Archive for August, 2010


posterized portraits

In Photoshop, there are an incredible variety of “filters'” you can apply, to create special effects in images. In the picture above, I’ve applied and artistic filter called “cutout” that gives a posterized version of a photograph of Tori. The filter will take an image with smooth gradations between light and dark areas, and reduce them to just a few discrete tones.  I’ve shown the original image below, for comparison.

If you look at the original image, and start at the highlight on Tori’s cheek and then move down to the lower right of the image, there is a gradual darkening of the tones. In the posterized version, you will see just 5 or 6 discreet tones as you move along the same line.  The posterized look is not for everyone.  How do you react to it? Would love to hear your comments.

Here’s another posterized image, with its orginal right below.


Church posters

I shoot a lot of pictures for my church, Saint Luke’s Parish (Episcopal) in Darien, CT. Recently I was asked to shoot some images of various activities and ministries of the church, with the pictures to go on large poster-sized prints in a stairwell leading down to the parish hall.  The prints were installed today. In the picture above, these three young ladies are members of the youth choir and are practicing the hand bells – and having a good time hamming it up for the camera as well.

Ther image above is from a summer Vacation Bible School our church runs – for our children as well as kids from some neighboring towns. It’s an amazing enterprise. I had to figure out how to get all the kids – well over 100 – inside the frame.  With a bit of trepdation, I got up on a roof to get this shot. The print is blown up to a size of 40 by 56 inches, and each person is clearly recognizable.

The last image, below, is from Vacation Bible School as well.  I like the intensity and concentration in this girl’s face – as well as the streak of green paint in her hair, which doesn’t seem to bother her at all. But how did Mom feel when she got home?


Fashion Shoot – glamour and casual

A few more images from my recent shoot with Tori. The first two were high glamour concepts – the dress, the pose and the make-up.  The third is, of course, much more casual. Tori moved into each role easily. She is, by the way, an accomplished singer and actor.


Great Advice for Shooting portraits

One of my favorite websites is the mindful eye.  Craig Tanner, who heads up The Mindful Eye, has been an important influence on my work. I’ve taken two 6-day workshops with him, and have just signed up for another one, in Santa Fe, in May of 2011.

Craig has some terrific advice on shooting portraits of people. I do some of this already and it is amazing the expressions you get when you ask people to share something about who they are and what’s important to them.


One of the biggest challenges for many photographers who are trying to improve their skills of photographing people is what to say and how to direct the portrait subject. If you are working on non-formal, non-posed portraits where you would like the portrait subject to quit observing themselves being photographed and to have body language and gestures that appear natural and are potentially exciting in gesture and expression then I highly recommend engaging your portrait subject with emotionally charged questions. These questions are anchors into powerful emotional states for your portrait subject. This requires practice because you will be carrying on a conversation while you are shooting. Two of my all time favorite emotionally evocative questions for portrait subjects are:
1) Who would you die for?
2) Specifically…. what is your favorite place in the world?
Many times you will immediately get a powerful response from the portrait subject. Be prepared to shoot as they answer. The great thing about these questions is that the answers often give you a great opportunity to follow up with more questions that put your portrait subject into the mode of emotional storyteller – which is a state of being that often leads to a highly expressive portrait subject.

Glamour Headshot

OK, in the last post, I said I’d get away from headshots for a while, but I wanted to post this image from a shoot this week with Tori. There are some other images of Tori from an earlier shoot here.

Before you read any further, have a close look at the image and think about whether you like it or not, and why.

I like the shot for lots of reasons. Some of these things are planned and some just happen – the things that “just happen” are not luck, I’ve come to believe, but something more like synchronicity.  Here’s why I like the shot –

  • the barest hint of a smile
  • the hint of dimples
  • the tilt of her of her head and body – somewhat reminiscent of a 1940’s Hollywood publicity shot
  • the way the color of her shirt (salmon?) complements the background
  • the way the lights and shadows play off of Tori’s hair
  • the pinpoint catchlights and beautiful blue color of the eyes
  • the real connection Tori has with the viewer

As always, any questions or comments are welcome.


Headshots, Headshots, Headshots….

Regular readers may think I’m writing too much about headshots. For sure, I’ll try to branch out a bit in the next few posts. But we have more headshots today. Here are a few images from a recent shoot with Cara. In the first one, the skin tone is quite warm – part of this is Cara’s tan – but I liked it as a contrast to her cool, blue eyes. We used a hair light, above and slightly behind her, to put some highlights in the hair. Here’s the same image in black and white, with a very different feeling. Which do you like better?

In the images below, the primary light source was a softbox behind Cara. A small reflector bounced some light back into her face. This lighting setup can cause some color shifts that may or may not work well. I did a fair amount of adjusting the color in Photoshop. We still came up with quite a warm skin tone.

Here’s the black and white version:

Both of these images – well all four, depending on how you count – show Cara with quite a serious expression.  But she has a lovely, full smile, which we captured in many of the images in our shoot. here’s one of the fashion shots we did:


Film Noir Lighting

I like to experiment with different lighting setups. Usually, when I am photographing women, I will use big, soft lighting, often coming from two, three of four lights, to provide a flattering portrait.  Stephanie, pictured above, was gracious and brave enough to allow me to try a very different lighting setup. I’m calling this a film noir look. Can you picture Stephanie in the film of a Raymond Chandler hard-boiled mystery from the 1950’s? I hope so – but not as the bad guy, of course!

In this image, I used one light, above and to camera left, with a bare bulb in a small reflector. See the very small catchlights in her eyes – the catchlights are always a key to how the lighting was arranged. This is about as harsh a lighting setup as I could come up with. The advantage of this lighting is the very dramatic and contrasty look. The viewer definitely gets a three-dimensional sense of the contours of the face.  The black background is designed to add to the drama. 

Below are two other images from the shoot – with more traditional lighting. Quite a difference, no? questions and comments, as always, are much appreciated.