Category Archives: Craft

D is for depth of field copyright Aloha Lavina.

The ABCs of Portraits

You may not know that photography can make you better at Scrabble.

Here are the ABC’S of portraiture. Some of these can score high, not just in your next Scrabble game, but with your portraiture.

 A is for Abstract

Portraits don’t have to be the whole face of a person. You can experiment with abstracting the face, highlighting her most beautiful feature.A is for abstract copyright Aloha Lavina

B is for Background

Backgrounds help to declutter a portrait, to make the subject stand out.

C is for Composition

Designing a composition that works is crucial in a portrait. Want to make people uncomfortable? Center the subject. But most of the time, avoid centering your subject and use basics like leading lines, to lead the eye to your subject.

D is for Depth of field

Controlling depth of field using your Aperture helps you make a portrait pop. A shallow aperture can give a portrait a creamy goodness that’s better than milk. (Well, almost.)D is for depth of field copyright Aloha Lavina.

E is for Environment

Don’t be afraid to go wide and include the environment. The surrounding space around a portrait can help give it story.

F is for Foreground

Not just background, but foreground can give your portrait impact. Selective inclusion of foreground elements can help you make a good composition.

G is for Grace

Graceful portraits make us look again, and again. One of the simplest ways to introduce grace into a photo is using lines. Another way is to ask the subject to position their hands in a certain way, like in this photo.G is for grace copyright Aloha Lavina

H is for High key

Overexpose the photo artfully for a stunningly bright high-key image.

I is for Intimacy

Get up close and tell a private story with your lens. Intimate portraits take us into the subject’s emotion and helps our audience connect with the stranger in the image.

J is for Juxtaposition

Introduce tension or harmony into the image using juxtaposition. This is putting two things side by side to compare or contrast them. Contrast can be a good way to add impact to a portrait.

Oh wait. This is only 10 letters of the alphabet. If you want the rest of the alphabet, I guess you better get my free ebook!


June Fifth featuring Natalie Glebova copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

From Idea to Image Part 2: Lighting Clothing

When it comes to light, I hardly ever make it up as I go along.

Lots of things require forethought when you’re planning a shoot. If you want to make sure that your resulting images are folio-worthy and you make them in an efficient way, you’ve got to plan how you get those images. Few planning steps are as important, nor as exciting, as planning lighting.

Light, as they say, makes the photograph. But within the tenet of “make good light” are some details that could make the difference between an image that is OK, and an image that is dramatic and expressive.

Start with the question, What are you lighting?

If you are showcasing clothing with your image, it’s important to know how to light clothes. This sounds strange, but it’s quite true that the nature of the lighting can create an image of the clothing that sends a message: this is good stuff.

Get to know your subject.

It’s important that you see the clothes before the shoot, so you can plan the lighting. I make it a point to have several meetings with the client before the shoot, to see the fabrics, to feel their texture, to get a sense of how they will show up in an image when lit.

Two things affect the lighting of clothes. First is the color of the clothing versus the color of the light, and second is nature and intensity of the light.

Show off the color when lighting colorful clothes.

If you’re lighting clothing with vibrant color, it’s advisable to make the light bright so in the image it is reflected in the color of the clothes. For this image, I wanted the yellow and mint to punch through the image. I also wanted to minimize the wonderfully textured background, so it didn’t take away from the focus of the image, the dress.

June Fifth featuring Natalie Glebova copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

Copyright Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

I placed a large, soft light camera left, big enough to light the whole dress from the left (as well as the model’s beautiful face). To light the right side, I placed a diffused smaller light, just enough to punch through the shadows and create some dimensionality in the portrait.

Make a white dress glow.

Lighting a white dress is slightly different. We all know that white is all colors of the spectrum reflected back to the eye, so white is itself a lighting tool. That means if I bounce light off a white dress, I get some reflected lighting from the garment itself.

For this image, I knew that the model was fair with light hair, the dress was all white, and the location had dark wood, but had these wonderful narrow windows that provided some directional light. What I needed to do was one, light the dress, two light the model, three, balance the backlight from the windows with some light in front. Knowing the situation, I brought three lights for this portrait. I wanted that dress to glow.

Irina Lysiuk in Khoon Esmode Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

Copyright Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

The first light was a soft, large light for the model’s face. This light was at camera right, simulating a window. To balance the bright back light, I punched a couple of lights below, with a large diffuser to soften them, right at the model. All that light swirled around and mixed up for a softly lit portrait that looks like it was lit with window light. But the dress glows.

Planning lighting for a shoot begins with the subject. Then, you have to go through some lighting solutions for the subject, and finally, pack the right equipment and then set up the lights according to your solutions. With this simple process, you can ensure that the idea you started with is lit in a way that turns it into the image you had in mind.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
From Idea to Image Part I: Planning
How Different Lenses Help You See Creatively
Finding Good Photos Where They Hide

Up next: From Idea to Image Part 3: How to Make it Up as You Go
Join me to find out what happens when you have to shoot without prior information to help you plan!

15mm lens portrait copyright Aloha Lavina.

How Different Lenses can Help You See Creatively

Watching Zack Arias’ video blog for the Kelby site inspired me yesterday. One of the questions Zack asked in the introduction of the video is, “What do I bring to the table that countless others have not already served up on this massive platter of visual pollution that we create each and every day?”

Zack’s question is probably something we ask ourselves as we try, each and every day, to get better at our craft. How do we interpret a vision with the tools we have? There is no button that says, “Joe McNally” on our dSLR that we can push if we want a photo worthy of a National Geographic feature.

A teacher once told me, When you’re in doubt about something abstract, go back to the concrete. I’m still trying to follow that advice; it’s helped me learn daily.

When we think about seeing creatively, and creating from that vision, it’s such an overwhelmingly large topic that we need to break it down into concrete modules, things we can do today that adds to and strengthens that vision.

We can begin with our tools.

The lens you have attached to your dSLR is an extension of your vision. Through that lens, you can create an interpretation of what you see before you. This interpretation is your vision, the way you say things that you see. How does the lens you use affect that vision?

1. Your lens determines how you frame an image.

Your lens can help you include things in the frame, or exclude things from it. Try going out with a couple of lenses to photograph a single scene. How does a wide angle’s inclusiveness change the story? How does the story change when you photograph the scene with a telephoto? The differences between what we can include or exclude using different focal lengths of lenses determines a lot of the story we present in a resulting frame.

2. Lenses change your point of view.

Because the focal length of lenses can include or exclude, using a different lens to take a photo changes your point of view. A lens that sees the same way the eye can see, namely the 50mm ‘normal’ lens, allows you to take photographs that echo what you see without the camera pressed to your face. A wide angle, say a 24mm lens, gives you a wider view; you can see more background, more foreground. The environmental details around your subject that you capture with a wide angle lens changes your point of view because you now have the ability to use these environmental details to add to the story.

Manila Bay at 50mm Copyright Aloha Lavina.

At 50mm, the lens 'sees' the way our eyes do. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

3. Different lenses affect an image in different ways.

At the different edges of the spectrum of focal length effects, different things happen in your frame.

A wide angle lens like the 24-70mm can distort the subject. For instance, if you use a wide angle lens for a portrait where the subject leans toward you, their face shows up much bigger than their hands. Wide lenses can ‘see’ what’s closer as bigger, and what is farther as smaller.

15mm lens portrait copyright Aloha Lavina.

15mm lens renders visible distortion in a portrait. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Telephoto lenses, such as a 70-200mm, tend to ‘flatten’ elements in the frame against each other. When you’re stacking elements in a frame deliberately, this helps you to create planes that the viewer can easily identify, and with good light, you can create a photo that has depth.

Inle Lake at sunset copyright Aloha Lavina

Long telephoto 'flattens' elements. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

4. Some lenses can render tilt better than others.

Tilting lenses while taking photos is a great way to discover what happens to the image when you change the way you point your camera.

Some tilt can be done on the same plane. What this means is, tilting the camera left or right, but keeping the lens pointed on a plane parallel to your subject. In the photo below, I tilted the camera to change the background, but the camera lens is parallel to the model.

Natalie Glebova for June Fifth copyright Aloha Lavina.

Tilting the lens without changing planes. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Other tilting can use distortion to effect. Here, with a wide angle lens, the camera was tilted to change its plane relative to the subject. I tilted the camera lens down and produced the effect of the clouds ‘marching’ across the sky. This sort of tilt helps you create perspective and depth in a shot.

Balinese sunset copyright Aloha Lavina.

Tilting the lens so it is pointed at a different plane than the one parallel to the eye. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Note on tilt: if you are using a normal lens, or a long telephoto like a 70-200mm, tilt doesn’t work for effect that well, since the focal length gives you a very narrow field of vision.

5. Lenses can help you use depth of field creatively.

portrait in f/2.8 copyright Aloha Lavina.

Shooting at a wide aperture renders the background blurry. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

We’ve all seen stunning images that use depth of field creatively. Lenses with large apertures (f/1.2 all the way to f/2.8 for example) produce very shallow depth of field in the images. Portrait photographers love to use very wide apertures because of the ‘creamy’ effect it produces in the background. If you use a very wide depth of field on a portrait with a forest as background, the background is rendered a blurred blob of soft green without much detail. This de-clutters the background and gives a pleasant dreamy quality to a portrait.

You can also use this effect for the foreground.

using blurry foreground for creative effect. copyright Aloha Lavina.

Shallow depth of field can be used to blur foreground for effect. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Seeing creatively—an abstract concept—can be made concrete if you begin practicing it through a concrete tool, like the lens you have on your camera right now. With these simple tips, you can build a visual collection that hopefully, doesn’t “pollute” but beautifies your portfolio.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! Even if you don’t like what’s on the blog, leave a comment any way, but please keep it nice. :) To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Confessions of a Photoshop User
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide
Why You Should Shoot Like Johnny Depp
Sell an Experience, Not Just Photos






conservative saturation copyright Aloha Lavina

Would You Resort to Oversaturating Color in a Boring Photo?

Saturating colors in a photo is something that is easy to do, if you have the right tool. Many times, all it takes for Super! Saturated! Color! in a photo is to move a slider to the right.

But before you get slider happy, let’s think about saturation and why it might be wise to saturate moderately.

Take Photo 1 as an example. To super-saturate the colors in this photo, I simply went to Photoshop’s Adjustments Menu, scrolled down to Hue/Saturation, and in the ‘Master’ setting, moved the Saturation slider to the far right.

oversaturated photo copyright Aloha Lavina

Photo 1. Over the top saturation.

Instant super saturated color. Even more saturated and vibrant than real life, which is Photo 2, taken straight off-camera.

straight off camera copyright Aloha Lavina

Photo 2. What the camera actually took.

Compare the two and tell me with a straight face that the super saturated photo is still believable.

Like fiction writers, one of the things you have to do as a photographer is to suspend disbelief. This literary terms means to make us believe a story even though it is made up, or fiction.

Like fiction writers select what readers discover in the story’s scenes, photographers select what’s in the frame for the viewer to see. Skillful and thoughtful framing can result in skillful and engaging storytelling for both fiction writers and photographers.

Since we are selectively presenting the world through artistic expression, we often develop a style of storytelling.

This is where saturation comes in.

Saturation of colors in a photo is often done ‘to taste.’

Personally, I do adjust saturation in post-production, to enhance a photo. In Photo 3, I saturated color-by-color in Photoshop, but didn’t go over more than a 6 on the slider. Why? I try to suspend disbelief, so that folks who look at my photo look at the whole thing and make of it a believable story, rather than losing themselves in the candied gimmickry of an over-saturated image.

conservative saturation copyright Aloha Lavina

Photo 3. Saturated, but not beyond belief.

Wouldn’t you rather get really good at composition, interpreting concepts, and recognizing decisive moments than use gimmickry to attract attention to what may be a mediocre photo?

What are your thoughts on color saturation?

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
Why You Should Shoot Like Johnny Depp
Sell an Experience, Not Just Photos
Nine Things Rupert Murdoch can Teach Photographers
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10 Things Tyra Banks can Teach You about Portrait Photography