Perfecting On-location Portraits

Rain doesn’t stop me from shooting. My Fujifilm XPro-3 and lenses are weather proof.

Choose the right location

Good locations are safe places to shoot that, in some cases, are close to amenities like a coffee shop and a toilet. They have a variety of interesting backgrounds to work with and have some top cover, too. Good locations include country parks and urban areas in need of regeneration.

Plan for the weather
Rain doesn’t stop me from shooting. My Fujifilm XPro-3 and lenses are all weatherproof. Choose styling items and accessories like hats and gloves for the person you are shooting to keep them warm if required. I find that, even on a sunny day when I’m working in the shade near tall buildings, the wind can be pretty chilling, so bear this in mind.

An underpass in Manchester in the rain is a perfectly good shoot location. I just used the light that was available for this shot of Zara. FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF16mmF1.4 | F1.4 | 1/125th | ISO 400

Travel light
The less kit you take, the fewer decisions there are to make. I often shoot with just one lens on one camera body. It simplifies the shoot and keeps the picture style consistent.

Practice, practice, practice
I find that I need about three shoots a week to keep my photography evolving and improving. It is a practice that delivers the experience necessary to be relaxed and confident. This air of confidence relaxes sitters, and it shows in the pictures.

Even a hedge can be a location with the right forethought. I bought the yellow dress from Primark, and the red bag was Mischkah’s. Strong colours can work well together. It’s not often I use a central subject placement but it works here. FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF35mmF1.4 | F4 | 1/180th second | ISO 200

Purpose
Understand precisely who the audience will be. Are the pictures for you or the person in the picture? Perhaps you are shooting for someone else entirely; a magazine picture editor or a company website designer. Have the user of the images in your mind throughout the shoot, and you will find yourself tweaking the mood, expression and poses to suit their needs.

Prepare your camera
Adjust your camera’s JPEG settings to give you as close to the final look of the shot you want. Don’t say, “Oh, I’ll fix that in post later”. If you are planning to present the images in monochrome but want to shoot colour too, switch the camera to a monochrome Film Simulation but shoot RAW and JPEG so you can have the best of both worlds. With the correct settings for the look you want set in the camera, you can control the shadow detail, highlights and exposure.

We were sheltering from the rain when I took this portrait on a railway platform. The coat acts as a sort of protection and evokes a vulnerability that is met by the full-on confident look. FUJIFILM X-Pro2 | XF35mmF1.4 | F1.4 | 1/500th second | ISO 200

Start with the end in mind
If the shot is going to be published as part of an editorial, leave space for text. If it might make the cover, shoot in portrait orientation and leave room for the title. If it is for social media, think square. If it is to be printed on art paper, give the shadows an extra stop of exposure etc.

Keep the shoot fun
Even if you are shooting serious portraits, have fun between the setups. For a lot of people, being photographed is like going to the dentist. Give your subject something to laugh about, and the whole experience can become fun. A better rapport will express itself in the depth of the pictures.

Once you have a ‘banker’ it’s time for some creative fun. FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF18-55mmF2.8-4 | F4 | 1/125th second | ISO 800

Connection is everything

If you have eye contact in the photograph, make the expression engaging. Pull the character from the sitter into the lens. If you don’t have eye contact in the shot (many of my portraits are profiles), consider using an extended cable release or the Fujifilm Remote App to trigger the camera. Set the camera on a tripod, focused and framed correctly, then move into the eye line of your subject, create the moments you want to capture and take the shots remotely.

Work together
Share the images you shoot with your model as you go, so you can both have input into the creative process.

I love profile portraits like this one of Alicia as they draw the viewer in. We shot this in the entrance foyer to a museum as it was really windy outside. FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF56mmF1.2 | F2.8 | 1/500th | ISO 400

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