Want To Turn Pro
Monte Zucker• Posted Nov 1, 2004
"You're not," I tell them. "If you have to ask, you're not ready. You should quit your full-time employment and switch to being a professional photographer only when you have no other choice. Only when you know that there's no other way. Only when your daytime job is keeping you from making more money through your photography than you can make doing your old job."
Some Good Advice
His advice to me at that time (back in the late 1940s) was to simply go out and do it! Find out if you really like it. Find out if you're really good. Go to the school of hard knocks. Then, when you get stuck because you don't know enough to make any further progress, you'll know what you need to learn. You'll find the person who can teach you those things. And you'll understand and appreciate what that person is teaching you.
Here's how to place people in an indoor environmental photograph and still have the subjects stand out more than the background. In all three of these first pictures I used a wide angle 17-35mm lens on a Canon EOS 10D digital camera. The technique I use for environmentals is to keep the subject close to the lens and let the background become incidental. One of the great things about wide angle lenses is that the size of objects drop off quickly as they are farther from the camera. So, I always try to bring my subjects as far from the background as possible and as close to the lens as possible.
Now that I knew what exposure I needed, I set my Quantum T2D flash (their digital version of the QFlash) to match the f/stop. I placed a second light behind the couple to backlight her veil. I had that flash on as low a power as I could get. A light coming through from behind and pointed toward the camera always appears brighter than you might expect. This second light was triggered by Quantum's FreeWire attachment on top of my camera, allowing me to fire both flashes simultaneously without having a cord connecting them.
Here the environment in which she's standing is definitely an integral part of the photograph (Photo 2). So, the exposure in this case was based upon the ambient light in the room. Fortunately the window (just out of view in the picture) kept the piano area of the room from going dark. There was a second window to the left of the
fireplace that gave me additional ambient light from that direction.
When compared with the same photograph made entirely with ambient light, there are many subtle differences (Photo 3). Which is better? I leave that up to you. I definitely see benefits to each of the techniques. This photograph, entirely unretouched, shows you how I toned down the furniture in the foreground of the previous picture to keep the attention on the bride.
I used the two windows to light the background and frame the subject. The furniture adds depth to the photograph.
I can't believe how simple digital cameras allow you to determine exposure in instances like these. I set the white balance to flash. I set the ISO rating to 400, taking advantage of the ambient light. I set the lens to aperture priority (f/8 to achieve depth of field) and let the camera do the rest. With the incredible assistance of Quantum's accessories, the amount of flash was automatically generated to match the ambient light. An extension cord from the camera to my digital flash allowed me to place the light several feet from the camera. It lit the bride perfectly without over lighting the furniture in the foreground.
Going outdoors for portraits is easy. Going outdoors for pro portraiture is also easy, as long as you learn how to work in a controlled environment. Unfortunately, many photographers go outside for the backgrounds and the "ease of lighting," when they really need to go outdoors to find lighting that creates three-dimensional portraiture with little or no distracting elements in the background.
This portrait was made outdoors, but not exactly where you may be thinking of looking (Photo 5). This portrait of the young girl was actually created on a narrow outdoor stairway. There was an opening at the top of the steps and another below and it was covered overhead. This is a perfect lighting situation for a profile with a hairlight. All I had to do was turn her face to achieve my normal lighting pattern and compose the portrait to take advantage of the angle of the handrail.
With cover overhead and directional light it's easy to create professional portraits. All one needs to understand is that lighting outdoors should be the same as for any good portrait. Professional standards must be maintained wherever you're working. The simple background of the textured wall allows one to center all the attention on the subject. It just doesn't get much easier than this, does it?
These last portraits (Photos 6-9) may have the appearance of precision lighting in a studio environment. Precision lighting--yes! Studio--no! Far from it. They were created during a class session in Cape May, New Jersey, a few months ago. Location? Outside, in a parking area below some condominiums. Here's the "outdoor" setting and the actual setup.
Once again, no light from overhead. The sole source of light was coming in from a small opening between two corner walls. The background was my Black/White Westcott fold-out background. All I had to do was to block some of the light coming in from the large drive-in opening to my left and to place a Westcott silver reflector in front of and below their faces.
Give Your Portraits A Pro Look
What do most professional portraits have in common?
3. Little or no distractions from the main subject/s.
4. Exact camera positions of the face--either full face, 2/3, or profile.
Is The Pro Life For You?
Is it easy to go pro? Only if you figure a way to make money while you're on your way.
Is it worth it to go pro? You betcha. I can't think of anything that I could have done with my life that could have brought me this much pleasure.
Was the advice I received as a young man from Roy Stryker on target? A bull's eye!
Do I think that you should go pro? Only you can answer that. What's your gut feeling?