Monday, November 23, 2015

Senior high school photo shoot: Justin

Lee Ann's grandson Justin is graduating next spring, and he and his mother asked me to shoot his outdoor senior high school shots recently. They pushed the timing of the shoot almost as late into the year as my niece Erin's family did two years ago, but fortunately, we found a day and time on Nov. 3 to squeeze in a late-afternoon session in Garfield Park in Indianapolis.

Unfortunately, Justin, who lives in Fishers, couldn't get to the park until after school that day, a Tuesday, so we started later than I would have liked. Darkness sets in much earlier these days since clocks rolled back for standard time earlier this month, so we tried to work quickly.

We got pictures of Justin and his girlfriend, Rae, in a dozen or so poses while we had good daylight. A few were taken inside the pagoda, others outside the amphitheater to exploit the brick facade, a few along the jagged stone staircase south of the arts center and several leaning against a tree and a light pole. (I did not attempt to get permission from Rae or her parents to use any of the photos with her in them for this post, which is why you don't see any of her here).

When it became too dark to get decent background into the photos, Justin, an artsy guy, asked me to shoot some pictures of him in available light -- without flash. I didn't bring along my tripod, so I boosted the ISO to very high levels (2500 and beyond) so I could continue hand-holding the camera. I figured that if it was an artsy, "different" look he was interested in, he might not mind the noise from high ISO levels. We were near the amphitheater at the time, so all of those photos were near that facility. Justin seemed pleased with those shots, which for the most part were cast against dark backgrounds of minimal natural light and illuminated by the park's tungsten pole lamps. Such lighting brings harsh facial light contrasts that photographers ordinarily wouldn't seek, but Justin wanted that mood, that look.

As it turned out, I took several of those shots using shutter speeds too slow (e.g., 1/25) for hand-holding a camera without a lens equipped with built-in stabilization. Some of those shots had to be discarded, requiring a reshoot with higher ISOs and faster shutter speeds. A few of the picture with slow shutter speeds, however, amazingly, actually turned out OK. A special nod of thanks to Lee Anne, an experienced studio portrait photographer, who gets the credit for posing her grandson.

The photo leading off the post was taken inside the pagoda with camera settings of f/2, 1/180 and ISO 200. Right after that shot, we took another with the same camera settings -- this time with Justin smiling. That shot is the first below.

Photo geek stuff: For the entire shoot, I used my Canon 6D and Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens, which I've turned to recently for all of my portraiture-related shoots to exploit that fast aperture and bokeh. For the majority of the shoot, I also used an on-camera flash, Canon 580EX II, in manual mode set at 80mm w/light intensities of 1/32 to 1/8, depending on the stage of natural light availability, to highlight the subject. The flash was equipped with a white Graslon Insight (flat) diffuser. I made a point to shoot most of the photos at or around f/2.0 or f/2.4, adjusting my ISO (which usually was in the vicinity of 160) to compensate for any needed light, which wasn't an issue until darkness set in. In the darkness, I boosted ISO levels to in the range of 2500 to 10,000. In post-processing, the subject's facial features were enhanced in Portrait Professional Studio software, version 11.