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Chris Hondros and Photojournalistic Portraiture

In an age where there is permanently an influx of images being projected in front of you everywhere you turn, it is all too easy to forget the efforts that have gone in to making them. Sometimes this isn’t worth even pausing to consider the blasé nature of the consumer; sometimes it’s an utter tragedy.

The above video is about Chris Hondros’s portraiture in conflicts; a profession that sadly cost him his life. It depicts some of his images from an incident that the media covered in depth. Chris photographed the military shooting a car that refused to stop, killing two civilians and these civilians were the parents of six children, all of which were in the back seats. They were screaming, they were horrified, they were petrified and they were flecked with their parents blood.

As you watch the slideshow of the images and drink in the magnitude of this atrocity, take a moment to consider the photographer in all this. I found myself inundated with questions. Could I take a photograph of a blood covered child grieving the brutal death of their parent just seconds ago? Could I put myself in the middle of a war – on the front line – in order to record crucial moments in history? Finally, I stopped on this connected question. Chris recorded these images and they became worldwide news with appropriate levels of outrage, which means there were consequences for the soldiers and the military in general. So for all the risks Chris takes to record history, the chances are that the soldiers he is with do not even want him to be there. He is in a war, unarmed and unwelcome by both sides. That is courage. Not the courage we hear about when a photographer breaks fundamental rules in his image. Courage so formidable it’s almost tangible.

Recovering Detail Lost in the Shadows

There is nothing more frustrating than having detail lost in either highlights or shadows where an image’s exposure range is too varied. For example, in landscape photography the employment of ND Grad filters is designed to overcome this very difficulty. However, the same problem can occur in portraiture, especially if you’re aiming for a low key image with a rim light for the hair and separation from the background.

This video shows an image with exactly that problem. The highlights are bright but well harnessed in the overall exposure of the photograph. However, the shadows have consumed some of the detail where the shutter speed and flash power has been selected based on the exposure of the face and keeping the highlights on the hair in check. A common solution to a gaping chasm between highlights and shadows is to HDR. Whilst this might well work, it’s an invariably undesirable and extreme technique and a middle-ground would be preferable. That middle-ground is the highlights/shadows adjustment and Aaron Nace of Phlearn talks you through how to use this in a non-destructive fashion.

The image used in the video and as the ‘featured image’ of this article is by Isaac Alvarez.

Kirsty Mitchell’s Newest Wonderland Series Instalment

I first featured one of Kirsty’s Wonderland videos back in November last year and I will lead off with the same information:

Photographer Kirsty Mitchell has been creating a series of images entitled Wonderland for four years now. The collection of images – seen here - contains some fantastically surreal photographs with a fairytale feel to them. The attention to detail with regards to props, make-up, hair, clothing, location and lighting (to name just a few) is very impressive.

Make sure you have a browse of her portfolio: Kirsty Mitchell Photography

Advice on Using Simple Lighting

This isn’t a particularly advanced video but I find it’s always interesting to see different photographer’s techniques when it comes to the basics. Joe McNally is a fantastic photographer and he goes over some advice for using very basic lighting set ups to achieve high quality results.

Canon Australia’s #CanonShine Campaign – Moving or Morally Corrupt?

Yesterday Canon Australia released their newest ad campaign under the marketing umbrella of #CanonShine. In this advert, Guy Sebastian roams around L.A photographing homeless people.

The idea of photographing the homeless is certainly not a new one – in fact there’s a photographer who has won a number of major awards over the last few years with the same approach. I remember seeing Lee Jeffries‘ portraits of the homeless some years back when his series was just starting out, and if I remember correctly, he offered them money in exchange for a quick portrait. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that at the time, but as he was financially compensating them for only a few minutes of their time and was simultaneously raising awareness of the sheer number of homeless, I couldn’t see the harm.

However, there is something repugnant about Canon Australia’s new advert following a similar motif. Guy Sebastian – a seemingly wealthy man – is parading around L.A in a Lexus with a bag full of expensive camera equipment approaching residents of the street. Yes, he does seem charismatic and friendly and the subjects shown are evidently willing. However, there is an unshakeable air of condescension and that’s to put it mildly. This is encapsulated by the final image in the video in which he arranges for a woman with many retail shopping bags to walk past the melancholic homeless man. It is so contrived and hopelessly cruel it is to be cringe-worthy. Furthermore, we are neither told nor shown that any financial compensation has been offered to the homeless he photographs and to make matters worse, their images have now been used commercially.

I believe the notion behind this advert might have been a genuine one; show someone who is passionate about raising awareness for the vulnerable and struggling. However, whether it has been poorly executed or the subject of the advert poorly chosen, Guy Sebastian comes across as a wealthy man taking advantage of the desperately pool for ‘art’ as opposed to a passionate humanitarian.

Fashion Shoot Lighting

I share a lot of what Phlearn does and this is for the simple reason that they create great content you’re unlikely to find else where. This video is another good example of that. It shows a fashion shoot and Aaron Nace discusses how you can maximise your lighting. What makes this video interesting however, is it isn’t a traditional fashion shoot in my eyes. It is a highly saturated shoot with a colour cast; two things that are rarely seen co-existing in fashion photography. That said, I think it works well. It gives the image a rich (in both image quality and in the sense of wealth) feel and the elaborateness works for that reason.

Make sure you check out Phlearn for more tutorials.

Making a Flash Match the Scene

Often in portraiture on location, a flash is being used simply as a fill light or to separate the subject from the background. However, sometimes a flash is necessary to get a well exposed shot and this can present its own difficulties. For example, if the shoot is based somewhere atmospheric and fair dark, the last thing any photographer wants is to lose that scene’s ‘feel’ by washing it out with a bright white flash.

Veteran photographer Joe McNally talks through how he did his image of a woman in a church in Mexico that appears to be lit by candlelight only.

Joe Mcnally’s Portfolio

Saving Eliza

This post isn’t directly pertaining to portraiture, but it involves a now rather famous portrait photographer and is a reasonable exception nonetheless.

I have crossed photography paths with Ben Von Wong a few times over the last couple of years and we have a few mutual friends. I followed his career as he went full-time and consequently his notoriety exploded. Now Ben is doing something universally noteworthy and it not only deserves attention, it requires it to be successful. Recently he took on a project which involved him travelling the globe to make a video to raise awareness for a little girl’s situation. This little girl has a rare and terminal genetic disease called Sanfilippo Syndrome -Type A. Over the coming months she is going to deteriorate rapidly and her parents are going to have to watch her lose her ability to walk, talk, feed herself and then eventually die. The worst part of this tragedy is that there is a cure and something can be done. However, like all things in this world it isn’t free; it has a gargantuan price tag attached in fact. The only chance this girl has is if people can help.

To donate please go to www.savingeliza.com

Travel Photographer of the Year on Shooting in Natural Light

If you haven’t heard of Bob Holmes, he is a veteran photographer with an incredible body of work. He has won Travel Photographer of the Year three times and has best part of fifty books. He has shot regular assignments for National Geographic over the years among myriad other magazines and publications.

In this video Bob talks through how he uses natural light in his photos (many of which are travel portraitures) and his overall thought process. Any photography advice from this man will more often than not be invaluable given his almost unparalleled experience and success.

Bob Holmes’ Portfolio

Lighting Beauty & Necklace Photography

Photographer and instructor Karl Taylor and Urs Recher from Broncolor go through their lighting setups for beauty and necklace photography.

The necklace lighting in particular is unusual; it’s bordering on underexposed but works very well.

Broncolor’s website

Canon: No One Sees It Like You

Although the voice over for Canon Australia’s new advert is a bit ‘chocolate box’ for my tastes, it is still a very interesting and creative video. Using only the reflections in people’s eyes, Canon ask ‘what do you see?’ The campaign aims to inspire through the notion that everybody sees the word slightly differently and presumably, this uniqueness could be transferable to photographs.

A beautiful idea – I’m sure – but if you search Instagram for #Nandos you would soon see it’s not quite the case. A visually inspiring advert nonetheless.

Correcting Skin Redness

I do seem to plug Phlearn a lot, but it’s hard not to when they produce so many useful videos. I’ve seen a lot of portraits – particularly headshots – with visible redness in the skin. It doesn’t ruin an image by any stretch of the imagination; it’s natural. However, an even skin tone is more aesthetically pleasing.

When I first started photography the way I learned to combat unwanted redness (or similar areas of blotchy colour) was similar to this method, but far less organic and far more destructive. I would create a hue/saturation adjustment layer, I would select the colour (red for example) – sometimes with the eye dropper – and then I would lower the saturation. Aaron’s method is far kinder to the image’s tones and gives an all round more consistent result.

Make sure you check out Phlearn.com.

Mick Rock on his Most Iconic Images

I was conflicted whether I ought to post an article on this video as it is for all intents and purposes, an advert. Perhaps it caught me at the right time, however, as I recently visited the David Bailey Stardust exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. There’s something alluring – to me at least – about photographs of celebrities of the past in not overly contrived situations.

Mick Rock was essentially a part of the punk/rock and roll movement in the 70s, albeit with a camera as his instrument of choice. Being as he was very well educated too, his intrigue is almost equal to the subjects he shot.

If you can ignore Nikon’s intentions for this video, you are left with a brief documentary of a legendary photographer discussing his experiences.

Mick Rock’s Portfolio