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Thread: Taking Location Portraits like Alec Soth,Stephen Shore,Jeff Wall

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Taking Location Portraits like Alec Soth,Stephen Shore,Jeff Wall

    Hi I am new to LF and have just got a Sinar f2 with a 180mm lens, I am going to start using fomapan 100 to start with as its cheaper and I can learn the trade before blowing colour film as it is expensive in the uk. I was wondering if you have any tips on these types of photographers mentioned ,Stephen Shore, Alec Soth and Jeff Wall. I love this kind of work. I like portra film and maybe go for 160nc and 400nc. I have not learnt to get out there and understand subjects and how to take portraits of random people on scene locations, any tips on approach,the lens I have, going about doing a project, as i do not have a photography background but have set learnt from the forums. I am based in Manchester uk. Also the weather is quite grim here and was wondering if the light would be a problem with this type of photography or just add to the drama?


  2. #2
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Everett, WA

    Re: Taking Location Portraits like Alec Soth,Stephen Shore,Jeff Wall

    Welcome to the forum!

    On approaching people: say, "Hi! I'd like to photograph you. Do you mind?" It's just that simple.

    Never worry about the weather, just keep your camera dry, that's all. Cheap film is always a good start. Are you going to be developing B&W yourself or sending it out?
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Southland, New Zealand

    Re: Taking Location Portraits like Alec Soth,Stephen Shore,Jeff Wall

    You may be interested in Greg Miller, , he has a blog too.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Chichester, UK

    Re: Taking Location Portraits like Alec Soth,Stephen Shore,Jeff Wall

    I shoot this kind of work in the UK. Gloomy winter light can be a big problem. I've found myself shooting at a 1/4 or an 1/8 with 160 film shooting between f11 and f16 and on reflection I think that's too slow for optimal quality in a portrait, although other might disagree.
    The flat light also can give problems with focussing as well, I find full length mid distance portraits a bit hit and miss ( I don't seem to have similar problems with close ups, I think that's down to the subject being bigger in the frame) although I've bought a better loupe in an attempt to solve that (I haven't shot with it yet so I don't know if that will solve the problem).

    I've blogged some pictures here
    Last edited by Tobias Key; 30-Jan-2012 at 10:32. Reason: added link

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Re: Taking Location Portraits like Alec Soth,Stephen Shore,Jeff Wall

    You got the right camera to start with. Use 400 ISO and have a sturdy tripod. When you do portraits you want the camera to be nice and solid so you can make adjustments quickly and rely on it to stay put as you load holders, cock the shutter, etc. Don't fall for all the happy backpacking bullshit that says you can use a flimsy little tripod and wait for the wind to settle down.

    We have the same grim weather in Upstate NY (few sunny days) and you just shoot 1/125 at f/8 like everyone else. Learn how to focus on their eyes - maybe a stronger loupe - and make/force/scream at people to hold still. Keep watching them between focusing and exposure, and if they move, start over and refocus, don't waste the shot hoping they returned to perfect position.

    You can shoot at f/16 or 22 in natural light - you'll just get motion blur with more depth of field. You gotta find the right balance and for most people it is in the 1/60th or faster range. Torsos look nice with moderate separation at f/8 or f/11. Perhaps Soth and Wall shoot at f/22 but they also use pretty serious models or committed amateurs that are willing to hold still and understand the situation (in which case maybe you can drop down to 1/15, 1/8, etc.).

    When you try doing groups of two or more in moderate natural light you will find the limitations of large format very quickly because you need more depth of field to hold both people in slightly different planes of focus. It gets hard. That is why most pros drop down to smaller formats or use additional lighting.

  6. #6
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Taking Location Portraits like Alec Soth,Stephen Shore,Jeff Wall

    The limited range of foma100 (compared to tmy2) will be great for gloomy weather. No worry about the highlight getting blown out with bright sun.

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