Great portraits don’t need a complex studio setup or a lot of high-tech equipment. A few months ago, I learned an amazing technique from Roberto Valenzuela’s book Picture Perfect Practice: A Self-Training Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Taking World-Class Photographs (I wrote a short review in a prior blog post). It is a very powerful, yet easy to use technique for creating great portraits.
Let’s work backwards. Here is the final result. These are my good friends Hanna and Stefan. We were trying out a few interesting places for their upcoming wedding where I have the honor to take the photographs.
How did I do this? Very simple. I looked for a door to a somewhat dark room and just placed them there facing the bright outside light. Basically a high contrast place. That created the beautiful light in their face along with the catchlight in Hanna’s eyes. I then used the exposure compensation on my camera to ensure that the background was dark enough while correctly exposing their faces. This is pretty important. The matrix metering of my Nikon D800 would have created a mediocre photo. See below.
This setup is super basic. You can easily replicate it with your own camera. Even with a small point & shoot that allows you to adjust your exposure. And just for the record – here is what the scene looked like. Hanna and Stefan stood in one those doors. Doesn’t really look like a professional photo studio, huh?
Where can you utilize this technique? Pretty much anywhere. Just look for a dark place that faces the bright outside light. Think about your garage door. Maybe a window. Just make sure that the room is fairly dark and that it doesn’t reflect too much light. You can also try different poses. This is also great for portraits from the side.
Why don’t you go out there and create some great portraits today?