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Why I am pledging to do 40 portrait shoots in 2021

“I will take care of the quantity. The Great Creator will take care of the quality.”  The Artist’s Way

During 2020’s first lockdown, I did The Artist Way, a 3-month course (daily writing, weekly check-ins) remotely with a group of amazing creative people I mostly hadn’t met before, curated by Nikhil Shah. One of Julia Cameron’s founding philosophies is that in order to allow yourself to improve as an artist, you have to start creating, to produce. Get it out of your head and into the world. Your responsibility is the quantity only. No judgements around how good or bad it is. Simply start, and keep the flow going, and it will get better with time.

As some background to me, I used to take street style photos with 35mm film and I self shot some ethnographic documentary films on mini DV. I used relatively low-fi gear, and low intervention engagement with my subjects, because I was focused on the idea of documenting what was there already, without my presence disturbing things too much. But now I want to take things up a notch and direct. I want to learn how to take natural portraits of people feeling confident but honest in their own skin. Photos that show people as they hope to be seen. I guess really this is a journey to learn about how people want to see themselves.

I need to master more advanced technicalities of photography and light and style, learn how to plan shoots and direct people to make visible their inner fire, work out how to use Lightroom and Photoshop, decide on camera gear to work with, sort out a DIY home /park studio set up, and line up models to work with. I am doing some online courses and reading books to learn technique but really it is about PRACTISE PRACTISE PRACTISE. I can’t wait until I am the standard I want to be, so I must start before I am ready. Put it out in the world and get feedback to learn what I need to get better at, and improve.

I have vowed to do 40 portrait shoots before the end of 2021. The number is not the goal in and of itself, rather it’s naturalising the behaviour of doing it again and again and again that I am interested to cultivate. And self-accountability right now is key. We are in the third lockdown in London, and the notion of doing something, especially involving CONTACT WITH OTHERS can appear too challenging. This blog is my way to track and document my small weekly steps forwards. I just read ATOMIC HABITS, and hopefully – as it suggests – my initial progress may seemingly be small, but at some point my skill level will shoot up exponentially. (I’ll talk more about habits formation over in the HABITS section on this blog).

The portrait photo above is of my friend (and bubble companion!) Ruth, in my second portrait shoot. It was shot on my new camera (Fuji XT3) and a Fuji 56mm f1.2 portrait lens, with natural window light and a home made reflector held up to the right to bounce some light back over the darker side of her face. It’s the kind of photo I want to take. The template of what I want to produce. I wonder how much better I can get, and how quick?

I’ll be noting down my experiments and techniques for posing and building rapport, upload my test shoots, show examples from portrait photographers and teachers who inspire me, and generally share my journey to up skill, and the lessons I learn from the mistakes I make and the photos that I create that make my heart sing.

Currently these are the shoots I have done (not counting little tests)

  1. Masha in her bath
  2. Ruth in a studio with natural light and reflector
  3. Me in my kitchen using a backlight technique with a net over a window
  4. Tristan in the park for a new LinkedIn profile photo
  5. Ruth in a female body posing session
  6. Nikhil in a male posing session in the park
  7. Lockdown birthday – mother and daughter portrait through the window
  8. Park shoot with Ruth – finding locations as you go
  9. Long lens outdoor shoot with Charles
  10. Shoot with Ruth – using reference images to start the pose flow
  11. Mumtad – directional tunnel light outside
  12. Milly – directional window light inside
  13. QUICK SHOOTS FOR WINDOW LIGHT – with May, Masha and Ruth / Ed
  14. Quick shoot family lunch of Isla – using foreground interest to blur out

These are shoots I want to do – techniques, ideas or people

  1. More female body posing
  2. Studio light – Rembrandt set up
  3. Studio lighting – from directly above
  4. Personal Portrait of someone in natural habit // 50mm fixed lens and 15 mins
  5. Colour play – matching key elements – wigs and wool??
  6. On a stool in front of a backdrop
  7. floor sitting pose – sexy b&w jeans
  8. FLO
  10. EVA in her greenhouse
  11. ROSIE – coloursplash eyes
  12. AT the hairdresser – TRANSFORMATION
  13. Plants / roots / overlay
  15. post cold water swim
  16. Pandita

Getting Rid of SKIN SHINE

This is the one thing I want to do, that I can’t really do in Lightroom. So this is how to do it Photoshop by “painting” over the skin with correct colour flesh create a layer and call it skin texture / shine / somthingselect the brush toolset it to opacity around 50% and flow…

Quick Lightroom Face Edit

To break it down what I do Remove spots – using the SPOT toot and HEAL – with Opacity set to 100% so the spot is completely taken out and feather around 80 (although could be lower down to 50%) and the size realtive to the size of the spots (usually 10 – 20). 2.…

First Try Touching Up

Portrait photography and editing or doing digital touch ups is a funny one. Obviously at one end you have super specialists who touch up skin in highly technial ways to give air brushed cover looks. And then you have people who believe you shouldn’t change anything – the portrait is an accurate capture of someone…

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