Anyone can make a good studio portrait if they follow a few steps.

1. Learn the theories around photography. How cameras work. The effects of aperture and shutter speed. Different effects from different ISOs. How cameras render three dimensional objects in a two dimensional medium.

2. Learn the general and specific theories of light and lighting. Figure out how to make light soft, directional, beautiful, powerful, etc. Also, learn when to use each kind of light... how to accentuate texture or reduce it. How to work with different color temperatures in different light sources.

3. Figure out how to pose people so they look their best.....or, at least, interesting. Then figure out what kind of wardrobe would complement your vision of your subjects.

4. Learn how to socialize and converse with people that you want to photograph; how to engage them and make them comfortable in the process of being photographed. (Note: this may take time and some degree of educating oneself about interesting topics while figuring out how to delete the negative effects of ego from your interactions). 

5. Learn how to position a person in front of a background which will not compete for attention with the main subject but is still germane to the art of your photograph. Placement onsiderations will also include: distance from camera to subject, the right focal length lens to use, the distance from the subject to the background, and the distance between the lights and the subjects. Oh, yes, and the distance between the light modifiers and the lights....

6. Work for several decades, experimenting and learning about many different styles, until one day you observe that you have developed a unique style of engaging, lighting and photographing the people you find attractive and/or interesting.

7. Buy a camera and lens which faithfully reproduce the level of detail you desire along with the perfect blend of nearly intangible parameters, such as the quality of out of focus backgrounds and the meticulous separation of tones in the finished work.

8. Buy lights that have enough output to use to good effect with the modifiers that you have (through trial and error) learned best translate your vision into your style of photographing. Then buy light stands to support the lights and more light stands to support the modifiers and backgrounds that your style compels you to use.

9. Create an emotionally safe space for your subjects so they can let down their guards and relate to you as an interesting and engaged person in a mutually beneficial collaboration. On a more prosaic note, make sure your space is not too hot and not too cold; and doesn't smell badly. 

10. When all the parts come together push the shutter button.


Sherwood McLernon said...

I especially like "Work for several decades, experimenting and learning about many different styles". Sounds like a plan to me... but I don't know how many more decades I have to master this.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful distillation of the portrait process. I'm comfortable with #1...


Craig Yuill said...

A nice explanation of how one can create studio portraits! Your portraits of the woman with the swim goggles, the baker at Sweetish Bakery, and Kinky Friedman, IMO, represent some of your very-best work. Post those portraits as often as you like.

amolitor said...

So, basically, just push the button!

David said...

Set the camera to P for professional and push the button right. :)