Sunday, January 3, 2010

2009 - Year of the Portrait?

At the end of '08 I made a 'resolution' to learn portraiture and lighting. I bought myself a set of Elinchrome studio lights with umbrellas, and added a backdrop a few months later.

I experimented with the lights, in our basement, before taking on my first assignment to do headshots for one of my hubbies work colleagues. It took me two sessions to get shots for John, and if I look at them now I am still not happy.

I took the lights along to do baby shots for my friend, and learned much about the difficulty of getting a great newborn photo.

I was able to do photos for M three more times over the course of the year, and do have some great photos of her.

Spring took a different direction for me, back to sports photography, as I was official photographer at two major events: Alberta Highland Dance Provincial Championship and the Canadian National Badminton Championships. These two events really pushed me in a new direction: on site print sales, hiring assistant photographers, major logistical challenges and overall a fantastic learning opportunity. We were so lucky to have the dance event first as it was our trial run for the equipment and logistics for badminton. Dance was a weekend long event, whereas Badminton was 6, 14 hour days. Delivering product from these two events took much of the next three months, and was a more demanding task than I could have imagined going in. However, the experience was certainly worth it.

I did my usual sports photography this year as well, action shots, team and individual shots, created collages, all the usual stuff that I love to do.

However, I also took on two new and major assignments. I was the photographer for a friends wedding! I have resisted requests for this for many years, but felt somehow that I was finally ready. This was a fairly small and informal wedding and was a great experience as well. Of course, the bane of most wedding photographers that I have spoken with is the posed family shots, and they were certainly the shots that challenged me the most. Overall, I consider the wedding shoot a success, and if I were to be offered a second shooter opportunity I would certainly do it again.

The other major assignment was a family reunion - family photos for an extended family of 40; 7 family groups, all outdoors in weather that went from drizzle to harsh sunlight. All in a really beautiful, but tiny garden. I have very mixed feelings about the results. I got the job done, but not without some considerable frustrations along the way. This kind of assignment requires more than 2 hours to do well, and probably also requires more space, and an assistant.

Both of these events were done with all natural light, and my Elinchromes sat in their bag in the office for months. They actually did not make a reappearance until late November, when I started practicing with them again to prepare for some family photos I would do for friends Christmas cards. I do believe that I got the lighting much better controlled for these shots, and am pretty happy with the outcome there. The lights finished up their year at Help Portrait Edmonton, as did the backdrop, and I have to say that was probably their best work of 09! :)

My comfort with lighting and posing for portraiture has increased, but I am not as far along this path as I wanted to be at this time last year. I know that I won't really get better at this unless I practice regularly and with purpose, and learn about angles and shadows and all of the detail that makes for fantastic portraiture. Looks like '10 will be the year of the portrait!

Happy New Year

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