10/05/2007

Story creating portraits


As photographers, we should always strive to create more interest in our images and what better way of doing that than by capturing our subjects as they would be seen carrying out some task or other at their place of work or perhaps a hobbyist seen diligently putting the final touches to another masterpiece.
This type of photography is better known as, "Reportage" and can even border on "Photojournalism". Unlike the standard portrait, where your concentration is centred on the main subject alone, in "Reportage" portraiture, you are creating a story about your subject and the more information you can include in your image, the more you will build your story.These portraits can be posed or impromptu. If posed, you may have time to prearrange the shoot and organize lighting, etc., but with impromptu, or candid shots, you sometimes just need to accept pot luck on the day. With candid shots too, the subject is not always looking in the direction of the camera, so it is advisable to at least show in the image what his/her gaze is fixed on. See "The eyes have it"
Your subject must be in clear focus of course, but because the immediate area surrounding your subject includes relative material, it too must be in focus when you compose your shot, or made to look just slightly out of focus to put the emphasis on the main subject.
To put you in the picture, so to speak, if you were photographing a Blacksmith at his place of work, for instance, hammering away at some red hot piece of iron on the anvil and there, around him, are his tools of trade and certain implements and items that he himself has proudly manufactured.
You may well want to include as much of this material as possible, as it is all relevant and helps add detail to your story. Also, take down some notes about your subject, as these too will help complete your goal.
If you have a mind to include his company logo, you may have to ask his permission and then perhaps offer to send him a copy of the resulting image.
You have created your story. "Here is the Blacksmith, here is his trade, this is what he does and around hims is what he makes". You should also portray him in his rugged dress or manner, but try to show his true character.
The simple point and shoot camera, or one used in auto or programme mode, is quite adequate for these candid shots, but that's not to say you can't use your camera manually, if you so desire. This way you can try a range of camera settings, change lenses, try with fill-flash, or without, but remember, you want to include as much other relevant material as possible, so mid-range or smaller apertures will be in order. From about f5.6, f8, or you may even have to go to f11, but you may also have to adjust for shutter speed or ISO rating due to the ambient light conditions.
Look for brightness and colour for impact. A balloon blowing clown you may sometimes come across at the local farmer's markets can make a great subject for this, but try to include some of the children and their transfixed gaze, as they eagerly await the results of what will be produced from the seemingly endless supply of colourful, twisted balloons. I hope this has inspired you to try a little "Reportage" photography. Simply use your imagination and who knows where it may lead you?
"Here's another bright idea!" A way to fix shutter lag.
Shutter lag refers to the time it takes from when you press the shutter button, to the time the camera actually takes the shot. This can be a problem sometimes for digital cameras and in particular, digital (point and shoot) compacts and can certainly be a problem when taking "Reportage" photography, when your subject is constantly moving about. Or, when you are waiting for that decisive moment.
A way around this is, if your camera allows for manual focusing, set your focus at a distance that is comfortable for you. Say, 6 or 8 feet (about right for this sort of photography) from your subject. This will then help speed up the process and allow you to get on with composing your shots.