Tag Archives: composition

Oaxaca Portrait Photography Workshop, Day Two–Lighting

Today, we are focusing on how to use flash and how to set up lighting for a portrait photography studio shoot.  Instructor Matt Nager brought with him strobe lights on tripods, a soft box,  umbrella diffuser, and a reflector.  Later, this afternoon weaver Erasto “Tito” Mendoza and his family would come to El Diablo y La Sandia B&B for their portraits.  We needed to be prepared.


We scout and evaluate the location to determine the best location and furniture arrangement.   We determine which background would give us the best, uncluttered area.  We also choose a location outside in the courtyard to do some shots with natural lighting.


Matt explains how the soft box gives very soft natural light to make people look more natural in an artificial lighting environment.  With artificial lights, he likes to be farther away from the subject and will use a 35mm or 50 mm lens instead of the 85 mm lens he usually uses for natural light portraits.  He notes that with artificial lights, the closer you are to a subject, the harsher the portrait will be.


Then, we set up some shots to practice on each other so we would get the camera settings just right before our subjects arrived.  The wireless transmitter is set, the battery pack is connected.  We are ready.


Matt has photographed for the New York Times, the Denver Post and is commissioned to do portrait photography for major business, professional, and fashion magazines.  He should know!

Tips for successful portrait photography:

Pay attention to composition.  Choose a space that is simple and uncluttered.  Put the body in a frame with a food of space around the body.  Keep it simple.  Last at the space around the head and give it more breathing room.  You can use low depth of field that blurs the background.  Position the subject at a 45 degree angle to give more depth.  Slow it down.  Be thoughtful.  Look at what’s going on in the scene.  Ask the person to change or move positions.  Cover or move any distractions from the background.  Slow it down.  Be thoughtful.  Take more photos than you think you need.

Next Photography Workshop:  Summer 2012, Market Towns and Artisan Villages. Two spaces left!