Tuesday, April 5, 2016


This was one of my first formal portraits with my first DSLR Camera (the Fuji Pro S-1) taken in 2002.  The subject here was Lee (my late step-Dad), a professional architect, psychologist, writer, and sometime artist. He was highly educated, extremely well read and it was always marvelous to chat with him (well, He did most of the talking!) about politics, art, war, psychology, architecture, and the history of just about anything! 

When we were visiting my Mom and Lee, not too long before he passed, she asked that I do his portrait. One of his few foibles was his inability to look into the lens when being photographed and don’t even think about using a flash on him. I was momentarily panicked because all I had with me was my digital camera and a short zoom lens. OK, type of camera does not matter, I told myself, and I went into wedding portrait mode…Like I had been doing these past 12-years using my medium format cameras on film.  It’s all the same basics. Just like interior portraits of my brides, I looked for a window with no direct sunlight coming in. I placed a chair to get him as close as I could to the window without the window being in the scene. 

Basic studio lighting rule: You don’t photograph your light source—the window is your light source NOT the subject!

Since I had brought nothing to use as a background and I realized that his art was hanging on several walls in their home, I gathered some of his paintings and surrounded him in his art.

 f8.0 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 800
We had a blue theme around him so we had him wear his navy blue pull-over; I got him in long sleeves and got my color harmony.

Since Lee could not look at my camera this lighting set-up was ideal—because the best lighting pattern on the face—getting light in both eyes and a shadow side (called short lighting) is achieved when the subject’s nose is towards the window.   All I had to do was direct him where to look out the window after I got his nose where I wanted it.

I don’t usually choose f8.0 for an individual portrait (I like f4.5 to blur-out the background), but in this case I wanted all the layers—him and his paintings—in this image to be sharp.  To do that I had to go to 800 ISO to get a nice hand-held shutter speed of 1/30 second.  Using 800 ISO is no big deal with DSLR’s these days, but back then most of the digital cameras were pretty noisy at that level and terrible at any higher ISO—especially if you included any deep shadows in an image.

This Fuji’s custom chip produced great color in skin tones and if you kept the dynamic range in your image low (as in this portrait) the results were really nice.

As usual, don’t hesitate to make comments or ask questions. ’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

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