Rifqi's photo

My photographic journey

I think my family will soon become wise to the fact that they’ll get shot if they come to visit. However, until that day I’m going to take every chance I can get to make them pose for me.

Last weekend it was my grandma’s turn to end up in front of the lens again. She was coming over to visit her great-granddaughter and unsuspectingly walked right into my trap. Unlike last time, when I did a more environmental portrait of her, I wanted something simple and more intimate this time.

The problem with family is that they’re not very willing posers and usually also terrible at taking directions, though in this case the latter actually worked to my advantage. When I was about to start shooting I told grandma to just keep her face neutral but, as you can see from the result, she failed miserably at that. I don’t think I could have gotten a natural smile like this if I had told her to smile, most likely that would instead have resulted in some cramp-like state of her face. She did try to keep her face blank but since I was getting natural smiles I just shot that instead. I usually do the same with my wife, tell her to keep her face serious while I make sure I’m ready to shoot if she can’t keep it up. Often I actually prefer portraits without smiles but you never know.

So, the setup doesn’t get any simpler than this: single LP160 in shoot through umbrella from high camera right. I had my wife hold the light stand to get it more from above and to keep things more flexible in order to quickly try some different angles for the light. Background was a black bed sheet, though I could probably have made it go black without it as well. Since my subject was having some trouble keeping her composure, the whole things was over in less than a dozen frames.

To change things up a bit I was shooting this while standing on a chair. Even if I wanted the image to be simple I still wanted to do something to give it a bit more character and I think it works pretty well, maybe with the exception of the glasses going through her eyes a bit, though I’m not sure that would have been any different from a normal angle either.

Post processing was fairly minimal, just some tweaking of contrast and curves. Overall I’m quite happy with the result, it’s an intimate portrait that shows the subject’s personality quite well. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know I’m all for getting fancy with the light but there’s definitely something to be said for keeping it simple at times.



8 Responses to “Keeping it simple”

  1. [Gm]

    Great job, Rifqi. I love the details on her eyes. Love the quality of the lights, too. I think light modifier is really important here, no? I don’t think bare flash can achieve this soft quality.

    Again, great job! 🙂

    • Rifqi

      Thanks, glad you like it. A bare flash could definitely not give you soft light like this. The principle is that the bigger the light source, the softer the light, which also means that the light will be softer if it’s closer (because it will be perceived as bigger from the subject’s veiwpoint). An umbrella is a lot bigger than a bare flash head and here it’s just out of frame in the top right part.

  2. unsweptstone

    Very nice – The whites are beautiful with detail and I think the glasses “through the eyes” give her character and help tell the story of her. Nice job.

    • Rifqi

      Thanks, I have to show her the positive comments I’m getting since she didn’t like herself in the picture. I’m the same, unless I’m the one controlling the camera even when in front of it :p

  3. Jane Cox

    beautiful lady! I love how you managed to avoid any reflection in her glasses… I struggle with that so often.

    • Rifqi

      Thanks. Actually reflections in the glasses has never seemed to be much of a problem for me. Maybe it’s because everyone I’ve shot (including myself) has anti reflection treatment on their glasses. The fact that the light is coming mosly from the side might help in this particular shot as well.


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