These pictorial features are designed to help you better appreciate how working photographers deal with subjects and situations, including some helpful tricks of the trade. In this issue, editor Paul Burrows has some tips for on-location portraiture and how to deal with whatever the situation throws at you.
Part of a book project – titled
Italian Affairs – which illustrates the passionate love affairs that owners have with Italian classic cars. This is American Bill Kreidler who is pictured with his beloved 1966 Cinquecento, wife Linda, and golden retriever Sophia (who is also a big fan of the little Fiat). The location is the Italian village of Sarteano in southern Tuscany where Bill and Linda have a holiday home. By the way, Bill also owns a classic Vespa scooter. The Fiat 500 is an ex-rally car that’s been fully restored and Bill describes it as “the essence of Italy”.
Camera editor Paul Burrows is also passionate about classic Italian cars – and the owner of a 1968 Fiat 850 Sports Coupe – so this project is a real labour of love which combines car photography, portraiture (including a few pets), and the occasional welcome trip to Italy.
Panasonic Lumix G85 mirrorless camera fitted with a Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f3.5-5.6 ASPH Power OIS image stabilised lens. Hand-held using available light with a small collapsible reflector. ND2 graduated filter on the lens.
Italian cars are small because the streets in many of the country’s historic villages are very narrow… so space was an issue here and so was balancing the contrast between the foreground area in shadow and the sunlit
background. Recalls Paul, “I had my back jammed up against a giant iron gate because I wanted to avoid any wide-angle distortion so the focal length was about 25mm… effectively 50mm which is perfect for a tight situation like this. I also wanted everything to be in focus, including the background – because the location is also part of telling this story – so the taking aperture is f11 which gives plenty of depthof-field on a Micro Four Thirds format sensor, but still allowed a ‘safe’ hand-holding shutter speed of 1/100 second at ISO 200”.
How It Was Done
Once the Fiat was manoeuvred into the desired position, the framing, focusing and exposure were all determined before Bill, Linda and Sophia were posed in the shot. Fortunately, Sophia is a very patient dog and happily just sat there for the whole time. Checking the shots in the camera’s monitor screen revealed that, even with the ND2 and small reflector, there was still a fairly pronounced contrast range so Paul ended up using the G85’s small builtin flash to add some fill-in illumination on the car.
Tricks Of The Trade
Getting set-up before your subjects are positioned in the shot is essential, because the first few images are always the most natural looking. The longer time you spend fiddling with the equipment, the more likely you are to lose the moment and everything then starts to look a bit forced. While good communication is always important when working with people, it’s also often a good idea to let them ‘do their own thing’ and see how it looks first before starting to adjust positions or poses. Here Bill and Linda essentially posed themselves – bill with his elbow out of the window (there isn’t a lot of room in there!) and Linda with her hand on the back window – and it all ended up looking pretty well balanced visually. It’s always a good idea to have something in mind when it comes to the composition and arrangement of a photograph which includes multiple elements, but always be prepared to change if something better occurs… which is often the case.
And never underestimate the value of a built-in flash, adds Paul. “They may be small, but they can still make all the difference in a situation like this. To avoid any hotspots I wrapped two layers of a white paper tissue over the front of the flash to act as a diffuser… simple, but effective”.
Degree Of Difficulty (Out of 10)
There were a few challenges here, most relating to the limited space to work in and the contrast created by the still fairly strong sunlight in early Autumn. Fortunately, the subjects were very co-operative (including the dog), so this exercise probably represents a solid eight.
Can You Try This At Home?
Photographing people is more fun than many amateur photographers expect and can be very rewarding. It’s even more interesting when you start including other elements such as a favourite location, a characterful work place or treasured possessions. And you start practicing right at home, on family and friends. Perhaps think up a theme that can grow into a project and see where it leads you… a book, an exhibition or maybe just some great photography experiences.