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    How to shoot portraits that tell a story about your subject

    | Photography Tips | Portraits | 13/06/2014 00:01am
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    Discover how to shoot and enhance a portrait that ‘tells the story’ of your subject at work or at play.

    How to shoot portraits that tell a story about your subject

    Environmental portraits are photos of people in their everyday surroundings, whether at work, home, or play.

    The idea is to include things that tell us something about the person, and the background becomes their ‘backstory’, so we need to show details and objects that help to explain who they are and what they do.

    Of course, it helps if you’ve got an interesting subject and environment to shoot, and we went to the Bath Aqua Glass glassmaking workshop to photograph talented glassblower Will as he produced one of his beautiful and delicate creations.

    We began the shoot by taking some candid shots while observing the glassblowing process.

    SEE MORE: Candid portrait photography – how to use a macro lens to draw out character

    Most of the work of shaping and blowing the glass was done on the bench, so this is the setup we chose for our portrait, with the glowing furnace in the background.

    From this angle, the mixture of workshop lights and daylight presented a real challenge.

    We used off-camera flash to pick out the subject and underexpose the background, resulting in an atmospheric portrait that captures something of the skill and craft of this fascinating process.

    SEE MORE: 10 common portrait photography mistakes every photographer makes (and how to fix them)

    How to tell a story with your portrait photography: steps 1-3

    How to tell a story with your portrait photography: step 1

    01 Shoot candids
    When going into an unknown environment like this, begin by shooting a few candids. Glassblowing is a subject we knew very little about, so rather than trying to pose glassblower Will, it made sense to start out by observing him for a while, looking for interesting angles and details as he worked.

    We set our DSLR to Aperture Priority mode (Av), and because it was fairly dim we cranked our ISO up to 2000.

     

    How to tell a story with your portrait photography: step 2

    02 Look for the light
    Look for good spots of light, such as next to a window or door, and if the light isn’t right, add some of your own.

    After shooting a few candids here we settled on a composition with Will on the bench and the furnace in the background, and from this angle the lighting was a challenge.

    The background was illuminated by a big open door off to the left side, while Will was at the bench in the much darker foreground, so we set up an off-camera flash to light him.

     SEE MORE: 6 simple lighting setups for shooting portraits at home (free cheat sheet)

    How to tell a story with your portrait photography: step 3

    03 Set up a wireless flash
    We positioned our Nissin flashgun off to the right of the camera, and used our 70D’s pop-up flash to trigger it.

    Set the flashgun to wireless mode, Channel 1, then in the camera’s Flash Control menu choose Built-in Flash Settings and set Wireless Func to the flashgun icon.

    SEE MORE: Flash photography tips: external flash techniques anyone can understand

    Choose Channel 1 and set Flash Mode to Manual Flash, then use the Output setting to adjust the power. You need a good line of sight, so make sure the sensor on the front of the flashgun is angled back towards you.

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    How to tell a story with your portrait photography: steps 1-3
    How to tell a story with your portrait photography: steps 4-6
    How to edit your environmental portrait: steps 1-4
    How to edit your environmental portrait: steps 5-8
    How to edit your environmental portrait: steps 9-12

    READ MORE

    Free portrait photography cropping guide
    Free portrait lighting cheat sheet
    Portrait editing – simple tricks to add a touch of class to your portraits
    Studio Lighting: 4 seriously simple lighting techniques to try at home
    Classic one-light portrait setups you really need to try


    Posted on Friday, June 13th, 2014 at 12:01 am under Photography Tips, Portraits.

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