Portrait

Where to Shoot?

In a lot of ways, this is sort of an obvious or dumb question. At the end of the day, shoot wherever you can. That said, there are some places that are better than others. And, if you’ve been paying attention lighting is everything. Even when everything else is great if the lighting is off, so will your images.

In New York City we are blessed with endless places to take photos. There are so many interesting backdrops. More importantly from my perspective is how the light plays between the buildings. If you look around you’ll notice that the light is bouncing between the high rises. What gets down to the street level is usually very diffuse and soft, perfect for portraits and such. That and there are all sorts of interesting passerbys that you can integrate into your shot.

The downsides of shooting outside are temperature and weather. I’ve found that when it comes to temperature I’m a bit of a goldilocks. I don’t like shooting when it’s cold outside. My hands get cold holding the camera and my model is also feeling the cold. Once it starts to get hot I melt. I’m not exactly sure at what temperature I start to melt, but it’s lower than I would have thought. If lots of walking or gear are involved the melting happens even faster.

The other fact is weather. If it’s overcast there is a risk that your images are going to be flat. Basically the clouds are acting as one massive modifier. So you do get super soft light. But it’s so soft that there are no shadows. Remember what I said about shadows making the image.

On the other side is bright mid-day sun. Unless you’re going for a super high-contrast look, bright sun is to be avoided at all cost and in particular if you want a beautiful image of your subject. You can of course use scrims (large fabrics walls) that you can hold/mount to block the direct sun on you subject. The real pros often use scrims, whether it’s on the street or at the beach. The downside to scrims is that they are super bulky and you’re going to need assistants to hold them.

Studios are a great option in that you have control over your environment. It does mean that you are going to need to figure out how to get access to strobes and modifiers. Another option is a studio with awesome windows. This can be the best of both worlds. You can get amazing natural light and maintain control over your temperature.

Big downside to studios are the cost and the logistics. Typically you’re going to be renting for a set time frame which means you’re going to have to move quickly with whatever you’re doing. Outside time isn’t an issue, just the lighting and weather are.


Neil Bainton PhotoComment