A little while ago, I got an email from Jacque. She needed a “decent, professional photo” for a guest post she had submitted to a therapy blog.
Now I don’t think of myself as a “people photographer” but I thought that I could do an okay job. I have no studio lights or flash, much less a studio, and Jacque didn’t want a studio photo anyway, so we arranged to meet in her backyard.
I consulted with Steve, the photography expert in our baboon community, and he gave me some tips and suggestions, several of which confirmed things I had learned through photography classes. I made a list, using Steve’s tips and my own ideas:
- Shoot in burst mode (in order to capture fleeting expressions)
- Background should be contrasting, dark, and uninteresting
- Jacque should be far enough away from background so that it is out of focus
- Subject does not have to smile – she can look thoughtful, serious, intelligent
- Subject should be in the shade, never the sun
- Bring a stepstool since I am short and Jacque is not and a portrait pointing up at the face is not very flattering
- Focus on the EYES
- Meter the brightest part of the face and then set f/stop and shutter manually so there are not blown out highlights
- In each new area where I shoot, make the first shot be of a gray card so I can easily get the white balance perfect
When I woke up the morning of our “date,” I was thrilled to see that it was an overcast day. Bright sunshine is the enemy of good outdoor portraits and a cloudy day would make it easier to get a good shot.
When I shot the portraits, I made a few mistakes.There were some stray rays of sunshine (that I hadn’t noticed while shooting) on her neck in some of them that wrecked an otherwise good picture. I had her too close to the background on some shots, so there were distracting details behind her. But I ended up with enough good shots for her to choose one with which she was happy. And I enjoyed the process, which mostly had to do with how easygoing and nice Jacque is and a little with the realization that I that I could do this.
A week later, Jacque treated me to lunch at Black Sheep Pizza. We ordered the Oyster Mushroom, Smoked Mozzarella, Rosemary & Garlic Pizza and, man, was that good. Even better was a chance to sit and talk. I feel that I had the better part of the deal: I got to shoot pictures of a beautiful person and then enjoy a meal with her.
When have you done a favor for somebody and felt that you benefited more than the person you helped?