Archive for the ‘Portrait photography’ category

I’m just a regular guy: Part 5

March 17, 2011

I recently had the pleasure to do a contemporary portrait shoot for a little boy’s third birthday.  It’s now my 7th shoot for the same family.  I’ve shot his parents’ wedding, did portrait shoots for his 1st, 2nd and 3rd birthdays, and also three portrait shoots of their dogs.

"2009 age 1" by Derek Gale

Here he is, looking very cute, on his first birthday.  At that time he was not quite able to walk unaided, and he had a mass of curly hair that was cut soon after this shoot.

"2010 age 2" by Derek Gale

Fast forward from 2009 to 2010. He’s grown loads and now has a smart haircut.  He also now knows how to work an Iphone…

"2011 age 3" by Derek Gale

Fast forward from 2010 to 2011. He’s grown even more, still has a smart haircut, and can operate an Ipad too…

"2011 age 3" by Derek Gale

He’s a great portrait subject because he’s got a wide range of facial expressions.  We were throwing a small red ball around, actually an old Red Nose Day squeaky nose, and he was celebrating if his Dad caught it.  I caught him too, mid laugh.

"2011 age 3" by Derek Gale

He also did a sort of celebratory dance when the nose was caught, clearly influenced by those that footballers do when they score goals.

"2011 age 3"

This final image shows his resting face.  He was looking at his Dad in a very thoughtful way.  Just a moment later he was laughing again.

It’s been great watching him change from a baby to a proper little boy. 

Why not book a contemporary portrait shoot for your family, and watch them grow?

Cheers,

Derek                                                 www.galephotography.co.uk

The adults are alright too!

March 3, 2011

In my previous post I talked about photographing children, and mentioned at the end that I’m happy to photograph adults too!   Here are some images from a recent shoot for an adult couple.

"Blue toned" by Derek Gale

This is a blue-toned black and white image.  The toning adds to the cool look of his serious expression, but the image is lifted by the slight smile on her face.  The plan was to have neither of them smiling, however I really liked the contrast with one person smiling and one not smiling.

"Fill flash" by Derek Gale

With this image I wanted to make sure that her outfit, carefully chosen to match her eyes, was properly recorded, so it needed to be in colour.  To give a tiny little catchlight in her eyes I used a tiny pop of fill-in flash.  The long focal length lens has put the background nicely out of focus.

"Fill flash 2" by Derek Gale

I’ve used the same fill-in flash technique here.  He was in an area shaded by a large building so needed that extra reflection in his eyes.  He’s over to the right side of the frame, which balances with the space on the left side of the frame, gives him an area to look into, and draws you into the image.

"Focus on the eyes" by Derek Gale

In this last image he was in a much more open area which gave good eye reflections, so didn’t need an extra catchlight.  Going in close and using a large lens aperture has thrown most of his head out of focus, leaving just the plane of his face sharp.  This lets us concentrate on his expression and eyes.  There’s a direct communication between us and the subject, making for a strong portrait.

It was a fun shoot with a great couple.

Cheers,

Derek                       www.galephotography.co.uk

“The kids are alright”

February 24, 2011

In 1965 The Who had a song called, “The kids are alright”.  As a portrait photographer it’s great working with kids.  Until they are about 4 years old they’ll just do what they want to do.  It makes for exciting shoots, as I’m never sure of what they are going to do next.  It’s also fun working out the lighting, and sometimes it’s best to leave it simple and fairly broad.

Here are some examples from a recent shoot with two kids of different ages…

"Eyes only" by Derek Gale

This shot was taken with a single big softbox quite close to the little boy, which gave pretty even lighting.  He was looking up at his reflection in a curved mirror on the studio ceiling.  The mirror was put there for just this sort of shot.  His eyes said everything, so I didn’t need to show the rest of his face.

"Looking right" by Derek Gale

With this image the lighting is the same.  It was important to catch her great expression and smile without her looking at the camera.  A simple request for her to “Look at Mum and laugh”, gave the perfect balance of  spontaneity and control.  Her face is quite central, but that’s because I wanted to include her hair, which was falling nicely over her shoulders.

“Twirling hair” by Derek Gale

Here I’ve asked her to spin round so her hair was moving.  It usually takes a few tries to get a good shape, but we nailed it first time. It’s great the way her hair has wound round to the back of her head.  You can really see the energy she was putting into getting it right. 

"Cute expression" by Derek Gale

After the studio portraits we moved outside.  As the weather was kind, with soft overcast light, I managed to get some good outdoor images.  Using a wide aperture gave a good soft background, which allowed me to concentrate on his cute expression and eyes.

So yes, taking portraits of kids is great fun.  Don’t worry if you aren’t one, or don’t have any, I’m happy shooting adults too!

Cheers,

Derek                                       www.galephotography.co.uk

Here’s to the next 10 years!

January 6, 2011

It’s my 10th anniversary!  On Jan 1st 2011 Gale Photography celebrated being in business for 10 whole years. Woo hoo!!!

It’s been great fun working with all the changes since 2001.  Back then it was hard to predict just how much the technology of photography would change in just a few short years.  The digital revolution was underway but many photographers still used film.  Today the default is digital, and there are very few users of film. 

When I went professional I used a Rolleiflex 2.8f medium format film camera.  It was, and is, a fabulous tool ( I still have it), but it only took 12 images on one film, so it meant that I had to change films quite often.  I shot colour on the Rollei, but as my wedding photography involved black and white images as well, I also had to have a 35mm film camera loaded with B&W film.  I also carried a 2 spare 35mm cameras loaded with colour film.  It was all very heavy, and all the wedding guests shot film too.

"It's a film camera!" by Derek Gale

Digital arrived in my professional photography life in the middle of 2001, and my first digital camera was a compact.  The Kodak DC4800 “Professional Digital Imaging System” was a 3 million pixel camera that cost an eye-watering £600.  The 128Mb compact flash card I needed for it cost an even more eye-watering £175!!  To put that into perspective, nowadays a typical 8Gb compact flash card, (64 times more capacity) is around £20. 

"3 mega pixels" by Derek Gale

I did use the Kodak the following week for an urgent commercial photography job and it was great.  This shot was done in camera with a colour-filtered Vivitar 283 flashgun on a long lead lighting the background, and another 283 on the camera lighting the bag in the foreground. What you can’t see is my assistant standing up a ladder out of shot pouring the grain into the sack.

2003 saw the really big change when I got my first digital SLR.   It was the oddly named Pentax *istD.  This 6Mp camera cost me £1200 just for the body, and would be considered to have a very low specification today.  From the first day of using it I was inspired!  I loved the freedom, the flexibility, and the “insurance”.  Insurance?  Well, with a film camera you send away the precious original negative to be processed/printed, and if it gets lost you’re in trouble. With a digital camera you only ever send a copy, so you increase your customers’ confidence.

"Ian & car" by Derek Gale

The really great thing about digital that I found so liberating was the ability to experiment and see the result immediately.  This portrait of a guy and his beloved Range Rover is an example.  I was able to slightly rearrange the composition and check it, then alter the exposure and check it again, to give the image I wanted.  With film this would have been much more difficult.  Digital makes the whole photographic experience much more interactive and much more fun.

"Dog portrait" by Derek Gale

In 2006 I moved from Pentax to Nikon as I wanted a wider range of lenses than Pentax offered, and I’ve stayed with Nikon since then.  The fast response and great lenses let me get candid images, of people or their pets, that would have been very hard in the Rollieflex days.

"Hands" by Derek Gale

That’s some of the technology changes over the last 10 years, but what’s stayed the same?  Well, the need to be as photographically creative as possible and to offer customers; the best possible images, the best customer experience, and the best value, have been constants.  Without offering these the equipment used is irrelevant.

I’ve met some fantastic people over the last 10 years, and it’s been a real pleasure to be part of your families’ lives, if only for a short time.  Thank you!

I’m looking forward to the next 10 years!

Cheers,

Derek    www.galephotography.co.uk

Same person: different look.

December 16, 2010

In creative portrait photography how an image looks is down to the photographer.  In the studio how you light your subject is critical, and for location images it’s critical to work properly with the natural light.  How you then modify the light can dramatically affect the look of an image. 

Once you have your lighting sorted, simple changes to the composition of the image can also change the look significantly.

"Split image" by Derek Gale

Take this image:  The lighting, a soft-box from the front, is quite simple.  The interest comes from having the subject’s face split by a sheet of muslin that was hung up to act as a diffuser/reflector.  I had taken a series without the muslin and then asked her to move slightly so that it was partly in front of her face.  It was far enough away from her to be nicely out of focus, and its translucency allowed the obscured part of her face to show through sufficiently.

"Hair!" by Derek Gale

We tried to get some shots  of her hair “in flight”. They were fine, but I wanted more structure to the image.  We spread her hair out on the studio floor and I shot from a step-ladder directly above her.   It was simple to light with a fairly directional light on her hair which gave a nice sharp shadow under her chin.  Even though her expression was similar to the previous image, the end result was very different!

"Poster girl" by Derek Gale

Away from the studio there’s less control of lighting direction, unless you carry remotely fired flash units, so you need to be careful with where you do your shoot.  This urban image was at an abandoned car repair centre and the fly posters had been  busy.  I made sure that enough of a poster was included to clearly show the type of area we were in, but not so much that the poster’s text was a distraction.  Her pose echoed the pose of the man on the poster.  I’ve punched up the background colour by “cross-processing” it in Photoshop.

"Wall supports" by Derek Gale

Same day, same shoot, completely different look.  The pipes in the image were supports for a wall near the Railway Village in Swindon and were at quite an acute angle.  By asking my model to lean on the pipes, and then tilting the camera so she looked more upright, her arms became much more elegant.  The background brickwork also became less distracting.  A crop to simplify the image, a bit of “diffuse glow”, and it was done.

"Estate portrait" by Derek Gale

Same day, same shoot and yet another look.  This final image shows how the most mundane of objects, an estate car, can be used for creative portraits.  My model is lying down on the load area floor.  The car’s open rear hatch screened the direct sun, which meant that the remaining light was beautifully diffused.  The grey carpet and shadow area from the rear seats acted as a perfect foil to her skin tones.  The black and white conversion simplified the image.

As you can see: one day, one model, many different looks.  Control your lighting and your composition to get variety into your images.

Cheers,

Derek                     www.galephotography.co.uk

One light portraits

October 28, 2010

It’s quite common for people to ask me about studio lighting.  Typically they’ll ask about the minimum photographic kit they need to get great portraits.  My reply is simple, “One light and a camera”.  After all, the sun is only one light…

Here’s a selection of images taken using just one light.  Most are in my portrait photography studio near Swindon, and the last one is taken on location using the “strobist” off-camera flash technique.

"One light #1" by Derek Gale

Here the single studio light is slightly below the subject’s eye line, and this gives a great edge light to her neck and face.  There’s enough light reaching her right eye to give a good catch light, which lifts her eye nicely out of the shadow.  The light was set up so nothing reached the background, hence it’s completely black.

"One light #2" by Derek Gale

This is using the same light but with a red gel on it.  I asked the subject to turn her head a bit towards me.  As a result of that very small movement, we now concentrate on her left eye instead.  As with the previous image I’ve cropped it to a vertical letterbox shape.  This gives a better line across the image frame.

"One light #3" by Derek Gale

I’ve moved my viewpoint so that I am looking straight down on her hair.  It’s being lit in a glancing way so that the texture has been picked out very clearly.  The vertical letterbox crop and off-centre composition with lots of dark space add mystery to the image.

"One light #4" by Derek Gale

This studio shot uses one light fitted with soft box, which acts as a light diffuser.  The diffused light directly on her face gives even areas of light and shade, with very soft shadows  It’s a completely different treatment to the previous images.  I’ve reduced the colour saturation in Photoshop to give the right mood.

"One light #5"

This final image is from a location portrait shoot in a disused quarry in the Forest of Dean.  The light is coming from a single remotely-triggered flash off to the left.  It’s going straight down the subject’s nose line.   The unlit side of the large block of stone makes a great background to her face.  The flash was quite close, and the area was fairly dark, so there’s no contribution to the exposure from the daylight.

So, you just need one light!

If you want to learn how to take more creative images, and to learn the composition techniques I’ve used here, why not book on to my “The Creative Eye” course near Wantage, Oxfordshire on Saturday 13th November?

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

Show and tell!

September 23, 2010

So here it is, my report from the Royal County of Berkshire Show (aka The Newbury Show) which happened last weekend (18/19 Sep 2010).   Our stand was in the Shopping Pavilion down near the BBC Berkshire performance area.  It was a very busy weekend, and the threatened rain didn’t happen, which was a pleasant surprise.  

"Newbury stand" by Derek Gale

We had some very complimentary remarks about our display, and the acrylic block in the centre of the table really seemed to catch people’s eyes.  Several visitors to the stand knew the person featured!  As well as meeting lots of new people, and discussing portrait photography and photography training with them, it was good to catch up with some existing clients as well.  The Mum of one 2-year-old was very excited to see images of him on the stand. 

"Newbury info stand" by Derek Gale

Before the show started it was really interesting to wander round the showground with my trusty Lumix Fx-500, and capture a few candid shots of people getting their stands ready.  I liked the way the “Information” board was at such an angle. 

"Wickerman 1" by Derek Gale

It was also an opportunity to photograph the impressive 38 feet tall Oxford Wickerman, which is being burnt on Nov 6th in Oxford to raise money for the charity “Rosy”.  The early morning sun on Saturday really made it stand out against the blue sky. 

"Wickerman 2" by Derek Gale

A bit later it had clouded over, so I moved behind the sculpture and shot it with the morning light behind it.  The silhouette makes for a completely different type of image.  It’s a great example of why the direction of the light is so important in photography. 

"Newbury chicken" by Derek Gale

Finally, here’s a portrait of a fine-looking chicken.  It was in a cage in the livestock area, but the small lens of the Lumix just fitted in between the bars.  I used a pop of flash to highlight the bird, and exposed the background so it was nice and bright.  I like the bird’s expression, and the way it’s still looking at me even though it’s a profile shot.  It’s a reminder that the Show is still very much an active agricultural show.

It was a great show, and we’re already thinking about our display for next year.  See you there!

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk