Fall portraits all weekend

Shutter: 1/2500, Aperture: ƒ/1.4 ISO: 100 Lens: 500mm

Between Friday and Sunday evening, I did four portrait sessions. My “bread and butter” is covering events (primarily concerts) in a journalistic capacity. I’ve been doing casual portraits for friends for years, but I’d like to increase the frequency in which I get to do posed and intentionally-lit photos. I also more experience shooting all types of people, and people I don’t know.

Click below to get a taste of the fall portraits I pulled off this weekend.

Shutter: 1/500, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 100, Lens: 50mm

Here is something new. People around my office often bust my chops that I only shoot photos of women. The truth of the matter is, if I were to approach a guy on his own and ask to take his picture, it gets pretty awkward. So when I do my campus visits, hunting for models to use for our stock library, I do indeed skew more female. But low and behold I was asked to do a senior session with a friend’s son and I was happy to give it a shot. I had never met this young man before, so I didn’t have a rapport, or knowledge of familiar expressions to look for. But this is exactly the type of challenge I’m looking for to help me get better. My main goal was to make the subject comfortable. You’ll notice that if your subject is uncomfortable, you can tell in their eyes and posture.

I also have to quickly learn how much direction I need to give. Some people have a stable of poses and expressions they’re comfortable with and will rotate through them effortlessly. Other times people will stand there without any idea of what to do. This shot above was one of the last of our hour-long session, and I feel like we pulled off the look we were going for and were able to communicate effectively.

Shutter: 1/100, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 100, Lens: 50mm

I had been shooting families in the pumpkin patch at sunset all weekend, and that’s where we picked up for this Senior shoot. The light was starting to evaporate quickly, so we used a flash with a remote trigger from the side. I didn’t want him squinting, facing the sun, so I positioned him so that the sun would light up his side, and the flash would fill in. I love getting studio-esque lighting in outdoor settings. However this is one of my favorite moments really because of this:

holding the flash
Photo courtesy Stacey Collins

That is my eight year old son holding the flash as tall as he can. He did a great job! He really wanted to run around and pick up pumpkins, but he did a great job being patient through multiple shots and standing still as best as he could. Yes, we did have a few capable adults on hand, but I want to engage my son more in the work behind getting the shot. If he’s going to be my assistant at the Miss America pageant in a few years, he needs to earn his keep.

Shutter: 1/200, Aperture: ƒ/2.8, ISO: 100, Lens: 70-200mm

And finally I wanted some head-shot style photos. I love the fall colors, and wanted to incorporate those as well. There was a small patch of tall grass that was between me and the subject. I wanted a little bit of “atmosphere” by having something in the foreground, but in more than a few shots the out of focus grass was interfering with his face, so I moved in closer and made sure his face was unobstructed. We didn’t need the flash or anything on this one. It was a cloudy day and the sun kept ducking in and out, so we would just wait for quick bursts of sunlight.

Shutter: 1/2000, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 100, Lens: 50mm

Just prior to the shoot with my male subject, I had the pleasure of working with this young lady again. We do have a great rapport, and I know what I’m looking for. We had done one Senior photoshoot earlier in the school year, when all the foliage was alive and green, but I really wanted to get some fall colors. So we agreed to a follow-up session. We found a cornfield and I played with how far away I would stand. Again, I was experimenting with how much foreground would be between me and her. I also recognize this age group’s love for instagram filters, so I intentionally raised the black levels and eased up on the contrast and clarity in RAW to get a more appropriate look.

Shutter: 1/2500, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 100, Lens: 50mm

THIS is the shot I had envisioned back when we first discussed doing senior portraits together. I wanted the yellow or orange leaves blown out almost like brushstrokes, framing her head. We actually had to drive around a little bit looking for the perfect tree. A lot of trees were still mostly green, while others just looked dead. The important part about this was that I had my son with me, and I always try to be a good example, especially when taking photos. We found this tree in the corner of someone’s front yard. So we pulled over, stood on the sidewalk, and got the perfect angle for hair illumination and effect in the background. Three minutes later we were back in the car and driving around. I wanted my son to see that we were always safe, legal, and respectful, when taking photos in public. Yes, I took him to my abandoned NIKE missile silo one time, and I’ve fretted the long-term impression ever since. Sorry not sorry.

Shutter: 1/100, Aperture: ƒ/14.0, ISO: 100, Lens: 24-70mm, Remote flash

Here is another image with a remote flash. I don’t have as much experience with using flash, or studio lighting as I do with natural and (uncontrollable) stage lighting. But this was a good learning experience for me. Basically I had to light her face up as the sun had disappeared. Oh jeez, what a dumb joke I just thought of… when there is no sun, my son will do just fine. Dad jokes. Anyway, I love the expression and just the slightest bit of edge lighting on her chin on her right side (most likely reflected off of the scarf).

Shutter: 1/2000, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 125, Lens: 50mm

The day prior to the senior portraits, I hosted my big family portrait campfire night. There’s a farm near us that has all your typical Fall Fest pumpkin patch activities (hayrides, slides, bouncing pillow, cider, hay bales, petting zoo) but they also allow you to reserve private campfires, and you can bring alcohol. So I’ll invite up a handful of families, we’ll enjoy the fall fest activities for a few hours, then take a hayride to the pumpkin patch, get some family photos, and then retire to the campfire for S’mores and pumpkin beer. It’s a lot of fun and the families get family portraits out of the deal.

Shutter: 1/2000, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 125, Lens: 50mm

This, to me, is the ideal family portrait I was going for. Pumpkin patch, sunset, a little bit of lens flare, all the kids are at least looking. We find a good spot and then rapid-fire go through each of the families. I’ll also get a few shots of just the kids, but the ideal sunlight is very fleeting and we have to move quick to get through the whole gang. That and we’re ready to crack open a beer already. It’s been a long day of watching goats and picking pumpkins.

Shutter: 1/400, Aperture: f/2.8, ISO: 100, Lens: 70-200mm

I also tried to get a lot of candid action shots of the kids as they ran around before the portrait session. I found letting them run for awhile and burn off some energy helped them focus and be patient for the portraits, at least just a little bit. This farm has a bouncing pillow, which is way better than a moon bounce because you can shoot them in air, without worrying about photographing through the netting common on moon bounces. My son loved when we were there late in the day and there was hardly anyone on it… however he learned when it was less crowded, it’s way less bouncy.

Shutter: 1/1000, Aperture: ƒ/2.8, ISO: 100, Lens: 24-70mm

And before any of that happened, I met up with Elle for lunch in DC on Friday afternoon. The leaves are really starting to change but the weather hasn’t gotten too cold. It was perfect for a quick photo shoot. The great thing is that Elle is quite fetching, and she enjoys having her photo taken, so she’s happy to meet me for an impromptu shoot without much planning. And frankly, we weren’t going for anything cerebral or high-fashion, we just wanted to grab some pretty fall photos. In this one above I was trying to see if I could step up the viewer engagement a bit by making it look like Elle is really excited to see you.

Shutter: 1/3200, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 100, Lens: 50

Yes! I wanted to get yellow leaves splashing in the background with a shallow depth of field, but then I found I could get the curved bench to lead the viewer in. As I was clicking, I noticed the book she was reading was reflecting the light right back up, so we tried to find a natural looking pose that would cast the light in the right direction. We were limited to the noonish timeframe due to my fulltime job. If I were able to plan it out, we’d meet later (and shoot longer, amiright?) Anyway, the best part of this story is that I had to urgently provide a replacement photo for the cover of a major publication I was working on at my fulltime job, and no joke, four days after clicking this photo just for fun, it ends up on the cover of our book. My aforementioned coworkers also continually scold me for pitching photos that feature only cute girls, and force me to diversify. This book will be distributed to around 7000 people in about a month! We’re thrilled.

Thanks for the snap, Adam!

I still love shooting concerts, and the more portraits and sports I shoot, the more of an itch I get to return to the concert pit. BUT, I want to expand my skillset, and I really do enjoy the time I spend with people, taking their photo. The best part of the shoot is connecting with the person, finding something photogenic or intriguing, and then capturing that so the viewer will feel the same way I do when I took it.

I’ve just put together this Portraits portfolio site, check it out!

This entry was posted in Awesome, Photo, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.