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|Category:||Portraits and People|
Living museums - Site member Alley (AlleyCatz) shares her tips for shooting portraits at living museums and re-enactments.
Words and image by AlleyCatz.
For portraits I use a A 18-200mm Nikkor, 18-70mm Nikkor and a 50mm Nikkor. The 18-200mm is a versatile lens which allows me to move from a wide angle to a mid range zoom so it's perfect for when I'm in a crowd and I want to grab a quick shot. The 18-70mm and the 50mm are used when in a more controlled environment.
Unless it's really impossible to do so I use a tripod 99.9% of the time as it helps me compose better shots. I also always use manual focus so the tripod keeps the camera static and still while I'm getting focused. I also nearly always use a cable release so I can be looking through the lens at my subject and shoot without taking my eye away from the subject.
Even though light can be a problem I very rarely use flash and always try and use natural light. Using the 50mm 1.8 helps as does my large reflector which I always take with me.
I also always stick a pen and note pad in my bag for getting emails as it's always worth making the effort to send your subjects one or two of your images as a thank you for their time and you never know where they could end up too!
Make good use of the internet to search for places of interest but always keep a beady eye open for notices in libraries, newspapers etc. advertising events. Seeing other photos of events/places can also help to instigate looking for and finding places of interest. I try and look for events and places of interest locally, which are easier to reach and more cost effective.
When I arrive at the event some people just stick out and catch my interest or sometimes I already have a shot in mind and I find someone who fits the bill. But generally I have a look around and see what's available first. Knowing your limitations or possibilities is a great tool. I often find a good subject then go looking for a fitting background or visa versa. I also look for those who have really taken the time on the way they look/presentation and those who are a little different. It's all about the details. I do try and find 'that person' all the other photographers are not around. A difficult task on many occasions but that's half the fun and gain in trying.
When you do find someone you want to photograph always ask permission first, even if you're at a busy event such as the Pickering War event as even though the people there expect to be photographed I feel it is always better to ask and explain a little about your photography and about the image you are trying to achieve. It's important that you appear confident and act professionally. Often they will need you to orchestrate the shot but some people know what pose they like and will do, so be prepared for that also. Tact is also a great tool.
When looking through the viewfinder I always try to look around it again and again. Small details make a huge difference. Asking someone in a polite friendly way to do up a button or straighten a collar, don't smile so much or open their eyes wider may seem like a small detail but it will make a big difference to the finished shot.
Approaching people was difficult at first but now I feel OK and confident about walking up to people/strangers. The only thing they could says is no and I do have a small flip file which I keep in my camera bag with quite a few of my portraits in, so I can quickly show them my work and my style. I find this can answer their questions about my photography and can also be an ice breaker too which puts the subject at ease which gives me a better chance of getting the shot I want. Let them talk also as this gives you the chance for a bit of their personality/character to come through. I always explain what I am going to do with their photograph and where it will be seen. I also always offer to email images to them. I am always amazed to be told that time and time again people promise to send images and never do. It's quite a buzz when you take the time to email people back and they are thrilled that you have taken the time to do so. It's even better when your images turn up all over as they use them proudly. It also makes them more willing to be photographed the next time around as well.
I'm also constantly on the look out for good backgrounds. Getting the background right in the shot is much easier than editing one in, although I do collect background shots just for that purpose. Thinking about your background and getting it right is just as important as the subject you are photographing. A not so well thought out background could ruin a great subject and what could be an otherwise excellent image.
I must admit I do not like busy crowded events/places with all the bustle. It's a challenge even before you have got your camera out of the bag! Avoiding the crowds is what I aim for, if at all possible. I would always arrive as early as you can or stay as late as the light will allow. A little planning about the event/location can also help you optimise your time and effort. Looking for smaller less popular events can also be very productive.
Lighting can be tricky both the lack of it but also too much electric/artificial lightning inside can be a problem. Moving a subject into a less lit spot or the lightest available spot is a way to help get a desired result. Which is why it's important to talk to your subject a bit to get their cooperation to do so.
You've read the article, now go take some fantastic images. You can then upload the pictures, plus any advice and suggestions you have into the dedicated Photo Month forum for everyone at ePHOTOzine to enjoy.