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Some thoughts on location portraiture

One thing I love to shoot is portraits, they can tell you so much not just about the actual people in the image but also about the surrounding community.

Location portraiture doesn´t have to include involve big fancy flash units, and umbrellas, although I often add a spot of flash to fill the shadows in the subjects face. I normally like to light the image with natural light as much as possible as with this photo below.

The beauty of location portraits is they can be shot literally anywhere, in someones home, on top of the Eiffel tower, under the sea, pretty much anywhere you can imagine. However when shooting outdoors its best, although not always possible to avoid shooting in harsh, direct sunlight, this could very easily cause burnt out areas in your images and even worse cause your subject to squint – never a flattering look. You´re much better off finding a lightly shaded area to shoot, but when you do keep an eye on your shutter speed and burning out the sky.

You can add more depth to your image by adding some props, these could be something very simple such as a cigarette or something as complex as a Large Hadron either way something that adds an element to the image that helps to build a story of the life the subject leads will create a more intriguing photograph.

If you´ve got your own tips on location portraiture add them in to the comments, we´d love to hear them.

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    Making people smile

    Anyone who´s taken photos in Asia would have probably come across the peculiar posses that many subjects seem to adopt as soon as you lift your camera. In China and Burma its the ´2 finger peace sign and cheesy grin´ pose, where as in India its the ´ridged, stare directly at the camera and look as serious as possible´ pose.

    As a photographer I have to overcome this, to get the subject to relax and feel comfortable to produce more natural looking shots. I never tell the subject how to pose but there are things I can do to get a natural looking shot without directing the subject directly. I used to think that just by spending time with someone I could get them to relax and shoot some more personal shots. Thing is, and I´ve noticed this several times, after spending several hours with a subject and there´re really relaxed and everything is good but as soon as the camera comes out  they stiffen up and a pull their blankest expression ever.  Ggrrrrr, that’s frustrating.

    So, what to do? well I´ve developed a little secret. It involves me not hiding my head behind my camera but holding the camera away and to the side of my face so I´m looking face to face with the subject, there´s a direct link created that wouldn´t be possible if my camera was in the way. From this position I keep my head facing the subject and look to my far left just by moving my eyes, I then do the same in the other direction. By this point the subject normally gets a little confussed, this is increased when I go cross eyed and blow out my cheeks or stick out my tongue. Shooting frames as I repeat this sequence a few times. If by this point the subject hasn´t even got  hint of a smile its time to move on, I´ve failed.

    I´ve put together a contact sheet that shows the results of me using this technique with an Indian man I met at the side of the road in Rishikesh. There is probably less than a second or 2 in time difference between each frame.

    Notice how the first frame shows a great example of the ´ridged, stare directly at the camera and look as serious as possible´ pose, as the frames continue I work my moves and despite some serious effort, the subject finally cracks and Im able to quickly shoot off a few frames with a more natural unposed  expression.

    Below is a shot of me using this technique on the streets of Vrindavan in India. If you´ve got a different technique I´d love to hear it, if not feel free to use mine.

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      The streets of India. Day 5: Old folk at work

      So here´s the last in my series of images of street photography from India, if you missed any previous posts check them all out here. I´ve now realised that writing a blog post everyday takes a lot of pre planning not to mention a stack of quality images, so I now have a new found respect for those who manage this every week of the year.

      In India its common to see older generations working physically demanding jobs, jobs that they do until it literally kills them. Its sad & difficult to know what to do in these situations, is there a way to help? not using there services only deprives them of an income whereas using there services can often seem like some form of torture. I have no answers to these questions just my own personal thoughts but its a topic that interests me greatly.

      Stick around as I´m going to need some help from you guys on Monday.

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        The streets of India. Day 4: Just faces

        It´s already day 4 of my streets of India series & I thought I´d share few of the portraits I shot during my time in Northern India.

        Human faces tell us so much, they show the life lived by an individual, a glimpse into the story of their lives. So much can be learnt from a persons face.

        Whilst I don´t consider myself a portrait photographer (that cungures up mental images of big flashes, huge reflector boards and lots of make up) its an area of photography I love to explore.

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          The streets of India. Day 3: Rebuilding India

          At the moment India, Delhi in particular, is reminiscent in many ways to a building site.

          As the capital prepares for this years commonwealth games other parts of the country are investing new found wealth in property. Millions of dollars are being spent on upgrading transport links and building new hotels and restaurants.

          Using methods and techniques that may seem strange to many in more develpoed nations India is slowly building a country that hopes to be the next super power.

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            The streets of India. Day 2: The chai drinkers

            Indian tea is so much more than a drink, it has a history packed with stories of royalty and herbal medicine, wherever you are in India you can’t fail to notice the huge quantity of tea sellers & drinkers in the streets, bus stations, train stations, shops & offices there is no escaping the beautiful drink known as chai.

            Sweeter than most fizzy drinks and served hotter than you´d think possible, in everything from paper cups to disposable clay pots & containing ingredients such as ginger,  cardamon & other spices, chai has a special place in the heart of India.

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              The streets of India. Day 1: The hairdressers

              Well I’m now back in the UK & am pleasantly surprised by the amount of sun, here in England. My Asia trip has come to an end but I’m already planning the next trip (to keep in touch with my future plans as well as see some behind the scenes pics you can become my friend over on Facebook click here).

              One reason photographers love Asia & India in particular is the the street life. The way everything occurs right in front of you on the pavement or even in the road, eating, cooking, sleeping, washing, praying, are just the common activities that happen everyday. Not to mention the wandering cows or the cheeky theiving monkeys. It all adds up to some incredible experiences, mix in large amounts of colour and you’ve got yourself a photographers dream.

              So aside from shooting celebrations I spend a fair amount of time wandering the streets shooing everyday life. This week I’m going be adding a new blog post everyday with a collection of images from the streets, today’s collection is ‘the hairdressers’.

              More pics tomorrow with the chai drinkers.

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                The smiles of Bangladesh

                Enjoying the bigger images? I know I am.

                Now on a totally different theme.

                Bangladesh is a hard and difficulty place – no question about it. The lives the people here lead with the constant threat of floods and the real lack of sanitation, but underneath all the worries and stress that living in the most crowded, polluted place on the planet,despite all this there is genuine happiness and real smiles, they’re not always obvious and need a bit of encouragement at times, but they are there.

                The people of Bangladesh generally don’t mind having their photo taken but seem to think its going to be a passport photo and stand as rigid as possible with nothing but a serious expression left on their faces. Here I’ve tried to capture much more than that.

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                Comments??

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