Composition: watch your background! Plus Bonus Tip!

February 01, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

While photographing a wedding in beautiful LA this past Sunday I took this quick test shot of my second shooter.

 

              While a client may never notice, I would be embarrassed to give an image like this with a palm tree growing out of the subjects head.

shot at 70mm. f/2.8 1/1000 of a second

           Simply Shifting my camera position slightly left enabled me to capture a much more pleasing portrait with the palm tree now framing the subjects head and not distracting the viewer.

       For the final shot I backed up and switched to a 70-200 lens effectively enlarging my background behind the subject, I also used a  the tiniest bit of fill flash in a softbox to camera left to make the bride pop.


shot at 200mm, f/2.8, 1/640 of a sec. @ ISO 200

 

Bonus Tip

        You may be wondering how I got such amazing light even in the first two examples without flash, The problem when shooting outside is that the direction and quality of the light is not the greatest for photos about 97% of the time (not to be confused with quantity). As a general rule Optimal light direction should come from about 20 degrees above the subjects head. If the light is coming from higher than that you get "Raccoon eyes" where the eyes are in shadow and u dont get catchlights. Catchlights are that little sparkle in the eye that gives the subject life. In my opinion a portrait without catchlights looks dead.


An extreme example of "Raccoon eyes" where the light illuminating the subject is "top heavy" coming from too high of an angle over head causing unflattering shadows, (this shot is straight out of camera)

Controlling the available light

             There are a few ways to control natural light. In the case of the wedding photos above I Used careful subject placement to ensure great lighting that was not "Top heavy"Below is a pull back shot showing the location and positioning of where I photographed from and where I had the bride stand. By placing my subject under the awning I effectively blocked the dirct light that was coming from overhead, forcing the light to instead come from a lower angle eliminating unflattering shadows. Go back to the top of the pg and you will notice the catchlights in the eyes.

     

            Feel free to leave a question or comment below!


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