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the group or couple portrait

Some rules to consider for classical style group portraiture:

  • REMEMBER: its the placement of faces and not bodies that determine the effectiveness of the composition
  • men should usually have their hair cut 5-10 days before the session, while women generally know when their hair will be looking best.
  • AVOID:
    • straight lines
    • light clothing or light backgrounds as these distract attention from the faces
    • bright colours or bold patterns in clothing.
    • adjacent faces at same vertical or horizontal level
    • wearing black which can make the subject look like a floating head against a dark backdrop.
    • showing bare arms or bare legs - thus avoid short sleeve tops and shorts.
  • USE:
    • dark toned background
    • dark or mid-toned clothing of complimentary colours
    • broad frontal fill light to give adequate shadow detail while minimising catch lights & reflections in glasses
      • if bounce light, consider using a warm white paint to bounce off.
    • single main light placed to front light subjects and higher than face but not high enough to lose catchlights
    • +/- background light aimed at middle of background below level of shoulders to minimise spot effect
    • compose group considering heights, features and relationship of each person:
      • if family portrait, consider starting with parents either one at each end or both in the middle with mother seated.
      • aim to give a concave curve line of all feet whilst keeping all faces in a single plane and people towards the centre
      • place adjacent faces at different heights and vertical lines
      • look for an interesting cluster of faces, curve, or triangle or sub-groups of triangles.
      • have everyone touching or at least in close proximity to another
      • keep it simple, avoid clutter.
      • in general, for couples, have the eyes of the shorter person at the level of the mouth of the other person
    • compose each person:
      • feminine vs masculine pose
      • avoid straight arms
        • always have them bent at elbows eg. holding something, arm on someone's shoulder, in pockets.
        • avoid having joints at the same level (ie. shoulder, elbows, wrists, hips, knees)
        • generally avoid elbows at 90deg but may work for seated couples or woman with hands on hips.
      • avoid bodies square on to camera
        • usually aim for lower half to be 45deg angled to the camera, then bring upper half back towards the camera.
        • when one shoulder is closer to the camera than the other, not only does it create a more interesting image, it also makes all of your subjects look slimmer.
        • if standing, women should point their front foot towards the camera, bend her front knee slightly and shift her weight onto the rear hip with little weight on the front foot.
        • placing weight on a rear foot creates a relaxed look, while on the front foot creates a more edgy look with feeling of movement, but equal on both feet tends to create a stiff look.
        • woman often look better leaning body away from camera slightly so closest shoulder is higher than rear shoulder - if sitting, place a wedge under the near butt to achieve this and still have subject relax, or, alternatively, lift the front leg higher which will achieve a similar result.
      • raising the front leg also avoids crotch shots, otherwise, place a short subject in front to hide the crotch but avoid vertical alignment of their heads.
      • avoid slumped posture, stand or sit tall but not stiff
      • minimise hands:
        • hands tend to add clutter and detract, so where possible, hide them, particularly the rear hand:
          • men can fold their arms, women can place them in their laps, kids can put them in pockets.
          • avoid showing both hands together.
          • show the hand with little finger towards the camera and hide the other hand.
        • fingers should not be flat nor inter-twined but bent at each joint, with males being more bent than females as a general rule.
          • avoid showing the back of a woman's hand, the little finger side photographs best, with fingers naturally curved.
        • when hands are below the waist, the wrist should be curly down or be neutral. When hands are above the waist, the wrists should curl up.
      • tilt heads
        • ensures that every person's body is not straight up and down & creates an immediate feeling of intimacy when tilted towards another subject's head.
        • women can tilt heads either way but often look better tilted away from the camera, although older women often do better with minimal tilt.
        • males should “never” tilt their head towards a high shoulder as this generally gives a feminine look.
      • face position:
        • most people look best with a 3/4 face position so that the nose does not cross the far cheek edge of the face (otherwise it looks big), and BOTH eyes are seen fully - avoid half-eyes.
      • project the chin go minimise double chins (and/or use a higher camera position)
      • eye gaze:
        • should see some white on each side of an eye, and with females their should be slightly more on one side of the eye than the other, whilst with males, their gaze should normally follow their nose.
        • women often look better with some white below the eye which can be achieved by either having the model lower her chin or have the camera raised higher, or have the model gaze upwards and away from the camera slightly.
      • if they are going to smile, a smile with the eyes gives a better smile than a forced mouth smile.
    • determine centre of attention for group:
      • often looking at the camera produces dull photos and accentuates asymmetries in faces, consider a separate focus for attention
    • if outdoor background, separate people more to allow some background between them.
    • camera height:
      • Generally speaking, the camera lens should be at about eye level for head and shoulders portraits, chin level to chest level for ¾ length and chest level to waist level for full length portraits.  An even lower camera height for heavy set brides, that are posed standing, will make her appear taller and more “regal.” 
    • When shooting families, allow them to interact and joke with each other. Keep your eye looking through that view-finder and snap the shot when they are being candid together.

Blinking eyes:

  • getting a group photo shot without anyone blinking can be difficult - the more people in the group photo, the more likely one is going to be blinking during the exposure
  • people are blinking 4-5% of the time
  • the chance of someone blinking in a photo can be calculated based on exposure duration, average duration of a blink (250ms), average frequency of blinking (once every 6 secs), and number of people in the photo
  • to minimise the chance of blinking:
    • reduce the exposure duration (ie. use a short shutter speed or a flash)
    • reduce the number of people in the group
    • avoid situations which may precipitate a blink such as the camera's pre-flash
      • use manual flash setting or exposure lock so camera does not need to calculate exposure
      • turn off AF illumination if camera uses one
      • turn off red-eye reduction as this sends a pre-flash to constrict the subject's pupil.

Valenzuela's 21 point posing system for posing couples

  • straight spine
  • position head by tilting not slouching
  • minimize 90deg angles of joints unless they are resting on something and looking natural
  • soften fingers - make a fist then extend fingers into a natural, relaxed, curved hand
  • give the hands something to do
  • ensure origins of hands are visible - don't just have fingers visible
  • for couples, equal body ratios - ensure each are similar sized
  • collarbones at an angle to camera unless you want a power shot
  • shift body weight - for women, cross one leg in front of the other
  • posing against walls - ensure there are gaps between the lower back, the arms and the wall - ie. butt against wall and lean forward
  • one hand higher than the other, and for couples, avoid mirroring
  • symmetrical posing for single person strong poses
  • 3 point check:
    • strong, confident, powerful, symmetric pose: collarbones, chin and eyes look at camera
    • soft body, strong face: collarbones away from camera, chin and eyes at camera
    • all de-emphasised: collarbones away from camera, chin away from camera to opposite side, eyes to camera or ~6“ to side of camera in direction of where collarbones face with light coming from that side (ie. broad-lit)
  • create a believable story
  • pose the eyes - direction of gaze to avoid excessive whites showing to camera
  • invisible plane angle check - try to ensure the eyes are closest to camera by lowering intervening elbows, and knees if sitting, etc
  • face should be brightest lit part of body (unless fashion shot)
  • watch nose shadows especially with couples
  • subject emphasis - lightest part of scene, dominant size in scene, sharp focus of closest eye
  • be specific when posing - be clear where the subject must look, etc
  • inject feeling, expression and multiple points of interaction

posing groups

Jerry Ghionis's video tutorial (2hrs)

photo/portrait_group.txt · Last modified: 2014/06/10 23:50 by gary1

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