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Sep 20, 2015
Messages
3,059
Location
SF Bay Area, California, USA
Real Name
Sameer
@tkbslc Thanks for your inputs. A reflector sounds like a good starting point.

@PakkyT Thanks for your input and for sharing the images. Gives me a sense of what to aim for.

I will take the daughter out for a shooting session tomorrow and use it to identify a couple of locations and set my own baseline.

I have in my Amazon shopping cart:
  • The 43" umbrella recommended above with a stand and a S-type bracket
  • A Godox TT600
  • A Godox X1T-O trigger
  • A 36" reflector
I am thinking that a TTL trigger makes a good companion to the manual flash i decided upon. Any suggestions or comments from either of you?
 
Last edited:

wjiang

Mu-43 Legend
Joined
Sep 7, 2013
Messages
7,257
Location
Christchurch, New Zealand
[*]A Godox TT600
[*]A Godox X1T-O trigger
[*]A 36" reflector
[/LIST]
I am thinking that a TTL trigger makes a good companion to the manual flash i decided upon. Any suggestions or comments from either of you?
Why a TTL trigger with a manual flash? I would not get the TT600 - the TT685-O is not much more in price and will do HSS and TTL, so is a much more useful flash in general. It also tends to get firmware updates to support the latest Godox system features whereas the TT600 does not.

I would also recommend you get the X2T-O - the user interface is much improved over the X1T-O, with direct buttons to change group, a better dial, and locking foot.
 

PakkyT

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Jun 20, 2015
Messages
2,771
Location
New England
Personally I think the flash is too powerful! It’s not subtle and not natural looking!
All flashes I have worked with allow you to adjust the power output level, so I am not sure how this is an issue. It all depends on the output the photographer picks.

A couple of other thoughts for @SVQuant
Don't get too caught up in scouting a location. A lot of people go out of there way to find some majestic background but the thing is for your basic senior portrait, you are going to be relatively tightly cropped so you won't see most of the surrounding anyway and ideally you would like the background to either be a bit blurred or rather neutral to not distract from your subject. Basically your own yard may have a nice background that would work. The first two shots of my four above were shot in my yard.

Since I don't do this often I am usually so focused on making sure the shutter speed is correct for the flash and getting a sharp focus on the face, I kind of get blind to what is going on behind the model. In my second photo of my son, the tree on the left kind of ruins that shot. In hindsight if I had only taken a step to my left I could have probably made a more even background. More experienced portrait shooters know to look for these things, but like I said, I am just trying to get the lighting and focus right and might miss the "tree branch growing out of their head" problems with the background. So another good reason to take a lot of shots when out so you have a better chance of getting ones without background or model posing problems or blinking mid shot and other such things you might not notice until viewed large on your computer.

And finally for a senior portrait, most yearbooks I have ever seen, keep in mind that the picture printed is going to be small. Like a couple inches wide and maybe 3" tall for example. So make sure you fill your frame with your subject and not your background. You don't want your subject to be a little head in a little photo. You want them to be a BIG head in a little photo. Also since the photo will be printed so small, when shooting give yourself a little cropping room by shooting a bit wider. Since the photo is going to be printed small, you don't need every megapixel to be printed, but having a lot of options for cropping can be very useful when coming up with the final 2 or 3 shots for a daughter to agonized over which one she wants to be thee shot. Also, she WILL pick one different than what you thought was the best one. :doh:
 
Last edited:

Hendrik

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
Feb 27, 2015
Messages
1,287
Location
Wayland MA
Real Name
Hendrik
While I agree that the background only needs to be serviceably non-distracting, consider that the shoot will go better if it takes place in one of your daughter’s happy places.
 

SVQuant

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Sep 20, 2015
Messages
3,059
Location
SF Bay Area, California, USA
Real Name
Sameer
@PakkyT @Hendrik Location is for my daughter to pick. It will be a local park or maybe the bayshore - Some place we can get to in 10 minutes. My job then is to get the best shots I can :)

@wijang thanks for the pointer to the X2T. It looks like a significant improvement over the X1T. The choice of the manual flash was mostly dictated by my desire to keep the budget for this experiment below 200usd, but put together a base for a future expansion. The TT685 was my first choice, but at twice the price of a TT600, it breaks my budget. I will reevaluate the kit. There is always the TT350 which is lower powered, but may cut it for my use. Decisions!
 

Latest posts

Links on this page may be to our affiliates. Sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
Mu-43 is a fan site and not associated with Olympus, Panasonic, or other manufacturers mentioned on this site.
Forum post reactions by Twemoji: https://github.com/twitter/twemoji
Copyright © 2009-2019 Amin Forums, LLC
Top Bottom