Sheer Portrait Magic-And Some Things To Be VERY Afraid Of!

Meet Paula

Paula is my chum. She’s brilliant. She’s funny, perceptive and has a wonderful way of seeing life. She’s also insanely ‘capable’. She just knows how to get things done.

So? She’s the ‘Chief Cook And Bottle Washer’ at a small Oil Company in Calgary.

I was contracted to do some ‘Corporate Headshots’ and Paula, without a doubt, shone the brightest. This time I decided to push the envelope. H-A-R-D.

Things to be VERY afraid of.

1.) No depth of field.

Paula’s eyes are very in focus but the zone of focus doesn’t even include the tip of her nose .

Is this acceptable? Oh, yeah..but miss the eyes, yeah, by even a micron and you’re dead in the water, chum.  Soft eyes are a fail. Completely.

Now, I’ve TOLD you about ‘Drag Shutter’–mixing flash with available light… can you even TELL this was shot using a studio strobe?

It’s not bad at a 60th of a second. THIS was 1/5th of a second. A recipe for disaster. Yes you ARE using Flash but look at what could possibly go wrong?


2.) Eyes out of focus is always sin #1, motion blur and loads of colour contamination from the available light. You’ll see blue in the highlights in Paula’s eyes… that’s from the sky light coming in thru the boardroom windows in the conference room we were in. I didn’t mind it at all so I left it in in post. When your shutter runs THAT slow, 1/5th of a second… you’re definitely asking for it.

I chose a very small piece of blank wall behind her for my background.

This, again, was shot with the Canon 70-200/2.8 L II at F4.

Insanely narrow depth of field and I love the look completely. How ’bout YOU?  It’s SO soft and dreamy. It was also processed thru Imagenomic Portraiture and Perfect Portrait, but gently.

The Opacity of those layers was dropped dramatically… so it’s really a tweak, not a push.

Do NOT try this without a TRIPOD! You’re already pushing your luck far past having any margin for error.

Headshot, Paula Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 2.22.43 PM

OK, so, as I mentioned earlier, there is absolutely NO margin for error when you’re pushing your luck this hard, but the rewards are very well worth it. What a wonderful ‘feel’.

This was shot just the other day. Will I ever learn? Nope.

1/50th/3.5. I love using windows for a background. Use a spot meter and take a reading. I this case it was 5.6 thru the window. I metered my strobe, an Alien Bee with a silver Umbrella at F3.5. With almost NO depth of field, look what happens to the window, the patio furniture outside and the trees across the street? AIN’T Photography Wunnerful?

Single light, LOADS of drag shutter and an extremely photogenic guy.

Corporate Headshot Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 2.32.35 PM

All of this is about taking the ‘Road Less Travelled’. This certainly isn’t shooting SAFE, believe me, but it’s shooting for aesthetics.

I adore the feel of these portraits.

John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots



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