Photographer: Andrew Kung/Andrew Kung Group
Assist/BTS: Rachel Lutz/Andrew Kung Group
Stylist: Catherine Jones/Andrew Kung Group
Category: Soft Edge/Dreamy Portrait – Emily Soto Style Portrait Photoshoot Case Study
Part of the goal (and fun) in portrait photography is the challenge to create a compelling image that speaks to the viewer in a variety of ways. Shooting with our model Hope, her alluring look was accentuated by our stylist Catherine Jones with a flower crown and a For Love and Lemons dress. To top off the look and the main element to create the treatment of these images is the usage of ‘filter/diffusion material’ placed in front of the camera lens.
USING PLASTIC IN FRONT OF THE LENS
My first thought before doing this was that it sounds really silly (I’m not the first one to do this). And it does but beyond that, it looks silly as well. However, I can attest that it works incredibly well to achieve two things:
1) Acts as a Soft Edge Filter
2) Acts as a Vignette Filter
And at no or at an incredibly low cost.
Watch the BTS Video to see what I’m talking about.
The main concept for this is to wrap a piece of plastic around your lens and keep it in place by holding it with your left hand that is supporting your lens. You can also use a rubber band or hair tie to secure it around your lens. The edge of the plastic should then be stretched in front of your lens, around the edges with the positioning determining the amount of softness/blur and vignetting that you prefer. The more you use the plastic to obscure the lens, the more pronounced the effect and so it is best to keep the plastic only around the edge of the lens and not in the center where your subject would typically be positioned (unless that is the effect you are going for).
The pictures below do not have any post work done to soften/blur or vignette the edges – all of this is done in camera by using the plastic wrapped around the lens. To note: we used different plastics throughout the shoot.
PHOTOGRAPHY CHEAT SHEET
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/160
1 LIGHT SETUP
How To Setup Lighting For Dreamy Portrait Photography
For this shoot, I used one Profoto Pro Head with a Profoto Softlight White Beauty Dish wrapped with a white diffuser sock to further soften and diffuse the light. The light was positioned close to and almost centered with the subject. It is also placed relatively highat about 3-4 feet above our model in order to extend our shadows for some drama and ensure that the lighting isn’t too flat. With our main light aimed at the top of our model, it gives us some nice light fall-off towards the bottom of the frame.
Things to note:
1) For this style of portrait photography, it is best to shoot shallow at an aperture of f/2.8 or wider since the purpose is to achieve softer backgrounds/edges.
2) Since you are shooting at wider apertures, your light will likely have to be dialed all the way down in power and you want to be sure you are using the lowest ISO settings on your camera (depending on how powerful your light is).
3) If you have a continuous light and beauty dish or another modifier, you can also use that in place instead of a strobe/flash. It is usually harder to replace a strobe/flash with a continuous lighting instrument since strobes are usually much higher powered but in this case, since everything is dialed relatively low in power, it is easily interchangeable.
4) Experiment with different plastics/materials especially where the thickness, texture and color varies to see the different effect they all produce.
We’d love for you to try this out on your next portrait shoot and let us know/share the results with us!
BUDGET FRIENDLY EQUIPMENT (Alternatives)
(ITEMS ARE LINKED BELOW)
LOWER PRICE RANGE
MEDIUM PRICE RANGE
– ELINCHROM 27″ SOFTLITE WHITE BEAUTY DISH (ELINCHROM MOUNT) (For Elinchrom Monolights)
FOUNDER, INSTRUCTOR, NINJA
Andrew has over 15 years of experience in the field and has served on set as the Director of Photography and Principal Stills Photographer for various commercial and advertising campaigns for companies such as Valvoline, Tempur-Pedic, Humana, Churchill Downs and General Electric Appliances.
When he’s not craving sushi (or talking about it), Andrew is an instructor, ninja, and founder of Visionspire. He loves traveling out West, particularly in Sedona and San Diego, sharing cute animal videos, and experimenting with cocktails like he’s the personal mixologist for Bill Murray (his words, not ours).