Per­fect por­traits

A spe­cial venue can add an ex­tra di­men­sion to your por­trait shoots. Make the most of your sur­round­ings - as well as your time - with these top 15 tips

Amateur Photographer - - Technique In Association With -

EAR­LIER this year, AP headed to the spec­tac­u­lar East­nor Cas­tle in Here­ford­shire to join a por­trait and fash­ion mas­ter­class with ZEISS am­bas­sadors luke & Mandy. in 2016 the duo started part­ner­ing with ZEISS for photo shoots and the re­la­tion­ship quickly evolved into a fully fledged am­bas­sador role by early 2017.

East­nor Cas­tle pro­vided the per­fect set­ting for the mas­ter­class, and at­ten­dees en­joyed the ex­per­tise of the cre­ative duo while try­ing out a wide range of ZEISS op­tics. Shoot­ing on lo­ca­tion is a great way to add va­ri­ety to your por­trait port­fo­lio and, as there’s no weather to con­tend with, ideal for the win­ter months. Here we share some in­spi­ra­tional tips, with help along the way from luke & Mandy.

1 Find­ing suit­able lo­ca­tions

Luke: ‘ We of­ten stum­ble across some­thing that in­spires us. For ex­am­ple, we trav­elled to Biar­ritz, south­west France, and got re­ally in­spired by the shape of a rock - we have planned a whole shoot around it. We al­ways have our eyes open and in­spi­ra­tion can strike at any mo­ment. We rarely look for some­thing spe­cific; how­ever we have things that we are drawn to, such as tex­tures and re­flec­tions.’

2 Vis­it­ing ahead of time

Luke: ‘ We prac­ti­cally never visit lo­ca­tions be­fore we shoot. Un­less they are lo­cal to us, it just doesn’t make sense lo­gis­ti­cally. Google is our friend! This method also teaches us to be bet­ter artists by hav­ing to think on the spot. When we used to shoot in aban­doned lo­ca­tions, some­times we would only have 15 min­utes in­side a place, so we would just have to make it work. We thrive on pres­sured sit­u­a­tions.’

3 Pre­pare for the shoot

With an on-lo­ca­tion por­trait shoot, you’ll nor­mally find you are against the clock. To max­imise time, pre-visu­alise what you want to achieve. One tip is to use mood boards (you can do this dig­i­tally with sites like Pin­ter­est) to gather ideas, which could in­clude poses, hair, make- up and out­fit ideas.

4 Pay­ing for shoot lo­ca­tions

When search­ing for suit­able on-lo­ca­tion por­trait venues, cost can some­times be an is­sue. A way to keep the budget low is to ‘trade’ with the venue – giv­ing them the op­tion to use your pho­tos in re­turn for use of the space. You might not al­ways be suc­cess­ful with this ap­proach, but it’s al­ways worth ask­ing.

5 Brief the team

Luke and Mandy are a mar­ried cou­ple, but if you don’t hap­pen to be for­tu­nate enough to have a part­ner who is will­ing to pose, it’s still worth cre­at­ing a di­a­logue be­tween you, the model and any­body else work­ing on the shoot. Luke says, ‘In our pre- Luke & Mandy days, we would have a phone con­ver­sa­tion and usu­ally joint mes­sages be­tween me, the model and hair and make-up. We would all talk about what vibe we were go­ing to cre­ate so we are on the same page. It’s good to be able to think on the spot, but plan­ning does make life less stress­ful.’

6 Shoot wide open

Luke: ‘I keep the cam­era in aper­ture pri­or­ity and shoot wide open 80% of the time. I’m us­ing ZEISS lenses so I know I don’t have to worry about qual­ity when shoot­ing wide open. I in­vest in the best gear to make life as easy as pos­si­ble. The eas­ier life is, the more time I can spend on other im­por­tant things like com­po­si­tion. Ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion is my friend. If a shot is too bright or too dark, I just turn the dial.’

7 Choose the right set­tings

If you’re go­ing to be shoot­ing in­doors but want to use only nat­u­ral light, you may find you need to push your ISO set­tings. Luke says, ‘I like to make life as sim­ple as pos­si­ble. This is a very sub­jec­tive topic, but per­son­ally, I mostly use nat­u­ral light. I put the cam­era on Auto ISO and set the min­i­mum shut­ter speed at around 1/125sec and a max­i­mum ISO of about 4000, de­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion. It’s im­por­tant to note which cam­era I’m us­ing – a Sony Al­pha 7R III – so I know how good the qual­ity will be on these set­tings. I wouldn’t al­ways rec­om­mend us­ing such a high ISO on older mod­els.’

8 Choose the best light­ing for you

Luke: ‘Ninety per cent of the time we use nat­u­ral light­ing – it’s just our style; we don’t like flash. I have noth­ing against it per­son­ally, and it’s a great tool for pho­tog­ra­phers. Com­ing from a nat­u­ral/avail­able light style, con­tin­u­ous makes sense to us, as avail­able light is con­tin­u­ous. We like to be able to see ev­ery­thing at all times. Some­times we shoot with just con­tin­u­ous light­ing. Ear­lier this year we did a shoot in a room that was very dark so it was our only op­tion. We do en­joy switch­ing it up, and the lo­ca­tion def­i­nitely de­ter­mines what you do.’

9 Model and lo­ca­tion re­leases

Luke: ‘Re­leases are funny things. They aren’t as nec­es­sary as peo­ple think they are in most sit­u­a­tions, but to be hon­est, it’s been so long since I pho­tographed some­one else, I’m a bit scared to give the wrong ad­vice. You can’t go wrong hav­ing a model sign one though. I’ve never had to get a lo­ca­tion per­mit for a fash­ion shoot.’

10 Di­rect­ing the model

Mandy: ‘If a shoot is the pho­tog­ra­pher’s con­cept and they want some­thing spe­cific, by all means di­rect as much as they need to, but I don’t be­lieve it’s al­ways nec­es­sary. For me it comes down to a mu­tual re­spect be­tween model and pho­tog­ra­pher. As a model it’s my job to know how to pose, how dif­fer­ent light­ing makes me look and how to ex­press dif­fer­ent moods. Too much di­rec­tion can be­come off-putting – much like it’s not the model’s job to tell the pho­tog­ra­pher which cam­era set­tings to use. It’s great that Luke and I know each other so well and we re­ally re­spect each other’s vi­sions, so we’re able to find that bal­ance.’

11 Keep it com­fort­able

Mandy: ‘ To me feel­ing com­fort­able means feel­ing val­ued on the shoot. There’s noth­ing wrong with shar­ing your vi­sion, but if a pho­tog­ra­pher bom­bards you with poses to do, it can be in­tim­i­dat­ing. It feels like they don’t trust in your abil­ity as a model, which is no good for con­fi­dence and just sets the shoot off on a bad tone. Another big thing is just mak­ing sure you feel com­fort­able in gen­eral, with your clothes and make- up.’

12 Use­ful in­for­ma­tion

Mandy: ‘If I’m do­ing my own hair and make-up I like to know ex­actly what the pho­tog­ra­pher wants so that I can pre­pare. The same goes for cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories - it’s al­ways help­ful to re­ceive a shoot mood board. When Luke and I do a big shoot we usu­ally test hair and make-up the day be­fore. In our ex­pe­ri­ence this makes ev­ery­thing run a lot smoother on the day.’

13 Con­sider an as­sis­tant

Luke: ‘Of­ten we use friends be­cause we can trust them. Hav­ing an as­sis­tant can be great be­cause it’s a chance for them to learn first-hand what hap­pens on a shoot. How­ever, if they don’t ac­tu­ally want to help, then it can be detri­men­tal. It’s only usu­ally nec­es­sary for us if we have lots of clothes. Oth­er­wise we usu­ally stick to just Mandy and me. Our hair and make-up artists are usu­ally awe­some and su­per-help­ful, get­ting in­volved in the ac­tual shoot too.’

14 Use your cam­era’s tools

Luke: ‘The eye aut­o­fo­cus on the Al­pha 7R III is a dream fea­ture. I try not to get too caught up on cam­era func­tions but, to me, this is the best cam­era fea­ture in the past five years, pos­si­bly more. The fact that you can fo­cus on the model’s eye­ball and just move around the lo­ca­tion to se­lect the best com­po­si­tion with the eye­ball still in fo­cus is just re­mark­able.’

15 Show and tell

Mandy: ‘From my ex­pe­ri­ence, I un­der­stand why pho­tog­ra­phers wouldn’t al­ways want to show im­ages as they go. How­ever, as a model, it’s def­i­nitely ben­e­fi­cial to see how ev­ery­thing’s look­ing. There’s noth­ing worse than get­ting the im­ages back and wish­ing you’d fixed that bit of hair, or posed slightly dif­fer­ently. It can save a lot of time and frus­tra­tion to check as you go.’

Us­ing a widean­gle lens helps to show off the sur­round­ings Sony Al­pha 7R III, ZEISS Batis 25mm, 1/10sec at f/2, IS0 125

Us­ing el­e­ments of the sur­round­ings can re­ally add drama to en­vi­ron­men­tal por­traits Sony Al­pha 7R III, ZEISS Batis 40mm, 1/125sec at f/2, IS0 500

This cre­ative shot was taken by one of the mas­ter­class at­ten­dees

Plan­ning the looks you want to achieve ahead of the shoot can save time when you’re against the clock Sony Al­pha 7R III, ZEISS Batis 25mm, 1/500sec at f/2, IS0 12,800

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