Creating the Portrait

A couple of weeks ago I shot some images for the organisers of this years Zimbabwe Fashion Showcase at SS Creative Photography Studio in Birmingham. This was an all day shoot with five models, a makeup artist, stylist and designer present as well as the organisers themselves. The brief was obviously to capture the makeup, clothes and jewellery but also to capture the general buzz around the day.

Whilst the makeup and hair were being applied to the first model I was able to capture a few behind the scenes (BTS) shots snapped with my Fujifilm X100T which is an ideal camera for this type of thing being small, unobtrusive and pretty much silent.

ZFS BTS 03

BTS 06

It turned out that my first subject was to be the model Lucy who was having some interesting makeup and hairstyling applied as shown in these next few BTS shots.

ZFS BTS 05

ZFS BTS 02

ZFS BTS 04

ZFS BTS 01

Whilst watching how Lucy was being made up I started to think how I would capture her to the best effect to show off not just the makeup and hair styling but also how to create a point of view, a style or a particular ‘vision’.

I felt that Lucy was fairly new to this style of modelling and as I started to photograph her realised she was probably feeling a little nervous. One of the great challenges of the portrait photographer is to make your subject feel relaxed whilst at the same time trying to work out the best lighting, exposure and pose to capture the best of not just the model but in this case the hair and the makeup. It is your job to put your subject at ease whilst frantically trying to deal with the more technical aspects of the shoot. You may be feeling nervous but woe betide you if you let that show to your model!

I find that the best way to deal with an inexperienced model is just to throw lots of ideas at them and get them moving and doing something so they don’t have too much time to think about what they are doing. It also helps if you have a vague idea of the lighting you want in advance.

Given the type of makeup Lucy was wearing, I had decided in advance I would put her in front of a black background and try a classic beauty lighting style with a single light overhead and pointing down at her together with a reflector sitting at waist level to throw a bit of light back up under her chin. I was now using my Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the M.ZUIKO 45mm f/1.8 lens.

Here’s pretty much the first image we did. It’s okay but not great, a bit too close maybe and showing a little shyness.

Lucy 07

I tried pulling back a little to get more of Lucy’s shoulders and asked her to do something with her hands to try and take her mind off the camera a little. I also got her to turn her head a little which improved things a bit I thought.

Lucy 05

I realised the thing I needed to concentrate on however was the strong eye makeup so asked her to look straight at the camera.

Lucy 06

Next I thought why not get her to look down and try to frame her face with her hands.

Lucy 04

It was at this point I realised the furry top was not really doing anything so I asked Lucy to remove that exposing her bare shoulders. I felt this was an improvement bu the pose was not right.

Lucy 03

Finally we got these two images which I am most pleased with. I love the way her hands help frame the image in this shot.

Lucy 01

But also love this one most of all. You don’t always need your subject to look at the camera in a portrait shot.

Lucy 02

All these images have been processed in Lightroom only, no Photoshop. More from this shoot to follow.

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