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Taking a Stab at Portraiture

I can’t believe I took a two-day hiatus on you guys, but I’ve been busy getting ready for a business trip to Mexico that I leave on tomorrow. I was approached by a potential customer that I’ve been talking to for a number of months now about visiting a few suppliers in Mexico, and the next step is underway. I’m really excited about this opportunity not only for myself, but for my employer. So, keep your fingers crossed for me. Unfortunately, that does mean that I’ll be MIA for the next week. This time around, I definitely won’t have time to even think about postings, so I won’t bother to say that I may get to it knowing that I won’t. And, the camera will be staying behind this Mexico trip…it’s soooo sad.

Anyway, I gearing up for leaving tomorrow, I thought I would go back in my archives and dig up something that I wouldn’t have to sit on Photoshop a long time for. Those of you that have been following me for a little while may already know that my photographic interests span a good amount of territory. In this artistic venue where so many artists pick something they are good at, or have a fascination with, and just stick to getting better and better at their niche, I’m sitting pretty as a master of nothing, but willing to give anything a go. Perhaps one day, I too will simmer down and find something that I excel at and focus on that. At the moment, I would have to say that it’s photographing baseball, but with little league done for the season and not having tickets to a latest Giants games when they have been in town, it’s been scarce.

But, the point is that I try to get out of my comfort zone every so often to try something new. And, tonight’s posting was all about UNCOMFORTABLE.

Through my rentals at and visiting their San Carlos facility for my pickups, I noticed on one visit that they had some 4X6 postcards of a place called Aperture Academy. I grabbed one and looked them up later when I got home. Aperture Academy is a local photo academy that offers all sorts of photo classes for beginners through advanced shooters in Campbell, just south of San Jose. I won’t go into too much detail about them, but I was very impressed with my first visit to their website. Here is their link if you want to check them out:

They offer everything from a half day portrait seminar all the way up to a 10 day long African Safari shoot. I had taken a course with another local photo academy, but hadn’t been too impressed with it. However, these folks seemed to have a LOT more information on their website, along with testimonials and sample pictures from the outings. So, my mind was made up and I wanted to try one of the half day seminars. But which one to choose? Well, since this was all about trying new things, I didn’t want to stop short of getting a truly unique experience, so I decided on a Pin-up Portraiture class.

I am a huge fan of pin-up photography and all things vintage. Unfortunately, the idea of giving a model ANY type of direction just scared the SHIT out of me. So, what’s the best way to deal with your fears? FACE IT!! So, I signed up and rented a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens and whatever the latest flash unit has in stock. On the agenda would be to work on understanding on-board flash units, pin-up portrait tips and lighting.

The class was limited to 12, but I think we were one or two short. The first half of the course was about lights, strobes, settings and all sorts of other technical stuff. The latter half of the class was working with the models. Now, I’m standing there looking at this flash unit on my camera thinking to myself “what a piece of shit.” Well, that’s only cause I didn’t understand what it really did. The good news folks is that I still don’t know what they do, but I’m willing to accept them a little more as I’ve done my research.

The following photos are some of the better shots that I took during the photo session part. Because the strobe units that were being used in class were triggered by our on board flashes, it limited the shooting to whoever was in front of the model at that time. So, it was all about getting in line and waiting for your turn to get your dozen or so photos. Now, this is REALLY lame, cause standing in line waiting to photograph the model isn’t my idea of a productive time. So, I got creative…

When I wasn’t in front of the models, I would take off the flash unit and just snap away pictures with the lens wide open to f/2.8. The instructors weren’t too thrilled with this idea at first, but calmed down once they started to look through my images on my LCD screen. Not that they were great, but they weren’t bad. Yes, I now know that these are waaaaay too dark, but it’s all part of the learning curve.

What did I learn? I learned about real expensive lighting equipment that I don’t care to buy any time soon, learned that I didn’t learn much about the on board flash unit or how it works and that talking to models isn’t as hard as it seemed. Of course, the two girls that were working the class have done this a few times, so having me stand in front of them without a word coming out of my mouth didn’t stop them from striking a pose. So, I let them do their thing and photographed them as I liked. The funny thing was that all of my favorite images from the shoot all resulted from snapping shots of them while they were posing for other photographers. I definitely liked the candid and in between poses shots the best.

I can report that I was bitten by the portrait bug after this seminar and plan to do a lot more portraiture photography in the near future. So, that’s today’s post…

Take care everyone!! I’ll see you guys next Saturday when I get back from this whirlwind trip through Mexico. Wish me luck!!



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