Shooting on location gives you an instant backdrop which will immediately tell a story about what you’re shooting. However having a great location is only the start of the process however, so in this video photographer Gavin Hoey has some simple tips for maximizing the character in your location portraits shoots.
It’s all about forward planning. Gavin starts by hiring the right model and outfit for the look he’s after. In this case he combines a grimy urbex location with a beautiful red dress. Then he works on adding controlled flash to the existing ambient light to create some drama in his images. Finally he adds some simple props which when used on their own or combined together, create a variety of different looks within the same location.
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Model: Beth Smith
Photos by Gavin Hoey
In this video I'll show you how using lighting props and a bit of post-processing, can add some character to your location portraits. hello I'm Gavin Hoey and you're watching AdoramaTV, brought to you by Adorama, the camera store that's got everything for us photographers, and in this video I'm going to show you how I add some character to my location portraits. So the first thing you've got to think about on a location portrait, is the location. This adds the character straightaway, and today I'm at an abandoned building here at the Gatwick Aviation Museum, that's about to be demolished any day now so it's empty more or less, and also really echoing in here as well. So the location is the key to getting your character, but then there's other things as well. So let's add some more… after the location the next most important thing by far is the model, so today I'm really lucky because I'm working with the amazing Beth. Beth's gonna be the model for this, and we need to talk about the styling of what she's wearing… so we could have gone for something that fits in with the grungy theme of this location, or we can do what we've done here, and do the exact opposite. So we've gone for something stylish, a nice red dress it should counterpoint this location really well. Character comes in all sorts of ways, and one of the things you can do to add character is lighting control. So if the light in this room was absolutely perfect, I could just shoot with the available light, but I want to add my own light to create some character. So first things first, what is the ambient light like? So let's just take a little test shot. Beth I've gone for about an 1/80th of a second f/2.8, ISO 400, and I can see some of the ambient light coming through. I like the light in the background, there's a bit of light on the foreground but not much on Beth, and that's where the flash comes in. So all I have to do is either by trial and error, or by getting my flash meter is make my flash match my camera, and we should be good to go. So let's just see, that's f/4, that's just a little bit too bright. We'll bring that down in power until it matches f/2.8 and I'm good to go. I'm gonna try doing it really low down. just so we can.. ya just to get a different look and feel… ok…. ready 1 2 3, surprisingly difference just by closing one door at the back makes to the pictures, really bring these to life. So location and styling and lighting can get you quite a long way to add some character to your pictures, but ultimately you're going to need some props. Props do a couple of things, they can help to tell the story of your image but more usefully they give you something for your model to do. If you want to get some character there's only so much you can do if you just ask a model just to stand there. If they can interact with something that's always a good thing, so what have we got for props? Well we have a weird random red balloon… and we have a bit of fabric, we have random odd things like a red umbrella, we've got a flag, and there may be some smoke involved later in the video.. watch out for that… so I think what we're gonna do with this one is, you're going to hang on to it a bit like a shawl, just keep it over your shoulders with two hands, and then we'll get Sam around here just to give it a little bit of a kind of a throw in the air…. one two three….there it goes…. go against as it's totally uncontrollable. Okay are you ready? Okay… give us a spin… boom, yeah, okay. Let's try that again. Ready… give us a spin, excellent that one… I'll do one more, okay, ready, give it a spin… ready with your dancing… is there any jumping involved? I'm just thinking maybe a little bit yeah, that's it a bit of movement, you want to find out a bit of character.. that's a great way of doing it, a bit of movement… Okay…. pretty good, I need to get my shutter speed up accordingly though of course, because otherwise we get motion blur… it's not it's not the most sensible dress to be doing it in I
will admit, when it comes to character in your images, post-processing can play a really large part of the process, or it could be used just to fine-tune what you've already shot. Let's have a little look so… here's an image, and I try to get everything right in camera as much as I could, including using a nice warm white balance, but there's a few things I need to finesse… for example, this large blue item in the background I don't like, and well this is the one that really annoyed me. There is Beth's safety boots… yeah they need to go, so let's get rid of the boot… first of all I'm gonna make a brand new layer, by clicking on the new layer icon, and then here in Photoshop, I've got a whole bunch of choices for removing the boot. I could use cloning, or healing… I'm gonna use the patch tool, patch tool is really good just for drawing around objects, and patching them, especially if you have a straight line, may not be absolutely perfect at first go, but that's pretty good I'm gonna stick with that. Ctrl D, command D to lose the selection.. So that's the boot sorted, but what about this large blue item back here… well it was far too heavy to move, so instead what I'm going to do is… repaint it a color that matches the rest of the scene and when I say repaint it, I don't mean physically, I mean in Photoshop… so it's surprisingly easy to do this… there's a bit of preparation to do, and once you've done that, you're good to go. I'll start with a brand new layer, once again that gives me a get-out-of-jail-free card, but also will come in handy in a moment, you'll see why, and then I'm gonna select something… now it's not the thing I want to repaint, which might be the obvious choice. Instead I'm gonna select the bit I want to keep… an untouched area, so in this case it's going to be Beth. I want nothing changed on the color of Beth at all, so I'm gonna drag a quick selection over Beth, now I need to make sure I invert that selection, so select inverse… so now the outside is selected… meaning I can adjust it and the bit of Beth I selected is protected. Finally it's up to select once more… down to modify, and feather this by I don't know two pixels… Not many, just to give a slight feathered edge. So this looks more real when I paint it in. Right let's get on with the painting, so this is the fun bit. All I need to do is select a color my foreground color is currently black. I'll click on the swatch and choose a brown color because everything is brown in this picture. From inside the image click OK, and then I can just get a paintbrush. Let's get the brush tool, and just paint Brown over this image, and you can see it doesn't matter how hard I try. I can't go over Beth's dress… so you're probably thinking that is the least convincing paint job you've ever seen, and you're right… but his way I've done it on a layer, because now I can change the layer blending mode from normal to color, and I can even change the opacity down a little bit, and I can blend that color in with the original. Now the color blending mode basically takes the color you paint and puts it over the texture on the original image. So because everything around this is so brown and dirty it doesn't really matter that I'm not being desperately accurate…. not even being close to accurate… and it just works, that's just luck of the day… everything was brown in that room okay… there we go, whilst I'm going… there's a few other bits I could do as well for example that nose cone looks a little bit out for me… and maybe the red of the flag. I can just tone that down, and maybe that window a little bit… there you go, and with a few other tweaks and changes, there it is, there's my final picture completed… so there you go, there's how I can add some character to my location portraits. The location, the styling, the props and of course having an awesome model like Beth makes all the difference. Now if you've enjoyed this video don't forget to leave me a comment below.. Click on the Bell icon to get regular notifications of all the new videos right here on AdoramaTV, and of course click on the subscribe button. I'm Gavin Hoey thanks for watching.