People and Portrait Photography
- AKA Nina... Mrs-Durden
has been on deviantART for over four years and more recently became a member of the communityrelations
volunteer team for Artistic Nude Photography!
Tell us a bit about yourself, how you got started with photography and in general how you ventured into portrait photography?
I have a bit of an odd story when it comes to why I got started with photography. I have a photographic memory, and I've always been fascinated in a strange way with the whole concept of “sight”, “seeing”, and being able to capture things the way they appear to you. When I was a kid my great aunt died of Alzheimer’s, and I was always a bit afraid that one day I'd find out I have it too, and I'd forget everything. So I started becoming a bit of a hoarder, collecting receipts, old toys, price tags, books, emails, print screening conversations, etc etc. This obsession transferred to photography, and long story short I ended up finding passion in capturing moments, but also creating emotions and ideas through a photograph. People is what I do. I do emotions, feelings, I can't really do anything else.
Do you have a particular people shot that you'd like to talk us through how you achieved and give us some pointers?
There's nothing from my gallery at the moment that I find very impressive, I'm sure that most people could guess how I achieved what I have in most of my portraits. However I can use the shot below...
This shoot was with Libby, and interestingly enough we had nothing planned out for that day. I usually always encourage myself and other photographers to go on a shoot with a specific idea/concept in mind, specific locations, wardrobe, etc etc. However, sometimes just going with the flow and getting ideas as you go, can be very rewarding. Libby and I just drove around, it was a beautiful day, we took some great shots. What's important about this shot to me is the lighting, I wanted to get a soft light that would still give that fresh summer vibe. Many photographers make the mistake of taking shots when the sun is at its peek, this shot was taken around the late afternoon I believe, and I'd recommend all portrait photographers to shoot around that time. You get the most amazing lighting (aside from sunrise). Libby just sat on a fence and posed for this, we got many different shots.You can never take too many pictures, you can never try too many poses, too many locations, too many angles, too many crops. Have fun, really, it should all be an adventurous and creatively inspiring experience.
How do you get your subjects to relax in front of the camera, for natural results?
Well first of all, I find it's always good to have the “talk” before a shoot, where you as a photographer explain to your model how you work, for example I tell my models that I like to get multiple shots of the same pose, that if I'm not saying anything it means what they're doing is working for me, etc etc. You gotta get to know your models before you start shooting, ask them what they're comfortable with, what they're looking for in the shots you're taking, what their experiences have been thus far behind the camera. If my model just can't relax and is looking too tense and/or posing in a forced way, as ridiculous as it may sound I sometimes imitate the pose I'm looking for from them. If we've discussed that it's okay for me to physically help them pose, I'll guide their body as needed for the pose, have them look at my face and imitate my expression, and honestly most of the time it's not that hard to eventually get a natural result.
How much post processing do you do after you've taken a portrait photograph?
Usually a fair bit. I don't like to overdo, and looking over my gallery I can see that on a few occasions I've gone too far in my editing. It's good to find a happy medium. Too little post processing can leave a potentially amazing shot underwhelming and dull, while overdoing it can completely ruin it. Exposure, colors, tones, contrast, curves, those are usually the only things I mess with other than basic touch ups or cropping. The key with post processing is sort of like wearing makeup: you want the results to be beautiful and embellish your face, while hiding your imperfections, but you don't want the first thing people to notice is that your face is caked up with makeup because you overdid it.
What does your day to day photography equipment consist of?
My equipment is rather underwhelming I must say; I'm definitely not an expert. I have a Nikon D5100, a 50MM lens, a 200MM lens, and that's about it. I've never really needed anything else. I don't do studio photography, so I don't use any studio equipment. I don't usually do night photography, so I don't need any additional flashes. All I really need is my camera, my model(s), a good location, good lighting, a concept/idea, and I'm good to go.
What would you say one of the biggest challenges is when photographing people?
The challenge is to find new and interesting ways to photograph someone. Anyone can take a nice camera, point it at someone, and take a technically “good” shot of them, but the challenge comes with creating emotion and meaning in what you're doing. You have to find out which are your models best features, and how to showcase them in your shots. You have to find a good location, you (usually) have to think up an entire concept around your shoot. You have to think about poses, facial expressions, props that you could use to add something more to your portraits. You're essentially creating a story, and putting it into a single still shot. That's actually incredibly difficult to do. Movies have about 90 minutes to do it, you have one shot. There's something magical about it, but it's tricky to pull off. If you're trying to take a photo that depicts a woman's agony from a recent loss, you have to find a way to depict that in one still, you have to think creatively, go outside the box, or on the contrary do it in the most simplistic and meaningful way. When you're in the midst of your photo shoot you have to try to go through it as objectively as possible, wondering if your viewers will understand what you're trying to convey, because obviously you do, but will they? This doesn't necessarily apply to all types of portrait photography, it's my take on it however.
On the other side, is there a reward that you get from capturing people at all?
The reward is getting home after a shoot, loading up the shots on your laptop, and seeing that you've captured some pretty amazing photographs. You feel happy that you were able to give your model what they wanted, and that you were able to create something beautiful. You made art, you can be proud of yourself. Your hard work payed off, and even if sometimes you feel like you've got more messed up shots than good ones, don't be discouraged, because you will learn from your mistakes.
On deviantART, are there any useful People and Portraiture groups that you'd like to recommend?
I can't point out to any specific people, I think that anyone who posts portrait photography would likely be more than happy to help anyone seeking advice. Browse the portrait photography on DeviantART and you'll find many amazing artists, many who are actually quite unknown here on DA (especially if you browse “undiscovered”) and they would be honored to receive a note from you, asking for advice, I'm sure. As for people and portraiture groups, many of the ones I used to love have been abandoned or barely post anymore. I can recommend my group young-photo-club
for anyone 25 years old and under who seeks advice on how to improve. OpheliaFleurs
are groups I highly recommend when it comes to finding inspiration and beautiful photographs though most of them are not specifically geared towards people and portraiture.
Do you have any artistic inspirations on or off of deviantART?
I have many inspirations on DeviantART, though the list is too long. I keep a favorites folder called “Inspiration”, I recommend all portrait photographers do it. The important thing is that it remain “inspiration”. You don't want to copy someone else's work and claim it as your own, I hate it when I see these overdone concepts get posted over and over on DA, these photographic trends where everyone's photos are a copy and paste of each other. Find inspiration, but use it to create new and original concepts for yourself. Off of DeviantART, I browse modelmayhem.com
fairly often. It's a great way to find models, photographers, MUAs, etc etc, in your area, and there are many amazing and inspiring portfolios on there that have given me many ideas in the past.