Friday, October 24, 2014

Some Tips for Taking Great Images in the Studio

Danny Knicely, by Reed A. George
I've been doing some promo images for my musician friends lately. I'm thoroughly enjoying the process, and always looking for new tips. I thought that the studio lighting setup would be one of the challenges, and therefore looked up some common configurations before starting. After a couple of these sessions, I now feel pretty comfortable with the lights. Really, I think it's more important to get them set, stop fiddling with them, and develop trust and interaction with the person being photographed.
I recently read a post by Sarah Hipwell on the Digital Photography School website. It has several good tips for getting things to flow:
  • Music can help to calm down a tense atmosphere. I use this one every time when I'm shooting musicians. I have not tried bringing recorded music to the session, though. Since my subjects are musicians, and typically want to be photographed with their instruments anyway, I always ask them to play. I get a private concert, and they get to do what they love. Another added benefit is that it brings out the performer in the person; they're not used to being in a photo studio, but they are used to playing in front of people, and even in front of cameras.
  • A tip that Sarah shares is asking the subject to blink ten times. I like this idea very much, as it will give a better catchlight in the eyes if they're wet, and I bet it reduces blinking during exposures.
  • Ask them to wear neutral clothing. The pictures are about them, not their clothes.
  • Sarah mentions that most great images come at the end of a session. I've definitely found this to be true. I think it's when the pressure is off, and everyone is pretty sure you've got some good images, that both the photographer and subject relax. This relaxation shows in the pictures.
  • Get feedback during the session. This is a mixed bag, in my opinion. First, showing them tiny images on the camera LCD generally won't work. Connecting to a larger display requires some technical ability; if you have it, great. If not, don't fiddle with wires, cards, and gear while the studio clock is ticking.
  • Get them to talk. Yes! Except, as mentioned above, I generally get them to sing. This is easy with most musicians.
  • Work fast. Agreed. While I try to work fast, sometimes I rush myself too much, and don't go deep enough with the subject. In other cases, what should be a one hour session easily goes into the second hour, probably too long from the point of view of the person being photographed. So, for me, the challenge is to balance between rushing too much and taking too long.
  • Another practical tip - have them point their legs toward the main light source, and twist their upper body to face the camera.
(Click Here) to read Sarah's full piece on the Digital Photography School site.
It's harder than it looks, folks. In my opinion, getting the technical stuff out of the way so that you can focus on the person and interaction with them is key.