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trying to get good portraits of my little brother and sister

Discussion in 'Street, Documentary, and Portrait' started by weeowee, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. weeowee

    weeowee Mu-43 Regular

    146
    May 6, 2012
    hi, I was wondering if you have any advise regarding taking portrait shots of my little brother and sister. I usually use the panny 20 with my omdem5 when i take shots of them but they don't seem special enough... i know i should practice more and fiddle with settings and i will but should i stick with the panny or should i use my oly60mm? i want to get even just a couple of special shots that i can frame for my mom on her birthday. any tips would be greatly appreciated. by the way, we usually just do these shots in their room because we're trying to keep it a secret. =)
     
  2. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    IMHO portraiture is all about lighting. Google "Karsh" and "Irving Penn" to see some classic work.

    Natural light can provide good lighting. In your room-studio I assume there is at least one window. Avoiding direct sunlight, experiment with your subjects, positioning them different distances from the window and see what the light looks like. If you get into a situation where you have nice light from the window but the other side of the face is too dark, have the other child hold up something white, like a sheet, as a reflector. With the reflector you can control the amount of light on the unlit side and get the effect you want. That kind of light is called "fill."

    20mm (40mm, 35mm full frame equivalent) is a little short for portraits. The classically favored range for portraits has always been 90-100mm, again full frame equivalent. So I would use the 60. That's particularly true for my shooting style because I shoot quite tight. Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perspective_distortion_(photography) The lens is much less important than the lighting, however.

    The photo below is no competitor for Karsh or Penn, but it shows how even subtle lighting can result in a decent shot. In this case, the boy was on the covered front porch of a school building on an overcast day. He is getting skylight from his right (photographer's left) and much weaker light on the left from the somewhat dark porch. I took the nice light as it came, no manipulation.

    Saron_Boy.

    This is the kind of shot you should be able to get with a window (no direct sun, remember) and a reflector.

    Edit: I don't know what the rules are on posting someone else's work,so I'll just post a thumbnail of this nice shot that I saw in the M43 gallery this morning. Again, subtle but nice lighting makes the portrait. Julia_maui-2.
     
  3. marcr1230

    marcr1230 Mu-43 Regular

    149
    Nov 28, 2013
    there's a lot of possible ways to get great results - for 2 kids, I'd try to capture a moment where they show a link to each other, I have a great picture of my 2 with the youngest one's arm around the older and both smiling towards the camera.
    for portrait , try to get a clean non-distracting background, and a 60 lens should have a more pleasing perspective than a 20
     
  4. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Vin
    Like oldracer said, it's all about light. Most bedrooms do not have enough light. Stick them by the window or better yet take them out to the park. Bring the 20mm and 60mm. Use the 20 for wider environmental shots or shots with both of them in frame. Use the 60 for head shots or half body shots. Practice and good luck!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. weeowee

    weeowee Mu-43 Regular

    146
    May 6, 2012
    alright thanks=). i don't live with them since i'm already working and all so i don't get to spend that much time, usually we do it at night when i visit afterwork. maybe on the weekends i can take them out=)
     
  6. Musashi

    Musashi Mu-43 Regular

    56
    Nov 17, 2013
    Chicago
    Though I'm not a portrait guy by any means, I totally agree with oldracer that lighting is an essential element of portraiture. But don't forget that capturing that perfect moment is just as, if not more, important.

    Quite often, the best shots are the ones taken in imperfect (or unconventional) lighting conditions, or they're situations where you can't control the lighting. And sometimes when there's just lot of stuff that goes against the grain (like a lot of direct sunlight and harsh shadows), you occasionally get something that just works.

    Fuji XE-1 @ 55mm (18-55mm), 1/600 @ f/4.0. Cropped to 1x1 and sharpened about 10 clicks in LR5, but apart from that, unprocessed.
    12042400334_89737be1e6_b.

    In terms of equipment, upwards of 85mm is usually the norm for portrait work, but don't be afraid to experiment with what you have. I'd suggest you concentrate on the 60mm, but that said, I've seen phenomenal portraits taken with ultra wides (16-35mm FF equivalent). I'll admit, however, that most of the shots I've taken (that I consider decent, at least) are almost always taken at the long end of a standard zoom (typically 50-70mm on a 28-70mm FF equivalent).
     
  7. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    As others have said the most import part of portraiture is the lighting. Sometimes getting better lighting is a simple as turning on or off a light or moving it. Reflectors are also a good tool and are very affordable.

    Most pros who do this type of photography prefer longer focal lengths. This allows a shallower DOF as well as a decent working distance. The Olympus 45mm would be a great choice there but even a longer kit zoom will work.
     
  8. Musashi

    Musashi Mu-43 Regular

    56
    Nov 17, 2013
    Chicago
    Also, with two kids - you might want to consider getting shots of each separately, as getting two kids to do what you want - let alone one - is a losing proposition (yeah, ask me how I know…).

    9103634769_3e340b3040.

    9103636931_0c61ef61d7.

    Though if you take enough shots, you will sometimes get lucky. It might not be the most conventional portrait, but with kids (especially my own) I take what I can get…

    9103650703_8a249ca253.

    9105882640_a8731f61b1.
     
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  9. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    Bangkok
    rob collins
    One thing I quite like to do with kids is to put together a number of pics in a single frame. (It actually works out particularly well if your portrait isnt perfect because you tend to look at the best parts of each photo while with a single photo you tend to look at its faults.

    portrait-11.
     
    • Like Like x 4
  10. weeowee

    weeowee Mu-43 Regular

    146
    May 6, 2012
    thanks guys=) luckily for me they're both cooperative and they actually like posing together=) i think they got used to it because my mom would take endless pictures of them when they were younger. i just need to practice more with getting the correct lighting.
     
  11. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Dan
    At night in a bedroom is a difficult place to work. Another issue is the pose. If they are used to posing, they may have been taught very classic, straight on smile, poses. I am personally not a big fan of these types of portraits unless they are very well done. I'd recommend looking at tons of portraits on the internet to see what poses and lighting appeals to you and trying to duplicate it. I'd also recommend getting them outside in a park or somewhere like that in the morning or afternoon for better light. I think your idea of photos as a gift is a great one and I commend you for trying to get some really special photos.
     
  12. weeowee

    weeowee Mu-43 Regular

    146
    May 6, 2012
    here's one i like taken a few days ago when we started this little project. it's not any good because the focus was on his nose. but he looks cute because he's trying to make his small eyes bigger haha

    <iframe src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/43155936@N04/12050605543/player/a429a77477" height="500" width="333" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen></iframe>
     
  13. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Musashi, Just out of curiosity what focal length did you use for that #3 "Big Eyes" photo? It's quite striking. I'm guessing it was shot with at least a mild wide-angle, maybe like the OP's 20mm.
     
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  14. mrjr

    mrjr Mu-43 Top Veteran

    518
    Sep 25, 2012
    Not a good example, because all the photos there are great. ;)
     
  15. Musashi

    Musashi Mu-43 Regular

    56
    Nov 17, 2013
    Chicago
    Thank you! That one was indeed taken with a wide angle lens, though not m4/3. And you're almost dead-on with the focal length.

    LR4 tells me: Canon 7D + EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM; 14mm @ f/4.0.

    Figuring in the 1.6 crop, that's about 22-23mm.
     
  16. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    I thought so. The perspective distortion just makes those eyes "pop." Fun.

    weeowee, I think your picture is pretty good. I like the fact that that the face is cropped, even though that's hardly classical portraiture. I'm pretty sure that was shot with your 20 and, like Musashi's shot, the perspective distortion/big nose helps the shot/again not classical. Granted, the focus is not quite right but I'd rather have a good photo with a few technical shortcomings than to have a dull and uninteresting photo that is technically perfect. What you really need is additional depth of field so the eyes are better but the nose doesn't go soft on you. Even if you have to go up in ISO a bit and accept some luminance noise.

    I once had a teacher who said "When you get a good idea, work it!" That's what I'd suggest with the idea behind that shot. Work it.
     
  17. Musashi

    Musashi Mu-43 Regular

    56
    Nov 17, 2013
    Chicago
    Exactly what oldracer (and his teacher) said! Don't be afraid of doing something unconventional. Lighting and technique ARE important, but it's the end result that matters. Here's a few taken recently that I like, despite the fact that they're all technically imperfect and unconventional in a lot of ways:

    Out of focus, blown out highlights, and the subject had his eyes closed…an art filter shot, but nevertheless one of my recent faves:
    12041576204_b99dda75b5_c.

    I consider this a portrait, as it's totally staged and definitely not "street". I still consider it a "group portrait" even though there's not one subject that's identifiable as the focus of the piece.
    8522247396_bb2bc34997_c.

    Uncooperative and unhappy subject (not smiling, looked down at the last minute, hat and emblem off-kilter), DOF too shallow (AF caught the brim instead of the face), subject not in focus
    11577273583_a307b64b53_c.
     
  18. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Either can work well, but I would try to get them out in good light with the 60mm lens and do some head and shoulder shots of them together. This is an example of the shot I sent my mom of my two boys. It was taken with the Oly 75/1.8 and E-M5, but it would have looked very similar with the Oly 60:

    8010492060_198406eb32_b.
    P9210087 by Amin Sabet, on Flickr
     
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  19. weeowee

    weeowee Mu-43 Regular

    146
    May 6, 2012
    fooling around yesterday i kinda like this one out of the bunch we took

    <iframe src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/43155936@N04/12110768384/player/2272b77a1a" height="381" width="500" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen></iframe>
     
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  20. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    I like the pose but it's a little dark and flat for my taste. Here's a quick example of what I would do to a shot like that -- brighter and more contrast. I'd encourage you to play around. (This is a quick tweek in irfanview. Lightroom or some similar application could do more.)

    Clipboard01.