During the shoot
Lesson number one was to get Luke to shoot at different focal lengths and varying distances, to see which lens setting gave the most attractive results
Which lens to use
One of the first things John explained was that you need to use the right lens in order to shoot good portraits. Wide-angle lenses mean you have to shoot much closer to the subject, making facial features look more pronounced. Telephoto lenses flatten the face.
John made Luke shoot this unflattering shot of Louisa using the widest, 18mm, setting of his kit lens. See how the up- close view exaggerates the curves of her nose.
This short telephoto setting gives a much more attractive picture, and is fine if you’re working in a confined space where a longer lens isn’t practical.
A longer telephoto setting is ideal for headshots. It avoids caricature distortion, but you’ll need a decent-sized room in order to be able to use it.
Watch out for shadows
It’s essential to keep watching the shadows on your model’s face or body as you shoot portraits. A lighting setup might work for one pose, but if the model then moves their head the shadows can change. Pay particular attention to shadows caused by the nose, and change the position of the lights slightly or get the model to move their head to avoid any ugly black triangles appearing on their face.
Find something to focus on
With portraits, it’s essential that you get the eyes sharp. To guarantee this, you should set up the camera so that you just focus on the pupils, not any other part of the face or body.
Instead of choosing the camera’s default Auto-area AF mode, use the Single-area AF mode. In the viewfinder, you can then select the focus point that’s closest to the person’s eye. This is a much faster way of working than using the central AF point in conjunction with the focus lock.
How to make a model’s legs longer
Most people want long legs, and you can use your camera viewpoint in order to get the perfect pins we all pine for! The secret is to shoot from lower down, so that you’re looking up towards your model. This viewpoint will elongate the legs and is a great tip for full-length shots.
It’s all in the eyes
A great tip for shooting head-and-shoulder beauty pictures is to photograph your model from above. An elevated camera position will mean the eyes are closer to the camera than the rest of their features – this will make them look bigger and more alluring. A sturdy stepladder is therefore an essential tool in any professional portrait studio!
How to go with the glow
Our first shot with Jessica was a failure – with the light at the side, the background was too well lit, and the shadow didn’t help. By moving the main light and beauty disc behind the camera, the model was better lit, so the power could be reduced and the background made lighter. The even spread of lighting around the sides created an attractive glow that helped the framing.
Rent some space
You don’t necessarily need expensive equipment or a perfect space in order to have a go at studio photography. There are plenty of photographic studios for hire. In fact, many professional photographers rent space and lights when they get a commercial commission. Prices can vary enormously, but are often not as high as you might imagine. John Morley rents out his studio from £90 per half day, for example.