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Thread: LF movements for portraits

  1. #1

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    LF movements for portraits

    I am curiuos as to what movements LF photographers use for portraits, and I mean environmental portraits, not just head and shoulders. For the latter, I never use any movements. However, I have found that when I photograph the entire subject, sometimes things look slightly out of proportion, e.g., feet look too big because of the angle of the subject relative to the camera, and so on. It is hard for me to judge on the ground glass and I am sometimes disappointed later when I find that the body shape is a little wonky.

    Any thoughts on this? Are LF movements common with environmental portraits? What do you look for?

  2. #2

    Re: LF movements for portraits

    What format and what focal length lens? Can you post examples?

  3. #3
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: LF movements for portraits

    If things look out of proportion with no movements, you're either posing the sitter at too steep an angle, or using too short a focal length lens.

    Movements depend a lot on your style of working. If you use modern lenses at fairly small apertures (say, f/8 or smaller), at typical "environmental portrait" distances, (enough distance to include at least a little environment), you probably don't need any movements for the sitter, though perhaps a little for architectural environments or the like.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  4. #4
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: LF movements for portraits

    Sinar had a book on LF portraiture that showed the effects of movements. Maybe hunt one down?
    "Why can't we all just get along?" President Dale, Mars Attacks

  5. #5

    Re: LF movements for portraits

    For typical head/shoulder portrait, camera lens at sitter's eye level with the camera-lens leveled and slightly longer than normal lens, (about 180-300mm on 4x5, 240-420mm on 5x7, 300 to 480mm on 8x10). Shorter focal lengths tends to widen the sitter's face, longer focal lengths tend to flatten the sitter's face, pick what flatters and works to express the sitter's emotional-expressive moment.

    No camera movements should be needed as the traditional H/S portrait will be focused on the eyes with focus falls off gradually towards the sitter's ears. Once past the ears, image should be most if not completely out of focus. Move the camera or sitter to fit/compose as needed to fit image on the ground glass.

    Lighting matters, a LOT.


    Bernice

  6. #6

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    Re: LF movements for portraits

    Sometimes, in theory, you could spin the back a little to keep both eyes in focus if the face is at an angle. I usually forget to do this. Old portrait cameras had back movements to permit this. A more distortion-free approach would be to turn the front standard, instead, but that would throw the face from the sharp center of the lens' field into to the degraded edges, and with some portrait lenses that define well only in the center of their field that would be a disaster. Not with a modern lens, though.

  7. #7

    Re: LF movements for portraits

    If you need to alter the plane of focus in a portrait, it's generally better to use front swing or tilt vs. rear. Swinging the lens only alters focus, for the most part. Swinging the back also distorts shapes.

  8. #8

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    Re: LF movements for portraits

    Depends on how close you are shooting...

    Many old portrait cameras had a little front tilt that was used when shooting almost full length sitting portraits, where it was used for getting the area above the knees to the face in the plane of focus, but the needs change while closer...

    Before strobes, with slower film, someone was lit using hot lights in the studio and they couldn't just overlight, use a tiny f-stop and blind the sitter (it was bright enough already) so it was understood the eyes were important (gateway to the soul, and all that) so they would focus on the tip of the nose, and roll the focus back to the eyes, and find the bridge of the nose as the focus point where the DOF would get the tip to eyes in focus... Posing styles were also set to make use of the available DOF... If you see many old commercial portraits, you will see that either both eyes are carefully angled to be in or out of the DOF, or shot more fully frontal to balance both eyes...

    For application of movements, consider the camera shoots a fairly flat, thin plane of DOF, so would it help you if that plane was a little tilted, so if you were shooting a 3/4 C/U head shot, what plane of a particular sitter's type of features should be brought out (or hidden)??? If they have a strong plane of features, you would swing for that, but mushier features were not brought up (or left in shadow and/or retouched)...

    Photographers would use longer lenses for those that they deemed had "horsey" faces to compress the depth of the face, but overuse would give everyone a "moon" flat face, so there was the choice of FL...

    Someone very good with movements could swing the back a little to compress those with very wide faces, or expand those with very narrow faces, but posing is probably much more important...

    There is a art and science to portrait photography well beyond any discussion or great old book on the subject, as portrait masters learned it over many years (and many thousands of heads), so look at as many old school portraits as possible, become aware of the nuances, but sadly, most of the masters are now gone, so we have to learn this all over again from (almost) scratch...

    Steve K

  9. #9

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    Re: LF movements for portraits

    I read your question again, and realized how the topic drifted from environmental to formal portraits, so lets get back to subject...

    Generally in environmental portraits, there is the subject, and in an extension of themselves, their environment, and hopefully we can see them in their world (and maybe a glimpse in their head, with the world they interact with or have created)... Usually best to let the subject get comfortable in that (their) world, and allow enough space around the subject so we can see their world, but generally the camera is not really close to the subject... If they are in a workshop (for instance), just putting them on a stool and letting them feel natural is an honest approach... Someone like Arnold Newman would find interesting balances with subject/space/negative space that would intrigue the viewer... An honest, alert expression on the subject would say the rest...

    Sitter lighting can be simple, just a light a foot or so above the lens, and a room lit by ambient or subtle artificial photo light, and you would probably shoot 1/2 to 3/4 of the sitter, so movements probably wouldn't do much at that distance, and movements for the room would probably distort the person, so maybe no movements needed... A lot of environmental portraits are shot full frontal, and tend to look less posed...

    Getting them comfortable and not looking posed or sloppy is good... Them looking confident is a big plus...

    Keep it real...

    Steve K

  10. #10
    SE Penna.
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    Re: LF movements for portraits

    I think of it as a background with a subject.

    If the “environment” is an interior room or space, one can use the approach of an interior architecture shoot. Film back vertical and level, with front standard adjusted in all axes to achieve desired field of focus on the subject. Back swing can be used as desired, or not at all. Lighting the subject and background may require separate considerations.

    If the environment is an outdoor space, movements are less important IMO and there is more latitude, guided by achieving a pleasing subject tending. Natural light is what it is, but you will have more control if you bring lighting to the location.

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