This weekend, I had my first portrait shoot! My good friend and fellow Pitt grad Elaine Short needed some pictures for her professional website. Elaine is a no-nonsense editor who needed some pictures that show a little of what she’s about but not in the awkward holding-a-No.2-pencil-while-leaning-against-this-tree kind of way.
Because I take everything seriously, I did a little research on author portraits and outdoor portrait photography. Some of tips I learned include:
- Avoid direct sunlight (one website even suggested using a white truck to reflect light)
- Wide-angle lenses generally aren’t appropriate for professional pictures.
- Shoot wider because you can always crop later
- Have the model hold something to avoid clenching fists and tensing arms
Most portraits of writers that I’ve seen have the writer looking deeply into the camera. Sometimes their arms are crossed or their hands cradle their faces. Often they’re in black and white. I wanted to convey Elaine’s exuberance and youth with vibrant summery colors and laughter. That honest laugh, however, can be tough when staring into a the eye of a camera. At the same time, I tried to avoid this sort of cheesy portrait smile:
So, I told jokes. I urged her to “keep it loose.” A couple times, I suggested that she take a tip from Miss Tyra Banks and smile with her eyes:
I asked for her to show me her sexy face and Blue Steel, knowing a burst of laughter would follow. I think it worked. These photos are in chronological order. Maybe you can tell by the sun or by Elaine’s body language. We started with strong 3 p.m. lighting after a late lunch in Oakland, and around 7 p.m., we met up again for another session by the parking lot near the Shadyside Wine and Spirits on Center Avenue.
Elaine said this pose has been done before, and she’s right. But she does it so well, and it’s nice to have options.
Thanks for the opportunity, Elaine! This was so much fun!
All the best and lots of love,