Victor Voyeur Photography
Join Date: Feb 2012
Some thoughts. Sorry for the long post. "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one" - Mark Twain (or was it Babbage, nobody knows)
The first thing I notice that can be easily improved is that there's no eye contact with the camera in the whole set. Eyes and facial expressions can make or break a portrait. It doesn't have to be EVERY shot, but it we've got a set of ten portraits, we should be seeing your face and eyes in at least half of them. For instance, "Relaxing on the Bluff" could have been quite improved if you just turned a little bit to look up and over your shoulder at the camera. In this particular pose, this may have had the added benefit of stretching your neck a bit and eliminating the creases under your chin.
The overexposed sky doesn't bother me. Your face is exposed reasonably well in these, and that's far more important than the sky. However, a couple of notes:
- In the "refreshment" shots, you're losing some detail due to overexposure in your white shirt;
- If you shoot in the hour before sunset, colloquially called the "golden hour" for portraiture, you can often get a properly exposed sky and subject. Plus, you get a nice warm sunset glow on the subject. Plus, it's not as hot as mid-day. Downside: limited time to work before it's dark.
Overall, I think the posing was not bad (eye contact notwithstanding), and appropriate for the character, especially since you had a bit of a story through the set. To improve specific poses, just do a bit of research before going out. Look at old D&D-style artwork like the covers of those cheesy 80's fantasy novels. Take pictures or screenshots on your phone, and refer to them to set up the poses you liked during the actual shoot.
A blurred or out-of-focus background is often desirable in portraiture, as it makes the subject pop out of the background. As your boyfriend gets better with the camera and is able to experiment more with some of the manual settings, you'll be able to accomplish more of this.
Generally, it's a good idea to take portraits with a medium-long focal length. This means, instead of standing close, stand farther away and zoom in. If the photographer is relatively far from the subject, unwanted perspective distortion can be minimized.
Focus is off in a couple of them - for instance, in "Refreshment, Part 2" it looks like the camera focused on the trees and not on you, or maybe somewhere in between.
I would have liked to see a bit more headroom in some of them. For instance, in "Refreshment" your head is just about to go out the top of the frame. In close-up face portraits, you can sometimes get away with chopping off just a little bit of the top of the head; in full-body shots you can't.
White balance is not consistent throughout the set - for instance, in "Sentry" your skin is warm yellow-orange, and in "Examining the Trail" your skin is very light pink-white. In my experience, Auto White Balance often gives erratic and undesirable results, so pick one setting and stick with it. In this case, since it was overcast, just pick "Cloudy" and use it for the whole set. Custom white balance is ideal, but sometimes hard to pull off, and I don't know if that Olympus can do custom white balance.
As alternative #1, if you have something that's neutral colored and NOT overexposed, you can use it as a white balance point in post-processing. The shirt, if it is white, would probably work - but it's overexposed in some of these, so it might give incorrect results.
As alternative #2, there are ways to do a "by the numbers" white-balance correction to make your skin tones consistent throughout the set, if you're reasonably competent with your post-processing software.
added note on white balance: In some cases, "correct" white balance is not the same as "neutral" white balance. For instance, when shooting at sunset, you don't want to neutralize that warm glow. But, you've got to have a valid reason for it, and "that's what the camera's auto-white-balance picked" isn't a good reason.
Hope these notes help, and looking forward to seeing some future shots.