I know, I know, this is probably one of the rare occasions when you find me out there shooting an arranged portraiture session of a model posing deliriously in front of many cameras pointing at them all at once. I have my fair share of bashing talk especially targeting newcomers to photography (Malaysian crowd particularly) who would shoot portraits and models ONLY, and disregard anything else about photography. Their sole purpose of shooting is to shoot models, and nothing more. I have often talked down on this trend of photography locally, and how it actually did not encourage the growth of photography at all, especially when it comes to learning the creative side, as well as technical mastery of the camera.
All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Olympus ZD lenses 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 macro and Sigma 30mm F1.4.
Olympus 50mm: 1/80sec, F2, ISO160
Sigma 30mm: 1/320sec, F1.4, ISO200
Olympus 50mm: 1/125sec, F2, ISO160
Well to be honest, I have attempted arranged portrait shooting before. You can find them in my portfolio here, here and here. Oh dear, the last arranged portraiture session was probably more than 2 years ago, and that is indeed a LONG, LONG time. I have nothing against these kind of model shooting really, the only complains I usually have are: 1) paid models - usually you are looking at RM100 per person on average if you want to participate in such a shoot, well, models need to eat to keep skinny also you know, I just do not find the point of paying for portrait sessions, when I can obviously shoot FREE portraits on the street, no? 2) Fighting with the crowd to shoot a model: imagine you have 10 hungry lustful photographers wrestling amongst each other for that sweetspot of perfect composition for one model, 3) I don't know the model, even if I tried my best to shoot a good portrait photograph of her, I would not do well, mainly because there is no connection between me and her. This connection is not easily established, and it takes tonnes of experience and knowing how to work with the model to bring the best out of her facial expression and "how she looks into your camera". Then again, having 10 more photographers stabbing each others eyes off just to get to the best shot, kind of neglected this important point of establishing good connection with the model. And sadly but true, I don't think any of the photographers would care to create such connection first and to have that captured in their photographs.
Olympus 50mm: 1/400sec, F2, ISO400, Super FP - TTL Flash bounced off ceiling
Olympus 50mm: 1/500sec, F2, ISO200
Olympus 11-22mm: 1/320sec, F4, ISO200
Olympus 50mm: 1/800sec, F2, ISO200
Sigma 30mm: 1/30sec, F2, ISO200
Olympus 50mm: 1/250sec, F2, ISO200
Seriously, what can you get away from a model portrait shooting? You can set your camera to Auto and still come home with nice photographs. You just need that RM300 cheap budget 50mm F1.8 portrait lens, and you have that creamy bokeh to blur the background to oblivion, and nice flattering outcome. There is no high-tech advanced techniques needed, unless you are talking about studio photography or other more sophisticated lighting equipments, which none of those portrait sessions would delve into anyway. Shooting portraits ONLY will not gain you better technical understanding of the camera, and worse, I do not see anything artistic in it at all. If your model is already beautiful, all you do is to re-tell the story of her beauty. You are not creating art, you are just copying her beauty and in hope your viewers will like that beauty, which did not exactly originate from your own artistic vision, or anything your camera can do. Yet, portrait photography remained the most popular photography genre here in Malaysia, you will never fail finding all photography forumers actively organizing and participating in portrait shooting week after week. Perhaps while doing portraiture shooting, most of us photographers here imagine that we are shooting for some high profile fashion magazine. If I were to choose to fantasize in such manner, I would prefer shoot some hungry skinny kids on the streets and imagine myself shooting some African kids for National Geographic. Would that not be more glamorous?
Of course, at the end of the day, it all comes down to preference. If you are happy doing what you are doing, there is no stopping to it, as long as you are happy.
Sigma 30mm: 1/100sec, F1.4, ISO250
Olympus 11-22mm: 1/40sec, F2.8, ISO1600
Olympus 11-22mm: 1/40sec, F2.8, ISO1600
Olympus 50mm: 1/100sec, F2, ISO160
Olympus 50mm: 1/50sec, F2, ISO640
A friend from PEN Lovers organized his first Portrait shooting session for the group, hence I decided to give a show of support. I for one, am lacking experience when it comes to such arranged portrait shoot, so my participation to the event was nothing significant. I just followed the flow and motion of the activities, and just merrily snapped away without thinking too much. There is little that we can do to control the light, since we relied on the ambient available light that could be rather uneven and harsh. I did not exactly like the idea of using reflectors, because often the effect can be rather unimpressive and instead of improving the overall exposure, it sort of made the skin look cartoonish and glow unrealistically. Flash without proper diffusing was not a good option to improve the lighting, and I did not intend to burden myself with too much equipments. Bear in mind that I was merely participating in a group activity, and I must not over-step my boundaries by doing whatever I want and control the situation as I please.
I shot mostly with the Olympus 50mm F2 macro, followed by the Sigma 30mm F1.4, and did some wide angle shots with the 11-22mm. I did not have anything pre-planned, I just composed and arranged my shots on the go, spontaneously judging on location. I did use flash in some situations, mainly to overpower the sun, to lift up some shadow areas when I shot against the strong backlit situation. Shooting location was actually an abandoned house. We had two storeys to play with, and the upper floor with many wooden structures which provided much useful texture and background. We used mainly window light and played around it in different angles and composition. Surprisingly, I came home with mostly full body shots of the model, and many 3/4 body or at least half body shots. My preference has changed over the years, previously I did plenty of head and shoulder shots, and obviously with very tight composition. I do think that the elegance of the model should be shown, not only their facial features but also their body figures.
PEN Lovers in action
I admit, this portrait shooting thing is not exactly my forte. But hey, I am learning, and slowly I am improving. If I were to venture deeper into wedding photography, portraiture is not something that can be overlooked.
So what do you guys think of my once in a pink moon portraiture attempt?
Special thanks to:
Osanna Chin (model of the day)
Ian Lee (organizer and host of the event)