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Portrait Tips

Portrait Tips: Get close for impactful character portraits

Whenever you make a portrait, you should say to yourself, “Self, I like this picture because ____.” Then, you should use the right tools to help the picture emphasize the things you like.

When I made this portrait, I was making a whole series of photos for the beekeepers. I knew I wanted the kind of pictures that would look great in advertising and editorial which meant I needed to get close with a wide lens to create a strong sense of foreshortening. With the bees close to the camera, they appear much larger than they actually are. The wide lens also gives a strong sense of place by including a lot of the surrounding environment. The simple green, blue and yellow colors help make it strong, too.

Nikon D800, 14-24mm f/2.8 lens @14mm, f/4, 1/2500s, ISO 200.

Of course, I still wanted the photo to be dramatic and flattering. I suggested we make pictures at the end of the day so that the light would be pouring in from the side. My subject is facing toward the sun, which is a very easy instruction to follow (especially when you’re holding a hundred bees in your hands). I used Nikon’s marvelous 14-24mm f/2.8 lens on a full-frame D800. I moved around until I had the hives and the mountains framing the beekeeper and I made the shot. It’s one of my favorites from that day.

Yes, I ended up getting stung on my hand (which was swollen for 2 weeks), but I’d do it all again to have the experience and make the portraits.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.

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