Master Class On The Road; Monte’s Journey To China—Part II
By
Monte Zucker
• Posted May 1, 2006

While the city of Shanghai is a wonder to see, this portrait photographer, on a trip to Shanghai, still looks at faces first. I couldn't help but noticing the incredible faces on both the adults and the children. Everywhere I turned, the faces are what grabbed me. I had no trouble taking pictures of the children. Their parents were more than happy to cooperate with me. But most of the old people covered their faces when I went to photograph them.

In The Shops
While some people were reluctant to be photographed, this merchant didn't mind at all. When I held up my camera to him he nodded, "Yes!" and walked over to the doorway with me. Posing, lighting, and camera position are so natural with me; I was able to photograph him quickly and effectively with the daylight coming into his store. I did a little manipulation later in Photoshop to open up the shadows and to subdue the background. Other than that, nothing more was necessary.

On The Street
While walking through the streets, I couldn't help looking at the faces of children. These two faces stopped me cold. I couldn't resist. Whether they were in shade or direct sunlight, it really didn't matter. All I wanted to do was to have a permanent memory of these fantastic children. The littlest one was being pushed in a stroller. The older one was waiting for the traffic light to change. Boy, was I ever glad that I had a pocket camera with me.

Notice the different position of the eyes in both of these pictures? Usually, I try to keep the eyes 1/3 from the top of the picture for close-ups like these. But in the case of the picture of the younger child, his hat was an integral part of the portrait. Thus, his eyes are in the lower third!
Light Play
People seated by windows in restaurants make especially great subjects with all that great light coming in on them. I grabbed this snapshot of the couple drinking tea, but when I first looked at it I didn't see the potential. Later, when preparing this column, I decided to play with it a little. First, I cropped the second row of windows and most of the table in the foreground. Then, I opened up detail on the man's profile in Photoshop with the aid of Image>Adjust>Shadow/Highlight. I selected his face, feathered the selection by 25 pixels and opened his face to more closely match that of his companion.

The windows, however, were the area of the picture that most distracted me. To tone them down I first blurred them with Gaussian Blur and then darkened them by changing the Mode of the picture to Lab Color, selecting the Brightness channel and burning in the highlighted area. Then, I brought it back to RGB and full color. I spent more time on the windows than on any other part of the image.
Candid Camera
During my trip to China there were times when I just didn't want to drag all of my cameras and lenses with me. I went out one afternoon without them and was so mad at myself; I vowed that I would always carry a camera with me from then on. My Canon PowerShot 550 fits in one of my pockets with no problem at all. It allows me to still keep my eyes peeled for that special shot that I can't do without. Since it has a zoom lens I still widen and narrow down my field of vision to mentally focus in on what the camera can capture. At this point I never leave home without it. The PowerShot was so convenient when I stopped at this buffet restaurant (not at all like the Chinese buffets we're used to in the US) and caught this scene without anyone even noticing that they were being photographed. The people and the steam rising from the food display are what made this picture.

And Some "Formals," Too
My host in Shanghai was a sports anchorman at one of the TV stations there. I spoke to him before I left home about possibly creating portraits of some of their TV personalities. So, as part of my baggage I packed my Westcott Spiderlites, a Westcott black and white background, my Monte Illuminator (reflector), and a posing stool. I spent my last full day in Shanghai photographing about 50 people! Can you imagine photographing all those different personalities, each with their own idea of how they wanted to look in a portrait? Then, add on the difficulty of language barriers and time slots when each of them would be available.
Somehow I pulled it off and was able to photograph each and every one of them individually. You don't want to hear the stories about the problems I had. Suffice it to say that I was ultimately successful. Every one of them was more than satisfied with the results.

Monte will be touring the country with Eddie Tapp. They will be teaching photography from concept to completion. Monte will do his bit on posing, lighting, and the business of photography. Eddie will be teaching controlling digital workflow, processing your photographs in Photoshop, and advanced imaging energy.