Shooting portraits with the E-P1

Started Jun 18, 2009 | Discussions thread
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Brian Mosley
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Shooting portraits with the E-P1
Jun 18, 2009

Hello everyone,

I was asked to raise this in a seperate thread for discussion... some years ago, I gave up photography becuase my Nikon D1/D1x was just too big, heavy and bulky to be able to carry around everywhere and use around my active family lifestyle.

I came back to photography thanks to the tiny Panasonic FX01, and had a huge amount of fun learning and sharing with the very friendly Panasonic Talk forum here on dpreview.

Along the way, I was encouraged by the much loved, and sadly missed Bill Allgood to try natural portraits... and in getting started, I was given some valuable advice by David Charney a very experienced photographer I came across on the Leica forums.

First, the portrait I took folllowing David's advice :

Panasonic FX01
1/80s f/4.5 at 12.0mm iso80

And here's David's advice... which I think applies perfectly to the E-P1.

I am sorry to disagree with all of you who feel you need a viewfinder. Since my photography is people-oriented, I have a devised a style of shooting that is IMPROVED by letting go of using one.

If you are into engaging your subjects and reducing their universal sense of intimidation--the photographer with his camera taking the terrified subject into his crosshairs--think about this: The original spirit of Cartier-Bresson, and his followers, was to minimize the intrusion of the photographer within the environment. Thus, use of a small camera and an unobtrusive manner. These days, the definition of "small" has mutated. With ubiquitous miniaturization, an M7 looks like a brick (much as I do love it). It no longer fits the goal of blending in unobtrusively. A tiny digicam does.

Here's my patented method: I hold the camera about six inches BELOW my eyes and to the right, while bracing my right arm and elbow to the right side of my body. I flick a glance at the LCD to roughly frame the subject(s); I do not need better than that with 9x16 aspect. Then I engage my subjects OVER THE TOP of the camera, eyes linked to eyes, and I am talking all the while. They are relating to ME--on a human level--we are having a conversation--instead of them looking more and more like deer-in-the-headlights. If their eyes wander back to the cyclops lens staring at them, I can tell. I bring them back to me by saying: Look at me, look at me! I chatter. I re-engage them on a human level. Thus, I tend to get much more in the way of natural expressions.

I have been successfully using my method for nearly three years--even before I bought my D-Lux 2--using the Casio Exilim series. Even though I can't wait for the digital M (so I can play with my wonderful glass again), I predict I will stick with the D-Lux 2 and its successors for most of my people photography.

Put chewing gum over your viewfinders and give it a try.

...and further advice in my e-mail conversation with David :

My other best tip: Always announce that you NEVER take just one picture! Keep up the chatter as you explain and re-explain that you just have to take a few more. Always force them, with your chatter, to keep looking at you, and point to your own eyes and engage them with direct glances. Keep saying: Look at me! LOOK AT ME! (NOT the lens!)

Also, do not waste time trying to precisely frame the picture. That's what cropping is for. Get the framing just close enough. (Yes, I know it's a let down for those who want to emulate what Cartier-Bresson said he did).

People have NO patience for you to keep them waiting while you fiddle with a camera. Keep firing away rapidly as you can while you keep up the chatter.

Taking MANY shots is the best insurance that at least ONE may turn out OK. Sometime not even that small triumph will happen.

Good luck!

Apologies to the more experienced photographers here who will know this stuff already - but I wanted to share what I feel is very valuable advice.

Any comments?

Kind Regards

Brian
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