Sometimes you have to get your feet wet to make the photo… and 7 other helpful tips to get better photos of people.
Professional photographer Adam Bronkhorst writes for the 7dayshop blog
I’m a professional photographer who specialises in shooting people and teaching other photographers. I love the interaction and the unexpected nature of a portrait shoot. I always see portraits as a two way process between me and my subject.
I’ve been shooting portraits for magazines for a number of years and thought I’d share a few shots from my favourite magazine with you.
This shot was taken in the middle of an interview and I only had a couple of minutes with the subject who is a singer / songwriter.
During the interview I’d scouted round the very small recording studio and decided that there wasn’t much space to do a full length portrait, and that a head and shoulders shot would probably work quite well.
So, as the journalist was conducting the interview I set my lights up in front of the toilet door and tested them while experimenting with some coloured gels to get an interesting effect with the lighting. And when Hobbie was ready to have his picture taken everything was in place.
Tip: Although this shot looks like a studio portrait it was taken in front of a toilet door and in no time at all. So if you’re smart and think about how to make the best of a situation you can produce a professional looking portrait. Also getting in close can eliminate a lot of background.
Roger is an amazing photographer, who has a very distinctive style and who’s work I’d admired for many a year. It’s always a bit daunting photographing a photographer, especially one you admire and I have to admit to being a bit nervous beforehand. However, Roger was very kind and had lots of patience with me and my idea of how I wanted to capture him.
This was actually taken in Roger’s office with lots of stuff around us, but by setting the camera up so that it didn’t capture the ambient light, I was able to only capture the light from my flashgun.
Tip: Don’t beat yourself up before a shoot, as it usually won’t turn out as bad as you fear and you’re only making things worse for yourself.
I was asked to take a series of portraits of growers, allotment keepers, gardeners, etc, for a Spring issue of a magazine coming out in late April.
Thankfully, we were blessed with a sunny day in March, so I wanted to make the most of the blue sky and colour.
I’d noticed that the subject was wearing a bright yellow jacket and thought that would go well with the blue sky but it needed something else, so I managed to find a yellow bucket and some flower pots just to add a bit more yellow to the image. I also ended up lying on the floor to take this photo.
Tip: If you want more sky in your shots, you may have to get low and dirty to shoot upwards.
Vintage Scoops Ice Cream Van
What a joy this was to shoot. First of all Vic from the amazing Vintage Scoops Ice Cream Van was so nice and the van was such a visual feast and best of all I got to eat ice cream at the end of it.
We’d parked the van on Brighton Seafront and I’d added a couple of flashes to inside the van as it was a little dark in there for my liking and the camera see’s things differently to our eyes, so it needed a little lift.
However, I knew I wanted to keep it simple as I didn’t think you could take a bad picture of this very cool ice cream van.
Tip: Sometimes it just best to keep things simple. If you’re working with something great, why complicate matters.
I’d woken up at a stupid time in the morning to take portraits of the fish market workers in Brighton, where they were packing up boxes of fish to be sent all over the country to some of the finest restaurants.
As you can imagine it was a very busy place and people didn’t have time to stop for a portrait for long. So, I’d set up one light just to lift them a little from the background and when I got a chance I got people to stand on the same spot. Which meant I didn’t have to do a different set up each time.
Tip: repetition is good sometimes. It allows you to work very quickly and not think about the technical side of taking a portrait as you get it right the first time and then you can just replicate that.
When you’re given the chance to photograph some really interesting people in an interesting environment, you should take the chance. That was the case here when I shot this singer in a cool bar.
I’d been watching a few different programs on TV before this shoot and a lot of them were set at night and I was fascinated by the lighting in the shots. So, I thought i’d try to replicate it a little. I added some coloured gels to my flashes to give this a slight American Diner / Las Vegas / Night time / Storybook feel.
Tip: Use colour to add a different depth / look / feel to your shots. It’s a simple technique but can drastically change how an image looks.
I have to admit to not having any tattoos myself, so I found it intriguing to go and photograph tattoo artists in their studios. I had to move some furniture about to get some of the shots, but that’s all par for the course of being a photographer.
I’d wanted to show the artists off in a dignified manner and had been looking at a lot of classical paintings before this shoot, so I thought why not light them similar to the way that Rembrandt lit his portraits.
Tip: Take inspiration from all around you. To be creative and a good photographer, you need to look at everything and learn from it.
Tim Crouch – experimental theatre maker: an actor, writer and director
When I met Tim on Brighton beach it was a very calm day and the sea was almost flat as a pancake. Usually I like to take people’s portraits in their own environment or somewhere that says something about them or what they do. However, for some reason we’d suggested being down on the beach.
I asked Tim if he wouldn’t mind standing in the sea and letting the tide come in around his feet as I thought it would make for an interesting portrait. I was right and I love this shot. There is something so simple and serene about it.
Tip: Sometimes you have to get your feet wet to make the photo.
The guys over at 7dayshop have also asked me to say a bit about what is in my kit bag.
I try to keep things simple and work with minimal kit. I love my Nikon DSLRs and lenses and one lens I couldn’t do without is my trusty 24-70mm. It’s the do it all be all and end all of lenses. I could give every other lens I own up apart from this.
As you’ve probably gathered, I use a few flashes in my work and after years of trying lots of different systems I’ve settled on the Godox V850’s. Again they are a very simple piece of kit and are extremely affordable and versatile, which allows me to be extremely creative with them.
I keep going on about simplicity and travelling light – and it’s because I believe it allows you to be more creative as you’re not thinking about lots of different kit. In this vein, I love using the Rouge system of lighting modifiers and coloured gels. They are just extremely well made and so small that I wouldn’t even dream of leaving the house without them in my kit bag.
Lastly, as I mentioned at the top of the article I teach workshops to other photographers and I recommend kit to people. I’ve written a definitive list about all the kit that you need for On and Off Camera Flash photography and in it I highly recommend 7dayshop rechargeable batteries.
Over the years, I’ve tried all sorts of batteries and I keep coming back to the 7dayshop ones and added to the fact they come with their own carry case, it’s a no brainer to get them and keep a spare set in your camera bag.
7dayshop rechargeable batteries – AA, AAA, C, D, 9V on sale now – click here
I’ve also got all my memory cards from 7dayshop in the past. I’ve been burnt once or twice buying expensive memory cards from eBay only to find out that they are fake and no where near as reliable as the real thing. If you’ve ever had a card corrupt on you, you’ll know that it’s just not worth risking it.
I’ve found 7dayshop to be one of the cheapest places for memory cards and they are a company I trust so I know the cards are not fake.
Find out more about Adam’s work
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