Simple Portraiture

It’s the 3rd meeting for my digital photography class at UC Riverside’s California Museum of Photography.

As with our previous meeting, we jumped right in with our cameras.

We met Brittani our gorgeous, drop-dead model outside, walked around the pedestrian mall.

Our first stop was a small sliver of light between two buildings reflecting off the windows of the building around the mall area.

Currently the mall area between City Hall and University Ave is a total disaster.

The concrete has been torn up for many months.

Photo of Peter, students and Brittani by Susan Mikhail.

I explained that quantity of light is not synonymous with quality.

Beginners tend to associate lots of light as great for photography.

Since photo means “light” and graphy “write,” photographers write, paint or define their subjects with light.

It follows then successful pictures have lighting on their subjects which “paints” them in a flattering way as envisioned by the photographer.
A reflector next to the model tames the contrast

View from above, photo by Dianna Bautista .

More importantly, no two subjects should be expected to be lit the same way.

Landscapes tend to need directional, early morning or late evening light to emphasize textures.
Brittani as seen through my viewfinder
Lighting on portraits on the other hand, work differently depending on whether the subject is a man or woman.

Generally speaking directional light is what you strive for to give your subject depth.

Outdoors, the wind can wreak havoc on your model’s hair as you see here.

But whether you tame the contrast by boosting the shadow area has a lot to do with whether your subject is a man or a woman.

In the case of Brittani or most young women, harsh side lighting will bring out her wrinkles and so forth, so a diffuser needs to be placed between the sun and her.
Another view of Brittani from within my viewfinder
Or a reflector has to be placed on the opposite side of her face to boost shadow detail, minimizing the textures emphasized by side-lighting.

It’s great to work in the evening when shadows are long and just the simple use of a reflector can create stunning portraits.

Brittani in profile.

All it takes is an eye to recognize the possibilities.

We used a parking structure because it provided a dark background at this time of the day.

This time of the year is just a great time for photography thanks to daylight savings.

We were able to photograph Brittani all the way till 7:15 pm.

The class was fun to teach because there is no syllabus and I have 4 students.

Everyone is easy-going and we somehow through consensus decided we would work on portraiture.

The biggest challenge for models & photographers is coming up with a different look in one session.

It may have been easy to set up the portable studio like I did for my students at Riverside City College, but that would mean only one person gets to shoot with the studio flash at a time.

Working outdoors in available light with reflectors and diffusers has its advantages. My students can see the effect of the lighting.

But that’s all assuming I don’t get blown away by a gust of wind when I’m holding the reflector. And my model’s hair well, you can imagine that yourself.