Getting that studio look… anywhere.
Making do with what’cha got. Shooting pro looking portraits anywhere.
So a few days back I was at an event filming for a docu-series called ‘Thrive or Die’. The documentary focuses on the important role community has in our personal health and wellbeing in the 21st century.
Whilst there I met a bunch of amazing poets, singers, artists, business owners, and activists. After talking to a few people I suddenly felt the urge to photograph them to sort of document the memory of meeting them, I’m not really the “let’s take a selfie together” type rather the “yo, I’d love to photograph you at my studio or something sometime” type, which I’m sure for many of you the latter resonates well. This situation usually lends itself to a few problems though.
Mo’ Problems, Mo’…. Problems?
I don’t have a studio with me.
All I have is my phone.
No lights too.
There are no white walls anywhere… omg… there are actually no white walls anywhere!?!
This person lives really far away so arranging a portrait session for another time is impossible.
So this is how I’ve learnt to deal with these problems. I hope that some of the solutions I’ve found helpful for myself will also be helpful to you.
All the photos were shot with my Fujifilm x100s.
#1 - I don’t have a studio with me.
I and many others would argue that you don’t need a studio.
“Good art is never made in studio. Good art I make in life.”
“Having a studio is a little like having a fancy car, it doesn’t help you take better pictures.”
Sometimes we feel like we need a space in which we can command total control of to feel like we’re making our best work. This is often true, but not all the time.
Most of the time the best environment to take pictures of people is when they’re not being confined to a space. You have to think about the subject - would they be more comfortable here in a place they chose to be and are having a good time, or at your studio of solitude where they may feel uncomfortable having all the focus on them? Challenge yourself to adapt to different shooting environments so you can be prepared for any environment.
#2 - All I have is my phone.
It’s the artist, not the tool.
Also… it’s 2019 phone cameras are incredible. A compelling photograph can be made with any camera on the planet.
This is one of the main reasons I sold my 5D mkii (omg why did I sell it!?!?!?) to buy a Fujifilm x100s. I wanted to have the ability to capture quality photographs that can be used for both professional and personal projects, as well as capturing everyday snapshots wherever I may be. Having a great big camera isn’t always useful if it spends 70% of it’s time at home. This is one of the main reasons I’m such an advocate for the mirrorless camera systems that are available these days, we don’t have to compromise a small sized camera for features, we can have both.
#3 - I have no lights with me.
Look around you. I’m sure there is light somewhere; a window, a Lamp, some overhead florescent lighting, even on camera flash can look amazing in the correct context. Get creative.
Study how other photographers use natural light. To me natural light is light that you don’t have 100% control over requiring you to adapt to it rather that adapt it directly.
#4 - There are no white walls.
Again, look around you. There will always be something. A coloured door to frame a close in headshot, a curtain, backlighting, heck - even getting low a little and using the sky as a backdrop will give you a clean composition.
#5 - This person lives super far away so arranging a portrait sessions for another time is impossible.
And this is why you should read numbers 1 to 4 so you can get that photograph of that person no matter what your circumstances.
Here are some of the photos I shot with the impromptu set up. Again these were all shot with a Fujifilm x100s which is a great portable digital camera with a great F/2 - 23mm lens (35mm full frame equivalent).