On many of our workshops we try to create at least one portrait. We’ve found through the years that even though many participants don’t think they are interested in taking people pictures, they just might be surprised. This is so important in growing creatively as a photographer…trying something new, experiment with new subjects and techniques. For myself I know the more I think I will dislike some type of photography, the more important it is I try it. So I dabble in macro, flowers, landscapes, adventure, underwater, still life, BW, travel, lifestyle, astral…and yes portraits. Experimentation has led me down many creative paths in 40 years of photography. Many of my commercial assignments require a variety of techniques for diverse subject matter. The more tricks I know, the better.
Last week we were photographing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, but during the day we photographed a variety of subjects. We encouraged participants to create a diverse portfolio of Alaska images, and one important part was a portrait. Alaskans are often very colorful, interesting people…a perfect subject. We hired a lodge guide where we were staying…we were interested in a gritty mountain man type of image. To create that we needed an interesting person, creative lighting and what I call the ‘netflix’ effect in post production.
Interesting model…check. We photographed Paul three years ago when we were staying here, so he was up for another session, and knew what he was getting into!
Lighting. Lighting has been a guiding force throughout my career. While available light would work here, having an independent source opened up new creative choices. We wanted a moody portrait to match the gritty feel we had in mind. To create this, we needed to under exposure the background by 1-2 stops and use a soft box for our main light. I’ve used a lot of different portable soft boxes, but I really like the Foursquare. This 30 inch soft box wraps up into a nice compact roll, easy to carry. And most importantly, I can use up to four speedlights on the bracket for faster recycling and more power.
Here is the behind the scenes. Cree took the final image at the top of this blog, I was the grip. Nothing fancy on angles…45/45…about 45 degrees to the left, and 45 degrees above the eye line. The 30 inch soft box was large enough to fill in shadows from the parka ruff. Under exposure the background about 1.5 stops. Check.
In Photoshop we started using a sepia toned vintage color profile from the profile browser. To create more texture and grit on skin we pushed the Texture slider far to the right, along with pushing Clarity about halfway to the right. Next, using the new masking features, we chose ‘Select Sky’ and desaturated the background. Finally, using masking again, I chose the radial filter and created a vignette around our model to make him stand out even more against the dark moody background. If you look at a lot of Netflix still photos advertising upcoming movies and shows, you see the gritty look…just chose the latest viking saga and you will see what I mean.
Gritty Alaskan Mountain Man Portrait….check.