Thinking About: The Shot List

Tonight I’ll be writing up my final Shot List for tomorrow’s portrait shoot.  While I’m going to have to be quite spontaneous and creative with the individual portraits, I have a fair idea of the shots I want for my assignment.  In both cases, however, I’m going to change some of my techniques considerably from how I did my first portrait session:

  • I’m going to shoot from further away from my models, whenever I can.  This is for two reasons: firstly, it will give my photos a flatter, more flattering (no pun intended) perspective; and secondly, it will allow a more forgiving depth of field.  This handy Depth-Of-Field calculator shows that using a 50mm lens at f/1.4, from a distance of 2m, gives me only 13cm of acceptably sharp depth of field (much of which will be slightly blurred and out of focus).  These are the settings, and the distance, at which I’ve been shooting most of my previous portraits, so no wonder I’ve had trouble getting the eyes in focus!  At a range of 3m, the acceptable DOF more than doubles to 30cm, making it possible to focus close to the eyes and get them sharply in focus in the shot.
  • I’m going to be shooting with a narrower aperture – NO WIDER THAN f/2.8.  Again, this is for two reasons.  Firstly, an aperture of f/1.4 contributes to the unforgivingly tight depth-of-field mentioned above.  Shooting two stops narrower (f/2.8) at a distance of 3m gives me an acceptable depth-of-field of 60cm – which should give me nice, sharp facial details.  Should I desire a blurrier background, I can always add extra blur in Photoshop later; but I cannot bring back detail lost due to shots being out of focus.  Secondly, although the lens I’m using, a 50mm f/1.4 prime, is optically excellent, it suffers from some documented sharpness and flare issues between f/1.4 – f/2.2.  So shooting with the aperture narrower than f/2.8 will avoid those optical limitations and result in sharper images.
  • I must remember to remove my protective filter this time. 🙂  Although it has no explicit optical effect, it is another piece of glass for light to pass through, and has caused flaring and ghosting with some night shots in the past.  Removing the filter removes a potential cause of problems.
  • Attention to detail! If there’s one thing my first portrait session taught me, it is that every tiny detail shows up in these photos.  The smallest hair or shadow out of place can ruin the portrait!  So I’ll be much more careful with composing and taking my shots this time around.
  • More creative lighting and posing. I was very, very conservative with my lighting in my first photo shoot (where I basically stuck with a Hollywood/on-axis formula), but subsequent sessions have taught me to be more creative, and that experimentation can yield some fascinating results.
  • Shoot in RAW. It’s better than JPEG. ‘Nuff said.

There’s a truckload of stuff to do tonight:

  • Make sure all my batteries are charged, my memory cards are clear, and all my equipment is working perfectly (e.g. lens, viewfinder and menu screen clean!).
  • Make sure all my equipment is packed, ready to go (including battery chargers – just in case).
  • Write up my final shot list, keeping all my “lessons learned” in mind!
  • Make up some platters of food to keep my models fed and occupied while I’m shooting.
  • Keep reading through the portrait photography books and magazine articles I’ve been collecting, so that hopefully some of the advice will seep through into my subconscious. 🙂

I am nervous as all heck.  Keep those fingers crossed for me!!!!


~ by Q on May 20, 2009.

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