The Psychology of Portrait and Headshot Photography

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The aim of any portrait or headshot is to illicit a genuine feeling from the subject and reveal their true self. Every face is beautiful if we can photograph it from a position of drawing out something from inside the person's beliefs and not focus on their outward appearance.

Here is a link to a Ted Talk with Anna Rowley and Peter Hurley - maybe next time you have your picture taken, you can enjoy the experience a little more.

Balancing Time and Creative Space

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As part of my daily rhythm, I aim to work on some area of personal creativity. The busyness of life sometimes means that I only achieve my goal 5 days out of 7, but it is something I feel is necessary for survival and mental well-being. There is nothing more depressing than simply going through the motions of a day without noticing something beautiful or creating something fresh.

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I recently read this quote: "Work expands as to fill the time which is available for its completion." Cyril Parkinson

I began to wonder -

Does our creativity expand to fill the vision we imagine?

How much space can we give to a single creative project?

If we envisage a daring creative project, will that push us to expand our technical skills to execute the project? 

And how do we balance limitations with openness?  

The bigger our dream for a project, the more potential it has to be amazing. I've never once actually achieved the level of excellence and creativity that I've imagined for any artwork, photography project etc. However, by aiming high and putting time into researching, planning and preparation, I'm sure the work stands a better chance of being creative and unique.

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We can give a lot of space to creative ideas, but I think they will struggle to come to anything unless we break the idea into smaller, bite size pieces to work on. For example, one of my long term projects is developing a body of light and airy black and white images. So, I regularly take both macro photos of natural objects and stylised portraits to work on this concept. The natural objects are great for three reasons, firstly, I love the opportunity to slow down and really spend time with a flower, plant, seed pod, feather or sea shell, secondly, they are patient and don't move while I tweak the lights and experiment, thirdly, they don't complain about modelling. 

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By planning projects, whether they are photographic or perhaps paintings, mixed media works etc, we begin to travel down previously unconsidered roads. Then, we are inspired by the work of others, or by a theme or concept. Then the real work starts as we begin to figure out what skills are needed to create something which brings our imagination into the tangible world. I always find there are new skills I need to work on in order to bring my ideas to fruition. Having a specific project, gives me a reason to develop those skills

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So, where are the limits? How do they help? The world is an amazing place, we are surrounded by beauty and wonder everywhere, but most of the time, we walk by in our hurried life. Setting limits in a project actually opens up the opportunity for it to shine with creativity. It allows us to focus in on 1 or 2 concepts and draw out the uniqueness of the idea. 

T.S. Eliot wrote: "When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost - and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl."

Sprawl isn't necessarily a bad thing. The photos in this blog post were taken one day when I just wanted to play with the macro lens for a while and explore the lovely bunch of poppy seedpods that I bought at the flower market in Amsterdam and carefully carried around the city for the rest of the day. Now that I've 'met' the seedpods and made an initial acquaintance, I can begin to think of different aspects of them, such as their form, the texture, the flat shapes of the tops, how they look repeated or as individual seedpods. I'd like to do some further exploration and consider how I could use them in composite photographs or incorporate text and other elements with meaning. Poppies are often associated with remembrance and seeds with fresh beginnings and new life.

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My little play with the poppy seedpods was a small part of an ongoing project photographing natural objects up close, experimenting with selective focus, abstract forms, pattern and composition. Plus, I worked the images in black and white which is another long term project. I then applied the high key backlighting to a portrait shoot a few weeks later. Here are a couple of shots from that day.

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Neo Classical Ballet Dancer

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I took these photos for my daughter's ballet audition website. She needed several different looks including ballet, contemporary, character and neo-classical. This set were for the neo-classical look.

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I feel for this sort of work, creating a quiet but not sombre mood with the light is important. We chose a simple, white costume and made pictures with a fairly neutral, almost monochromatic look, although still in colour.

 
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Learn Lightroom and Photoshop

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Would you like to know the basics of how Lightroom and Photoshop work, so that you can process your photos and create attractive graphics for invitation, flyers etc? This one day course will take you through a simple workflow starting in Lightroom to make image enhancements, then over to Photoshop for more complex retouching and layer work.


This workshop covers:

LIGHTROOM - the Develop Module

  • lens corrections, jpeg/RAW, cropping, white balance, the histogram, tone, clarity, sharpening, effects such as vignette and grain, local adjustments, dodging and burning, split toning, exporting files

PHOTOSHOP

  • file formats and documents, layers, colour, retouching, blend modes, smart objects, adjustment layers, clipping masks, filters, combining images
learn lightroom and Photoshop Sydney workshop
 
  • When: Monday 16th October 9am until 3pm
  • Where: Collaroy, Sydney
  • Cost: $110 - $50 deposit to secure your place
  • What to bring: lunch, if you have a laptop with Lightroom and Photoshop, please bring it.
  • Afternoon tea is included
  • Maximum of 5 participants
If you are interested in coming, please phone Bernadette on 0432 731 488 and I'd love to chat with you and answer any questions you may have.
learn lightroom and Photoshop Sydney workshop

Starting with a single photo, you can use Lightroom to develop that image in many different ways. The options are endless; light and airy, soft, HDR, strong, saturated, dark and moody as well as black and white. Unlike using filters such as those in Instagram, you have complete control over every aspect of your image developing. During the workshop, you will have the opportunity to develop an image with several different looks.

learn lightroom and Photoshop Sydney workshop

If you shoot RAW, the images come out of the camera fairly dull and lifeless. Just a little bit of work in Lightroom with white balance, exposure, tone and colour grading can completely change the feel of a photo.

Lightroom and Photoshop workshop Sydney

No matter how hard we try to eliminate unnecessary elements, sometimes there are distracting things in our photos, such as the power cable and it's shadow on the ground here, which need removing. We will look at several of Photoshop's retouching tools and Content Aware Fill options. 

Photo straight out of camera

Photo straight out of camera

Of course, Photoshop is the only way to create extra layers and information for images.

 

Adding a photograph of the rose petals to unify the background is simple in Photoshop.

Adding a photograph of the rose petals to unify the background is simple in Photoshop.

Lightroom and Photoshop workshop Sydney

Layers are one of the most powerful aspects of Photoshop. You will learn about layers, masking and adjustment layers.

Lightroom and Photoshop workshop Sydney

And Blend Modes are a lot of fun too! We will cover the most popular blend modes - when and how to use them.

Lightroom and Photoshop workshop Sydney
 

Although Photoshop is not as ideal as Illustrator or InDesign for designing layouts, it is still very useful.

During this workshop, you will learn how to add layers, clipping masks, arrange text and pick colours.

 

Unless you are a photo-journalist, there is no reason that the image out of camera has to stay true. I used Lightroom to lighten shadows and desaturate this photo, then took it into Photoshop to add the blur to the edges, a light flare and colour using gradient maps.

lightroom Photoshop workshop Sydney

If you would like to learn more about how to work in Lightroom and Photoshop - join me at the next workshop.

Become Confident Using Your DSLR in Manual Mode in a Day

Are you making the most of your DSLR? If it is always left in auto mode, you are missing out on all the fun and artistic possibilities that your camera has to offer.

DSLR camera workshop Sydney

It is easier than you think to work your camera in manual. The really complicated part of modern DSLRs is all the extra features they offer. Manual mode gives you complete control to make photos any way you like. It is simple, logical and very rewarding.

photography workshop Sydney

My upcoming workshop is on Wednesday 27th September 2017.

It is a hands on workshop where you will have an opportunity to practice the basic principals of photography in a step by step way so that you go home with a clear understanding of what settings to use and when.

Small aperture for maximum depth of field - showing everything in focus.

Small aperture for maximum depth of field - showing everything in focus.

Wide open aperture for selective focus with the subject clear and the background blurry.

Wide open aperture for selective focus with the subject clear and the background blurry.

This workshop will cover:

  • The Exposure Triangle - Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO
  • White Balance
  • Exposure Compensation
  • Light Metering
  • Focus Modes
  • Image size - jpeg vs raw
  • Lenses - focal length, maximum aperture, minimum focal distance
Use a long shutter speed to blur motion.

Use a long shutter speed to blur motion.

Fast shutter speeds freeze action.

Fast shutter speeds freeze action.

We will look at which different lenses and focal lengths are best suited for various types of photography, such as landscapes, portraits and close up work.

photography workshop Sydney Bernadette Meyers Breeze Pics
  • When: Wednesday 27th September 10am until 4pm
  • Where: Collaroy, Sydney
  • Cost: $110 - $50 deposit to secure your place
  • What to bring: lunch, DSLR camera, your camera manual, any lenses or tripods you own.
  • Afternoon tea is included
  • Maximum of 5 participants
If you are interested in coming, please phone Bernadette on 0432 731 488 and I'd love to chat with you and answer any questions you may have.
Don't own a DSLR yet and would still like to come? I have 2 cameras which can be used on the day.
photography workshop Sydney Bernadette Meyers Breeze Pics
photography workshop Sydney Bernadette Meyers Breeze Pics

Hand Spun Yarn and Loom Weights

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If only our homes could be filled with beautiful, hand crafted items, made from traditional materials such as timber and pottery.

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hand spun wool with wooden knitting needles Bernadette Meyers craft photography

I came across these lovely pottery urns filled with hand spun wool, in a history museum in Barcelona. 

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Watching sheep grazing in the English countryside, you can imagine slower days past when people sat quietly spinning, knitting and weaving.

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From a craft store window in Brugge.

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In the same museum, I saw these ancient loom weights. The stones and the way they hang are an artwork in themselves.

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ancient loom weights photography Bernadette Meyers

This old woman was demonstrating weaving in an outdoor museum in Holland.

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Simple linen, soft drapes, beautiful light.

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6 Tips on What to Wear for a Portrait or Headshot Photography Session

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Are you slightly overwhelmed by the idea of choosing an outfit for your portrait or headshot session? The good news is that the best policy is to keep things as simple as possible. When I take portraits, I love the chance to discuss outfits with my clients before the session.

The idea of a portrait is to focus on the person, not clothes. This is even more important with headshots, where we are looking to draw attention specifically to the face.

 

Here are some quick and easy tips for classic portraits and headshots. I will write another blog post with ideas for more imaginative, creative portrait shoots.

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1. Think about wearing an outfit which is timeless and won't look dated in years to come. Choose solid colours, with tones all in the same family.  Avoid super bright colours and fluorescents because colours reflect and they don't look great reflected on your face. Patterns, busy looking prints and bulky jewellery all draw attention to themselves and detract from the face.  All white or all black outfits are not the easiest on camera either. It is best not to have any obvious logos.

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2. You may be tempted to wear baggy clothes to hide your figure, thinking it will be more flattering. Unfortunately, that doesn't work with the camera. Fitted or tailored clothes always create a more slimming look in photographs than baggy outfits. Having something which shows the waistline will give the body a pleasing look whereas loose fitting clothes don't give any definition.

 
portrait photographer Sydney Collaroy
headshot photography Collaroy Sydney

3. Changing outfits isn't always practical, especially if the shoot is outdoors in a public place. If you can't take a second or third outfit, it is easy to create varied looks by bringing layers, for example; jackets, scarves, hats etc.

4. Pay attention to details! Lay out your items of clothing and accessories and check that each piece fits the colour and style theme. If you are wearing socks, don't forget to match them with the outfit. Nail polish! Make sure that if you are wearing nail polish, it is either neutral, or if it is coloured, that it matches the outfit and is not chipped.

portrait photographer Collaroy Sydney

5. If you plan on wearing a hat, don't have it on at the start of the session, have the first photos taken while your hair is still looking good, then put the hat on later. Also, if you are going to change hairstyles by wearing a ponytail, do that in the second half of the shoot too.

 

6. Last, but definitely not least - iron every item, including scarves and other cloth accessories. Our cameras capture every, tiny detail which can be a blessing and a curse. Every wrinkle or mark on clothing will show up on the image, so iron the night before and if you are taking extra outfits, make sure they are hung or laid flat until the shoot.

personal branding photography Collaroy Sydney
portrait photography Collaroy Sydney

Portraits of a Young Artist

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I have never met anyone quite like beautiful Akiane. She is a young artist with an exceptional amount of talent, but what strikes you when you meet her is her gentle spirit. She is truly and 'old soul' with incredible wisdom beyond her years. She has a child-like wonder coupled with the wisdom of an 80 year old. 

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I met her while she was briefly in Australia. We spent time together over 3 days and I will treasure those moments and hold her in my heart as a dear friend for life.

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Her art is visionary and she is completely self taught. You can view a recent short documentary about her life here 

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This video of her Vermeeresque painting; Lilies of the Valley is one of my favourites. 

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akiane-portrait-Bernadette-Meyers
akiane-portrait-Bernadette-Meyers

She wakes in the early hours of the morning and paints for hours before her family get up. A very dedicated and hard working young lady.

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If you don't already know her work, I hope you will discover the depth, joy and beauty of this artist's painting. You can view her website here