Photographing the Photographer

Recently my photo-friend Bettina asked me to take a few portraits of her.  She’s been toying with the idea of starting up a small commercial portrait studio, and she finally took the first steps.  Now she needs a bit of advertising, hence the need of a few nice photos of her.

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To be honest, I was a bit intimidated at first because I don’t think of myself as a portrait photographer, not even after all the portraits I took in India.  The trick is, all those are taken as documentaries: no special backgrounds, no studio lighting and no directing of the subjects.  With Bettina I had the freedom to influence all of those, and it seemed overwhelming at first.  But there were a few things given, so I started from there.  Bettina wanted me to photograph her in her garden and she wanted to hold her camera in her hands, so that one immediately understands that the person being photographed is a photographer.

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It was an hour before sunset, so some beautiful light was coming through the trees.  I put an 85/1.8 onto my 40D, set f/2 in Av mode and the flash to 1EV underexposure.  I simply needed a bit of light fill into the eyes and to light up the black camera.  The first images were not good at all, but I slowly found my rhythm.  I began by concentrating on the exposure and placing the focus on the eyes.  I then began to pay attention to the background, the placement of the camera, and of course to Bettina’s facial expression.  Since I was using my favorite auto-focus setting, I was able to take a well-focused image at any moment without having to frame-for-AF-then-reframe-for-composition.  I think this saved the day.

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While talking to Bettina and getting her to smile, I managed a few decent shots.  I showed her these on the back of the camera and we both relaxed, since we knew, we’ve gotten the job done.  But we had time and the light was still good, so I suggested that we shoot further.  And guess what?  That’s when the best images happened.  We knew we have nothing to lose, so we tried different positions, with smiling, without, camera in focus, eyes in focus, all the possibilities.

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I wanted that the camera is present in the image, but without drawing too much attention to itself.  We played with horizontal and vertical crops and with the camera hanging loose or being carefully supported by the hand.  In the end I took nearly 80 images, and we inspected them quickly in Bridge.  Focus and exposure were spot on, and there were quite a few nice onces, so I left Bettina with the task to short out the good one from the bad ones.

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The images that you are seeing here are among the best ones, and the first two are my absolute favorites.  I think they compliment each-other quite well and could be used in a flier — the first image on the front page and the second one on the back.  But I also like the last three images.

What do you think?

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