Portrait Class, Part 1

I recently signed up for portrait classes with my oldest daughter. I have no experience shooting portraits and I generally prefer landscapes (no people), but my daughter is quite in to portraiture and had taken photos for many of the girls that she went to high school with. So, I signed up for this class so that she could decide if she wanted to refine this skill and look to shooting portraits professionally and I figured that I might accidentally learn something along the way.

Shooting portraits involves having a model and some studio lighting. I don’t have any lighting and I have never shot a model, so this was all new to me. Below is my daughter photographing the model in the class.


Coming into this class, I was expecting to be shooting with a 50mm lens or maybe a little bit longer, but as it turned out we were encouraged to shoot at around 200mm from a distance. This does minimize any distortion like you would see with a very short focal length, but I was afraid that such a long focal length would make the subject look flat. So, I put on a 70-200mm f/2.8 and prepared to shoot.

Another issue I wasn’t expecting was that we were shooting at what I consider to be alarmingly high ISO because of the limited amount of light inside. I ordinarily shoot outside (landscapes) and if I can’t get it handheld at ISO100, I get a tripod. The only time I would willingly dial ISO up above 1000 is to shoot the Milky Way. Shooting at quadruple-digit ISO almost made me panic a little. I had to keep myself from asking the instructor to dial up the lights (and cook the model).

And lastly, holding the camera in portrait mode is quite unnatural to me. I had to make a conscious effort do it. But, I guess a portrait would look silly in landscape.

I have two photos below that I thought turned out well. The first one is without the large diffuser and reflector. It is shot handheld at 185mm, f/2.8, 1/200s, and ISO2500(!!!). The lighting is very direct and maybe a bit harsh. I added the camera portrait profile in LightRoom and cleaned up the noise a little.


The next portrait is with the large diffuser on the light and the reflector on the model’s right to fill in the shadows a bit. Shot at 200mm, f/3.2, 1/160s, and ISO2000. The reflector helped a bit, but the room has white walls and this already provided some fill. With this photo I concentrated on getting eye-level, which meant crouching down, and framing the head and chest of the model. I then set focus on the near eye and recomposed. I also had to try to direct the model to tilt her head and shoulders, but I am really not good at that while trying to work the camera. Kind of like patting the top of your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.


I think that I failed on getting the line of her eyes correct, but I think that the light shows off her hair well. She also looked a bit like she was recovering from a mild sunburn.

I did get a lot of information about lighting for people and I think that my daughter got something out of it. I am kind of the camera nerd that can control all of the settings and is comfortable going full manual, and she is more of the artist that know when people look good. Maybe we’ll be able help each other. It’s a four week class, so hopefully you will see some good progress from me.

Thanks for reading and leave a comment if you like.

7 thoughts on “Portrait Class, Part 1

  1. You seem to obsess over the tiniest details, such as line of eyes. I sure as hell wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t brought it up. In fact, I still can’t see it, try as I may. They all look like great photos to me. My compliments to both your camera skills, and the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, in a class there are a lot of details to focus on. The deal on the eyes, was putting the line of the eyes at an angle to bring interest. And I think that subtly works. I am just trying to get as much as I can from the class.

      I appreciate the nice comment. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I will be buying any studio lighting. But, I would like my daughter to understand all of this.

      It is nice to be able to shoot photos of someone who is there to be photographed and not trying to get away from you.


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