Portrait of the Month | June 2014

May 31, 2014  •  2 Comments

Taking portraits in bright sunlight is tricky!

Up until now I've been spoilt for choice as far lighting the photographs for my Portrait of the Month project. The previous images have either been shot indoors or under a cloudy sky. Overcast days are ideal lighting conditions for a flattering portrait - no harsh shadows, no featureless skies and no glare to blind me or my subject.

On 1 April I met up with Emma on London Bridge on a bright sunny day after she bravely agreed to be my Portrait of the Month for June 2014. I say 'bravely' because she admits to not liking photographs of herself. Emma co-founded the London Photo Festival in 2011 which enables photographers to exhibit and sell their work without having to go through an evaluation process. Our first meeting was a virtual one when my project was featured on the London Photo Festival blog in February.

I arrived on London Bridge ahead of Emma to see what the light was like and positioned her so that the sun lit her hair from behind, while a bare speedlight in my left hand held at arms length, at 1/32 power acted as a fill light. This was essentialy to light her eyes as my mentor had previously pointed out the darkened eye sockets in some of my portraits taken in natural light. I used my favourite 85mm lens with camera settings at 1/640, f/4, 200 ISO and I created a lighting diagram using the Strobox iPhone app to track what I did.

Emma and I talked about what this project has taught me about taking portraits and since I've reached the halfway point, I thought this was as good a time as any to reflect:

  • We all see ourselves differently so when people tell me they don't like having their picture taken, I now ask them what it is they don't like rather than try to second guess. I don't believe physical 'flaws' (whether actual or perceived) should be removed because they are what characterises us, but I will do my best to pose and light a person so as not to draw undue attention to them;
  • It's important to talk to your subject during the photoshoot, ideally not about photography either. With any luck they will be distracted enough to relax and display natural, relaxed facial expressions and body language.
  • One of my photographs was penalised in a recent competition because the judges felt the subject lacked expression. This made me realise that, when taken out of context, expression can be misinterpreted;
  • There is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to posing - Some poses just don't work for everyone;
  • Planning is key. Even if adaptations need to be made on the day, having a loose structure in place means less faffing around.

Emma - Lighting Set-upEmma - Lighting Set-up


Please leave a commenbelow. It would also be really great if you could Tweet, 'like' on Facebook or +1 this post using the buttons above. 


Candid Creativity
Thank you Peter. That's very reassuring to know.
Peter Lawton(non-registered)
I know Emma and her folks, and this image is "real Emma". Nice job; you've captured the person I know.
No comments posted.

January February March April (1) May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December