One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received from another photographer was one provided by the late Leon Kennamer. Whenever he would start a portrait session with a new client the first thing he would do is make a Polaroid test shot of the subject and then hand it to them asking “how do you like your hair?”
And the truth boys and girls, is that if a subject doesn’t like the way their hair looks they’re not going to like the portrait no matter how skillfully lit or posed it may be. Lean told me this back in the film days so we have it even easier now: So make a test shot and show it to the subject and ask them “How do you like your hair?” If they don’t, think about a hat. Hats can change the look of a subject’s portrait too; look for fun and interesting hats in thrift and discount stores.
H is for Hat. A combination of a two good props adds something extra to this portrait. The subject is relaxed because she’s leaning on a split-rail fence and I just asked her to bring her hand under her chin and notice that I had her make a fist so there’s no dangling fingers near her face.
Yes, there are some dangling fingers resting on the fence rail but some burning using Photoshop’s Burn tool lowered the tones. Exposure with a Canon EOS 5D was 1/200 sec at f/5.7 and ISO 500 with an EX 550 speedlight to add light under the hat brim, otherwise part of her face would have been in shadow.
Joe is the author of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” that’s available in from your friendly neighborhood camera store, better bookstores as well as Amazon.com.