Trying a Little Formal Portraiture, Round 1: Stéphane Barbery Shoots Me
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Me photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Stéphane Barbery, http://www.flickr.com/photos/barbery
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/800 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — image data
Me
photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery

I have some confidence behind the camera, but none in front of it, and that's pretty hypocritical of me if I want others to be comfortable in front of my lens, so I've decided to do something about it.

In particular, the various videos by master headshot photographer Peter Hurley, such as this two-hour seminar (kindly sponsored by B&H Photo) have got me interested in doing more portraiture.

I'm pretty confident shooting things like flowers and mossy temples and pseudo-candid family stuff and the occasional passing planet or kick-ass lady archer, but real formalish portraits are a different, alien world. Sometimes I happen to get lucky (I like this shot of Paul Barr), but having no clue what I'm doing sort of hinders things in general.

So, with one viewing of the Peter Hurley video under my belt, I got together with Stéphane Barbery today to give it a try, with me taking shots of him, and he of me.

photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Stéphane Barbery, http://www.flickr.com/photos/barbery
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/640 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — image data
photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery

Stéphane has appeared on my blog a number of times, most recently teaching a lesson with humble pie on my disastrous Mt. Hiei hike. His photos appeared on my blog several years ago, in “Delighting in a Chasm Between Artistic Senses” and “Kyoto Jidai Matsuri Photos by Stéphane Barbery”, and now again today with these shots he took of me.

We started with me taking photos of him, so I had to decide the lighting and such. We had Nikon speedlights that we didn't know how to use, reflectors, umbrellas, and a big window feeding gorgeous cloudy-day light. I tried all kinds of combinations and was not happy with anything I saw on the back of the camera, despite my model being quite handsome.

I hadn't expected this much difficulty.

photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Stéphane Barbery, http://www.flickr.com/photos/barbery
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/1000 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — image data
photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery

The two-hour video I cited above was actually quite depressing for me to watch because it made it clear that technical skill with the camera is not what makes great portraits, but, rather, the human aspect: being able to quickly develop a personal rapport with the subject that allows you to figure out how to make them feel comfortable, and how to draw out from them their best look. This is not good news to a computer-programmer geek who prefers to be separated from the subject by a beefy lens.

So, I expected that part to be difficult, and it was to the point that it became comic relief. But what I didn't expect was how hard the light was to do (though since I'd never really done something like this, I should have expected the difficulty).

My Wife Hates This Kind of Shot and my mom will certainly leave a comment telling me that I need a shave photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Stéphane Barbery, http://www.flickr.com/photos/barbery
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/640 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — image data
My Wife Hates This Kind of Shot
and my mom will certainly leave a comment telling me that I need a shave
photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery

Anyway, I was shocked when I got home and looked at the photos in Lightroom, the ones that I took of Stéphane. They were amazing. I was very happy with the results.

I'll share some of those when I can, but for this post I'm showing a few that Stéphane took of me in the few minutes that I left for him to shoot. I probably would not pick these shots, nor process them like he did, but that's part of the fun mentioned in the “Delighting in a Chasm Between Artistic Senses” post.

And, of course, if I want others to trust me with photos, I must have experience trusting someone taking/selecting/processing photos of me.

photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Stéphane Barbery, http://www.flickr.com/photos/barbery
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/800 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — image data
photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery

I wanted to present his photos and processing exactly as he provided them to me, but I had to make one small change: in one shot I felt that it looked like I had cataracts, so I toned down the brightness on the eyes considerably.

Much practice will be required before I even start to have a clue, both in front of the camera and behind. We may try again tomorrow... we'll see.


All 7 comments so far, oldest first...

Well, duh!, if you looked in a mirror, you’d realize you DO need a shave. Unless you’re trying for that nice beard you used to have , and that I was partial to ,during your Country Western Dancing days. (To his other readers…Jeff was an Excellent dancer!)

— comment by Grandma Friedl, Ohio, USA on June 25th, 2012 at 11:48pm JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Great shots! I especially like the second one. And I enjoyed this post. It’s reassuring to know that great photographers such as you are not always comfortable in front of the camera. I know I’d always prefer to be behind the camera rather than in front of it.

I can’t wait to see your shots from this portraiture session.

— comment by Gretchen on June 26th, 2012 at 1:24am JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Jeff- I may have missed it elsewhere in your posts but have you traded in the D700 for a D4?

No, but Stéphane has. —Jeffrey

— comment by Dave on June 26th, 2012 at 3:24am JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

This is one area of photography that I really haven’t dived into.. or even stuck my toe in. After people find out my photo interests, they ask if I’m going to do it as a job when I retire to which I always say no. The money seems to be in portraits and that’s just not something I’m willing to “work” at when it comes to my hobby. I’m very interested to see how it goes for you!

I’m much the same way, but I’d like the situation to be that I don’t do it because I don’t want to, not because I can’t. I think they’ll be good skills to have in general (and wish I had them, in general, when I was 20). —Jeffrey

— comment by JasonP on June 26th, 2012 at 9:45am JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

21:50 Eastern North America Daylight Saving time at Burlington, Ontario Canada.

It has been some time since Ihave made any comments; that is what happens when lifetakes over from hobbies.

I too like the second photograph. AND like your mother will tell you: Get a shave, son!
What really perturbs me in this day and age is lightly bearded/not shaved for the day, men think it is either sexy or something of which I am not aware.

You have a dark beard, fine, maybe shave just before the photo shoot?

Fur is what makes us who we are, too much fur makes us look like something the cat
dragged it.

— comment by Bryce Lee on June 26th, 2012 at 10:57am JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

hmm.. nice pictures..
btw.. you made it to a petapixel post today 🙂

Yeah, I actually made it to a post yesterday as well, except it was just my photo being used and my name got stuck on as the author by mistake. But it brought up the topic that the original photo had been on, so they followed up today with “Yup, Color Management is Absent in iOS“, which introduces my “So Much For That Glorious iPad Screen: iOS and its Apps are Not Even Color Managed” iOS color-management post from March. —Jeffrey

— comment by Chan on June 27th, 2012 at 12:58pm JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

I like the 3rd shot – with the super high contrast it seems a bit abstract. I also can’t tell if I actually see the outline of the right side of your face or if my brain is filling it in.

NOTE: I shave once a week AND like the shape that your stubble gives to the photos. Hope your aren’t buckling under the pressure to shave more often based on Grandma Friedl and Bryce.

— comment by Jonathan Snyder on July 24th, 2012 at 6:10am JST (4 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink
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