Tag Archives: portrait

eBook Review: The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography

The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography

In my opinion, portraits can be the most interesting photos and they seem to naturally draw our attention. Why? I think we’re programmed to enjoy looking at photos of other people. Every person is different and we’re naturally curious about those we see in photos. In fact, I’ve often thought that the most important element of a photo is the human element.

As a photographer, you may already know that portraits are also one of the most difficult photos to pull off. Working with people and capturing them in a way that conveys their true beauty is not as simple as pushing a button. Portraits can be created in so many different ways that it is impossible to learn it all from a short article.

The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography is a collection of stand-alone lessons on various aspects of portrait photography. This eBook (PDF format electronic book) covers everything from technical to inspirational, and the information contained is top notch and well written.

You can purchase The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography from digital Photography School. Links in this post are affiliate links to the product — It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I get a cut of the sale.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography is a 78 page downloadable eBook containing 25 lessons in portrait photography. The 3 column layout is incredibly clean, easy to read, and flows naturally. Photos are scattered throughout as supporting material or examples to the lesson. Each lesson is written as a stand-alone topic typically 3 or 4 pages long.

The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography Example Page

The sections provide the essential learnings for the topic at hand. The idea is that you can read through one or two sections, soak it in, try out what you’ve learned, and go back to another section when you have time. There’s no need to read the entire book cover to cover before applying what you’ve learned — in fact, I wouldn’t even suggest doing so. There’s so much in this book that most of us wouldn’t be able to take it all in at once.

To give you an idea of what the book contains, some of the sections include: photographing children – composition, how to photograph people when travelling, environmental portraits, a fresh look at depth of field, portrait photography’s power posing, the human side of photography, 11 tips for better candid photography, shooting like a pro on a budget, and lots of other good stuff. So you can see that the topics are widely varied — some instructional, some inspirational, and some in between.

And as a bonus, the end of the book contains interviews with 6 very different professional photographers. They lay down all sorts of great insight and inspiration too. The photographers include David Duchemin, Neil Creek, Jack Hollingsworth, Kris Krug, Chase Jarvis, and Bert Stephani.

Darren Rowse

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Darren Rowse is the primary author and editor of the eBook. He’s also the mastermind at the wheel of digital Photography School. Over 15 of the 25 sections of the eBook were written by Darren. The remaining articles were authored by various contributors including Natalie Norton, Christina N Dickson, Nathan Marx, Alexis Godschalk, James Pickett, and Neil Creek.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Truly a great resource. I don’t know how else to say it! This is definitely more than a random collection of articles or a typical book. It’s really a resource that you can learn from, explore, and go back to as needed. You may not need every single lesson today, but most of the sections contain usable information and instruction for a large percentage of photographers out there.

Whether you’re shooting informal family pictures or professional portraits, you’ll likely find new things in this eBook. The content seems to be geared mainly toward intermediate/advanced amateurs looking to step it up a notch, but the voice of the writing is accommodating to beginners too. And even professionals need to keep learning new things in order to keep up with the times — I’m sure they can find a few nuggets of wisdom in there.

Highly recommended for any photographer interested in learning more about portrait photography. You can purchase The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography for $14.95 until December 1, at which point it will return to the regular price of $19.95.

WANT A FREE COPY?

Darren is providing a copy of The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography for 2 lucky winners here on Epic Edits! Here’s how you can get yours:

1) Submit a photo and/or link to a portrait you’ve taken. The photo must be your own. Bonus points for supplemental descriptions.

OR

2) Submit a Flickr Gallery of portraits. Curate a gallery and pop the link in the comments below. Bonus points for supplemental thoughts within the gallery and/or comment.

OK, so get your entries in soon! One entry per person. I’ll choose and announce the winners on (or near) December 2, 2009 — one winner for a personal photo, and one for a gallery. If, for some reason, we happen to have no entries from one of the categories, I’ll choose two winners from the category that has entries.

[UPDATE 12/3/2009] Contest winners have been posted.

Link Roundup 11-07-2009

Doing things a little different this time around… trying to save a bit of time by skipping the descriptions I usually add to each link. What do you guys think? Would you rather have the 1-2 sentence commentary that I put on each one, or are the titles enough of a description? Does anybody even read these lists?

Link Roundup 09-05-2009

13 Alternative Flower Photography Tips

Flowers are so cliche when it comes to photography… but that doesn’t stop most of us from shooting them! Heck, some photographers even specialize in flower photography and they do a darn good job of it. If you’re getting bored with your current bag-o-tricks for photographing flowers, scan through these tips and get inspired to try something different.

1. DITCH THE COLOR

Flower photos are generally full of vibrant colors, but that’s not the only way to do it. Black and white flower photos can bring much needed attention to details and textures that would otherwise be masked by the blinding colors.

let's craft the only thing we know into surprise
Creative Commons License photo credit: linh.ngân

2. USE AS A FOREGROUND

The flowers don’t always need to be the center of attention. Use them as a foreground or background to lay down some color for your main subject. Bonus points for using complimentary colors in your composition.

Blessed
Creative Commons License photo credit: creativesam

3. LOOK INDOORS

Flowers are inside too! Not every flower photo needs to be 100% “natural” — try your hand at some still life.

3 sisters
Creative Commons License photo credit: mamako7070

4. DOUBLE EXPOSE

Flowers can make for pretty cool double exposures. Experiment with combinations of up-close and far-off shots of the same flowers.

Diana+
Creative Commons License photo credit: Maco@Sky Walker

5. GO ABSTRACT

Flowers have great curves — so use that to your advantage. A good macro setup will allow you to capture abstract images of the colors, curves, and textures.

monstera deliciosa flower
Creative Commons License photo credit: nothing

6. REFLECT WITH WATER

Reflection can be a powerful composition technique, and flower photography is no exception.

Balboa Pond Lily part deux.
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

7. FOCUS ON SYMMETRY

Reflections are a type of symmetry, but flowers often exhibit another type of symmetry: radial. Use the radial symmetry of most flowers to create a strong composition.

Gazania
Creative Commons License photo credit: josef.stuefer

8. PAINT YOUR OWN FLOWER

Light painting is another interesting style of photography, so why not mix it up with flower photography?

Night Flower
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

9. CATCH A BUG

That’s right, catch a bug in your frame. Those little insects can often add a lot to your image by catching the eye of the viewer. Anything unexpected will generate interest.

ladybug on gerbera
Creative Commons License photo credit: Vanessa Pike-Russell

10. BE A SMURF

Sometimes you have to get a little dirty to get the shot. Macro photographers will often wear grungy clothes for nature outings (or bring a blanket/tarp) because they know they’ll be laying on the ground at some point. Get down there and see how the world looks from the perspective of your feet.

Under the Tulips
Creative Commons License photo credit: ♥siebe ©

11. FIND URBAN FLOWERS

Flowers grow in cities too! Next time you’re in an urban environment, keep your eyes peeled for flowers growing naturally or even landscaped flowers.

urban life
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pedro Moura Pinheiro

12. DO THE DEWDROP TRICK

Most of us have seen these types of photos with the flower inside the dewdrop. Still, it’s a pretty cool trick and you can do it with more than just flowers.

Day 45/365 : All the world in a little droplet
Creative Commons License photo credit: ~jjjohn~

13. USE AS A PROP

If you’re doing people shots or portrait photography, try adding flowers as a secondary subject or background.

Boy taking a rest. (DGM)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Simon Pais-Thomas

Do you have any flower photography tips or examples? If so, leave them in the comments below!

Link Roundup 05-23-2009

As always, more awesome photography stuff from around the web. Here’s a selection from the last couple weeks.

11 Tips for Candid Street Photography

Candid street photography, or candid portraits, can be some of the most interesting photos captured in everyday places. Heading out into the crowd with a camera is exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. Great photographic scenes play out on the streets right before your very eyes, but people are quick to recognize the camera and ruin the opportunity. Being covert without being creepy — it’s all part of the game we call street photography (and quite different from traditional portrait photography).

DISCLAIMER: I’m not suggesting that anything and everything is either legal or moral in street photography situations. Know the laws and use your best judgment. For further reading on the subject, see this Wikipedia article on Street Photography.

I know this is a debated topic among photographers, but the point of this article isn’t to start an argument about the rights and wrongs of candid portraits. The point of this article is to introduce some tips and techniques with example photos for those interested in this style of photography — this is by no means a complete guide to street photography. So here we go…

1. USE A LONG LENS

If you want a good candid, keep a bit of distance from the subject. Once people are aware of your camera, they’re likely to pay more attention and your chances of getting a true candid go down. I’m not saying you should roll around with a 400mm lens, but anything under 85mm or 100mm is going to be fairly close-range. This one was taken with a 105mm on a 1.5x crop sensor — so about 160mm equiv.

Black and White

2. SNEAK UP FROM BEHIND

Obviously it’s harder to get a candid shot from the front than from behind, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. If you like the scene and your subject is staring off into the distance, take a shot. Sometimes getting a shot without the face can add a bit of mystery to the photo too.

Surfer and Board

3. WATCH THE BENCHES

The hard part of catching a candid portrait is that people are moving, things are passing in front of your view, and your window of opportunity passes quickly. People generally sit on benches, which means they’re not moving around too much and they might be there for more than 5 seconds. Look for the subjects that are focused on some task, such as feeding birds or reading a paper.

Mexican Bus Stop

4. KEEP YOUR EARS OPEN

Your eyes are your primary sensor for photography, but keep your ears open too — especially when your face is pressed up against the back of the camera. You can often hear opportunities coming your way, sometimes before you can even see them.

Battling Fuel Prices

5. SHOOT THE PERFORMERS

Street performers are great fun to photograph. They expect that people will take their photo during the performance, so you need not worry about ticking them off. Plus, they’re usually good characters and make for great portraits. Just don’t forget to throw a few bucks their way — they aren’t usually out there for the pure fun of it.

Cigar Humor

6. FIND GROUP GATHERINGS

If you see a group of people congregating for whatever reason, this is a good chance to mix with the crowd and get up close for some candids. Gatherings can take many forms: drum circles (shown below), protests, rallies, parades, etc.

Moving with the Music

7. DON’T FORGET THE BACKGROUND

A lot of times it’s hard enough to get a good candid shot of the subject, so worrying about the background seems secondary. But if you find a good strong background, get the composition all set up and wait for the subjects to enter the scene.

These Walls Are Busy

8. GET OFF THE STREETS

Street photography doesn’t necessarily have to be done on the streets. Any place where there are people, there will be an opportunity for some candid portraits. So things like public buildings, beaches, parks, etc.

Another Day At The Beach

9. FIND A SPOT AND WAIT

I’ve used this technique from time to time with good results. Find a spot that you like — something with an interesting composition, pattern, or background. Now envision somebody in that scene as you’d like to take the photo. Get all set up… and wait for it. Somebody will eventually walk into the scene and you’ll get your shot.

Big White Boxes

10. USE A WIDE LENS

Not all portraits need to be up-close and personal. Use a wide lens from time to time and capture more of the surroundings than the person — but use the person as an anchor for the composition.

The Watchman

11. SOMETIMES YOU JUST GET CAUGHT…

If you’re going to take candid photos of people on the streets, be prepared to get caught. Also be prepared for anything from a friendly conversation to unfriendly confrontation to physical assault. All I’m saying is be mindful.

Daniel Devenport

I’m interested to hear from all of you on this topic. Leave a comment and/or tip in the comments below… maybe we can pull together another follow-up article full of tips and photos from the readers.

Link Roundup 02-28-2009

A bit late this week with the links, but we were having a few things worked on with the server so I figured I would take a break until everything went back to normal. Here are your selections of the week:

  • Tips for Better Self Portraits
    Nathan’s Favorite New Flavor
    Self portraits are tough — I’ve tried my fair share of them! Here are some tips to improve your skills in this area.
  • 10 Excellent Open Source and Free Alternatives to Photoshop
    Six Revisions
    There are a number of open source (and completely free) programs out there that do much of what Photoshop can. In this collection, you will find 10 excellent examples of open source and free alternatives to Adobe Photoshop.
  • Digital Black and White Photos
    Photodoto
    Here are a few good tips for creating black & white photos from your digital captures.
  • Capturing Urban Decay
    Photocritic
    Getting good photos of urban decay is not necessarily hard; it is more a matter of patience and understanding of the subject. So what is it that can help you become a better urban landscape photographer? Here are 10 tips for great urban photos.
  • Watermarks: Evolution of a Watermark
    JMG-Galleries
    In this article, Jim shows us the evolution of his watermark and reveals the reasoning behind each one. Very interesting for those considering the addition of a watermark to their photos.
  • 10 Easy Steps To Advanced Photography Skills
    Smashing Magazine
    By Trey Ratcliff (aka Stuck in Customs), one of the most famous and renowned HDR photographers on Flickr. In his article Trey describes some professional insights and useful photography tips that he collected over the years of his career.
  • Catacombs of Paris – The Real French Underground
    Zoriah.net
    I’ve heard of these catacombs under Paris, but I’ve never seen them like this. Zoriah takes to the caverns with some local cataphiles and shows us a different side of these historic entities.
  • D3A – The Best Photography Contest Ever
    DIYPhotography.net
    Wow! DIYPhotography.net is 3 years old! To celebrate, Udi has lined up some great prizes for the readers — and all you have to do is submit photos to his Flickr pool to be eligible for the contest.
  • Lessons I Didn’t Learn in Photo School
    Photoshop Insider
    Here are some really great lessons for photographers — definitely not anything you’ll find in a textbook.
  • 100 amazing iPhone photos
    Photocritic
    Camera phones can be pretty fun to use — especially high-end phones like the iPhone. Here is a huge collection of great photos taken with the iPhone.
  • How To Photograph Rock Concerts – The Basics
    digital Photography School
    Interestingly, I found this article the day after I shot my first concert. I can definitely say that the tips are helpful for those of us with less experience in the subject.
  • Filters in the Digital Age
    PhotoNetCast
    Lens filters can be difficult to comprehend in the digital age — so we chat about the different options and uses for the various filters available.
  • Pulled over by Los Angeles Port Police
    All Narfed Up
    My pal Bryan Villarin is quickly becoming the next Thomas Hawk when it comes to photography related run-ins with the authorities. His latest story involves being pulled over while shooting photos from a freakin’ boat!

Happy Holidays, 2008!


Brian Auer | 12/12/2008 | San Diego, CA | 75mm * f/5.6 * 1/400s * ASA50
[See the print scan at Flickr] [See the film scan at Flickr]

I just wanted to wish everybody a happy holiday this year! I hope you all get to take some time off, relax with friends and family, and do whatever it is you usually do over the winter holidays.

This is our family portrait for the 2008 holidays. I decided that I wanted to shoot it on medium format b/w film, so I loaded up the old Minolta Autocord TLR (vintage 1956) with some Ilford PanF Plus (ASA50). We decided to head up to the cliffs above Black’s Beach in order to get a nice backdrop. Rex freaked out the whole time because he was convinced that he would slide down the cliff at any moment.

One cool thing about this old camera is that it has a self-timer — about 15 seconds or so. I set it up on the tripod, focused on the wife and kids, set the exposure using the sunny 16 rule, and fired a few off. After developing the film myself, I went and bought a pack of 6″ x 4″ papers to print on.

Using my cheap-o Voss 75mm enlarger lens, I set it to f/8 and exposed the paper at 3 seconds with a #2 contrast filter. The photo you see above is a scan of the print. And I’m finding that my film scanner does a pretty good job at matching the darkroom prints.

So there you have it — in the height of the digital age, I managed to pull off a family portrait using completely analog techniques. Merry Christmas!

Link Roundup 11-29-2008

For those of you in the US, I hope the rest of you had a great holiday! I know I certainly spent too little time working and too much time eating! But hey, I managed to snap a few rolls of photos, so not all is lost.

Link Roundup 11-15-2008