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Old Nov 8, 2010, 6:56 PM   #1
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Default Portrait Help, please :)

So my mother-in-law wants an 8x10 for her wall. She's been asking me to take her to the portrait studio, but I just spent all this money on a DSLR and don't want to spend money at the portrait studio. Especially when my daughter is difficult to photograph. She doesn't like to look at the camera or smile except in very very rare moments. And when a stranger does the picture taking she gets that deer in headlights look.

So anyway, I've been struggling a little bit. I've been trying to use my prime (a Minolta 50 1.7) for the background blur but I'm having trouble getting exposure right and getting what I want in focus. I focus on her eyes and then recompose but then I run into focus issues. Like her shirt will be in focus but not her head. This is more prevalent if she moves at all after I focus lock and then recompose. I shot today at f2.8 which bumped the shutter speed way up to like 1250 so I thought that would be fast enough to stop motion... but maybe this is more a problem with the DOF? I don't know. I'm lost again...

Here is one of the better ones from today. I haven't had a chance to run it through photoshop yet.



Any comments, suggestions, tips, would be much appreciated!

Diana
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 7:35 PM   #2
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Now you know why portrait photographers charge so much (and all have grey hair).
One thing studio photogs do when taking pictures of children, is to use an assistant to distract the child with something funny. It gets her attention and makes her smile, so she is looking in the proper direction and smiling - two things out of the way.

To get her all in focus, you will likely need a smaller aperture, but you can position her further away from the b/g, to keep the b/g blurred. Since you have her sitting, you can pre-focus manually, so you don't have to wait for the camera to autofocus.

There are some really good portrait photographers on the boards here, who will likely jump in and give you some better advice.

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Old Nov 8, 2010, 8:12 PM   #3
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It was a good move to get the subject out of the direct sunlight, but the reflection in the upper left is blown out, leaving the subject slightly underexposed. With such shallow DOF you might prefer to set the auto-focus to single point auto-focus, then focus on the eyes. The majority of the DOF will fall behind the focal point, leaving the subject in focus.

Or at least, that's what I would try. I'm still figuring this stuff out myself.
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 11:51 PM   #4
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Now you know why portrait photographers charge so much (and all have grey hair).
I know. And trust me, I've spent plenty over the last 10 years, tho less so with my daughter. My son was a ham. But with her, I'm spending 100+ for that I'm-gonna-cry-if-you-dont-stop look.

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One thing studio photogs do when taking pictures of children, is to use an assistant to distract the child with something funny. It gets her attention and makes her smile, so she is looking in the proper direction and smiling - two things out of the way.
We try to do this when we can. Usually, it's just the two of us. Sometimes I sit her in front of her favorite TV show and then jump in front of the TV to snap the shot real quick... sometimes it works...

[QUTOE]To get her all in focus, you will likely need a smaller aperture, but you can position her further away from the b/g, to keep the b/g blurred. Since you have her sitting, you can pre-focus manually, so you don't have to wait for the camera to autofocus.[/QUOTE]

I haven't tried out manual focus yet. I thought that was more for still subjects? She's sitting, but she's not exactly still. What seems to mess me up the most is when she moves forwards or backwards..which she does.. a lot. But if I leave her standing she turns around in circles...


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It was a good move to get the subject out of the direct sunlight, but the reflection in the upper left is blown out, leaving the subject slightly underexposed. With such shallow DOF you might prefer to set the auto-focus to single point auto-focus, then focus on the eyes. The majority of the DOF will fall behind the focal point, leaving the subject in focus.

Or at least, that's what I would try. I'm still figuring this stuff out myself.
I'm pretty sure I have it set to spot focus. I wonder if center-weighted metering would have been a better choice than pattern. I'm still not sure when to change these.

The upper left is part of the wall not in the shade. I did try to not include it so it would be more even. Obviously, I missed, lol.

This one doesn't have it in it... of course she's talking grandma in the house, but I still like her expression.





Hopefully we can try again tomorrow. She's good for about 10 minutes a day before she's done.
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Old Nov 9, 2010, 12:41 AM   #5
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Keep at it, and you will get more really great shots. She is an adorable little girl, and that first picture shows a bit of the devil in her. I think those characteristic shots are better than bland, formal portraits, for children at least.

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Old Nov 9, 2010, 12:57 AM   #6
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Keep at it, and you will get more really great shots. She is an adorable little girl, and that first picture shows a bit of the devil in her. I think those characteristic shots are better than bland, formal portraits, for children at least.

brian
Thanks, Brian. You are right tho, she's little miss attitude!

I also tend to like those shots that show their character more so than a formal portrait. I'm trying to appease the in-laws though.

Will keep at it.
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Old Nov 10, 2010, 10:14 AM   #7
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Firstly give up on trying to please the in-laws, I find it a waste of time personally.

As for the photos there is a bit of good advice here.
Posing and posture I didnt hear so much of.
Straight frontal shots are usually avoided in portraiture, try getting her to get her back straight and torso turned away between say 20 and 45 degrees with head looking forward but not straight on. This gives more depth and dimension and allows lighting to sculpt more efficiently.
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Old Nov 11, 2010, 2:00 AM   #8
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Firstly give up on trying to please the in-laws, I find it a waste of time personally.

As for the photos there is a bit of good advice here.
Posing and posture I didnt hear so much of.
Straight frontal shots are usually avoided in portraiture, try getting her to get her back straight and torso turned away between say 20 and 45 degrees with head looking forward but not straight on. This gives more depth and dimension and allows lighting to sculpt more efficiently.
I didn't think about the straight on part, thanks for that. It's such a challenge to get her to look at me, I wasn't thinking about the rest of her body...

I took this one today. I think it's a bit better, though she didn't sit straight up. She was squirming quite a bit so I picked up some of the window on the left, but hey, she's looking, lol...

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Old Nov 11, 2010, 2:51 PM   #9
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Purple I've been trying to do portraits lately too and I find your first and third pics awesome but in the first you accidentally cropped off the fingers or it'd be perfect with a little photoshop work of fixing the lit areas and the shade.

I think you're onto something from your portrait taking style and I really admire it. In fact I learned from your style! But maybe you need more picture to work with. Try using another lens at 35mm focal length and just crop the excess?

I've used a 1.8 lens and I find for portraits that I really need an aperture of 4.0 to get decent results. 2.8 or lower tends to blur too much - it'll often blur the far side of the face itself eek!
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Old Nov 12, 2010, 12:49 AM   #10
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Purple I've been trying to do portraits lately too and I find your first and third pics awesome but in the first you accidentally cropped off the fingers or it'd be perfect with a little photoshop work of fixing the lit areas and the shade.

I think you're onto something from your portrait taking style and I really admire it. In fact I learned from your style! But maybe you need more picture to work with. Try using another lens at 35mm focal length and just crop the excess?

I've used a 1.8 lens and I find for portraits that I really need an aperture of 4.0 to get decent results. 2.8 or lower tends to blur too much - it'll often blur the far side of the face itself eek!
Thank you for the kind words. I have a long ways to go. I'm still in that, point, shoot, cross my fingers it comes out good stage

From what I've read about posing, which isn't a whole lot, fingers/hands are tricky. I could probably crop #1 for a more head/shoulders view. I typically tell her to put her hands in her lap. She tends to sit a little more still and if her hands aren't in her lap they are behind her head, or pointing to the sky, or out at her sides flapping like a butterfly, who knows. I find that it makes for awkward shooting, I either have to go wider to get all her hands or it just looks weird with her arms sticking out at the sides out of the frame... The catch with that is that she holds her fingers straight out in a very unnatural way...

I like the blurred background effect I can get with the 50 1.7 (especially since I'm usually dealing with an undesirable background) but it's easier to get sharp pictures with my 18-55 kit lens. So I think I'm going back to the kit lens for awhile and get better at using my external flash.
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