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Old 03-16-2006, 10:02 PM   #1
Olena Babak Olena Babak is offline
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Taking pictures outside




Please help!
I have an upcoming photo shoot for a portrait of an 11 year old boy. Blond hair, blue eyes and very cute. This portrait will be on display inside the gallery for a while in order to help generate more commissions from it. Generally speaking, I don't have a lot of experience with outside portraiture, and the choice for a background is puzzling me. Unfortunately, I only have a few hours to do a photo shoot, so I have to be efficient in finding a good setting.
They want to have a picture, since this is a "display" portrait, that appeals to a wide variety of people. Sure... this is a great idea, but it's a lot easier said then done!
I live in a Florida, so we do have a lot of greens around here even this time of year.
Any suggestions? PLEASE?!
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 03-16-2006, 10:31 PM   #2
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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I've been painting portraits now for 15 years, and only used existing light for the first 11 years. It was really great for the work I was doing then.

Spontaneous work from life in sunlight has a unique quality ( Linda Brandon, the Egelis, John Michael Carter and Dan Gerhartz are worth your research)

How you approach this is entirely personal. I have (now?recently?currently?) come to the conclusion that using photo references taken outside are poor source reference photos, even with great cameras and Photoshop.

I am working hard to try to gain skill working with artificial light that mimics natrual light. I am definitely in the student mode, but I think that artificial light with the subject against the proper value background, gives me better modeling information.I can later drop in the background info.

I think you should consider how you want to paint in your future. Either go for the vibrant spontaneity of the outside work, or something else. I think it all depend on how you see your relationships with your clients and their needs and how you see your own work being played out. I don't mean to sound as if it's an "either or". There's so much room for many painters, and many approaches.
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Old 03-17-2006, 12:58 AM   #3
Linda Brandon Linda Brandon is offline
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I think Chris posted the above reference to me to be nice, and because she knows I am online tonight. Go look at her website! Also look at the websites of Michele Rushworth, Tom Egerton, Peggy Baumgartner, Linda Nelson, Brian Neher, Dawn Whitelaw, Burt Silverman - just a few of the different lighting styles in outdoor work.

People love seeing paintings of their children outdoors, especially in warm-weather climates. But in my opinion it is hard to be really good at outdoor portraits, which is why there are so many ho-hum ones out there. The challenge is in finding the form in the unlit side of the face where all the planes are in the same value range; usually, it's best done loose and impressionistically, but the paradox is that then you might lose specificity of features and the individual child becomes the generic "blonde boy in the sun". Generic paintings are wonderful, but in portraiture you should be able to pick out an individual child if you were presented with a lineup of similar children.

When you are painting objects in indoor light situations you are painting things you can touch; when you are painting outdoor light situations you are painting things separated from you by the air and the wild outdoors. It's not "about" touch, it's about freshness, color and light. (I didn't come up with this idea myself, Harold Speed says this in one of his books.)

I am also experimenting with shooting subjects indoors and placing them outdoors but I don't think I'm doing true "realism" when I do this.

Anyway, I am a big fan of outdoor backlighting (there is a thread here on the Forum dealing with this). Place your blonde subject against a dark bush and you'll get a dramatic halo of blonde hair. I also did a photo shoot yesterday of a little boy standing in an open doorway facing the outdoors and I really liked the way it turned out.

Good luck and let us know how it goes for you!
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Old 03-18-2006, 12:21 AM   #4
Olena Babak Olena Babak is offline
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Linda and Chris,

Thank you very much for your responses, I am a big admirer of your works. It was great to see first thing this morning responses from you guys. I went to take a look at the artists you suggested, some of which I wasn't familar with yet. I am glad that I did.

The photo shoot ended up being today and this is what I came up with. I didn' t have a lot of time to plan this, and the rest of the weekend is supposed to rain so I had to get it in today. Which one do you think works the best?
Ideas? Suggestions?
Thanks again for all of your help.
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Old 03-18-2006, 12:45 PM   #5
Linda Brandon Linda Brandon is offline
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Olena, the one that appeals to me is the top one, cropped as I've atached it, probably because I like compositons with a strong 'S' flow. The problem you'll have with the photo is the dappelled light effect. I personally like it but maybe others wouldn't. I think a lot of portrait clients object to "skin splotchiness" and you'll have to manage the face a little. Also, the shirt sleeve catches too much sun, I think. You know, you can always don a white shirt yourself and take photos with your camera on a tripod and a long shutter relase so that you can take your time and really manage the light patterns and folds without your client around.

First, though, you should take a few hours and put a portable easel outside and paint ... somebody, anybody, yourself with a mirror... just so you get an idea about how light falls and how reflected light from the sky cools the shadows in the face, whether cast shadows are purplish, how outdoor light affects your perception of edges, etc..

Working outdoors from life is addictive and terribly important to do.
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Old 03-19-2006, 06:03 PM   #6
Sharon Knettell Sharon Knettell is offline
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Olena,

Pray for an overcast or rainy day (not too rainy). The color is more saturated and forms are softer, not hard edged.

Also, it is better to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon (my favorite). Both times will give you that really lovely back lighting, and the afternoon light is especially appealing and warm. It is the favorite light, for good reason, of the cinema photographers. It is called the 'golden light'.

Make sure you bring a reflector along with you to bounce back the light into the faces and figures to reduce the contrast.

Also, rouge the lips and cheeks of your subjects. It never looks fake in the final painting.
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Old 03-22-2006, 01:15 AM   #7
Olena Babak Olena Babak is offline
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Linda, thank you for the taking time to play around with the image, but I sent images to the client and I think they will go with the one sitting. Now I
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Old 03-22-2006, 01:16 AM   #8
Olena Babak Olena Babak is offline
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Sharon, now after the photo shoot I definitely can see why an overcast day would be more practical for the photographs outside. Unfortunately I read your response after the photo shoot and I chose the day with the
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Old 03-23-2006, 09:54 PM   #9
Linda Brandon Linda Brandon is offline
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[QUOTE=Olena Babak]Linda, thank you for the taking time to play around with the image, but I sent images to the client and I think they will go with the one sitting. Now I
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Old 03-24-2006, 05:30 AM   #10
Mischa Milosevic Mischa Milosevic is offline
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Photos and using photos as a reference is new to me. My experience with clients, thus far, has been mixed. Some prefer to make the decisions and others care not. I love when the client says "You're the artist, use your own judgment as to what will look good". If the client prefers to make the choice then I would edit all the photos, crop and such at home. Then when again with the client, I would first suggest the reference photos I like and explain why. At the same time I would bring a few charcoal studies, three at the most, in order to take their mind from the photos and to the art.

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