Photographing Characters in the Badlands:
Last week I attended a photography workshop in Drumheller, Alberta with Dave Brosha and Wayne Simpson called Character. It was so worthwhile to take my understanding of portraiture and lighting to a higher level with these two inspiring and humble photographers. We worked for three days in the Badlands with a variety of models. The imagery that came from our group of creative photographers was more than inspiring. I’ve come home pumped with new ideas and energy, not to mention some new gear, and can’t wait to get out there and do some more. Here are a few of my favourites from the worskhop.
And, I’d be delighted to hear from you if you or someone you know would be interested in a portrait shoot.
About the Photography
As an experienced photographer, I had a pretty sound understanding of portraiture and lighting before attending the workshop but it’s always so valuable to hear from others about their process, their struggles and their successes. It’s also reaffirming to learn that they do so many things in a similar way. What really struck me the most was how a little thing like adjusting the soft box just a tiny bit makes such a big difference. So, the approach for each of these photos was:
- Choose your background as well as a starting point for your composition.
- Expose for the ambient light and decide if and by how much to under or over expose. This contributes to the mood of the image. In most of the images above, the background is underexposed.
- Add your light. All of these images were lit by just one studio strobe in a 2×3′ soft box. The light is a Strobepro X600II HSS M Battery Powered Wireless Strobe which is a really great unit. No wires, great battery that lasts all day, and light powerful enough to light a subject in full sun. The soft box was a 24×36 Inch Rapid Pro Folding Umbrella Softbox. I mentioned above that I bought some new gear; this is it.
- This is where the fine tuning happens. It takes time and several trials to determine the right amount of light on the subject and this is controlled by the power settings on the light as well as the placement and direction of the soft box. Also, which side of the subject do you want the light coming from? Every decision adds to the message of the photo.
- Once this is worked out, then it’s time to work with the subject to try and bring out the expression you’re after. As Dave says, “Emotion trumps light!”. This might be the hardest part of the process.
Now it’s time to have fun creating character portraits!