Photojournalism is my passion. It’s photography in its purest form in that you are capturing moments while you yourself are in the moment. Portraiture, which I also enjoy, doesn’t capture a moment. It’s more or less a staged moment for the sake of creating a photograph. This doesn’t make Portraiture a lesser form of photography it just means that instead of capturing a moment you are trying to capture a personality. My most recent outing of shooting with Girls of Geek is a prime example of this.
The group had invited me out to a morning of shooting on location with a couple other photographers at the headquarters of Geekon; A locally owned company out in Albuquerque that restores and sells classic arcade and pinball machines right out of their garage. When you have a pitch for that kind of location it’s hard to say no, so I packed up my gear and went out to shoot like any sensible photographer would.
Once again I was working with many different models all of whom I’ve had the luxury of working with before (most of them at the Gotham Shoot). This at least gave me a level of comfort when it came to shooting with the models and being able to communicate with them. The real challanges came when I changed who I was shooting with.
One thing I really do love about this group of ladies is that they have such a mixed bag of personalities and characters. There is no shortage of the amount of things you can get out of them. However that means that as a photographer I have to shift the way I interact with my subjects as they change out. Some models I would just give a slight direction to and they would adjust immediately (and just about perfectly,) while some needed almost no direction at all (which is the most desirable feature in a model) and others who I worked with to find what was right for them.
Normally with One-on-One portrait sessions this process is a lot more streamlined because you can work with that individual as long as you need to and eventually you get into a rhythm where the photos practically take themselves. As challenging as this problem may sound, just adjusting your style to fit the model is easy as long as you try to show their personality instead of trying to make them be somebody that they are not.
More often than not I see people post portraits where their subject almost look like dolls or props just to show off their knowledge of the technical working of photography or their skills in Photoshop. When it comes to Portraiture it’s important to remember that there is a person who is the centerpiece of your photograph and it’s your best interest to give your audience an idea of who your subject is.
Photography like any other art form is of course subjective. There a million and one decisions that can be made and each one will change the dynamic one way or another and different photographers are going to make different dicisions. Lighting, toning, posing, ect, all go into the process of portraiture and these decisions dictate heavily what your final product will be.
This shoot had a lot of physical limitations, the big one being space. There was really only so much room that I had to work with in this shoot which really influenced how I shot the whole thing. For starters most of this shoot was done shooting with my 50mm 1.8g. Normally I’d be shooting with my 85mm 1.8g for portraits but the amount of space I had was keeping me from getting the compositions I wanted on the 85mm. The 28mm made some appearances but mostly for group shots.
Another big challenge was lighting. Being that it was indoors with not a lot in terms of natural lighting, I brought with me my DIY lighting set up that consisted of a 1K florescent light with a soft box and several different clamp lights. Some of the other photographers had their strobe set ups with them. I haven’t gotten a whole lot of experience with strobes but it’s something that I’ve been wanting to look into, however coming from a video background it has made more since to have a continuous lighting set up as opposed to strobes that really only help in photography and not so much in video.
Once I got into post production I was upset to find that some of the photos didn’t have perfect focus. In portraiture you always aim for the eyes to be in sharp focus and some just weren’t there. Not all was lost but it’s annoying when you lose a great photo to something that many people will nitpick (which I do a lot).
In post I never really do anything fancy, just some adjustments in lightroom to the contrast, recovering some shadow and highlight detail and correcting some color and clarity. Editing the full take will take me more or less a couple of hours. Being from a journalism background has conditioned me to try and have fast turnaround times when it comes to editing. Some times I will come back for re-edits to bring fresh eyes to the images, but that mostly comes from boredom. You’ll notice that a lot of my photos ended up in black and whites. This decisions usually just comes down to a decision of feel. Some photos just end up looking better in black and white than they do in color. This is more common when as photo was taken in low light and I had to use a high ISO. The noise looks more like classic grain and then you don’t really have to worry about color detail because there is none. But for this photo it just felt right to have them in black and white. Some might find it annoying but they are my photos so sue me.
If there is anything that can be said about this set of images and the models of Girls of Geek it’s that they have quite a lot of range. As a photographer I love the different things that I can get of my subjects and when it comes to working with this group I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. Here’s to more working with them in the future.