Ok, I have to learn portrait photography - kinda fast

So, I am a post grad student of product design. We are now working on our final project. I was a bit drunk when I had the idea for it. And I sent that said idea to my professor, who loved it. So now I am sober (still love the Idea), but I realized that I might have bitten off more than I can chew.

The project will be the development of a wearable piece of art (not really a piece of clothing - it is more conceptual than that). If it doesn’t sound pretentious enough, I will also discuss gender. Ok. The final project is delivered on a presentation in front of quite a lot of people and a book - That is usually pretty boring, with blank pages and so on. So I am making this book a bit more presentable, with large photos, good quality paper and stuff like that. It will be a design book (or maybe an art book, I don’t know).

For the Gender part I really wanted to illustrate the many variations of gender between male and female (Queergender, Demiboy, etc etc etc etc). And I would like to do that with portraits. So… HERE COMES THE QUESTION:

I have access to a very nice photography studio in my university. It is equipped with powerful lighting, it has different backdrops and it even has a suspended “catwalk” that overlooks the whole studio.

Is there a guide for human portraits (are there non-human portraits, by the way?) that I can use to get interesting and beautiful results? I don’t want “passport” photos, obviously. I know how to operate an SLR camera and I am proficient on photoshop.

Can anyone help me with that? I am really excited about this project, and I will be very glad to share the results with you guys.

…if you have access to a DSLR, a studio and lights and modifiers, then you have plenty of options.

If you are in a hurry: the fastest way for us to help you would be for you to find some images on the internet that are close to what you see in your head that you want to take. Then we can work backwards to dissect the lighting to help you get a similar result.

The typical three light arrangement is a bright light on one side (Key Light) to create highlights and shadow, a less powerful light on the other side (Fill Light) to fill in the shadow enough to bring out detail, and a bright light for the back (Back Light), which creates rim highlighting around the shoulders and hair.

There are a lot of guides online to help you with that in detail. There are a lot of technical things, like subtle camera adjustments (ISO and shutter speed etc) that I know very little about, so you may need a crash course.

Where will you find all your models? How will they be compensated? Ex. a free print?

Even volunteers will need to commit to easily an hour or more of their time. Although I’m guessing once you get the perfect combination of lighting and all you can move people thru pretty quickly. Maybe come up with a system of having several people involved taking pictures, recruitment, wardrobe, etc…

I am kinda low on cash. So I guess a free print would be a good idea, thank you! I have quite a few friends who could help. I also know some very nice drag queens. THank you very much for the ideas, guys, this helps a lot.

If you need to learn portrait photography fast, I highly recommend OneLight 2.0. Yes, it’s expensive, but it tells you everything you need to know and explains it well, gives all sorts of examples, and the guy is really engaging. Totally worth it; nothing else even comes close. If you want something free, I highly recommend The Strobist for how-to discussions of studio lighting.

Studiolighting.net has some easy-to-follow tutorials for one-light setups, studio lighting, etc. with simple diagrams as well as photos of the results.

I’m no expert, but I can see the difference between someone who knows what he/she is doing and someone who does not. The amateur’s portrait photos often look like mugshots (straight-on images of the subject’s face) while the pro can vary the pose and so forth to improve things. Are you required to take the photos yourself? I’ll bet on a college campus, especially one with a nice studio like you described, you could find a student volunteer to take the photos for you.

Yeah, have a “pro” do the actual picutre taking while you stand back and give directions on what you want. Plus be the person who organizes, gets people dressed, and gets people thru.

Heck maybe have a theater major who can apply a little makeup to people.

Exactly what I was going to suggest. If you have a studio, you surely have some photography majors. Heck, they may be able to put your stuff in their portfolio or use them in class, which would mean they’d be willing to work for free.

I worked in the computer lab at my college, and found it pretty easy to find photography majors who were willing to help. It’s one of those majors where the people involved tend to really love what they are doing.

A real man should clamp his lips close, bring his chin up, and press his tongue up just behind the upper row of teeth.

Very often Photography students can get Independent Studies credit for just this sort of thing and they would be elated (especially if you promise to listen to them on occasion).

Here’s a good tutorial about what to look out for and how to help emphasize jaw lines. I don’t do the tongue-to-the-teeth thing for chiseling out the jaw. You can do it in other ways through posing.

Pressing one’s tongue against the palate tenses the tendons and muscles below the chin and slightly brings down the adam’s apple. It also elicits a somewhat combative attitude in you.

Yes. That’s correct.

Although I like the idea of sitting back and relaxing I really have to do them by myself. Also, as a Designer I think it is unfair to ask for free work… and I kinda have to do it all by myself. The photos are an important part of my project, so it is kinda necessary for me to do them. I will be very glad to post the results here.

And I think I will buy Onelight.

Hey guys, thank you so much for your help!!! I did it! :smiley: I am now working like crazy on photoshop. I think I will post some of the pictures soon. Thank you so much for your help! :smiley:

Hooray! Good for you. Photography can be a scary thing to get into – it looks complicated from the outside. You really just need a few pointers and a good eye to get started, though, and then practice. Post the link! I want to see. :smiley:

For future reference, when you want models to work for free, the keyword you use is “TF”. It used to be TFP (time for prints), but these days it’s usually TFCD (time for CD-R/DVD-R of proofs) or TFF (time for files). In my experience, a TF agreement generally also includes a clause to the effect that both photographer and model can freely use the photos for self-promotion, with appropriate credit. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for performers, like drag queens. Some photographers will return all of the proofs from a session (this can be several hundred large graphics files, hence burning DVDs), and some will go through and throw away all the ones where I’m blinking or making a weird face before giving me the lot.

If you’ve discovered that you like photography, and you have access to a portrait studio, you can run a nice little sideline doing headshots for aspiring actors. Showbiz resumes generally involve a nice 8" x 10" glossy (or equivalent file, if submitted online) of the actor in “natural” hair and makeup, so the casting director can see what you look like out of character. Industry photographers charge an arm and a leg for these things, which is a significant hardship for performers who are just starting out. You, as a newly-minted 'tog, can get away with only charging a hand or so, and the actors will love you.

Reviving the thread. I am almost finished on my portraits… and I think that they look pretty ok. Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3
Photo 4
Photo 5 (NSFW, kinda)
Photo 6
Photo 7

So… Yeah, they still need to be photoshopped and go through colour correction and all that stuff, but I am pretty satisfied with the results.