Join Derrick Story for an in-depth discussion in this video Pose and photograph a male subject, part of Portrait Photography: High School Seniors.
- One of the things that I think about right away when I'm contemplating shooting guys is working with their angles. It's different, I'll be honest, than shooting women. When I saw Zach, for example, and I saw that he had that nice chin, he has the square shoulders, and he's wearing t-shirts and stuff to show that off. I kinda wanna like that way. I wanna work with that and show that off. So that influenced my lighting choices. I decided to go with a strobe and just work with a strong light coming in on one side.
The diffuser that I use is more of a bounce card so it does soften a little bit, but not too much. And the shots had a good hot side, cool side to them. What do you think of this for a backdrop? - I like it. It has good texture and everything. - I know, it looks neat. I like it. When I saw this door back here, I was going, oh man, that's perfect. He's got the look, he's got the outfit, we've got this cool door, I've got the right lighting with me and that's the direction I decided to go with that.
Fortunately, he liked it too and that's the thing I wanna say is you gotta make sure you check in. This is what I'm thinking. Is this working for you? He liked it. He liked it and I thought we made some good shots. So, what do you think of that guy right there? - [Zach] Yeah, that looks like I'd be comfortable with that pose. - Yeah, you can pull that off? - [Zach] Yeah. - So when Zach came in and I was kinda finishing setting up, I went ahead and handed him my little posing sheet, 'cause I like to start kinda looking at it. The paper I had had a lot of the poses I was thinking about that would work with this setup.
So he looked them over and then, before we shot, we went over 'em. And he liked all of them that I had picked out, which was cool. So then it was just a matter of like what sequence that we're gonna go with and what I like to do is start with the easy one, the one that's kind of the standard, where you turn the shoulder towards the camera. And it's easy to get into the shoot that way and then as you relax, then we could go for some of that required, you know, a little more acting. Alright, so here's the way this is gonna work.
I'm gonna have the light directed at him here. Alright, so this is gonna be our main light and then, what you wanna do is catch some of this light and just bring it in to kind of, to his backside here is what we're looking at. And then we have a little hair light going here. One of the things that I was happy to have with me were the LED light panels. I had that good light coming in from the side, but I wanted a little bit of hair light too and so I have it ready to go on a clamp and I'm always looking for where I can stick it.
Fortunately, it worked on this door back here. I knew about how tall he was so I was able to set it up ahead of time. It's variable and I used about half strength on it and I liked it. I think it added a little something to the shot having that LED light. It's almost like a streetlight or something and it sorta added to the whole urban feel of the scene. Very nice. I think another big part of the posing sequence is facial expression and we were sort of doing this little edgy urban thing, which I think he can pull off well and so I didn't want him to smile too big because to me, that wasn't fitting with the pose, right, you want everything to sort of work together.
Now, with high school boys, they usually don't like to smile that much anyway, really, in all honesty, so you don't want 'em frowning, right, because when they're frowning, the energy's going down in their face so you want the beginning of a smile sometimes so you get that energy going up, but maybe not the full big toothy smile. And so we played around a little bit with that and a lot of times, what I try to do is catch the smile before it reaches full peak there and then that way, we don't have the sorta edgy urban scene and then this big smile.
That wouldn't work, but the partial smiles though, I thought looked pretty good and they may end up in the selects. The nice thing about when you're only working with one main light like we did, just the flash on the stand, is it's very easy to move around so I started at, not a 45 degree angle, a little bit off 45, more of a standard, it's safer because of the way that illuminates the face and after we got, what I felt like were some pretty good shots, I go, you know, let's go for it, let's try something even edgier so I moved the light all the way to the side and then I had the reflector on the other side so that we're really kinda getting a little bit more heat on one side of the face and a little bit more shadow on the other.
And, you know what, it looked pretty good. One thing to keep in mind about that sort of lighting, if you have someone with a really round face, that can slim it a little bit. When you have the light at more of an angle, instead of, you know, the last thing that you want is a really broad light with someone with a round face. If you move it to an angle, then it gives it even more of an angular look. I want you to dig your shoulder into that, yeah, ooh, I like that, yeah. Like, dude, when you gonna finish up this shoot, man.
Good, right there, good, and let's do, right there, hold that right there. (camera clicks) Nice. So when you're watching the movie, you may have wondered why I was having him dig his shoulder into that backdrop there because a lot of times us photographers, we're moving people away from that backdrop. We want a little bit of distance there, but the reason why I did it was it had to do with the shifting of his body weight. When he really dug his shoulder into there, his body weight shifted and I was getting angles that would be hard to get otherwise and it also influenced the expression on his face, too.
He got a little bit more... He got more edgy, when I did that. He really like feeling it. It becomes very a physical sorta thing so it's pretty interesting. I thought the shoot was over and we were good already and he's like gathering up his wardrobe and I saw the hoodie and we had talked about it earlier and I had forgotten about it. He pulled it out and I go, aww man. With the way the shoot had gone so far, I go, I'd really like to use that and so fortunately, he was willing to put it on.
I had him change the shirt so it went with it and do another series and the nice thing about the hoodie, I thought, it brought out even more attitude. He was already loose at that point. I don't think the hoodie at the beginning of the shoot woulda worked as well. He hadn't relaxed yet. And I changed lenses. I went with a little wider lens. I had the 85 on before, went with the 45, because I wanted more length on that shot. I wanted to see all that body language there and we went for it and I liked it.
I really liked it a lot. That was one of those things where you forget, you get all caught up in the moment and you forget about some of these wardrobe options that you have. Fortunately, we caught that one 'cause it woulda been a shame to lose those shots. Just as I'm thinking about this, it was very different shooting Zach from Catherine. The lighting was different, the posing was different, the pace of it was different. With Catherine, because I had the continuous light, I could go burst mode and have her be very animated.
With Zach more, we were like striking a pose and I was using the strobe 'cause I knew I had a little bit of recycle time in between shots so he would strike a pose, hold it, I would shoot it, and then we'd go to the next pose. So even the pace of it was a little bit different and I think the takeaway on this is be ready for both. When I pack, I don't know, I may decide with Zach, depending on what he brings or something that I don't wanna go with a hard light like I did, but I wanna have all those options open to me so that when I interact with him, when I see the clothing, when I see the setting, then I can choose the tools that are best for the job.
And it was very interesting. We even laughed about it during the shoot that her shoot and his shoot were very different even though we did 'em in the same place with the same photographer and the same gear. And I think that's the beauty and what really fascinates me about portrait photography.
- Guidelines for senior portraits
- Setting up a portable studio
- Posing subjects
- Shooting outside
- Working with family members
- Using mirrorless cameras and smartphones
- Editing senior portraits
- Exporting and delivering images